Interview with Andrew Blackman
“I believe an artist is defined by what he depicts. It should be his own unique vision of the world rather than an attempt to cater to what he thinks the audience might want.”
1. Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! Let’s start out with a bit of general background: tell us a few words about yourself.
Well I’m a digital artist and writer living currently in Barbados. I was born in London England but moved to the tropics when I was eight. I currently work as a freelance illustrator living tucked away in the darkness in front of my computer.
Throne of the Burlesque
I think it will be interesting to our readers to know how it all began. How did you take your first artistic steps to reach where you are today? When did you start doing digital painting? What was the reason of choosing this occupation?
Well let’s see. I got my start as an artist really early with pencils on paper as a child, then ink works focusing on character and fashion design for my stories. I didn’t really think of it as a viable career choice till I landed a job as a graphic artist at a sign company. There I had access to programs like photoshop and illustrator and a whole world was open up to me. From there it was simply inevitable. For me being able to think up anything and then producing it for the world to see is so satisfying that I couldn’t dream of doing anything else.
Feels Like Falling
The evidence of your talent is clear from looking at your portfolio. Where do you get the ideas for such amazing works?
Several sources actually. A lot of my ideas come from me just meditating to some immersive music, anything from classical to metal. Some ideas are standalone paintings that have some message that’s important to me. Others are depictions of characters and situations from the stories I write. I have a pretty long and detailed mythology running in my head from years and years of just thinking stuff up for my own enjoyment. Long time followers of my work will recognize certain characters and long running themes in the progression of my art.
Its hard to say what the true genesis for my ideas is because It’s all so instinctive. Probably a combination of the mood of music and film, and the feelings of my life I’m going through. I try to make my pieces operate on a more primal level than the waking world.
The Red Scarf Rampage
I think it will be interesting to our readers to learn about your work “Threnedy”. Where did you get inspiration to create this artwork? What stage was the most difficult for you? How long did you work on it?
The Threnedy piece was a long time coming. Her character came into being many, many years ago when I had a dream of being in her presence. I remember being very afraid of her. (I really miss those kinds of dreams) and like any entity that emotionally disturbs me, I had to turn her into one of my characters. I’d danced around the prospect of painting her for years but for one reason or another it never happened. This time I guess the stars just aligned or something.
For me it was a very challenging piece and I learned a lot during the course of it. It was important most of all to get across to the viewer the sensual power she exudes. I needed to convey her scariness as well as her potential for emotional depth.
What do you think is the best work you’ve ever produced? Are you a perfectionist? Does it take you long to achieve that final perfect image you are happy with?
Its hard to say. Usually I will always believe my latest piece is my best work while I’m working on it. Only time may disabuse me of that notion. It’s also impossible to predict which of my works will be most popular among viewers. Symphony Insomnium is definitely high on my list simply because it’s obvious how much work and detail I put into it. The perspective and composition were very challenging and I’m extremely proud of how it came out in the end. Another piece called ‘Summer’ was done a few years ago before I considered myself professionally capable, and yet by some miracle it just captured the emotional mood perfectly. To this day I can still show it proudly next to much more recent work. Definitely a fluke. And of course I’d like to consider my latest piece ‘Throne of the Burlesque’ among my very best. ?
I’d definitely consider myself a perfectionist. Sometimes this can make work agonizing because I can never consider a piece finished. With any given work I find myself having to re-upload it several times to several sites because I made some extremely minor insignificant tweak that no one but me will ever notice. I’m extremely obsessive compulsive about that. So I’d say I’m definitely a perfectionist to the point of counter-productivity.
Usually when I’ve finished a piece and left it for a few days, the urge to prefect it subsides and I can make peace with it. It’s not good to over tweak a piece less you lose that rough painterly feel and spontaneity. A lot of the time also it depends on the style of the painting. Obviously a photo realistic piece will require a lot more tweaking than a loose impressionistic one. I’m still striving to master both styles so a lot of my pieces fall somewhere in between to their detriment.
What work do you enjoy more: personal or commercial projects? What kind of work are you doing now?
