Issue 033 Release! Cover artist interview

Today’s the day! Luna Station Quarterly is thrilled to announce the release of Issue 033! In it, you’ll find nine stories by amazing female authors and on its cover, well. See for yourself:

“Blind Circus” by Kirbi Fagan

Kirbi Fagan (@KirbiFagan) is our cover artist for this issue and she’s delivered the goods with a piece titled “Blind Circus.” We were lucky enough to snag Kirbi for a moment and pick her creatively amazing brain. Here’s what she had to say.

LSQ: Please tell us about Issue 033’s cover art, “Blind Circus.” What’s going on in this picture? Who is this person, does she have a story? What inspired you to create this?

Kirbi: This artwork was commissioned by Clark Huggins creator of the “Reckless Deck.” The deck is an idea-generating set of cards. I cherry-picked the first card, “Fantasy Hero”, and the other two cards, “Blindfold” and “Circus Attire”, where chosen at random. I ran with it! I tried dozens of ideas and found this image. When creating, too much freedom can be daunting. I’m an artist that likes to be put in a box. Give me an ocean and I’ll drown! At first I was using “Blindfold” in my sketches as part of a circus act, being blindfolded added a level of suspense. However, covering up a face I quickly lost the intimacy of the character and my favorite part to paint. I thought having a blindfold interpreted visually as a strong stream of light blinding across the eyes would be neat. When that didn’t work out this led me to using a shadow across the eyes. I thought it gave the character a mysterious narrative. Especially as shadowy faces are usually associated with evil characters. This challenged me to use light, color, and white “magic” to communicate that this character, though mysterious, is not “evil.”

LSQ: You’ve done some covers for Marvel Comics. Is there a different process in creating art for an established comic versus creating something that’s totally your own? How do you put a bit of yourself into these covers? 

Kirbi: Not so different at all! Working as an illustrator, the artwork is always constrained by the client’s needs and wants. In the best situations, like with Marvel, those needs and wants align with my interests and some really special things can happen. When I’m trying to inject myself into a commission that feels too much like work, I try to focus on two things. First, the pure joy of painting and second, I try to put something in the image that I enjoy. I keep a huge working list of things that I enjoy visually and add to it often. I go to this list and see what might work with the project. The list can include all sorts of items such a bonnets, moss on red bricks, and 1950s Oldsmobiles.

When I’m creating for a client, my sketch is completely thought out. Creating the final feels much like painting by number. When I’m on my own I often don’t commit to a sketch which causes me to flounder. Clark gave me a lot freedom; many things were added that were not in the original sketch. In this animation you can see there is a bit of “searching” that wouldn’t happen with other client work.

LSQ: Please tell us a bit about how you’ve grown as an artist — excluding technique, are there aspects you do differently now as opposed to when you were younger? Have your tastes changed or remained the same?

Kirbi: I don’t waste time struggling! If I can’t get an area right it’s usually because I don’t have enough information. I’m unapologetic about seeking out more information which might mean going to see the object in person or posing in front of a camera. When I was younger I was extremely academic and “safe.” I’m not scared of ruining an in-progress work like I used to be. I’m willing to sling paint and do whatever it takes to make the work the best it can be. Lately, I’ve been working on some images that have more expression and to do so I’m sacrificing a bit of the realism I’ve been known for in the past.

“Alternative Space Program” by Kirbi Fagan

LSQ: Tell us a bit about the importance of creating art featuring female leads. Can you comment on the level at which these characters are occurring both on the covers of comics and other media? 

Kirbi: I find it so empowering to be a real influence on how women are represented in media. Most publishers are very aware of their newly liberated audience and in response many are seeking out female voices–like me–to be creators. It’s crucial young girls get to see themselves in the stories they read and even more important for boys to see girls outside of their paperback cliches. There have been situations where I didn’t like the way a young girl was represented and I was able to convince the publisher to show her in a stronger, less sexist and more flattering light and . . . they went for it! I’m truly in the trenches, trying to make changes and be passionate about it. In children’s publishing it’s common to hear, “girls will be a fan of a story about a boy lead but a boy rarely will read a story with a female lead.” The publishers’ solution is to create two different markets. It’s up to creators to get more creative. Create a character so fantastic we all love her! It’s up to the publishers to take a risk which I don’t feel they are all willing to do at this time.

LSQ: Among all your pieces, do you have a favorite? If so, which is it and why? If not, why not?

“Damsel” by Kirbi Fagan

Kirbi: Whatever piece I’m currently working on is my favorite. In my mind, there are two types of artists: one who works for a finished product they love and another who loves the labor of that product. I love the act of painting more than I love *a* painting. Does that make any sense? Many people don’t realize that the paintings I’m doing right now won’t see the light of day for some time and the work I did last year won’t be out till later this year or next.

LSQ: From the start of the creative process to the finished piece, do you have a step that is typically the most difficult for you? 

Kirbi: In the last few years I’ve moved in to a place in my development where I feel solid in my process and my process hardly ever wavers. When a client is involved, it’s about getting a non-visual person on board with the concept. When a client trusts my aesthetics, those are always my best pieces. I really have to sell my idea and create a sketch that captures what I envision the final looking like which is not always easy.

LSQ: Are there recent books or comics that have influenced some of your work? 

Kirbi: The world of writing and art can often derail me more often than inspire me. It’s easy to get caught up in looking at artwork and different styles. That’s something that I don’t think many people admit: I like so many different things (most artists do!). What influences me the most is my passionate students at the College for Creatives Studies in Downtown Detroit.