From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Artist Spotlight: Priscilla Kim

Priscilla Kim is an illustrator and conceptual artist who currently lives in Austin, Texas. A former associate producer of video games, she has worked on the Emmy-winning animated TV show Archer and game supplements with White Wolf and Fantasy Flight. Her current focus as an artist is on portraits and book cover illustration. Her website is

When you started making art, were you interested then in fantasy?

Oh, absolutely. My interest in fantasy came far before my interest in art. I was that kid who’d spend her weekends in the library and check out the max amount allowed each time, reading everything from the Boxcar Children to Anne Rice. I originally wanted to be a writer before I ended up turning toward art. (It’s still a goal of mine, but it’s hard enough mastering one discipline, so I’m focusing on the art first!) Michael Whelan’s covers on the Pern novels and Melanie Rawn’s books were probably the first time I really noticed the cover art and started admiring it as a thing on its own, separate from the book it covered. I didn’t actually start drawing until I was thirteen or so, and that was so I could depict my own roleplaying characters instead of relying off of art scavenged from Elfwood.

We’re here and we’re queer. Do you feel a connection between art and queerness?

Not especially, but I am admittedly probably the mildest, most invisible flavor of queerness that could exist, being a Kinsey 2 bisexual cis woman. The main connection I see is that art—like identity—is extremely personal and self-constructed. Discovering both often requires a good deal of self-interrogation and awareness. I know many folks for whom their queer identity influences their art a great deal more. It’s just not one of the main roots that my art pulls from.

Is destruction a part of your creative process?

Wouldn’t say so, except inasmuch as sometimes I need to take away from a shape in order to make it correct. I tend to think of it much more as building up layers than taking away something.

With the influence of television and movies, fantasy has become a highly visual form. Is your work influenced by other visual media?

Indubitably, but it’s difficult to pinpoint what precisely. Games are probably a big one, since they’re my primary form of solitary relaxation these days (when I can afford to). I’ve been doing a lot of thirty-minute studies from film stills lately, so that’s probably wended its way into my subconscious, too, even though I don’t normally watch a lot of movies or TV.

When working on your thirty-minute film still studies, how do you choose stills?

Mostly by hitting Random on and stopping on whatever tickles my brain so that it goes, “Yes, that, good.” Unless I’m doing a theme week (I’m currently on a noir week), in which case I Google Image Search “<title that fits the theme> cinematography” until my brain goes, “Yes, that, good.” Then I try to figure out what it is about it that made my brain ping while I do the study.

I’ve noticed I seem to like a lot of silhouettes, misty or dramatic lighting and off-centered compositions (at least two of which worked their way into this issue’s cover).

What artists inspire you now?

Ruan Jia, Zhong Fenghua, and a whole crop of other Chinese concept artists do wonderful things with creamy, subtle color-shifted strokes. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Dave Palumbo, Rick Berry, and Matt Rhodes as big influences on where I want to go (albeit with different elements that I’d want to pull from each, since they are not much like one another).

If you could do an illustration or cover art for one book or story, what would it be? What would you create?

My own! I’m currently kicking around notes for a post-apocalyptic gender-flipped Arthurian YA saga, but I’ve had reams of stories in my head since I was little. Lately, though, I have been considering doing my own takes on covers for Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness or the Immortals Quartets, or Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books, as both of those were huge in my life growing up. I’d also love to work on Brandon Sanderson’s books at some point. Lots of life goals!

[Publisher’s Note: Normally, the gallery that follows the artist interview features work solely of the featured cover artist/interview subject. But since this is one of our special issues, we’re featuring work from all of the artists who participated in the issue. Enjoy!]


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Matthew Cheney

Matthew Cheney is the former series editor for the Best American Fantasy anthologies, and he currently co-edits the occasional online magazine The Revelator with Eric Schaller ( His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in a wide variety of venues, including Nightmare, One Story, Weird Tales, Black Static, Icarus, Los Angeles Review of Books, Locus, Strange Horizons, and elsewhere. His collection Blood: Stories will be published by Black Lawrence Press in January 2016.