Friday, 6 April 2012

F is for Fowler... Hardy Fowler

I was tempted to call this particular blog post 'F is for Effing Awesome!' I mean, Hardy Fowler? Come on - how cool is that?

In case you didn't already know (and there may be one or two of you out there) Hardy Fowler is the American artist who is taking the Black Library by storm, producing one cover after another that outdoes the former and makes you think, 'Where was this guy when the Black Library started 15 years ago?'

Bizarrely, I've worked indirectly with Hardy before - it's his art that adorns the covers of Legends of the Space Marines, Victories of the Space Marines and the forthcoming Treacheries of the Space Marines, all of which contain stories by Yours Truly - but I've yet to work with him directly. I live in hope.

Anyway, enough about me, over to Hardy...

1. How did you start out as a professional artist? What was it that gave you the big break that led to what you’re doing now?

I've always loved drawing and painting and I was lucky enough to go to college to study graphic design and fine art. I found that representational art appealed to me a great deal. The ability to turn a blank canvas into something that looks recognizable and interesting or even beautiful was the very highest aspiration for me.

This love of technical art led me to the field of medical illustration. I went to graduate school for this and it was an extraordinary experience. We took science classes with the medical students, dissected a human cadaver and even observed surgery all to learn how to create instructive illustrations for the medical world. It has become a very rewarding career that I would recommend to any artist. I am currently working as a full time medical illustrator.

Wonderful though it is, medical illustration is highly technical and can leave the inner 13 year-old wanting for something more creative and imaginative. All throughout school, I never stopped creating science fiction images. Every movie, book and video game would have me doodling in the margins of my notebooks. I would post my work on online digital art forums to have them critiqued. This was a valuable learning experience and my images grew in scale and complexity as I grew as an artist.

One day, I was asked by Games Workshop for permission to use one of my images for the cover of one of their Solaris Sci-fi anthologies. It was something I had created for fun essentially - I didn't even think it was getting viewed that much! This was really the beginning of the relationship that eventually led to my work in the Warhammer 40K universe and I would certainly consider it a fortunate break.

2. What is your preferred method of working? Which medium suits your style best?

I have gone just about 100% digital now. I'll typically scribble out a basic composition with a pen and a sticky note (just to keep things very simple), but after that it's all in the computer. I use Adobe Photoshop and a Wacom tablet. I think it's important to rely on traditional painting skills when creating digital art. It's easy to get caught up in all of the neat effects that these programs can render, but too much of this always reveals an amateur. That being said, I sure do enjoy being able to hit "undo":) I once spilled coffee on an ink drawing the night before a deadline!

3. What is the appeal of working creatively within the Warhammer 40,000 setting?

Warhammer 40K is the ultimate playground for an artist. It is such a cool blend of ancient and futuristic looks. Medieval meets Star Wars, what's not to like? There are endless dramatic stories that can be told visually and they can vary such a great deal. I've done 17 Warhammer 40K covers now and I don't think any two even look that similar. I can't think of another "universe" that could offer such variety to an artist.

4. Can we expect to see any Warhammer illustrations from you in the future?

I don't currently have anything on the horizon for Warhammer, but I am always open to new things. I've always loved Warhammer covers and I would like to try one at some point if given the opportunity.

5. How did you enjoy creating the cover images for Legends, Victories and Treacheries of the Space Marines?

They were among my favorites. Again, such amazing variation from one assignment to the next.

6. Do you have a favourite Space Marine chapter or Chaos Legion?

My first Warhammer 40K ("Heroes of the Space Marines") depicted an Imperial Fist battle and I've been able to revisit them a few times. They always feel like the home team to me and I'd have to name them as my favorite.

7. How long does it take you to produce a book cover?

I'm typically given about a month, but it can vary a bit depending on complexity.

8. Of which piece of work are you most proud?

That's a tough one. Usually whichever one I've finished most recently :) If I had to choose, I'd say that the cover for "Legends of the Space Marines" still stands out to me. It has a strong composition and I was really happy with how the main character turned out.

9. Is there anything you haven’t illustrated that you would still like to?

Tons of stuff. There are so many ideas that have to be filed away for "some day" but that's the reality of being a professional artist. Studio time needs to be put towards professional work first and foremost. That being said, whenever I get ahead of schedule, I sometimes get to work on a personal piece. I still post them on my old portfolio website as I did back in school and I still love reading the comments people leave. The online digital art community is really amazing and supportive.

10. What are you working on at the moment?

Aha... A closely guarded secret I'm afraid, but I'm very pleased with how it's turning out. It's a setting I haven't ever gotten to try before and I've been able to use some vivid colors.

11. What advice would you give to any aspiring artists wanting to follow in your footsteps?

I would certainly recommend posting artwork online for critique. There are some really inspiring and helpful professionals on various websites who have helped me grow a great deal. That being said - always be receptive to critique. I think the majority of people who ask for critique (in the classroom or online) are not actually looking for critique but rather just want people to compliment their work. I've been as guilty of this as any, but it's taken a few years of hindsight to realize that I've benefited the most from the bad drawings/paintings that helped me correct bad techniques. Other than that, just don't stop drawing and put everything you've got into your work, it will show.

A huge thank you to Hardy for being so generous with his time and his answers, and for being such a thoroughly decent and self-effacing bloke.

You can find more examples of Hardy's work at his online portfolio here. Go on - check it out now!

1 comment:

Tony Hough said...

Hardy makes a great point about seeking critiques by posting your work on professional fora - a good one is - Don't expect praise! All criticism is good if taken aright - you don't have to agree, so long as it makes you think/look again at your work. Never get offended or get snippy if you're critiqued by someone who's work you don't like or in ways you think are unfair - they've taken the time to respond to you after all. And many great professional artists will take that time, too.