Friday, February 13, 2009

Artist Corner: Timothy Lantz

Posted by Harry Markov

This time I think I did it like one should do an interview. On the unluckiest day of all Friday the 13th I present you a man, who is not afraid of bad publicity, because of the accursed day and a man, who has been making readers scream of joy, whenever they pick up a book. I think it's pretty obvious that he is Timothy Lantz and that I have him here for your delight. Hear the answers of the guy that makes the coolest cover art ever. Harry Markov: First of all, thank you for accepting my invitation. I am excited to have you here on my virtual chair and sharing your trade secrets. So let’s begin with the obvious questions. What inspired you to become an artist? For that matter why did you choose digital art for the better part of your portfolio? Timothy Lantz: I was just one of those kids, the ones who are always drawing or creating things. I have a healthy imagination, which I fuel by reading comic books, watching television and going to the movies. On some level, I suppose it is really a desire to be a storyteller and to share some of the great tales that are forever spinning around in the back of my mind which lead me to where I am now. Over the years, I’ve always sought ways to share my creative vision, whether through traditional art, writing, or role-playing it’s just a part of who I am. Combine this with my love for technology and communication and going digital was a natural evolution for me. The digital tools (and photoshop in particular) have become a very natural medium for me. My familiarity and comfort with them affords a kind of relaxed state, where I have the freedom to just create and learn without frustration. HM: Via your biography page I know that your major influence has been the Symbolism movement. Can you explain what the specific traits of this movement are that shaped your work? TL: What I find most inspiring about the symbolists was their rebel attitude. At a time when the majority of artists’ work seemed to be centered around the themes of religion and Christianity, along comes this group of individuals who decided to strike out on their own path. They shared a love of mythology and storytelling and other non-traditional views and they defied what was generally accepted to just create works around their own passions. HM: You have a degree in art education and are a professional illustrator. You work on the cover art for several publishers, DC comics and illustrate for fantasy magazines. How did you launch your career and managed to land such assignments? TL: My career as a professional illustrator really started with the publication of the Archeon Tarot. Up until that time I had been a graphic designer and a web programmer, and my artwork was just something of a hobby. I was in the midst of a lot of life-changing events, prior to that… graduating college, moving, finding a new job, getting married… once that kind of settled down, I found myself in a place not unlike my childhood, where life had become kind of secure with the day to day concerns taken care of. This allowed me a great deal of freedom to just go back to the process of creating and experimenting. It was really here were I started exploring digital art, and that lead to the creation of the Archeon Tarot. Once people saw my work on that, I began receiving other illustration offers and it has continued to pick up steam from there. HM: The next question is probably obvious too. Since we are all fantasy or sci-fi fans on these blogs, we all had different reasons to love the genre. What in particular hooked you to do fantasy pieces? TL: I think the fantasy genre allows for storytelling on a primal or basic level, one which the audience can come at from a shared experience. There are certain symbols or tropes which are universal and allow you to convey your meaning but at the same time, there’s this broad canvas where you are free to just dream and create and add details which can enrich the whole experience into something far greater than a simple allegory. HM: It is clear that you use Photoshop for most of your work, but the base is always a photo of a female model. Do you do the photography yourself and if you do how do you find and interact with the models? TL: I wouldn’t say the basis is always a female model, but that’s going to be what most people are familiar with simply because I’ve done so many book cover illustrations recently. I do love working in that genre though, and I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of amazing models who have really brought those images to life. As for the photography, since the publication of the Archeon Tarot, I’ve relied exclusively on my own model photography. I recruit my models from among my friends and other artists that I have worked with and additionally from talent recruitment sites like www.modelmayhem.com. HM: Is it easy to manipulate the pictures and how long does it take for a picture from start to finish? Consequently what are the tricky parts in digital art that may trouble beginner artists? TL: I wouldn’t say that it’s easy. There is a tendency to see digital art as a kind of shortcut or automated process, but it simply isn’t true. The computer is a tool, no different than a paintbrush or ink pen, it’s what the artist does with the tool that makes the difference. That being said, there is a lot of sub-standard work out there. People will run an image through a filter and declare it art. I think in the long run though, the audience knows when something is worthy of appreciation. This holds true for any creative endeavor. Ultimately, a work is judged on whether or not it speaks to the viewer in some way, not on how it was produced. My advice for beginning digital artists is the same as it would be for any traditional media artist… practice, practice, practice. The more you work at it, the better you will become. HM: Next I would like to ask you about your work in the comic book sphere. I bet that you use your illustration skills for DC comics, but what does that involve cover art or some additional tasks? TL: My work for DC Comics has so far been limited to just the Vs. Collectible Card Game. I worked on three cards for the World’s Finest expansion set and another three for the Legends expansion set. HM: Since we are all book lovers