Bi-Weekly Interview #3 - Sam Flegal

AS AN ARTIST, IT SEEMS LIKE THE LANDSCAPE IS EVER-CHANGING FROM SIMPLY THE TOOLS TO THE AESTHETIC. I INTEND TO BE AN ARTIST THAT NEVER WANTS TO STOP LEARNING AND AS SUCH, I FIND MORE AND MORE INTERESTING ARTISTS EVERYDAY. EACH ARTIST HAS A UNIQUE INSIGHT AND POINT OF VIEW, NO MATTER THE EXPERIENCE LEVEL. NEW VIEWS HELP OPEN MY MIND AND TEACH ME THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO UTILIZE MY SKILLS AND I HOPE THAT SHARING OUR STORIES WILL HELP OTHERS IN THE SAME WAY. I BELIEVE THERE ARE MANY PATHS ON AN ARTISTIC JOURNEY, AND EACH INTERVIEW WILL HELP TO SHOW THE STORIES OF THE ARTISTS THAT TREAD THEM.

TODAY WE'LL be interviewing Sam Flegal.

Sam has been a freelance illustrator since 2009. His art’s been used on book covers, hobby games, movie concept art, and even The History Channel. He’s also a co-curator of the online webshow, One Fantastic Week. We’ll be interviewing him today on his take on the industry and just in general, being an artist. That being said, let’s dive right in.

Kaminski: What first got into doing art and in that vein, what steps did you initially make to secure your foothold in this industry?

Flegal: I first started drawing at age 3. My parents used it as a technique to get me to stop talking all the time. I was never far from a pencil growing up. I loved to draw. I got a degree in art and became a graphic designer. After 7 years I realized I wasn’t drawing anymore, and what I really wanted to do was be an illustrator. I started going to Cons and getting portfolio reviews from other artists. After meeting some industry folks I went to The Illustration Master Class.

Kaminski: Interesting. IMC is always something that I think would help many artists from amateurs to experienced pros would benefit from. Perhaps one day I'll be able to attend, myself. Before you broke out on your own, was there a specific industry that you were targeting initially? If so, why? And if not, did the shotgun approach actually help to get your name out there to many different industries?

Flegal: I wanted to work in games, tabletop RPG and mini-games. That and comics is why I got into art in the first place. I didn't want to pursue comics because of the intensity of sequential art. Comics is very cutthroat. Maybe one day I'll revisit my love of comics. I don't know that I'd say I had a shotgun approach. I've always focused on fantasy art in one version or another.

Kaminski: Much like you, I've always strived for the games industry and have actually heard it to be just as cutthroat as the comics industry. Perhaps channeling your art into a comic akin to Alex Alice's Siegfried might be a good way to channel your two loves together. I'm probably fast-forwarding some there, but what ultimately led to your love of nordic mythology?

Flegal: I've always enjoyed stories. In researching the roots of fantasy you come to Tolkein, from there you find his influences were folklore and myth. Specifically the myths of the Norse. The stories are so rooted in our modern western culture that when I read them the felt true to me in a way that other stories didn't connect. Every time I did deeper to learn more about the old stories I find I learn more about my own culture, my ancestors, and ultimately myself.

Kaminski: That makes sense. They always say do what you love, and it shows in your work. I'm assuming your "AH-HA" moment came from IMC. Speaking from someone who went to art school for the entire gamut, I'm curious to know how your experience there compares. What was the program there like?

Flegal: The AH-HA moment wasn't in terms of what to paint, it would take years to figure that out. The AH-HA was how much fucking work professionals put in. it's not uncommon to spend 100 or 200 hours on a painting. When you're starting out speed doesn't matter. It's not about painting fast, it's about taking the time to make good paintings. That and really learning how to use reference and shoot my own reference was eye opening.

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Kaminski: Yeah, when I was in art school everything was so rushed that it was hard to REALLY take the time to dive into a piece fully. I'm only just now discovering that slowing down and making sure that your pieces are both correct AND good (although it's subjective to our own eyes for certain) is more important than having twenty rushed or average pieces in a month. If you're not under any sorts of NDA, can you talk about a project that you're currently working on?

Flegal: I have a deep love for Norse Mythology. In my personal work I depict scenes from Norse Lore, a series I call Fateful Signs. Fateful Signs are what Odin saw as he hung from the great World Tree. Fateful Signs are the legends of the Gods and Ancestors carried down to us through the winds of time. Fateful Signs can be sought with runes, carved and made red. Fateful Signs are the words and deeds that honor the Lore of the Norse.

I present you with Fateful Signs.

