Ep.145: How to find your art style with Abigail Larson

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: May 21, 2018 •  Interviews

Hey, guys! In this episode, I am chatting with Abigail Larson, a mixed-media illustrator. Her work appeared in Spectrum Fantastic Art, Art Fundamentals, and Digital Artist and she’s worked with publishers like IDW Publishing, Titan Comics, 3DTotal.

Get in touch with Abigail

Key Takeaways

“It is not important to focus on finding your style, but rather on creating a lot, trying different things and studying lots of artists. The style will come to you!”

Resources mentioned

💡 Please note: We are supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you! For more info, please read our disclosure.

Special thanks to Abigail for joining me today. See you next time!

All artworks by Abigail Larson, used with permission

Episode Transcript

Announcer  

Creative, artistic, happy! That’s you. There are endless possibilities for living a creative life. So let’s inspire each other. Art Side of Life interviews with Iva.

Iva Mikles  

Hello everyone and welcome back to the next episode of Art Side of Life where I chat with inspiring artists and create the rise art related videos. My name is Iva and my guest today is evident Larsen, and in this episode, you will learn why research is so important in her work and what do you need to do to find your art style?

Abigail Larson  

So many artists I deal with and especially the people who like my style, a lot of young artists can get confused because so many people focus on the style and forget that you have to learn the foundation first you have to like let go someone a teacher told me once you have to learn the rules before you can break the rules.

Iva Mikles  

I began as a freelance mixed media illustrator working primarily with pencil ink, watercolors and Photoshop. Her work has been shown extensively throughout America as well as galleries in London, Paris and Madrid. Abigail’s illustrations have been featured in various publications including spectrum fantastic art, art fundamentals, and digital artists. And she has worked with many publishing houses such as IDW, publishing, Titan comics, and 3d Total in 2016, with Universal Pictures and these are our games, she worked on a game, the Hansmann intersperse, the company and game to the Hansmann feature film. So please welcome Abigail Larson. And let’s get to the interview. So welcome everyone to the next episode of Art Side of Life. And I’m super happy to have Abigail here. Hi. Hi. So super nice to be joined us here today. And let’s just start directly with the background. And maybe you can share some of your creative stories from your childhood. What was maybe like a creative outlet, like running with a kite on a meadow or drawing on walls or what influenced you may be in the young, early eight.

Abigail Larson  

Okay. Well, there was a lot. I grew up in America. I live in Italy now. But I grew up in America and my family had a really little ranch house in Virginia. And Virginia, of course, has lots of rolling hills and forests. And our neighborhood was right smack in the middle of a really wooded area. So I spent all my time in the forest. It was really, really fun. So I mean, I was mostly climbing trees and running around barefoot and I used to like pull out a blanket with me sometimes when the weather was really good. And I would just like lay on a blanket and I would draw or I just literally just like daydream and think of stories and like your quintessential fairy tale childhood. It was just amazing and beautiful and wonderful. So I mean, like that was my whole whole childhood was just running around the woods. I read a lot of books, and my parents are scientists, they’re my dad’s an archaeologist. They both studied science, but my dad became an archaeologist and my mom went into, she was an cultural anthropologist, and went into historic textiles. She does historic interiors for like museums and stuff. She’s worked on the White House and a lot of presidential homes. So my upbringing was around tons of antiques, and my dad collected like fossils. And I mean, just our house was full of crazy things, and lots and lots of artwork. And so I grew up with a not necessarily artists, but people who appreciate art. And it was just, it was a lot it was it was so much it’s, you know, stir in my imagination. So I definitely had tons of opportunities to go to museums and look at lots of art books. My parents fed that, you know, to me, you know, my brother’s into sports. And of course, they helped him with sports. And my sister was, you know, not so much into that stuff. But I was I was the one who was like, really into the stuff that they liked. So they definitely nurtured that. Especially my dad, which was really, really fun. Like, I remember I would go with him on some of his jobs where he was excavating. And we did, we found whale bones and shark teeth and stuff like that. Like it was just like, cool, fun stuff. So, like, for a long time as a child, I wanted to be a paleontologist, because I loved I loved digging in the dirt. I just thought it was so fun. So I don’t know. It’s just there was a lot of a lot of learning and a lot of a lot of imagination. You know, a lot of just just really daydreaming, you know, and having fun with the natural world.

Iva Mikles  

And so what helped you to form your kind of the goal setting that you want to be artists instead of maybe, you know, digging up the bones.

Abigail Larson  

Yeah. It’s funny how it shifted. Actually, I got into my dad got me a had lots of books on dinosaurs, of course. But he got me a book on how to draw dinosaurs, which was really cool. And I think that might have been the turning point. For me, I always like to doodling like, there are pictures of me as a really like two year old, like holding pens and stuff and trying to draw in. And of course, my parents, you know, encouraged that. But I, when I got the How to Draw dinosaur books, I loved it. And it turned out, I was pretty good at it, you know, for a kid. And my parents saw that. And so they just, they would buy me art supplies dad would take me to we had a little local art supply shop, this was Leno, back in the early 90s, late 80s, you know, back when there were like little mom and pop shops in Virginia. Now it’s all Walmart and Target. But he got me a beautiful, huge set of colored pencils, like really nice high quality, I don’t even remember what they were, but I remember being just blown away by this. And so he would take me out and give me art supplies. And you know, he would draw with me, and it was just like, super cool. And they really pushed that and not not pushed like in the, you know, they forced me to do it. So your relation? Yes, yeah, they, they nurtured the passion. And when I was in high school, I had great teachers, a lot of great art teachers who also encouraged me, and I just got better. And, like, I kept playing middle school composition notebook. Like, I would just draw characters like girls, and I would draw outfits for them and like, dry and write little stories, was released, stupid and corny, but I just I loved it, it was a lot of fun. And that went up through high school, when I had actual training, I had some actual classical training and drawing and a lot of that was just luck. I had a great teacher who who was wonderful that the fine arts. So I learned how to like paint and how to do gesture drawings and all that kind of stuff. So I got a really good early foundation in art, and well, how

Iva Mikles  

was the decision process for you, or maybe the conversation either with your parents or teachers like what to pursue, you know, like, going for a studio job or working on your own or creating own books. And, you know, like, because a lot of people around maybe don’t understand and they you will say like, oh, you cannot live from art, or you can be only in the galleries or doing the fine art. So kind of what helped you to kind of set this goal, like what type of art to do and how to live from it?

