This section is meant to create an open dialogue about the meanings and techinques behind my artwork. I will answer select questions sent to me by e-mail in a format that all can take part in and have access to. So, by all means, fire away...

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1. Which art prints are available and what do they cost? From Barrett Frazier

I'm in the process of evaluating which pieces of my art I'd like to make prints of in the near future. I'm looking for input from anyone interested as to which pieces you'd most like to have as a print. Firstly, which of the personal pieces do you prefer as they will probably be the first prints made? Secondly, what are your overall favorites, so that I can keep a tally of interest and priority? I'm often surprised at the difference between which pieces of my art are my favorite and which pieces others are really drawn to. The more feedback I receive, hopefully, the more in-demand pieces will be available.

As far as cost goes, I intend to release my pieces in something of a two tiered fashion. There will be large format signed limited editions in a higher price range and small format unlimited edition in a lower one.

2. I was wondering what courses you took to become a concept artist and what will I need to know to become a concept artist myself? From Josh Sacco

Though I believe very strongly in studying the theories, techniques and crafts of visual art, art school has not been my path to where I am.  Being primarily self-taught from a young age, I went to work at a video game company (Oddworld Inhabitants) right out of high school and learned directly from the talented artists around me.  For me, being thrown into a situation that demands high quality creative output on a regular basis is an excellent motivator for improvement and growth.  However, if I had gone to art school, I may have learned many lessons easier than I did in a commercial workplace. Also, I would have been exposed to more artistic styles and connected to a broader network of fellow artists. The environment in which you work has a tremendous influence on the sincerity of your art. Consider carefully the way you've learned your art skills in the past and follow the inspiration.

So long as you have a strong vision and an eye for quality, your path is your own.  I believe that a solid understanding of lighting, color, anatomy and your own personal flair will round you out as a strong concept designer. Most importantly, learning to observe the workings and details of the world around us is at the core of creating convincing imaginary worlds that resonate with believability.

3. Which software programs do you use to create your digital art and how do you work? From Oliver Maqsud

Software & Hardware:

When I originally learned to paint back in my formative years, I painted with acrylics on canvas and board. It wasn't long before I added an airbrush to my list of tools and techniques. Coming from the friscket and stencil method of airbrushing made my transition to a little art program called Photoshop 3.0 a very intuitive move. Since then, I've gradually come to work almost exclusively in Photoshop.

On the technical side of things, I work on a high end PC (worked extensively on Macs as well) on a large LCD display (Apple cinema dislpays are excellent for color, brightness and resolution). As an input, I use a small 6"x8" Wacom tablet.

Artistic Process:

On nearly any piece, I begin with old fashion pencil and paper doing thumbnail drawings of the overall composition. These sketches are rarely much larger than a postage stamp and are helpful to instill a strong sense of gesture and motion from the outset. On complicated designs such as my Owl paintings, I will create a detailed enlarged drawing before moving to the next stage, but most of the time I simply scan the chosen thumbnail to start painting digitally.

In the color comp stage, I divide the drawing into layers of depth (foreground, middleground & background) and assign the layers with the chosen color pallette in progressively darker values towards the foreground. From there, I simply paint with a basic dark to light method of adding lighter colors on top of a dark base. Much as with the thumbnail sketches, I generally keep the color comp dislpayed small on my screen as to keep the paint strokes gestural and to keep from getting caught up in the details.

Once I'm satisfied with the overall composition, color and basic details of the painting, I then move in close to paint the fine detail. This means that the majority of the truly creative process is taken care of before any of the tedious work begins in an effort to prevent large time-consuming changes later on. As I lay in the details, I also bring in scans and photos of organic textures like stone or leaves and overlay them very lightly in order break up any digital artifacts created by the brushes.

Ultimately, this is just an outline of how I approach my illustration work in particular. Sometimes I start paintings directly in the computer, other times I paint them physically before scanning them in to finish them off. Every painting is different and challenging in its own way and there are as many different ways to approach it as there are artists in the world.

All artwork © 2005 Raymond Swanland unless otherwise stated.