Fateful Signs is a collection of oil paintings exploring the various legends and traditions of the ancient Germanic people. The series began out of an interest in Odin and exploded into a spiritual awakening. With each painting a piece of a much greater puzzle is uncovered.
I first discovered Norse Mythology back in 1999, when I was a Freshman in college. I'd gone to school out-of-state and didn't know many people. This left me with a lot of free time, and I spent it in the school library. At that point in my life, I was questioning religion, so I read about all the world religions. Out of all the myths and legends, the lore of the Norse stuck with me.

Throughout my art education I found ways to bring Norse Mythology into my projects as often as I could. On foggy days I'd even yell "ODIN!" into the mist on campus. Over time I made many friends, and spent less time in the library. Eventually I graduated and became a Graphic Designer. I worked in marketing for many years, but ultimately I found my way back to drawing and painting.

I've been a freelance illustrator since 2009. I've done art for the gaming industry and concept art for movies, but in 2012 I was faced with a client-free month. I didn't know what to do – I hadn't drawn for myself in years! After some soul searching and sketching, I started to work on a painting of a trickster wizard. At first I didn't realize it, but the painting was of Loki. Before the end of the month, I got more client work and never finished the painting; but it got me thinking about the Norse Gods again.

As many artists do, I started to feel a desire to work on more personal paintings. I was reading more about Odin and I felt a connection with the One-Eyed God. Once I finally had the time to devote to personal work, I was inspired to paint Odin holding the head of Mimir, and this became my painting "Odin's Secrets."

I didn't know it then, but this was the beginning of Fateful Signs.

Kaminski: What are some things you would do if a client become a tad too unruly? Do you have any coping strategies?

Flegal: It depends on the contract, but I would recommend, always follow the letter of the contract. Main thing if a job sucks is get it done quickly and move on.

Kaminski: Do you have any short or long term goals?

Flegal: In the short-term, it would be to make another book. In the long term: The life of an artist is a long term goal. Learn to paint better. Make art that's even more true to me.

Kaminski: And lastly, what's the best piece of advice you've received or the best piece of advice you'd give to aspiring artists?

Flegal: Try to figure out why you really want to be an artist. The answer to that question is a journey, but it is the key to developing deeper art.

Kaminski: Thanks so much Sam! 


THANK YOU FOR READING, I HOPE YOU ENJOYED THIS INTERVIEW WITH Sam Flegal. 

IF YOU DID, PLEASE SHARE IT WITH YOUR FRIENDS!

VIEW ALL OF MY INTERVIEWS WITH FELLOW ARTISTS HERE.

YOU CAN FIND MORE ABOUT Sam Flegal at his website: http://www.samflegal.com/

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT his project involving the HÁVAMÁL: http://www.fatefulsigns.com/

FOR MORE information on Sam Flegal's collaborative project with Pete Mohrbacher, One Fantastic Week: https://www.patreon.com/1fw


IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE A GUEST IN MY INTERVIEW SERIES, SIMPLY FILL OUT THE CONTACT FORM HERE AND I'LL GET BACK WITH YOU AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

THANKS FOR VIEWING!

A Bit of Advice About: Taking Critique

Critcast with Christine Foltzer, the Art Director of Tor books,
 via One Fantastic Week's weekly web show.

For those of you that know me personally, I take critique very well. I try to remain responsive when questioned, don't take things personally, even consistently write notes while getting critiqued. That being said, the buildup to me getting critiqued by an official Art Director of a book publisher had me about as nervous as that time I played Dead Space 2.

So, let me back up a little bit... As you know, I consistently make art as often as I can. I continually post updates and things in equal fashion. I was toiling around on the One Fantastic Week facebook group, and lo-and-behold, up pops the option to join in a crit-cast (basically a live-critique of a select few individuals). I sat back in my chair at my day job, pondered for a few minutes and simply thought, "Ah, what the hell, I'll try and put my name in the hat... You never know what might come of it." I regularly watch the show, so it was my opportunity to try and perhaps get a small chance at getting some Art Director feedback. I wasn't assuming to actually get on the show what with the overflowing inbox of individuals posting for their portfolios to also get critiqued (I also browsed a few of them along the way and WOW some of those are amazing!). I began to watch the show live, like I typically do during work, and am listening along and things, when suddenly I hear my name. Normally I just shrug this off as Matt is a very common name... The typical struggle with my last name instantaneously grabs my attention. I quickly flip back to the video and nail-bite the entire time my website is being scoured. In the mean time, I tried to one-handedly write down as many notes as I can muster in critique. Anyone that's been in with me during class knows my common practice of just jotting constantly. What can I say, I'm fidgety. As my critique wrapped up, I began to reflect and think on what I could do to improve my site and overall approach to doing art. In that vein, I ended up coming up with a possible helpful article that I hope will be able to help other artists with something that we must all face. Taking Critique.

