W. Woods: "I find that watercolor, ink, and gouache reliably give me the mixture of grimness and whimsy that I’m seeking."

Untitled, W. Woods


Whitney, thank you for exhibiting in Ae’s upcoming group exhibition Manifestations at The Southern Theater. We are excited to show two pieces from from your “Nightmares” series. Please tell us more about this work.

I tend to be a private person, so it has taken quite some time to get comfortable talking about my more personal work such as “Nightmares.” I have struggled with mental illness my entire life, and it was through art that I found a conduit for expressing and coping with my feelings of isolation and grief. This series in particular explores my experiences associated with depression and anxiety. The images straddle the line between fantasy and reality, as I often cope by translating personal experiences through a filter of fantasy. Even though these images are intensely personal, my foremost goal was to create a feeling of mystery and ambiguity that explored these themes without being specific to any individual experience. I want those with similar struggles to connect with my work on a visceral level.

Untitled, W. Woods

Your work is definitely dark, eerie, yet playful. I also find your work energetic and soft. I think this comes from your drawing style as well as your use of watercolor and gouache. With that said, what is that you are exploring most in your work? And how do you achieve it with the mediums you use?

The “Nightmares” series is more solemn than my usual work; I prefer to include a sense of humor to my imagery. In my early art-making days, I was heavily influenced by Edward Gorey’s eerie but oddly comedic illustrations. As I’ve grown older, I’m still drawn to dark comedies in movies and literature and often use these sources as inspiration. I find it cathartic to laugh at the morbid and dark stuff.

When it comes to mediums, I find that watercolor, ink, and gouache reliably give me the mixture of grimness and whimsy that I’m seeking. I also think those mediums have a timeless quality to them, a mixture of the classic and contemporary. I paint with oils sometimes, but my oil paintings are usually for personal studies, and not something I regularly exhibit now.


An artist at work


I enjoy your travel illustrations. They are quite inviting and fun. Can you share your most recent piece from your travels?


I feel the most joy when I travel, and that’s probably why my travel illustrations have the lightness that my other work lacks. My most recent trip was to Paris and then London, and I created a few illustrations based off of the pictures I took there. My favorite experiences were simply walking through the streets and observing the world around me.


Unfortunately, I don’t have the means to travel as much as I would like, so this series is a very slow-moving project. Next two destinations on my travel wish list are Japan and Italy. And of course, France again. I absolutely loved the country.


Please tell me more about the Shirley Jackson project you are work on...


A friend, who is a comic artist and also featured in the project, asked if I would be interested in contributing work to an anthology of comics about the author Shirley Jackson and her work. I love psychological horror and sardonic wit, and Shirley Jackson’s literature is full of both. I jumped at the chance to contribute to this project. The editor, Rob Kirby, deserves a shout out for making this book a reality.


It was released this October by Ninth Art Press: https://www.amazon.com/Shirley-Jackson-Project-Michael-Fahy/dp/0990343367

It really turned out beautifully, and I was able to express my deep admiration for Shirley Jackson through my contribution to the project.

Illustration, Shirley Jackson Project, W. Woods

Do you have any new projects that you are working on that you can share?


I often have multiple large projects going on at once. I’m terrible at focusing on one thing at a time, so I work on all of them in rotation along with my smaller mini-projects and commissions. I am currently working on three books: a children’s book, a collection of short stories with accompanying illustrations, and a graphic novel—the latter two both geared toward an adult audience. I am currently seeking representation for the children’s book and as for the other two projects, I plan on pursuing through crowd-funded self publishing.


Where can we find you online?


Here are all the places people can find me:

Portfolio: www.woodsillustration.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/W_WoodsArt

Instagram: www.instagram.com/woodsillustration/

Blog: www. Woodsillustration.wordpress.com


The Haunted House, W. Woods

All images courtesy of the artist. Interview written and edited by Jes Reyes.

More on the Twin Cities Horor Festival: http://www.tchorrorfestival.com

Attend the opening reception for the festival on Thursday, October 27th at 5:30 PM - free and open to the public!