Spotlight on Artist: Geneva Bowers
Geneva Bowers is a self-taught illustrator based in Western North Carolina. She loves manipulating color and adding whimsy with a touch of realism and calm to her art. Her website is <www.genevab.com>.
Tell us a bit about your Cloud Goddesses and Planettes series, and any other personal projects like HoverGirls that you’d like to discuss!
The Cloud Goddesses were a random series started several years ago! It was just a woman with cloud hair and a rainbow shawl. It felt cool to do as a concept so I was drawing a new one about once a year, with different times of day or weather as the themes. The Planettes was a personal challenge to try coming up with portraits with dark colors. The solar system theme was just a nice excuse, ha.
HoverGirls is my first webcomic, and it can be read start to finish on <hovergirls.com> and on Webtoons!
It is an ode/parody to my childhood obsession with the term ‘‘magical girl’’ which I flocked to in manga and anime. I always wanted to fill a niche I thought was kind of lacking… a fun story of two WOC protagonists, where the plot has nothing to do with the fact that they are WOC. They’re just vibing as people in the situations that they’re in, and hilarity and ‘‘monster of the week’’ events ensue. After (gratefully!) illustrating several childrens’ books about hair and skin, and doing book covers about POC characters where race is a main plot of their stories, I acknowledge that these themes are important but I was starting to notice a pattern with a lot of these books. I have been gratefully given the opportunity to have HoverGirls published by Bloomsbury in a few years! It is going to be out in stores with completely revamped art, with way more story that I was unable to do in webcomic form that I think it very much needs. Original HG is free to read, and the revamp will be out in 2024!
I also recently completed a personal project called Weapon Fairies. It combines a winged insect-type fairy person with a neat weapon and a medicinal herb or flower. There is seriously no greater reason to make this series other than I thought it would be cool.
What does your workflow look like from concept to realization and do you use digital media? Any unusual techniques?
My ideas usually start as tiny sketches on sticky notes that surround my computer. I have no concept of object permanence; if these planned or future ideas aren’t in front of me, then I will immediately forget about them. I then take a poorly lit photograph of it to bring into Photoshop for digital painting. I usually re-sketch it, lay down some flat colors to get the mood, and then paint over top everything with generic Photoshop brushes (usually chalk and hard round) and a few custom detailing brushes. No unusual techniques as far as I can think of!
How do you keep it fresh for yourself and keep learning new techniques and improving your craft? Have there been any recent changes or discoveries in your art process, or do you feel settled into something that’s really working for you already?
I keep the drive going by collecting a ton of art books! My favorite ones are the Visions, Illustration 20xx series, and anything PIE International publishes. These are giant collections of different artists (usually Japanese and/or anime themed), compiled each year. I get a lot of inspiration from the techniques performed in these illustrations. They tend to have the feeling I’m looking for and want to replicate. I couldn’t tell you what that ‘‘feeling’’ is necessarily, but I don’t think I’m there yet in terms of getting this same mood. So flipping through these has been a great motivator to keep trying new things. I’m starting to feel uncomfortable staying in my ‘‘floral’’ and ‘‘galaxy’’ lanes and want to start doing more themes, like retro and surreal. I recently have gotten into using Clip Studio Paint to speed up the coloring process of laying down flats and making occasional line art.
Is there one thing you wish you could have learned early on about making art or working as a commercial artist, from someone who was experienced in the field, that you would like to share with other artists?
Have a nice portfolio ready to go! I don’t mean having to buy a domain name, but having your site be clean and quick. It’s best to make an impression right off the bat with your best work front and center, and very easy to get to. Make it easy to get in contact with and to be found. I know posting on multiple social media accounts is a pain, but I think having a presence in more than one place is good for both businesses and appreciators to find you. Business cards are also important when you’re at an in-person shindig, bonus points if they’re able to be written on. Hypocritically, I rarely follow the last tip in favor of unnecessary sparkly accents on my own cards.
Is there something about what you do as an artist working in the SF/F field, or an upcoming project, that you’d like to tell our readers about?
I have a few other things in the works other than HoverGirls, but I can’t say anything at the moment about anything big. I do plan on getting into and making some cute, tiny ’zines soon. Very excited to eventually have the time to start these.
As for working in the field, I think just staying up to date with the latest SFF news is a good starting point. There’s a lot going on right now, but at the same time there’s a lot to draw inspiration from.
Cover and interview art and design by Francesca Myman
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