Exploring her own personal challenges has helped this artist
How did your childhood influence you?
I grew up in Calgary, Alberta. I was lucky enough to grow up with the Rocky Mountains in view, and I was always awestruck by the dramatic weather and sunsets. We have a lot of extreme weather, but it’s often grand and inspiring, too.
I come from a fairly creative family, and they always encouraged me to try new things and find ways to express myself. Their encouragement has helped give me a strong artistic voice and given me the confidence to do this as a career.
Is there a painting that caught your imagination when growing up?
When I was 10, I had to do a project on Michelangelo for school. I ended up poring over the Sistine Chapel ceiling for ages, astonished that a person could have made such a masterpiece. That was when I really started paying attention to art, and tried improving my skills.
What was your first paid commission like?
My first job was with a local magazine – it was a big job and they took a chance on me. They needed seven interiors and a cover in about 11 days. I worked overtime on that job, agonising about it. The interiors aren’t up to my current standards due to the tight deadline, but I’m still proud of the cover.
What was the last piece that you finished?
Awakening is my latest piece, and it was a personal project about my identity. I have much greater confidence in my artistic vision these days, and find it much easier to make works that reflect aspects of myself. Awakening is my purest expression of myself. It’s the most vulnerable I’ve been, putting my bi/ pan orientation out into the world for pride. But even in my other personal work, I try to explore aspects of myself, good and bad, and my place in the world.
How has the industry changed?
Social media is everything. No longer do I have to rely on a few big publishers seeing my work – I get contacted by all sorts of people for private commissions and projects. With self-publishing, Kickstarters, indie games and so on, the world of freelance illustration has really opened up. It takes time to find your audience, but there’s enough work for everyone.
What advice would you give to your younger self to aid you on the way?
Stop being so nervous and just show people your work. People can’t hire you if they don’t know you exist, so get your work out there. It doesn’t have to be perfect!
Do you have a portfolio painting that means a lot to you, and why?
My artwork Tokens comes to mind. It’s about loss and remembrance. Carrying tokens of our loved ones with us on our journey.
What is your next step in either your art or in life?
People can’t hire you if they don’t know you exist, so get your work out there
In the past few years I’ve been doing some world-building in my personal projects. I’d love to keep fleshing out my world of giants and find a way to bring my story to life. I have so many ideas for it and not enough time, but hopefully I’ll get to do something with it soon.
Serena graduated from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 2012 and has since worked as a freelance illustrator. She’s just started streaming her painting process on twitch.tv/serenapaints. You can see her full portfolio at serenamalyon.com.