Karla Or­tiz

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…

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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.

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