Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein is an illustrator, comicker, and writer who works with traditional and digital media and especially enjoys contrasting humanity with elements of monstrosity and phantasm. Rhiannon's work has appeared in galleries and magazines, including Lightspeed Magazine, ZEAL, Tankadere, Shimmer, and the Sockdolager. Find more at her website and on Twitter @charibdys.
Tory Hoke: In addition to illustrating, you write. Your fiction has appeared in Lightspeed, Drabblecast, and ZEAL. How do you compare the two crafts? When does the creative impulse take you one direction versus the other?
Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein: Good question. It's hard to describe. Some things just seem very much a prose story in my head, others, a piece of art, and I've definitely had projects where I flopped back and forth before settling on the correct medium.
I think it may be similar to the difference between, say, a flash piece and a novel. If there's more story or complex emotion than I can fit into a single picture, then it's probably either a comic or prose; comics do better when they're action-based, since there's a sort of visual momentum they can attain that's very difficult in prose. A good example of the differences might be the segue to the chase sequences in The Invention of Hugo Cabret. There's visual tension that prose can't provide, or little details like a character's exact expression. Then, on the other hand, there are emotional details and the internal landscape of a person's mind that's almost impossible to capture. We really structure our internal selves around language.
© 2015 Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein, "Justice"
Tory Hoke: The website for your collaborative webcomic Felicity Baile and the Literary Pursuit describes you as "generally the writer" while Caeleigh Boara is "generally the author." That sounds like an exciting union of talent. What have you learned from the collaboration?
Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein: In comics, especially, where there are multiple creators, the key to a really successful story is communication between the people involved. We all bring strengths and weaknesses to projects. I'm an artist, but someone who draws comics full-time is going to know the medium inside and out and how to bring nuance that I just don't have experience with.
Tory Hoke: How has living in Hawai'i and Oregon influenced your work? Where does your passion for "things with claws" come from?
Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein: Not to brag, but they're both gorgeous states. Hawai'i, especially, has a very strong internal aesthetic, in large part because of the pushback towards Hawaiian art and culture in protest of the illegal annexation of Hawai'i by the U.S. It's very strong, it's very stark, but it's still colorful and appreciative of life.
Claws, I don't know. I've always loved claws.
© 2015 Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein, "Wolf Forest"
Tory Hoke: Your art—particularly your cover work for Joyce Chng—often blends fantasy and science fiction. How do you approach blended subject matter? What interests you most about it?
Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein: It's not just genres. I'm also interested in blending media. Right now I work in comics a lot, which has always been sort of an ur-blended-medium; it's half-prose, half-illustration, and neither, and it can really shine with the strengths of both . . . or suffer the weaknesses of both.
I don't actually think that there's much difference between science fiction and fantasy, or at least any more difference than there is between any other two subgenres. What's more (or less) fantastical about psychics vs. werewolves? How come superheroes aren't considered fantasy, when they very much are? It's all marketing. Do whatever you want with genre conventions.
Tory Hoke: What other artists inspire or interest you?
Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein: Oh gosh, there's too many. I tend to look back for inspiration more than at my peers, because my process is very push-pull, and I've learned that the way that I interact with media is very tactile and unique to me. So I'll go ahead and say that I pull directly from a lot of German Expressionists and other printmakers and woodcut artists. Shin-hanga is another art movement that's very close to my heart.
For my peers, I look to comics. There are so many artists, especially people of color and in the queer community, who are bringing such amazing vibrancy, innovation, and life to independent comics right now.
Tory Hoke: What would you like to see more of in contemporary fantasy and science fiction art?
Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein: Deliberate, emotional surreality. In the last five years or so there's been a huge aesthetic revolution in F/SF, which I appreciate, because I feel that generally speaking F/SF tends to be twenty years behind the curve aesthetically-speaking. Now we're moving into an era where cross-platform media is the norm, and I'd like to see that reflected in the emotional side. Let's get some of the abstraction and emotional core of, say, magazine editorial art into F/SF illustration.
© 2015 Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein, "Fashion Post-Mortem"
Tory Hoke: What's your dream project?
Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein: I don't think I have just one! But one of the things I want to really push toward with my career is illustrated prose and design-heavy/experimental works—pushing prose and comics and integrating them into a single narrative, House of Leaves-style.
Tory Hoke: What's next for you?
Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein: I've got a couple of novel projects I'm wrapping up, and then I'm going to be plunging back into comics writing. I've also been doing some work in the world of games development, another fascinating visual medium that I don't know as much about as I'd like to.
Tory Hoke: Thank you for your time, Rhiannon! It's been a pleasure.