Thursday, August 17, 2017

(Delayed) Bi-Weekly Interview #5 - Matt Stawicki

As an artist, it seems like the landscape is ever-changing from simply the tools, to the aesthetic. I intend to be an artist that never wants to stop learning, and as such, I find more and more interesting artists everyday. Each artist has a unique insight and point of view, no matter the experience level. New views help open my mind and teach me there are many ways to utilize my skills and I hope that sharing our stories will help others in the same way. I believe there are many paths on an artistic journey, and each interview will help to show the stories of the artists that tread them.

Today, we'll be interviewing Matt Stawicki.

(Taken from Matt's biography)


From superhero comics to Star Wars to the paintings of Frank Frazetta,
Matt has always had an interest in fantasy. 

The aesthetic of his art is greatly influenced by the Golden Age of Illustration. Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, Norman Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish are among his traditional influences. Although Matt is a traditionally trained painter he was also an early user of digital methods to create his art.
In recent years he has created a balance and works fluidly utilizing both techniques in has work. 

Born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware. Matt was always drawn to the arts.
An independent child he spent many hours entertaining himself by sketching and drawing.
In his teens he also developed a love for music and started playing guitar. 

He graduated from the Pennsylvania School of Art and Design in 1991. In the year following he studied under the guidance of noted western painter Ken Laager, who further reinforced the Brandywine Schools approach. Since beginning his professional career in 1992, he has created
many images for a wide range of products including book covers, video game covers,
collectible card images, CD cover art, collectors plates and many other fantasy products. 

Matts work in publishing has been on the book covers of many of todays finest fantasy and
science fiction authors, who include, (in no particular order) Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Dave Duncan, Julie Czerneda, Ed Greenwood and L.E. Modesitt Jr. 

The first collection of this award-winning artists work, The Art of Matthew Stawicki, was published in 2002 by Cartouche Press. Matt's work has also been showcased in
The Masters of Dragonlance Art and Dragon Art published by Flame Tree Publishing among others. 

Select clients include, Daw Books, Tor Books and Time/Warner Books, Other clients include Monte Cook Games, Milton-Bradley, Hasbro, Wizards of the Coast, Vivendi Games,
The Franklin Mint and The Bradford Exchange. 

Matt’s work has been exhibited at The Society of Illustrators in New York,
The Allentown Art Museum and The Delaware Art Museum.
His art can also be seen at various pop culture conventions such as DragonCon,
GenCon and IlluxCon. 

When not painting Matt enjoys playing guitar and wood working.
He currently resides in Delaware with his wife Cathy.

Kaminski: With your background of works - mainly delving into the fantastic art realm - what drew you to this genre? Was fantasy something that was always particularly appealing to you?



Stawicki: I think my earliest influence and interest in fantasy would probably go back to when I as kid. I loved superheroes, and still do! The Superfriends on Saturday morning were a weekly event and a must see. Drawing from comics is probably the earliest ‘fantasy art’ that I created. Also Disney movies. Sleeping Beauty is a standout for me because of the wonderful dragon that Maleficent becomes. In fact that scene would later be a huge influence on my painting ‘Dragons Lair’. On to movies like the Wizard of Oz, which was on TV only once a year and was an instant favorite. And then, wait for it … Star Wars! If I didn’t love imaginative stories and characters before, this drove in the last nail. I was hooked.

Kaminski: Oh, how interesting! I've been openly influenced by RPGs such as Dungeons and Dragons and ShadowRun. I've even went so far as to make a very bold proclamation about how much Baldur's Gate attributed to my love of portraiture. When we all start out I think that we draw what we know first - so I would assume that's what got your first steps into this crazy art world.

When you first started out, what would you say gave you that ultimate 'moment of clarity'? What made you go from simple hobbyist to full-blown professional?

