Interview with Artist Priscilla Boatwright

Priscilla Boatwright provided art for The Golden Key’s fifth and most levitative issue: Things that Float. She’s a San Antonio-based illustrator and writer, and a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design.

What role did color play in your illustrative process for Issue 5: Things that Float?

I love working with color in all my work. For me, color has two functions. One is to help organize the composition of an image, and the second is to speak to the mood and atmosphere of the story. This sounds very pat in theory but in practice it never is. My process changes with every image I make, and oftentimes the road to creating an illustration is a winding one with a lot of dead ends and false starts.

What challenges did a floating theme present for you? Did you find a theme connected to levity restrictive or liberating?

I think the floating theme really made sense to me. I think my work gets pretty floaty at times, at least in the sense of not existing in the Newtonian, physical world. That’s always been something that’s excited me about art—the possibility of creating a world that doesn’t have to operate according to the laws of our universe. Not coincidentally, that’s also what I love about speculative fiction.

Floating can also be a challenging perspective, for the same reason. Without clarity and concreteness, any illustration will fall apart.

Do you work best at night or day?

I have romantic notions about being a morning person. But I’m not one. Every night I set my alarm and plan to wake up early, and every morning I fail. When I was at school, I often worked late into the night out of necessity, and though I no longer see the predawn sky on a regular basis—thankfully!—I still am most productive at night. Often I have to trick myself into working, which is ridiculous, but otherwise there’s just too much mental trepidation. In the evening, there’s just no time left to doubt or over-think.

Did you have a most time-consuming illustration from this issue? What do you think made it take as long as it did?

“Jim Talks to the Moon” took me the longest, I think. I found it very difficult to translate visually, because the story is really a spiritual experience, and it was hard to boil that down into just one image. I really wanted to find something unique in my interpretation of the story’s afterlife, and it took a long time for the concept to come together.

Did you find yourself taking a different approach to poems as opposed to the fiction?

I did, but without being conscious of it. With the fiction, I really wanted to suggest a narrative in the images. When I was working on the illustration for “Jubilee,” I originally envisioned it as more of a portrait. For whatever reason, I really wanted to draw a shopping cart, because I loved the juxtaposition of American commercialism and royalty in the story. Ultimately, though, the image needed to convey the conflict of “Jubilee,” that sense of revolution, and so I had to figure out something that would focus more on the subjects, oceanic or otherwise.

With the poems, there needed to be narrative of a different order. I didn’t want to literalize the imagery of the poems, if I could help it, because the poets already evoke their images so beautifully with language. In many cases, I just tried to create an image that felt bizarrely specific, like there might be an internal logic to what’s going on even if we don’t know what it is.

What have you seen or read lately that you’d recommend?

I watched a documentary on Miyazaki not long ago (Kingdom of Dreams and Madness) and there are great insights into art, community, and the uneasiness of so-called success. Also: goats.

More of PRISCILLA BOATWRIGHT here: Tumblr.

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