Abigail Larson  

Well, it’s funny, because, uh, so many people I talked to so many young artists say things like, you know, my parents told me I can’t do this, or, you know, I don’t think I’m that good at it. I don’t know what to do. And, and I had the opposite upbringing. I had parents who said, you know, you want to be an artist, we’re going to find out how you can do it. We don’t know much about it. But we’re going to help you find out and I had teachers like, like I said, who were I had one who went to VCU, and he recommended it for me. He said, You are really good at drawing, you should consider illustration. And I was kind of, you know, in high school, I was sort of like, I wasn’t really thinking about my career. To be honest. I was just thinking, I love drawing and I don’t know what I want to do with this. But he said, you know, with illustration, you can tell stories with art. It doesn’t have to just be gallery work you can do. You can you can create images that tell stories, and it was just it opened up, you know, a whole new field for me, I got into, he showed me a book by Arthur Rackham. And, of course, I loved it. And I didn’t realize but I had seen our the records work before I had a little book of Shakespeare that had random illustrations in it. And so it was I was like, oh my god, I never like it clicked. Finally, when I was, I guess in middle school in high school, I was like, oh, man, you know, I could get a job telling stories with withdrawing This is such a cool idea. And it still wasn’t really a big career did decision for me, but it was I knew I wanted to go to college. So he went to VCU. And I said, You know what, I’m gonna try and get in there. And he wrote me a great recommendation letter. He was extremely supportive. It was I was just so fortunate to have that kind of support. And of course, my parents, too. Were, you know, I think, I think they didn’t voice it very much. But I’m sure they were apprehensive about it. Like, oh, man, art school, you know. They never said it. They never said it, but I’m sure it was like, I’m sure they were worried about it. But

Iva Mikles  

it might be the also the older generation, which are like now 50 Plus where it was not so common. Only the fine art galleries or the other art and now they are emerging, so many different types of art, like studios, or almost every city and so there are so many more options now as well.

Abigail Larson  

It’s so true. And even then, you know, this was probably late 1990s, early 2000s And I went into college in 2006. And, you know, it was there was so much changing and developing at that time, I think just and then In the last 10 years, it’s just it’s gone crazy. It’s amazing how much the art world has developed, and especially the illustration world, you know, of course, you know, with the internet being so accessible, that’s a huge, huge, huge help. But when I, when we were first starting out, it was, it was very delicate, you know, social media wasn’t really a thing, you know. So, I don’t know, it’s been a it’s been an interesting transition these last 10 years. But yeah, when I first started out, it was, I think my parents were kind of, you know, we’re not sure how this will work, but she really loves it. So let’s see where it goes. And they were just very cool about it.

Iva Mikles  

So what was your first job? The first art job, you know, you like a commission, or was it something else? If you can tell us that story?

Abigail Larson  

I’m not actually sure. I don’t know if I remember my very first commission. You know, I started out on Deviant Art. So I’m sure it was probably like some deviant art commission. Like my first, the first thing I did that really felt professional, I got into a gallery show when I was in high school, like a local, they had it at the library. And it was like this cute thing that they did for the high school students. And I, I was placed I was a juried show, so I was like, oh, man, people like my work. Cool. I think it was it was, I did a piece for the frog prints. I was doing like fairy tales. I’m still, of course, still doing fairy tales. But even back then I did like a little watercolor of the frog prints. And that got placed in a show. And I was just like, Oh, so cool. So that was like my first step.

Iva Mikles  

So what helped you develop your skills the most? If you think about it, like maybe there was some advice along the way? Like, I don’t know, going for the life drawing classes. Or like, as you mentioned, the telling stories, if you can give us like, maybe specific example, maybe one or more if you want.

Abigail Larson  

Yeah. Well, my, my first like, I had some of my drawing classes, one of the things that really stands out to me, when I learned how to do gesture drawings and learning anatomy, that was like a really huge key to me, because before then I’d been drawing like, you know, cartoony stuff. And so it was a huge, huge thing to like, step into fine arts and really learn, you know, perspective and color theory, and especially anatomy for me because I draw so many figures. So that was a really big deal.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, because when you practice the anatomy, you draw basically realistic, but then your artworks are really stylized and still, like, cartoony, or how to call the illustration. But you know, that behind the whole illustration, there is a skeleton, and there are the muscles and simplify the

Abigail Larson  

lines, right? Yes. And that was a big challenge. You know, especially I think so many artists I deal with, and especially the people who like my style, a lot of young artists can get confused, because so many people focus on the style, and forget that you have to learn the foundation. First you have to like, like someone a teacher told me once you have to learn the rules before you can break the rules. And I always remember that, like, you know, it’s okay to have like weird perspective, you look at my pieces, you know, I don’t draw straight lines, you know, nothing is totally perfect. But I spent years mastering how to draw perspective, like we had in college, I had a professor who made us draw, he would make us sit for hours in the hallway, we had to draw the hallway. But of course, it was a big industrial buildings, there’s like pipes. And that was the worst I hate hate drawing architecture. But, you know, after years of doing that, and practicing, I can do it without being overwhelmed by trying to draw an interior I can I can tackle that easily. Because I had so much practice in doing that. It’s essential and, and with learning figures, you have to understand the skeleton, you have to understand muscle structure, you can’t just like, wing it and really make it look believable, if that makes sense.

