Galen Dara likes monsters, mystics, dead things and extremely ripe apricots. She has created art for 47North publishing, Fireside Magazine, Lightpseed, Apex Publication, Goblin Fruit, Lackington’s, Resurrection House, and Edge Publishing. Her art is included in Spectrum 20 and 21. She won the 2011 Orycon33 Art Show Directors Choice award and the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist. She is nominated for the 2014 Hugo Award for Professional Artist and the 2014 World Fantasy Award.
Interview by Michi Trota.
1) Your work often blends fantasy, myth and the macabre. What is it about the “dark side” of fantasy that you enjoy integrating into your art?
I have a thing for wanting to scratch away at all the paint and polish and see what lies beneath. The hidden stuff, the darker stuff. The secret stuff. The macabre is more interesting to me than idealized images of heroics and beauty.
2) Can you describe what your artistic process is like? How does your art progress from inspiration to completion?
I often start by perusing around looking for reference and inspiration images. These can come from all over: old art books, my collection of comics, google searches, Pinterest boards, diving through my old sketchbooks, etc. I tend to “over gather”; it’s easy for me to get lost looking at all the other cool stuff and become hesitant to dive in and make my own marks, but it’s still part of my process. Once I’ve satisfied that itch to look at ALL THE INSPIRING STUFF, I start collaging images and photos and sketches together, assembling, rending apart, reassembling until I have a composition that satisfies me. Then I begin to paint. Layer upon layer in Photoshop, glazing with varying opacities, a few choice blending modes and a handful of textured brushes. Building up color, depth, luminosity, creating softness, carving out hard edges.
3) How do you use your work to challenge your readers?
Oh, that’s an interesting question. When I’m illustrating a story, or creating cover art, I’m trying to find creative ways of solving the problem that the writer has delivered. Everyone comes away from reading a story with a different visual in their head. How I illustrate a story is very different than how another artist would do it. My job as an illustrator is to reach into the story, grab the parts and images that resonate with me. Hopefully the art I create also resonates with readers.
4) What is the most uncanny thing that’s ever happened to you?
I learned how to drive stick-shift in a dream: When I was younger my dad obtained an ancient Toyota Corolla Hatchback for us kids to drive and for the life of me I couldn’t make that thing stop lurching and stalling, couldn’t get it out of the driveway. Then I had a dream where the details of clutch handling became crystal clear and the next day I was able to vroom that car smoothly all over town.