My typical, knee-jerk response when people are going on about critiques, is just simply that, learn to take it. Here's a few pointers that I feel like might help...

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Annihilating Fire by Clint Clearly.

DON'T TAKE IT PERSONAL.

Remember firstly, that whoever happens to be critiquing you is merely attacking your work, not you personally. That being said, it's okay to have your comments and potential rebuttals, but remember that you should probably wait until the end, if there's time. Almost every time I was in school, during critiques, there was tendency to have to defend your work on the spot. Most of the time this ends up with some form of debate happening during the middle of the critique and ends up taking WAY longer than intended, which in my opinion rips into a lot of other folks critiques. In my opinion, it's important to separate yourself from your artwork (trust me, I know this to be a hard one, myself). 

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BE CHOOSEY.

During your critique many issues might come up. Some that you agree with, some that you may not. In my experience it's important to look at what you feel like you might benefit from in the immediate, and then stew about ones that you might not gain much from immediately. I would suggest that overall the 'think before you act' method works wonders here. Make sure that you agree with what's being said, and then analyze what you can garner from it. Sometimes this may be a simple change, sometimes this can result in an entire piece needing to be reworked to get the concept through, fully. Either way, make sure that you take both sides of the coin into consideration here. My fiancee has a way of going with her gut, and that might be a good way to go about it here as well. Look at what is being said more as guidelines or technical fixes to start from.

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Safehold Duo by Izzy.

THE CRITIQUE IS MEANT TO HELP.

I think that when most people go into a critique, they tend to forget that it is meant to help you. I'm merely generalizing here, but from my personal experience, some people take critiques as only a means to get picked on. They tend to think that they are being singled out for a specific problem and thus take it as a personal attack (see above).

That being said, remember that the people critiquing you are usually trying to help you get better at what you do. Take it as a personal acheivement if you end up only getting critiqued for little things because that might mean that you are successful in the larger picture. Also remember that typically when a critique is given by someone in the industry that you are trying to push for, that might also help to put you on their radar. They might later on come back and look at your work to see if you've improved over what they mentioned in their evaluation of your work.

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Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts by Karla Ortiz.

SILENCE IS KEY.

Also during my college career, anytime a criticism was given of the person being critiqued, they immediately jumped the gun to go on the defensive. In my opinion, it's very important that you don't go on any defensive until the very end. Save your explanations, your reasoning, your ideas, until the person critiquing you has had their chance to say their fill. If you feel like, afterward, there are a great deal of things that you would like to address to help the viewer see your point of view, then I would do so.

Think about it like this, if your work were on display a thousand miles away, and it was being judged, would you have the option to defend it immediately? This is how my mindset is typically during a critique. This is why I wait. I try to form opinions and rationale during the speaker's chance to analyze my work, and then, when they have said their peace, try to explain my point of view to help them gain a different or better understanding of my work.

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Dragonscale General by Will Murai.

BE THICK-SKINNED.

I feel like this is a more obvious thing for all creatives to have, but we should all be extremely thick-skinned. I personally don't get hurt even if people go so far as to simply say, "WOW, THAT SUCKS!" Sure, it's not to say that I don't have to lick my wounds here and there, but I feel like it only makes me harder to scathe the next time around. I've heard of artists threatening to quit over a bad review of their work, when they should take what was said and try to see how to apply it to the next piece.

Jake Parker has a very great piece of advice that goes hand-in-hand with this. He says, "Finished, not perfect." This is perfect advice for how to develop your hide. You have to realize that we will always be picked apart, from the most amateur all the way to the highest pro. Criticism is just part of our career and growth, so embrace it now, as you'll be dealing with it your entire career.

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Millstone by Yeong-Hao Han.

LET IT STEW.

My last piece of advice is to take what was said, analyze it, break it apart, find out the roots of exactly what was said. Sometimes merely keeping it in the back of your head is enough to push everything you have into the next piece. Marinate over all of it and try to make that next breakthrough!

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Pact of Negation by Jason Chan.

All of this is to say that, this is exactly how you should feel AFTER a critique!
Until next time, may everyone's art get better!


Images used in this post, (c) Wizards of the Coast.

Bi-Weekly Interview #2 - Galacia "Finn" Barton

AS AN ARTIST, IT SEEMS LIKE THE LANDSCAPE IS EVER-CHANGING FROM SIMPLY THE TOOLS TO THE AESTHETIC. I INTEND TO BE AN ARTIST THAT NEVER WANTS TO STOP LEARNING AND AS SUCH, I FIND MORE AND MORE INTERESTING ARTISTS EVERYDAY. EACH ARTIST HAS A UNIQUE INSIGHT AND POINT OF VIEW, NO MATTER THE EXPERIENCE LEVEL. NEW VIEWS HELP OPEN MY MIND AND TEACH ME THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO UTILIZE MY SKILLS AND I HOPE THAT SHARING OUR STORIES WILL HELP OTHERS IN THE SAME WAY. I BELIEVE THERE ARE MANY PATHS ON AN ARTISTIC JOURNEY, AND EACH INTERVIEW WILL HELP TO SHOW THE STORIES OF THE ARTISTS THAT TREAD THEM.

