Growing up the son of a Māori carver, the arts have always played a large role in my life. Constantly surrounded by sculptures, paintings and the amazing landscape New Zealand has on offer, my siblings and I were often lost in our own imaginations. Many rainy days were spent with pen and paper, designing characters and stories for our own video games or comics.
Funnily enough, many years later, not much has changed. Where most people tend to forgo their childlike inspirations and start to seek ‘sensible’ career options, I’ve instead miraculously (and much to my delight) managed to stumble my way into the entertainment industry and continue doing just what I was doing from the start—playing ‘make believe’.
Professionally, I feel very blessed at this stage of my career, having had the opportunity to work with so many amazing people from different parts of the world. I initially started working for video game company Games Lab, based in Sydney, Australia, where I was able to hone my skills and grow as an artist. In 2014, my homeland was calling and I decided to head back to New Zealand. Here I found my break into the film industry, freelancing for Hollywood special effects studio, The Aaron Sims Company, until finding a home at Weta Workshop.
The images displayed on these pages have all been created for personal projects. Having a fairly multicultural family, the intricacies of cultural heritage have always been of great interest to me–especially that of myth, legend and history. These themes often influence my personal work and help form my stories.
‘Te Honunui’ is actually close to one of the first digital paintings I ever created. There is something about this piece that seems to stay with me. Perhaps I’m a chronic nitpicker, cursed never to be satisfied with my own results, but I find myself revisiting or entirely repainting it every few years. I’m sure this won’t be the last iteration; instead, it will evolve with me throughout my career.
Adam was an artist and illustrator who lived in Auckland and came from a Chinese-Malaysian background. He began drawing at a very young age, with technical ability and confidence beyond his years. Adam drew a lot of his artistic inspiration from watching cartoons as a child, which stayed with him as he got older. ‘Adventure Time’ was one of his favourites, among other shows like ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ and films made by Studio Ghibli. The way that animation was able to encapsulate storytelling as a result of hard work and talent was what gave Adam a deep respect for those working in the animation industry.
The publishers and editors of White Cloud Worlds would like to formally apologize to our readers for the factual inaccuracies of the previously published biographies of artist, Greg Broadmore.
As a small team, covering a large and diverse suite of artists, not all facts and stories presented in these books can be verified before we go to press.
Nevertheless, it seems the statements published in volumes one and two are almost entirely untrue and for that we beg your forgiveness.
However, we feel the need to share at least something about this enigmatic and mercurial creative and, in lieu of an actual biography, we have gathered the following facts and insights:
Broadmore was born in Whakatane, a beautiful but remote dolphin-farming village on the southern Kaimanuatangibrotuwhenua peninsula of New Zealand. The word Whakatane is Māori and pronounced Way-koo-tanny, meaning ‘The man who makes wind in the forest’.
He was born into a large family of fourteen brothers and sisters. The youngest, he was the only one to survive the village cull of 1978.
A deeply religious man, all his illustrations are said to contain hidden metaphors from scripture. For a fun evening, study these images and see if you can figure out the biblical passages referred to.
He currently lives in Wellington, New Zealand.
An avid fan of the TV series ‘Coronation Street’, he has collected all the action figures, which he displays proudly in his home. The various characters are posed fighting each other in iconic action scenes from the show.
He has publicly self-identified as a friend to robots and is rumoured to have signed a secret pact with them regarding our eventual subjugation and enslavement.
His favourite word is ‘cloaca’ and he is said to sometimes yell it at the top of his lungs and run out of meetings.
His favourite colour is bleach.
A hirsute man, he needs to be shaved bodily at least once a month by a small team of sheep-shearers.
During a school outing to the local zoo during his childhood, he punched a rare and endangered Ruffed Lemur right in the schnozz. The altercation was likely instigated by the Lemur’s outrageously racist comments. The Lemur in question was a terrible bigot and everyone knows this.
He speaks three languages fluently: English, English-in-a-French-Accent and Pidgin English, but is currently learning Binary for obvious reasons.
He is watching you right now, through the window behind you, silently judging. (You looked right? You totally did, admit it.)
I love telling stories through art.
Growing up in China and New Zealand, I’m fortunate to have been exposed to great artists and works from many diverse cultures. Whether it’s a piece of illustration, sculpture, literature, comic, animation, film or videogame, a great narrative experience never fails to inspire my imagination.
Art has also taught me a lot about empathy and observation. Great art engages us all on an emotional level, sparks new ideas and reflects the world around us (whether in a realistic or fantastical manner). The process of both experiencing and creating art provides me with a greater understanding of myself and own my creative voice.
Some of my personal favourite subject matters are dreams, memories, and the connections between people. As a nightly dreamer, I enjoy exploring my subconscious mind and adapting elements of these experiences to my personal work.
Recently, I’ve shifted towards a more freeform explorative method of painting. It’s quite satisfying to combine the spontaneous/ unpredictable feeling of working traditionally, with the flexibility of digital painting.
I typically begin by overlaying old artworks or interesting textures on top of one-another and remixing the pieces until an abstract textural groundwork is formed. I then try to identify interesting patterns and shapes, contextualising them into more representational visual and narrative elements. Working this way feels more natural to me as it bears a closer resemblance to the process of how our imagination operates. Rather than projecting a living world onto a blank canvas, I sift through my mind connecting interesting thoughts and memories. This conceptual phase where ideas take shape will always be my favourite part of the creative process – nothing is pre-determined and the journey is always full of surprises. The most difficult aspect of this method is actually knowing when to stop – before too much of the interesting abstraction, texture and ‘raw-ness’ become lost to rendering of details.
By embedding my personal experiences, feelings and ideas into new worlds, characters and stories, I hope to create truly emotionally engaging artistic narrative experiences.
Of course, achieving this certainly isn’t easy. As an artist, not only do we have to keep the muse of inspiration happy and the beasts of procrastination in check, we’re also challenged by the balance between creative independence and self-sustainability. Over the years, alongside freelance illustration, I have pursued life as an indie artist through personal work as well as collaborations with like-minded artists. In 2013, with the support of our local arts community I founded Chromacon – an indie arts festival which aims to share our work and creative process with the wider community. I’ve always believed that once created, our fantastical worlds and stories shouldn’t simply exist in a void. Like a baby born to the world, as creators we share a responsibility to make sure our art reaches its full potential.
As a New Zealander, I feel incredibly privileged to be growing and creating alongside my fellow Kiwi artists and indie creatives from around the world – may we all continue to explore new imaginative horizons!
You’re probably assuming that Adam Middleton grew up with a picture-perfect life; good education, adventurous childhood, fame even? Well, you’re not wrong. Emerging from the womb, it was clear. A star had been born. Immediately showcased to New Zealand with a short stint on Young Entertainers, it became unmistakable as he aged: he was the full package, in every sense of the phrase.
Some people are born great, some achieve greatness, and some, like young Middleton, have greatness thrust upon them. Many suspected he would also go on to achieve greatness. Like male-modelling. Maybe working on a farm with animals … Chopping wood while the blazing sun licked his hot, tanned, ripped physique. But alas. Forced to deny his physical godlike merits, earned from years of strenuous gymnastics and sailing, he was thrust into the design world. After all, he was practically engineered to be creative, with an architect for a father and a designer for a mother. No choice in the matter, really. Poor sod. This decision consequently disappointed unsheared sheep and women nationwide.
He’s not your classic New Zealander who likes scenic landscapes and Lord of The Rings. He’s consumed by them. The design, the art and everything in between. Have you ever watched a movie with someone who knows each scene play by play? Word for word? It’s pretty sexy.
Now, New Zealand is cold. The kind of cold where you think you’re going to become an amputee. Coincidentally, he loves the cold. Specifically snow. The colder, the better. His years of laborious gymnastics made him hard, and sailing on an international level made him competitive – hence a passion for skiing arose. This simultaneously ignited his love for nature. His passion for natural environments along with the exponential growth of technology and product design feature in his numerous conceptualizations displayed.
As a university dropout, he did the only thing a guy can do to support his lifestyle—landing himself a wealthy, smart, blonde bombshell girlfriend. And then a job. Neither a difficult task, what with his boy-next-door looks and schoolboy charm. Nonetheless, his charm and devilish good looks consistently got him into sticky situations. Those around him, men and women, rapidly became frenzied and over-excited, like children at Christmas. Therefore, although starting at Weta Workshop as a workshop technician, he was quickly removed and locked into the solitary confinement of a design team cubicle. Out of sight, out of mind.
‘Sure, it’d be easy to give up, play with Lego all day, marry my girlfriend and live off her fortune, but where’s the challenge in that? Being surrounded by designers and artists at Weta has taught me that I still have a lot to learn. It’s also taught me that people pay me for what I know. Life’s good.’ Aren’t artists tortured souls?
It’s probably hard for you to really get the big picture about this guy with such a small titbit. But we both know you already like him. Why else would you still be reading? Adam. Jefferson. Middleton. Man, myth, legend or just purely delusional?
I live in the realm of make-believe most of the time, and I think my work reflects this—even down to the subject matter. I can’t get behind an idea for an illustration until I can empathize with it; imagine myself experiencing it. Having moved back to Wellington and Weta Workshop after a tumultuous period in America, I further withdrew into my work and tried to visually create a lot of the daydreams that helped me slip away from painful realities. Sometimes I even draw people sleeping or relaxing, if that helps me get in touch with the wilderness of my mind.
I like every piece I make to tell a story. I’m not interested in poses of characters or impressive landscapes unless they make you feel like you’ve intruded on a real moment in time and not a stage production. Being a concept designer, it’s constantly a challenge to bring subtlety and intricacy to a piece while still fulfilling a brief (and sometimes it’s an awful brief), but I like to think I’ll figure it out one day.
I’m one of the most impatient people I know, so I hate spending a lot of time on my art. It’s not that I don’t enjoy making it, I just get really excited to see how it will turn out and whether it will look anywhere close to how it is in my head. I love intense but limited colour palettes, and I love to experiment with texture and lighting in my work. My focus is usually intimate, although as I mature as an artist I am trying to broaden the scope of my work, and expand the scene I’m trying to conceive.
As for what inspires me, I suppose there is no logic to it at all. Sometimes it’s a film or a piece of music, but usually it’s an errant thought that grows louder over time. As much as I’ve tried, I’ve never managed to force inspiration to happen. I have just become better at receiving it when it’s given to me.
Aaron is an artist with a background in animation, illustration, concept design and photography. He currently works as a senior concept designer at Weta Workshop. Among his film credits is the blockbuster movie Avatar, District 9 and Neill Blomkamp’s newest feature Elysium.
Kia ora! Christian Pearce is me!
I am a warm-blooded hominid living in Wellington, New Zealand who draws things for fun and profit. Mostly for fun.
I have been employed at Weta Workshop for a decade and some, long enough to call myself Senior Concept Designer™! In that time I designed all your favourite things in all of your favourite films and absolutely none of the stink bits in your most hated films. Well, maybe not all your favourite things. Maybe not even some of them. Probably none of them. Definitely none of them.
I've been very lucky really. I started out just drawing and self publishing (that means photocopying) comics and posters and stuff and would pick up the odd bit of advertising illustrative work whenever I could. I moved to Wellington and illustrated a bunch of kids books and was really fortunate with my timing when I applied at Weta. I have no formal training (yes yes "obviously", well done) and really just feel incredibly fortunate. Working with so many soul-crushingly talented people is the best education I could have asked for.
What else? I drew 300 little hot rods for my Deadly Sleds series, am nearly ready to show my Kosmik Kustoms space-car illustrations and also contributed to the White Cloud Worlds book and exhibition. I have a couple of other projects on the go too but they are nowheresville yet. Hmmmm, is that all there is? Well, I have a daughter and missus that I like all of the time and a 32 year old car that I like most of the time. I also like beer, bicycles, dinosaurs, videogames and playing the drums. That's pretty much all there is to Christian Pearce. Two paragraphs! Not bad!
Hello, my name is Laura Dubuk. I’m happy to have my work featured in White Cloud Worlds for the first time, among many other artists I admire.
I’m living in Wellington at the moment, but am originally from Seattle, WA USA. I moved to New Zealand in 2012, when I was looking for a change of scenery and experience. I visited initially on holiday during a sabbatical from work, but the place and people captured me so strongly that I moved here a year later.
The series you see here originally came from a Photoshop shading experiment during a ‘Robots and Spaceships’ online class at Art Center. It ended up being a way to combine my love of oil painting, architecture and science fiction. This series has been fun to produce because of its ‘emotional triangles’ abstraction; telling a story, movement or feeling in a way that the viewer can interpret and participate in without telling too much about the specifics.
My background is in the field of video games, where I worked at Valve, a company in Bellevue, USA. There, I worked on titles such as Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2, and Portal 2, mostly as an environment artist. My job was designing and 3D-modeling elements for the scenery in those games. This is now my main role at Weta Workshop.
You can say my education is a spotty mish-mash of traditional painting and digital skills. I went to animation school, and began my art career working digitally. After a few years, I discovered traditional media, which really helped me understand form and colour and helped to ground my work in reality. I still work in traditional media as much as I can, because I get better results from it—at least as a starting point.
Outside of work, I do ballet and salsa dancing, and paint portraits in oil. During weekends, I love taking in the New Zealand scenery. It’s a big inspiration for me. I also love 3D printing, and have created a series of jewellery based on these geometric forms. Seeing 3D modeled forms in the physical world is super exciting.
