Hugo Award-winning artist brings science fiction, mythology and fantasy to life

“Carried A’weigh” by Elizabeth Leggett. (Courtesy of Elizabeth Leggett)

Much to her mother’s dismay, a young Elizabeth Leggett viewed their whitewashed walls as a canvas.

“I would draw on the walls and put things in front of it,” she said. “When we moved, my mom said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ”

Leggett’s first paying gig was painting other students’ tennis shoes in high school.

Today the Albuquerque artist shows her work at Santa Fe’s Keep Contemporary.

Leggett’s day job keeps her busy illustrating book covers for Prince of Cats Literary Productions, producing digital images for science fiction and fantasy.

Elizabeth Leggett (Courtesy of Elizabeth Leggett)

The artist turns to fine art for more personal expressions.

In 2012 Leggett illustrated a full 78-card tarot pack in a single year. More recent series have included works based on the stories of fantasy/sci-fi author Ray Bradbury.

Other works capture the mystery of her personal muses. She often incorporates fantasy and mythology into her work.

Leggett grew up in North Carolina, where she majored in psychology and English literature at East Carolina University in Greenville. She is entirely self-taught.

“My mom was a single parent,” she explained. “We went to all the museums. She liked to show off my work, but she didn’t want me to do it as a career.”

Despite those doubts, Leggett worked as a middle school and high school teacher, then became a freelance artist for 25 years, illustrating book covers and magazines.

She moved to Albuquerque, the home of her husband, six years ago.

“I’ve always done pieces for myself,” she said. “There has to be a part of your own voice in things.”

In 2015, she won the prestigious Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist. “Game of Thrones” mastermind George RR Martin gave her her first solo show at Santa Fe’s Jean Cocteau Cinema. It was there that she was recruited by Keep.

Her portrait “Magpie Charmer” shows a woman, her coat embellished with multiple trinkets, with a magpie perched on her shoulder.

A bird lover, Leggett realized she had never depicted a magpie.

“Amid the visual chaos, (the figure) is very calm,” she said. “I love fabrics. All the color work are the trinkets; on her sleeves is lace.”

“I draw on the computer like I paint,” she continued. “And I think like a painter.”

Leggett uses models for most of the hands, heads and body parts.

The entwined hands in “Cassandra’s Dream” are actually her own. The truth clings to her like butterflies.

“Cassandra was the sister of Hector of the Trojan War in Greek mythology,” she said.

“She was blessed by Apollo to do prophecies.”

When Cassandra rejected Apollo’s advances, he cursed her to never be believed.

“I am fascinated by the hand positions of American Sign Language,” Leggett added. “She wants to speak, but she knows she shouldn’t and the other hand is stopping her.”

Both “Making the Most of the Available Light” and “Carried A’weigh” are muse paintings.

“I have a small superstition that I need to acknowledge her every year,” Leggett said. “For 2020, everybody was so sad. But at the same time, there were moments. Everybody realized at some point this would come to a conclusion.”

The figure wears a crown of acorns for growth. The “poor little shell-shocked owl” represents wisdom. The crow, whose flocks are known as “murders” symbolize the plague of the coronavirus.

“Carried A’weigh” contains a soaring tree with an acrobat being nearly thrown by a horse.

“I love things that fly. The tree is an olive tree. Olive trees are sacred in many religions.”

In September, Leggett will be the guest of honor at the WhimsyCon costume and steampunk convention in Denver.

“I do a lot of reading,” she said. “I love music, I love movies.”

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