The current editor of Star*Line, the SFPA’s quarterly print/pdf journal, Jean-Paul Garnier, is pleased to interview Austin Hart, cover artist of the Summer 2021 issue of the magazine. The cover won the annual Critters Readers Poll in 2021 for Best Magazine/e-zine Cover Artwork.
How have speculative fiction / poetry integrated with your artwork, and what led you to this genre?
It gives me ideas and opens me up to thinking about characters and scenes differently. I like to draw and paint traditional things like people and landscapes, and speculative fiction and poetry help me think of new scenes and situations… different contexts… that sort of thing.
What led you into the visual arts, and what inspires you to create?
I just admired people that could draw from an early age. I had a couple of uncles that were good artists, and my dad is an architect and my mom is good at drawing even though she doesn’t do it much. I remember some kids in my classes in elementary school that were good artists early on and just trying to keep up with them. Marvel and Image comics and trading cards were very popular and I liked drawing characters and weapons from RPGs. I remember finding out about Robert Crumb, and later Frank Frazetta, early on and that raised the bar in my head for what was possible, but I could never be as good as they are. I am more impressed by pros who can do quick loose, expressive sketches with very few lines than by people who can make a fully rendered drawing or painting. I am very envious of those types of pros.
Which mediums do you prefer and why, and which of these lend themselves best to the speculative arts?
I like digital the best because it’s faster, and I think it lends itself better to doing art at a fast pace for commercial work. But I think traditional methods still have their place. Digital is just faster and easier for me.
What works of speculative fiction / poetry have inspired you to create visual works?
I like Tolkien a lot. I reread or listen to Lord of the Rings every few years and find something I didn’t notice before every time. I also like Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard.
What do you hope to see in the future of the speculative arts?
I think digital tools will keep getting better and easier. AI is going to continue to get better especially at creating 2D images. Already there are programs where you just write a few key words, or a short description, and it generates an image for you in whatever style you want it to. I think it’s going to get to a point where you can just think about something and see it on a screen. Even then, there will be people who are better than others, but there will be less of a barrier for people who are less technically inclined. You won’t have to be a technically skilled or accomplished writer or artist in the way you have to be today. Existing work will be remixed a lot.
Down the road I think it will get to the point to where you can do something like generate your own versions of movies. Like everyone that hated the newer Star Wars movies could potentially just use AI to generate their own versions of them with the original actors and different stories.
People will still draw and paint, but it will be less viable for commercial work. I don’t think Metaverse stuff or NFTs will be as much a part of it as the tech establishment is saying. Most people saying it would be huge were heavily invested in it and were hoping it would catch on so they could get a nice return.