TODAY WE'LL be interviewing Galacia "Finn" Barton.

Kaminski: Firstly, introduce yourself. What kinds of work do you do? And where have you shown your work?

Barton: My name is Galacia Barton, and I illustrate graphic novels, design aliens, and paint monsters. My work has been featured in local coffee shops, in printed comics, and shared online via Facebook, Instagram and Patreon.

I’ve only recently discovered what I truly enjoy in the art world. I think it helps, to have something that you thoroughly like to do.

I decided to try illustration and digital painting after falling in love with Peter Mohrbacher’s work. I used to have a very typical inked/cel shaded style, and I wasn’t thrilled with that. Although, it’s still a skill I fall back on sometimes. I feel like there is always room for improvement in illustrating and painting. That goal of getting better will never be satiated, and that’s okay. Another element that keeps me going: I love learning!

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Kaminski: Interesting! Have you had formal training or was it something that came natural for you?

Barton: I’ve always drawn, and was encouraged by teachers and my parents to hone that drive. At the end of high school, I didn’t really know what was feasible in regards to making a living via art. At that time, I was drawing a bunch of cartoon animals, and anime-esque people. I felt comfortable in the creative world, so I decided to pursue Graphic Design in college.

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Almost immediately after arriving I was sucked into a Game Design class. I became enamored with it. It thrilled me to learn how games came together, and I thought I’d enjoy contributing my art to games. A fear of failure permeated my conscious, so I grabbed a Math degree to supplement my newly chosen Game Design degree.

Beyond the few art classes I was required to take, I spent a lot of time developing as an artist by surrounding myself with peers and professors that challenged me. I still felt a bit like a big fish in a small pond, but my online heroes kept me in check. I took Figure Drawing and Painting, knowing that those were subjects I was weak in. While those classes weren’t required, having the structure benefited me, and set me up with good habits.

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Kaminski: As much as school can be a contributor, I believe that personal connections and experiences can add just as much to artistic experience. What do you feel like gave you that ultimate “AH-HA” that made you want to ultimately pursue art?

Barton: I definitely agree with that statement. The best thing to come out of school for me was the people I connected with, and the things were created together.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t feel like I’ve had an “AH-HA” moment. Recently, I took a year and a half to pursue freelance art and fell short. I decided that maybe it wasn’t the correct path for me and my art.

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I’m currently seeking a third degree in Computer Science, in hopes that I’ll be able to support creating my own content and IP in my spare time. I know that doing art and creating will never die. The itch to draw and paint strikes me randomly, whether I’m exploring outdoors or taking notes in class. I’m still waiting on that “AH-HA” moment, but I’m not letting its tardiness deter me from trying.

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Kaminski: It’s interesting that you consider your art a secondary attribute when thinking about career success. In that vein, have things like Patreon and Kickstarter been beneficial? What kinds of things do you typically do on these platforms?

Barton: It does seem strange, but personally I have a lot of anxiety surrounding the financial fruits of my labor. If I’m doing poorly at keeping my funds managed I get worked up to the point that I no longer enjoy creating. I’ve discovered that in order for me to be fulfilled by my art I need security. I’m assuming I’m not the only one out there like that.

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In regards to Kickstarter and Patreon, those are places I have soared. The models on those platforms make it realistic for me to create content and know that people’s support will be the wind under my wings. Running a successful campaign gives me the peace of mind I need in order to produce my best work. I use these platforms specifically to create the content I enjoy, and to communicate and build a community around that content.

There are obvious hardships that come along with adopting the structure of Kickstarter and Patreon, but for me, these are challenges I feel I can overcome. Balancing interactions, deadlines, rewards, promotion, and the like seems more approachable than many other profit avenues in art.

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Kaminski: Tell me a little about your Patreon: what are some goals you have with it?

Barton: I launched my Patreon with this in mind: I want a bunch of people involved with the world building of a Sci-fi graphic novel.

There are lots of creators out there that share their comics/art with others, but I hadn’t really discovered anyone who was utilizing the functionality of Patreon as a communication tool.

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Many use Patreon solely as a means to divvy premium content to those who are willing to support them. This is a common tactic and because of this, the site isn’t often seen as a good audience building tool.

