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JM Leotti is a fantasy artist with a keen interest in myths, magic and the supernatural.
How long have you been illustrating and what made you start?
I began my painting career as a portrait artist when I was about twenty years old, but soon discovered I wanted to give all of my subjects pointed ears and wings! I found I loved painting fantasy subjects, and began creating this kind of art exclusively. I think my love of fantasy began when I was very young. My mother has a fairy picture I painted when I was in kindergarten. I used fluorescent paints on construction paper, and the fairies are holding little star wands. Even now, I remember those paints.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Inspiration can come from anywhere, but I’m mostly inspired by nature, myth, folklore, and other artists and writers. I love reading and gazing at art books for hours.
Where is your favourite place to illustrate?
I share an art room with my husband, who is a landscape painter. We agree on a movie, and set to work. We’ve always helped each other better ourselves as artists, offering critiques now and then. This is my favourite place to draw and paint. His company and my cup of tea is all I need—besides the paints!
What are your illustrating/colouring material essentials?
I can’t live without my Arches paper and my Winsor & Newton watercolours. I’ve recently gone back to acrylics, which I experimented with briefly a few years ago, but I love watercolours.
What’s the piece of work that you’re most proud of or enjoyed doing the most?
I usually answer this question with ‘my most recent,’ but if I think about it, one of my favourites is “Winter’s Wisdom.” I loved using all the blues, and painting the icicles on her crown was a challenge.
Before colouring, think about where the light is coming from. For example, if the moon is on the right side of the picture, all of your shadows will appear to the left. This is a simplistic example, and might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many colourists miss this step. Think also about the edges of things, how the light transitions into shadow. Are you colouring a box, which will have hard edges, or someone’s cheek, which, for the most part, will be rounded and soft? Blending the colours between edges gives your picture a realistic look. If you colour grayscale pictures, the artist has already given you a roadmap, so study this roadmap carefully. Does the box in the picture have hard edges? Does the fairy’s cheek have soft edges? Blend your colours accordingly. But mostly, have fun! Treat yourself to the best pencils and paper you can buy, then really dig in. Play is so important to creativity, and I recommend playing as often as possible. Happy colouring!