Iva Mikles  

Exactly. Because as you mentioned, like Yeah, to know the rules before the break them as well. Like, I don’t know, because so for example, right? And he was super, like good at realistic drawings. I was like 15 I think and and then he

Abigail Larson  

understood, yeah, he understood the form and he understood you know, shadow and shape and color and all of these things are incredibly important. I took a lot of them into color theory which was which opened my eyes because before then my stuff was just kind of I was just like a free for all and I did a lot of mono monochromatic stuff because I didn’t really understand color theory until I until I was pushed into learning it and it really helps and even now like I do some, some monochromatic pieces and things like that and but understanding tone and shadow helps that to make your pieces stand out and understanding complementary colors, secondary colors, a whole nother basing like basics to a lot of professional artists. But if you’re still if you’re learning or are confused by it, it’s it’s a huge, huge help.

Iva Mikles  

Because also when you just start thinking about it and then you go outside and just try to observe that helps so much. So just in the back of your mind. And maybe you can mention as well like well that you’re kind of the Maybe the biggest steps in your artistic process if you’re starting a new project or new RFPs, you know, like, how do you do your research, do the thumbnails, maybe you set up the color palette? Or maybe you can mention some of your, you know?

Abigail Larson  

Sure. Well, the first thing I do with most of my projects, what I do now, I do a huge variety of things, I do some design work, I do children’s books, I do game design, all of that stuff starts with research for me, I have to get inspired by something before I can start, even if it’s even when I have a time crunch. You know, I work with a lot of tight deadlines. But still, I mean, if I can just google something or get on Pinterest and look for some, like a lot of my things are period pieces. So I’ll look up historical costumes, I might see a silhouette of a dress that I really like, or I’ll look up some artwork from that time period and see if there’s something that sort of stirs my imagination. But it all starts with research I have to do, it’s essential for me to like, kind of immerse myself in what it is that I’m working on. That’s the first thing. And then of course, thumbnails come next every that’s just sort of standard on every client, you know, needs some previews. So thumbnails are next. And I’ll usually do like five or six of those. And, you know, I’ll try to several different poses. A lot of times, I’ll model myself or I’ll look online for artists References. Like there are some websites that have like, you know, models who stand in different poses where you can, you can look at them and or I’ll just stand myself and do it. So thumbnails are next, I have to wait for approval on those, then, of course, there’s always redos, and they need things fixed. And then then it goes into final lines and colors. And that part of the process ends up going pretty quickly. But it’s most most time consuming to do the research and to sit there and sketch, and you just get the right composition.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. And then when you mentioned the research, do you so maybe, how do you do the research? Exactly? Kind of do you maybe search for maybe three or four icons, you know, you put maybe on the mood board, or maybe research for the hair of the character, and you mentioned costumes? So do you try to combine these kind of mood boards or just really randomly, it depends,

Abigail Larson  

honestly, it’s it changes from project to project. And depending on how much time I have like my big project right now, I was hired by Llewellyn to do a tarot deck. So that’s a huge, huge project mean 78 cards, and it’s going to take me over a year to do it. And so I have a lot of time. So I can sit down and I get on Pinterest and I set you know, for almost all of my big projects, I just make its own board. And I’ll just, I’ll scroll through things. I’ll just Google search or I mean, Google is just such a huge tool for me, honestly, like when I’m when I’m researching things, I spend a lot of time researching like, like, if I’m not sure of the, if I know the time period of the piece, I will go and I will look on Wikipedia, I will like find out about every article of clothing and every kind of hairstyle like I get really into it, I research as much as I can. Because it’s it’s kind of fascinating to me how people used to live, which is why I love period work so much. So all of that stuff all then you go look it up. And if I see great images, and sometimes I’ll see images that have the right mood, or like a color scheme that I like or, or something like a composition that I really like or I think is successful. I’ll save all of that stuff and put it into a Pinterest board. And then I can scroll through it later and pick out things and I still I kind of like draw a little bit from all of that, to get to get to my

Iva Mikles  

leg also, as you mentioned atmosphere or color, or whatever it is.

Abigail Larson  

Sometimes yeah, sometimes you run across it. And often I’ll run across things for other projects. And and I’ll save that for other things. But yeah, you know, inspiration will hit you randomly almost, it seems.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. And when you do thumbnails, as you mentioned, you do also the poses and the composition, do you do also different thumbnails just to explore the color or that’s part of that.

Abigail Larson  

That’s sometimes I do some some clients asked for that specifically, normally, when I once I do the line work, I’ll put it in Photoshop. And then I’ll do several different layers and try different colors when the line work is done. Usually the most the farthest I’ll get with thumbnails is tones like I’ll do blacks and whites to see which which you know, which characters need to come out in which things in the background and we push back that kind of stuff, but color color usually comes later for me. And I know lots of artists do of course color thumbnails, and some clients prefer to have color options ahead of time which then of course I’ll do usually usually that’s later for me

Iva Mikles  

so you prefer to work with the value tones, right the same style you structure. Yeah, because, for example, I prefer to work with the color and the kind of the feeling where they are a different color tumbler. That’s really interesting. Yeah. And when you mentioned like that you have the tight deadline. So how do you kind of schedule your day or how do you plan your week? You know, how do you limit yourself like okay, I have maybe one day to do that. So do I have one hour or, you know, prioritize the project and stuff?