Well honestly speaking I have so much of my own ideas and concepts to paint that I would say I do enjoy working on my own stuff more. However that’s not to say I don’t enjoy getting a really awesome professional commission to paint. Ironically I pressure myself less when working for clients. That’s not to say I don’t demand the same level of quality from myself with commercial work though. It’s just somehow easier to interpret someone else’s ideas that have more leeway than my own which must evoke the feelings I had when I first conceptualized them.
Actually I believe I have a talent for reading my clients and giving them exactly what they envision. Maybe I’m slightly psychic :p
Right now I’m illustrating a graphic novel entitled ‘Bobby Fisher: The Knight who killed the kings’ A story about the eponymous Robert Fischer written By Xenios Theocharus. You can find out more about it here:
I’m also working on my personal graphic novel series Diskordia both writing and illustrating. Currently I’m working on the third chapter. The previous two can be read here:http://diskordiacomic.blogspot.com/
In between I try to find the time for the odd personal illustration here and there.
And of course I’m always open to additional commissions.
Have you any tricks and your own “know-hows” which you gained with experience during your work? Are there any skills and techniques you’d like to acquire?
Not really, my style of painting is pretty straightforward. I’ve recently started doing my paintings in grayscale first which really helped me to get more interesting levels and tones. As a rule I always try to push the boundaries when it comes to composition. I also like to play around a lot with perspective. I see a lot of really talented artists that don’t do this. I find a plain flat on view to be very boring. It doesn’t necessarily look bad or even make for a less interesting piece. It’s just for some reason I don’t find myself interested in using ordinary perspectives, the exceptions being when that perspective really helps to nail the subject, like with Threnedy for instance. The straight on view really brings out the feeling that she is fierce and powerful (in my opinion at least)
As for skills to acquire; mostly I just want to improve and refine my existing skillset. I have a long way to go as an artist. And there isn’t a single area where I can’t see room for dramatic improvement. As for skills I don’t have I would like to get into photography This will be my stepping stone to one day making my own movie; a faraway dream.
How do you manage to combine your personal life and work? Do you have any hobbies? Is it easy for you to find the time for your family, friends?
Well right now for the most part my main hobby is my work. Creating stuff just comes naturally for me because I’m always daydreaming.
Other hobbies include riding my bike, listening to music, reading, watching movies, playing guitar and video games. Pretty much all of these have taken a backseat to my art though.
My circle of friends is quite small and intimate so finding time for them isn’t hard. I’m pretty much at the beginning of my career as a fulltime freelancer so my workload outside of personal stuff is quite light. I hope for it to get heavier as time progresses because pressure is the best way to improve, well for me anyway.
Jack & Jill
You are a mature, experienced artist. What can you say to inspire those newbies who are just starting to work in CG?
What I’ll say is that there is no magic trick to becoming competent. Like any other discipline it takes years of hard work and lots and lots of passion. That said it’s not like you’ll be working for years without any sense of accomplishment. Every single piece or drawing you do will be an improvement over the last and that sense of accomplishment will drive you to the next piece.
More importantly than that is how you deal with failure. For me failing at something while disappointing will always be my number one motivation to improve. I believe it’s this attitude that’s allowed me to progress at the speed I have.
On a more technical note, the greatest teacher for the visual arts is the visual spectrum itself. Let your eyes bathe in the reality surrounding you. All you have to do is open your eyes to see how lighting (one of the most basic things in painting) works. Devour as much media as you can; photography, film and art to get a grasp of things like composition, colour and how mood affects a piece.
Another piece of advice I’d like to give is that I believe an artist is defined by what he depicts. It should be his own unique vision of the world rather than an attempt to cater to what he thinks the audience might want. Technical skill counts for nothing without personal creativity. You’ll never be better at robotically recording reality than a camera so use that thing that humans have: creativity. (this goes for photographers as well since anyone knows there’s a big difference between someone randomly taking a picture and the work of a professional creative photographer) Of course there’s a place for technical skill alone but that’s not in the field of art.
Thank you for the interview and wish you all the best!
Thank you too; it was great having the opportunity.