Stawicki: I think I knew in high school that I was going to go for career in art. I didn’t know at that point exactly what that meant. I knew I could draw pretty well and liked to draw realistically. I liked the art on some the album covers that had fantasy oriented subjects. Specifically, the covers done by Ken Kelly for Kiss were great as well as the covers by Derek Riggs for Iron Maiden. There were others but these stand out to me as a ‘ I would love to do this’ kind of moment. At that point I still really wasn’t aware of the professional market, just that someone drew or painted these.

Then, when I was in college a friend gave a Boris Vallejo calendar. I was just blown away by it and the more I looked into Boris I realized there was a real market for this type of work.

Kaminski: It seems like your style was already somewhat pre-established, what with your influences revolving around realistic fantasy and sci-fi fare. And with your influences, I think you stand up on your own right with them!

Switching gears: your media fluidity (what with the current 'Media Wars' that seem to plague art schools as of late - Traditional artists vs. Digital artists) seem to be something of particular note. If you had to choose on in particular to mark out as your favorite, which would it be, and why?


Stawicki: I guess I would have to say that in a perfect world, everything would be an oil painting. However, for me the painting process is a pretty slow one. This not only made it tougher for me to make a living, because you are being paid by the job, but it also meant doing less art. I love painting but the simple fact is, going digital speeds everything up.

I started working with Photoshop and Painter in ’97. I had been painting in oil exclusively for the first six or seven years, so when I started working digitally my goal was to make it look like an oil painting. The aesthetic I was after didn’t change. I was able to do more work and in the process learn more simply because I was able to produce more. Now I use both. The digital allows me to take jobs that I may not be able to paint within the clients timeline. I also do almost all my preliminary work digitally now because of it’s boundless flexibility.

Kaminski: It's actually pretty amazing how much our approach to digital art parallels, because my reasons are almost exactly the same. With the one addendum being the space limitation. I haven't been able to approach much by way of oil painting because of the space required for a larger oil painting to dry. Not only that, but it's impossible to let a painting dry when you have the small toe-beans of cats lurking around.

I would assume that your ability to switch between medias helped a great deal when choosing which clients to shop for. When you were initially digging your heels into the ground in you career, what kinds of approaches did you use to gain a following or clientele?


Stawicki: Ok, let me see if I can make a long story, short.

When I was in my senior year of college, I did an internship with Western/Historical painter Ken Laager who was doing mostly book cover work at the time. After a successful internship and graduating, I assisted Ken on and off for the next year all the while working on sample book cover paintings of my own. It was under his tutelage that I really started to refine my painting technique and my book cover portfolio. In time, Ken introduced me to his artist rep Sal Barracca, who took me on. Sal really knew the market and had a great reputation, especially as a fantasy book cover rep. He also had an interest in helping to develop new talent, which was/is unheard of from an artist rep. He was representing or had rep-ed several artists that I admired. In no particular order, Daniel Horne, who had also been an understudy of Ken’s at one point, Keith Parkinson, who had just left the agency to head out on his own and Tim Jacobus, who for many years did all the Goosebumps art, are all of note. In addition to myself, he took on several other young artists around the same time (’92-ish). Among them some young guy named Donato, who blew us all away! (I wonder what happened to that guy) Slowly, I started doing book cover work. I would say Sal was a big help in securing and guiding some of my earliest professional work.

Kaminski: Good god man! That's quite the roster to be along side of! You were definitely in better company than most anyone I know of in terms of breaking your teeth in the industry. I'd assume that being around that talent not only pushed you above and beyond, but most likely pushed you to challenge them consistently. Another interesting thing to note here is that most of them were primarily illustrators for book covers and game covers (again, all in the fantasy and sci-fi genre). It's no wonder that you pushed into the same direction!

I'm sure you're always under some sort of non-disclosure agreement (NDA), but that being said, do you have any personal projects or recently released projects that you'd like to talk about or promote?