Abigail Larson  

It depends if the project has a really, really strict deadline, and then the research, of course, takes, you know, sort of a backseat, and I just limit myself to, you know, a few minutes or an hour or something like that, it changes every day. And with every project, there’s no I have no structure at all. It’s a complete free for all. Because I like to, I like to sort of tinker around with things like, I’ll do a lot of doodles and sketches and just sort of wait for something to fall into place. If I have the time to do that, that’s my favorite way to work is just sort of get it on paper. And, you know, just play with it until it feels right. So there it’s very loose. What how I work. But I’ve had projects when I worked with universal on the huntsman video game, and desert Allah games. When I did that, that was I we have I mean, I had up seriously tight deadline, everything had to be in very quickly. And I was lucky to have a really good team who helped me, they had people who helped me color. And they helped with doing the backgrounds. And so it ended up going very quickly. But that one was a real challenge for me, because there were tons of characters, I mean, animals and creatures. That was a big, big, big project. And a lot of it we didn’t even end up using, so it was just like, oh my gosh, is mind blowing how much how much work it was. But that one, I definitely I would get up early in the morning, I would start sketching because at night, they, they would be emailing me, because they were in California. And so I would get emails in the morning, I’d have to see everything I had to fix. And then we did like we all did a big team check in meeting through slack. And I was just like, oh, I have so much work. But it was it was so much fun. And I learned so much. And that that big project was one of my that was in 2016, I think. And that was one that really taught me time management, because it was so nice to have a structure and have to like have meetings, you know, it was really interesting. So that helps me to sort of plan my day like start off sketching, only limit myself to one two hours and then move on to this other thing. And then like later, I would have finished line work. And that’s when I would start coloring. And that’s all in the computer. So it was like it was nice to structure myself that way.

Iva Mikles  

Because now you use Photoshop, I guess or some other tools as well, you cannot live without

Abigail Larson  

just Photoshop. That was my big main tool. Behind me, you’ll see I’ve got a little drawing table, a drafting table, and I use a light tablet for transferring sketches. I work traditionally, in the first stage, I’ll draw and sketch on paper, take those sketches and then transfer them onto watercolor paper and do inks on top of that with the light, you know behind it so I can see it. And then I’ll watercolor it, scan it and then all the coloring is done in Photoshop.

Iva Mikles  

Oh yeah. Because then you kind of combined all of the traditional images. So why do you prefer the traditional compared to maybe just sketching directly digital because it’s faster, but then the textures? Maybe?

Abigail Larson  

Yeah, to me, it’s the texture but also, I’ve bought every kind of tool for we’re trying digital drawing, I really have tried, I’m trying I’ve gotten tablets and I mean all kinds of stuff. It is just to me. It doesn’t feel right, if that makes sense. Like drawing on paper feels better to me. I like the way the ink on paper looks. I know like people have told me there’s there’s brushes you can download that you know you can you can get it if the to me just does not seem the same. Maybe eventually I’ll try it again and and see if I can try it but because I feel like it would save a lot of time and it would be it probably be easier for me to do it all digital. But just for now I love the way paper feels I love the way ink looks and and of course sketching on paper. There’s just nothing like it. So yeah.

Iva Mikles  

Before we continue, let’s take a little break because many of you have been asking me about recommendations for different tools and resources to help you out with many different things like studying finding inspiration, overcoming artistic blog, managing your time and freelance. So I decided from now on in the episode I will share with you some of my favorite things which helped me a lot and I’m sure they can help you out do so let’s go take a look. So the first one is all the will which is a largest audio bookstore out there with more than 100,000 audiobooks and I love listening to stories and learning from books and even if you’re another book reader, this is a great way to get the knowledge and advice from books just by listening. It would be a shame to miss out on all the great tips if you just don’t like to read. I usually listen to audiobooks while I’m traveling doing housework or painting. It’s very relaxing And I learned a lot. With this awesome, you can get free 30 days trial, which is like getting free books. So try it out for yourself and go to artsideoflife.com/or They will. The next one is for all the freelancers and studio owners out there. It’s called FreshBooks. And it’s an invoicing accounting software that is super easy to use and significantly cuts your time needed for invoicing, getting paid, tracking expense, time tracking, and making proposals. great part about this is that with few clicks, you can export all important data for your tax declaration too. And you can get a free trial 30 days to test it out for yourself do so go to art side of live.com/fresh books. The last one is trusted house scissors. And as you may be already know, I love traveling to refresh my inspiration and avoid art books. But my budget doesn’t allow it so often. Fortunately, I discovered trusted house sitters website where you can do the petty thing and leave for free like a local. I love dogs and cats and all kinds of animals. So it’s great when when, in this way, it’s only about buying a flight ticket or travel there by car. Accommodation is for free. And you can have great fun with animals. And you can also draw them and practice your animal anatomy skills. It also works for those of you who have pets, and are looking for betters to be able to travel. So check it out at artsideoflife.com/d H F, you will find more artistic resources, tips and tools used by me or mentioned in the interviews at artsideoflife.com/resources. So go check it out. And just to let you know, some of the links are affiliate links, which means I will get paid a small commission if you decide to purchase through them, but absolutely no added cost to you. And in this way you get the chance to support Art Side of Life, which I really appreciate. And now let’s go back to the interview. And do you carry around like a sketchbook with you all the time, maybe when you go to cafes or like to go outside?

Abigail Larson  

I really hate drawing around people I feel I feel like every time I try it, someone always comes over to my table and wants to see what I’m doing. And it drives me crazy. I’m not I’m not incredibly socialist. I’m not great about that. But you know, in college, we used to do that I had groups of friends, you know, we were an art school. So groups of us would go out and we do like plein air painting. And that was always so much fun. I took oil painting we did like oil painting outside and it was like, it was just super cool. But these days no, I am in my studio, I am pretty much drawn, drawn to my table and stuck there for hours and hours. I do keep a little sketchbook for when I travel. And that’s usually just in case I have you know, because I’ve got a bunch of clients and sometimes people say, you know, Oh, could you just fix this one thing and so I’ll have to like get on get on the sketch and on the sketch pad and I’ll be working on the train I’ve done I’ve definitely done a few paintings on trains before, which is fun.

