Auckland based artist Abigail Judson is a digital painter and wildlife illustrator. Her latest project explored the relationship we have with the Kaimanawa wild horses as they are mustered every two years. Although she has more projects in the works ranging from animal conservation to concept design. Recently we caught up with Abigail to talk about her life and art:
Did you always want to be an artist?
I actually didn’t take up art seriously till a few years ago, I was only ever sketching out of hobby. Before then I wanted to be a writer; creating my own worlds and creations is still my end goal.
Do you have a role model that you’ve drawn inspiration from when creating your art?
A few years ago, I discovered Aaron Blaise on YouTube. He’s an old Disney animator back during the times of The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. He has a passion for the natural world and continual learning of the craft which is infectious in his videos.
What do you do when you’re not inspired to create art? What brings your mojo back?
If I have a project with a deadline I will just sit myself down and work on those pieces. Otherwise I focus on the preparation side, planning projects and working out steps to reach my goals tends to bring the mojo back pretty quickly. Sometimes though, it’s about working on other aspects of your life. Work, family, hobbies, if they are suffering I find it hard to sit down and allow myself to create.
How has your art evolved over the years?
I remember in year 12 my art teacher constantly admonishing me for having my subjects floating in space, or not exploring colour much. Since sketching was my main focus and I never got hooked on traditional painting, it has taken me a long time to start experimenting with colour and full backgrounds and scenery.
What media do you use with your artwork?
I do all my paintings using Photoshop and a Cintiq Pro 13 drawing tablet. While I’ve never learnt to properly paint traditionally, I find digital painting very intuitive and I’ve learnt a lot once I started experimenting on the computer. I also enjoy more sketchy work with pens, pencils and charcoal.
What themes do you pursue?
I have a huge fondness for zoology/ecology, conservation and the study of animal cognition. I want to be able to use my art as a voice for these areas and encourage curiosity in the natural world.
What is your favourite subject matter to draw, and why?
Horses, although I think that’s probably more that I’m most familiar with them. They have become my comfort zone as I have recently had project after project focussing on them. That’s not to say I don’t like horses! I do, I even have one of my own!
Do you use photo references?
All the time, especially for my main pieces. Since I’m still relatively new to art I don’t have a particularly large picture library to draw from in my head. So, building that up is crucial. It’s also crucial that it is built up from reality rather than creating bad habits by only drawing in symbols or cartoons.
What do you enjoy outside of creating art?
I’m definitely a huge geek! A lot of my time is either spent looking into the latest research and theories on the process of domestication and animal cognition, spending money on my horse, or discussing politics and local council projects. I’m also big on gaming and a good TV show binge to unwind!
Any advice for someone wanting to make art their full-time job?
Goal setting and self-evaluation. They are your biggest friends. You need to be able to work out where you want to be and break it down into smaller steps on how to get there, the same for how you plan to learn new skills or subjects. Self-evaluating yourself is just as important, knowing what areas are your weakest and making plans to work on them.
Any advice to young or new artists?
Be picky about who you follow for art tutorials and advice. Weed out those who have a negative or dismissive attitude when giving critiques or when they give advice to new artists. There are so many other amazing artists who love art as well as teaching and their passion can be infectious, seek them out instead. We all start somewhere, art is a skill and it takes time and commitment. Don’t let others make you feel guilty about trying to learn.