 

Stawicki: I usually seem to have a book cover or two floating around most of the time, as well as contributing to worlds of Monte Cook Games on a regular basis. In the last few years I have doing more and more private commission work. I do have a few bigger Stawicki projects on the horizon, but what I can say now is that I will be releasing my 2018 Fantasy Calendar soon on Kickstarter!

Follow me on Facebook for the latest on those projects.

Kaminski: I'm sure you consistently work on a TON of projects in tandem - client-based or otherwise. In that vein, do you have any advice on juggling personal work on top of commissioned work, or even just a multitude of projects at the same time?

Stawicki: There is definitely a certain amount of multi-tasking you have to get used to in this business. It is crucial that you be on time if you are going to illustrate. What is important to remember is that your art is not the final product. There are other people and schedules that are all depending on each other to get the job done…and done on time! Someone told me once that, the best painting in the world isn’t worth much if it’s not there when the client needs it. So to that end, I would say try and judge your time fairly. I would suggest even trying to build in a ‘little time cushion’, in case things take longer than you think… and they almost always do.

As far as, doing ‘personal work’ goes, what I would say is, personal work for me usually fills some kind of void that illustration can’t or won’t fill. In my early career I did personal pieces to showcase things that I wanted to do, but maybe wasn’t getting the chance to in the projects I was getting. This was because my portfolio did not include it. In illustration, most of the time, you need to show a client that you are skilled at a certain subject before they will hire you. A client is going to hire you for the work you are showing or doing well. So if there is something else you want do try your hand at, sometimes even a different approach with the same genre, you will need to do samples of it… remember a picture is worth a thousand words!

Personal work for me now is not as related to illustration. I try to take more chances with composition and I am more aware of things like brush work and technique. As I mentioned before, more and more of my work every year seems to be private commissions. In those cases the painting is the final product and will be hanging on someone’s wall, hopeful to be looked at and enjoyed up close and personal for years to come.

In short, I think doing personal work is important. It can be draining to always work on someone else’s project or ideas. I think everyone has things they want to get out. At this point, I try to work in one major personal piece a year. Notice I said ‘Try’. I also do smaller little studies and sketches, usually in acrylic, at the end or beginning of the day. They’re all not pretty, but they ARE fun!

Kaminski: 'A picture is worth a thousand words'... well played, sir, well played.

I've done quite a few projects myself that I would consider as my 'one-day' kind of projects, the bad thing is that I tend to use up my creative energy on them from time-to-time instead of focusing on the important commission or personal piece. Projects such as #junicorn, #robo-june, or even #inktober were ones that I did recently that really pushed above and beyond quickly. It seems that the more frequently you work, the more you find yourself with more ideas to work on even more! It's stupidly cyclical, but that's my take on it.

I'd say, because of this potential cyclical treatment, everyone seems to get burned out from time-to-time. When you feel uninspired, what are some methods you have to rekindle that art spark?


Stawicki: When my eyes roll back in my head and I just can’t take it anymore, I simply have to stop and do something else. I like wood working and tinkering on my house. I have also been playing guitar for many years and find that it is a great way for me to clear my head from the art scramble in my head.

Kaminski: Video games are my typical go-to. That and watching movies, of course. I'm an entertainment industry junky, what can I say.

What goals do you have for yourself in the immediate? What about the long-term?

Stawicki: As of this writing, my shot term goals are to put out the 2018 Stawicki Fantasy Calendar I mentioned. More long term (hopefully not too long), is the next art book, ‘The Art Of Matt Stawicki vol.2’.

Kaminski: And finally, what's the best piece of advice you've ever received OR what's the best piece of advice you can give to fellow artists?

Stawicki: Best advice? ”Don’t eat the yellow snow!” Just kidding, although it does seem like good advice!

I would say work with subjects that you love! Paint and draw what you love! This can be a challenging path, filled with plenty of self doubt. It takes a tremendous about of commitment to persevere and it is your passion for it that will keep you going.
Kaminski: Pretty damn sound, Matt. So, from one Matt to another - Thank you very much for a damn good interview!