Iva Mikles  

If someone is kind of just starting to work with clients will do advise, you know, like, maybe charging wise do charge per hour per project, or per day, or you know, what is the best from your experience?

Abigail Larson  

Well, there’s a lot of debate about this right now, actually, there’s some great articles going around about what our illustrators in particular should be doing. Because there’s been a lot of confusion over the years about the worth of illustrators, which is is pretty. It can be, you know, a little discouraging for young artists because it seems like you it’s just so hard to get ahead. As an illustrator. It’s a very competitive field and it’s very confusing. You don’t always know what to charge people but I started off doing like $20 Commission’s on Deviant Art, I was pretty young, and I didn’t understand. But I felt like you know, a little drawing might take me now or is those that don’t really know. So what my mom ended up telling me she she ran her own business for a while doing decorating and she charged per hour. And when she started out, so I thought, I don’t know maybe like 50 An hour would be right and my dad in particular was like Don’t undersell, don’t undersell yourself, you know, you should charge more. And you know, he still says that even though I’m making pretty good money now. But my dad was always like the hard ass about it. Like you have to charge so much money. And so I did I started charging like 20 or 50 an hour and then that got to be when I started getting bigger projects. It got to be way too confusing to keep track of all that stuff. So I have flat rates now, which is usually like quarter page illustration, half page illustration, full page dustjacket that kind of thing. So it’ll go from like, you know 150 250 it goes again, it goes up from there 300, whatever, depending on the project. So it does it changes.

Iva Mikles  

Because it’s also like, if we think about, like, how much value we actually bring to the, to the client, you know, if? Or maybe, do you ask as well, how the illustration is used? You know, like, if they sell, I don’t know, like, merchandise, or because like, how much revenue it will actually bring?

Abigail Larson  

Oh, yeah, there’s also there’s licensing. I mean, there’s so much now, like, I’ve learned so much along the way, but you know, starting out, it can be, it can be daunting, you know, it’s hard to know, the value of your work when it’s being used, not just for, you know, book, but also like, like merchandise, like you said, I mean, sometimes things have, there’s resale, and I’ve worked with museums where they’ve, you know, I’ve had stuff on consignment, like, I’ve had things where they’ve just done limited editions, you know, the tests, like, all these things you need to consider when you’re doing it, and I actually have an agent, now, who helps me with this stuff. So when I get bigger projects, like books, you know, doing a fully illustrated book, The contracts for those can be very overwhelming, you know, you’re just like, Oh, my God, this much money is amazing. But you do need someone to like reel you in, and, you know, help you make sure that you’re getting enough with royalties. And I mean, all this, there’s just so much that is involved with it. And then of course, negotiating prices, where I would start off where I would get a contract and be like, Oh, my God, you know, $1,000 is amazing. And, you know, I’m now looking back, I, you know, talk my talk to my agent about it, and she just laughed, she’s like, Oh, my God, you realize you could have been paid so much more for this. When you’re starting, when, you know, when you’re just when you’re doing it yourself, you don’t really know, you know, the value. And I went freelance pretty early. I mean, if there’s one thing I could change about the way that I have, sort of run my business, I guess you could say if I could change one thing, I would have slowed down. I jumped right in. When I was still in college, I was really anxious to get started. I wanted to be an illustrator after after college. So like, I set up my website, I hadn’t postcards, I was, you know, I had a client list to like people I wanted to work with, like, and it was, of course, you know, Simon and Schuster, like, like, huge, like, impossible clients, but I made lists. And you know, I was like, I’m going to do this. But of course, I got rejected from everything, because of my work just wasn’t, it was you know, I was college student work. I was not where I needed to be. So I wish I had slowed down a little bit and like, taking some time off and just worked on my portfolio, but I was just too anxious. So my like, looking at my portfolio portfolio from college. I’m just like, Oh, what was I thinking? But yeah,

Iva Mikles  

yeah. So if you’re, like, maybe applying for, like, working with a client is that Does that still happen like your networking, or they always come to you now at this stage?

Abigail Larson  

Now, fortunately, these last, you know, knock on when these last three or four years or so I’ve been very, very fortunate to have my work come to me, which is still blows my mind, I think that’s just kind of crazy. But yeah, I got lucky. And it’s a lot of online networking and pestering people, definitely push my portfolio. And my agent, of course, helps a lot. She has my work, of course on hand, and she helps me with with getting jobs. And so I do still reach out to galleries. And I do still reach out to publishers. And I’ve gotten some work that way as well. But most of the bulk of my work is coming to me now, which is really cool. And how

Iva Mikles  

did you find the the agent which like you are happy with and you know, fits with your goals and everything?

Abigail Larson  

Yeah, that was that was sort of crazy how that happened. The first agent I worked with, I’m with the same agency red sofa, but the first agent I worked with, she just was a fan. She liked my work. And so she approached me and said, you know, we have this small agency, you know, we really love your work, we I think we can represent you. And so I signed on with them. And it ended up being really, really great. Now they’re a literary agency. So like, it’s not really like an art agent, which is a it’s a different thing, usually for gallery artists, but they helped me so much with finding and talking to potential clients, you know, they get an agency will get your pitch and your manuscript into the right hands. Whereas almost all publishers, they do not take unsolicited manuscripts, so it helps to have an agency help you out in that in that regard. So they found me actually

Iva Mikles  

agencies like in your area where you live, or they’re like from different country.

