Enter the wicked world of critically acclaimed gothic illustrator Abigail Larson. Abigail is a lovely lass who’s work has been featured in many galleries across the United States and Europe, including the Museum of American Illustrators in New York and The Poe Museum of Richmond. Her illustrations have also graced the pages of: “Spectrum Fantastic Art,” “Art Fundamentals,” and “Digital Artist” as well as several independent publishing houses. Last year, Abigail’s first illustrated children’s book, “Sarah Faire and the House at the End of the World” by Alex Giannini was released and more books are on the way.
I first discovered Abigail’s work when I did a search on deviantArt for “Little Red Riding Hood.” I’d written a dark young adult novel that retold the fairy-tale and loved perusing the fan art inspired by the fable. Immediately, I found this gem by Abigail:
Soon thereafter, I scanned through her entire gallery, ogling over her Victorian style fairy-tale scenes:
Abigail’s dynamic blend of recreating worlds and characters with a spooky slant that we all love has made her one of the most sought after illustrators in the field. Today I had the pleasure of getting to know Abigail in an intimate interview where she describes what it’s like to be a full-time illustrator and what it takes to be a successful artist.
Big hello and welcome to the blog, Abigail! Let’s jump right in.
Q. At which point did you realize your affinity for all things gothic and macabre?
A. I always loved monster movies, and gothic horror tales like “Dracula” and “Frankenstein” and everything by Poe, even as a young girl. I didn’t call it gothic, or think about it at all, really. I just leaned more toward the darker side because it felt comfortable to me.
Q. I love Poe, the Brontës, Lovecraft, “Frankenstein,” Tim Burton, “Dracula,” etc. What do you think it is about the gothic and the macabre that draws people?
I’m always so excited to meet people who look “normal” by conventional standards who say they love my work, because it scares and also fascinates them. That’s the point. I’m not making “gothic” art for the sake of scaring anyone, but to make them think differently about themselves, and to challenge their concepts of fear, love, beauty, and ugliness.
Q. When did you know without a doubt that you wanted to become an illustrator?
A. When I opened my first book of Arthur Rackham’s illustrations. I love the way he tells stories with his characters and landscapes. The characters are so intriguing, and there’s the subtlest amount of terror in each of his drawings that I’m drawn to. The creatures all look charming and dangerous at the same time. I knew I wanted to do that with my artwork. I wanted to create worlds and tell stories with the images in my head.
Q. What is your favorite fairy-tale?
A. Hands down, “Beauty and the Beast.” I love Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, but the French tales always have my heart.
Q. If you could live in any book or film’s world, which would you choose?
A. That’s a really tough question! Probably “Harry Potter.” Because, you know, the Dark Arts…
Q. Every creative person usually has to find their way through the sometimes murky forests of becoming an artist. Did you ever face any self-doubts or difficult obstacles? If so, how did you overcome them?
A. Of course! I still do. Self-doubt will follow me around forever, but it’s a tiny monster, and he lurks out of sight for the most part. My greatest obstacle was deciding where I belong. Once I realized I don’t need a tag, or to fit inside a box, it became much easier. I found that where I “belong” is really not a matter of settling down, but of constant evolution.
Q. Who was one of your greatest supporters who believed in you and helped encourage you to follow your dreams? A parent, a teacher, perhaps a friend or another artist?
A. I had a lot of support, and still do. My family, teachers, and friends have all been incredibly supportive. When I was starting out on my artistic career, I had a high school art teacher who was particularly wonderful to me, and all the other creepy little misfit kids in my school. He had a gorgeous classroom with huge windows and a sitting area – apart from also being a large art studio. He would let us congregate there during lunch and breaks just to hang out quietly and draw without being bothered by the other kids. It was a safe place to talk about art, music, politics, and anything we wanted to, really. He loved my work, and encouraged me to apply to art school and study illustration, which I eventually did. I think it’s so important to have someone push you in the right direction occasionally throughout your life, and he was definitely one of them!
Q. Have you ever suffered from “illustrators block?” If so, how do you help yourself get motivated or inspired?
A. Of course! It happens all the time, because all I do is draw. When I’m in a lull, I switch gears. I’ll try writing, or go out for a drive or a walk. Sometimes visiting a museum or park is a good way to clear my head, or just hanging out with some friends. Rarely I’ll just force myself to draw, and that does work sometimes!
Q. What would you say is one of the most challenging aspects of being a full-time artist?
A. There are a few challenges. Finding time to socialize is one of them. And managing a business is another. I’m my own boss, which means I not only do all the drawing, but all the managing, promoting, accounting, and marketing.
Q. If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice before taking the plunge to become an artist, what would it be?
A. Get a degree in business! I didn’t need a degree in illustration, really. I loved art school, but I did all my assignments so quickly that I spent my free time building my website and brand on the side. Most of my professors were absolutely wonderful, but my critiques were often to the tune of, “your work is great, keep doing what you’re doing” which made me wonder why I was even there. I should’ve studied business, and built my portfolio on my own time.
Q. What is the greatest perk of being an illustrator?
A. Cake for breakfast. Happy hour at 2pm. I can draw all day and all night if I want to. I get to work with amazing people. I get to travel and share my work with other like-minded people. My job is to inspire, and to be inspired. I can’t imagine doing anything else!
Q. What is your dream commission?
A. I really want to work on a feature film designing characters, or see my artwork animated.
Q. How do you notice your creativity spills into other aspects of your life?
A. I like to think I’m fairly creative in all aspects of my life – it’s one of my annoying quirks. I love details, so everything from the decorations in my home to the way I apply my make-up is carefully thought out.
Q. If you could give an aspiring artist some tips on what it takes to be a full-time illustrator, what would those be?
A. I hope you love drawing. Because it’s all you’re going to do! It takes a lot of hard work, motivation, passion, and talent to be successful. All in equal measures. I never recommend jumping directly into an illustration career, but focus on building up your portfolio, talk to potential clients, take some small jobs, enter contests, join group gallery shows, talk to other artists, and just stay up to date with the scene. The big jobs will start rolling in after.
Q. What are you working on now?
A. I’m working on an illustrated collection of Poe’s stories, a nursery rhyme book, various covers for novels, label designs, and a couple other projects I’m not at liberty to discuss!
Well best of luck on all your fascinating projects and thanks for stopping by, Abigail. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a full-length film that you and Tim Burton collaborated on someday!
A big thanks to all the readers who’ve also stopped by today. To find out more about Abigail and her deliciously ghastly work, check her out online: