Sunday 1 April 2012

A is for Adrian Smith

Adrian Smith will be a name familiar to fans of Games Workshop, having worked on everything from the War Cry CCG to the recent Warhammer 40K Codexes, such as Space Wolves and Tyranids.

I have been fortunate enough to have Adrian paint the covers for two of my novels, Magestorm (2004) and Iron Hands (2004), and even own the original artwork for the former, which is framed and up in my office. So it seemed

appropriate that Adrian should kick off Artists' Month here on (and the fact that his name starts with an 'A' doesn't hurt either).

1. How did you start out as a professional artist?

My career as an illustrator started with freelance work for Games Workshop on The Lost and the Damned book.

2. What was it that gave you your big break?

My big break came whilst working on the freelance work with Games Workshop. I was about 19 I think at the time and my dad was getting sick of me moping about the house and he took it upon himself to phone John Blanche at the Studio and asked if there were any 'real' jobs available there. I was offered an interview. I took along my collection of scribbles and was offered in-house work. Good old dad!
k and led to what you are doing now?

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

I don’t really have a method I prefer, I use what I think suits the subject matter best though saying that I don’t always have the luxury of choosing. Digital is very useful for a freelancer because you don’t have to worry about the postman bending the artwork. It arrives faster and, though I hate making changes to artwork, it is easier to do digitally. I have always had a soft spot for watercolours I suppose but I don’t get asked to do that much. I am not sure if it’s a good thing or not but I think I have a few different styles.

4. Which setting do you prefer – Warhammer or Warhammer 40,000?

Erm, that’s tricky. I like them both really, maybe biased towards the fantasy but I find that if I’m working on a batch of 40K imagery I get a hankering for the fantasy, and vice versa.

5. What is the appeal of working creatively within these settings?

The appeal to me is obviously that it’s all so cool. The depth of background to everything is always inspiring and from a young age I’ve been a big fan of the Games Workshop worlds. Despite the various races and worlds we all know and love being around for so long there is still plenty that can be enhanced, built upon or just revamped, which is most appealing to me


6. How did you enjoy creating the cover image for the original Iron Hands, getting to virtually create the look of the Iron Hands Chapter from scratch?

I have an astoundingly bad memory, though when I look at a painting I’ve done I can more often than not remember what mood I was in, what I had for dinner, etc. I remember enjoying this novel cover very much, mainly for the reasons you’ve mentioned. Having that much freedom is a bit of a double-edged sword; where do you draw the line? Have I gone too far or not far enough? Having the 'template' of the Space Marines did help, however, and the Chapter description I was given along with exerts from the book helped greatly.

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

Depends really. For example the Iron Hands cover was about a week; a day and a half of sketches and awaiting approval and then about four days for completion. Big crowd scenes would take a little longer, anything up to three weeks.

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

I’m usually most proud, if that’s the right word, of the work I do for myself. That isn’t to say I’m not happy with other work but most of the time with me, it’s the next picture that'll be best.

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

I have a thousand things I would like to work on and usually have at least a couple of projects I’m working on myself, for myself, in the hope that one day someone would like to do something with it.

10. What are you working on at the moment?

In between the paid stuff I am currently working on a comic, hopefully one day to be released as an e-book. I have just finished a third book in a run of three for a Korean company which is basically a concept/illustration book. It’s called Easteran and Westania and is written by fellow artist and friend Hyung Min-woo, who was responsible for the fantastic Korean comic Priest (of which he was the artist and writer) which was made into a recent Hollywood film starring Paul Bettany*. I’m also working on a few personal projects which I’m sure will come to nothing like so many in the past, but hey, it’s practice for me and something for my portfolio collection.

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

Not sure I’m the best person to ask but I suppose the most important thing is to enjoy what you are doing, work 'all' the time you have, expect at least half of what you do to be unsatisfactory, stay disciplined in your work and just draw, draw, draw.

Thanks to Adrian for taking the time to answer my questions (and so modest!) and don't forget to check back tomorrow to see who's going to be interviewed for the letter B.

To visit Adrian's website go to

* Interestingly, Paul Bettany is one of the actors who I could see playing my own steampunk hero Ulysses Quicksilver on the silver screen.

Images shown are the property of Games Workshop Ltd, and used with permission. Copyright © Games Workshop Ltd, 2012, all rights reserved.

1 comment:

Konstanz Silverbow said...

That is awesome! I love the work! And it's awesome that he did two of your book covers!

Konstanz Silverbow
A to Z co-host