Lauren K. Cannon is a fantasy and horror artist. She was born in 1986 and lives in southern New Jersey, on the edge of the Pine Barrens of Jersey Devil lore. She has a BFA but considers herself self-taught, as her college proved to be an expensive waste of time. Working as a freelance illustrator primarily in the publishing industry, she is best known for her work with authors Peter V. Brett and Mira Grant, and for a long tenure contributing to ImagineFX magazine. Lauren’s influences include strange beauty, the brutal elegance of the universe, and creepy dead things.
First off, I’d like to ask you a question in the spirit of Nightmare: What scares you the most?
All my worst dreams involve being trapped, lost, or immobile. So I suppose I fear losing my autonomy. On a more superficial level, I turn into a flailing crybaby in the presence of beetles, house centipedes, and most spiders. I also happen live in the woods. It’s tragic.
What inspired Shiver, the image appearing as the cover of this month’s Nightmare?
I’ve done a few different paintings of merpeople surrounded by a bunch of one kind of sea life. I was itching to do another underwater piece, so I decided to continue the theme. I chose sharks because I adore them and care about them on a conservational level as well. A group of sharks is called a shiver, which is where the title came from, and I made the mermaid more predatory looking to go along with the shark theme.
What do you imagine scares the central figure in Shiver the most?
What made you want to become an artist? Can you remember a defining moment where you knew this was what you wanted to do?
I didn’t realize illustration was a viable career option until I was in my mid-teens, but I’d always loved to draw and paint. The seed of it all was the Dragonlance books and Larry Elmore’s cover art for them. Those books were my gateway drug to fantasy, and Elmore’s depiction of the characters was a huge driving force for my imagination as a kid. My dream of being a book cover artist goes all the way back to that time in my life. As I became more serious about learning to draw, I was very focused on depicting my own characters and worlds in a way that would hopefully resonate and intrigue people.
How have different cultures influenced your work?
In a way, it’s more about avoiding certain cultural influence for me. During my teen years, I became very bored and jaded with fantasy that took place in alternate-universe Europe. So I deliberately tried to get away from that. I’m not a scholar, but I am heavily influenced by the aesthetics, dress, and culture of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, and I also have a love for indigenous cultures all over the world.
What is the art scene like where you live?
I’m very close to both Philadelphia and New York and I have fellow illustrators in both cities, but my house proper is on the edge of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. There isn’t much of anything here besides grade school art shows. But generally, I’m not involved with the art scene outside fantasy and horror illustration conventions. I don’t pay attention to fine art or local movements.
What is your favorite medium to work with and why?
I’m self-taught, and I got my digital graphics tablet around the same time I started to get serious about art. I worked in traditional (acrylic) paint, pencil, and digital throughout all my school and college years. But the digital painting remains my favorite. It lets me experiment without worrying about painting over a canvas if I want to try out different palettes or move things around in the composition.
When you illustrate, do you have any little rituals? For example, is there a certain kind of music you like to listen to, or certain type of beverage or food you like to have on hand?
I drink way too much tea at all times. And I always have some kind of music playing. Keeps me from getting distracted.
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