3DTotal:Your professional work and much of your portfolio fits within the fantasy genre. What do you feel are the most challenging aspects of working within such a popular genre and the main pitfalls that await the aspiring novice? Daarken: Probably the most challenging thing about working in the fantasy genre is making something that doesn't exist believable. There are a lot of people out there that tend to go a little too crazy when working in the fantasy genre, and thus end up with something that looks silly instead of something that could actually exist. Sure, you want to come up with something that is new and unique, but you need to base things on reality. If you are trying to design a creature, look to nature for inspiration.
3DTotal: I notice that you have a fine art and life drawing section on your website. How do you regard these disciplines compared to your digital work and do they form an integral part of your illustration and concept work? Daarken: Being able to draw and paint traditionally is extremely important for an artist. When I attended the Academy of Art University I learned how to paint traditionally before I learned how to paint digitally. You need to have strong foundations before branching off into the digital realm. All of the fundamentals you learn while painting traditionally can be applied to the digital media. The computer is just a tool. It won't teach you how to become a good artist and it won't do the work for you. There is no all powerful filter that will make your illustration perfect; that is one of the things that many people fail to realize.
3DTotal: Who or what would you cite as your main influences and source of inspiration? Daarken: There are so many artists that have inspired or influence me over the years. Some of the old masters that I look to are people like Sargent, Leyendecker, Cornwell, and William Bouguereau. Contemporary artists include Brom, Kekai Kotaki, Jon Foster, Todd Lockwood, Aleksi Briclot, Daryl Mandryk, and Justin Sweet. I always try to not be too influenced by another person's style. Early in my career I had a problem with looking too much like other artists. From one painting to another you could tell who I was looking at for inspiration at the time. I think I was so worried about trying to find a style that I ended up looking like everyone else instead of just focusing on creating a good illustration. Style will come with time. It isn't something that you should force or intentionally go out and look for.
3DTotal:Style is a word that comes up a lot and is something many seem to strive for, but what meaning does it have for you and do you think it is possible to develop a unique style? Daarken: I gave up on trying to find a style a long time ago. Most of the time an artist’s style will come to them on its own. I just try to paint to the best of my ability, and if a style comes out of it, then I consider it a bonus. I personally don’t think I have a recognizable style, but that is just me. Usually a unique style is a mishmash of other people’s styles: a brush stroke from one artist, a color palette from another, you get the idea. Every so often a truly unique style will pop up, but within a few months or years you will see 50 artists with that same style.
3DTotal:From seeing your time-lapse movies and tutorials it appears you have a very intuitive and fluid approach to your work. Do you find that your approach and the freedom of working digitally generates its own momentum and dynamic that helps suggest a direction and therefore fuels the creative process as opposed to drawing on paper beforehand? Daarken: Yeah, I think that working digitally gives you the freedom to explore more possibilities. It allows you to try things you normally would be too afraid to try with traditional media, but at the same time one could fall into the trap of repainting something so many times that you end up losing the initial punch of your sketch. I actually wish I had the time and dedication that the traditional artists do to plan out my illustration beforehand. Since I don't do any preliminary drawings or roughs I waste a lot of time trying to figure out the poses and composition as I am painting the final image. On the other hand you end up with a lot of happy accidents when working digitally without any preconceived ideas.
3DTotal:And finally; if you were faced with a fearsome army and were forced to fight, which of your
characters would you like by your side and why? Daarken: Probably a daemonette. Nothing like having a half-naked girl to distract the enemy while she