Sunday, March 22, 2009

Featured Artist: Christine Griffin

Artist Profile
Name: Christine "Cris" Griffin
Job Title: Illustrator/Portraitist
Freelance? Yes
Client List: Fantasy Flight Games, Alderac Entertainment, Ellen Million Graphics Portrait Adoptions, WhiteWolf, Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Loose-Id Publications, Liquid Silver Press
Education: BFA Marshall University, MFA(painting) George Washington University.
Years Experience: 10+
Favorite Medium: Currently digital (but that could change at any moment)
Specialties: Portraits in the dark fantasy style, be it historically flavored or contemporary
Accepting Private Commissions? Yes

Contact Info
Website or Web Portfolio: and
Twitter: quickreaver
Online Art Communities: Epilogue and DeviantArt (as listed above)
Prints: Available through

For the last few years I've been a fan, and then a friend, of Cristine Griffin. One of the hardest working women out there in the industry, Cris juggles (well!) the pressures of being a full time mother and a freelance artist. Her bold male and strong female characters, mixed with a dark fantasy style, are uniquely her own--and her client list just keeps growing. I asked Cris a few quick questions about her work, and her thoughts on being a female artist in the fantasy industry.

There are a ton of gorgeous guys in your gallery. What made you decide to focus so often on painting male characters?
The chainmail bikini. I marveled at the number of hot babes in fantasy, and was a bit befuddled by the lack of attractive men that tickled my particular fancy. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against strong, sexy women depicted in fantasy/scifi/goth art, but as we all know, it can easily degrade into sexually gratuitous and vapid imagery. There was…and still is…a conspicuously lopsided ratio of hot male-to-female figures in the genre. The male characters are typically fully clothed and tough as nails, whereas the females are barely dressed and frequently passive. Sure, the Tarzan/Conan muscle-bound hero has become iconic, but I prefer a man with the gleam of feral intelligence in his eyes. The thinker, not the brute. I quickly realized if I wanted to see that, I’d have to do it myself.
How do you feel being female helps or hinders you in the fantasy art industry?
A great many of my ‘fans’ didn’t realize, for the longest time, I WAS female! So I have to say being female hinders me only in that I’m also a wife and mother. My job as a freelancer is secondary to my husband’s profession, which brings home the bulk of the bacon. I’m the one that must cook, clean, play Florence Nightingale, etc. Now I’m not complaining, per se…I CHOSE this path…but this is the way it is in a great many occupations. I can’t attend the big conventions or out-of-state workshops, nor spend money upgrading my programs or equipment, because the family would crumble and with three kids, finances are always stretched thin. My career is simply not a priority for anyone but me. Such is life!

But I’ll tell you, to my observation, women really do get the same opportunities, and make the same pay grade (at least as far as freelancers are concerned) as men in the industry. Good work is good work, period, and most Art Directors understand that. The quandary arises within juried art situations, such as annual art books and exhibitions. The subject matter becomes woefully skewed, in large part because the jurists are mainly male. They select what they enjoy seeing and frankly, a heterosexual man isn’t quite so appreciative of a male depicted for titillation, as he is a female. And let’s face it…a lot of fantasy is geared toward titillation. That’s why, in part, it’s called ‘fantasy’.
If you could change one stereotype associated with women and the industry, which would it be, and why?
I thought long and hard on this, and honestly, I couldn’t come up with a stereotype that wasn’t backed up by anecdotal evidence. By the same token, it wasn’t easy to come up with stereotypes either! Some of the best ADs out there are women, and I really think the reason we don’t see more incredibly successful female illustrators in the field is the fact women must split themselves into umpteen different people on a daily basis, instead of having the luxury to focus exclusively on one ‘job’. Art takes FAR more time and effort than anyone realizes, from research to execution to all the many adjustments we must make to accommodate the clients’ wishes. It’s crazy.

So here’s what I CAN say: it seems to me that women tend to be less receptive to criticism about their art than men. We take critique of our work far more personally. This is especially telling in the niche affectionately known as ‘The Fairy Artist’, which is predominantly female. This sub-group indulges in art more frequently as a hobby, so they’re typically coming at it from a non-academic background. For them, the very act of creation is the joy, not necessarily accurate perspective or color theory or ‘The Golden Ratio”. They encourage self-expression and positive reinforcement, so being told “Your anatomy is way off; take life drawing courses.” is usually met with irritation and hurt feelings. I suppose if you’re female, and paint any sort of fae, you’ll get lumped in with this group, and that may be a less-than-ideal stereotype to wrangle.
Image Credits:
Above: "The Woad Blue Sky" ©2006-2009 Christine Griffin
Below Left: "Devil Inside" ©2008-2009 Christine Griffin, first published in "Kobold Quarterly" magazine, #6
Below Right: "A Patient Wolf" ©2007-2009 Christine Griffin
All images used here with the artist's permission


  1. Interesting. She has some pretty pretty men in her gallery.

    Is is possible to ask questions of your featured artists here, or do you recommend getting in touch with specifically. I have a couple questions, but I can always track her down on my own if need be.

  2. Xlade- I know Cris reads this, but you'd probably be better off directly contacting her through one of the links in her profile (either email, Twitter, or one of her websites).

  3. Mmm. Thanks to both the interviewer and the interviewee... and the wonderful art. And so much agreement, for the "gleam of feral intelligence in eyes" men comment. I don't think this is something that comes up too often as the protagonist in fantasy - mostly for the sidekick, advisor, best friend, etc.

    "The Fairy Artist" is something I haven't heard of before... but I'm suspecting that I would probably belong in this stereotype - if I had enough skills to claim to be an artist, that is. I can see how this stereotype came about, and I also see why professional artists would hate to be labeled as one.

  4. The DeviantART link is a bit goofed, although anyone who's been to DeviantART a few times can type in the correct addy.

  5. Simon - whoops! Fixed it now. Still getting used to Blogger's workspace. DeviantArt link should now work right.

  6. Hey now, don't be dissing the Fairy Artists :P

    But I know what you mean about people who don't feel the need to improve or take criticism.

  7. Your work is fantastic, Christine - I especially like the line work in your pencil/pen and ink drawings. Texture is everything. "the very act of creation is the joy" big kudos to you, this is exactly how it should be! Melissa, thank you for sharing this great interview :D

  8. Cris Griffin created cover art for my fantasy novel (Flank Hawk, published by Gryphonwood Press). The result was fantastic, and has attracted many readers, resulting in sales that might not otherwise have occurred.

    Any author whose work has her art on the cover should count him/herself fortunate.