One-on-one with Heather Hudson

Today Boneshaker Press has the pleasure to introduce you to Heather Hudson, an illustrator, illuminating monsters. You can learn more about Heather in her website:

What’s your background ?
I started working as an illustrator back in the 90’s, painting for collectible card games and other hobby games.

What got you interested in the arts to begin with ?
I’ve always drawn. It was a satisfying way to share the stories I made up and quicker than trying to write them down – or to get people to read them if I did.


When did you decide to dedicate yourself to art ?
I don’t think it was ever a conscious decision, I just tried various forms of story telling over the years and I found a place here. Let’s say I developed a working relationship with art in my 30’s, but there was always a relationship of some kind.

Do you remember the first piece of art you made that you were really proud of ? The one that made you say “yes I am an artist !”
I felt that way about a lot of my early work, but as I level up my art skills I’ve grown more cautious.

Do you collect anything ?
The usual – books, art supplies, skulls, small original artworks from folks I admire.

Major Arcana card from an imaginary tarot deck

What research do you do ?
I’ll do background reading if it helps. If there’s something specific I’m rendering – an animal, a costume – I’ll draw it from reference to make sure I understand what I’m seeing. Drawing things helps me see them clearly.

What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have ?
I keep a bullet journal to stay organized over multiple projects. I like to draw a quick study before I start painting, to wake up the visual part of my brain.If I can’t think of anything topical that would help the day’s project, I’ll draw a hand.


What sacrifices have you made on behalf of your art career ?
I don’t think I’ve sacrificed much. Art has always been a friend to me – maybe a low-rent friend, but still a friend who’ll give me crash space in a pinch. When I began to depend on freelance illustration for a living 20-plus years back, people used to ask me if I worried about not having a steady job with a permanent employer. These days nobody else has one either, so I don’t hear the question as much.

What themes/ideas do you pursue ?
My personal motto these days is “Illuminating Monsters a Speciality,” with a pun on “illuminating” to suggest both brightness and the illustration of a manuscript. I like drawing monsters. A good monster – a wonder of nature, a Jungian archetype, a mythical creature or even a nice carnival gaff – is a lovely tool for telling stories.
I realize a “monster” can also mean a dysfunctional human who behaves badly, but those are much less charming and no fun to draw.


What advice would you have given yourself ten years ago ?
“Finish the thing.” Even if the artwork promises to be terrible, finish the thing. I’ve learned more doing many little things and finishing them, than in doing one mighty thing in an equal period of time. And if I don’t finish the thing, I don’t level up at all, thus wasting my time.

How has your practice changed over time ?
On the one hand, the computer and the internet have changed every aspect of the illustration process – how I find reference, the media I use to make art, the way I show my work to the world, the way it can be marketed when it’s done. And on the other, I’ve changed media repeatedly. I change focus and tell new stories, and suddenly I’m learning digipainting or buying paintbrushes for the first time in a decade. A few years back I chose to walk away from traditional media, assuming that my future lay in illustration and that illustration was, by practical default, digital. And now I am using pencils and paint again, because I’m writing Oz-ish fairytales and it feels appropriate to paint fairies in real media.

Card illustration for the Changeling Artists Collective project “Olde Fae.” Watercolor.

How do you keep your creative spark ? What keeps you motivated ?

Commitments. Deadlines. Shared projects, or even just the expectations of an art director. If it’s a personal project, building the timeline around an external event, like a big comic con, where I’d like to debut a finished product. Willpower can fade as time goes by, but a looming deadline just gets more ominous.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given ?
The tools of the artist’s trade are line (or drawing), tone, hue, and edge. Those are the things we work with. All else that critics see in our work – “vitality,” “energy” “fire” – are achieved with those tools. We don’t have to worry about the other stuff, we just learn to work with line, tone, hue and edge. This advice is from the excellent “Alla Prima – Everything I know about Painting” by Richard Schmid, and I recommend it — and all his books — very highly.

Sunken Sunlight
Digital painting, a personal work by Heather Hudson

What’s your main challenge when beginning a new piece of art ?
Moving from the idea to the picture itself. Eventually I have to stop over-intellectualizing and just make the picture.

What are you working on right now? (Other than this project) What are you currently obsessed with?
I’m building a world to tell stories in, the world of the Other Side of the Wood. It’s a weird little otherwhere half-way between Oz and the Dreamlands, but it’s mine and I look forward to seeing how it comes together.


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