In this short interview, Ms Larson—illustrator extraordinaire—talks about her craft, how she got started and what inspires her (among other things) with Creative Director Moeed Tarique.
Abigail Larson once had early ambitions of becoming an opera singer and joining the circus, and though neither of those ended up out, one can’t complain after seeing her work. She began drawing with ink and painting with watercolors and soon developed a taste for flat digital coloring.
Her greatest artistic influences have been Arthur Rackham, John William Waterhouse, and Edward Gorey. Any spare time that isn’t spent basking in darkness or watching re-runs of The Addams Family, is spent creating art for private clients, illustrating books, and spending time with her favorite long-legged beasts, ghouls, ghosts and various other things that go bump in the night.
First things first: why give up the dream of becoming an Opera singer?
Severe stage fright! I could never perform in front of an audience of any size.
Have you always known you wanted to be an illustrator?
Well, it came on as I found out more about the world of illustration. I always wanted to be an artist, but once I discovered that all my favorite artists worked, in fact, as illustrators, I looked into the profession. I always had a passion for creating characters from books I had read, so it seemed fitting.
Do you remember the first drawing you ever made? What was it?
The first drawing I can recall was of my future self in an elaborate wedding gown. My mother was working as a seamstress at the time, and often made wedding gowns, so I was naturally inclined to design my own – with little regard to the purpose of the thing!
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from so many wells. Mostly from literature and history. I think our world’s history is so enticing. I love learning about how people once lived, and the strange things they wore and believed. I also draw inspiration from the culture of death and the macabre. I’m not sure why, but I think it has to do with my bizarre love of the things most people cringe from. I think our fears and superstitions reveal so much about ourselves, and I love to explore these things and interpret them in an endearing or tranquil setting through my art.
Are there any artists in particular that you admire?
Oh yes, very many – both alive and dead. Arthur Rackham, Dr. Seuss, Edward Gorey, and Kay Nielsen have been lifelong inspirations to my work. I love that they were all doing something different with their art in their time. These men all took imagination to a new level, and that vision lives on even today. I deeply admire the ability to make such an impact on the world. As for my fellow artists, I love the work Tony DiTerlizzi, Chris Riddell, Tim Burton, William Basso, and Gris Grimly are coming out with – and that’s just to name a few. I’m always impressed with a thriving imagination.
Would it be right to assume that Halloween’s one of your favorite holidays?
Of course! We celebrate life constantly. We mustn’t forget or fear that we all die, and it’s appropriate to celebrate death as well. And who doesn’t like playing dress up and eating candy?
If you could illustrate any already existing body of work, which one would it be?
Hmm… that’s a tough one. I think I’d like to make my own version of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” or “Harry Potter.” But I’ve also considered illustrating nursery rhymes, fairy tale and short story collections.
How much of your own self do you put into your work?
I always put a little bit of myself in my work. Sometimes it’s less noticeable, but it’s there in each of my pieces. I think that’s a necessity for an illustrator, because they primarily work with another person’s vision.
What’s a normal day in your life like?
I don’t have normal days, I’m afraid. But I suppose many days go like this: I wake up and make my bed, have some coffee, and draw pictures. Later on I have some wine, and think about life and death, and listen to some music. Then I draw some more. When Mr. Cain comes home, he makes dinner and we talk. Then I read something interesting and go to bed. Most of my days are sporadic in the level of interest. Some days I don’t so anything at all. Some days I won’t sit still for five minutes at a stretch.
How would you collectively describe your work in your own words?
I would say that my work is imagination on paper. It’s quiet, thoughtful, endearing and strange – to me, anyway. Many people say my work is dark, but that’s only because of my subject matter. I think my characters take on a new life after I draw them, because as I outline their shapes, I am bringing them to life. I like to hide a story in the images that the viewer has to read. There’s no right or wrong way to interpret my work, because I want to encourage people to exercise their imagination – which I believe many people do without meaning to.