cover for issue 6 of FIYAH Literary Magazine

Artist Jessica McCottrell provided the artwork for our Issue 6: Big Mama Nature issue. We fired off some interview questions to learn more about her work.

1) Do you remember the moment when you knew you wanted to become an artist?

I always liked to color in coloring books since I was really young but I never really made drawings until I bought Soul Calibur for the Dreamcast which had a very nice gallery of concept and fan art that I found very inspiring.  Back then I still thought that drawing required talent which I obviously did not have. I joined DeviantArt when I was 17 to follow more people that made cool fanart, and I saw how many of them showed so much improvement over time. When I was 18, I started to draw to see if I could learn as well. Soon I found myself drawing so much that I was neglecting my schoolwork. I challenged myself to draw consistently for a year to see if this was really a passion or a passing phase.  After that year, I was more excited about art than ever and I started to pursue it.  Sorry for the long answer!

2) What is the primary fuel for your work? Where do you draw inspiration?

At first, I just enjoyed the process of art and that was all that fueled me. Now I use art as a way to communicate concepts that I can’t with words (either because I am not skilled or because the idea is a bit abstract). Conceptually, I draw inspiration from my life experiences.  At times I write how I feel and use those pieces of writing as a basis for an illustration. Visually I am inspired by nature, botanical art, natural light, and the human figure.

3) If you could reach back into the past and give advice to yourself when you were just starting out, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid! When I was starting out, I avoided drawing certain things because I knew that I lacked the knowledge to portray them. It wasn’t until I told myself years later to “just draw the damned thing” that I started to really grow as an artist. If I didn’t know how to approach a subject, my effort would give me information on what I could improve the next time I attempted something similar.

4) What advice would you give to other black artists looking to make a mark?

Don’t give up!  It takes a lot of time and effort to get your art seen by other people and I know how discouraging it can be, but the only way to fail is to just give up. Also don’t be ashamed to respectfully promote yourself. Let people know where to find your work.

5) What elements did you bring into your FIYAH cover and were you trying to make any specific thematic points with the art?

I felt like the prompt was perfect for me because I have been so inspired by nature photography lately. I wanted to portray Nature as a strong and powerful force, but also something beautiful. The composition has a “heaviness” to it, but I rendered things to have softer edges to show the grace of Big Momma Nature and also used flat shapes in areas to balance the composition. I also utilized my love for dramatic lighting and saturated color to make the scene feel more like a fantasy and not like something you would see in a photograph.

6) How do you feel about the future of black SFF across media forms and what might its audience look like ten years from now?

I feel like people want better stories than are different from the ones we’ve read a million times and black writers offer a unique perspective that other writers do not. Publications like FIYAH offer a way for these writers to get seen, and that visibility will serve as encouragement and inspiration for other black artists and writers to push through disappointment and rejection and create the work they want to make. When important work is made, which is what I feel the work of FIYAH is, it attracts a diverse audience of people from all sorts of backgrounds. I hope that answers the question.

7) If you were put in charge of concept art for a movie adaptation of any property what would it be and why?

If there was ever a reboot of Silent Hill, I would love to make concept art for it. Horror is such an awesome genre that just fills my heart with joy. I’d love to design a black woman protagonist and create some crazy creatures for her to battle!

8) Who is an artist that you’re really feeling at the moment?

Paul Davey is someone who I am always looking forward to seeing updates from.  I love the way he paints various shades of black skin and the abstract elements he adds to his art really make his pieces unique.

9) What would be your absolute dream project?

I have an idea for a horror comic about a young college dropout with depression that inherits the nightmares of her late aunt.  At this point, I don’t have enough time to work on it, but that will change soon once I finish the personal projects I am working on now.

10) Tell us where we can find you. Drop some links!

You can find me on:

Thanks, Jessica, for being part of FIYAH!


L.D. Lewis is an award-winning SF/F writer and editor, and publisher at Fireside Magazine. She serves as a founding creator and Project Manager for the World Fantasy and Hugo Award-winning FIYAH Literary Magazine. She also serves as the founding Director of FIYAHCON, boardmember for Diverse Voices, Inc., Researcher for the LeVar Burton Reads podcast, and pays the bills as the Awards Manager for the Lambda Literary Foundation. She frequently authors studies about the treatment and experiences of racially/ethnically marginalized authors in speculative literature. She is the author of A Ruin of Shadows (Dancing Star Press, 2018) and her published short fiction and poetry includes appearances in FIYAH, PodCastle, Strange Horizons, Anathema: Spec from the Margins, Lightspeed, and Neon Hemlock, among others. She lives in Georgia, on perpetual deadline, with her coffee habit, two very photogenic kittens, and an impressive Funko Pop! collection. Tweet her @ellethevillain.
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