In the future, I hope to continue to work on these forms and see how they evolve.
Hey you! I grew up in the ... No, no, um ... Hold up ...
Morena ... Something something wopwops something Wairarapa something crude drawings ... Wait a minute, I’ve got it!
Art! Encouraged! I dug holes and hit things with sticks. Like most people, right? No? (I swear I thought this was going somewhere. Oh well, we’ve come in two and a half sentences, too far to turn back.) I was the child who was always asked to draw the birthday cards. Primary school ... Crouched on the asphalt after you’ve lost all your comets, galaxies and catseyes to (up until this point) your best friend. Sorry-for-myself solace (said friend included) in drawing side-on pictures of secret underground bases with nuclear reactors and sinister trucks loaded down with a single massive crate, spanning many sheets of painstakingly taped together ... like … I don’t even think there was such a thing as paper sizes back then. Huge ones! Gridded maths books smattered with pictures of sausage people with guns and weird abstract scribbles worn all the way through to the page underneath.
Time passed and I got a bit older and did some things (and some people even did some things to me). School for grownups! I’ve yet to meet one. Books were still filled with militant meat balloons, but luckily this time the teachers seemed to approve (I suspect filling the pages with drawings might have even been the right thing to do). I slowly figured out how to draw sausage people with guns on a computer. No longer did I have to tape sheets of paper together to finish drawings (I’m still floundering at the implications of this).
I’m a little bit older now! They still have guns and they’re still sausagy. I’ve learnt a cool trick. If you cover the sausage people from head to toe in bulky clothing then nobody can tell how sausagy they look underneath! Nifty, eh! Best keep that on the down-low, though.
Now that I’ve wasted three and a half paragraphs of your time, I’ll say exactly the same thing on a single line.
I like to make stuff and do things with people.
I’ve been a professional modelmaker for more than 35 years now. I love to make stuff. When I stop working on an actual job, I start making stuff as a hobby. I grew up in Australia, gaining work in the film industry, then moved to New Zealand in 2001 to work at Weta Workshop—and have stayed ever since. Most of my work now is with the collectibles ... where I get to make stuff.
Over the last three and a half decades, I have seen technology dramatically change the way we do things. There now seems to be a shift away from making stuff by hand, and from an understanding that you can make things by hand. These images show part of my project to try teaching and inspiring young people, and show that it can be easy and a great deal of fun to make things and tell stories.
These will be a series of books showing techniques on how to make stuff, all illustrated with more of these characters and graphic stories. The stories are a lot of fun and usually based around my dumb jokes. These characters look complicated but are made up from very simple and easy to make parts, so most of what I’m trying to show is that it is actually easy to build models. The sets they are photographed in are made very quickly from easy-to-get materials such as potting mix, bark from the garden painted grey to look like rock, bits of twigs to look like branches and so on. This is to get young people used to thinking about making stuff easily and get past the fear of starting.
To the reader: my greetings. I have had some superb careers over my lifetime: fitter welder, policeman, soldier, sculptor, knife and swordsmith. In more recent times I have added author to that list, having published with Harper Collins three SF titles in the international market, all under the banner of A Fury of Aces.
As a model builder, designer and deeply tactile analogue person, it seemed only natural to actually create the craft that I write about in the books, if for no other reason that it makes the writing so much more natural and utterly realistic. Nothing beats actually having the model in my hands, while grinning from ear to ear with my writer’s soul soaring, and my imagination on fire. Do I make engine or rocket sounds while doing this?
Oh yes! :-)
I am very happy when I daydream.
As a kid I wanted to be an artist; my mother wanted an architect. She thought an artist’s full-time occupation was starving and freezing. Luckily for me, this century made more room for artists, and I’m glad.
Moving around a lot in my life has meant a wealth of imagery to draw inspiration from; a storehouse that my rational side dips into when I look for something unique to bring expression to an idea.
I love that my work means I am constantly researching and gathering new ideas as well as new techniques to better express them. I greatly value the design education that taught me to think, push past the impulse to go for the first, easy and obvious answer and allow the solution to emerge from the process of exploration and philosophy.
In my professional life I am currently a concept artist at Weta Digital. During my career, I’ve moved from previz to special effects and back to the start of the process again with concept art, which I have found to be the right part of production for me. What I love are ideas, and taking them from words without form to images that arrest and inspire.
Throughout the years, I have been blown away by the generosity, support and encouragement of fellow artists who have willingly shared their knowledge and expertise. This has included working with film heroes, anti-heroes (who shall remain necessarily nameless) and everyday heroes (my colleagues who give everything in support of an idea).
I love that design is a discipline that can be applied to any field – I am intensely fascinated by virtual reality and its possibilities – and I’m excited that the technology is finally getting to the point where the next level of exploration can begin. Collaborating and exploring with friends becomes fertile ground for the future.
I am always looking forward to my next challenge, be it in my personal or professional work because I am very happy when I daydream.
Under the watchful glare of his own stubborn nature, he began to truly blossom into the bleary-eyed, caffeine-fuelled, solitary, autodidactic, sleep-deprived, dribbling artist he has now become. Amit quit his daily grazing at the cubicle farms of central government in early 2015 to dedicate his time to art. After three years, he had realized that it was his own fear of failure that was the only real obstacle in his way, so he embraced and ultimately escaped this fear by flinging himself off the clifftops of his stable job.
Getting to work as a freelancer these days involves co-ordinating the complicated journey of stumbling down to the coffee machine and then back up to the studio successfully. It is harder than one might think in the dark cold recesses of winter. His car keys find themselves in the fridge on a much more infrequent basis, which is a nice perk of not commuting. It isn’t often he really even needs to wear pants to work. He does sometimes lean back in his seat, gaze at the forest and wonder in contemplative reverie if there can really be any more to achieve in life than this pinnacle of no-pants-wearing freedom?
Amit currently hermits himself in the remote bushy wonderland of the Akatarawa valley, north of Wellington. He feeds cat food to the family of eels living under the ford across the river. The cat isn’t impressed, but it is preferable to feeding whatever is under the bed. Amit hopes to eventually spend the majority of his time on his own personal creative projects, and he will always be dedicated to helping and teaching others find their own creative potential —and to realize their own version of no-pants-wearing freedom.
The warrior glanced at the sky. No souls were to be seen in this bleak and desolate landscape save for a few sinister crows, flying high above. He pulled hard on the chariot reins: the four black horses instantly reacted, bringing the chariot to a halt.
The road dipped into a dark patch of trees ahead. Taking his big axe from his belt, the man frowned. He didn’t like the look of that forest. Legends about the place were abundant. Trolls, beautiful maidens commanding giant snakes, weird machines and all manner of strange contraptions were to be seen there, as if a hundred epic battles were taking place simultaneously in that one spot, in parallel universes.
‘Let’s see if the stories are true’, he muttered, urging his horses on again. The chariot picked up speed, careening down the hill until it disappeared into the darkness.
When the light came back, he was standing in a classroom in a university in England. Fifty students were now looking at him.
‘Well folks’, he started, ‘I have been a comic book author, a concept artist, an illustrator and a designer for many years. There are three rules I try to follow at all times, no matter what I do. The first is really easy to understand: WORK HARD! You can always do better. Work all day, then a bit more until you get good!’
There were a few whispers in the assembly, but the calm returned.
‘The second rule is also straightforward’, continued the man. ‘CULTIVATE YOURSELF! That is something you should never stop doing until you die. Read books, watch movies, watch documentaries, travel, learn other languages, learn history, geography, learn about science, learn to play an instrument, build a house or a boat and learn about everything. What happened a thousand years ago where we stand. And who is the drummer of that band … et cetera et cetera!’
This unlikely list made some students smile. There was a small pause. Then he started again. ‘The third rule is the hardest for most people, especially young ones. BEHAVE! What I mean by that is that you should try to be a nice person all the time. Take criticism well! Don’t be angry or shout at people, even if you’re right. Be a gentleman or lady and you will go far!’
The sound of galloping horses brought him back to reality. The chariot had safely crossed the dangerous area and was now going up a hill on the other side.
The warrior looked at his axe. There was blood on it. He smiled. The end of the journey was upon him. It was now time to …
… Park the car at the university parking. Adjusting his tiny glasses, he picked up his computer and moved resolutely towards a tall building.
‘And on to the battle I roam … or er … TEACH as they call it!’
Well, this is my third contribution to this wonderful creative fantasy series, and I have thoroughly enjoyed each opportunity. And to be able to showcase my artwork with so many other talented New Zealand artists is always pretty cool.
I wasn’t sure what I would be doing for this third volume. After much thought and procrastination, I thought that I’d just let the imagination run wild with my stylus pen and see what happens. As I started to block out initial doodles, I found that I seemed to gravitate to the human form in some way or another, whether it be in a dynamic pose or a dramatic composition. I suppose it’s always been a subject that has intrigued and fascinated me since I fell in love with art as a young lad.
As I progressed with my pieces or as each artwork evolved, I felt that I wanted to explore more as a theme the tension and conflict between one or two entities, and hopefully be able to express it in a dynamic way that is visually pleasing to the eye. I usually try to visualize it first in my mind and then let it evolve from there, pushing it to a point where I don’t start to overwork the piece but hopefully capture a moment or mood of the portrayed event that I have in my head.
I love the way an image can take you on a journey just by looking at it, and to be able to conjure up artwork that does that successfully will always be challenging. It’s a challenge that can take a life-long journey of learning, but one that I will always look forward to.
My first exposure to fantasy and science fiction art was probably through playing old tabletop roleplaying games back in the day. The artwork littered throughout those old sourcebook tomes was always present alongside our imaginations. While playing, they helped us travel somewhere fantastic, unique, dangerous and fun.
I grew to love the fantasy genre so much it ended up affecting much of my life. When I drew, it was dragons. When I wrote, it was stories of adventure. Even when I got into sports, I chose fencing, because of swords and history. After all of this, I ended up working in one of the biggest make-believe fantasy industries in the world: Film Visual Effects.
I have had the pleasure of working as an animator and visual effects artist for a number of years, always calling on my background of drawing and art to help my imagination along. I ended up moving from Australia to sunny New Zealand and have had the amazing opportunity to work with the folks at Weta Digital.
While not animating, I would always find myself returning to my artistic roots, and still being enthralled by the fantasy genre. Who would have thought that, 20 years after rolling dice around on my kitchen table, I would still be drawing dragons, this time for some of the companies who made the same games I loved so much as a young kid!
I am so excited to see the fantasy style having a comeback in recent years, and love being a part of the board game and tabletop renaissance. What better place to be working in illustration and film than in Wellington, New Zealand? Wellington has become a creative hot-spot for those born and bred here and those who have found their way here from all corners of the globe and share an interest in art and imagination.
I tend to focus on fantasy characters. I like creating an image of a make-believe personality that, for a brief moment, a viewer can make real and imagine accompanying them on exciting adventures. For my roleplaying game illustrations, I try to create a character that I would be happy playing as, with or against. I like to think there is an intuitive link between the gamer who views the work and myself.
I am looking forward to where this journey through fantasy art takes me, and I am proud and humbled to feature in this anthology of so many amazing artists.
Dede Putra is an illustrator who currently resides in Auckland, New Zealand. He has strong skills in art and years of experience in book illustrations, video game development, film making and fashion. His work can be seen in many formats, including movie posters, books and animation.
Growing up in Indonesia, a very young Dede was fascinated by the illustrations on vintage biscuit tin cans. To his parents’ dismay, when he was able to hold a colour pencil, he started to practice his drawing skills on their pristine white living room walls.
More exposure to illustration styles, mainly from Japan and the United States of America, influenced his decisions for the future. Dede became that weird boy in his extended Asian family who wanted to do drawing for a living, instead of becoming a doctor or a merchant like the other kids in the family.
After finishing his degree in Art and Design at Auckland University of Technology, Dede spent a couple of years working as a concept artist in a game studio. These days, you can find him hanging around at Watermark’s Auckland Studio near Britomart, still trying hard to realize his childhood dreams of creating illustrations for biscuit tin cans.
Hi, my name is Paul and I am an art addict.
I have not indulged for 16 days. I was doing well until San Diego Comic Con. ‘Big Red’ called to me, a Hellboy sketch by Mike Mignola. I needed a fix so bad, and before I knew it, I was walking away with it.
It took me a long time to admit I had a problem. I tried to find pleasure in my own attempts but they were a poor substitute to the artistry I saw all around me. Like many, I started off indulging in safer waters. First it was the art books, then I started getting art prints—the fancy French giclée ones. They just sounded better. But after a while it was not enough. I needed to get closer to the source—own an original—touched by the creator.
I would hang out online, looking for an easy eBay score, but it was a shallow experience. What I craved was the artist and – by extension – the art. Conventions were quickly becoming my MO. I would cruise by the alleys (there was nothing better than buying an exquisite drawing from an artist you just shared a drink with the night before), swapping stories of amazing trips you had taken to imaginary lands, whether Middle-Earth with Donato Giancola, the Dreamlands with Allan Williams, Travis Lewis and Nick Keller. Walking into the depths of the Inferno with Wayne Barlowe or exploring Galaxies far away with Iain McCaig…I have never felt so happy and inspired. All I wanted to do was draw and get lost in my own fantasy worlds.
