Q1: Before you introduce yourself and the type of work you are in, can you possibly share what we missed out on from your progress in 2011, events, commissions, projects etc?
2011 was an interesting year for me. I started out the year freelancing and I’ve since transitioned into a full-time position doing illustration and graphic design for t-shirts. I got to work on a lot of great projects in 2011 – ranging from creating steam punk characters to designing websites – and show my work in a number of venues, including libraries and street fairs. My favorite project of the year was probably the series of illustrated music videos I did for Italian musician Massimo Ruberti’s concept album Autour de la Lune. The album, and the 20-minute illustrated film we created, are based on an 1870 Jules Verne novel about three astronauts who are shot to the moon in a giant cannon. You can watch it on Vimeo at http://vimeo.com/36031484.
Q2: When did you realize your art was important, that your art was what you wanted to do, did anyone influence you, existing digital or traditional artists?
I’ve always been a storyteller of one sort or another. When I was younger, I thought of myself primarily as a writer – though I was also an incessant doodler. It wasn’t until high school that I realized I could tell a story not just with words, but with pictures. Fortunately, I lucked into a great high school art program with teachers who encouraged me to develop my skills. I started to see art, specifically illustration, as a viable career path, so I made the decision to go for a degree in illustration/design.
My earliest influences were video game concept artists – guys like Sparth, Mark Gibbons, Ted Terranova, and Aaron Kambietz – who work in a combination of digital and traditional media. I’ve since acquired a legion of other, more direct stylistic influences, but it was the game artists who first showed me what a powerful story telling tool a drawing could be.
Q3: Can you explain what your main tools are in creating your art?, and also would you encourage others to update their equipment or master what they have before taking on something new – is the need to update equipment or software programs important in order to producing art?
I use a hybrid of digital and traditional tools. For illustration, my main tools are pens (ballpoint for sketching, brush pens and microns for inking), pencils (HBs and 2Bs, mostly), brushes (for inking), and a scanner, Wacom tablet, and Photoshop (for spot fixes and coloring). I’ll veer into Illustrator and InDesign for graphic design work.
Updating tools is a tricky game. Tools are tools – nothing more, nothing less. You can make an amazing drawing with a pencil and a scrap of notebook paper. You can get a top-of-the-line Mac Pro with a Cintiq tablet and the latest edition of Photoshop and still make an awful drawing. Getting the right tools will never be as important as learning fundamental drawing or painting skills.
That said, some tools are better than others, though often it comes down to a matter of preference. Some people have an intuitive understanding of certain tools but can’t wrap their heads around others. I understand digital painting much better than, say, oil painting, so I gravitate towards digital painting tools. I think the main reason to change or upgrade your tools is if you find something that fits better into your natural workflow – something that allows you to do something you’re already doing, but better.
Basically, go nuts and experiment with everything, find something good, and use it until it breaks.
Q4: Everyone endures a long or short process of learning and adapting, as well as the ability of mixing up styles from existing tutorials. How was your experience of learning your own art? And what would you suggest to others who are trying to learn of their own ‘art’?
I attended a four-year art school, and I’d been taking “serious” art classes for four years before that, so my experience falls decidedly in the academic camp. The way I see it, the most important parts of a visual art education are learning the fundamentals – observation, composition, anatomy, perspective, etc – and making as much stuff as you can. An art school gives you the added benefits of facilities, expert critiques, and a safe environment to experiment – it’s good to be able to fail miserably and completely and not have a job riding on the outcome. But if you can cobble all those things together yourself, through books, online tutorials, and chats with professionals, I don’t see any reason you need an art school. Some people are great at assembling resources and practicing rigorous self-discipline. I’m not, so I went to art school.
And keep in mind, you never stop learning. I’m fairly new the world of commercial art, but I’d be genuinely terrified if I ever stopped learning new things about my craft. There’s always going to be a way to push yourself further, to find new solutions to creative problems, and anyone who’s serious about art should be running down those paths with gusto.
Q5: How would you describe the important elements of creating ‘art’? is it important to create a guide or notes of what to do and what not to do when you begin the long process of creating an art piece?
It depends! I rarely make notes for my own art, but I always jot a few notes for client work. With my own work, the guidelines are firmly there in my head, but with commissioned work I want to make sure I have what the client wants in writing. Things go smoother that way. Other than that, my “notes” are my sketches. A good sketch will make or break a piece. I find the process of working on a drawing is mostly struggling to retain the look and feel of the underlying sketch. I usually make a bunch of thumbnail sketches, and frequently a few comps, before settling on an idea and making the sketch I’ll actually use for the piece. You can tweak nearly anything in a finished piece, but if you have a bad sketch underneath the whole thing is going to fall apart on the page. It’s like building a skyscraper on a sand dune.
