Fantasy artist Karla Ortiz was one of our Rising Stars. Now she’s pulling down commissions from publishers including Tor. We asked how she got started…
What gave you your love of illustration?
When I was 12, I was walking to the local bakery with my father. I noticed a new gaming store, and in the window was a large poster. It was Desolation Anger, made by the masterful Brom, for Magic: The Gathering. I waltzed in, hypnotised by how incredible that painting was. My father bought me my first pack of Magic that day, and that’s when my hobby of drawing random things turned into a hobby of drawing illustrations.
What media do you work in?
Pencils, oils and digital.
What was your first commission for a book illustration?
My first one for a big publisher was given to me by Matthew Kalamidas, art director at Science Fiction Book Club. The job came to me thanks to a recommendation by Jason Chan, my old teacher and friend. The book was The Order of Deacons by Philippa Ballantine (see page 61).
How did you approach it?
The look and feel of the characters and their surroundings was already established. The challenge was to somehow make the scenario my own. As an illustrator I think that’s one of our most important tasks, to have your own voice. To have a voice isn’t something you think long and hard about, and say ‘this is my style!’ It happens through study and by trying out different things. You soon find what makes you happy as a painter, and then accept that you are your own artist.
Did you have to make many changes, and what were they?
Changes happen quite often, some large, some small. For this particular piece I remember extending the borders a little bit to fit the layout better.
What other books have you done illustrations for since then?
I did another one for Tor, a month or so after The Walking-Stick Forest (see page 63). It was called In the Sight of Akresa by Ray Wood. I’ve also done illustrations for The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros (page 62) and Game of Thrones. My favourite thing about working on that was turning two of my good friends into characters for the book, one of them being Rhaegar Targaryen.