For a while, sketches were enough. But the craving got stronger. The intoxicating whiff of paint fumes brought me to Justin Sweet and Vance Kovac’s booth. And it got worse when I crossed opposite—an alluring voice over my shoulder—Jon Foster asking me if I saw something I liked. He pimped me a stunning Timothy Hunter. It was so beautiful, how could I resist?
I needed more... The mini-hats of Greg Manchess, the Dave Palumbo astronauts… Frank Victoria’s WW1 Dwarves… Now I am even commissioning pieces I have not seen yet. When will it ever end? Do I really want it to end?
My name is Paul, I am an art addict. I am 16 days clean but gearing up for a new hit. The nail is in my hand, the wall space is clear and my first Christian Pearce sketch digital combo is all but ready to get held high.
When we weren’t punching each other, my brothers and I used to draw jungles. They kind of resembled those old side-scrolling platform games; there was no perspective, just a few layers of squiggly branches with vines conveniently placed for our tribal warriors, cyborgs and ninjas to swing around on. It was a bit of a competition. Who could come up with the coolest weapon-wielding badass on the page? Not a bad training ground for a concept artist, I suppose!
Back then, there was no such thing as perspective, form, value, colour theory or knowing what you’re doing. It was much nicer, really. These days, whenever I get stuck with a design or I can’t seem to answer the age-old question, ‘Is it cool?’, I think back to those childish competitions. I ask myself how might this creation fare against the warriors, cyborgs and ninjas in those squiggly jungles?
I’ve always been interested in art, but I never really thought I’d become a concept artist. I thought maybe I’d be something cool, like a professional fighter or commando, but in the end I went with the sensible, non-violent option. It’s turned out pretty well, I reckon. I’ve been a full-time concept artist at Weta Workshop since the beginning of 2014, where I get to draw cool stuff all day surrounded by my art heroes.
Before joining the design team at Weta, I studied Graphic Design at Auckland University of Technology. I was mad for logos, and a keen photographer, but as the degree went on I found my passion for drawing rekindled by illustration and life drawing classes. As graduation neared, I decided I wanted a chance to create my own fantasy and science fiction worlds, so I stayed on for two more years of postgraduate study. It was the best decision I could have made. Two years dedicated entirely to creating my own stories, places and characters. While it gave me time to seriously hit the grind on my art fundamentals, it also proved to be an incredible opportunity to learn about the art of storytelling and narrative theory under the guidance of my supervisor, Welby.
The works featured here are collected from various worlds and stories I’ve conjured up over the last few years. They all grew fairly organically. I find that any preconceived vision I may have for an image disappears the instant I make the first mark. The rest of the time is spent responding to what is already on the page and trying to build my way back to that initial feeling.
Most of my characters and stories are invented as I paint. When you’re staring at the same thing for hours on end, I guess you can’t help but contemplate where it may have come from or what it might be thinking. On some profound occasions, however, it feels more like discovering something real than inventing fiction.
Ben Hughes is a half-Welsh, half-Māori artist currently living in Wellington. Because of this mix of DNA, it is possible to mistake him for an Arab man or even an elderly Chinese woman. Perhaps in an effort to assert his Māoriness, he has begun a comic book based on a Maui legend, which he hopes to complete before the end of 2015.
Video games acted like a gateway drug that led Ben to drawing and painting. He began absorbed with the fantasy genre, inspired by Tolkien and games like The Elder Scrolls ‘Morrowind’ and ‘Baldur’s Gate’. Fantasy sparked a love of ancient and medieval history and mythology, which then lead to an interest in historical European martial arts.
One of Ben’s main issues in life is balancing so many hobbies and interests while still devoting time to the gods of art. Ben feels very privileged to have such an issue.
Wooo! At first, I was stoked to hear that I would be part of this sexy collection of works. It didn’t hit me until now that I would have to write something readable about myself. Aah, i think i’ll get a beer. Be right back …
It’s been some time since I’ve written anything proper. Do people actually read these? Not sure. I went and had a nosey at the entries in the previous volumes but ended up spending too much time looking at the pictures. My vessel is now empty. Be right back …
I think I have an idea as to the kind of content I’m supposed to fill this space with, great success! I’ll keep my life story rambles short, I promise!
The pictures featured here are a collection of mostly personal works. I didn’t think I had much of a style or particular subject matter until I looked at my body of work all together like this. How come it looks like this? By the looks of these few pages, I love insects or anything with more than four limbs!? Please allow me to explain myself. I need to delve into the past a little.
It began when I was little and still growing. Normal pets weren’t a thing in my household, so I often went hunting in my backyard or the beach for critters to look at and play with; lifting up rocks, putting them back down. I was amazed at the variety of shapes, colours, sizes and textures. They often looked cute to me. Nature never fails to fascinate me.
I also liked crafting and making things on our garage workbench, taking things apart to see their insides, putting them back together to see if they still worked, making boats to play with in my non-existent lake, and so on. Fond memories.
I also wasn’t allowed to watch much television or have a games console to play with. I would get my gaming fix at my friends’ houses, it was just enough to spark my imagination and creativity. Because of this, I was heavily influenced by the Japanese aesthetic. Reading novels and writing wasn’t really my thing either, so I passed time drawing things. It would get me in trouble at school sometimes, but I think I grew up all right. I was never really a bad kid.
There were a lot of “I”s in this body of text. I’m not particularly fond of talking about myself a whole lot, but I made it this far. I didn’t really reflect upon my upbringing until now but it seems that it influenced me in a big way. So now that I conclude my nonsensical rambles, I realize that I am at the point in life where I have stopped growing, and I am just ageing. Though my skills will keep growing, for sure!
I was born in Shanghai, China. I go back once every year, around Christmas time, to enjoy the food, the cold temperature and beautiful foggy scenery. The rest of the time I stay in Auckland, New Zealand, working as a CG artist and illustrator.
When I was little, I enjoyed doing all kinds of things, like running around naked, playing action-packed theatre with my figure toys while mumbling unscripted dialogues, breaking family property and drawing characters from my favourite picture books. When I was sitting bored in the classroom, I would draw portraits of the teachers in my textbook. I even got commissioned by fellow classmates to do popular cartoon characters, like Aotoman, on their textbooks. In return, they would give me some snacks or invite me to play Contra at their place when their parents were not around. This was my earliest experience as a commercially successful illustrator.
What I really wanted to be back then was a fine art artist, after I read Lust for life by Irving Stone. It is a fictionalized biography of the Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh. I was deeply moved by the passion and dedication that a true artist can possess. I didn’t want to cut my ear off for my art, but I always wanted to put lively strokes on my canvas like Van Gogh did to his trees and sky.
On the other hand, I was also really interested in visual narratives. My Dad used to do a lot of TV commercials back then and he always held production meetings with fellow producers at home. They sat down talking about scripts and drew storyboards. I always wandered around with great curiosity and took sneaky peeks at what they were doing. Once, I caught a moment when they were both absent and had left their storyboard behind. Such a precious opportunity just shouldn’t go to waste! I filled in all the blanks with my doodle figures, which looked like toilet symbols in motion. I still remember this was a commercial for a washing machine brand and my first experience of being involved in a serious production. My Dad was greatly amused and eventually sent me to study fine art.
Some time passed, and I wasn’t satisfied with paintings that didn’t move. I got interested in making movies and animations. I went to study graphic design and 3D animation so I could pursue a career in that. I have been working in the animation and game industry for quite some time now, and still enjoy every aspect of this creative industry. I have been doing all kinds of things, from concept design to 3D production. In my spare time, I do commissioned illustration works for various publishers as well as working on my original stories. And not so long ago, I finished making a fully animated music video with my friend, who directed it. I enjoyed working on it so much because I learned heaps along the way and we were both so proud of the outcome. I still feel like a newbie to this industry because there is always so much to learn—especially if you want to do your own production one day.
I don’t think I have a very personal style yet. Maybe I do, but it’s only temporary because I am always trying to get out of my comfort zone and explore more unfamiliar areas. However, I always want to do things a little more realistically. That means I tend to enjoy drawing normal people walking around and going through their daily routines. I like observing what they do, what they wear, what they say and how they are connected to other people around them. For example, I enjoy observing and drawing neighbourhood people gathering around on a hot summer night, eating simple homemade dinner in their singlets and talking about their work. To me, this is true life with real emotions that all fantasy should be based upon. It can be simple but full of stories to tell.
I don’t want to put a label like CG artist or book illustrator on myself just yet because there is still so much virgin territory that I haven’t stepped into. However, no matter what medium I use, I know ultimately I want to be a storyteller who can make people stop whatever they are doing and think for a while.
Right, here we are again. Volume 3. Paul has done it again. Pretty damn exciting. It’s been a few years since I had the opportunity, I say opportunity but they make me, to write a few words to accompany the errant mark-making I put forward for the book. What has changed since last time? For the most part, not a lot—still illustrating from home and working for RPG companies in the States.
I like to think my work is improving, but that is very hard to see at times, if it is at all. Hard to be objective when you are in the driving seat, much easier as a passenger. So I will leave that call up to you and others. I guess one change, one that I am aiming to reverse, is that I am working totally digitally now, not even putting pencil to paper to sketch roughs any more. This makes for a faster work process and means the roughs are all colour and easier to work into the final from. But it also means I have no hard-copy original work; not a single piece of marked paper to show for all of the work, and I do miss that. I am not saying I want to get back to painting old-school, that would be awesome, but I am being realistic here. No, just pencil scratching on paper would be enough. So for my next few commissions, that is what I will endeavour to do.
After eight years working purely as a freelance illustrator, I made the move back into the film industry as a concept illustrator for the production designer on a Disney film shot here in Wellington. It was quite the culture shock to be back working on a film. Being part of a creative team, part of a larger product, being a cog in a machine in a way that you aren’t working from home on illustrations. I loved the energy of the job, the fact that I was only ever generating ideas; they never had to be fully realized, they were only part of the process. It really reminded me of the difference between the two jobs. Illustration is about a finished product and an integrity-of-work process, whereas design is only to inform the finished product and any method that gets that done is valid.
By this, I mean that when I sit down to illustrate for a client I am very particular in how I like to work. I try to be as traditional in my techniques and approach as possible, whether I am working traditionally or in Photoshop. But when working in a designer capacity, virtually anything goes to get the ideas generated and inform the next stage in the process, whether that’s a film set, creature, jug design or wallpaper pattern.
Design is so much about the final product and not the design drawings, photo bashing, any quick and dirty method. I hope to balance these two aspects of my work. They satisfy different parts of me creatively and, I think, inform each other indirectly.
I might even try to do some personal work, but that is very unlikely. I have the best of intentions, but it seems there is always something else to do. I have wrestled with this for years. Most of my artist friends and colleagues are doing personal work. As you can see by the content of this book, it is all some of them do. This was a constant source of worry and stress for me. Why wasn’t I doing my own work? I am not driven by a creative urge to paint and draw, I don’t have stories I want to tell and illustrate or films I want to make.
After years of this, I had an epiphany. I simply don’t want to. I realized that I am very happy to just do this as a job. A job I enjoy, and not everybody is lucky enough to be able to say that.
I think it is really important to realize that it is okay to be creative as a job but not have to feel that you are somehow being lazy or uncreative if you don’t do personal work or have a project you are always working on. It is certainly cool if you are that sort of person. Most artists I know are. But it is equally okay not to be. It seems very obvious, but it is something that took me a long time to work out. It is, generally, not something that folks talk about in classes or at work. Not many tutors or artist friends tend to talk about the lack of desire to paint and draw, or actively support yours.
Get out there and enjoy your work, but don’t let a lack of drive for personal work make you feel you are not achieving or that you are lazy. This rant will not have much meaning to most reading this book, but for those who feel as I do about their art, I hope it helps.
My name’s Jeff. I have a background in illustration but currently I’m more focused on animation. I do illustration work from time to time.
Being from New Zealand, I guess you’re bound to be influenced by the imagery and landscapes around you. It lends itself well to fantasy, having a magical air about it. I think that’s what I enjoy most about fantasy illustration.
I do also like the idea of ghostly other worlds and characters/spirits crossing with the physical realm, which seems to feature heavily in a lot of my work. The unknown, impossible and wondrous things that could lurk out there and the issues that arise from these interactions.
Sanjana is a freelance illustrator who works out of her tiny studio in Auckland. Having graduated from Auckland University of Technology with a Bachelor’s degree in graphic design, she worked for a couple of years in a graphic design studio before taking the plunge as a full-time freelance illustrator.
‘Like most other artists, I found myself thinking onto paper from a very early age. Lingering over lavishly illustrated children’s books was a favourite pastime, and the narratives that could be conveyed in one simple illustration or character design captured my imagination. I knew I wanted to do art for a living when I realized that someone had to come up with those illustrations, which sucked me into their make-believe worlds with such solid clarity.’
Sanjana is a product of the hyper-plastic radical pop culture world of the 80s and 90s. Saturday morning cartoons, Sega games, Mad Magazine, Disney animations and ‘My Little Pony’—these things flavour her work with a manic cartoonish vibe. During her nine years as a freelancer, she has also lectured part-time at Auckland University of Technology.
‘Working at AUT had a profound effect on me. I absolutely love working with students and sharing my passion for illustration with them. I feel that teaching really helps to keep you on your toes, as you have to be up to date on everything in your industry. Having to convey certain concepts to others helps to strengthen your understanding of the subject. Lecturing in this creative industry was a two-way street, as I learned a lot from the students as well. It’s amazing how every illustration student had a unique voice and it was a thrill to nurture that voice and help them build up the skills needed to convey their vision.’