Thank you all for reading, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Matt Stawicki.
If you did, please give it a SHARE via Facebook or Twitter, below.
You can view this interview, and many more, HERE.

You can find out more about Matt Stawicki, at his website: http://www.mattstawicki.com/

If you would like to be a part of my interview series, simply fill out the contact form HERE and I'll get back with you as soon as possible!

THANKS FOR READING, AND UNTIL NEXT TIME!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

(Delayed) Bi-Weekly Interview #4 - "K.F." Golden

AS AN ARTIST, IT SEEMS LIKE THE LANDSCAPE IS EVER-CHANGING FROM SIMPLY THE TOOLS TO THE AESTHETIC. I INTEND TO BE AN ARTIST THAT NEVER WANTS TO STOP LEARNING AND AS SUCH, I FIND MORE AND MORE INTERESTING ARTISTS EVERYDAY. EACH ARTIST HAS A UNIQUE INSIGHT AND POINT OF VIEW, NO MATTER THE EXPERIENCE LEVEL. NEW VIEWS HELP OPEN MY MIND AND TEACH ME THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO UTILIZE MY SKILLS AND I HOPE THAT SHARING OUR STORIES WILL HELP OTHERS IN THE SAME WAY. I BELIEVE THERE ARE MANY PATHS ON AN ARTISTIC JOURNEY, AND EACH INTERVIEW WILL HELP TO SHOW THE STORIES OF THE ARTISTS THAT TREAD THEM.
TODAY WE'LL be interviewing "K.F." Golden.
15146694_1867344273536750_1325177723_o.jpg
Kaminski: Firstly, Introduce yourself. What kinds of work do you do? Where have you shown your work?
Golden: I'm K.F. Golden, and I'm an illustrator based out of Memphis, Tennessee. I'm primarily known for picking up stray animals and drawing things, and I make money by doing the latter. I've done cartooning and story boarding that's been showcased mostly at conventions and galleries around the mid south, packaging design that's been used internationally, and right now I'm crossing the country in a bright yellow Kia visiting as many different art shows as possible with my BFF, Alexis Stetson.
Kaminski: Since conventions seem to be very important to you, what made you get a start in them and not dive head-first into a specific industry? In that same vein, what keeps you coming back for more?
Golden: I got into the convention atmosphere super early. My parents let me go to my first con when I was around twelve, and I was fortunate enough to have older friends who would drag me along on road trips to cons during the summer when I was in middle and high school. I honestly just love the scene! And right now, I have my best friend and we have a car and the finances to do it, so it made sense for us to say, "Hey, this is the part where we're young and cool and we hit the road." I really dig getting to travel and meet other creators in different fields. That, and it's been surprisingly lucrative for us. One-off commissions are my favorite things to do, and we sell a lot of those at cons. Basically, it's good money, I get to sight see, and I get to do my favorite parts of my job without worrying about too much corporate oversight.
Kaminski: I bet the versatility of not having a day-to-day job is both relieving and terrifying at the same time. Add to that, I have what I coin, 'con-ADD', so I have a really hard time buckling myself to the chair to do live commissions.
Did your style develop naturally from having to work through convention commissions like this? Or was this style something you naturally did? In that vein, is style even something that you consider when attacking a piece?
Golden: Oh heck yeah. I'm super lucky that I can do cons as a main source of income right now. (It's definitely a temporary situation since my healthcare stuff is kinda tenuous at best. But that's a bridge I'll cross soon enough. Gotta get a job with actual benefits, which means workin' for the man.) Oh my gosh, how do you not consider style. That said, my style is definitely one that I've tailored for doing on-the-spot commissions and quicker pieces. I don't mind sitting down and working, but I've always liked simplifying my lines, and my preference for watercolor has everything to do with it being a quick and easy way to get colors down. When I have an idea in my head, I like being able to execute it right then. I definitely like to work efficiently and simply, so I often draw in straight pen and ink and then lay down flats right on top of it.
Kaminski: What led to your decision to pursue art in the first place?
Golden: This sounds extra lame, but it was a completely natural decision for me. I was always that kid in school that was drawing next to their notes, and I pretty much spent all of my time outside of class doodling with friends, too. I'm just used to being that geeky kid who makes stuff. I was actually removed from the art program in high school for making the wrong stuff. But I had an awesome teacher who basically let me stay in her classroom during lunch periods and such, and she ended up being the one to recommend me into art school.
