Rebecca Magar is a fine artist, illustrator & designer from York County, PA. She began her art career at the age of 11 when she took a few art lessons with a local teacher. She has been painting for nearly 20 years but has only fully developed her style and focus as a ‘Dark Fantasy’ artist within the last 8 years. In 2007, Rebecca graduated with associates in graphic design. She has worked on a variety of illustration projects including album artwork, books & more.
How it all started? Can you tell us about your early stage influences and inspirations?
As a child, I was homeschooled, which meant that I had minimal contact with other children and a lot of time to myself. I would spend that time wandering around my family’s horse farm with a sketchpad and drawing everything I saw. I remember making my own ‘field guides’ with drawings of birds I had seen and information about where I had found them.
I eventually learned of Bob Ross and I would sit for hours, replaying video recordings I had made of his show so that I could slow them down and pause them as needed. I would paint along with him on my cheap tabletop easel with craft paints I had purchased for 80 cents per bottle at the local craft store.
When I was 11 years old my parents decided to start art lessons for me. We found an elderly/retired woman named Janice who lived within a few miles of our home. I took lessons with her for about 4 years and learned a lot about traditional drawing and painting techniques during that time. This is really the extent of my formal training in art though, and I’m honestly not very knowledgeable about art history or genres.
Most of your compositions capture the essence of Death and Dark Fantasy subjects. What inspired you to choose these subject matters?
I started painting dark subjects at a very dark time in my life. I had just come out of an abusive relationship, was a single mom, and had started a new job as a web developer that was extremely stressful. I felt very dark and sad, so I was exploring how to translate that into my art (which until then had mostly consisted of painting portraits of pets or copies of other artwork). I wanted to create dark (but beautiful) places that were out of this world.
I eventually met my boyfriend (now husband), who was working as a Flash developer for Century Media records at the time. He has always been involved in the heavy metal music scene. Meeting him led to opportunities to do album cover art for some local bands. It was a natural evolution from what I was already starting to do.
Could you shed a light on your approach to composing a piece of concept and the process involved?
When I am working on a piece for myself, my concepts usually come from a sudden burst of inspiration. I usually see what I want to paint in my head and can recreate it fairly accurately to how I envisioned it.
However, when I am creating a piece for someone else, the concept is developed very differently. Usually, clients have specific ideas about what they want (or even photographs), so with commissioned work, I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can take their ideas and turn them into something that is inspiring, dark and beautiful.
I will usually spend about 6 to 8 hours on creating a drawing. Sometimes I like to ‘let it rest,’ and come back to it the next day to see it with a fresh point of view.
When I’m finished the drawing, I will scan it into my computer. At this point, if I want to resize it, I can do that and print it out on 8 ½”x11” sheets (which I can then reassemble and trace with an extra soft pencil). By doing this I can easily transfer the drawing over to my final painting surface by doing a rubbing. It also means that I have a second copy of the drawing to use as the reference while I paint (since the drawing often gets painted-out as I go).
I have come to prefer painting on Illustration board because it has a matte finish, which means it scans and photographs better than canvas, but it is sturdy and doesn’t warp like paper does. It is also a perfect size for me to work with since I like to paint flat (I rarely us my easel anymore). It also absorbs paint more like a watercolor paper would, so the paint dries very quickly and I can keep coming back with more layers and details. After transferring a drawing, I will begin painting. I usually spend between 20 to 30 hours on a painting that is around 20” in size.
I see most of your works are of Acrylic medium. How did you come to choose Acrylic as your medium? What inspired you to do so?
I originally learned to paint using oils and continued to do so until about 2001 when I stopped painting altogether for 3 years.
It was when I started painting again (and painting darker subject-matter) that I chose acrylics. Part of the reason for this change was simply because they were more affordable, but I eventually found that they dry more quickly and they are much easier to clean up. Acrylics definitely have a different quality than oils do, but I have come to really appreciate working with acrylic and I believe that using this medium has helped to shape my style as an artist.
You have compositions of varied mediums such as acrylic, pen & Ink and pencil. How did you go about choosing mediums?
I’ve found that all mediums have their own unique challenges. I sometimes select a medium based on what the final art will be used for (for instance, drawings are easier to turn into 1-color screen prints for shirts and apparel), but I have also chosen pen and ink or pencil due to time or budget constraints. I can produce a drawing much faster than I can a painting, and I can offer it as a cheaper alternative to a painting as well.
Could you talk a bit about your recently designed and illustrated book cover for the Porters Hollow book? How did you enjoy the process?
This was an interesting project and I definitely ran into a few hiccups while designing the cover art for this book. The author initially had very specific ideas including a cabin in a hollow and a wolf-man hiding in the shadows.
I did explore some quick sketches with these two elements. However, I kept seeing Little Red Riding Hood (rather than an adult paranormal fiction book). I feared it would read the wrong way (no pun intended), so I came back to the author with a sketch that did not include a wolf and suggested that since the werewolf character was meant to be somewhat of a surprise anyway, that it might be better not to paint it into the cover. Instead, we chose to hint at this element of the story by including a small icon of a wolf-head in the book title.
It was definitely a learning experience, but I like painting based on a story, so it felt natural to me. I hope to do more book covers in the future!
Also, could you talk a little bit about your role as a web developer and graphic designer?
As soon as I completed my homeschooling, I began exploring options for careers that would be creative. I had fiddled with the idea of going to art school but was concerned about the lack of career options for artists in the immediate area, so I eventually settled on graphic design.
I took a 2-year course in graphic design that was geared more toward production and printing techniques than it was on design principles or arts, but it gave me enough skills to get my first design job making giant wall decals.
I quickly got bored of drawing die-cut lines around giant stickers, so I began self-teaching web development. I learned fairly quickly how to code HTML and CSS and eventually ended up taking a job as a telecommuter for a software development company in Florida (talk about getting-in over my head!). It was stressful, but I learned extremely quickly.
Today, I still telecommute for my job, and I also run my own hosting and web Design Company.
Can you name us three artists who have always been your inspiration so far?
Because I never had formal art training and I was homeschooled, I was never really familiar with any specific artists outside of a few really well-known renaissance artists. I’ve only been introduced-to and learned to appreciate specific artists within the last few years thanks to critiques from other artists and searching for information and inspiration online.
Do you have any advice for young emerging artists in the scene in terms of developing identity or ideas to explore?
I think as a beginner there is a lot you can learn from mimicking other artists, and following your teacher’s directions, but I think we all desire to create our own unique identity as an artist.
The evolution of your unique style is really going to be an organic process. There are so many contributors to what makes each artist’s work unique, such as training, inspirations, medium, life experiences, and even hobbies and passions.
I think it is really easy to get caught up in the idea that you need to be different, or trendy, or that you need to do something that will be accepted by a broad audience. When you ‘force’ your art, it rarely works, and you can find yourself confused and frustrated – I know I have been there.
My advice for new artists is to forget about trying to create something unique, and just create! When you let go of the idea that you have to prove your worth as an artist, then you can really appreciate who you are and embrace your own strengths. In turn, your work will naturally develop into something that is very much your own.