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For me, I’m attempting to get my patrons involved with the creation of aliens, faraway worlds, and narratives that will be featured in the books I’m looking to illustrate.

My goals include: getting three graphic novels out and published. But in the short term, I’m just looking to involve people in the creation process who might not otherwise find the chance. I think many of us imagine worlds and concepts that we don’t ever see coming to fruition. In a way, I’d like to hear those stories out, and interpret those ideas into an illustrated book! That way the project isn’t just mine … but something of yours too.

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Kaminski: That’s really interesting, and frankly, a refreshing way to look at Patreon. Are you familiar with books like WondLa (Tony DiTerlizzi)? In that case, have you considered bringing a writer on board to help out with projects or even using one of your Patreon patrons that might be an aspiring writer to co-op the project alongside you?

Barton: I haven’t heard of that book, I’ll add it to my list! But yes, my husband is a hobby writer and he and I frequently discuss narrative stuff. He’s not entirely committed to assisting the Patreon though, so I offer the opportunity to be the most involved with the story as my highest reward tier. Theoretically, it would be cool to have them making money back – maybe partial sales could be given to them once the actual book makes it out and is earning profits!

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Kaminski: When tackling all of your combined projects, it seems that sci-fi themes are always a presence. Is this your favorite theme to work with, even in your personal work? If so, is there deeper meaning behind your work: such as an emotional theme you try to evoke?

Barton: When it boils down, I’ve always been on the edge of loving sci-fi. Growing up, I was really into Zoids, Invader Zim, and Animorphs. It fell off somewhere in adulthood, and I’ve recently rediscovered my passion for it. I like to try and understand new science concepts and experiments – the science fiction genre allows me a space to let my mind run away with those concepts.

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Besides being interested in the potential of sci-fi universes and space, I also love the duality of great adventures and loneliness that the environment is capable of. Anything is possible, but does any of it matter? Space is a beautiful, promising, scary space. To explore what it might be like to live and interact in that vastness is really exciting.

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Kaminski: If you’re not under any sort of non-disclosure agreement (NDA), do you have any projects that you’re currently working on that you can share or even some work-in-progress shots for your Patreon pieces? Additionally, do you have any insight on working independently like this?

Barton: I’m currently wrapping up a 100-page comic book for a client, which is part of a series revolving around this universal language (it’s a little sci-fi, who would have thought!). Once that’s completed, I’ll be diving further into the production of my own sci-fi graphic novel. There was a very short, four page preview comic I illustrated, and put into limited print run to test the metal of my base concept.

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The local comic shop is the only place these were sold, but I plan to put out better pages. I feel a bit more prepared now. These new paged will likely start on Patreon, make their way to a site like Webtoons, and hopefully evolve into actual printed books via Kickstarter!

When it comes to working independently (and even freelance), your greatest asset is to learn quickly from mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, but the lessons learned set those successful people apart. Decent/Secondary income, outrageous skills and a good community of friends and peers can fill in some analytical shortcomings – but these are “icing.” To make a business out of anything you love, you have to be able to adopt some viewpoint that grants a path forward, the ability to grow and make progress (in creating, marketing, etc.)

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Kaminski: Sheesh, you’ve been busy! Makes me wonder if the next question is relevant, but I feel it should be asked anyway. What goals have you set for the future?

Barton: Hey, that’s a fine question, especially since I wouldn’t consider my path “traditional.” In the short term, I think my creative efforts would benefit from two things: more Patreon activity and audience building for the graphic novel project. In order to really accomplish anything on those fronts, there’s a lot of writing to be done. I’ve been doing a lot of concept art and narrative exploration.

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If I want people to be fully vested in the world we’re creating over there, I’ve got to share the story in its ultimate format. Getting the first draft of the script for the first installment (there are four tentative books lined up) would get me that much closer to producing pages, my chosen method of storytelling for this universe.

In the end, I want to be part of something that will last – something that people create spin offs of, draw fan art for, and gets involved in. Art is great and fulfilling. Art that gets people involved is the ultimate goal. For 5 or 5,000 individuals, I love the back and forth: the communication. To weave tales together – that’s my dream.

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Kaminski: It seems you have lofty, yet attainable goals! I think this will help you in the long run to get to your end results very quickly.

My final question: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, or the best piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring artist?

Barton: I’ve watched so many episodes of One Fantastic Week and I feel like there’s loads of inspirational quotes and the like in my repertoire of advice. To pick the “best” would practically be impossible! But maybe, if I could pick one that’s the most relevant to me:

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Every artist is unique. No two artists share the same style, approach, learning curve, hardships, paths, etc. If you feel unsuccessful as an artist in comparison to peers, don’t let that discourage you from finding success a different way. If you can’t replicate a technique, or find clients in a specific genre, that shouldn’t stop you from moving forward. Forging your own path is what being an artist is really about in my opinion. And just because you’re the only one that can do it, doesn’t mean you have to travel alone. Surrounding yourself with creative individuals does give insight into how to find personal success. Plus, most artists make great companions! Keep going, even if it’s just an inch at a time. Your friends will have you back.