Kaminski: Very cool! I wish that I had been more invested in my high-school career...
Golden: I was super lucky and I had a lot of nerdy friends that I drew stuff with. Somewhere in her possession, Alexis has a hundred-some-odd page comic that we wrote and drew together with two friends in high school. It's like a Shakespearean tragedy.
Kaminski: Oh, you're going to have to redo that and get it worked up for a one-off comic sometime.
Golden: We've joked about it, but it's some spectacular 15-year-old type writing. It's atrocious.
Kaminski: All the better!
Golden: Nooooopppppe. Plus, we'd have to draw in our friends' old characters, haha.
Concept art for Golden's Ren'Py work.
Kaminski: Outside of commissioned work, is there any project in particular you'd like to talk about - such as a large project that you're working on or a group of pieces that all interrelate?
Golden: I recently made kind of a weird decision surrounding one of my long term projects that's helped tremendously. I had been working on a comic for a while that I kept hitting dead ends on. I guess I wanted to do a comic since it seems like every artist I know these days is passively working on one, you know?
Anyway, I retooled mine into a visual novel and I'm enjoying working on it about ten times more now. It's a story I've wanted to tell for a while but just couldn't quite get out in a way that I quite liked, called It All Just Blew Up. It's sort of an epistolary novel-style story told in text messages and chat logs, and it invokes a lot of modern day fantasy and sci-fiction tropes as it goes along. I'm having a ton of fun learning how to program it and designing things for the Ren'py engine right now. I'm a not-so-closeted VN geek, but point-and-click games can be very pulpy and they tend to have a sort of cult following. I realized that I'd really like to make one that has more than just a dating sim or a choose your own adventure-style format. So that's what's taking up my time these days.
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Kaminski: Deciding to dive into something fully can be both relieving and incredibly stressful at the same time. My fiancee, Ashley, and I have only really begun to fully-flesh out the work that began back at MCA with Honor: Decoded. It's become a much different project than it was then, so it's awesome to hear that fellow artists go on journeys to get inspiration and projects that they feel worth their time. Do you have any personal tips that help you stay on target with your personal projects or perhaps things that help to motivate you while you work?
Golden: I try to set aside some time every day to make sure that I'm doing something creative for myself. It's definitely easiest for me to work if I have something else engaging going on. I'm a big geek for tabletop and forum role-play to kind of get my gears turning. I love making things and writing stories with other people - I mean, that's how I ended up here in the first place - so doing stuff like that that gets me back to my roots is really good for my ethic. It reminds me why I want to make cool things in the first place. That, and following other people who are working hard on awesome projects. It makes me jealous that they have something good to show. So then I remember to get to work so I have things to post, too. Totally petty, that one.
DON'T BE AFRAID TO ERASE THINGS AND TAKE THINGS APART. EVEN IF YOU THINK THAT YOUR PIECE IS GOOD THE WAY IT IS. EXPERIMENT.
Kaminski: Trust me, I agree with you fully. I don't think I would work as hard myself if I didn't scour things like Spectrum daily. I'm a huge art book nerd myself.
What are some of your favorite themes or tropes to paint and why?
Golden: My sense of humor is super straightforward and blunt, and I'm pretty sure that carries through to my artwork and the style that I like to write in. One of the more popular series that I did in college was my "Gross Gyls," which were basically just my main female character in really casual poses. Standing around in her underwear, scratching her sides, that kind of thing. I guess I like to draw things that are very dry and not over the top, and present my characters in situations that are relatable and distinctly un-glamorous. I like fantasy elements, but when I incorporate them, I like to base them in that same sense of boring modernity. I like characters that are making potions in a blender and using necromancy on roadkill. Mundane situations with some element of silliness are my jam.
