AHHHHHHHHHHH! Issue 035! It’s here! It’s live! It’s a thing of beauty! It’s full of 16 — yes, 16 — speculative fiction stories by woman-identifying authors! Holler from the roof tops with joy because that’s what we’re doing and it’s totally normal, trust us. But, before you go scampering off into the pages and pages of glorious — yes, so glorious — stories, can we first introduce our fabulous cover artist, Shreya Shetty? We got to chat with her recently about her art. We hope you find her interview as inspiring as we did.
LSQ: First, let’s talk about the cover art for Issue 035: “Eith”. Can you tell us where the idea for this image came from? Is there a story behind it? Who is this young woman, what (or who) is she holding, and what is she kneeling on?
Shreya: The Eith painting is an illustration of a scene from a portal fantasy story (not very popular these days I know but still one of my favorite fantasy subgenres) that I’ve been writing. The story is about a young lady who finds an ancient artifact and is transported through it to another world. The painting came together when I did a SMART School mentorship program with one of my very favorite artists and a master of SFF art, Donato Giancola. The class had an open-ended illustration assignment where we had to paint a book cover illustration for the title ‘Where None Have Yet Traveled’. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to paint a scene from my story and to get feedback from an artist I admired so much. The piece depicts the protagonist, Cin, who has just traveled through the portal (with her pet ‘nirvanabat’ for company). She’s wary and a bit afraid as she notices the strange world around her slowly come into focus.
LSQ: Where do your ideas (for non-commissioned works) come from? Where do you go for inspiration? What types of books do you read?
Shreya: I really enjoy writing fiction and most of my non-commissioned works these days are concept studies or illustrations from the stories I’ve been coming up with. I also read a lot of fantasy and science fiction whenever I can and occasionally doodle characters or creatures from those books. Most of my inspiration comes from mythology, culture, and the natural world.
LSQ: Tell us a bit about your background. Have you been an artist all your life? Has your artistic vision morphed over time? If so, how?
Shreya: I’ve been sketching and painting all my life but I never really thought about art seriously until I graduated from high school. I grew up in India and like most Indian kids, I didn’t have art on my radar as a career choice. Back then I really wanted to be a veterinarian. I applied to a few schools but didn’t get into the school I really wanted to go to and decided to take a gap year and try again. This was around 2001. I spent a lot of time online and discovered digital art on sites like Elfwood and Deviantart and got completely obsessed with it. I drew a lot that year, applied to art school and eventually course-corrected my career path to becoming an artist.
My artistic vision has definitely evolved over time. When I was starting out, my focus was on realism and to capture every minute detail in my work. These days I’m more concerned with the composition and storytelling aspect of the piece. It’s important for me that the piece connects with the viewer through an emotional or narrative aspect.
LSQ: Please describe your artistic process, from concept to the final product. How long, on average, does it take to complete a piece, from start to finish? What is your favorite art medium and why? Has this changed over time?
Shreya: I always start with quick little doodles. These could be rough color sketches that give an idea of the mood of the piece, design sketches if the final artwork has things like costumes or creatures that need to be designed, or just composition sketches where I try out different angles and compositions for the scene. I do some more refined color and lighting sketches next. I then gather reference. This includes getting models (mostly family and friends) and photographing them in the angles, poses, and lighting setups from my sketches. Sometimes I also sculpt digital or clay maquettes for reference. Once I have all my reference material together, I start on my final piece. On average I take anywhere between a week or two for a painting. My favorite medium for work is Photoshop because of how fast it is to paint and make changes. I really love traditional media though and I’m slowly trying to get back to painting in oil. One of my current goals is to gradually transition into painting fully in oils.
LSQ: Can you comment on the current state of female artists in the sci-fi/fantasy genres?
Shreya: There are definitely a lot more female artists in the sci-fi/fantasy genres now as compared to a few years ago. The internet has made it so much easier to put your work out there, connect with other like-minded creatives and form art communities. Many women, myself included, are shy about self-promotion and so things like #VisibleWomen on Twitter and sites like FantasticalWomen.com that promote and showcase the work of current sci-fi and fantasy female artists have been very helpful for visibility and for discovering new artists.
LSQ: Can you share with us some of your upcoming projects or plans?
Shreya: I’m working on two personal projects right now. I’ve been working on them in bits and pieces between commissioned work but I plan to take some time off from freelance work and focus on my own work for a bit in the upcoming months. The first, like I mentioned earlier, is a portal fantasy. The second story is based in an ancient alternate India with dragons. I’m very excited about both stories and will be writing, drawing, and showcasing more work from these projects soon.