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Kaminski: I want to thank you very much, Galacia. You’re my second interview and it went very well! You’ve been a breeze to work with on this!


THANK YOU FOR READING, I HOPE YOU ENJOYED THIS INTERVIEW WITH Galacia Barton. 

IF YOU DID, PLEASE SHARE IT WITH YOUR FRIENDS!

VIEW ALL OF MY INTERVIEWS WITH FELLOW ARTISTS HERE.

YOU CAN FIND MORE ABOUT Galacia "Finn" Barton at her main facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/galacia.barton

FOR MORE information on her sci-fi project that is being created via collective, visit her Patreon page at: https://www.patreon.com/GalaciaBarton


EDITED, FOR CLARITY, BY ASHLEY WEBB.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE A GUEST IN MY INTERVIEW SERIES, SIMPLY FILL OUT THE CONTACT FORM HERE AND I'LL GET BACK WITH YOU AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

THANKS FOR VIEWING!

Metal Marionette #1

Sometimes an idea just comes to you, sometimes you have to think it through constantly. I feel like this is one of those ideas where I was at work (I work at a print shop by day), and seeing some of the sheer volume of work and types of work that come through and out of no where I was struck with an idea to do a series of paintings that I could paint sequentially that would be part of a larger narrative.

Initially I was inspired by Peter Mohrbacher's work with Angelarium and his incredible skill with both anatomy and clouds, while also infusing a greater narrative.

(above: Mohrbacher's Shateiel, Angel of Silence and Simikiel, Angel of Vengeance)

I started just drawing and painting things as studies that I felt like would work in with both groups of thought - clouds being at the forefront.

Study based on a very loose cloud scape that I happened to see on the way home.

Working through this mentally gave me ideas of ways that I could manipulate both in tandem to create a singular series of pieces that would keep me interested throughout the year...

And thus the Metal Marionette project was born.

"Metal Marionette: Garnet"
The final piece is a 20" x 30" digital painting. 

This is the first in a series of paintings (one a month) that will be all based around an overall cyberpunk theme. I'm playing with the natural-to-unnatural balance in the images what with placing some of them in a very natural setting. In some ways I find this to be in juxtaposition to what we typically see. We usually see cyberpunk characters in ultra-high tech settings with tech on all sides. While I won't say this typical variety won't make an appearance, my favorite things to paint happen to be clouds and wires, so I ventured into both of these simultaneously.

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Works in Process, Garnet.

As a side note, the background and foreground were painted independantly and will be for each piece. That gives me leeway to make the background and foreground as seperate pieces for different variities of gallery shows.

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And that's the first of many upcoming. Until next time, folks!

Bi-Weekly Interview #1 - Dean Zachary

As an artist, it seems like the landscape is ever-changing from simply the tools to the aesthetic. I intend to be an artist that never wants to stop learning and as such, I find more and more interesting artists everyday. Each artist has a unique insight and point of view, no matter the experience level. New views help open my mind and teach me there are many ways to utilize my skills and I hope that sharing our stories will help others in the same way. I believe there are many paths on an artistic journey, and each interview will help to show the stories of the artists that tread them.

Today we'll begin with Dean Zachary.

After earning a Graphic Design degree, Dean spent several years as a commercial artist for ad agencies. His lifelong passion for drawing led him into the imaginative world of comic books. Dean has illustrated various titles, including: Batman, Superboy, Green Lantern, The Night Man, Hawk & Dove, Sliders, Johnny Quest, and Phoenix. His recent works include: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #38 and DC Comics Halloween Special 2010 (featuring a Wonder Woman short story). Currently, he is developing a Creator Owned Property and working on a re-launch of Cat & Mouse, written by Roland Mann.

Kaminski: Firstly, what made you pursue the comic industry? And in that vein, what KEEPS you pursuing it?

Zachary: I’ve always been a fan of visual storytelling, particularly in movies such as James Bond, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Alien. My earliest comic sequential art was me adapting my favorite movies into comics. I remember drawing key scenes from The Empire Strikes Back in panel-to-panel storytelling. At the same time, I was reading comics and noticing artists like Neal Adams (Batman) and John Byrne (Spiderman/Human Torch). THE comic that made me decide to draw comics? Starlord by Chris Claremont and John Byrne.

