Today we have an interview with Andrew Hunter, best known as Zarathul
, an erotic fantasy artist.
Could you describe yourself and tell us a bit about your background?
I am an artist and writer who grew up along with the early fantasy gaming scene and spent a lot of years working in the video game industry. I have some formal training, but most everything else I learned from colleagues, research, and a great deal of trial and error... mostly error.
When did you start making art and how do you feel your images have evolved over time?
I don't remember when I started making art, as soon as I figured out how to hold a pencil, I suppose. My earliest drawings were of fighter planes and explosions. I then moved on to skulls and dragons and the sort. My passion for depicting the female form kicked in about the time I started learning to shave and has dominated most of my themes ever since. My early attempts at drawing people proved a sort of nightmarish mix of comic book stylization and realism. I've come to appreciate the value of both approaches, when properly separated, but I still consider my style very much a work-in-progress.
A lot of your images involve nudity, is this a conscientious choice for you?
Yes, very much so. I remember a number of years ago, having my portfolio reviewed by an older artist who pointed out the ridiculous lengths to which I was going to cover up the naughty bits on my drawings of women. He frowned and simply asked, ''Why are you doing that?''
Having been raised in a very conservative home, I had always felt ashamed of depicting anything overtly sexual in my art and wound up turning even the most innocent of poses into some sort of strip tease. I'm much older now, but I still struggle with many of the taboos that American culture imposes on human sexuality. I find it infuriating that we can swallow violence and gore by the bucketload, but depicting a woman's bare breast is tantamount to universal child-abuse.
What do you enjoy most about the type of art you create?
I suppose my erotic art is really my attempt at self-therapy. On one level, part of me is screaming that I should keep this horrible filth hidden away in the closet lest I corrupt a new generation of youth, warping their ideals and turning them into monsters like myself. Then I remember that no one warped me.
I can honestly remember having dreams about dark and erotic scenes when I was five years old. I learned very quickly not to tell my mother about such dreams, but they still continued, no matter how deeply I buried them. There were, perhaps, elements of popular culture that shaped my imagination as I grew, the fantasy gaming scene, for one, but I was not, as the parents of the 80's feared, defiled by the black arts of Dungeons and Dragons and twisted into something that I was not before.
We don't get to choose our muses, and if we try to stifle the message of our art, it comes out perverted and sickly. Part of me still wishes that I was good at painting puppy dogs and flowers, but that's not what I see when I close my eyes.
What made you think of making an art book?
I have years upon years of drawings and paintings piled up in stacks of papers and in files on hard drives. My experience in layout from my last day job taught me everything I needed to know to start compiling these works into book form. The only thing keeping me from doing it was the nagging voice of doubt in my own self-worth. I finally decided to tell that voice to shut the hell up.
Did you have any experience making books or ebooks?
I've published a few fantasy novels in ebook form, the adult-themed Tanys series and my young-adult series beginning with The Necromancer's Nephew. Preparing these traditional novels had been relatively easy, with the help of my wife, as services like Kindle and Smashwords are very user-friendly for text-heavy works. It is what those services were made for, and they work beautifully.
When it came to prepping my art book, however, the ebook version proved something of a challenge. Since the ebook can appear on anything from an iPhone to a Kindle, there is no standard aspect ratio or resolution to aim for. I had to make my best guess at what would maintain the quality of the art while keeping the file size low enough that it doesn't break someone's cell phone. I still live in fear that someone is going to post a review that says my ebook erased all the photos of their grandma from their iPhone or something.
As for the print book, setting that up through CreateSpace on Amazon turned out to be amazingly straightforward, since I was so used to prepping files for print at my previous job. I'm not certain how friendly it would be for someone completely inexperienced with print, but I must say that I was impressed with the ease of setup and the quality of the finished print.
How long and complicated was it to create?
Having all the art except the cover finished before I began work on Shadowlust, it took me only a few days to do the layout in InDesign. Most of that was tweaking and revising. I had thrown together the meat of the book in about an hour and a half, and the rest of it was nudging type and images. The cover art I made specifically for the book, and I only spent a few days on that.
I know some artists that spend weeks on these beautiful, polished paintings and then shrug their shoulders and call it ''concept art'', but I can never spend that much time on anything. I work fast and get the images in my head burned to paper as quickly as possible. When I'm drawing, I don't have the patience to iterate and revise a great deal, because I've always got the next idea crowding forward and demanding its chance at expression.
How has the feedback been so far?
The book was just released, so the feedback on it has been a bit scant so far. The art inside it, however, has mostly been seen on the deviantART site in the past, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
What has amazed me most is the number of women that have expressed their admiration for the themes of my art. I have always been afraid that my art could be taken as misogynistic, what with all the monsters threatening women and all, but I really don't hate women. I love women. I've always felt more comfortable around women than men, and I identify a great deal with the feminine spirit. I see a lot of peril art that really denigrates women, making them into some sort of dim-witted victim that is getting her comeuppance, but that's not what my art is about. The women in my art may not always be in control of their situations, but they are clever and strong, and many women, and men as well, can identify with the fantasy of being in these dangerous situations.
Do you plan on making more ebooks in the future?
Definitely! I hoping to release more in the Shadowlust series, focusing on specific themes, in the future.
Thank you for your interest, and I hope that you enjoy my art.