Saturday, November 1, 2008

Fantasy Art - Philip Straub

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.

Philip Straub is a well known American artist, featured in numerous times in several publications and digital art websites and forums. He graduated in 1995 the Pair College of Art with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration. His works were featured in different areas of digital art and he has a vast experience in games, film, broadcast, children’s book and book jacket illustration, editorial, advertising and licensing. He worked as an Art Director for companies such as NCSoft and EA and now he founded and develops his own company, Unity New Media Entertainment. Philip teaches an online Concept Art class to students around the globe. Philip is also a founding member of CGSociety and regularly contributes to the illustration and digital art communities and judges several illustration competition. He continues to work on his own children’s book as well another story aimed for feature film development. He is constantly attempting to improve his skills as an Illustrator, Concept Designer, Art Director and Author.

Interview with Philip Straub

Dark Wolf: Philip thank you very much for the opportunity of this interview.
Do you remember your first art work and when it was made? What attracted you toward art?
Philip Straub: I honestly don’t remember the first drawing or painting I did when I was a child. I’ve been drawing and painting ever since I can remember and do recall trying out every media imaginable, watercolors, pastels, colored pencil, acrylics, and the list goes on. I was lucky enough that my parents allowed me to experiment with all these mediums. What I do remember is that I was painting different things than most children, while most kids were drawing monsters or comic books I was studying landscape painting at around 6 years old :)

Dark Wolf: What do you consider to be your main source of inspiration?
Philip Straub: Life! There is inspiration in everything around us- in our friendships, our relationships, our family, and in the wonderful world we live in. I enjoy music and film for inspiration and love the access to reference and artist communities the internet has allowed artists.
I have a pretty active imagination so I usually have a backlog of ideas I’m trying to get out – the trouble is balancing this with all the other responsibilities I have.

Dark Wolf: Your works are dominated by imaginative architecture and vegetation. Do you feel more attracted by these fields of work or do you feel more inspired of these subjects?
Philip Straub: Well a good body of my work is focused on environments but, that is changing- more and more of my work now includes multiple human subject matter and creature design. My Utherworlds books has allowed me to focus on character and environment.
The other reason a large body of my work is landscape is because that is what I’m known for so the more of a particular work you have the more likely you will be asked to do more of that type of work.

DW: Your works appeared in many children books. How different is working for children than a more mature audience? Do you feel more challenged working for children?
PS: I think I find creating children’s content more challenging- in general it requires a different technique than my realistic stuff and though it may look simpler, it is at times, depending on style, more time consuming. The images in my Secret Places Intellectual Property are extremely time consuming so and challenging images but, I do enjoy both.

DW: How is the work of Art Director? Do you feel that this particular job is difficult than the basic process of creation?
PS: It’s great - I love it actually. I wouldn’t say it’s more difficult but, I would say it requires a particular set of skills and unique set of interests. Multi-tasking is something an Art Director has to enjoy doing; from scheduling, to mentoring, to pipeline management, artist career development, product vision development, and political navigation. Some folks would rather just sit and paint and draw all day, I actually like the diversity an Art Direction brings to my day- I like learning new things and getting to help develop artists skills and careers.

DW: I am familiar with a usual saying which states that being your own boss means dealing with a drastic boss. How was it for you? Was it easier working for an already established company or for your founded one?
PS: Running Unity Entertainment is infinitely more difficult than any of the other roles I’ve held. The main difference is that all the other studios I’ve worked at had huge companies with deep pockets behind them. What this essentially meant was that when these large companies like EA and Vivendi Universal worked with other developers or vendors everyone listened. Unfortunately, in some cases, people operate under fear, if a small company works with a goliath like EA they definitely won’t challenge decisions or try to get away with certain things. When you have a small company like I do, you’re a-lot more vulnerable to the littlest thing, and you don’t have deep pockets or a team of lawyers available to protect you. But, all of these challenges are overshadowed by the experience of completing something that you truly believe in and are proud of- something you did on your own without the big corporation- that is extremely rewarding!

