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Gothic and Macabre Art
We have been following the work of Abigail Larson and her unique Gothic style for a while now. Taking her inspiration from Victorian literature, Gothic art or folklore, she manages to create illustrations and worlds that are absolutely unique. We recently had the chance to ask her some questions on the occasion of the release of her artbook Crimson, currently being financed on Kickstarter and taken by Spiridon.
This is an opportunity to come back on his journey, his different inspirations, and many other subjects. Welcome to Abigail Larson’s world.
1/ Hi Abigail! Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi! I’m Abigail Larson, an award-winning dark fantasy illustrator raised in Virginia, and currently living in Italy. I work at Netflix as a character designer in adult animation, and I’m also a freelance comic artist working with DC Comics and Dark Horse.
2/ What was your professional path (school, university, jobs…)?
I started drawing as a kid, and I knew I wanted to be an illustrator when I applied to college. I went to VCU and enrolled in their illustration program, thinking I’d be a children’s book illustrator. I did start out doing just that right after college, but after a while, I realized I wanted to take my work in other directions. I started getting jobs doing game art, novel and comic covers, and some small concept art projects. I got into comics when I was approached by an editor at DC to work on a Sandman spinoff, “The Dreaming” which opened a lot of doors for me.
3/ How and when did you know you wanted to become an artist? What decided you?
I think I was in the 7th or 8th grade when I was given some fairytale books illustrated by Arthur Rackham, and I thought “this is it. I want to do THIS!” and later on I found current illustrators like Tony DiTerlizzi and Gris Grimly. I really loved seeing fantasy art being made in such varying styles, and I wanted to try it myself. Eventually, I went to art school to learn the basics and developed my own style.
4/ We can feel in your inspirations many of the usual haunted suspects: H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, the Brothers Grimm, Gothic fiction, Bram Stoker, etc… And in the more recent universe, of course, the worlds of Tim Burton and Penny Dreadful. Can you tell us a bit more about all your inspirations?
Oh yeah, all of the above! My inspirations started with fairytales, I’m a big-time romantic, but I also love dark macabre stuff and I have a soft spot for monsters. My work kind of merges all of that together. I really like to explore the dichotomy of sweet and scary. Another huge influence in my work is Yoshitaka Amano. I love the elegance, sharpness, fluidity, and darkness in his pieces. That’s something I try to achieve in my own way with my work.
5/ All of your characters are gorgeous and kind of represent the way of living at a certain time when ghosts were part of daily life. Can you speak about the importance of fashion in your creations?
Fashion is a big part of my storytelling. Something I love about 19th-century fashion, in particular, is how important every detail was to each article of clothing. Every cut, every decoration, every color has a meaning, and I like to carry that into my work. And also, a lot of it is aesthetics! I love the silhouettes of 19th-century gowns and suits, the pointed button-up boots, gloves, all of it is so fun to draw. I really enjoy researching historical fashion for my work, it’s part of the process and it’s a lot of fun learning about the cultural significance of a certain time period’s fashion.
6/ You’re having a really good start of 2021 with your artbook Crimson that is on Kickstarter at the moment and that had been funded in less than an hour! Can you tell us a bit more about it and how you worked with Spiridon to make it happen?
Thanks so much! I really wasn’t sure what to expect with the Kickstarter, haha! I thought it would be amazing if we could get €20k to make the book, but we blew past that immediately, and now we’re close to €110k! It’s really incredible to see so many people get excited about owning a book of my work. But Spiridon has a great eye for what makes a good art book, and he approached me last year asking if I’d be up for it, and jumped at the chance! It’s been a huge pleasure and relief to have professionals help me organize and create this book and make it a really gorgeous piece of art itself.
7/ The book itself looks already like a work of art. Can we have a word about the content and the origin behind its name, Crimson?
It really does! Spiridon and I went back and forth with concepts, what colors to use, what texture the cover should be, things like that. We settled on the title “Crimson” (which I can’t take credit for, that was Spiridon’s idea and I loved it!) because he noticed I use red so much in all of my works. It’s my favorite color, and for so much of my work that involves blood-drinking vampires, red-eyed creatures, roses, wine, and lots of characters in red, the title “Crimson” seemed to be the perfect fit. The book is a 200+ page collection of my work, starting from 2009 to today.
8/ You often spoke about your love for the strange and the macabre, and how it inspires and influences your work, but also on fear and imagination, and how the shadows and the dark can turn into creatures. Can you share with us a fear or a monstrous creature that is just way too scary to explore in your art, and why?
That’s a great question! I don’t have a lot of limits when it comes to monsters, because I tend to find ways to make them endearing to the viewer, haha! Demons, werewolves, shadow people, goblins, wraiths, there’s not much I wouldn’t tackle in my work. In my opinion, the real world is scary enough, it’s more interesting to be around monsters.
9/ What is the work you are most proud of, and why?
That’s a tough one. I’m really excited about “Crimson” of course, and very proud of it as a work itself, but I also really love the tarot deck I illustrated last year, “The Dark Wood Tarot” with author Sasha Graham. It was an enormous amount of work, so much research and study went into it, and it was really fun to make.
10/ What are your typical days in the studio? Do you have any habits or little quirks you can’t get rid of?
I’m a night owl, so I start late in the day because I’m usually up until 2 am. I have to have some noise in the studio, so I like to have episodes of ghost or cryptid shows on in the background, and I start with emails and business stuff, then get to work on whatever I have to tackle that day. Sometimes it’s inking, sometimes sketching or finalizing colors in Photoshop. I hop on social media for a while in the evening, then get back into my work for the rest of the night.
11/ What is your relationship with pop culture in general, how did you “fall into it”? What do you think of it recently?
I’m not as up-to-date with pop culture these days, since I don’t have as much time as I wish I did to watch every show or play every game, but I dip my toes in when I can. I love Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, I’m really into classic horror movies and creature features, things like that. My interests are kind of all over the place – this past fall I was obsessed with the recent “Dark Crystal” series on Netflix, but I also really like true crime documentaries, haha. My intro to pop culture really started with my dad way back when I was a kid, and we watched the Universal horror classics over and over – I loved them, and still do. I guess that’s where my love of monsters must come from!
12/ What are your current and future projects?
I’m currently working at Netflix Animation as a character designer for a new unannounced adult animated series, which is really exciting, and I’m also working on several new comics and my own graphic novel.
13/ Finally, do you have any advice for young artists wishing to follow your career path?
Any advice I can give is likely something aspiring artists have already heard – practice what you enjoy drawing the most, try multiple genres/avenues to find out what you prefer doing, and be patient. Breaking into an art career can take a really long time, and even though I started my career immediately, I ended up not liking what I was doing and changed my path years later. I was stubborn and thought of myself as a book illustrator only when I ended up having much more fun doing game art, comics, and character design. It’s taken me a long time to figure out that I need multiple creative outlets, so I advise aspiring artists to keep an open mind when looking for work.