Interview with Carly Sorge4 min read

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A professional illustrator from Fort Wayne, Indiana, this month’s Apex Magazine cover artist Carly Sorge creates a wide variety of digital artwork. Her pieces, many for tabletop RPG games, feature varied genres including science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

APEX MAGAZINE: For your piece “Submersible,” the color palette is much more subdued than many of your other works. How does the choice of color affect the emotion of a piece, and does the duotone nature of the work offer something that a full color piece might not?

CARLY SORGE: Color is a powerful, if not the prime, driver of emotion, and control of color is one of the most difficult skills to master. Often a simpler color scheme is a better as you get a clearer message across with less variables to worry about. With this piece, the natural color and light of the ocean matched the mood I wanted to convey, one of the reasons I chose the subject matter.

AM: Your social media posts indicate that you are an avid reader, and many other posts are dedicated to science and especially dinosaurs. When you are getting ready to start a new piece, how does the balance of the things you are interested in affect what you are creating?

CS: That’s entirely what dictates what I paint both on my own and what professional work I look for. When I make a piece under my own direction, I am as indulgent as possible because it’s my chance to do whatever I want, and what I want are also things I seek out in other people’s work: big, richly detailed worlds to explore, exciting new beings to meet. That theme is easy to find in science fiction, so I’m enjoying that a lot right now.

Also, one of the most fun things to do is to play media that’s in the same genre as a piece I’m working on: so watching Star Trek while painting space ships, listening to fantasy stories while painting a fantasy scene. So fun!

AM: Your website links to your live art stream (, something some artists do and others seem to avoid. How does working on a piece while others are watching affect your methods and/or ideas? Is it different creating something in person with a crowd, versus an online crowd?

CS: It doesn’t change how I work but the frame of mind is different for sure. It helps me stay on task and feel less like I’m by myself all day. One hard part is, any time they’re watching, people can see the screw ups along the way, and that’s embarrassing!  I want to start a counter on my livestream for the number of times I repaint hands or clouds.

Working in person versus working online is the same feeling of being watched but 100x more intense!

AM: Your art features many different types of scenes, from the circus of “The Center Ring,” to the seemingly mean streets of “Sliss,” to the desert Southwest of “Branson in the Desert.” How much research goes into those pieces, and how much is more the imaginative versus reality in the imagery?

CS: My work focuses on realism, so that things that are impossible can be experienced as if they’re real, so reference is important. I don’t use reference directly (copying a specific image) very often but it lets me see the specific shapes and lighting I need. I have my own reference library, both book collections and digital files, plus we live in the blessed age of Google Image Search. I constantly save images I find on the internet and think will be useful- often things I’d never think to search for or would be impossible to find again. I even have some live models: my cockatiels have taught me about wings and feathers, and my lizards are a great help with dragons and other beasties.

 It’s important to find new visual information so I have a bigger deck to draw from in my imagination.

AM: Among your pieces on your DeviantArt page are a scattering of horror pieces, such as “Marrowseekers,” as well as some comics, that seem a little different from your other works. Are those experiments, or directions you’re considering more and more?

CS: My reputation for disturbing art and horror illustrations is one of my proudest achievements! My own horror art is some of my most personally emotional, too. People definitely respond to it very intensely, in a good way. Being able to disturb people is a powerful skill. My mom even had my gross, poster-sized “Typhoid Mary” in her office for years—at the college where she taught nursing, so it was even appropriate!

I do love comics: I went through the sequential art program at my college (Savannah College of Art & Design), but my professional work isn’t comics—yet. Part of being interested in genre fiction and art means storytelling is important to me, and I do have stories I want to tell, and comics are great for that. I have one I’m actively working on right now.

I also think taking big, out-of-the-blue jumps for artists is part of the territory of trying to come up with new ideas, but it can seem really jarring. But artists shouldn’t shy away from playing creatively. Any art you do is a problem you’re solving, which will inform other art you work on. It’s never a waste, only practice!

Carly Sorge will be in the Artist Alley at Gen Con Indianapolis in August, and her art can be seen and purchased on her website at She is also working on a large comic project, of science fiction erotica, at Sorge says of the project, “if you want to feel weird ways about aliens.”

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