DW: I’ve seen that you taught a Concept Art class at EA University and also you have Concept Art class every year. What satisfaction do you have as a teacher? What interesting experience did the teaching process offered you?
PS: Yes, I’ve taught a number of classes and lectures over the years. I really enjoy the teaching process and enjoy being part of the growth of students as artists and people. The most interesting experience about teaching for me as learning how to articulate succinctly all the techniques I use to create my artwork. When you’re forced to actually explain how you work it forces you to analyze your process further and you end up learning more along the way. So, I find that when I’m teaching my actual work improves.

DW: You are often invited to judge different art competitions. What impresses you on a work and which criteria do you use in the judging process?
PS: The thing I always look for first in an image is the story, message, or symbolism behind the it. I ask myself “What is the artist saying here, what kind of emotion are they trying to evoke in the viewer?” Then, of course, I look at technique and overall execution of the image. How accurate is the lighting? How accurate is the perspective? Is the color and value structure correct etc etc……?
There are a million different ways to paint the same subject matter so it’s the artist’s job to apply their individual style and approach to any image. So, I look for an artist to take a given subject matter and really find the most interesting way to present it.

DW: I’ve seen a very interesting project made by Justin Lassen, “Synaesthesia”, and a fascinating concept, “Hearing pictures, seeing sound”. What do you think about this project of Justin Lassen in general and about the work made by him on your artwork in particular? What do you think about the association between different categories of art?
PS: I think Justin’s project is really interesting and inspiring. He’s a smart guy for coming up with that concept - it’s a win - win for all involved. By combining his musical vision with artists in the digital arena - he created something new and exciting that puts what’s possible in new media in front of the masses.
As for the association of different types of artistic expression, I say the more the merrier. I believe so strongly in combining different creative expressions I was inspired to form my company Unity Entertainment to produce the Utherworlds Intellectual Property. It combines music, animation, story telling and illustration in a different way.

DW: From all of your works and projects is there one in particular that you preferred or you enjoyed more making it?
PS: Definitely my Utherworlds project - I’ve been working on it for 5 years now and took a year off from my full time Art Direction duties to complete it. It was a story I wanted to tell to the world – I wanted to produce something that I really felt could make a difference in the world. Plus I’ve learned so much about things I never could have imagined in the process.

DW: What is “Utherworlds”? Can you reveal something about this project of yours?
PS: Yes certainly! It is an original novel of about 60,000 words, nearly 70 full color illustrations, two unique written languages, a spoken language, and a ton of maps that define the world. The novel is being published by Ballistic Publishing and is really a first in the publishing world. I’ve looked and looked and can’t find anything out there like it….probably because nobody has been crazy enough to try and pull it off!
The story revolves around the concept of Dreams and Nightmares and their connection to the conscious and unconscious thoughts of sentient being, especially humans.
The basic idea is - All thought is alive – each hope, fear, and memory is a part of the whole we call the universe. Every living creature contributes in their own unique way to the balance of positive and negative energy in the world. This energy is channeled to the Realms of Nightmares and Dreams, a visual manifestation of all thought energy that is located far in the depths of the universe.
For eons a balance has been maintained between the positive and the negative but, the balance has shifted and the natural order has been disrupted. Sentient beings have lost their way and have given into the temptation of negative thought. Hope, empathy, and truth are being challenged by the growing forces of greed, hatred, and lust. War, global climate change, and industrialization grow with each passing day unchecked. It is true - the universe has reached a tipping point. A time of no return is nearly upon us all. Those who are open – those with true presence and a belief in hope are called upon to reclaim and restore the balance.
Our main characters is thrown directly into this conflict when his family goes missing and he finds himself in the Realms of Nightmares with no memory of who he was or how he got there. He must find his past and understand how it is tied to his future and the future of the known universe.
In addition to the book, there is an interactive website I’ve been working on with a few folks that will be supplemental material to the book- almost like a field guide with additional information folks can find to enrich the story. But, if someone doesn’t have the book, it can be an introduction to the mythology of Utherworlds. The website will feature an original soundtrack produced by Alan Hewitt, a well know composer for film, game, broadcast and also tons of famous acts out there like Earth Wind and Fire, Eddie Money, and even Warrant! Alan also has a very successful solo career and has a new jazz fusion album coming out in 2009. The animations and development side of things for the site is being handled primarily by Mark Stefanowicz. Mark is a veteran in the games industry having worked on a ton of game titles and a very accomplished artist in his own right. The animations we’ve done for the site are very unique. You’ll just have to check them out at when it goes live in December.

