FairyRoom is thrilled to welcome Elizabeth Malczynski, fantasy artist and illustrator, probably best known for the iconic first paperback cover of Anne McCaffrey’s DragonSong (Bantam, 1976), the original full painting of which appears below. Elizabeth’s art has also graced numerous other fantasy books, including those of Ursula LeGuin and Michael Moorcock. Her website, TheDragonStudio.com, showcases her exquisitely detailed, vividly colored paintings and drawings.
FairyRoom invites readers into our conversation with Elizabeth as we learn about her sources of inspiration. Be sure to look out for Part II of our interview, scheduled for early summer, for more about her creative process.
And now, Elizabeth Malczynski.
Your work is beautiful, and exquisitely detailed. Can you tell us about your technique?
I have primarily worked in watercolors and brushes. People always ask if I use pens to achieve my fine lines, but it is all done with brushes. My brushes have very fine points. Recently I started using some egg tempera for depth such as on my “Woodland Fairies.” I also like to paint in oils from time to time. I work mostly from my imagination; my head is filled with images and stories of woodland fairies and elves, mermaids, dragons, and other real and imagined parts of nature–flowers, birds, sea creatures that I dream up. But I do use references especially for flora. I am always taking photos of trees, flower and mushrooms as well as collecting interesting looking leaves, seedpods, twigs and the like.
When did your interest in fairies begin? What first inspired you?
I loved fairy tales as a child and seriously believed in fairies until I was about 25 years old. (And I wouldn’t say I dis-believe in them now.)
What inspires you now?
My love for my spiritual guide, Mystic Birinder, gives me the inspiration to express my creative spirit in a much more open and heartfelt way and has driven me to try things I had put off, such as studying etching and printmaking, which I am now learning.
Inspiration is a wonderful feeling, and it can come from anywhere. I am always feeling for it. I get a lot of inspiration from trees, flowers, dried leaves–even rocks give me ideas. I love to poke around in the woods to see what is growing or living under rocks.
I love to garden. The process of creating something in nature and the resulting flowers, as well as the beautiful birds and insects they attract, stir me. Music is also a source of inspiration for me. I like listening to classical and medieval music while I work. My favorite subjects: dragons, fairies, mermaids, and imaginative interpretations of Nature… and my creatures.
Do you have a favorite fairy character in literature, film, or folklore? Who is it, and why?
It’s difficult to choose any one character as I’ve had so many literary inspirations: George McDonald’s books (The Princess and the Goblins, The Princess and Curdie, and Back of the Northwind), and the Blue, Brown, Lavender Fairy Books. I loved The Lord of the Rings trilogy and found Tolkien’s description of the elves and the dragon Smaug inspiring. As an adult, John Crowley’s novel Little Big is full of characters I love. He creates a magical world very interwoven with the “real” world.
Speaking of books, what has been your favorite experience as a illustrator of book covers?
I have had many people tell me not only how much they loved Anne McCaffrey’s Harper Hall Trilogy, but how important my covers were to their imagining of the books, especially the fire-lizards. People have even shown me their tattoos based on the cover art. I am immensely grateful that I had the opportunity to create these covers and flattered by such responses.
We see that on your website, you go by both Elizabeth Littman and Elizabeth Malczynski. What is the story behind your names?
A complicated question! I was born Elizabeth Malczynski and continued to use that on my artwork even after getting married and changing my name to Littman. My mother’s maiden name was Luks. Her uncle was George Luks, one of “the eight” artists of the Ashcan School movement, and I had the choice to take that name at one point in my life. But I decided to stick with something no one could spell!
Thank you, Elizabeth! We look forward to sharing Part II of our interview later this year.