Wednesday 4 April 2012

D is for Dan Maxwell

I didn't discover Dan's work until I came across Tin Man Games, but in no time at all (at least that's how it felt) I was working with them and Dan was illustrating my first Gamebook Adventure app 'cover' (if apps can have covers). So, without further ado, over to Dan.

1. How did you start out as a professional artist?
I have drawn and doodled ever since I can remember, and from that early age I always knew I wanted to do something artistic. I loved art at school and ended up going to college to study graphic design. My first job (way back in the days of imagesetters, floppy discs and beige stipple effect Apple Macintosh computers) was in a typesetting company laying-out books and scanning pictures for medical journals, so very different from what I'm doing now. I have since moved from print design, to web design and now to illustration, not sure it's the normal route of progression but it's worked out fine for me.

2. What was it that gave you the big break that led to what you’re doing now?
I'd had images published and written quite a few articles and tutorials for various photoshop magazines, but it wasn't until Gamebook Adventures came along that I really got the chance to jump into the illustration side of things fully.

3. What is your preferred method of working? Which medium suits your style best?
Ah, I'm probably going to cause a few artists to tut by admitting that I don't always sketch things out first. I tend to jump straight in on the computer and start pushing pixels. I personally find it easier to play around with things on screen. It's a far more fluid process and I love the fact that through experimenting and plenty of 'happy accidents' a piece of art can change radically into something very different from what I originally started out with. The down side is I do tend to do rather a lot of versions before I'm truly happy with the result. Knowing when to stop is the hardest part.

4. What is the appeal of the Gamebook Adventures settings?
Partly nostalgia - gives me a warm fuzzy feeling! I remember spending hours on end reading one Fighting Fantasy book after another. The artwork was what initially attracted me to them, at the age of ten it was 'awesome' (still is). I was totally absorbed and probably addicted to the pure escapism of the stories and that feeling has always stuck with me! I enjoy trying to capture an image and atmosphere that is conjured up in my imagination from a short paragraph of text. It's reminds me of what happened when I read those books as a kid.

5. Did you enjoy producing the ‘cover’ image for Temple of the Spider God?Yeah, as soon as I found out about the story for Spider God I had a very clear vision in my head of the cover. I knew exactly how I wanted it to look, which doesn't always happen; sometimes it can be a real struggle.

6. Would you ever be tempted to illustrate something from the Pax Britannia universe?
Yes definitely… love the steampunk vision. There are so many great ideas to play around with.

7. Of which piece of work are you most proud?
Probably 'the fairy snag' just because it was fun to create and something a bit different. The amount of layers used to get the illustrated character to look realistic/lit correctly and merged with photographic elements was a real challenge. Taught me a lot of useful techniques and the traumas of too many photoshop layers. As a result it also made me decide to get a higher spec, faster computer.

8. Is there anything you haven’t illustrated that you would still like to?
From my previously mentioned nostalgia trip, I think one of the original Fighting Fantasy book covers. It would certainly be a challenge. Not sure they can be improved upon as they hold such an iconic place in my memory, but it would be fun to do.

9. What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I'm busy doing artwork for the latest Gamebook Adventures release. A little bit of a change from the normal illustration I have been doing, this time I am creating the user interface within the game. Putting those graphic design skills to the test.

10. What advice would you give to any aspiring artists wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Urr… This is going to sound horribly cliched. All art is subjective, so it's a fact that not everyone is going to like your stuff. Don't get too precious about your art, accept the criticism, and keep honing your skills and developing your style. I do this because I enjoy it, making a living out of it is a bonus… I'm still working on that part.

Thanks to Dan for taking the time and trouble to answer my questions so thoroughly. You can check out some of Dan's work here. And don't forget to check back tomorrow to see who's up for the letter E.

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