It was B&W and incredibly powerful. I could “SEE” the drawing: pure and without color. I was hooked! THIS is what I wanted to do for a living.

Starlord, by Chris Claremont and John Byrne

The SECOND most inspiring artist for me was a contemporary of mine…Jim Lee. He was also a line artist. I absolutely LOVE expressive line work. Today’s books are currently what I call the “Coloring Book” style, where the colorist contours the shapes. I’ve always preferred LINE contour.

While working in advertising in Atlanta, I remember walking past a comic book display in a bookstore (remember those? Ha!) and seeing some poorly drawn covers, and I thought, “I can do better than that!” An inner voice challenged me, “Why not prove it!” This led me to hunt down my copy of "How To Draw Comics the Marvel Way", and research how to submit to publishers and start getting work. A couple of years later I was drawing for Malibu Comics.

Below are some developmental sketches from a Batgirl/Bronze Tiger pitch Mike Baron and I presented to DC a few years back. I think these sketches really demonstrate my influences.

Original Pencils for DC Comics that Zachary has done.

Kaminski: Incredible! I don’t disagree with your love for line and ink. I’m a huge fan of B&W simply for the fact that the contrast itself sparks a very visceral reaction. Your work has a similar style to Jim Lee’s: the lines are there, but meant to guide the eye rather than just lay in arbitrarily. Interestingly, a modern artist that you may enjoy, for his use of line, is Scott Murphy. It’s a bit on the gritty side, but lends itself towards great ink work.

Who or what helped you transition from a hobbyist to a professional? What gave you that “AH-HA!” moment?

Zachary: My current collaborator, Roland Mann was an editor at Malibu and decided to give me that “first break” into color super hero comics. That led to DC, a Green Lantern book, and then Batman. Then the market changed, but that’s a story for another time…

Kaminski: Did you have any formal training for your art, or was it just something you naturally came across?

I practiced by copying the styles of artists I admired, and began drawing pages to submit to publishers.

Zachary: I majored in Graphic Design, which requires freehand drawing courses, so I did get formal figure drawing training, but not sequential art training. Back then, sequential art training on the University level wasn’t readily available. SO…I practiced by copying the styles of artists I admired, and began drawing pages to submit to publishers.

Kaminski: The formal figure drawing seems to have paid off. Your accuracy is pretty spot on in your work! You say art wasn’t as popular in the University days, so what was it like getting your feet wet in the comics industry? And how has it affected your view on the industry as a whole today?

Zachary: I’m fortunate, in that I have a natural sense of visual storytelling. I also do fairly detailed “rough thumbnails” for my editors, so that they can approve layouts before I draw the page at full size. Some of today’s artists’ do most of their work on digital tablets, but I still draw everything by hand before scanning the page at full size. I may do minor digital editing before sending the scan to the inker. I prefer the feel of pencil on board or paper. I also prefer my work to be colored with “flatter” colors, so as not to interfere with the often complex contour hatching.

One way of describing my comic book drawing philosophy is that the pencil art is the Art, in my opinion. Inks and colors are necessary production additions for the market place. This statement is not to diminish the incredible inking and coloring skill sets of my colleagues in the field. It’s simply that pencils are my focus and always have been.

Kaminski: I don’t disagree. I feel like the pencils are the foundation – kind of like the framework of the house so to speak. Whereas the inks and colors are more part of the decoration.

Outside of purely professional work, when tackling personal projects, what kinds of themes so you enjoy, or what themes tend to pop out of your work?

Zachary: As far as themes go, I enjoy Action Adventure, with a strong sense of the struggle between Good and Evil. The postmodern deconstruction of heroes don’t interest me in the least. Antiheroes, like the Punisher don’t really interest me. Street-fighting good guys, like Daredevil, Batman, and Captain America are compelling because I can relate to them a bit more, than say Superman. Spider-Man is a unique exception in that while he is incredibly powerful, his insecurity and self-doubt make him accessible.

I’ve also loved martial arts my entire life. Characters connected with martial arts directly, like Iron Fist, Master of Kung Fu, and even Cassandra Cain (Batgirl 3) are attractive as well.

I have a Wandering Martial Artist Epic with a female lead planned for some time in the future, as an online comic. 

Dean's Internet Comic, "Satori" is in his long range plans and features a
wandering martial artist and her mutant tiger sidekick struggle to
survive a post apocalyptic future.

Kaminski: That was actually my next question: If not under any sorts of non-disclosure (NDA), can you talk about any projects that you’re currently working on?

Zachary: I’ve currently got two projects in the works, with my former Malibu editor (now writer-collaborator) Roland Mann. The first is an Action Adventure featuring a pair of street fighting teens battling human traffickers in New Orleans – Cat & Mouse. The second is an Action Adventure comic about a woman battling supernatural threats using magical artifacts, called Silverblade.