Kaminski: It shows in your work - the silliness that is.
When you hit lull points in your work, what are some artists or things you find inspiring? What gets you back to work after you get worn down?
Golden: It might sound weird, but as much as I love visual media, my favorite way to deal with lull points is to get out of my own head space for a bit and just read a book or listen to music. It's hard not to take inspiration from different mediums when I work anyway, so sometimes I just need to sit back with my headphones and listen to some punk rock and kick start my creative groove again. As for artists I like, Yoshihiro Togashi is my go-to (I love Hunter X Hunter and Yu Yu Hakusho. He's got a really identifiable style to his manga work and I like his inks and watercolors a lot). His work is really what got me into the field in the first place.
E.K. Weaver (The Less Than Epic Adventures Of T.J. and Amal) is another favorite.
And lately I've been really into Night In the Woods and the Shadowrun series by Harebrained Schemes.
I mean, I could go all art history student on you and say that I really like Leyendecker, 'cuz I do, but usually my most direct influences are very pop-y and pulp-y, and whatever I'm playing with right now.
KIDS ASK ME HOW I USE IT ALL THE TIME WHEN I'M AT SHOWS, AND THE ANSWER IS "RECKLESSLY," UNTIL YOU MORE OR LESS FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU'RE DOING. LIKE PUNK ROCK. OR SCIENCE.
Kaminski: I don't think it's weird at all that you get your inspiration from non-visual media. A ton of artists like Wylie Beckert actually start with writing before they even begin to touch sketching, so it only makes sense that you would want to change it up that way. I mean, hell, I get really inspired when Ashley reads to me while I write. In some ways I almost think that getting away from art is a way to make visual breakthroughs more than anything. A lot of times right after or right before I really grind on a project, I'll take a few days and just lounge and play video games or watch movies just as a break away from all of the art, and then come back to it with ten times the tenacity that I would have if I just grind straight through. Sometimes it's pretty important to push the reset button on your brain pan for a minute.
Switching gears, what kinds of goals do you have set for yourself in the immediate, and the long term?
Golden: In the short term, I'm excited to keep upping my convention game by making more things for our table. I'm working collaboratively with Alexis Stetson (Castalexis) to do a table at a different con or art show every month this year. We're booked through the year and still adding more shows. I feel like we're really learning as we go and it's been a super rewarding experience for us. We've been busy every weekend in March, and I'm making more art than I can remember to post. It's a good feeling! I keep seeing my portfolio and my experience grow with every show. We get to travel too, which is a fun bonus. I love road trips. Long term, I'm stoked to work on my personal project, but I'd like to take on more collaborative projects with other artists and creative types. I might even consider settling down for a nice, solid illustration job, but who knows? I'm really hoping that our road tripping continues to pan out and I get to travel further and sell art in even cooler places. That's the dream, right?
Kaminski: Yeah, the dream is definitely to expand outward with our art! And I think you're well on your way.
My final question for you is, what's the best piece of advice you've ever received or what's the best advice you can give to fellow artists?
Golden: Don't be afraid to erase things and take things apart. Even if you think that your piece is good the way it is. Experiment. Draw a good thing and then paint over it. For me, it's important to keep making things and trying out new approaches. If I'm not sure if I'm about to ruin a painting or not, I try to go ahead and commit myself to the risk of something new. Sure, I ruin a piece every now and then, but most of the time, that's just the price of learning and adapting my own process. Watercolor is a bit unforgiving as a medium anyway. Kids ask me how I use it all the time when I'm at shows, and the answer is "recklessly," until you more or less figure out what you're doing. Like punk rock. Or science.
Kaminski: That's an incredible answer. Thanks so much for a great interview madam!

