An upbringing in rural Nebraska meant Terese had plenty of time to hone her illustration skills
Terese Nielsen talks bodies.
If you’re passionate, you’ll do what it takes. Jump, immerse yourself, develop…
Where did you grow up and how has this influenced your art? I grew up on a corn farm in Nebraska and had to find ways to keep myself entertained. This was before video games and computers, so I had few distractions and ample time to hone creative endeavours. What, outside of art, has most influenced your work? Raising children, needing money and being ADHD. Not only are kids a storehouse of evolving creativity, but to allow for more quality time with them – and make enough to feed them – I developed decorative and textural techniques that enable me to quickly resolve key areas of a painting. You’re a child, you see a painting or drawing that changes everything: where are you and what are you looking at? I’m riveted to the cover of The Fantastic Art of Boris Vallejo featuring the Primeval Princess. The image stirred within me things I didn’t even know I loved yet: confident, powerful women, vibrant, rich colour, exquisitely rendered muscular bodies, otherworldly places.
What was your next step in art? I was fascinated with the inner workings of the mind, and the outer visage of the human form, and how far one could push and develop them. I pored over the pages of Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder for hours. When I failed miserably in chemistry, I turned to my long-standing hobby of drawing people. Can you name one person who helped you on your way? My older brother, Ron, was always available for brainstorming and supportive suggestions, and helped me develop the mindset to endure the competition at art school.
What was your first paid commission? I’ve been making money with art ever since high school, when I was first commissioned to illustrate hand-made hair bows and accessories for a lady entrepreneur who lived down the road. I created her catalogues, pecking out a bajillion pointillist dots with my Rapidograph pens. I learned the patience to employ a technique for many hours and learned to make a deadline (even when I was sick).
What’s the last piece that you finished? Heron, seventh in a seven-piece set of animal totem paintings for my Creatures of Spirit show in Seattle. I was literally creating it while we drove from Nevada to Seattle, and applying the final touches with gold leaf as the show was opening. The first piece was made for someone else who lived down the road, the last was done for me, on the road.
What are your illustration rituals? Stall… stall some more, and then hurry. Ha. My three most consistent rituals are: 1) nestling into the library area of the studio to flip through books for inspiration; 2), my drawing phase requires complete silence or extremely contemplative music; and 3), when it’s time for colour and rendering, I need interesting podcasts to keep my butt in the chair long enough to complete it. What’s the most important thing you’ve taught someone? To believe in themselves enough to go for it. If you’re passionate about making art, you’ll do what it takes and put the time in. Risk, jump, immerse yourself and develop your passion. How has the industry of fantasy art changed for the better? Wow! It’s profoundly more visible nowadays. At my love-at-first-sight moment with Boris’ Primeval Princess, the only place I’d see fantasy art was on book covers. Now it’s in collectible card games, role-playing games, video games, computer games, in movies… just everywhere. And there are so many more venues for us as artists, collectors, educators and fans to come together. What gripes do you have about the fantasy art industry right now? None really. If you have gripes about it, then come up with your own idea and crowd-fund it! The only limit is one’s own drive and creativity. Terese is best known for her rich card art for Magic: The Gathering. You can see more of her work at www.tnielsen.com.