Artist Interview: Valerie Herron

In anticipation of his upcoming flash fiction collection, Night Walk, Aeryn Rudel talks horror, influences, and her process with artist Valerie Herron, who provided cover art and interior illustrations for the project. 


AR: Your work is full of dark and wonderful imagery, and I know you’re a big fan of horror. How does your love of the macabre inform what you paint? Are there any themes in particular you’re drawn to?

VH: In my work, I have always been most interested in sublimity, and I think the sublime is often a crucial ingredient in horror. And to be honest, I’ve just always been a morbid person. My father was obsessed with horror and true crime, so I was essentially raised on these things.


When inspiration comes, what form does it take? Do you see a painting fully formed from the beginning or does it evolve as you work?

It depends on the piece, but usually I have an ideation process leading up to the image. Sometimes I have a vision from a dream, a daydream, or a meditation that is very clear in my mind and demands to be a painting. More often than not, I read and research various disparate topics that I want to bring into an image and let those things coalesce in my psyche. Then the image materializes for me in the following days.


What mediums do you work in? Traditional? Digital? Both?

My work is a combination of the two. I work with traditional wet media, such as acrylic inks and watercolors, and digital media mostly through Photoshop and Procreate.


The cover for Night Walk is truly chilling. What was your inspiration for the piece and what did you feel was important for it to communicate?

Thank you. The setting in the story “Night Walk” immediately spoke to me as a lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest. This place has its own dark ambience unlike anywhere else I’ve encountered. I’ve had many nighttime drives down desolate highways in the woods, and I could just clearly picture those specters rising from pockets of darkness along the road.


In what ways does the process for a commissioned piece differ from your process on more personal work?

In a lot of ways, a commissioned piece is more work. You have to create extra sketches and compositions to explain very clearly to your client what is happening with every step of the process. One advantage of commissioned work, however, is the deadline. You have a definite date and often a schedule when things have to be completed, which helps one make decisions quickly.

While it’s easier to plow through the process of making personal work, the fact that there are no contractual deadlines put me in danger of becoming overwhelmed with my choices and never finishing the image. Thankfully, I’ve gotten a little more disciplined over the years with personal projects.


Your work covers a lot of ground, not just horror; what other themes and subjects interest you and appear in your art?

I have always loved mythology, so my early career was very much focused on gods, heroes, and monsters. I tend to paint with a visual vocabulary of witchcraft, natural science, folklore, and philosophy in my personal work.

I also adore fantasy. Currently, in the studio, I am excitedly painting something for the Between the Worlds fantasy series by Morgan Daimler.


Who are some of your favorite artists? Which have been most influential on your work?

I’ve always been moved by the works of romantic painters like Salvatore Rosa and Francisco Goya. Jenny Saville’s fearlessness and brushwork made a very big impact on me as a painter. It was Sam Keith’s work that made me decide to become an illustrator at the tender age of 11. I’m sure I’m forgetting loads of artists. I’ve had the distinct privilege to meet and become friends with the incredible Maxine Miller, whose work I loved for years before we met.


What about literature, music, and other artforms? Do they inspire your work (and who are some of your favorites)?

I have no musical inclination whatsoever, but I need music to live! Same with books. It would be difficult to cleanly sum up what genres of music and literature I love and find most inspiring; my tastes are all over the yard. I’ll just tell you that right now I’m listening to a ton of Dungeon Synth, and I’m currently reading Walpurgisnacht by Gustav Meyrink. If I were forced to choose a favorite genre of literature, music, and cinema, I’m going with Folk Horror. Also, I exist for the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I admit that a massive portion of my media diet is devoted to ASOIAF fandom.


Finally, where can folks check out more of your work, grab a print or a giclee, or even commission an original piece for their own book cover?

My website leads to all of these things. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @valerieherronart, and you can grab prints of my work in my Etsy shop, MysticMedia. Soon, I will be providing the most important contribution from my body of work: T-shirts. Stay tuned for that 🙂

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