After lecturing, Sanjana was inspired to come up with a series of colouring books that had simple guidelines on how to work with light and form. ‘Colour Zone stemmed from the need to share the “creative zone” with others. As an illustrator, a large part of my job is spent lost in the act of painting, what creatives refer to as “being in the zone”. The zone is where your brain is focused entirely on the task at hand, on shapes, colour and light. What if I could help other people experience this peaceful meditative state of mind that artists experience while working? The huge colouring book craze that is taking the world by storm shows that many people are using it as a way to relax and destress.
My book is a bit different in that is has some basic instructions on how to shade and render form, so that non-artists can gain the confidence to build up each template into a fully resolved illustration.
These instructions were inspired by the most common questions asked by my illustration students – how to shade, work with a light source etc.’
I’m never really sure what to write about myself. I’ve done a bit of ‘stuff’, but I’ve always had a hard time talking about things I’m passionate about. That’s the modesty of my Asian side coming through. And I also have these weird anxieties in even trying to frame what I do. It’s like, okay, let’s say art is some insubstantial, floaty concept—like dreams made of material, and in describing it to you in the way I see it, I’d have to hold it just right. Too many big words is too heavy handed and I might crush it. Too many simple words and it’s too light, and it’d fly away and we’d never be able to grasp it.
That’s pretty much how I feel about painting. I’m a total, full-blown, unadulterated perfectionist and I’m obsessed with communicating ideas. I’m happy when I think I’ve expressed an image the way I wanted, or the way a client wanted. And I have to say that in the past this mentality has definitely toyed with my sanity! But the thing I’ve learned about art is that once you put it out there for anyone to see, whether it be one person or many persons, it’s really not your beef anymore. Not unless you’re constantly editing for edition 1.1 or 1.2, or 1.3. And hey, even in an ideal world, were I the ideal artist, I’d draw the line at about 1.10 … Which probably says a lot!
You’d think this new shove-out-the-door mentality would be unsettling for a perfectionist, but it’s not. Once I shunt a project off, it’s like a child grown out of the home and out on its own two feet. It stands on its own merits or it falls over, but it’s beyond my responsibility. Whether it’s loved or hated, I can still tell myself at the end of the day, ‘Girl, you done your best, and that was good enough’.
It took me a long time to learn this, and a whole bunch of deadlines pushed back due to me not being satisfied with whatever I did. And to be honest, I’ll still dither about on a piece but just in different ways. I love what they call ‘pixel-pushing’, when you just sit there and move a single little thing around until you find the ideal place for it on the digital canvas. I love messing with colours until I find a hue that hits a vibe with me.
That’s like the best thing of all about art. Finding that sweet spot that makes me go ‘wow’, where I feel inspired, or moved, or heightened—whatever you may call it. It’s when I can think ‘Yeah, I really did something cool with that. The piece and I had a moment.’ Because then at least I can feel like I achieved something no matter how flawed I later think it is. I can say to it, ‘Babe, we may never have that moment again, but hey, we’ll always have Paris.’
Like many artists and illustrators, I often listen to audio while I’m working, whether it be music, podcasts or audiobooks. The spark of inspiration for these works came while I was listening to an interview with author Joseph Campbell, who made a life-long study of mythology and its function in various cultures. In the interview, Joseph introduces us to a fable from the book Thus Spake Zarathustra, by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Entitled ‘Of the Three Metamorphoses’, the fable seemed to me as rich and meaningful as any by Goethe or Aesop, and was begging to be interpreted visually.
The story tells of a camel who takes up the heaviest burden it can carry, and ventures into the wilderness. The camel is the ‘load-bearing spirit’, defined by its diligence and persistence. It symbolises the renouncing of comfort and the acceptance of incredible difficulty, for the sake of acquiring knowledge and strength. The camel’s journey is arduous, but if it can survive this hostile environment under such a heavy load, it will be transformed into a lion.
The lion represents the will of the individual. It is strong, courageous and ferociously single-minded in its purpose—to fight for freedom against its sworn enemy, the dragon. The dragon’s name is Thou Shalt. It represents the forces that push us to conform rather than think and feel for ourselves. These forces could be edicts from various forms of authority; governments, institutions, perhaps even the people who pay our wages. Or they could be the voices of our own fears. Either way, facing the dragon is an inescapable part of Nietzsche’s understanding of transformation.
If the lion is successful in defeating the dragon, it will be transformed into the child, the liberated spirit. We often think of children as being vulnerable, particularly in physical terms, but I think Nietzsche is instead focusing on the uninhibited nature of childhood—on spontaneity, innocence and autonomy. The child is a ‘self-propelling wheel’; free to do and be in ways that the camel and lion are not.
Although challenging, these paintings were a joy to work on. Personally, I don’t think of the metamorphoses described here as permanent or absolute. Rather, we embody all of them at different times in our lives, and in different areas of our lives. For the artists reading this, I have no doubt that you’ll see some parallels with your own creative struggle. My hope is that you’ll recognize the universality of this struggle, and that in some small way your own journey will be less daunting for it.
“Each brushstroke is a voice for my inner world. I strive to provoke an uplifting emotional connection in the observer of my work. I relish the possibility and process of bringing ideas into fruition. I also enjoy the challenges of mastering in paint the subtleties and beauty of the human form, endeavouring not only to capture the model’s likeness but to embody their essence as a person.” - Sacha Lees
Born on the South Island’s wild West Coast, Lees initially trained in graphic design but in 1997 found a more appropriate outlet for her talents at the then little known Weta Workshop. Sacha worked as an illustrator, creature designer and airbrush artist on The Lord of the Rings trilogy and other projects. She eventually ventured out on her own, and has since worked solely on her own visionary art.
Lees’ art, mostly in oils, is characterized by its stunning naturalistic technique. Her fantastical vision is brought vividly to life on the canvas before us, sometimes sinister, sometimes idyllic and childlike, always surprising. With a focus on quality craftsmanship, her work is rendered with utmost skill, akin to the great masters.
Lees’ work features in the international periodical for contemporary fantasy art, Spectrum. Her work has also been featured in the publication Women of Wonder: Celebrating Women Creators of Fantastic Art, alongside 57 past and present artists from around the world.
Her original works can also be found in private collections within New Zealand and abroad.
Lees currently lives and works in Wellington, where her paintings are created among bustling family life. She is a wife and full-time mother to two busy young preschoolers.
“For me, the Fantastic Art genre presents endless freedom to explore possibilities. Its evolving nature allows the scope to portray segments from my imagined fantastical dreamscapes.”
My work has always had a narrative focus, if not within an image itself then as a way to research visual techniques that could be applied to a narrative project. Starting around the end of high school, I saw the huge potential for images to tell stories, later realizing stories that enter popular culture can have a strong effect on the mindset of a large group of people and are a good way to effect positive change.
I often like my work to have personal significance, and as a result find myself somewhere between Fine Art and Illustration—each community telling me I’m better classified in the other. I will often swap between roles and styles that have different mindsets, depending on the goal of the project, resisting the pressure to choose a single technique or aesthetic label. One of the things I enjoy most about art is the sense of discovery that comes with experimenting with visual ideas and techniques.
As a descriptive tool, I classify my work into four categories: Exhibition work, which focuses on research of visual techniques and thinking; Illustration, which tasks itself with communicating the subject or idea; Concept Art, the design of aspects of a larger project like characters for a story; and Sequential Art, images in sequence to form narratives.
I have always been very self-directed with my work and like to be involved in the entirety of a project from the beginning. After my degree in Pictorial Design at Auckland University of Technology, I set up a studio with other young artists. We ran exhibitions and worked closely together full-time for two years. I then moved to London to gain commercial experience and quickly got a job at Unit9 as an inhouse Concept Artist and Storyboard Artist for digital advertising projects, often involving the Oculus Rift. Shortly after, my portrait ‘Tim’ won the New Zealand Adam Portrait Award, of which I am the youngest winner.
A year later, I am working for myself again, mostly on new personal narrative projects while painting portrait commissions and taking on freelance storyboard work here in London. I work from home in a communal converted warehouse, with 17 flatmates, most of whom also work in our massive workspace in varying creative fields.
I look forward to returning to New Zealand’s long white cloud and to the amazing community of artists, some of whom are featured in this inspiring book, at the end of 2015.
New Zealand’s coastline is my primary source of inspiration. As a child, I spent my summers sailing along the coast of Northland and the Hauraki Gulf. The many islands, pristine beaches, rugged bluffs and native forests were a mystery to me. It was exciting and overwhelming, and my imagination was set loose.
Being exposed to nature has had a profound effect on me. The creatures that I design are manifestations of the feelings I have about the natural world. My work is comprised of these experiences that give me an innate sense of the sublime.
The paintings you see here are inspired by a skeletal leaf discovered on Great Barrier Island and the skull of a seal found near Piha. These found objects, with their primal qualities, inspired mystery and awe. Art allows me to experiment with expressing and defining these ideas. They are a way of acknowledging my surroundings, taking a fresh perspective and keeping the mystery alive.
When I think back on how I grew up to become an artist, or why I like drawing and painting so much, little snippets of memories come to mind. They are trivial perhaps but meaningful to me; moments like asking Dad to draw evil monsters from his video art game books. Showing him my own copied drawings when I was a little older, only to be told off for never creating from my own imagination. Having a crush on my primary school art teacher. Drawing every character as a genie for a time so no one would know that I couldn’t draw legs. Mom telling me not to follow Dad’s footsteps, not to become an artist like him, but to keep art as a hobby instead.
Hah! (Sorry, Mom!)
I’m not sure how relevant this mishmash of past events really is, but I think it paints a nice little picture of how I might’ve come to be where I am now. I find that I didn’t always actively pursue art, and that my reasons for drawing weren’t always rooted in art, either. However, I do realize that, growing up, there were large periods of time when I was not doing anything related to art, yet sooner or later I would always come back to it, which is something I think many artists have gone through as well. Until finally realizing how much they like it and deciding to turn it into what they do for a living.
So naturally, just like the many artists similar to me, I ended up pursuing art as a career. It wasn’t until after three years learning about 2D animation that I realized I want to draw concept art and paint pictures instead. This got me onto a rocky path of frantically taking whatever freelance work I could for two years, before landing my first job in the game industry creating concept art. I can still remember how ecstatic I was.
Growing up, my biggest influences were always movies and cartoon shows and games. I never really had any specific artists I followed or aspired to be like, not until the last year or so at least, when an artist I really admire showed me the merits of knowing clearly what interests you and choosing the things you allow yourself to be influenced by. It seems like common sense to do this, but yet it is so easy nowadays to become conditioned to the endless sea of currently trending art fed to us online day in and day out. Realizing the importance of knowing where my art is headed was such an eye-opener for me, and I hope it shows through in my future work.
In the last volume of White Cloud Worlds, I spoke of my love for environmental paintings. I love the scope of them, and the feeling that they could be inhabited by a whole cast of characters and events. Since then, I have pursued this love, completing a digital matte painting workshop with the talented David Luong. You can see a piece from this course here, ‘Sky Freight’. I thought it would be fascinating if mankind came up with a kind of anti-gravity technology, with the limitation that it was not agile. Therefore, the technology would encourage mundane and practical uses, rather than the action sci-fi tropes. It is also a throwback to the era when gargantuan zeppelins seemed like the future of air travel.
I’m now working full-time as a matte painter and it is a very different challenge. In the past, I’ve worked on the pre-production phase, where my work served to inform the creation of a final product. Sometimes it was designs for a prop or digital character. Other times, it was storyboard frames for a live action shoot. In any case, my work was often a step on the path towards the finished product. Now I’m creating the final frames that go on screen. I’m also painting environments that are revisited at different times of the day. Sometimes a location needs to be seen in as many as six different lighting scenarios to show the passing of time, and to communicate different moods.
Interestingly, now that my day job focuses almost entirely on environmental paintings, the goals in my personal work are shifting. I find myself much more interested in drawing figures and characters when I get home from a day of finessing landscapes. I think this is pretty evident in the figure-heavy ‘Lonely Dawn’. It will be interesting to see where this will lead me over time.
It has been said that ‘Doing stuff makes you hungry’. Oh yes, for I have done stuff, and I have been hungry. But does that mean that the doing of stuffs contributed to my intestinal palpitations? Hmmm ...
For now, we will have to agree to disagree about its relevance. But is the statement that ‘Doing stuff makes you hungry’ backwards? For me, the hunger is for visual communication, and it tends to lead to the doing of stuffs!
Yes, I finally got there—to the point. You need to be hungry, practically starving, for that fix you get from the creative process, in order to be passionate enough to pursue the end goal of making the stuffs.
That passion will have you painting at ungodly hours of the morning, but you will at least enjoy the process, and it’s surely got to be better than watching infomercials. My core passion is for environmental design, and I strive to get a sense of visual depth and storytelling into a painting. The story is absolutely key. Above all else, if you can take someone on a journey to another place or time and capture all that mood/motion and emotion in one frozen glimpse, then that really is something of true power.
I personally feel that the real challenge is to pull the viewer’s eye into the scene. Where the eye goes, the mind will be close behind.
In my younger days, I studied Product Design at Massey, and I found one of my most enjoyable lectures was about ‘future-based design.’ This is the practice of trying to predict what the world might be like in, say, 50 years, then designing the products that consumers might want or need in that time period (the stuffs, man! What cool stuffs do these future people need?).
