Hugo Award-winning artist reveals her secrets to success

Elizabeth Leggett shares her top tips for fantasy and sci-fi artists who want to get noticed.

Elixabeth Leggett parade in light

Last week's Hugo Awards were amidst controversy following the "Sad Puppy" saga, dubbed by George R R Martin as "Puppygate". This attempt to bring more right-wing, white males into the Science Fiction awards led to many authors dropping out.

The attempt at bigotted resistance was futile, however, and the sabotage resulted in a string of "no awards" and a list of diverse winners who were not just white males. Both art winners were in fact female, with Julie Dillon receiving the Best Professional Artist award and Best Fan Artist going to Elizabeth Leggett.

"The Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist is given each year for artists of works related to science fiction or fantasy which appeared in low- or non-paying publications such as semiprozines and fanzines," Elizabeth says.

"A Hugo Award is a symbol of a great heritage in science fiction and fantasy created and loved and nurtured by its fans. I am honored and supremely humbled to be part of that history."

Elizabeth submitted three qualifying pieces to the Hugo Awards, one of which was Nightmare: "It is a piece I am especially proud of and have shown publicly quite a bit."

Much to her mother's dismay, Elizabeth began painting from a very early age, "I viewed her white washed walls as perfectly good canvases!" she laughs.

"My first published work was in the Halifax County Arts Council poetry and illustration collection. If I remember correctly, I was not yet in double digits yet, but I might be wrong about that."

Her first paying gig was painting other student's tennis shoes in high school. "I charged $10 a single shoe and I loved it when they wanted their boyfriend or girlfriend's name because I knew they would be back again a few weeks later!"

tree mandela

Tree Mandala: Elizabeth's eerie take on the iconic mandala, intricately created with tree branches displaying her high level of skill and imagination.

Since 2014, the artist has been working for Lightspeed magazine. "They send me a short story and while I am reading it, I make note of phrases that inspire visuals.

"There are usually dozens of them so when I have read through the story a second or third time, I go through those inspired visuals and cull out all that would potentially act as spoilers for the story itself. "

After that, she designs a palette that she feels reflects the mood. Once the thumbnails have been created, Elizabeth chooses one and creates the illustration.

lightspeed elizabeth leggett

Smog Society: One of Elizabeth's commissions for Lightspeed magazine.

Here, Elizabeth reveals her top tips for fantasy and sci-fi artists who want to get noticed...

01. Community

Search out art communities, locally and web-based. We are a reasonably small set of artists in the grand scheme of things and it becomes really easy to see all of the connections and overlaps.

Personally, I highly recommend ArtOrder. Jon Schindehette is a huge advocate for artists in general and ArtOrder is his baby.

02. Professionality

Be professional. Always, always, always make deadline. READ YOUR CONTRACTS.

03. Exceed Expectations

Strive to make your art director look awesome through giving them great work. One of the bits of advice I follow is do not create illustration you feel simply reflects your payment.

Always try to exceed their expectations. It may only be a $100 contract, but your work should look like you were paid $500. The internet is forever. Your work is you.

black hole elizabeth leggett

Elizabeth's Black Hole illustration

Elizabeth Leggett features in the new issue 127 of ImagineFX, on sale 11th September (UK).

Words: Alice Pattillo

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