Illustrator Abigail Larson works on everything including comics, game art and children’s books for some of the biggest companies like Dark Horse, IDW, DC Kids, Universal, SYFY and Sideshow Collectibles to name a few. Abigail grew up in the US, but is currently based in Italy. She loves fairytales and everything strange, dark, gothic, and macabre. This artist describes her artwork as strange, macabre, romantic, whimsical, and imaginative.
The artists who inspired her to start drawing were Maurice Sendak and Beatrix Potter. She also loves Arthur Rackham (who has probably been her greatest stylistic influence) as well as Harry Clarke, Yoshitaka Amano, Don Bluth, Hayao Miyazaki, and Tim Burton.
We are thrilled to have Abigail sharing with us her professional and personal path, so sit back, relax and join us through her thoughts.
TH: Tell us a little bit about your path to becoming an artist.
AL: My path to this career really started when I was in high school, and my art teacher told me he thought I’d be a great illustrator because of my unique style of drawing. I looked up artists like Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Edward Gorey, and modern artists like Tony DiTerlizzi and Gris Grimly and decided this is what I need to be focusing on. I love telling stories with my drawings, and illustration really was the right path for me. This was my focus when applying and going to art school (I got my BFA at VCU). It’s been a long road of constant studying, research, practice, and experimentation with my style and technique.
TH: How do you see the role of the artist evolving in today’s ever-more-digital world?
AL: I think an artist’s role is even more important in today’s digital setting than ever before. Visual stimulation is so prevalent in our culture, we’re constantly absorbing images across social media, and the flow of new and incredible artwork is something that I know excites and inspires so many people. We’re always looking for distractions and a little bit of magic to hang onto to escape from our everyday lives, and artists of all mediums are providing so much of that content. For artists, though, it can be a sort of double-edged sword, because you now have so many competing artists who are trying to keep up with each other and the current trends, so it’s tough to find a balance sometimes, but overall, I do feel that the more art we are exposed to, the better.
TH: Do you have any favorite artist that has inspired you?
AL: Of course! There are so many. But the first artists who really inspired me to start drawing, I think, were Maurice Sendak and Beatrix Potter. I loved their books as a child, and they were models for me to build my own career on. I also love Arthur Rackham (who has probably been my greatest stylistic influence) as well as Edward Gorey, Ida Outhwaite, Harry Clarke, Yoshitaka Amano, Don Bluth, Hayao Miyazaki, and Tim Burton.
TH: Do you have a favorite design/project that you’ve created?
AL: There have been a lot of projects I’ve made that I’m really proud of – I think, first of all, my current project, the Dark Wood Tarot has been my most challenging and exciting project. It’ll be released in 2020 from Llewellyn. I also really loved the “Huntsman: Winter’s Curse” video game I created the artwork for.
TH: If you could collaborate with someone, who would it be and what would be the nature of the project?
AL: That’s a tough question! I think it would be great to collaborate on a feature film to create characters, or to work with a favorite singer (my top choice would be Tom Waits or Tori Amos) on an illustrated project, like a graphic novel or book.
TH: Do you have any projects you are currently working on or planning on doing?
AL: I’m just now wrapping up “The Dark Wood Tarot” deck, and I have a few other projects in the works that I’m not at liberty to announce just yet, but there’s plenty coming up!
TH: Looking back on your path, what was the single most important event or circumstance that directly impacted where you are today in your career?
AL: I don’t know if there was one single event that acted as the catalyst – it was more of a series of stumbling blocks that fell across my path, mixed in with some really great opportunities. I think some of the greatest opportunities I had that really pushed me in the right direction was having my art selected for a show with the Society of Illustrators when I was just out of college, and after that, I continued submitting my work to contests and annual publications, and my work was often accepted – not all the time, of course, but enough to keep my momentum going. Eventually, I started getting invited to participate in gallery shows and started getting bigger jobs, leading me to where I am today.
TH: What is something you know now that you wish you had known when you were first starting out?
AL: I wish I’d told my younger self to be more patient. I rushed myself so much! I was afraid of being left behind, but I was producing work too quickly, and it wasn’t always my best work. I should’ve waited and continued working on my style before putting myself out there. I’m much more satisfied with the work I’m doing now, even if it takes me longer to produce it. I’m more confident in my skills and happier overall with my style now. But patience is key! Take the time to practice and learn and grow as an artist.
TH: Do you have any tips or suggestions for other aspiring artists/ designers?
AL: Everyone says “practice!” and I would echo that. It’s incredibly important to learn the fundamentals of art and practice them rigorously. Try different mediums, study as many artists as you can to develop a completely unique style, and try to focus on creating YOUR artwork, not artwork you think people will like. Chasing trends and stressing about social media numbers will only lead you down a path to very quick burnout and it’ll leave you questioning yourself constantly. Make artwork for you, that says something you really want to say.
TH: How do you overcome creative blocks?
AL: There are a few things that work for me – first, I stepped away from my work completely. Spending a day or two away from my work helps me regroup and refresh my mind so that I can focus better when I return to it. I like to read, travel, watch movies, listen to music, or write when I want to do something other than a draw, and that also helps shake me out of an art block. I also have personal projects I can turn to when I hit a block with my current project.
TH: Professionally, what’s your ultimate goal?
AL: I don’t have one single personal goal, but a few smaller goals. I’ve hit a couple already – working with a major comic publisher, illustrating a children’s book, and creating artwork for a video game – but I’m not stopping there! I want to continue illustrating, but I also want to get into concept art and work on a feature animated film creating characters, and I want to illustrate my graphic novels.