Hat Leith, a Norfolk based artist, specialises in creating fantasy-based pieces, inspired by their interests in mythology, folklore, and fandom. Their art is introspective and vibrant, often hitting the right degree of poignancy in its depiction of its subjects.
When asked what sparked their interest in these subjects, they said, “I think I’ve always felt a connection to the ‘otherworldly’. I grew up next to a small woodland and used to knock on the trees to see if any fairies would knock back. All the fairytales I knew started off with someone walking through the woods, so it felt very possible that any of those tales could have happened in the woods I explored.”
They also observed that genres like fantasy can feel far-removed from their creators and discussed how they combat this. “The fantasy pieces (art, books etc) that have always stood out to me are the ones that explore real world problems in a fantasy setting, so this is something I keep in mind while making my illustrations and writing,” they said. “I always end up including something of myself in my work. In the past I’ve not always realised how much of myself I have put into a piece until it’s on display. That used to scare me a great deal. It still does sometimes, but using my personal experience and sense of identity in a piece of fantasy writing or an illustration can give it so much more meaning.
“For instance, if I told you ‘I’m currently creating a graphic novel about climate change and self-identity’ it might not sound quite as enthralling as ‘I’m making a graphic novel about a man who is cursed by a fairy, turning him into a deformed half-crow-man who has to hide in the forest, set in a world where magic is a non-renewable resource.’ […] Turning my worries into art allows me to explore them in a space I feel safe in and communicate them to others without it seeming overwhelming.”
Hat grew up in a creative family, and that “has been a massive influence on [their] relationship with creativity.” However, there is also an added pressure because of it: “It can be a little intimidating thinking of my creative parents and what they had done by my age,” Hat said. “Now I’m in my thirties (ew) I’m trying to find my own space and voice in the world of art, instead of comparing my successes to [my parents]. It’s easier said than done! But I am hugely grateful for their constant love and support.”
They also have a few favourite stories: “Living in East Anglia, I have always been fascinated by stories of Black Shuck, and as a kid my favourite fairytale was Little Red Riding Hood. Right now, having read Madeline Miller’s ‘Song of Achilles’ a few years ago, I am a little obsessed with the story of Achilles and Patroclus. I’ve been considering doing a diploma in Greek Mythology ever since.”
Speaking of ‘The Song of Achilles’, we delved into how much of their work is influenced by specific media and how much by interest in genre. “It’s probably a pretty even split,” Hat acknowledged. “I consume an awful lot of fantasy media! Since I was a teenager I’ve always had my own characters and stories that I’ve liked to draw, as well as having fun with fan art. During my twenties I went through a phase of thinking “I’m too old to draw fan art any more, I must only work on my own original things” which in retrospect put a lot of pressure on me to be constantly creating original work. Now, I’d argue there is no such thing as truly original work. I am every book, podcast, movie, graphic novel I have ever read/watched/heard and loved.”
They cited Noelle Stevenson’s work as a “turning point”, and now they “love making fan art to show how much I love a certain thing, and because it’s fun to connect to other people who love it too.”
Their current medium is “almost exclusively on [their] iPad creating digital art on Procreate with an Apple Pencil.” They continued: “Before getting my iPad I worked mostly in watercolours and acrylic. I still like traditional painting for the happy accidents it can create and I’d like to work on marrying the digital and traditional together in my future work.”
Finally, I asked if they had any tips for aspiring artists. “Getting a degree in Graphics in no way prepared me for running a business as an artist,” they admitted. “Do your research if that’s the route you want to take. Go to talks and read interviews from others in the industry. Don’t be afraid to get in touch with artists you like and ask if they will answer your questions.”
They also encouraged finding “other artists to talk to and to share ideas with. The worst thing about leaving uni in Bath and moving back to Norfolk for me was losing that community of other creatives. Over the last few years back here I have gradually built relationships with other local creatives and their support is invaluable to me.”Hat’s work can be viewed online at: http://www.scribblyroo.co.uk/index.html.