DW: I know that you are also working on a children book. Is it possible to tell me a little about this project too?
PS: Secret Places is the children’s book project that I’ve been working on for quite some time – it’s been a hard thing to finish with the Utherworlds project, my freelance work, licensing work, and AD duties.
Secret Places is connected to the Utherworlds story but draws from completely different mythology and characters. The basic premise is as follows: Secret Places is a hidden world on earth that has existed since the creation of the earth. Not so long ago, all the children of the world danced to the ancient songs of animals living in harmony with one another. It is true, under the warmth of the summer sun, children everywhere listened to the animals around them play the music of life….each child playing along with them. Little did they know that these playful interactions assured that humanity would always be connected to the world where they came. And so it was for thousands of years - as children grew into adults, they retained the memories, fantastical lessons, and knowledge of that simpler time. Such as memories go, most would forget the details but, the memories that remained guaranteed humanity would become the stewards of the world.
The creatures of Secret Places, along with all life on earth, teach us that every human being has a unique relationship with the wild world, and that the discovery and cultivation of that relationship defines us. We learn, through our early exploration, that childhood innocence and wonder sprouts into an adolescence of creative adventure and finally blossoms into an authentic adulthood filled with artistry and visionary leadership.

DW: Besides these projects do you plan already other ones?
PS: Oh I think I’ve got my hands full right now! The Utherworlds project is scheduled to go content complete at the end of 2008 with the site launching just before the new year and the book hitting stores around late March/April. I’ve already written up roughs for book 2 and book 3 and while there will be a climax and some resolution in book 1, there will still be many questions left unanswered. So, with that the plan would be to pfinish up books 2 and 3 sometime in the near future. We have some merchandise available for Utherworlds already but, I’d really like to expand that out - there's a lot of cool things we can do with the property and I want to take some of the profits and donate to charity.
I’m also looking for my next big AD challenge - with Utherworlds wrapping up – I’m ready for something new and want to work on a game or film in the fantasy and/or science fiction genre that I, and the whole team can be proud of.

Thank you very much for your answers and your time.

For a full resume and a complete bio and portfolio of Philip Straub, please visit his website, The Art of Philip Straub.

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.


Barbara Martin said...

Philip Straub's work is amazing. He has full grasp of quantum physics and string theory when he spoke about the thoughts of humans' and animals' thoughts having an impact on the world. This is the same in the spiritual realm, what you focus your thoughts upon will manifest.

Adele said...

the first image is absolutely gorgeous.

Maria said...

I can see where he would be popular in the sci/fi fantasy realms...I always want to ask artists like this what they would draw for a mystery cover. Or--even more challenging, a cozy mystery cover.


Mihai A. said...

Barbara, Philip's work is amazing indeed. And I will be definitely interested in his project "Utherworlds" :)

Hagelrat, it is beautiful. My personal favorite is "Wind of Change", the one before the last one ;)

Maria, I would like to see some interesting mystery covers too ;)

Anonymous said...

I LOVE Philip Straub's art! I've been a fan for a long time. I like the dark feel, and, of course, the landscapes!

Mihai A. said...

Amy, he is one of the best artists :)