I am very pleased to welcome the extremely talented artist Keith Thompson here to DarkFaerieTales.com to talk about his illustration work.
You can also visit Keith around the web here: Website
DFT: Are you trained as an artist?
Most of the knowledge I use had to be self-taught. I studied Illustration at Sheridan College.
DFT: How long do you generally spend on a project?
As long as is possible. I could work on an artwork indefinitely. Limits are usually defined by the budget and deadline on professional work, or by me moving onto a new idea for personal work.
DFT: How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?
I don’t like playing around with the medium much as I’m usually too eager to achieve a final goal. My identifiable style and approach was suddenly born when I painted The Scribe in ’04. It was always in me and bits of it shows up in all my prior art, but that was the point where all the instruments in play settled into their places.
DFT: What are some important things to keep in mind when pursuing a career as an Illustrator?
It’s all up to you; no one’s going to show you how it’s done. Try to achieve the same things that you love in other artists, it’s a reliable measure.
DFT: Are your originals for sale, owned by you or licensed?
My career is so geared towards reproduced art that I’ve just never focused on preparing the original work for sale (all my original stuff goes in a vault for when I can get around to approaching original artwork and its selling.) I’m currently just too pressed for time to properly focus on preparing the originals properly for collectors, so they sit in the dark, waiting.
DFT: Do you accept private commissions?
Yes, when I can I love to. It can be a bit tricky to work things out, but when they do the results are exceptional.
DFT: Is any of your illustration work digital, or is it all analogue?
I use black colerase pencil on 110lb paper. Halfway through the process the art is scanned and glazed using soft light layers in Photoshop. So basically it’s 50/50 traditional and digital.
DFT: What is your process when working with clients? Can you run us through a typical job? What is your creative process?
Completely varies on the industry. My consistent approach is to try to only talk to clients from the position of a professional, as people are rarely interested in discussing art itself. When things are settled I turn my thoughts to that of an artist’s role and address the project. I do a lot of pacing around and thinking. Most of my work time is not spent drawing or painting but walking around and staring at the arts progress, ensuring it’s following the path laid out in my head.
DFT: Are you a big fan of steampunk?
It’s a coincidence for me to have something in common with a current popular movement, so I’m unsure of how to address it. I’d be working with and enjoying Victorian aesthetics regardless.
DFT: Did you have to do a lot of research for Leviathan to capture the historical details?
I already had a good hold on an Edwardian look in my art (very early though, straddling late Victorian.) However I wanted to use it as an opportunity to really get a feel for the details of the time. Most of my research hardly shows up in the art, as is usually the case. However I think it delivers a real richness that can’t be achieved otherwise. It’s easy to get carried away though and start looking up period Ottoman doorknobs…
DFT: I absolutely love the Caricature Map of Europe 1914. How did you come up with that idea?
It’s based on a lot of caricature maps from the time, which seemed to be a common type of illustration. It really was the Golden Age of Illustration, and the political art at the time was sublime.
DFT: Describe your work setting.
My studio has lots of warm lighting and walls covered in framed art. I draw at an easel that is either set up for me to work while standing or moved down to the floor where I sit cross legged on a Persian rug (usually when I have to lay out a lot of books while researching.
DFT: Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?
I never have creative slumps; rather most of my ideas never get the chance to be born. The biggest problems are when I have a certain passion for an idea that distracts me from another project.
DFT: What was one of your favorite projects?
The How to Draw books I wrote and illustrated were amazing because I was given 100% free creative reign on the artistic content by the publisher. Almost every piece of art and little story that went into those books came out extremely well.
DFT: Which author would you love to do artwork for?
It would really depend on how well the collaboration between the author and I would end up (sometimes quirks and approaches can really clash.) I started reading China Mieville after people began mentioning a similarity in tone between our work, and I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve gone through.
DFT: Are there any of your designs that you ended up not liking?
I don’t like it when a design ends up stripped of a background or cultural richness. Usually I can avoid it, but sometimes a jobs specifications force all of an artwork’s edged to be polished down to dull nubs.
DFT: What is the best part about what you do?
Creating things I felt should exist in the world for others to enjoy.
DFT: What is your favorite fairy tale? Why?
I love fairy tales, it would be too hard to pick a single favourite. One of the latest I’ve liked a lot is The Armless Maiden. It has an eerie tone and atmosphere that I find evocative.
DFT: What do you like to read for pleasure?
At the moment I’m reading Harvey Broadbent’s Gallipoli. I’ve also recently gotten a big kick out of some history inspired manga: Historie, Vinland Saga and Cantarella.
DFT: Keith – I really appreciate you taking the time to stop by.
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