In many ways, I feel that concept design work for games or film is very similar. Trying to deliver a unique viewpoint or suggest a journey that someone doesn’t even know they want—yet.
The process of delivering “the stuffs” ... Well, my production pipeline has evolved a lot over the years, but one thing still rings true. You need to get a little carried away when you’re painting. For me, it’s imperative to ‘get my swagger on’. So my production pipeline always starts with music—almost too often starting with a bit of Tool, but I am getting counselling for that particular affliction. The actual painting process, well … I don’t want to be getting all preachy, as there are so many different approaches, and mine might not be right for you. So I decided to choose my top two Photoshop tips, for someone just starting out.
Firstly, there is the layer mask. You can achieve powerful results very quickly once you master it. It’s possibly the most useful tool in my own production pipeline. I actually avoided using this method for the longest time, until a colleague made me see the error of my ways. Become one with the mask, you will.
Secondly, I have a very simple thing I do on every image now, regardless of whether it’s a 30-minute speed paint or something I spend 15 hours painting. I call this my “VALUE CHECKER”. I always keep my value checker at the very top of the stack. It is a ‘hue/saturation adjustment layer’ with the saturation set to zero. This has the effect of turning the whole image to greyscale, in a non-destructive manner. Most of the time, this layer is turned off, but occasionally I will toggle it. It gives an immediate reality check about how the values are working together. Often, the mind can get overwhelmed with tonal variations, but greyscale doesn’t lie. It either works or it doesn’t.
… deep gurgling and rumbling sound, somewhat reminiscent of the bog of eternal stench from Labyrinth …
Oh dear, starving again. I really do need to go and do some stuff. Hopefully my meandering thoughts have been somewhat illuminative.
A final thought from me—just enjoy the process … But draw until your fingers bleed!
Growing up, my school lunch breaks were spent sitting at my desk drawing aliens, robots and intergalactic star battles in the back of my exercise book. You could say that I lived in a bit of a fantasy world. Little did I know that drawing would become my livelihood.
To this day, not much has changed in that respect and I still find it strange to consider myself an Illustrator. The more I create art, the more I find myself asking, ‘Am I an illustrator?’, and, more importantly, ‘What really defines me?’.
Some would say I’m an avid comic fan, a make-believe artificer in a space marine legion or simply a patient hermit. However, the who and what I am are not answered in what I write or my job title, but in the work I produce. Maybe that is why I find writing about my work harder than actually doing it. The natural and easiest way for me to communicate has always been through drawing and art, leading me to believe that my creations speak the loudest about who I am.
The self-discovery an individual makes through a creative journey is very interesting. It is even more profound when your creative endeavour helps others to do the same. When my work inspires others to express themselves and communicate their interests, it is the most rewarding and humble feeling. The result inspires me to excel in my craft even further.
I am always fond of the question, ‘How did you think this up?‘ and time and time again this makes me more inquisitive about my thought process. This process is, to say the least, hard to describe, but when I work it feels like crossing a bridge. What I am about to create most of the time already exists in my head and my job is simply bridging it to paper. The ideas cross an ever-growing bridge of inspiration, reinforced and moulded by great artists and peers. Even close friends and family all contribute to its foundation. The people I surround myself with have helped shape and refine my thought process for the better and, in turn, shaped and refined me, too.
Although my art is changing and so am I, there is one constant that stays the same. In essence, I’m simply that kid drawing at his desk just for pleasure.
Rather than writing a witty bio, I feel like I should really take this opportunity to simply get on my soap box, and throw an idea at you guys in the hope that it strikes a chord with one or two kids who feel a little overwhelmed, lost or intimidated in the creative arts. So, at the risk of sounding like a pretentious ding dong ... *steps onto box...*
I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that if you are reading this book, then you are a fan of fantasy art, and therefore there is a good chance that you are an aspiring artist and have grand dreams of creating your own incredible worlds and maybe one day being in a book like this. Well, I am here to tell you that not only can you do this, but you should. All it takes is a lot of hard work and constant practice.
Firstly, it is important to disenchant this dirty word ‘talent’. When we see people showcase amazing abilities at a young age, this does not mean that they were gifted from birth. It is simply because they love the activity and are therefore compelled to do it more than others. The activity becomes routine. Much like a child who might love soccer and play it day in and day out would be a much better soccer player than me. We have not seen all the countless hours of practice the child has put in, and so assume that the abilities are natural. ‘Wow! so talented, I couldn’t do that.’ In one sentence, we discredit all the hard work and effort while at the same time we put the abilities on a pedestal of genius. The reality is that you could do it—but it takes years and years of practice, dedication and enthusiasm.
It really is nurture over nature. I was never naturally talented at art, but I continued to do it because I loved it and I had unwavering family support (thanks, Mum and Dad!). Looking at my classmates at the time, my art skills were severely underdeveloped, distractions and laziness got the better of me and my brain simply wasn’t wired to find hard work rewarding. But through sheer bullheaded determination and a lot of growing up, I managed to stick with it and put in the time to get my craft to a professional state (albeit with a lot of partying in the process). And now I am here, in the White Clouds Worlds book, something I had wished I could be good enough to be in ever since the first book came out five years ago.
Now, I am a successful freelance illustrator, and an award-winning Senior Tutor at Massey University (OK, I had to throw in a shameless plug somewhere). I had to really work hard to understand and grow my abilities. I say all of this not to impress you, but to impress upon you the fact that you all have the potential to become better than any of the artists in this book. And I really hope you do. There is no greater path you can choose than the path of a creative. I look forward to seeing you alongside me in this book one day. :)
Much has changed in my life since White Cloud Worlds Volume 2, and much more will have changed by the time this new book comes out. By then, I will be three-quarters of the way through a Master’s degree and I will have become a father. Realizing you’re going to become someone’s Dad really causes you to reflect on what you do for a living. You start asking yourself questions like ‘Maybe it’s about time I finally learnt to change a tyre without having to call the AA?’, ‘Do I really want my child to become like me?’ and ‘Should I encourage or discourage them from becoming an artist? I mean, how can drawing pictures all day in my boxers contribute to a better society?’.
Perhaps it is important questions like these that drive a man to put on some pants, leave his cushy job as a contract illustrator in the advertising industry and re-enter the world of academia and teaching.
After graduating five years ago, the last thing on my mind was more study, but after a few years of professional practice you start to miss the freedom you have within the university environment to experiment and question. What this year of study has given me is the time to think and research some social issues and perhaps even ask how I might contribute to society as an illustrator and storyteller.
This brings me to my current Master’s project, which looks at ways to address the literacy gap between teenage students from Pasifika backgrounds and those from other ethnic groups in New Zealand. The aim of this research project is to explore, through design practice, illustration as a sequential storytelling method for the engagement, education and empowerment of Pasifika youth.
In other words, I’m looking at how the visual language found within comics might be used to engage reluctant and struggling readers. Thus far, the project has given me a refreshing perspective on my work and skills as an illustrator. I know it may not be able to solve all of the world’s problems, but I’m excited to see how illustration can be harnessed to address important social issues like literacy.
Joseph Qiu has loved drawing since his early childhood. None of his family are artists, but his parents also liked drawing when they were young. Joseph used to draw everywhere; in textbooks, on walls and even on classmates’ clothes! If his parents wanted to know his school progress, they only needed to see which textbook page had his latest doodling.
The principal once called Joseph’s mother because Joseph had used ballpoint pen to draw on the school desk and it couldn’t be erased. Surprisingly, Joseph’s mother didn’t tell him off—the drawing looked good.
Even though he loved drawing, Joseph didn’t attend art school and kept drawing as his biggest hobby ... Until the day he realized it might be possible to make a living by doing art.
While he was working as a designer, after graduating with a graphic design degree, Joseph taught himself how to draw and paint. He attended workshops and intensive courses, and learned a lot from many great artists around him. From 2009, he started to receive commissions and to work as a freelance illustrator. His work has been featured on advertising campaigns and various publications worldwide.
He loves drawing historical scenes, people and caricatures. And, of course, pirates are one of his favourite subjects. In reality, those guys were mostly badass, rough, rigid and not as romantic as we read in stories or saw in films. Yet they still have some positive characteristics. Joseph has caricatured them in these works to feature them in a humorous way.
Born in China but taught in New Zealand, Joseph adopts both eastern and western art aesthetics. Not only does he make his art digitally, he also paints traditionally in oil. The old masters such as Peter Paul Rubens, John Sargent, Joaquin Sorolla and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres really inspire him.
When he’s not working on commission, Joseph goes out to sketch people and landscapes. He now lives in beautiful New Zealand with his wife and son.
I got interested in tattooing in 2010, as a way to develop my skills and keep myself fresh after 20 years of illustrating and working on comics. I’m still really enjoying it. Tattooing creates an opportunity for creative freedom for myself and other artists, and it’s social—something you don’t get if you’re working isolated in a studio.
But after five years, I’m starting to miss the technical freedom of illustration. There are lots of rules about what you can and can’t do in tattooing that you don’t have with pigment and paper. Working on paper gives more room for developing a concept over time, and you get more than one opportunity to get it right.
It’s hard to find time outside of tattooing to keep up my illustration. In the custom tattoo industry, the day is spent in the studio, and the nights designing for clients. I’m really only able to accept about one percent of the illustration work that I’m approached about, which means it’s important to carefully choose the projects I want to work on.
The work I’ve been doing recently puts high-end local products like craft beer or chocolate with low-brow art. In the past, I’ve done graphic design work for products where the original concept becomes so watered down I didn’t feel great about the final product, but these days I don’t waste time on designing for companies that don’t reflect my own philosophy. I want to design for businesses that are as passionate about their product as I am about my work.
In 2014 I was approached by Anton Hart from agency Double Fish about designing a series of Ed Roth (Big Daddy Roth) style beer bottle labels. Panhead’s head brewer Mike Neilson is keen on hot rods and car culture, and the monster-inspired work I’d been showing at Manky Chops Gallery in Wellington was the kind of look they were going for. It’s been a great match, my style with Panhead. More recently, I’ve been working with them on the Canheads, a limited edition series of beers in cans where the label and the story are as important as the brew itself. We wanted to create something that was as much a work of art on the outside as it was on the inside, and I think we’ve done that. The result is something that’s hard for people to throw away; they want the illustration on the can as much as the beer inside.
In terms of medium, the Canheads were pretty straightforward. I worked up the illustrations from pencil sketches and finished them in ink, using Sharpies and architects’ fibre-tip pens for the more detailed parts. The branding on the design is pretty minimal, so the final product is about the beer inside the can and the art on the outside and not the size of the logo. The process for developing the Canheads reminded me of my comic illustration days; working with a team of people on the style and the concept for the characters, and then developing their back stories. If you imagine that the beer is the comic, you could think about the cans as the cover.
Drawing and designing is my passion, whatever the medium. Between tattooing and illustration, I get to choose who I work with and what I spend my time on. Nothing beats the buzz of seeing something I made on a shelf and being truly proud of it. That’s job satisfaction.
My introduction to art came before I can remember. My favourite pastime as a child was to sit down with piles of computer paper and draw. Back then, I would be creating fantasy worlds I wanted to live in. I’d draw houses with hydroslides leading to the library, animals and lots of pretty girly clothes. I’ve always been fascinated with the visual, particularly the surreal and fantastical.
Growing up, I loved Dr Seuss, Roald Dahl and Lewis Carroll books. Their warped sense of logic and fantasy grabbed me. As I grew, I became more interested in surrealists like Salvador Dali as well as contemporary artists such as James Jean, Ashley Wood and João Ruas.
Since graduating from Massey University in Wellington in 2010, I’ve worked on numerous projects for publishing and advertising, including magazine editorials and covers and children’s books and journals. For my commercial work, I primarily work digitally but also enjoy traditional media, pencil, charcoal, oil paint and watercolour. I currently work as a designer/illustrator at Verve Portraits Photography studio. Working alongside so many creative photographers has fuelled my passion for photography and I’ve recently been incorporating this more into my illustration.
Talented photographer/illustrator collaborative Stuart Kennie and Kashka Jamieson recently set up the illustration department at Verve. I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside them and learning from them first-hand. It’s been amazing to have the opportunity to do something new with my illustration skills and to work with such an inspiring team who are passionate about new ideas and new ways of doing things.
I strongly feel that art always needs to be evolving and changing; it’s great to have a personal style but I wouldn’t want my work to become stagnant.
I am most fascinated by the strengths and vulnerabilities in femininity. I’ve recently discovered contemporary artist Hush and developed a mild obsession. I find his street-art-inspired style to be eerie, raw and intriguing. I‘m inspired by his calm yet chaotic portrayals of women.
There seems to me a limitless well of expression, depth and feeling that can be represented through the female form. I want to continue experimenting with this same subject matter, but I want to be more experimental with my work, and play with different media, traditional and otherwise.
I have been living in Purgatory for the last five years. A place undefined and inhabited by the unresolved. An ambiguous environment that has no rules and blurs culture, mythology and belief. This has been the realm my work has explored relentlessly.
A project that grew from years of sketches and character studies, The Resurrection Lands is a graphic novel that pays homage to its origins in the Moleskine sketchbook. Since 2009, the characters have been explored and developed with no intended sense of direction or purpose. As the years went on and the used sketchbooks piled up, themes emerged and a sequential art piece began to evolve.
