Welcome to the Women in Fantasy Illustration interview series. I am interviewing a selection of women whose work have made an impact in the Fantasy Illustration Industry.
Today I have the pleasure of sharing a great interview with renown tarot and fairy tale illustrator Lisa Hunt. Lisa Hunt is a veteran of fantasy illustration, she’s also a traditional artist who renders her beautiful work in watercolors. I remember fawning over Lisa’s work before I learned to draw myself so I was very excited to have this opportunity to interview her and share it with you.
1. Please give a brief introduction of yourself, your career and your work.
Hi, I’m Lisa Hunt, an artist living in South Florida. I consider myself lucky. I’ve been working for over two decades as a professional artist and writer, surviving the mutable nature of freelancing. I’m still at it — growing and learning as a creative. I’m best known for my published tarot decks and shapeshifter portraits but I’ve worked in many genres as an illustrator, writer, conceptual artist and educator. I’ve also managed my online gallery/store for about 6 years. It’s been a long career so far and I’m grateful to have been employed for the duration.
I consider myself lucky. I've been working for over two decades as a professional artist and writer, surviving the mutable nature of freelancing.
2. When did you realize you wanted to make a career out of illustrating?
I always drew and was the “class artist” as a child. I was accepted into an Honors Art class in high school, and then onto the prestigious Educational Center of the Arts in New Haven, Connecticut during my senior year. I somehow knew becoming a professional artist was my destiny. I never questioned my proclivity for the arts or thought about how I was going to make a living. I just went for it!
I never questioned my proclivity for the arts or thought about how I was going to make a living. I just went for it!
3. You broke into illustration in a different time than what many young artists are facing today. What difficulties did you have to face when you decided to turn professional?
That is an interesting question because I don’t necessarily separate myself from other generations. I don’t think one era is necessarily easier than another, just different. Obviously the world of art has been changing at lightening speed due to the digital revolution.
When I started out in the late 1980s as an intrepid twenty year-old, there was no internet, but it also felt like a less crowded industry more receptive to new talent. I “hit the pavement” with my portfolio and dreams. I sent out a steady stream of my art samples and project proposals via snail mail. I also networked by going to conventions and conferences. There were very few opportunities to exhibit art otherwise. I was tireless in my efforts until I finally received steady contracts and monetary rewards.
The great thing about those early years is that I could completely focus on art and writing without ancillary distractions or concerns like online marketing. Once I started getting work, the publishers took care of most promotional efforts. At the same time correspondence was much slower and the beauty of online art galleries had yet to be realized. It’s hard to imagine now because I’ve grown used to the immediacy of the internet. My latest contract I acquired the day I sent a proposal to the publisher …via e-mail!
The great thing about those early years is that I could completely focus on art and writing without ancillary distractions or concerns like online marketing.
4. What do you like the most about illustrating?
It’s a soulful pursuit. I’ve always felt art making is a physiological process. I don’t feel physically centered if I’m not drawing, painting, writing or playing music. It is an integral part of my being that has been a constant companion since I was a little girl. In some ways, creating art is not a choice, it’s a necessity. I think a lot of people in the arts feel that way.
5. What do you like the least about it?
You have to work long, hard hours to make a living. That’s the truth and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise! It’s a consuming lifestyle and in some ways it can render an individual somewhat anti-social.
I know my mind keeps painting even after I shut the studio lights off. In that regard, social networking is a blessing for those who must live the studio hermit life to make deadlines and keep food on the table. I’ve become a little more laid back over time because I’ve become a faster, more efficient painter — a natural progression as one gains experience. I’m also older now, more reflective and appreciative of my life.
You have to work long, hard hours to make a living. That's the truth and don't let anyone convince you otherwise!
6. Please tell a little about your process and your choice of medium.
I’m a watercolorist. I started out with acrylics and oils until I took an illustration class with Lauren Mills. She was an illustrator in the children’s book field when I had her as a teacher back in 1987. I was spellbound by the process of layering washes of color. It resonated with me and I found it far less messy than other painting mediums.
My process: Usually I stretch several pieces of watercolor paper at a time (stapling paper to board). This way I can rotate from piece to piece and maintain an objective eye. Earlier in my career, I would fastidiously draw things out on tracing paper and transfer it directly onto the paper. These days, with a more rehearsed and confident hand, I’m much more spontaneous, and draw secondary elements right onto the paper. It’s an extremely liberating way to draw and paint, employing a certain amount of stream of consciousness.
7. How has being a traditional artist impacted your career as the publishing world has turned more digital?
Interestingly, I did earn a Bachelor’s in Computer Animation in the 1990s when the digital arts industry was in its infancy. I created many digital environments and was known among peers for my custom texture maps and conceptual executions. But ultimately I returned to my roots as a traditionalist. I adore the tactile nature of actual brush and paint on textured paper. I also like having the option of selling one-of-a-kind originals. Given the ubiquity of digital art now, it sets me apart to an extent, so I don’t feel pressured to abandon my methodology.
I adore the tactile nature of actual brush and paint on textured paper. I also like having the option of selling one-of-a-kind originals. Given the ubiquity of digital art now, it sets me apart to an extent, so I don't feel pressured to abandon my methodology.
8. Much of your work is focused on fairy tales, mythology and legends. What attracts you to illustrating the fantastical and mythical world?
I was four years old when I became cognizant of fairy tales. The universal motifs, archetypes and poignant narratives have always inspired me. These stories made me think and explore the “what ifs”. They provide the perfect material for those who want to paint fantastical realms, creatures and spirits. Being engaged creatively in the mythical realm is a spiritual exercise for me. The stories have always activated my imagination and made me feel well rounded and content.
Being engaged creatively in the mythical realm is a spiritual exercise for me. The stories have always activated my imagination and made me feel well rounded and content.
9. You have an interesting and active blog. What benefits have you seen from maintaining a blog?
My blog is not just a chronology of art processes or a venue for promotion. The reader gets glimpses of my garden, me being a Jazz piano student, me being a family woman, and so forth. If you see my garden, you’d know that I’m thinking about design and layout. Viewing my house, you’ll see it s filled with books and art and reflects who I am and what I paint. My studio life and “real” life cross over in many ways, one influencing the other. I enjoy sharing a day in the life of an artist, and hope to inspire others to live more creatively. It adds a dimensional quality that helps me connect with my audience. I myself love blogs that have an intimacy about them.
I enjoy sharing a day in the life of an artist, and hope to inspire others to live more creatively. It adds a dimensional quality that helps me connect with my audience. I myself love blogs that have an intimacy about them.
10. What is the best advice you have ever received regarding your artwork and career?
Hands. Pay attention to how you portray them. The hands can be just as communicative as facial expressions. Also, enjoy the journey and don’t get too hung up on end goals. If what you’re doing is dominated by frustration, then you’re doing something wrong.
(...) Enjoy the journey and don't get too hung up on end goals. If what you're doing is dominated by frustration, then you're doing something wrong.
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Lisa. If there are any professional female fantasy artists you greatly admire and would like to see interview with, please leave a comment with their name and a link to their website.