THANK YOU FOR READING, I HOPE YOU ENJOYED THIS INTERVIEW WITH "K.F." Golden. 
IF YOU DID, PLEASE SHARE IT WITH YOUR FRIENDS!
VIEW ALL OF MY INTERVIEWS WITH FELLOW ARTISTS HERE.
YOU CAN FIND MORE ABOUT K.F. Golden at her website: http://www.callmemidas.com/

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THANKS FOR VIEWING!

Bi-Weekly Interview #3 - Sam Flegal

AS AN ARTIST, IT SEEMS LIKE THE LANDSCAPE IS EVER-CHANGING FROM SIMPLY THE TOOLS TO THE AESTHETIC. I INTEND TO BE AN ARTIST THAT NEVER WANTS TO STOP LEARNING AND AS SUCH, I FIND MORE AND MORE INTERESTING ARTISTS EVERYDAY. EACH ARTIST HAS A UNIQUE INSIGHT AND POINT OF VIEW, NO MATTER THE EXPERIENCE LEVEL. NEW VIEWS HELP OPEN MY MIND AND TEACH ME THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO UTILIZE MY SKILLS AND I HOPE THAT SHARING OUR STORIES WILL HELP OTHERS IN THE SAME WAY. I BELIEVE THERE ARE MANY PATHS ON AN ARTISTIC JOURNEY, AND EACH INTERVIEW WILL HELP TO SHOW THE STORIES OF THE ARTISTS THAT TREAD THEM.
TODAY WE'LL be interviewing Sam Flegal.
Sam has been a freelance illustrator since 2009. His art’s been used on book covers, hobby games, movie concept art, and even The History Channel. He’s also a co-curator of the online webshow, One Fantastic Week. We’ll be interviewing him today on his take on the industry and just in general, being an artist. That being said, let’s dive right in.
KaminskiWhat first got into doing art and in that vein, what steps did you initially make to secure your foothold in this industry?
Flegal: I first started drawing at age 3. My parents used it as a technique to get me to stop talking all the time. I was never far from a pencil growing up. I loved to draw. I got a degree in art and became a graphic designer. After 7 years I realized I wasn’t drawing anymore, and what I really wanted to do was be an illustrator. I started going to Cons and getting portfolio reviews from other artists. After meeting some industry folks I went to The Illustration Master Class.
Kaminski: Interesting. IMC is always something that I think would help many artists from amateurs to experienced pros would benefit from. Perhaps one day I'll be able to attend, myself. Before you broke out on your own, was there a specific industry that you were targeting initially? If so, why? And if not, did the shotgun approach actually help to get your name out there to many different industries?
Flegal: I wanted to work in games, tabletop RPG and mini-games. That and comics is why I got into art in the first place. I didn't want to pursue comics because of the intensity of sequential art. Comics is very cutthroat. Maybe one day I'll revisit my love of comics. I don't know that I'd say I had a shotgun approach. I've always focused on fantasy art in one version or another.
Kaminski: Much like you, I've always strived for the games industry and have actually heard it to be just as cutthroat as the comics industry. Perhaps channeling your art into a comic akin to Alex Alice's Siegfried might be a good way to channel your two loves together. I'm probably fast-forwarding some there, but what ultimately led to your love of nordic mythology?
Flegal: I've always enjoyed stories. In researching the roots of fantasy you come to Tolkein, from there you find his influences were folklore and myth. Specifically the myths of the Norse. The stories are so rooted in our modern western culture that when I read them the felt true to me in a way that other stories didn't connect. Every time I did deeper to learn more about the old stories I find I learn more about my own culture, my ancestors, and ultimately myself.
Kaminski: That makes sense. They always say do what you love, and it shows in your work. I'm assuming your "AH-HA" moment came from IMC. Speaking from someone who went to art school for the entire gamut, I'm curious to know how your experience there compares. What was the program there like?
Flegal: The AH-HA moment wasn't in terms of what to paint, it would take years to figure that out. The AH-HA was how much fucking work professionals put in. it's not uncommon to spend 100 or 200 hours on a painting. When you're starting out speed doesn't matter. It's not about painting fast, it's about taking the time to make good paintings. That and really learning how to use reference and shoot my own reference was eye opening.