At first, no more than a way to explore a few ideas and give one or two characters a little more depth, the musings quickly grew into a larger campaign. The story grew organically, with no initial pretence of being anything more than another study in the sketchbook. As more people began to explore the books, the more I was convinced to continue the project. However, it became apparent that a crucial element was central to this project; the sketchbook must be retained as the established aesthetic. Eraser marks, structural lines and so on are all retained, a unique characteristic of the novel and reminder for the reader of the origins of the creative material.
This collusion of creation and material gradually became far more than the sum of its parts and, for this reason, the final book will be presented as a sketchbook with an anonymous black cover, creating an intimate look into a hidden world; like a discovered journal. The journal is self-published as a limited edition of 150 copies, signed and authenticated by the creator, as if the sketchbook itself is being passed directly to the reader.
This is a visual approach to explore the range and interests of the illustrator, exploring a unique narrative that transports the reader out of the space of art and into a world of storytelling. It crosses boundaries in this way with a new lens for creative adaptation.
The Resurrection Lands is creating a different aesthetic on the convention of the graphic novel, discarding shiny, slick visuals to embrace the origins in the sketchbook and offer an insight into the creator’s processes. It enjoys a playful approach to drawing and storytelling at its core.
The first volume was released on April 2015, selling out within the first two days at the Middle East Film and Comic Con. A second edition has been printed to meet demand and coincide with the launch of Volume Two in April 2016. The series is set as a trilogy.
The publication is designed with anonymity in mind, especially on the shelf. Black buckram with the title embossed on the front cover. It is designed to be concealed. This is to reflect the narrative setting, so the book itself is allocated a kind of ‘no man’s land’ on the shelf. Its tactility is a key component of the experience of the book, requiring the reader to physically interact and explore the journal-style treatment. The Resurrection Lands is a homage to the sketchbook. A personal insight from the artist and author to the reader.
Damon started drawing spaceships when he was very small, and nothing much has changed since. Except now society insists he does things he doesn’t really like very much, such as graphic design, so that he can pay the bills.
Motivated less from a love of drawing than a desire to tell stories, his work has shifted over the years from cartoon strips to writing to short film and then back to comics again. Throughout this time, he has remained fascinated by exploring the ideas that science throws up for our species, so most of his stories involve astronauts being tossed into wringers and then tortured for a bit.
Comic storytelling has remained a huge influence on him, particularly since its flowering during the last decade. But while science fiction novels have busied themselves exploring the dizzying territory of science and its ramifications, Damon’s perception that comics remained more focused on the fantastical spectacle of the genre motivated him to try to fill the gap with his own hard-science take on what the future looks like.
Largely inspired by the short black and white sci-fi comics of the seventies, his work reflects this in its scratchy, inky style, and his palette, while more modern, features complementary muted and distressed tones. Today he is as much focused on finding and improving his drawing style as he is on making sure each panel clearly communicates the exact emotions and notes necessary to articulate the story he is writing. In that sense, he feels his work has taken on a much more graphic, communicative role, rather than one that is focused purely on aesthetics.
He now works nearly entirely on computer – penciling, inking and colouring with a Cintiq in Manga Studio and Photoshop, and he has even begun reading digitally, though he admits to still loving the weight of a newly printed comic in his hands. Coming up with ideas is still done IRL (In Real Life), and usually involves long showers and walks in the park.
Recently, in an attempt to find additional sticks to beat himself with, he co-founded the New Zealand comic anthology Faction, and then Earth’s End, a graphic novel publishing house. Since then, he has also launched High Water, a group that seeks to encourage creatives to produce climate-change-related art. This led to the publishing of a hardback collection of comics focused on climate change, also called High Water, which featured the work of Dylan Horrocks, Christian Pearce, Sarah Laing and Tim Gibson, among other comic luminaries.
Damon likes to dream of a society that values artists more than bankers, and a future where there are spaceships on the way to Mars and bases on the moon. So, pretty standard stuff really.
Cory Mathis was born in the small mining town of Waihi, New Zealand. His condition didn’t become apparent until the age of four, when he developed the first signs of Dino-neuro-cosis (a mental disease strangely prevalent in the small island nation of New Zealand, where the sufferer becomes compelled to draw and talk endlessly about dinosaurs).
Thinking at first that he would grow out of it when he entered his teenage years, as many similarly afflicted children do, the problem was allowed to persist. The sickness, however, only intensified as he grew older.
At a loss for a cure, his parents invested a small fortune in psychological intervention, rehabilitation and other experimental procedures, to no avail. Finally, their options all but exhausted, Cory was sent away for art training.
This outlet, though helping him channel his unnatural passion, eventuated in what later became known to historians as ‘The D13 Event’. Although no lives were lost, witnesses are still recovering from the traumatic events of that day. Cory’s last known location was the city of Wellington, but after escaping from a local dinosaur rehab clinic his whereabouts are currently unknown.
Saurian Era started as a short animation project I finished and entered into the 2008 Hamburg Animation Awards. Frustrated with the amount of time and resources it took to produce animation, I found myself turning to comics and haven’t looked back since.
The world of Saurian Era would best be described as a dystopian fantasy adventure with dinosaurs in it. It’s tethered to science and fact but adorned with fantastical elements, including dinosaur deities, enchanted and overly large weapons, a magical substance called Era and a group of Raptors who just might turn out to be a whole lot cleverer than anyone first realized.
I often joke that drawing comics pays only enough money to buy beer with. Unfortunately, it’s one of those true-life-story jokes—there really is very little money in writing or drawing independent comics like ‘Moth City’. However, they do sometimes lead to commercial work, which is another great reason for us creatives to keep pushing our own projects amongst the hassles and obligations of careers and life.
The two images above came about as a result of my experiments in comics and live in a similar art-zone: flat colours, inky blacks and a mix of loose but careful brushwork. This style is miles away from my painterly origins and quick digital character designs I did alongside many peers in this book.
It didn’t feel natural for a long time, this artistic reinvention, but I feel like I am slowly but surely edging towards my own style. Only about 10 years too late, eh Tim?
The idea of illustration ‘style’ is much prized in the land of commercial art, as opposed to the concept art used in movies and games. Obviously anybody who creates makes something uniquely them, but the entire purpose of concept art is to get across the ideas in the illustrator’s head—the actual design and all the thought behind it. Film Directors and Art Directors are trained to look past the use of pretty lighting and stylistic techniques to see the intent behind the work, to see the actual ideas.
Now that I find myself living more in the world of commercial illustration, I hear a lot more style-based language, ‘That’s too painterly. Too comics. Too hipster’.
It can, I’m sure you can tell, be a bit painful to hear, this illustrator-as-commodity approach. But working for commercial clients is a bit like trying to sell them a painting for their living room. Sure, they might like your Gauguinesque approach to colour and shape, but if it doesn’t fit their existing modernist furnishings (that is, their brand) then they won’t buy it.
In that world, picking a commercial illustrator is often less about the ideas of that artist and more about the style that they choose to work in. Which is possibly why comics and beer are such good bedfellows, and I’m lucky to take a strong interest in purchasing both.
I don’t have as much time to be making comics anymore, but making art for breweries at least pays me enough that I can buy both beer and comics again. I’ll call that a win.
These are covers for comic funny books. I spend most of my time drawing the interiors of funny books, but these are the bits that go on the outside. I’ve got to fill in some space here, so how about I bore you with the process? Here we go ...
These all start with me being sent a script, although some were done from a vague plot synopsis. I’ll read whatever I’m sent and let it sit in my head for a few days, thinking of imagery. Then a couple of days before it’s due, I’ll say to myself, ‘Oh hey, you gotta get that cover done! Quick! Do some design sketches’. So I’ll do a few of those, sometimes only three or four but anywhere up to 10 sketches, and they get sent to the editor and writers.
We all agree on which sketch everybody prefers, and then I’ll take that sketch and blow it up to a useable size so I can start drawing over the top of it. I do all my penciling digitally these days on a Cintiq.
When that’s done, I print the image in very light blue on some paper (called ivory board—sounds a lot fancier than it is), ink over the top of that with black fibre-tip pens, and white out. Then it’s scanned and uploaded to the publisher with whatever colouring notes I have.
All of these have been coloured by the great Dave Stewart. I’m always thinking of colour when I plan these. Sometimes it’s very specific, sometimes it’s just ‘Maybe this should be all green or red, or something’. Every once in a while, I’ll send Dave a small colour sketch to let him know what I’m thinking. But he’s a brilliant artist and he always exceeds any expectations I might have. He has a way of making colours work together in a way that elevates whatever scribbles I send him.
A lot of the time, the first idea I have for the cover is the one that goes to print. It’s always worth trying to come up with something better. But I think there’s something about the first idea that just works, maybe that’s the most honest instinctive idea. I don’t know. Probably something like that. I’m just trying to fill out space here.
Sometimes I’ve had a really good idea that I was really excited about turn out to be a bad cover. Other times, some half-baked idea that I didn’t think much of will turn out great. Either way, I usually have only a day or two to get these done and I can’t afford to be too precious about them. I like that side of it, you just bang it out and sometimes you are proud of the result and sometimes you are really embarrassed by it. Really embarrassed, for the rest of your life.
It’s all learning though, and hopefully it all contributes to making you a bit better. Or something. I have no idea. Again, the point here is space. Getting a nice text to image ratio, so as you flick through this in the bookshop it looks like it’s full of useful information and interesting, well-articulated musings on the creative process. So you buy it, but then you get home or it arrives in the mail and you read it and find out it’s just this nonsense. Joke’s on you, pal. No refunds.
Mythology is absolutely necessary for our happiness. It’s been used for centuries as a way for human beings to make sense of this world, and can offer a framework by which individuals can live their lives to a certain moral code—and ultimately, in peace.
Superheroes are a big deal today. When I grew up, superheroes were a huge deal. I realize now that I lived by those mythologies, and they kept me on track in my life. It’s not historical fact that we often need but fantastical metaphor. The desire to find an exciting and believable modern myth led me to create GIANTS.
‘Playing god’ is my main theme in GIANTS. One of the main characters plays god by controlling people by force, another plays god by setting people free. But there’s another force to deal with in this story: God itself. This ‘god’ is my representation of an element that is bigger than us, one that we cannot and should not understand but – like a natural disaster – one we must simply endure the effect of. It’s not something we can fight and win, the best we can do is escape its wrath. This highlights how much we don’t actually know, and cannot know—raising further questions about what might be in store for us once this life has run it’s course. How exciting!
In my visual storytelling, occasionally I’ll have a big wide establishing shot or dramatic background shot. But just as my characters dictate their own environment, they also dictate the nature of my compositions. Characters who have the strength to change the tone of their surroundings are those who are also well worth telling a story about.
I believe in finding the look of my characters through artistic exploration on the page. The script describes the actions of a character, and also puts forth a ‘feel’. How should we feel when we see that character? This feeling is a core piece of information, because as I work through various ideas for shapes and forms of the new design, I’m attempting to really feel the spirit of that character. Once I do, then I have the design. But until I do, the process must continue.
As the characters build, and the dynamics between them become richer, the world in which they exist begins to truly come alive. If it’s real to me then it can be real to my readers. If I’m inspired by it day to day, then perhaps the story offers a useful metaphor—and if for me, then why not for others?
Creating new, engaging and worthwhile mythology is a massive challenge. Our lives deserve challenge, and we need our mountains to climb so I aim, in my work, to inspire readers to have the courage to climb their own personal mountains and manage their expectations of the journey. We are not perfect. My characters are far from perfect, and it’s often the flaws in our characters (both in fiction and in reality) that put us in the most difficult situations, presenting us with our biggest challenges in the form of crisis. Crisis forces us to face real danger, but it also represents opportunity – by giving us no choice but to take action – and it’s that very action that we take at crisis points that ultimately defines us and builds each of our characters. This is true of our lives, and true of the characters I attempt to write.
GIANTS is a story about us. Our lives, losses, victories and reflections when faced with a crisis of truly epic proportion, wrapped in a fantastical metaphor of words and pictures. Myth-making is a centuries-old tradition that I’m proud to have a part in maintaining. It’s also a lot of fun—you should try it!
When I was eight years old, I thought that being an artist meant hanging paintings on white gallery walls and wearing berets. I loved cartoons, I loved my storybooks, but somehow I hadn’t been able to link the fact that what I enjoyed could also be something that could become my profession. So I began looking for other vocational solutions.
In high school, I was convinced that a career in math might be my calling. Naturally, I was about as skilled with numbers as a Tyrannosaurus is with a pianoforte, but I was sure that this job would be the one for me. I pursued my dream with vigour and found, around two classes into my third form year, that I’d made the worst decision in the world. The best thing I could do in my math class was to turn the algebra signs into interesting little characters and catalogue the story of their little numerical lives. My teacher, although somewhat tickled by the idea, found the ‘Quadraticools’ a bit too difficult to grade and thus, once again, my future was uncertain.
I trained as a chef, I worked as a sales manager and as a barista. I tended bar, I taught design, I helped bring characters to life on film, I animated, I toured, I wrote, I planned, I studied. And I tried so many different jobs, I felt that, after a while, I was turning into a Forrest Gump quote. My career life was like a box of chocolates; most of my jobs I enjoyed, but none had the sticky, gooey centre of self-fulfillment that I craved.