and one of the things we admire is the amazing cover art some of the novels have. Your work is also breathtaking. What’s the whole mechanism to making one? Does the publishing house specifically instruct you what to do or do they let you take the initiative first and consent or not? TL: Each publisher is different. It really comes down to the art director for each project and their established work flow. My experiences have ranged from being told to “just make something cool”, to a very detailed step-by-step outline of what the image was supposed to contain. For my tastes, I prefer somewhere in the middle. I like to have a rough starting idea and maybe some details of what the image should contain and then just go from there. The best art directors will work with you and help you to achieve a better image. HM: You are also responsible for a tarot deck already available on the market for quite some time. What triggered the idea to make one and how long did it took to complete it? Any additional comments will be appreciated. TL: The tarot was something I discovered in middle school, as a result of my involvement with role-playing and reading comics and such. Immediately, I was drawn in by the images and the symbolism of it all. My own deck was a result of my desire for a project and some fortunate internet surfing. Upon seeing the work of another artist whose take on the tarot didn’t fit with my vision, I decided to make one for myself. Honestly, I never expected it to grow beyond an afternoon’s indulgence; however the feedback I received from friends and family was so strong that I continued to pursue it. Within a short time I had completed a number of cards and a good friend of mine convinced me I should try and get it published. She really did the legwork and basically dropped the submission materials in my lap. So, with nothing to lose, I took a chance and was fortunate enough to land a publisher interested in my deck. It took me a full year to complete the deck once I was under contract. HM: Looking by some of your series such as the muses, I see you draw inspiration from literature. Is the written word a constant well of inspiration and where do you seek ideas for your work usually? TL: I have a lot of influences, literary and otherwise. I look at work from classical painters and modern masters all with equal eye. I listen to heavy metal and get lost in the lyrics. Movies and television shows fill my mind with their plots and characterizations. All of this and more somehow distills through my brain and ends up in my work. HM: From all that you have done in your career so far, which is the piece you liked most or enjoyed most completing? TL: I have a few favorites. My Silver Banshee illustration for World’s Finest is one of them. I was just really excited with how that turned out as she’s been a favorite character of mine for a long time. HM:I understand that you also do commission work. Do you get a lot of requests and how do you decide whether or not to take up a job? What are your criteria? TL: These days I rarely do personal commissions. Between my professional work and my own projects I have little time to devote to other works. That being said, occasionally I’ll get a request from a model who would like to work with me and if I can find the time, I’ll set up a shoot. HM: Have you ever dealt with some sort of art theft? It is a common threat that accompanies artists these days and I would like to hear your experience with the problem. TL: I haven’t really experienced a problem with this but I have friends who have been through some nightmares over it. It seems to me that a lot of the theft occurs when you’re working on licensed properties or popular characters and things of that nature. The anonymous aspect of the internet kind of facilitates this to a degree, but it’s also quite adept at catching those who are doing something wrong. Unfortunately, I think it’s also easy for people to be caught up in a kind of witch hunt too. That’s life in the information age though. HM:The year 2008 had a nice schedule of appearances for you and can you share how they went? Did you meet a lot of fans? Also will your fans in America have the chance to see you this year as well? TL: I’ve been doing shows and appearances since the Fall of 2005 and I love it. The reception of my work has been great and I’ve met so many people and made so many friends while being out there at the cons and galleries. I really love the travel aspect too. I’ve been to a lot of great cities the past four years and I’m looking forward to seeing more. I’ll be finalizing my plans for this year soon, and they will be posted on the website. HM: Last but not least what does the future hold for Timothy Lantz? Can you share some of your projects? TL: I have a few commercial projects scheduled for the Spring and I’m working on a couple of projects of my own which I hope to announce in more detail later this year. As for what’s upcoming, there will be two books out soon, Amazon Ink by Lori Devoti, published by Pocket Books/Juno and A Flash of Hex by Jes Battis, published by Ace. Thank you Timothy. So you see things are looking up for the Artist Corner. © All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner. The artwork in this post has been used according to the rules listed by the artist or at least I think I have.

6 comments:

furiousBall said...

this was cool. i'm not the biggest scifi reader, but i really dug learning about his approach as an artist.

SQT said...

The cover to "Clockwork Heart" is one of the most beautiful I've seen. One of my favorites.

Charles Gramlich said...

Definitely an interesting and different approach. I still don't quite know what to think about digital art like this. I guess I just don't understand the process well enough. This helped.

Anonymous said...

great work man! As a photographer I also do similar work. I would also recomend Modeldaily.com when looking or models.

daydream said...

Thank you for stopping by. Timothy is just tons of fun to work with and one of the more creative artists I have seen so far.

Heather said...

[...]Fantasy and Sci-Fi Lovin’ Blog presents an interview with book cover illustrator Timothy Lantz. He conceived the art for Dru Pagliassotti’s CLOCKWORK HEART (you know, the one that deserves to be nominated for a Hugo!)[...]