So, yes, it’s important to create a guide or notes, but if you’re working in a visual medium, it makes sense for your “guide” to be visual as well.
Q6: It is very common to endure the ‘struggles’ and the ‘weight’ of art around you, what were the struggles that you encountered and how would you suggest to others on how to cope with it?
My biggest struggle is always just sitting down and starting to work. Once I’m in the groove I can work for hours, but taking that first step can be monumental. I love what I do, and I’d do it by default if it weren’t my career, but the pressure of starting an official Piece of Art can be overwhelming. It’s like having a huge boulder on top of a hill – it takes a lot of effort to push it out of place, but once it starts rolling it’ll get down that hill no problem.
I haven’t quite figured out how to overcome this one yet. The best I can do is remember that I can go back and fix the thing later – the first mark on the page doesn’t have to be perfect, or even end up in the final piece. It’s all just raw material for a later process of refinement.
Q7: Besides the current field of work you are in, do you have anything outside that you would like to share with us? Any other future plans that don’t involve creative art?
In addition to illustration and graphic design, I’m still a writer, and I’ve also been known to do voice acting and audio editing. In college, I teamed up with a few friends to write, perform, and edit original radio plays. We made three long-form series, dozens of short sketches, and 80 hour-long sketch/music showcases, all of which you can hear at http://kwurradiotheater.wordpress.com/ or on iTunes. If you like podcasts, you should check it out!
I’m also working on an illustrated steam punk novel, which will be posted online as an ebook at some point. This will be the second version of a project I started way back in 2006. I can’t say much more about it now, but anyone interested should keep an eye on my website for updates.
Q8: A few artists go by a quote or a motto to keep reminding them selves to work hard and think positive if they are to encounter ‘a bad day’. So are there any words you want to share out to others that may inspire them to work hard and continue working. An inspirational quote to motivate others?
I’m not much for quotes, but one of my favorite art-making quotes comes from Kazu Kibuishi, talking about the process of drawing his comic Copper: “Each time I sit down to work on a comic, I feel like I have to teach myself to draw all over again.” I think if you don’t have that feeling when you start to work, even just a little bit, you’re doing it wrong.
Q9: Any predictions of what the future holds for art?
Nothing beyond the obvious. In commercial art, everything is trending away from print and towards digital – this shuts some doors and opens others. Magazine, newspaper, and advertising illustration jobs are going away, but that’s been happening ever since those mediums shifted most of their imagery to photography. For a lot of fields that have traditionally relied on illustration, drawings and cartoons are going to become a minor, quirky alternative that sets a publication or project apart – not a go-to, but a visual technique for when you want something weird and cool.
Going forward, it seems like the major opportunities for commercial artists are going to be in multimedia and fields where you absolutely need a drawing. You’ll still need an actual person making an actual drawing for things like fantasy and sci-fi concept art, storyboards and pre-viz for TV and movies, comics, children’s books and genre book covers, and animation development. A lot of these fields are going to go purely digital as well, though I think there will continue to be a market for specialty print. People like holding a high-quality, physical printed object in their hands, though I expect that’s going to be more of a luxury in the future rather than a default, throw away medium.
And commercial artists are going to need to expand and diversify what they do. This isn’t to say artists won’t carve out specific niches for themselves, but those niches are going to be hybridized. Illustrators are going to be adding graphic design, 3D modeling, animation, and other multimedia skills to their repertoires. As an example, I mentioned earlier that I do t-shirt design these days. This has an illustration component, but it also relies heavily on graphic design skills, and it’s a print medium that can’t be shifted to digital distribution. You’re going to see people who would’ve been traditional 2D print artists in a lot more fields like that, going forward.
Q10: I’m sure you have sites you would like to share with us of your work, so please do share them with us here for fans and followers to keep an update of your progress.
The best place to find my work and get updates on what I’m doing is www.davidbrunellbrutman.com. My video work is on Youtube at www.youtube.com/user/Phaethon0130, and you can also find me on http://phaethon88.deviantart.com/ and http://phaethon.cghub.com/.
Q11: Last year I asked a question regarding ‘art theft’ this year will be no different. Do you have anything you would like to share out regarding ‘art theft’ and maybe also shed some light on what artists should do when exposing their art work on the vast world of the internet.
I have some conflicted opinions about intellectual property rights, but I’ll try to sum up my position as best I can. Obviously, an artist has a right to benefit as fully as possible from his or her labor. Everyone deserves to be compensated, and compensated fairly, for the work they do. It’s important, when entering into an agreement to make art for a client, that the artist ensures he or she is being properly paid, and creates reasonable safeguards to ensure that payment is reasonably rendered. Selling art is no different from selling cars or groceries – there’s a product and the product should be exchanged for money at a market rate. The fact that it’s a custom product that can be complicated to make doesn’t change anything.