Then I was asked a simple question by a good friend, ‘If money wasn’t an object, what would you be doing?’. Almost instantly, I answered, ‘Making comics. Not for money, not for a business, but for me. Telling stories, building worlds, that’s what I want to do’. My friend gave me a knowing look, and I found that my insecurities, my fears and my hesitation were slowly rolling away. It didn’t mean that things would be easy, it didn’t mean that I wouldn’t have struggles. It just meant that I had, without using Google, without thinking, without comparing myself to any poll, story or article, decided from my gut that I knew what was best for me.
Nowadays I sit at home, one cat on the chair, one on the windowsill, coffee in my hand, polar-fleece blanket on my legs. I spend the morning googling references and doing warm-up doodles before I set in a day’s worth of drawing, painting, taking absolutely ridiculous reference photos (yes, I can be a 10-foot-tall bearded tax collector with long golden locks, a peg leg and three eyes. Sure. No problem). And I’m happy, because I know this is what I want to do.
Also, my Math teacher said that I was very ‘enthusiastic’ but not often on the same planet as everyone else.
My high school art teacher found me drawing in the corner of a corridor during break one day. She said, looking down on me, ‘Don’t you think you’re a little too old to be drawing fairies?’.
When I was very young, my older siblings and I used to play ‘jobs’. My brothers crafted cut-out paper money we could trade for our grown-up services. I remember my brothers showing up to see what occupation I had chosen; me, furiously scribbling away, my little desk covered in felt tips and papers. One brother informed me that ‘selling drawings is not a real job’. The other, to my delight, handed me a paper note and requested a picture of a cat.
I grew to be your stereotypical nerd, tripping over gangly limbs and pasting Garfield comics in my notebook. In intermediate school, I made the classroom my office during lunch breaks, and awkwardly sold cartoon portraits for 50c. Hitting high school and shaking off a little awkwardness, I started my first real business. I dressed up as a fairy princess, painted faces and sold fairy paintings at markets and birthday parties.
My first real introduction to fantasy was when my friend Jozephine Parker dragged me to a movie I had zero interest in seeing. As a pre-teen, if a film was not Disney, DreamWorks or Pixar, It was not worth my time. We saw The Lord of the Rings and everything changed. I knew where I was going. I spent the following four years increasing my nerd factor by pasting pictures of LOTRs characters on my walls and sketching armour, weapons and elves in silk dresses.
At 17, I moved to Wellington to pursue my dream of working at Weta Workshop. The Hobbit was already in pre-production and I hoped for complications in the production so that it would be postponed until I got my foot in the door. Would you believe my luck? I started work on The Hobbit in costume and props in 2010.
At 22, I got my first real design job. I designed characters for a children’s television show about princesses, fairies and unicorns. I was ecstatic. I will never get sick of drawing flowers and sparkles, and there was a year’s worth of flowers and sparkles. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to design for Toybox, Pukeko Pictures and Nickelodeon.
Sometimes I still feel like my four-year-old self playing ‘jobs’, with my desk crammed in the hallway exchanging paper money. As a mature adult, I now draw pictures from the corner of my living room, laughing to myself about the fact that the team at Nickelodeon will never know their designs were coming from a girl in New Zealand, working in her pajamas and singing along to The Lion King.
I am 25 years old and I’m proud to have very recently drawn a fairy.
T-Wei is an artist living and working from under his rock in Wellington, New Zealand. With dreams of one day joining the glamorous world of comics. T-Wei began studying the human form in high school. Although that dream has since been abandoned, the stylistic tendencies toward careful lineweight-driven artwork has remained.
Since then, his focus has jumped between animation, concept art, illustration and – as of late – has found its home in pop surrealism. This has allowed T-Wei to situate himself between industries, with fingers in anything from concept/production art for games and music videos to large scale paintings and murals.
Now his work has taken a more narrative approach, his themes jump between the considered and the pointless, and often can be described as a conscious mistranslation of the world of figurative visual communication.
T-Wei pulls established techniques from animation, comics and mass production and twists them until they once again feel unfamiliar. Or, as described in a recent article, the drawings of a bitter old man of the illustration world, whose work is as much a reaction to it as it is a contribution to contemporary illustration. Though with much kinder wording.
These days working as a freelance illustrator, T-Wei primarily works on commercial illustration during the day, and on his personal work in lieu of sleep. Clients and publications include the likes of Reebok, Hi-fructose, Juxtapoz and the MARCO museum in Monterrey via Pictoplasma.
Asking me to write about myself for this book is like some sort of cruel and unusual punishment. I have no choice, if I want to have my artwork printed here for you to pass judgment on, so I’ll do my best to write an honest account of myself and my artwork right from the bottom of my beautiful and generous heart. Here goes …
Once upon a time, beneath the light of the full and glorious moon, a baby was delivered via a flock of shining sparkly disco eagles to the doorstep of a family in Nelson. The parents, realizing that this baby was probably better than watching ‘Coronation Street’, took her in and raised her as their own.
From a young age, Anna was different. Instead of painting nails and playing Barbies, Anna preferred drawing by herself and falling in love with the handsome male characters she made up. One day, 6-year-old Anna drew a Simba so amazing she decided she wanted to become an animator. Unfortunately, looking back, that Simba looked like a crayon turd with legs, and she was terrible at animating because it took too long.
So Anna just kept drawing.
Every day after school, she would run home in time to turn on the TV and watch ‘Pokémon’ and ‘Dragonball Z’, and tape ‘Digimon’ on the other channel to watch later. This ritual helped her to develop an appreciation for powering up her skills, being the very best like no one ever was, and journeying to the digital world. While the other kids in art class were painting flowers and landscapes, Anna was drawing her own Digimon partners, designing as many characters as she could dream up … and also future Trunks with his shirt off.
Eventually, she left New Zealand and travelled to Japan on the back of a flying unicorn to do her last year of high school at an all-girls school in Osaka. The Japanese culture turned her into even more of a weirdo and influenced her art in mysterious ways. She lived in a temple dorm for most of the year, across the road from her high school, and still managed to be proudly late every day.
After returning to New Zealand once again and working in the fast food industry, she moved to Wellington to study at Massey. This was a terrible idea. After failing miserably at writing essays, she began working in retail. Anna sold iPods at a tech store, then movie tickets at a derelict cinema—all the time drawing copious amounts of oddness on the back of ticket receipts and movie timetables.
After applying for all manner of creative jobs and facing rejection after rejection, she started selling her artwork online and through some form of blessing from the puppy gods of Valhalla, people kept asking for more.
Now Anna is lucky enough to work in a shared studio in Wellington, where she sells her pretty artworks to innocent people around the world, as well as working for clients on branding and commercial projects to pay the bills. And she does all this while surviving on a diet of noodles, muesli, unicorn bacon and coffee.
She dreams of returning to the unicorn farm on the moon one day, to help farm them for chocolate milk and make candy floss from their manes and live happily ever after with a view of the earth in the distance ...
My work is always evolving. Not just in style, but in subject matter, genre and the media in which I work. So for me, the creative process is often one that includes a measure of journey. I enjoy working in many creative spaces and playing with mediums and techniques, affording me great breadth in my working practice, which ultimately makes for an exciting migration through experiences and disciplines.
Inspirations are constantly changing too, evolving, swapping and then re-evolving into a mixture of renewed interests and passions. For instance, my recent travels to Berlin to exhibit as part of the Pictoplasma International Festival of Contemporary Character Art and Design sparked a renewed interest in character-centric narrative, combined with one of my perennial interests for pre-Renaissance religious painting and iconography.
The physical journey to Berlin carried me from London through Western Europe, through its many enchanting museums and galleries, castles and historical sites, which are inspiring and captivating.
From this spark of enthusiasm, I found myself drawn to the idea of representing pop surrealism through wonderful and imagined characters, revered as icons of a contemporary world, drawn not only from the completely imaginary but also from our anthropological past and the natural world around us.
My latest work, produced for the Pictoplasma show in Berlin and presented here, reflects this renewed interest in the icons of religious art mixed with contemporary character design. Exploring religious iconography through artifact and painting, the work uses my own imagined creatures arranged in reverence to ask questions about romanticised characters in our own metaphysical world and how doctrine can be established through the presentation of objects and images held in veneration.
Both ‘The Reliquary of the Sacred Heart’ and the ‘Resurrection of the Sacred Heart’ make those ideals into account. The reliquary is venerated as an object even before considering the meanings of the characters and symbolisms held within its form.
It is an object dedicated to creativity, the process by which we all, as creative people, adhere—an ideal that our passion for imaginative expression is one above everything else, the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing at night. Our creativity and affection for imaginative wonder becomes our religion.
Fanciful creative play allows us to explore the imagining of worlds that are impossible, unattainable or unattached from the confines of this corporeal world. If fantasy is extraordinary, other worldly, then imagination is the sacred key that unlocks the door to these wonderful worlds.
My name is Peter Kelk and I work from a studio space in Melbourne, Australia, under the pseudonym Seymour. The name Seymour came about from early in my career, when I was working as a graphic designer. I felt that I needed a distinction between my work as a designer and my passion, which was developing my personal work. I create mainly sculpture and print works.
My inspiration comes from the broadest of influences. I come from a long line of collectors and hobbyists, and I inherited the gene. These collections have always played a huge part in the idea and inspiration process of creating my own work. My studio walls are shelves that start at the ground and almost reach the ceiling, filled with toys, vintage collectibles, books and the odd pieces of taxidermy.
The colour palette and imagination of the Japanese art toys Kaiju have been inspiring when creating my sculptural pieces, as have the visuals that result when east meets west culturally in film and print. The themes that run throughout my work is what makes the pieces stylistically recognisable, but I like to push each new collection a little further, exploring different detail, colour palettes, processes and applications.
Alongside my artwork, I have always worked to promote the pop surrealism, low-brow genre and artists. I have worked for both Strychnin Gallery in Berlin and currently Outre Gallery in Melbourne, which are considered leaders in the industry for the low-brow art scene. My roles within the galleries have been an important part of my own work. The exchanging of information, ideas and skills have contributed to my own work. Promoting talent and creating a presence within the genre has always driven me, and the skills I use in my own business are transferable in helping to push the work of others.
Comic Con and Designer Con are also a big part of the wider community where the type of work I produce finds its place. There are artists from all over the world in little niches, communicating and following each other’s work, and seeing them all represented in one big space is very inspiring.
Well, would you look at that, some more pictures! Gosh, we’ve seen a lot of things today, haven’t we? Maybe it’s about time you give your poor eyeballs a rest from the visual extravaganza that is ‘ART’ and have a skim of some utterly incompetent drivel I’ve put here to seem like a well-rounded human being.
Well, maybe not so much well-rounded as squarish and elbow-like. After all, I’m only halfway decent at drawing goofy characters on blank backgrounds. Hopefully, the drawings themselves are interesting enough for you to forgive me for this meandering introductory paragraph.
So, I like to draw, but I draw all day at my job! And while that is super great fun a lot of the time, it’s nice to draw something for yourself. That’s what you see here, it’s more the leftover creative ooze that didn’t get used up at work. As a result, I don’t know if there is too much purpose or deliberate thought behind any of this. But I have a lot of fun doing it! Half of the images here started as drawings in my sketchbook from one of the regular sketch groups that meet up at local bars in Wellington. It’s a great way to recharge your creative batteries: hanging out with other artists and not taking yourself or your art too seriously.
Characters! Yip, I really like to draw characters. For me, picking any archetype and putting your own signature on it is plenty to have fun with. If you have that base to fall back on and know whoever is looking is going to have a vague association with what you’ve drawn, it strangely leaves you free to add some less familiar elements. Eventually, the character can start to speak for themselves and a whole new culture pops into your head, then there’s plenty to go off for the next character!
Sometimes I like to think in terms of gangs. It’s a great premise for character design exploration. Naturally, you want to make each character unique, while keeping the group part of one identity. This is something I’ve started applying to my ‘tea wars’ characters. I’m really early on in the process but it’s a lot of fun to think about a world obsessed by tea, and I don’t even drink it!
There is a real freedom in being able to draw what’s in your head. It made going through high school a lot easier. In those days, anime was an accessible source of sci-fi and fantasy concepts, with enough drama and humor to appeal to my teenage sensibilities. Anime was also a window into Japanese culture and eastern religious values, which was a relief from daytime television. My friends and I used to treat being anime artists a bit like a sport. We would draw in big groups after school while we watched our favourite shows. Those were the best days of my youth.
I was born in Hawaii, moved to New Zealand when I was 14, and have been here ever since. I have no singular cultural background, which has left my aesthetic an eclectic urban mix. Though I’ve always been a bit shy of how saccharine my style is, so long as I was good at it, my family were happy to accept my art as a professional venture.
I take drawing anime very seriously, which has convinced a number of people in the anime fandom to think what I do is ‘authentic’ enough to pass as the real thing. But what is anime anyway? Do you care? I liked the ‘big eyes, small mouth’ definition. I think of it as Japan’s take on illustration. The name ‘anime’ is just short for ‘animation’. If you ask me, a better question is ‘What do you use anime for?’. I would say it’s a style built around making art with maximum appeal with minimal effort.
I’ve drawn something new just about every day since I was about seven years old, which I think is responsible for any talent I was perceived as having. I also have an extensive library that I used to learn the technical end of how to draw and write, and I love doing online tutorials through YouTube and Deviantart.
The hardest part of being an artist for me hasn’t been the learning to draw, but the balance of that with the rest of life. Working professionally as an artist is sedentary, hard on the back and stressful when work runs thin or I’m struggling with a deadline. The marketing you have to do for yourself as an independent artist blind-sided me, but I get better at managing the business side with help from family, friends and lots of practice.
