3DTotal:Looking at your fantastic portfolio, I was overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of high
quality images that you have created. Your work is of a specific genre - fantasy, game and comic art - so
what is it about this type of artwork that really gets you going? Dan: Thanks! There is a lot of stuff on there isn’t there? I probably should narrow it down to a more focused portfolio but it’s difficult to exclude anything because so often the pieces that I think are weak are enjoyed the most by others. In any event, I try to always maintain a minimum level of professional quality even if I’m not necessarily excited to work on a certain piece. To answer your question, I couldn’t imagine doing any other type of art as I don’t think it could maintain my interest. There’s something so cool to me about bringing to life the amazing characters, creatures, and settings you see in the genres I work in. Painting a still-life, portrait, or landscape can be an interesting exercise, but it doesn’t really get my blood pumping. I grew up immersed in comics and video games so I guess it’s pretty much been a lifelong passion for me. It’s kind of ironic that I’m so busy doing art for them that I rarely get the chance to read comics or play video games anymore!
3DTotal:So if you don’t get chance the play the games or read the comics these days, where does your inspiration come from for all these fantastic artworks? You have listed some great artists as sources of inspiration on your website; however, I wonder where else you seek inspiration from... Is it simply a case of keeping your eyes open to the world around you, or do you spend a lot of time researching to inform your personal concepts? Dan: I wouldn’t say I never get the chance to play video games or read comics - it has just been greatly reduced from my ‘teen’ days. You have to expose yourself to other artists and inspirations or you risk being stuck in a stagnant bubble. Next thing you know, your art is outdated and no-one wants to give you work anymore. I use the Internet almost daily to find inspirational art which I refer to sometimes while working. A couple of times a year I’ll take a two or three day break from working and do nothing but research and organise my art collection. It can be a real inspiration and can jump-start your creative engine.
3DTotal:Some people regard Superman as the most iconic superhero of all time, who has been immortalised by many well-known artists. How difficult was it to give justice, and apply your own personal stamp, to such a huge icon?
Dan: It was very difficult. He’s probably the most iconic character I’ve ever got to work on. It definitely adds a different level of complexity to the work because you have a checklist of things you must include when depicting him. Spit curl? Check. Huge dimpled chin? Check. Can we see his symbol? Check. It does take a little away from your personal vision but is still well worth it. I’d jump at the chance to do it again. I’ll tell you one thing, I came out of the project with a new-found respect for Alex Ross!
3DTotal: How do you go about starting something as huge as an artwork of Superman? Can you give us a brief insight into your general working process, from beginning to end?
Dan: With a painting that shows an iconic character like him, I felt I needed to first research how he had been depicted in the past. Quite often there’s a little bit of research time that needs to be put in before
you even put pencil to paper (or maybe I should say stylus to tablet), whether it be to see what kind of plants are found in the jungle scene you’re going to paint, or to make sure you know the proper musculature on that horse you’re getting ready to depict. In this case I dug out several trade paperbacks
I had to see how other artists had shown him. I made mental notes of what I liked and disliked about
them and regurgitated it all into my own personal take on the character. As for the actual working process, in Photoshop I’ll generally block-in very rough shapes with a large brush to get a feel for the composition
I want. When I get something I like I’ll make a hue/saturation layer with settings Hue: 210, Sat: 85, Lightness: 85. What this does is allows my initial sketch to show through very lightly, as if done with a
non-repro blue pencil. This is a trick I got from a buddy of mine, Freddie Williams, who draws Robin for
DC Comics. Now I make a new layer and do a tight sketch on it. Once the sketch is approved I’ll create a new layer below it and do the entire painting in values of grey. At this point the meat of the painting is
done. From here it’s just adding colour and “noodling” the details as much as you want. For colour I
create a new layer which will be applied to the grayscale painting by a combination of different methods.
I don’t have a set method for applying colour to my grayscale. It’s usually a combination of multiple
copies of my colour layer at different opacities with different effects applied. It seems like each painting takes a different recipe to get a result I’m happy with, but usually a few of the layers are set to Colour mode, Overlay mode, or Multiply mode. As I work I constantly try to flatten layers as much as possible to
try to keep the file size from getting out of hand. To help in this I create lots of channels with selections
on them, since channels take up less memory.