I had the opportunity earlier this week to get in contact with Hannah Christenson, a tremendously skillful illustrator from Texas. She specializes in crisp, high-detail digital work featuring fantastic settings, mysterious characters, and brilliant colors.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Are there any resources that you often fall back on?
Hannah: I’m inspired by a great many things that range from the Golden Age Illustrators, fantasy stories, video games, table-top RPGs, and books. But I feel like it’s most important to go out “into the world” and experience at least a bit of it. There is nothing quite like being exposed to different people, ideas, cultures, religions, histories, lands, and languages that are not your own.
It is so easy to get caught up in your own imagination, your own life, experiences, struggles. Those can be endless wells of inspiration in their own right, but there is also much more beyond your doorstep that can give you a perspective you weren’t expecting.
I’m not saying you need to travel the world, it can be as simple as going for a walk and observing. Maybe strike up a conversation with someone at the bus stop? However, I don’t think that one needs to be struck by an almighty bolt of genius first in order to make something. Sometimes the inspiration comes from doing the work.
One thing that I find really helps me is to take notes. I always try to lie to myself by saying things like “There’s no way I could forget that!” or, “I’ll write it down, I swear! But I just gotta do this first…” As you’re reading a manuscript, article, whatever, take notes. Carry a sketchbook and write down your impressions and crazy ideas. Allow yourself to write down your stupid ideas, they might lead to better ideas. Or they could just be awful and will allow you to move on to something else. The point is to get things out of your brain.
Hannah Christenson, Moorland, 2013
Could you talk about your process, after you have an idea? What steps go into creating the final art?
I head straight to research. Research begins with getting the thing out of my brain and onto paper, even in a rough and ugly way. Thumbnails are like the notes. Get them out of your brain, some are stupid and some are ok, just get it out! Also, hit the books, shoot relevant photos, gather reference. What do feet look like, anyway? I spend my reference-gathering time at the beginning so I can focus on painting and not have to interrupt the painting process with a frantic reference search.
Much of your art seems like it has a story behind it. Is that true?
I love making personal stories about questing, finding interesting and/or shiny items, defeating demons and monsters, and eating beautiful bread. Those are my favorite things.
Hannah Christenson, Winter Hunt, 2012
What are your goals for your work?
My goal is to get the things out of my head. Also, to make enough of a living so I can get my hands on some beautiful bread and a health potion.
Hannah Christenson, Rune Stone
I guess this means I have to talk in bold for the rest of the post. Maybe not, though… (Inhale, Exhale) The thing about her work that stands out to me is how a larger narrative is implied in many of the pieces, especially in Rune Stone (above). I’m excited to see what comes from Hannah’s desk in the future!
To view more of her work, visit her website at www.hannahchristenson.com