That said, copyright as it exists now is fundamentally broken. We have a system that rewards distributors who wring every last dollar out of old ideas, punishes consumers who love creative projects and want easy access, and encourages creators to be miserly with what they inject into the broader cultural discourse. Copyrights last too long, we’re wasting time chasing pirates when we should be focusing on how to fairly compensate creators and allow consumers to purchase things simply and legitimately, and there are precious few legal ways for people to expand on others’ work and create new and exciting things.
The sad truth is, there are people out there who will never pay you for what you make. They may love what you do, but they will never acknowledge that it has monetary value. If you prevent them from stealing, these people will never legitimately purchase your work. They will simply ignore it. And, in all likelihood, anything you do to hobble these misguided folks will make it difficult for normal people to enjoy your work. Fortunately, the normal people are the majority. Again and again, artists online have proven that the majority of consumers are willing to pay for things that are good. You only have to look at projects like Radiohead’s In Rainbows, Jonathan Coulton’s catalog of songs, or Louis C.K.’s Live at the Beacon Theater to see that. Have copies of these projects been stolen by a few unscrupulous individuals? Sure. Have they also generated more revenue for their creators than a comparable, copy-protected projects? Yes, yes, and yes. And I’ll bet you anything a big chunk of the stealers passed the word onto friends who bought the projects legitimately, who in turn told more friends, and so on.
So my advice to visual artists is this. In these crazy internet times, restricting access to your work is about as helpful as throwing yourself down a flight of stairs. Make your work as accessible as possible, get it to the widest audience you can, and don’t sweat a few minor thefts here and there. The people who don’t understand that your work isn’t clip-art will never, ever pay you for it if offered the opportunity to do so, but they can very easily open up an audience for your work. If you find your work has been stolen, kindly inform the offending party of what they’ve done, and ask them to credit you or take the work down. I’d only consider legal action if someone is actively making money off your work, but the costs are likely to outweigh the benefits. If someone hires you to do work, get a contract, get a good rate for your labor, and get the job done right!
Q12: I didn’t get the chance to include this question for 2011, so here it is for you. Everyone has their own opinions regarding the meaning of art, or the definition of art. Any chance we can hear what you think art is from you?
I see art primarily as a form of communication. An artist’s job is to take an idea or an emotion or an argument or a story and convey that information to the viewer. A writer communicates with words, a musician communicates with sound, and a visual artist communicates with images. If an artist has done his or her job right, the audience will be drawn into a conversation with the work, and be able to communicate something back.
I don’t have much patience for artwork that requires external explanation to appreciate. Situating a work of art it in it’s time and place of creation, being familiar with the artist’s broader body of work, understanding the philosophy behind a piece, and knowing the history or other artworks that a work references will all make the experience of viewing much richer, to be sure. But if you need, say, a written explanation to even approach the piece, the artist has failed in his or her primary task of communication.
So, short answer – art is saying things with pictures.
Q13: And finally for the last question to round off our interview, ‘a picture says a thousand words’ or ‘tell a story’ out of your current portfolio, do you have one that you favour the most and why? Is there a subliminal message within your work?
It’s hard to pick one piece that sums up everything I do, but obviously I’m hideously biased. I think, if I had to choose just one, it would be the final illustration from my Princess of Marsseries. It’s an all-around good example of how I work – the image comes from a long process of research and world-building, it’s a narrative illustration, and it features strong geometry, bold ink lines, and retro sci-fi stuff. That’s pretty much my art in a nutshell.
If there’s any subliminal message in my work, it’s to kill all humans.
Q14: Ok so this is optional, just out of curiosity what annoys you the most in your field of work? Do you get a lot of requests on art collabs, interviews, features etc etc?
I’m pretty pleased with my chosen field, but one thing that bothers me is how little professionals of all stripes seem to value art. Things like crowd sourcing art and design and working for “exposure” or on spec really bother me, because they devalue art as a product and artists as professionals. Clients seem to think that art gets pulled, fully formed, out of thin air, and that, because an artist likes to make art, making it isn’t work. Artists are afraid to value their labor at what it’s actually worth, and are happy to waste their time making unpaid client work when they could be looking for paid work. Let’s get it together, guys, and start valuing things that take time, energy, and years of practice to make. Okay? Okay. Good talk.
As for requests for collaborations, interviews, etc – I’m usually pleased to get them, though I can’t always do them. It’s sort of a case-by-case thing. The one thing I’ve learned is that artists are, on the whole, nice, approachable people. Hopefully this includes me?