Issue 037 Cover Artist Interview: Leesha Hannigan

Last Friday, March 1, Issue 037 dropped and we couldn’t be more thrilled with it — 12 stories by women authors and a gorgeous cover? What more could you want??? Today we’re excited to share an interview with the cover artist herself, Leesha Hannigan.

“The Quiet of a Beating Heart” by Leesha Hannigan

LSQ: Let’s talk about the cover for Issue 037: “The Quiet of a Beating Heart.” Does this character have a story behind her? Where did the idea for this image come from?

Leesha: The primary feeling behind this painting is a nurturing protectiveness, and facing fear with determination. The woman shown is navigating a dense forest through difficult terrain, but is intensely focused on saving the injured dragon. In this piece I spent time with small, storytelling details. I thought of the way a cat may, out of instinct, dig its claws in when frightened or in pain, and tried to reflect that in the body language of the dragon. I wanted to show the woman’s bag of herbs; I pictured her as someone who may be interested in botanical healing remedies. The tiny birds in the background were to signify hope, a light in the dark.

LSQ: Animals appear to feature heavily in your work. Can you tell us a bit about your interest in capturing creatures in your art? Do you have a favorite animal (either real or mythical)? What are the most challenging aspects about bringing these creatures alive in your work?  

Leesha: I have felt an affinity for animals since I can remember. I was the weird child who was always in the garden looking at bugs and lizards while the other kids played inside (and honestly, not much has changed). Creature art being my focus was inevitable. Bringing an animal or imaginary creature to life in a painting brings me a lot of joy. One of the challenges can involve figuring out believable anatomy for an imaginary creature you can’t necessarily look up direct reference for. I overcome these challenges by looking to the anatomy of existing creatures and applying those “rules” to the imaginary.

As for my favorite animal, that’s an impossible choice! I love the Mustelidae family of animals (these include weasels and otters), as well as birds and reptiles. I would also give a special mention to rats as some of the friendliest, most intelligent pets I have owned. My favorite imaginary creatures are probably wyverns and owlbears. I’d love to have a pet owlbear!

LSQ:Where do you get your inspiration for your pieces? How do you recharge your creativity?

“Pack Mother” by Leesha Hannigan

Leesha: I am inspired by photography, literature, music, my own travels – a really broad range of things. I feel the best way to recharge your creativity (particularly if you’re experiencing burnout) is to get away from your desk and go outside, if you are able! Alternatively: read a book, watch a movie, play a video game. We spend a lot of time creating; it’s good to balance that with consuming other creators’ content or experiencing new places and scenery.

LSQ: Your work also appears to include predominately female humans. Please tell us your thoughts on the inclusion of women in graphic art/design in general and within the realm of art for sci-fi/fantasy genres. Where do you think the future lies in our representations in this medium?

Leesha: The inclusion of female-presenting artists in the industry is a complex topic. Despite the significant presence of many visible, exceptionally skilled female artists, it is still not uncommon to see an all-male lineup for a panel or workshop. The amount of women in leadership roles or speaking at events is overall not yet representative of the amount of women working in the industry. I hope to see this change. In terms of representation of female characters within the medium itself, I believe it has improved noticeably over the last few years. Creators and companies are putting more emphasis on diversity, not only in terms of appearance and design, but also in terms of background, race, sexual orientation and more. This in turn allows for a broader, more interesting range of stories to be told from a huge variety of perspectives, which from any creative standpoint can only be a good thing.

LSQ: In what ways have you seen your skills grow over the past five years? Where would you like to see yourself and your business in the next five years?

Leesha: It can be challenging to pinpoint the exact ways in which our own technical skills have improved. I allocate a lot of time, where possible, to observational studies, and I still work hard on my fundamentals to this day. If I compare my work today to paintings from a couple of years ago, I can certainly notice some improvements in regards to underlying structure, the grouping of values, and a more strategic use of color and light. Over the next five years I would love to dedicate even more time to focused study, as well as developing my own personal projects.

LSQ: Do you have a personal favorite of the projects you’ve worked on? Or one that was memorable due to its challenges? If so, can you tell us a bit about it?

Leesha: I greatly enjoy working on briefs for tabletop RPG clients. Dungeons and Dragons has been a fantastic client to work for so far, and has encouraged me to focus more on narrative elements within a piece, as well as memorable character and creature design.