... Rowena Morril on fantasyart, feminism and techniques

Rowena Morrill... Rowena Morril ...
... on fantasyart, feminism and techniques

zur deutschen Übersetzung Rowena Morrill belongs among the first rank of fantasy artists. Her name is - rightly - called in the same breath as Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo.

We met on Facebook and there talked about things like violetjelly, dandelion honey and other things. But for the Zauberspiegel of course we put the weight of questions on their artistic activities.

Zauberspiegel: Hello Rowena, thank you for doing this q&a with us. Your are the leading Lady of fantasy art. What's the inspiration for your work?
Rowena Morril: When I was a child, I always loved Fairy Tales from all different countries. I would make up my own and insist on keeping my sister awake at night telling just one more. I think I inherited that creative side from my Mother. Also, we lived in Japan when I was a child. Everything was exotic and fascinating to me.

Zauberspiegel: In Germany some people believe, that you are an female Vallejo. Do you agree with that?
Rowena Morril: When I moved to New York City, I just knew I had to make money. I wasn't aware of the illustration field. But there were not a lot of artists who could do the human figure. I had been doing portraits in Philadelphia, so I found work in illustration immediately. I did meet Boris, because we were working for the same companies. But I don't think you could ever look at one of my paintings and think that Boris had done it.

Zauberspiegel: How do you work nowadays? Still with ink and colors or on the tablet?
Rowena Morril: I have always worked with oils on gessoed illustration board or masonite, my favorite. It takes longer to work with gessoed masonite, because you have to sand it.

Zauberspiegel: An addional Question to the techniques: Please help a man, who knows not much about the techniques. Can you tell us more about gessoed masonite and the sand.
Rowena Morril: I use double thick, smooth illustration board, usually Strathmore. Then I tape it on all sides with 1" white tape to quarter inch foam core. That is so the illustration board will not buckle when wet. Then I take Liquitex gesso and dilute it with water until it is the consistency of cream. Using a 3" wide brush, I put three very thin layers of gesso on the board, each layer very quickly, so it will be seamless and smooth. The preceding layer must by completely dry before I apply the next.
The masonite must be untempered. Tempered masonite is waxy and slick. First I sand the masonite with medium grade sandpaper. Then I apply thinned out gesso in six or eight coats, sanding after every three coats. For the final sanding I use fine sandpaper. Finally, I put a very thin coat of gesso to give the surface a little texture.
I like to work on a very smooth surface. If I want some texture I like to paint it in myself.

Zauberspiegel: How do you create your pictures? Are there models you create your drawings from your imagination, or something like that?
Rowena Morril: I use everything that gets the result I want. I bring things into my studio, like glass, rocks, tree limbs. etc. I also use photography. A model would have to sit in a very uncomfortable position for my poses for thirty hours. It would be impossible. I never slavishly follow a photograph, because there is always some distortion. But I set the lights up, create the costumes and get as close as I can get to what I am after. Then I interprate the image as I want. As far as I am concerned, I use anything that works.

Zauberspiegel: Feminist sometimes think (nowadays not quite as often as in the Eighties), that your pictures were sexist. What do you say about such critics - as a female?
Rowena Morril: I have never been a feminist. I love the fact that men and women are different! I was told at the very beginning of my illustration career by an agent that paintings of women sell five to one better than images of men. That certainly got my attention.
Also, that has been my experience over over the years! Men buy paintings of women because they like them. Women buy paintings of women because they identify with them. I certainly have done paintings of men, but they rarely sell. Very interesting!!!

Zauberspiegel: I’m a heavy weight champion. Somewhat beyond the 200 lbs. When I look at fantasy art - not only yours, I sometimes think that not only in your fantasy art, that there only beautiful people and Monsters. Why are there seldom fat or ugly people?
Rowena Morril: I just recently read that, when you write, you should write about extreme people, because readers really do not want to read about ordinary folks. In my art, it was intuitive to paint gorgeous, heroic people. If one wants everyday life, just live your own (with the exception of Horst). I think many people want to be taken out of themselves, into a different world, when they read a book or see artwork.

Zauberspiegel: Your dragons faszinate me. They are dynamic and full of power. Do you prefer these creatures? What is so particular about dragons?
Rowena Morril: It is so much fun to make up a fantasy creature!! Dragons, perhaps are the most fun. I always create my dragons in the mode of "all in just fun." I make them grinning and gleeful. I do not like repulsive creatures.
I do a drawing first and then find reference for reptiles , fish, anything I can think of. Then I apply the textures to my drawings.

Zauberspiegel: How do you think fantasy art has changed during the last three deacdes?
Rowena Morril: When I began doing fantasy paintings in about 1977, everything was a free-for-all. Also, the art was supposed to look very sensuous. As time went by, I was told to cover up everyone more, because children could see the books in the supermarkets.
Then there was much more force from teams of art directors and editors, all of whom wanted a say in the book covers: artwork by committee. Now, most everything is digital. So there have been big changes. Also, with the internet, publishing companies are becoming mostly obsolete. The one constant in the Universe is change.

Zauberspiegel: Fantasy, as a literary genre, has begun to divide into many sub-genres. Beside High fantasy and Sword & Sorcery, there are Urban Fantasy, Romantic Fantasy, Dark Fantasy. How will that change the work of artists or has it already changed it?
Rowena Morril: Great that there are so many sub-genres. The more, the merrier!! I would embrace the changes and love all the different avenues for expression! Wonderful for creativity. Change is exciting and inspiring!

Zauberspiegel: I’ve noticed Rowena has cats. What kind of cats? Lions, leopards or the normal kittens like the rest of us? Have your cats played a part in your work?
Rowena Morril: Yes, I just have mixed breed cats. I adore them! So soft, silky and comforting as only a cat can be! I have used my kitties a number of times in my paintings, especially Egyptian paintings. Hooray for cats!

Zauberspiegel: Thank you for the interview

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