Silverblade could be described as Indiana Jones meets Constantine with a female lead. Silverblade also describes the weapon used to battle these supernatural threats. Here is the dagger I designed, originally forged by King Solomon.

I actually had a prop made, by my friend Jeremy Jones, to help us promote the book once it’s done.

 

Kaminski: I see that you also do digital work: Are there any sort of tips or tricks you’d have for aspiring digital artists?

Try not to depend on digital fireworks ALONE to create your work.

Zachary: Yes. Remember to use digital tools as you would any other tool: to communicate your concepts. Try not to depend on digital fireworks ALONE to create your work. Learn the basics before decorating them with complex digital effects. Learn to draw everything by hand first: figure, environments, vehicles, props, etc… Learn how to tell stories with your art. Computers are just another tool to demonstrate your skill, not a crutch to “cover up” your deficiencies.

Kaminski: It’s good that you point out that digital art still requires the artist to know fundamentals and that it’s not some sort of magic wand.

Because of versatility, do you have any short or long term goals?

Zachary: Short term goals: I want to get Cat & Mouse and Silverblade out there as comic books, to reconnect with new fans who are unfamiliar with my work! Long term: I want to improve as an artist in both draftsmanship AND storytelling.

The best is yet to come!

Kaminski: And finally: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received, or the best piece of advice you’d give to aspiring artists?

Zachary: Advice for aspiring artists: Draw every day and never give up! More specifically, draw from life and take classes if you can. Learn the basics and then break rules after you learn them. Bruce Lee developed his own version of Kung Fu AFTER learning traditional Wing Chun. Your style will emerge naturally.

Learn the basics, then break rules once you learn them.

Kaminski: I want to thank you very much, Dean. You’re my first interview and it went very well! You’ve been a breeze to work with.


Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Dean Zachary. 

If you did please share it with your friends!

View all of my interviews with fellow artists here.

You can find more about Dean Zachary, such as upcoming events, a portfolio of his work and many other things at his main site: http://www.deanzacharyart.com/

For more on his Cat & Mouse project, check out the following: https://www.facebook.com/CatandMouseComic/

And lastly, his FB: https://www.facebook.com/deanzacharyartist


Edited, for clarity, by Ashley Webb.

If you would like to be a guest in my interview series, simply fill out the contact form HERE and I'll get back with you as soon as possible.

THANKS FOR VIEWING!

 

Newest Piece for Schwalb Entertainment

Typically when I get a prompt for a commission - personal or professional - there's a certain protocol that seems to be adhered to. Usually this involves a bit of back and forth, haggling on price, style, etc. On top of that, there always seems to be a big wait period between sketch to final. This can be because of approval chains or perhaps the customer is just taking a while to get back. Usually there's a turnaround of at minimum two-weeks for any project that comes my way. Now, this can be longer or shorter depending on the scope of the project and the amount of pieces involved, the size, media, etc. The entertainment industry appears to be no exception, save for a small RPG company named Schwalb Entertainment. 

Adept_SKETCH.jpg

I can honestly say that these have
been the most flawless project opportunities that I've had the grace of working on. There was a very small time crunch, to be sure, but there wasn't a lot of pressure - it was more so a feeling of, just give me an idea of where you're going with the project and let's get this thing done! In that regard, it was very refreshing. I got to work quickly, but in my own creative space.

I have a 1/2V for you. I need it in two weeks and it pays. Here’s the description. Let me know ASAP if you can do it.
— Robert Schwalb

I typically only take on two projects at any one given time, to maintain quality standards. The first company to help get my foot in the door with working for RPGs tends to get a precedence for a slot in my queue. Not only that, but he seems to always have great timing for when a slot has opened up! As you might have seen from my previous post, I met Robert Schwalb at MidSouth Con, and through the small chat that we had, he seemed very interested in working with me, and I have not regretted it one bit!

Typically there's a message via social media or email that can be simply summed up as, "Hey! I have some art that needs arting, you in?" (Of course this isn't a direct quote, just the vibe that I get) If I respond with an enthusiastic, "YES!" then I typically receive an e-mail within twenty-four hours that lists the project at hand. This newest piece was a half-page in the newest expansion, Forbidden Rules, entitled The Adept

Ultimately, I have nothing but great things to say about my experiences thus far working with Schwalb Entertainment. If you have the opportunity to check out anything from this RPG company, I recommend it. Shadow of the Demon Lord is the perfect mix in my opinion of both Dark Fantasy and Horror.

Piece in place in the book itself.

Piece in place in the book itself.

For more on Schwalb Entertainment, visit the website at http://schwalbentertainment.com/