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Kaminski: Yeah, when I was in art school everything was so rushed that it was hard to REALLY take the time to dive into a piece fully. I'm only just now discovering that slowing down and making sure that your pieces are both correct AND good (although it's subjective to our own eyes for certain) is more important than having twenty rushed or average pieces in a month. If you're not under any sorts of NDA, can you talk about a project that you're currently working on?
Flegal: I have a deep love for Norse Mythology. In my personal work I depict scenes from Norse Lore, a series I call Fateful Signs. Fateful Signs are what Odin saw as he hung from the great World Tree. Fateful Signs are the legends of the Gods and Ancestors carried down to us through the winds of time. Fateful Signs can be sought with runes, carved and made red. Fateful Signs are the words and deeds that honor the Lore of the Norse.
I present you with Fateful Signs.
Fateful Signs is a collection of oil paintings exploring the various legends and traditions of the ancient Germanic people. The series began out of an interest in Odin and exploded into a spiritual awakening. With each painting a piece of a much greater puzzle is uncovered.
I first discovered Norse Mythology back in 1999, when I was a Freshman in college. I'd gone to school out-of-state and didn't know many people. This left me with a lot of free time, and I spent it in the school library. At that point in my life, I was questioning religion, so I read about all the world religions. Out of all the myths and legends, the lore of the Norse stuck with me.
Throughout my art education I found ways to bring Norse Mythology into my projects as often as I could. On foggy days I'd even yell "ODIN!" into the mist on campus. Over time I made many friends, and spent less time in the library. Eventually I graduated and became a Graphic Designer. I worked in marketing for many years, but ultimately I found my way back to drawing and painting.
I've been a freelance illustrator since 2009. I've done art for the gaming industry and concept art for movies, but in 2012 I was faced with a client-free month. I didn't know what to do – I hadn't drawn for myself in years! After some soul searching and sketching, I started to work on a painting of a trickster wizard. At first I didn't realize it, but the painting was of Loki. Before the end of the month, I got more client work and never finished the painting; but it got me thinking about the Norse Gods again.
As many artists do, I started to feel a desire to work on more personal paintings. I was reading more about Odin and I felt a connection with the One-Eyed God. Once I finally had the time to devote to personal work, I was inspired to paint Odin holding the head of Mimir, and this became my painting "Odin's Secrets."
I didn't know it then, but this was the beginning of Fateful Signs.
Kaminski: What are some things you would do if a client become a tad too unruly? Do you have any coping strategies?
Flegal: It depends on the contract, but I would recommend, always follow the letter of the contract. Main thing if a job sucks is get it done quickly and move on.
Kaminski: Do you have any short or long term goals?
Flegal: In the short-term, it would be to make another book. In the long term: The life of an artist is a long term goal. Learn to paint better. Make art that's even more true to me.
Kaminski: And lastly, what's the best piece of advice you've received or the best piece of advice you'd give to aspiring artists?
Flegal: Try to figure out why you really want to be an artist. The answer to that question is a journey, but it is the key to developing deeper art.
Kaminski: Thanks so much Sam! 

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YOU CAN FIND MORE ABOUT Sam Flegal at his website: http://www.samflegal.com/
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT his project involving the HÁVAMÁL: http://www.fatefulsigns.com/
FOR MORE information on Sam Flegal's collaborative project with Pete Mohrbacher, One Fantastic Week: https://www.patreon.com/1fw

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