On your website you mention attending a seminar by Feng Zhu as a kind of turning point in your artistic career. He's an artist that a lot of people mention as being an inspiration for them and we've been lucky enough to feature his work on our website in the past. What was it about the seminar that so captured your attention? And if you hadn't attended, do you think you'd still have found your way to 2D?
Feng is an inspiration, for sure. My initial intention for attending the 3D festival was to learn more about 3D and do some networking. I had gone out the night before in Copenhagen and had a few too many local beers so was feeling a little rough. I was late for Feng's seminar and had to sit in the aisle. Up until that point I had never realized there were actually people designing this cool stuff for a living. I was blown away at the speed and talent of this guy... Something just clicked and I thought, "Yeah, this is for me”. The thought of creating art for IPs such as Star Wars seemed too good to be true, but somehow attainable at the same time. I think that with the expansion of global media, it was only a matter of time before concept art appeared on my radar as a career option. But there's no denying that Feng's seminar had a huge impact on me. Within a week of returning home I had bought a tablet and was learning Painter. To my wife's dismay I spent hundreds of hours on that thing.
It seems behind every great artist there's a very understanding spouse! So how did you make the transition from 3D to 2D? Was it just a case of practice, practice, practice and then shopping your portfolio around?
(Laughs) That's true! I think technically I had a fairly solid art foundation through simply drawing from life and painting from photos. Signwriting helped me learn how color worked as I had to mix all my paints, but I had limited knowledge of anatomy or composition. Therefore my digital work started out more as illustrations which emulated photo references. But I soon realized there was more to being a concept artist than simply drawing well and copying from magazines. There was so much still to learn, so I started doing challenges online and small unpaid collaborations. I developed a faster working method and a library of shapes in my head that seemed to work. Eventually my portfolio started to
improve and attract more lucrative clients. It's an ongoing learning curve and I'm always striving for an image that I'm happy with for more than a week.
Onto the art! Which I could look at all day, by the way – I particularly love the landscapes as there's just something so beautifully peaceful about them. But landscapes aside, your work seems to lean towards the sci-fi and fantasy genres – is this a conscious decision on your part or something your work requires of you? It's definitely a popular subject within the industry and I often wonder what it is about sci-fi and fantasy that so attracts people. Perhaps just the sheer number of potential possibilities and the ability to push your imagination to the limit and beyond?
Thank you! It's funny you should mention the landscapes as they took the least amount of time. I wanted to explore a more traditional technique and use some different brushes so tried to get one finished each day in my lunch hour at work. I've always loved sci-fi though and I think films by the likes of Spielberg and Lucas captured my imagination early on. As a kid I used to dream about creating worlds for people to explore. Actually, I'd love to create a graphic novel set in a virtual world. Like you say, the possibilities are limitless and I think it's that opportunity to really use my imagination that interests me. Working in entertainment allows me to do this to a degree so it's a good match. With that said, the stuff I paint at home is quite contemporary so there's a love for that too.
What can I say; I'm a sucker for a beautiful landscape! I'm curious about this graphic novel you mentioned – do you have a plot worked out or is it still just floating around in your head as a vague idea?
I spent about a year developing a story in my spare time back in 2007. It was just a rough plot; a bunch of notes and doodles spread out over a stack of sketchbooks. Trouble is the story I was writing was very close to a movie that came out a few years
ago, so it's back to the drawing board. Writing is something I don't do all that often but when I do, I really enjoy it. There's something about watching a story unfold. Developing the characters is the fun part. Maybe I'll get around to it when I'm old and gray... damn that's now! (Laughs).
Coming from a 3D background, do you find yourself calling on your 3D skills in your work much nowadays? I know lots of 2D artists will mix elements of 3D into their pipeline and vice versa. Or is it Photoshop and a Wacom all the way?
I think it definitely helps having that background as you're used to seeing your objects from every angle and get a good idea of how perspective works. I think the texturing and lighting processes used in 3D can translate to 2D quite well too, especially with software like Photoshop where layers are used. As for my work, I haven't used a 3D application in over seven years, although it's common for me to be given a 3D mesh environment from design or an in-game capture to paint over. But definitely Wacom and Photoshop for me!
And one whimsical question to round things off: if you were stranded on a desert island, what would be the one thing you couldn't live without? Sketchbook? Surfboard? Internet connection?
Well that would have to be my lovely, intelligent wife! But then, the only sketching I'd be doing is SOS in the sand! (Laughs) Kidding, of course. Oh, there's surf? That's an easy one; no time for the internet as I'd be on the water all day.