Abigail Larson  

This agency is from America, but they have they work with artists like me all over the world, and so they’re very, very flat. Trouble. But yeah, they’re American based.

Iva Mikles  

So when you mentioned you are in Italy, why are you in Italy?

Abigail Larson  

I abandoned America

Iva Mikles  

travel Are you worried from Italy or

Abigail Larson  

I live here, my husband is Italian. He he was born and raised here. But then he came to America and we met and, you know, fell in love and got married. And we spent four years together there. And we, you know, we would come back to Italy to visit his family and stuff. And every time we came here, I was just like, Oh, my God, do we have to leave, you know, I love it here, I really have to go back to America. And, and we, we seriously talked about it, we had a house in Richmond. And after a year of that, we were kinda like, you know, wait, we could probably make it work in Italy. And you know, we could probably do it. And so we did you know, we, I sold everything, and my husband had a green card for America. But we ended up just coming right back to Italy. And we got an apartment here. And you know, we’ve settled in, it’s been about a year now. So, you know, it’s a little culture shock for me. And this is a new city, we’re in turn. So it’s just, it’s different, but it’s what I’ve really wanted, you know, it was I grew up in America, of course, and I, you know, I love it, but, and Virginia is so beautiful. But after a while I was I was just kind of thinking I think I would be happier in you know, in Europe, I came here and I felt like I was already at home and we traveled here regularly. And we’ve gone, you know, to a few other places. And Italy really struck a chord with me. So we decided we would move here and it’s been really wonderful.

Iva Mikles  

How is your Italian? Terrible? But yeah, you can go around the beat

Abigail Larson  

a little bit. But yeah, I’m still learning I really want to enroll in a class here because I really want to be like super fluent. You know, my husband’s a little bit but yeah, it’s it’s a slow process.

Iva Mikles  

Perfect. And when you mentioned that you have a studio do you have to travel to the studio? Or it’s kind of like it digitally or

Abigail Larson  

it’s in my apartment? Yep, I have this is this area is my studio. It’s a big 17 foot long room. It’s just a big open space. We just moved in literally in January or early early January late December. And so it’s been a you know a little bit of a process to get it like you know, own situated it’s a bigger space than I’m used to. I always work at home I don’t like to have to go out and go somewhere else or pay rent on another building but this this is my my workspace and it felt like a it’s got a little balcony and big windows so I kind of

Iva Mikles  

do because then it’s also good that is not like your bedroom or living room because it’s like a separate space. different fields. Okay, now I’m working and now I’m relaxing.

Abigail Larson  

Exactly, exactly. It’s really important to like not have it too close to like the home area.

Iva Mikles  

And like how much time do you spend maybe working? Do you take weekends off? Or do you work usually at night? Are you like a night owl or productive

Abigail Larson  

early morning and late at night? During the day? There’s a lot of stuff we have to take care of usually like you know, there’s just a regular errands life stuff Yeah, like like right now actually, I have to like run to the post office I have to you know, send artwork to a gallery like I’ve just always there’s always something that needs to get done. And then of course it’s just regular things like groceries and whenever I’m in Italy everybody takes the middle of the day off so

Iva Mikles  

from some areas

Abigail Larson  

oh my god it can be it can be so crazy but so I have to like block out times during the like morning and afternoon to like run out and do things but middle of the day everything is very quiet. Usually I take some time off and as in the middle of the day. And but I’m usually up till 2am I for some reason, even if I get up really early, like early morning is when I’ll do my focus stuff like if I have to write something if I have to like answer interview questions or answer emails, like I really need to focus I do that stuff in the morning and I’ll do a lot of research in the morning but it’s nighttime is when I really relax and it’s just when I can sort of get in the zone of drawing and for some reason that’s just the nighttime works better for that for me

Iva Mikles  

yeah really nice and when you also talked about the the client work so how do you what do you leave from mainly Is it the client work or the illustration for the books you also sell your own prints? So maybe like whichever one is the biggest chunk for you or like how do you combine your income streams?

Abigail Larson  

It’s all it’s all of it pretty pretty equally. I do pretty good regular sales from my print shop, which is great because they sell worldwide and they take and society six they take care of all the printing In shipping for me, I don’t have to worry about any of that. That’s a huge chunk of my income. And then the freelance work, which is all the contract work and private commissions, all of that stuff. That’s, that’s the other really big chunk. But yeah, that’s

Iva Mikles  

nice. Because it’s always nice to see you how people combining like, do you use Patreon? Or you sell art brains or whatever?

Abigail Larson  

Yes, right? Yep, I’m on, I’m on Patreon as well. And that’s, I have like 30 I think, patrons, it’s not a big thing. I’m really bad about remembering to advertise it. But I do have a little bit of income from that as well, which is great. So it comes in from a few different sources, but mostly, it’s the freelance and the print sales. Those are my big, my big income.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, cool. So now now people can go check out your Patreon so we can. Perfect. And if we think about also, like along the way, the whole art career, what would you consider the most difficult time because that’s usually the time where we learned the most or maybe if you can share, like, what would be the takeaway kind of from this time?

