Interview with Joshua Otero
“Life is your teacher and you are its pupil, all you need to do is observe”
Hi, Joshua! What was the starting point of your digital painting career? What was your first work and what do you remember about it?
I would like to say it started at the age of 12 with MS Paint on a very old PC. But professionally I’d say about sophomore year of art school where I discovered my knack for painting digitally. I believe it was to remake a book cover from my past. So I chose the children’s book Bunnicula. I remember when making the cover wanting add a bit of humor and made a parody of Twilight.
Why did you choose this occupation? Did you start it as hobby or your aim was to build up a career in this field? Tell us a few words about your art schooling.
As a kid I was always drawing and originally wanted to become an animator. so I started to draw every cartoon style that I have seen on television. Later after getting into comics I started to lean toward the field of comic illustration. I even had some sibling rivalry on who can draw a better comic book character with my older brother. Finally I wanted to become a cg modeler and concept artist, so in art school I took a 3D modeling class for illustrators using Z Brush. I chose this occupation because my interests slowly started to merge as I learned more and more. Attending Ringling College of Art and Design was a fascinating experience. Living and learning among many creative people in one location is very inspiring. I took a few classes that fit my style, such as children’s book illustration, some gesture classes to better improve my interest toward animation.
Let’s get down to your works. Looking through your portfolio I noticed a lot of comic characters. Where do you get the ideas for such amazing artworks?
My ideas come from many different sources. Two of such sources being mass media ( specifically movies and television) and a multitude of artwork from artists in many fields. Creative ideas trigger or inspire other creative ideas. My curiosity of why they are so successful allows me the opportunity to learn from professionals in the industry. By studying their techniques and approaches to creating such masterful works of art, I am able to absorb and amalgamate my knowledge to create my own pieces successfully.
I think it will be interesting for our readers to learn about your work “Dragon Slayer “. Where do you get inspiration and ideas to create this artwork? Please tell us in detail about the process of its creation. What stage was the most difficult for you? How long did you work on it?
With the piece “Dragon Slayer” I got the idea when I was coming up with the imagination/movie genre series that came with it. I was inspired by Calvin and Hobbes visiting another world entirely by imagination. Warner Brothers cartoons idea of transforming or parodying characters from movie genres with iconic characters. Specifically speaking, Dragon Slayer came to mind when I was watching Lord of the Rings. Soon after I started to research medieval lore about dragons, I started to become enthralled by William O’ Conner’s Dragopedia book. I began to do sketches of the background, layout and individual character designs. after nailing down the designs and gestures for the piece I started to digitally paint in grayscale the background and characters on separate layers. Honestly it was a technique that I’ve seen done by many artists before but never made a complete piece using it. So I used it as an advantage to treat it as an oil painting. I’d have to say the difficult portion was in between the finished grayscale and applying the color, which would be using texture overlays. I like to keep things simple, but if I would have kept it as it was with no texture there wouldn’t be any surface information or environmental personality to it. The piece took me about two weeks from planning to finish.
Do you have any works done just for yourself? When you are working on personal projects what type of work do you like to do? Do you have any favourite characters, themes?
When I am not working I like to practice my craft. So when it comes to my personal projects I tend to try my hand at fan art or self-portraits in multiple styles in both comic or cartoon. My favorite characters or themes depends on my mood I’m in. Some days I feel like heavy sketching style for gestural animation style, other times I go for simple shapes to create interesting cartoon characters. Then there is my comic mode where detail is everywhere. My mentor calls this situation “noodling”, just staring in one location and put in so much information in a small space until you start to realize that you are bound by another line that limits the amount of where the detail goes. But as far as characters? In cartoons I will always adore Mike and Leo from ninja turtles. In comic books, I love reading spider-man and batman. As far as themes. I’ve always diving into Superhero and Fantasy themes. But out of all themes I will always have a soft spot for cartoons of any kind.
Are you a perfectionist? How many renders does it take you to achieve that final perfect image you are happy with? Have you any tricks and your own “know-how” in painting, if it’s not secret tell us about them
I become conflicted between being a perfectionist and what I’ve learned in school to sometimes let the image do the work. I know many artists struggle with the idea of perfecting the image without going overboard. I am no exception. Honestly that’s why sometimes I either let things get out of hand and overwork the piece or underwork the piece to the point to where it looks incomplete. It’s an ability I am still trying to master. Sometimes I take my “in progress” work to my fellow artists and see if I should push it further or leave it alone. When making judgement calls on the amount of renders, I try to feel for the amount of realism with the light, shadow and form. Tricks and know-how to me are one of the same. I see it as techniques that are from my teachings in traditional painting. Because I work in acrylic paint the best I tend to be comfortable with applying paint similar to photoshop. Three tricks of Acrylic painting: Layering, Opacity, and Edge Definition. Layers in acrylic allows for the the previous application to be seen and visually mixes colors when seen together for a gradation effect. Bringing me to Opacity. keeping the paint thin and semi opaque allows for blending and mingling of different shades of color to allow for temperature differentiation or mood changes. Edge Definition is important for the illusion of a two dimensional painting to pop as if it were in the third dimension. I see painting as if it almost falls under the subject of sculpting but with paint. By using form with light and color behavior you can almost make even a cartoon pop as if it’s a a cg model screen capture.
What do you feel are your most productive working hours? How do you manage to avoid procrastination and hit deadlines effectively?
My most productive hours tend to fall into the late evenings or really early in the morning lasting until the afternoon. The best way to avoiding procrastination is either isolation with music or creating my environment to suit the subject matter to be immersed. Dangling both the date and the subject over my head. If I know that a project is left undone I have this need to complete it otherwise it’ll be like a hungry dog chewing at my brain. Although I do my best not to fry my brain either. A relaxed brain is a creative one to me.
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
Currently I sketch on my lunch breaks with either a pencil or ballpoint pen at work. Having a wife and friends whom are artists as well, it makes it a bit easier. I also like martial arts and practice and study up on my favorite martial artist Bruce Lee as a hobby. I also try my hand at either Flash or Toon Boom for amateur animation practice. Sometimes I have to make a compromise with family. But with friends it’s like a drawing session or creative time among like minded individuals,( my wife is no exception).
What can you say to inspire those artists who are just starting to work in CG?
As Cliché as it sounds, practice does make your skill to be perfect. Learning only helps to enhance understanding of things. Inspirations are the best way to improve. Mimicry is the best way to learn an approach, but never claim it as your own work. Never stop aiming for your version of perfection. Others may find certain ideas outside the normal thinking but that’s where revolutions in the field reveal themselves. And I will say what my mentor drilled into my head until I graduated. “Draw and paint until your hands bleed.” In other words don’t stop drawing and painting. For artists it’s how we live and breathe, that’s why where ever I go I bring something with me just to stay creative at any time. Life is your teacher and you are it’s pupil, all you need to do is observe.
Thank you for the interview and we wish all the best!