Darker Than Disney: The Shadowed Imagination of Abigail Larson
Step back, Disney. A new artist is in town, one that stays true to the dark truths of our beloved fairytales. Inside the world of Abigail Larson, monsters lurk in the shadows and melancholy protagonists face what they fear most–their own imagination. Crafted within a Victorian-era inspired backdrop, Larson’s imagination comes to life on the page, visually ushering in a new era of Tim Burton inspired lines and Edward Gorey aesthetic with skillful application of watercolor, ink, and Photoshop.
Bustled ladies face the tentacles of a circus monster. Snow White has shed her fears of the haunted forest and now peers around the trees into the blinking eyes of the unknown. The little mermaid has embraced her sea witch ways to rule the ocean. Small bits of humanity are revealed within vampires who still find some semblance of love within their immortality. Each piece is a story, one that viewers eagerly gobble up.
Dreams of becoming an opera singer and circus performer were dashed when Larson realized she had terrible stage fright, but she used her love of stage performance as a backdrop for her art. Whether set directly within the telltale red and white tents of a circus or the danse macabre of a cemetery, many times Larson’s art shines the limelight on her subjects as if they were at the ending moments of a scripted performance, just before the curtain is drawn at the penultimate moment.
The idea of temptation plays strongly into the narrative of Larson’s creations. What power could be gained with the use of a supernatural ally? Tension builds between skeleton kings and young magicians, women whisper into each others ears after an out-of-sight deed has been done. A light splash of red indicates residual violence, which is left to the imagination to conjure what might have occurred off-stage.
Literature comes to life through Larson’s pen, bringing some of the more terrifying moments into bright colors–in particular Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper.” Modern tales are remastered with Larson’s use of red, white, and black, including a scene from Erin Morgenstern’s novel, The Night Circus.
With a degree earned from the Virginia Commonwealth University in 2010, Larson has built her career with pencils, ink, and watercolor. Her artwork has spanned galleries from New York City to London, making mystical mermaids and uncanny supernatural interactions ignite viewers’ internal storytelling. With her spooky monsters and creeping darklings, Larson’s work graces the covers of many books, including Penny Dreadful, Gothic Blue Book, among many more.
Larson also has illustrated books such as The Cats of Ulthar and has accomplished creating a coloring book based on Alice and her adventures in Wonderland. Directly pulling from the works for H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, and Guillermo del Toro, Larson re-envisions their words and characters, creating art of Edgar Allan Poe himself, scenes from Poe’s stories, and even the ghost from del Toro’s Crimson Peak. A finalist in the Global Art Awards of 2017 for Illustration, Larson has made quite the mark on the art community and has become a favorite among darklings everywhere.