Abigail Larson  

Most difficult times. Usually, I mean, I think this is true for pretty much anyone is whenever there’s personal things that come up, like our move to Italy was huge for me, of course, it was for Davidow as well. But it was, I mean, it was exhausting. We had to We sold everything that we owned in America, we couldn’t bring any furniture. So we just whatever we can carry in like six suitcases. And you know, the flight was really long. And then this physical moving we when we first moved to Italy, ame is a we were staying near where his mother lives, which is anywhere in the north. And it was Albenga is the name of the city, but she lived in or to Barrow, and we moved to Ronzo, which is our little tiny medieval mountain village. And we moved there just because it was convenient it was you know, when we got to El Banga, we would get on the bus and have to bust up the mountain to our little apartment. It was an adventure for a while it’s like getting used to this culture. And you know, in little mountain villages in Italy, it’s a bunch of you know, it’s elderly people, and none of them speak English. And it was really fascinating to me and a big learning experience. So that was like, I just just getting used to life in Italy was it was wonderful and exciting. But I could not create I was I found it very hard for the first probably the whole month, the whole first month we were here. I had to of course, I had to like order desks and tables and like things to work on. Like all of this stuff. I had to. I had my beautiful iMac from from America that I had that had my computer. And you know, and that was it. I just found it so hard to I had no real studio, I had a spare bedroom in the apartment we were in. And I just sort of set things up there. But there was no window and it was just sort of small and dark. And I had such a hard time with that. And it’s not like it was a devastating thing, you know, but it did stifle my creativity for a long time. And I had trouble with that. I mean, but of course anytime I go through, like when I was younger, I guess in my early 20s I had a bad breakup. And that really shook me up and I had a hard time I that was just an awful time in my life. I got into it immediately after that got into a car crash. And yeah, it was it was awful. Like, it was like every bad thing that could happen happened at once during that time. Again, that slowed me down a lot. But after a while you just start us just start to slowly get back into work and finding that creative spark again, and it does it does eventually come back. But it took a while. And of course Yeah, whenever, you know, the hard times come it’s usually just life that’s gonna

Iva Mikles  

happen. Yeah, so the takeaway from it would be that it just you have to go through it and then you just accept that like, okay, maybe the creativity is not there right now, but it will come back.

Abigail Larson  

And I always knew that because you know, throughout your life, you as creators, you know, everyone knows, it never goes away completely and like feel like it’s gone for a while but it always does come back and how I deal with that really is just I tried to stay inspired. And sometimes it feels like oh my gosh, you know, how can you say that? You know, stay inspired. It’s impossible. But you know, sometimes it’s just watching movies. You know, I would watch a really beautiful movie or listen to music I would find a new artist to listen to I would go to a museum I had there were like always galleries to go to and events. It could come from anywhere. It could just come from a walk in the woods. You know, traveling helps me a lot if I go to a new place and get lost. You know I kind of enjoy that inventor and it could be anything like that to spark the crate.

Iva Mikles  

Do you have maybe like advice to young self you know something you wish you knew before you started the art gallery?

Abigail Larson  

I definitely I would tell, I mean, any young artist, I would tell myself if I could go back, just be patient, stop trying to rush it, you know, don’t don’t rush into it. And it can be. I mean, especially I don’t know how young artists do it these days with like Instagram and seeing like constant, amazing artists doing great things. And it must be so overwhelming. You know, I’m kind of glad that I didn’t have that when I was starting out, you know, we had Live Journal and MySpace. And that’s it. Like, it wasn’t too overwhelming. Like, I would go to bookstores and see other illustrators and be like, oh, man, you know, but, I mean, everyone wants to, like, publish their artwork and be the next great artist. And I feel like if you just slow down and take your time, learn the craft, experiment and explore. And don’t worry about having an amazing style. Don’t worry about being the best draftsman, you know, don’t worry about how well you paint. Focus on creating and, and finding joy in creating and drawing the things you love, not what you think people will love, but what you really enjoy. Take your time and have patience, and the rest will come

Iva Mikles  

definitely and healthy. Also, we did telling you the story is in your artworks, right? Do you write like notes, you know, when you have a story or?

Abigail Larson  

Yeah, it’s terrible. Actually, I’ve, I’ve gotten so distracted recently, in the past two years, I started writing, and I’m really interested in fairy tales. So I’ve been like rewriting my own fairy tales. And I’ll come up with like, this is just a way to keep me sane, to be honest here, because there’s so much work that I have to do. And a lot of it’s very demanding. And there’s a lot of pressure. And sometimes it’s it’s not even like I take a break from drawing, I’ll keep drawing to take a break, but I’ll be drawing my own things, you know, exploring my own fairy tales, and having fun with my own characters and you know, developing their world. And so I yeah, I’ve gotten into that a lot.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, perfect, then so what about like the future? What is your dream scenario? You know, like, what would you like to be working on in like, five to 10 years? And it’s like, okay, this is how it will be for me.

Abigail Larson  

Well, one of the things that’s kind of crazy for me now is that, like, for example, like right now, I’m working on this tarot deck. And years ago, you know, when I was in college and working with Llewellyn, they were on my list, you know, I love that publisher. And I always wanted to work with them. And I always thought, Oh, my God, it’d be so cool to do a tarot deck. And now, here I am, is so amazing. And they contacted me. Yeah, they contacted me out of the blue. It was like a complete surprise. It was just like, I don’t know, everything lined up perfectly. And it just happened. Of course, you know, I’m almost 30 now. And it took me a long time to get here. But so for example, like it does, it does happen, you know, when I, when I was asked, when I was younger, well, how do you see yourself in 10 years, I’m there and I’m doing what I wanted to do, which is an incredible thing, I think. And I’m really, really lucky. And I’m so happy to be where I am now. But from here in the next 10 years, I think, I think I would love to see myself doing writing and illustrating my own books for you know, bigger publishers, I love to see my fairy tales, you know, take form, I’m thinking more like graphic novels or something or like fully illustrated books, especially young adult. I’ve done a lot of kids stuff. I’ve done some children’s books, but I’d love to get into young adult and graphic novels. So maybe in the next 10 years, well, we’ll see something like that.