I work with my husband from home, doing all sorts of creative projects. Most of my inspiration comes from my love of designing new characters for short comic stories. Our current projects are the fourth instalment of our dating-sim and point and click adventure Puppy Love, and a fantasy adventure graphic novel called Galleon.
It’s my goal to encourage everyone to draw to their heart’s content. It’s a great outlet for self-expression and a fantastic tool to help understand the worlds inside your head. There are lots of tools to experiment with and I recommend trying them all. I use Photoshop CS2, Paint Tool SAI, and a Cintiq when I work professionally, but I also keep a rolling suitcase of traditional materials including watercolours, colour pencils, graphic markers, and chalk when I’m out and about doing art dates with friends.
Nowadays, drawing anime is my best skill. There is a big demand for the style, so work isn’t hard to come by, but the real goal for me is to keep using it to make friends.
I think I’ve spent more hours thinking about what to write for this book than I’ve spent drawing the pictures presented here.
Well, I’m super stoked to be a part of this third instalment, and who would have thunk that the animal people I drew would be appearing on these pages again! Not fully sure what to say here as I have introduced myself in the first book, then shed some light on the characters I’ve been drawing all these years in the second.
I asked a mate if he had read my previous texts for his thoughts, but nah. He said he just looked at the sweet pictures. With that, the pressure to write something amazing was lifted and I said thanks with a link: http://office11.co.nz/cms/images/IMG_0069.JPG.
Ohh, I could mention what future things I want to illustrate on this unnamed planet. More characters interacting with each other, like Stu dining out with other interesting folk, and with Darryl who drives the black ute. Uncommon encounters with Schroder and Ascari who take on an array of enemies, like an alligator commander. Could also be something more simple, like a two-faced Siamese cat portrait, or some rad sci-fi wolf doing something choice!
Will just have to see what I start on next :0
‘Good Burrowing!’ Wosel yelled once more to the bustling traders of the Earth Faerie market, though, as always, nobody seemed to notice her. They were all much too busy with the habitual hysteria of packing up their stalls before evening. It did not help, she supposed, that ‘Good Burrowing’ was the traditional ‘Goodbye’ among Earth folk, and though she was genuinely promoting her service as a burrower of skill, she looked more like a fool farewelling those who were hastily leaving.
The traders were well adapted to speedy departures, hauling their assorted wares in great packs that functioned as portable stalls. This allowed them to trade freely among their fellow Earth folk at market, as well as affording a convenient means to transport their cargo to and from their burrows.
Wosel watched as the last of the vendors rolled up their woven garments of dried roots and flaxen leaves and bundled up the nuts, berries and seeds they had come to trade. Clay pots and wicker baskets filled with brews and herbs dangled from their packs as they scurried away home.
Travelling to and from the market was a risky business, but a crucial part of life for any of the smaller sorts of Earth Faerie. By exchanging items they had in abundance for things they found harder to come by, they could spend less time above ground foraging, and more time below it in the safety of their burrows. They had been forced to adapt to a world that was growing ever more hostile, for they were not the only type of Faerie who lived in the Gloaming.
One frantic trader was so involved in the adjustment of the straps on his heavily laden pack as he hurried away, that he ran right into the back of Wosel.
‘You’d best get a move on, Woodwose!’ he said, checking he had not lost anything from his stall in the collision.
‘No time to be standing around. There’s only so much daylight left, and those Air folk don’t muck about if they catch you after dark!’ He rolled his eyes as Wosel mumbled an apology, then wandered off, singing a song, half to Wosel and half to himself.
Creating dolls is such a part of who I am that I can’t imagine not having them in my life. Articulating what it is I do and why I do it, however, is much harder than the actual making!
It has taken me over twenty years of practice to embrace the term ‘doll’ and to be happy to name myself a ‘doll artist’.
Although dolls are widely regarded as a meaningful and crucial part of our material culture, there is something aloof and dismissive about the way in which dolls and doll makers are sometimes regarded by their artistic peers and contemporaries. The term itself brings up images of little old ladies analysing brush strokes with a critical eye and a disproving demeanor, and dusty old rooms filled with dead plastic eyes. The word of art doll artists, which I associate myself with, is much more vibrant and diverse. I find just showing a few photos of my work is enough to convince people that these are not ordinary dolls.
I made my first doll at age 10. Will Scarlet from Robin Hood. My bug-eyed, jaundiced creation was then followed by a steady stream of characters inspired by The Lord of the Rings and Dragonlance. Fast-forward to 2015 and although my work is still inspired by fantasy, I see my work aligned more with low-brow and pop-surrealist influences than high fantasy. Some influences from the fantasy world, however, still remain.
My dolls enable me to create new entities and personas, to be a world builder. As a child, it meant that any thought or fantasy I could dream up could become a tangible reality, and I was restricted only by my own ability. Characters gestate in my mind and I have a constant need to get the ideas out into their physical form; an expression of my own imagination influenced by environmental, social and political narratives that provide for a rich storytelling experience. Each doll is a small piece of me.
The most important attribute I feel within my work is achieving character believability, through their physicality, expression, attention to scale and proportion, texture and tone. I believe that there is a ‘golden section’ or a hierarchy of rules that determines good doll design. Like good architecture and design, there are attributes which, when addressed in correct proportion and composition, create the believable being. The expression in the eyes; the size of the head in comparison to the limbs, each decision plays a valuable role in the development of the whole. This meaningful being is a timeless creation with its own world, purpose and ambition. For me to achieve success in my work, a piece needs to speak to me, and continue to express long after my pleasure in its creation has waned. It is this challenge that I am sure most artists encounter in their work, through self-critique and iterative advancement. For me, it is this driving force that keeps me creating new work.
Tanya Marriott is a Senior Lecturer in Design at the College of Creative Arts, Massey University, and the President of the National Institute of American Doll Artists. She has been making dolls for over 20 years, inspired by the world around her and, predominantly, her obsession with birds and war.
Adapted from an old family recipe for ‘Stress & Over-complicating Things’
3 young children (any combination is good but I like 4-year-matured son with twins (no fresher than 18 months).
Full-time work in front of a computer.
Begin early in the morning. Apply 4-year-olds’ (4YO) finger to face repeatedly until body wakes up with a start. (This is important: a slow relaxed start may spoil the recipe.)
Sift out any exercise and put aside. You won’t be needing it.
While Wife prepares 4YO, mix clothing and apply to various sets of limbs. Order is not important as long as self and twins can move independently. Set aside while preparing breakfast. Apply breakfast to face-holes while providing quality entertainment. Own brekkie is optional.
Take freshly prepared 4YO and insert into car, by force if necessary. Extract 4YO from car, by force if necessary. Place into Kindergarten for six hours or until golden brown and muddy.
Bring self to work and apply self creatively and vigorously for 10 hours, stirring brain the whole time. Pour in whole bottle of Energy Drink. (This does nothing, but separates the phlegm nicely.) Ensure workplace has a side of succulently talented individuals to keep you on your toes. Add chocolate and empty carbohydrates to taste.
Return body from work. Brain may need to stay in a little longer until completely cooked through. Soften with children’s hugs. Stuff mouth with lovely dinner [mod. by ‘editor’]. Rinse children and place in bed to simmer until 1am 3am morning.
Apply liberal amounts of procrastination (nothing ever got cleaner than before starting a project). Begin by tidying workshop. Swear to self that the next project will be done cleanly, and tools will go away each night. Leave tools to sit for another night.
When first layer of procrastination is hard, browse through inspiration scrapbook. The longer you look, the thicker the Block will be (substitute with interwebs—there’s nothing like a 14-year-old artist with the talent of Michelangelo to bring things to a boil). Remove from heat when Block is solid and feeling like there are no ideas left unclaimed in the world. Sit and stew.
Combine BASE and TOPPING & there you have it: a tough indigestible Block that you’ll never get through. Enjoy!*
To clean up Block, just start. Start anywhere. Start with no destination in mind. And always be prepared to start again. In most cases, this will clean up all undigested traces.
*If all else fails, season with bacon (because everything’s better with bacon).
As a temporary blob of atoms still inhabiting planet earth as a human, I find myself making things up for a living, as if they were real. I do this a lot, as well. Where the hell does this get me, you ask? Well, in the entertainment industry, of course! A perfect place for eccentric young men and women to spend their time consumed with worlds that don’t really exist. Or that exist only in the memories of other human beings and how they see fit to portray that reality. This is what I find myself doing on a daily basis.
I like to ask ‘What if?’ a lot, and I feel it leads to a lot of important revelations. Often, the question of ‘How?’ gets answered along the way. Most of the work I do for myself follows from that ‘What if?’ question. And all of the artists who inspire me (many of whom are featured in these books) seem to ask that same question, too.
Oh! Hello there, I didn’t see you! Come in! Have a seat and I’ll put the kettle on, let’s talk about ART. No, don’t worry, I won’t begin a thesis on the definition of art. I’ll only talk about what it means to me, and why I’m so thrilled to be involved with White Cloud Worlds again.
I won’t go into my life’s story this time, but I will say what drove me to pick up a pencil as a child, and why I keep picking up the pencil or paintbrush or stylus. PASSION. Plain and simple. If I loved something, the best outlet I could think of was to draw it. That was true for cats and horses when I was little, and it’s true now for anything I can imagine but haven’t yet seen manifested.
Lately, I’m finding myself inspired by strong female characters who can hold their own, and also the idea of what the typical hum-drum of daily life looks like for a creature born on a different planet, in a very different stage of evolution.
I’m so proud to contribute to this book because each and every person involved has passion coming out their ears! Okay, you’ve had your tea, now get out. I mean, thanks for stopping by!
I feel very privileged to be in the third volume of White Cloud Worlds. There are truly so many talented artists represented here.
In the 19 years that I have worked as a professional artist, it’s quite interesting to see the way things have technologically evolved, allowing more people to express themselves and have the ability to share their work freely on a global scale. It has opened up new avenues to explore the potential for creatives.
As technology marches forward, I have found myself drawn more and more to the romanticism of simpler times. My greatest inspiration is drawn from 19th century classical sculpture. I still love the technical precision of handling physical matter, pushing mud around with sticks and all the imperfections and happy accidents it brings.
Although these pieces and their inspiration may seem contradictory, the line that connects them is the observance of nature.
Beyond that, I try not say much about the back story or inspiration, hoping each person will have their own interpretation and observations of my work.
What more can I say? I will keep this brief and let my work speak for itself.
I’m not a very good writer. I feel much more comfortable drawing pictures than trying to string together sentences about myself that would be interesting to read.
I found it difficult to know what to write for the previous volume of White Cloud Worlds, so in trying to do this for the second time I find myself spending a lot of time staring blankly at the screen. I’m still freelancing, but now I’m back in Wellington and I just got my Master’s degree. That piece of paper means nothing in terms of getting illustration work, but it means I can teach illustration at uni on top of my freelance work—something that I’ve discovered I really enjoy.
I’ve also noticed that teaching forces me to improve the way I go about doing my own work, since I’d feel hypocritical not practicing what I preach. Seeing some of the amazing work the students do also makes me more motivated to lift my game.
During the last year or so, I’ve been doing a lot of scratchboard illustration. It’s been really nice to have a change from doing digital paintings and to get back to a traditional medium. I’ve always loved the look of old wood engraving illustrations, especially those by Gustave Doré, but I was hesitant to try it myself because I didn’t like the idea of not being able to erase any mistakes (I make a lot of them!).
I realized that scratchboard was a great alternative; you can get a similar aesthetic to wood engraving but still have a little bit of leeway in terms of corrections. Scratchboard is basically a bit of cardboard that is covered with a thin layer of white china clay, which is then coated with ink, so you scratch through the ink to reveal the white clay underneath. If you make a mistake, you can just re-ink and scratch through again (although you can only get away with doing this a couple of times before you end up going through the clay and hitting the board underneath).
The scratchboard illustrations included here are from an adaptation of The Pied Piper of Hamelin that I did for my Master’s degree, looking at children’s horror. The digital piece I just did for fun and I have some ideas to turn it into a series of illustrations. Previously, I always stuck with digital for clients and kept any traditional pieces for my personal work, but now I’ve started doing scratchboard for my freelance work as well. It’s nice to get a break from sitting in front of the computer.
Visual art has long been an integral accompaniment to the popular music album. The genres of hard rock and heavy metal in particular are extremely visual; the fantastic, the surreal and the symbolical lending perfectly to these realms of music. The psychological impact of a powerful album cover can add another dimension to the collection of songs residing within. Far beyond a simple marketing tool, album art has the potential to draw a listener into a heightened experience of the audio journey.
With the technological evolution of digital music formats and abundance of download access, the relevance of the album cover is called into question. Yet, for many musicians and music fans alike, the cover art and physicality of the recording is a crucial aspect of experiencing it and will remain so into the future.
This collection of illustrations were predominantly produced as album cover artwork. Having long been a fan of both heavy metal and fantasy art, it was only a matter of time before the two crossed paths in my own illustration. A strange journey of artistic exploration which began with a pair of oil paintings for Beastwars’ debut album. From the sublime, metaphorical visualisation of overarching themes to the literal depiction of song lyrics, each subsequent project has been a unique artistic endeavour only possible through the collaboration and art direction of the musicians who have engaged me to visualise their worlds.