The first time I saw the almost-done cover art for She Who Hears All Whispers, I had a big reaction. Given the comments I’ve been seeing around social media, I’m not the only one! So it felt like time to feature the artist for this striking cover, Chelsea Geter.
What is your background in art? How did you get started?
Like a lot of young artists, I developed a love for cartoons, comics, video games, anime, animation and manga very early. Before I was even ten years old. I fell in love with a few titles so dearly that they became very strong inspirations for wanting to become an artist of some sort. I’ve always been an overachiever. I’ve had and still do have a lot of dreams through out my life that I wanted to accomplish and art became a top priority amongst them. I also wrote stories that I too wanted to be able to illustrate in a masterful style that I was accustomed to consuming through media at that age too. I believe I started becoming serious about drawing around the age of 8. I used to sit there for hours and practice figures, form and faces after school and on weekends. Amongst the mounds of other extracurriculars and clubs I used to do (dance, theatre, chorus, book club, GSA, etc).
I did take art classes as well in school, from middle school to high school and went to college for graphic design at UNCG (University of North Carolina Greensboro) after that.
I’ve seen you work on all kinds of commissions and collaborations. Do you have a favorite type of project to do? What do you love about it?
I’ve been very lucky that I’ve had the opportunities that I’ve been given commission wise! If I had to choose a favorite type of project, I would say ones that involve me illustrating diverse characters considering diversity and representation is so important to me. Rather that’s women, POC, LGBTQIA+, etc. Anything that destigmatizes being a minority and being different. Anything that breathes life into representation that I wish we all grew up with as kids. It makes me feel like my work means something. That sort of work can save lives, I speak from experience. I love being a part of something that feels bigger than myself.
How do you balance commission work with your own projects?
I still haven’t mastered that one yet. It’s difficult as a freelance artist to make time not only for others but for yourself too. It’s hard to find the energy as much as you’d like to make time for your own projects. Particularly when you’re not a speed artist by any means. My work takes me a very long time. A lot of times it means prioritizing others over yourself and procrastinating on your own projects when you do actually have some time off. If I find the magic answer, I’ll let you know. All I can say is that sometimes you have to make time for it. Sometimes it will mean making a six hour drawing day an eight hour one. Sometimes it means giving up a commission day so you can take time to just mentally work for yourself. Sometimes it means using personal work as warm up before you get started on the meat of your work for the day, whenever you’re able to. Making work for yourself is okay!
You frequently incorporate fantastical elements in your artwork — from vampires and people with horns to archers and knights. Why fantasy?
I really enjoy fantasy a lot. From the ethereal inspired character designs to, the captivating world building, what’s not to love? The possibilities are endless! I very often I get to draw inspiration from historical garments and explore historical or historically inspired worlds/designs with it comes to the genre too! Fantasy is also usual filled with politics and social commentary which is close to my heart as a Black feminist I think. Typically when it comes to personal work I also enjoy employing diversity where there usually isn’t in the genre too! Make some work that I and others like me can identify with, or at least that’s the goal.
Are there particular fantasy books/movies/games you draw inspiration from?
Oh we’re going there are we? Where do I even begin! I’m very big into games, movies, and shows. I suppose Yu Yu Hakusho was a big one for me, it’s my favorite anime and still holds a soft place in my heart. It’s probably the reason why I even wanted to become an artist in the first place. Sailor moon would be another child hood inspiration anime wise. Yugioh as well.
For games, Kingdom Hearts was a big one for me. The Soul Calibur series was a huge one too because I was able to make my own characters in It in, with elaborate ornamental costumes with weapons to boot and I wanted to be able to draw as well as I was able to make them in the game. I did a piece, based on this idea from my youth just recently and plan to finish one more very soon. (insert attached image here)
Dragon age: Inquisition was one of my favorites when I got older because of just how beautifully detailed the world building is and how diverse the cast is. As far as movies, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies were big ones for me from childhood to adulthood, X-men as well because of the social commentary that it touches on…I think it’s obvious to see the running theme here haha! I could honestly go on for hours about the fantasy media that inspires me, but I’ve tried to narrow it down to some of the biggest players here. I’m sure I’ve left some out too.
How much of your artwork is created digitally versus traditionally?
These days, I’m mostly a digital artist. So from sketch to painting, it’s all done in Photoshop. I do sketch traditionally from time to time though to take the edge off haha.
Can you tell us a little bit about what your creative process is like? How do you move a project from an idea to a finished illustration?
It depends really. If I’m working on something for someone else, they usually give me all of the ideas and I take some time to collect references to go along with the one’s they’ve given me then move forward with brainstorming. Then start the sketch/illustrating process. If it’s personal work I’m working on, typically I do the same thing except I’m the one jotting down ideas in a note document and compiling my own references. Once I get to the actual illustrating, It’s all guess and check work from there.
Do you have a favorite color or palette?
Oh, I have a weakness for blues, purples, pinks and yellows for some reason. I’m trying to break the mold and stray away from it when I can, but It’s difficult.
How do you challenge yourself to continue growing as an artist?
Ultimately, I just keep making. Within reason of coarse, breaks are important! I try to keep absorbing all I can and learning from everything I can too. Even if I’m technically not drawing I’m still taking things in from the world around me and that’s learning in itself.
I’ll finish up with my favorite random question! You go to the store and come home with three things that weren’t on your list. What did you buy?
Hm, that’s a good one! These days I would probably come home with a cute house plant or two because I’m really into collecting them lately. Maybe some new drawing pens for my bullet journal sketches too!
Need your own copy of She Who Hears All Whispers with its lovely cover? Buy directly from the publisher here, or from the ebook retailer of your choice here. Follow Geter on Instagram (where you can see progress photos and a video of the art for She Who Hears All Whispers!), DeviantArt, and Patreon.
Chelsea Geter is such a fantastic and absolutely inspiring artist! I’m so glad to see this interview💝
Thanks! We agree, and had a great time working with Chelsea!