Iva Mikles  

I’m looking forward to see though I’m sure. It’d be awesome. I would love that. Yeah. And one of my last question is like, what would you like to be remembered for? You know, in like, 100 years, like super far in the future? Oh, my gosh,

Abigail Larson  

if anyone was gonna remember me? Um, I don’t know. Not one thing in particular, really, I hope that I hope that, you know, I have a lot of artists, young artists who have contacted me now who say that my work inspires them and that they that they’ve seen my work on DeviantArt years ago, and they still follow me like I would, you know, and that’s just a few years back, but I would hope that in many years to come that my artwork, whichever pieces they are still can inspire people still can make people feel, you know, a little touch of darkness and romance or something, you know, something that’s Dalek, I hope that my artwork will continue to do that

Iva Mikles  

for for future generations. Just bring some emotion from the artwork. Yeah,

Abigail Larson  

or seeing the picture and telling their own story for it. I I love that about some of the things that I do that some of my pieces, people will say, you know, I looked at this immediately and already came up with a storyboard. I think that’s so cool that, you know, an illustration can do that for someone. I hope that continues.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, I totally agree. Because yeah, that’s something which it can bring creativity in someone.

Abigail Larson  

That’s right. And I think that’s amazing. I feel like there’s so many people who say, you know, oh, I don’t have a creative bone in my body. New York, I can’t draw I can, ya know, it’s everyone’s creative. Everyone has their own their own brand of creativity. So you know, if it makes you feel something or think of a of a story, then that’s wonderful. I think that’s a really, really important.

Iva Mikles  

Exactly, yeah. And so before we say goodbye, maybe you can share, like, last piece of advice or key takeaway, and then we will slowly finish.

Abigail Larson  

Yeah. Well, I think it’s just a very important that, you know, one of the questions I always, always get from people, as they say, your as your style is so unique. It’s, it’s so interesting. How did you do it? And I always tell people, especially the very young artists, you know, I did it by accident. You know, I didn’t mean to draw like this. It was something. You know, like we said earlier, I learned the fundamentals of fine art UI startup drawing, realistically, my first drawings were like with, with actual shading, and, like proper proportions, like, my early stuff, looked like normal, regular fine art. I developed a style after studying lots of artists like I looked at so many artists, you know, Harry Clark, and Aubrey Beardsley. Of course, Arthur Rackham, and Ben Duloc. All those people, I studied lots and lots of artists and illustrators. And eventually, I started to find like, you know, I like to draw chairs this way, I like to shade this way. I like this kind of hatching, and it was totally by accident, and you wake up one day years later, and you’re like, oh, I have a style now. So I would tell people, you know, it is not so important that you focus on finding a style, it is important for an artist to have a style, it’s important to be unique and to stand out. But you should focus more on, on just creating on trying lots of different things. tried lots of different styles. If you’re not sure. Study lots of artists and the style will come eventually.

Iva Mikles  

Definitely. Yeah, I totally agree. That’s a really great advice to finish this conversation. So thank you so much, again, for being here. It was so great.

Abigail Larson  

Thank you so much for having me. This is really fun. It’s great talking to

Iva Mikles  

you. Oh, thank you so much. Definitely. My pleasure. And thanks, everyone who joined us today and hope you are inspired and go continue creating something. So see you in the next episode. And thanks again. Thank you so much. Hey, guys, thank you so much for listening. I really appreciate you being here. You can find all the resources mentioned in this episode at Art Side of Life. Just type a guest name in the search bar. There is also a couple of free artists resources ready for you on the website as well. So go check it out. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher so I can region inspire more artists like you. If you want to watch the interviews, head over to artsideoflife.com/youtube. Continue to inspire each other and I will talk to you guys in the next episode. Bye.

Announcer  

Thanks for listening to the Art Side of Life podcast at www.artsideoflife.com

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on illustration, storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help either wake up or develop your creative genius. Learn more about me.

Recommended:

Ep.116: Discipline will help you achieve anything with Carolina Parada (Carosurreal)

Ep.116: Discipline will help you achieve anything with Carolina Parada (Carosurreal)

Hey, guys! In this episode, I am chatting with Carolina Parada, an illustrator, biologist, and researcher originally from Colombia, now living and working in France. She is most known for her stories that she writes and draws by herself!

Ep.27: Art is craft and science with Proko

Ep.27: Art is craft and science with Proko

Stan is an artist, teacher, and owner of Proko.com, a resource for artists to get good art instruction videos.

Ep.115: Bryan Mark Taylor on being a plein air artist

Ep.115: Bryan Mark Taylor on being a plein air artist

Hey, guys! In this episode, I am chatting with Bryan Mark Taylor, a painter, lecturer, inventor and world traveler! He is most known for his plein air paintings and his work has been featured in Fine Art Connoisseur, Plein Air, and other publications.

Ep.128: Be a student of life with Brian Ajhar

Ep.128: Be a student of life with Brian Ajhar

Hey, guys! In this episode, I am chatting with Brian Ajhar, a character designer, illustrator, and storyteller. His art career has spanned 3 decades and his clients include magazines, newspapers, advertising agencies, corporations, and book publishers.

Ep.198: Create Art That Sells with Cat Coquillette (Cat Coq)

Ep.198: Create Art That Sells with Cat Coquillette (Cat Coq)

Cat Coq, a location-independent artist, and designer selling on society6 and teaching on Skillshare. Her designs appear on products in Target & Urban Outfitters.

Ep.151: Atey Ghailan aka Snatti on why should always have your personal art projects

Ep.151: Atey Ghailan aka Snatti on why should always have your personal art projects

Hey, guys! In this episode, I am chatting with Atey Ghailan, a.k.a Snatti, a concept artist, and illustrator, in LA. He works as Senior Illustrator and concept artist at Riot Games. In his free time, he works on his personal project called Path of Miranda.