Saturday, October 22, 2011

ImagineFX: Breaking In

The new December issue of ImagineFX magazine has a whole theme of Mechanics and Industrial Design --spacecraft, vehicles, and robots.

They've also got a column with tips to help rising stars break into the field of imaginative art. The article has quotes from Jon Schendehette, Boris Vallejo, Julie Bell, Colin Fix and me.

The column only had room for a few soundbites from each person, but here's the rest of my interview with Kerrie Hughes:

You are a prolific blogger - when did you start your blog and why? How important do you think it is for artists to sell themselves online?
I started my blog “GurneyJourney” in July of 2007 at my publisher’s suggestion. The idea was to do a photo journal of the book tour for "Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara." It quickly expanded to become a daily summary about whatever I was learning about. I can’t speak for what other artists should do online. I don’t do my blog with the intention of selling or promoting myself. I do it to play with ideas, to think out loud, and to pick up things up from other people who are interested in the same kinds of things. My books “Imaginative Realism” and “Color and Light” grew out of my blogging. I wrote and designed them to put the blog posts in a permanent, organized form.

Do you think that social media is a good way for new artists to raise their profile?
I’m just a blogger. I keep a low profile. I don’t really understand Facebook and have never even been to Twitter. I try to keep my time online down to an hour a day, or it would suck out my brain.

Please could you give three top tips that you think would be beneficial for new artists to know/think about when trying to break into the arts industry.1. If you put together a portfolio, show only your best work——eight pieces at the least and sixteen pieces at the most. Start and finish with your best pieces.

2. Don’t rely solely on electronic media to make contact with people in the business. Try to meet the art buyer. Go to conventions. Take workshops. And don’t overlook mailing traditional paper letters and printed leave-behinds. Since so few people do it these days, you might get your work up on someone’s bulletin board.

3. Always express a can-do attitude. On your first job, do twice as good a job as anyone would expect, and deliver it early. Make every published work your very best, regardless of the deadline or the budget.

What advice would you give to artists who are struggling with or lose motivation with their craft due to lack of work?If you go through dry spells where not much work comes in, don’t worry. That has happened to everyone, and it’s part of being a freelancer. And staffers get laid off from time to time as a matter of course. Every pro has had to reinvent himself or herself in the last decade or so. You must be doggedly persistent and never lose hope. Desire and application are more valuable than talent. Remember to consider the possibility that the reason you’re not getting that ideal job is that your stuff honestly isn’t good enough yet. Too much confidence is more dangerous than too little. If you keep working to make your art better, you will find your place.

All areas of the arts industry are extremely competitive - what advice could you give to new artists to make them stand out?Some parts of the arts industry are more competitive than others. Fewer people think of scientific illustration or toy design, for example, compared to movie concept art. And within the field of concept art, many more people try to break into character design than environment design. I don’t think young artists should worry about standing out or developing a unique style. I think it’s more important to be able to draw nature faithfully and express visual ideas clearly without calling attention to style. Too often art schools push young artists to develop a distinctive style before they’ve even begun to master the basics of perspective, anatomy, color, and light.

Many of your works invoke a feeling of actually being part of that scene. You are a master of the technical in your artworks, colour, composition etc. Having dropped out of art school – how did you learn about all of these aspects and develop them in such a way that makes the viewer feel like this? How important is it to understand these elements of art as well as just being creative? Thanks for those compliments. I’ve always been interested in making realistic images of scenes that couldn’t be photographed, such as monsters, spacecraft, and dinosaurs. That has led me to pursue plein-air painting and sketching alongside purely imaginative work. They weren’t teaching this information in art school back in my day, though some schools are beginning to now. I got memberships in the zoo and the natural history museum and drew there every chance I could. I combed the library to find books about Golden Age illustrators and academic painters. A century or more ago, “imaginative realism” (that is, painting mythology, history, and Biblical scenes) was considered mainstream art, and art schools were set up to teach it. Digging out this information took a bit of sleuth work and research before the days of the internet. I learned everything I could about the methods of artists such as Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Howard Pyle, Norman Rockwell, and Tom Lovell. Life is better now for hungry students: the information is available online and in books, more schools are teaching it, and magazines like ImagineFX have come along to fill the void and deliver the gold.


jeffkunze said...

This is really great stuff!
I was fortunate to go to a great art school (CCAD). I'm embarrassed to say it took me years to have the knowledge sink in and still feel like there's way more that I don't know than what I do.
Keep up the great work on this blog and I'll keep referencing and learning from it.

phiq said...

"I try to keep my time online down to an hour a day, or it would suck out my brain."

This is a very good idea.