Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Fantasy Art - Raymond Swanland

© 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.

Raymond Swanland is an American artist who currently lives in the state of California. He was attracted by art from his early age as he wonderfully states it on his bio:
"Ever since I can remember, I was one of those kids with some tool to draw with in my hands. Mythical creatures, robots and, of course, dinosaurs were strewn, in one form or another, all over my room... and marched across my walls. I never really thought I would be exploring that same world of symbolism and imagination as I grew into an adult. But as fate would have it, I've had the tremendous fortune to turn my passion into a living through creating artwork for novels, video games, and feature films."
Raymond Swanland is one of the main contributors of the Oddworld series of games. He also created artwork for Fantasy and Science Fiction books, magazines, comics and snowboards. Raymond Swanland uses a mix of digital and traditional media in his works.

Interview - Raymond Swanland

Dark Wolf: Raymond, thank you very much for your amiability and the opportunity of this interview.
On your biography it is said that you draw since you could remember, but may I ask how did you come in touch with art in first place? Who were the first artists that attracted you with their works?
Raymond Swanland: To be honest, I truly don’t remember my first experience of taking crayon to wallpaper and didn’t have a clear moment of realization that I was an artist. I really was drawing before I can clearly remember and my family always quietly acknowledged that I was the artist of the family. Therefore, at that age, it wasn’t individual artists that inspired my art, but rather illustrated books on ancient mythology like Homer’s Odyssey and books about Dinosaurs. My interest in picture books definitely predates my interest in the visual storytelling of film particularly because I had to fill in the blanks between book illustrations and study them at my leisure as oppose to the brief movement of a movie. Those particular books and artists are lost to time and nostalgia for me now, but I tap into that youthful sense of mental exploration as a perpetual part of my artistic process.

Dark Wolf: Your talent and skills developed mainly through self-teaching. My mother, who is a passionate painter, didn’t study art in school either and developed her talent through constant practice. Did your process of learning require constant practice and an imposed discipline? Was this process made easier by your great passion for art?
Raymond Swanland: Although I am eternally grateful to whatever power in the universe provided me with the gift of an early aptitude for art, I don’t really believe in the idea that people with talent of any type achieve success without a tremendous amount of hard work. In my case, a certain restlessness and desire to express myself through art gave me the motivation to keep working through countless hours of struggle on unsuccessful attempts at art in many mediums. Sometimes motivation came out of a need to escape the frustration of not being able to express myself clearly. Eventually, small victories turn into fully realized pieces of art, but it’s always the result of struggle and discipline for me to this day. I know this may remove some of the romance and mystique of being an artist, but in reality, it makes the successful expression through art that much sweeter.

Dark Wolf: You started to work immediately after high school with the video game company Oddworld Inhabitants. How did the company become interested in the artist Raymond Swanland? How did this experience change your career and your perception on art?
Raymond Swanland: My introduction to Oddworld Inhabitants came directly through a shared interest in comic books with many members of the creative team at the company. I was invited to take a tour of the company and bring along a portfolio and the rest is history. Oddworld became my personal art university as I learned from the many talented artists that worked there under the trial-by-fire environment of video game production. Looking back, my personal style is inextricably combined with that of the Oddworld universe. The distinctive visual style of Oddworld was a tremendous force in shaping my style at the same time that I had a considerable hand in guiding the look of many aspects of the world. The Oddworld universe lives on and I certainly hope I have the opportunity to continue my education at the University of Oddworld in the future.

DW: What is your preferred method of work? I mean do you like to draw in a specific location, a studio for example, do you prefer to be quiet, to have natural or artificial light?
RS: My perfect environment for working is a constantly evolving process. I currently enjoy working in my studio at home in an open space with sparse furniture and high ceilings. I find it important not to feel too physically confined in order to feel creatively open. Depending on my stage of the creative process, sometimes I work in absolute silence, while other times I have music or TV playing in the background. Sometimes a decent book on tape is a good way to distract the analytical part of my mind and allow me to be more intuitive with my art. I’m a huge believer in discipline and finding a comfort zone, but overbearing routines are a creativity killer for me. I try to keep as many tools in my potential working process as possible in order to constantly mix things up and avoid any chance of stagnation. This struggle to find balance in the process is just another aspect of the struggle of art.

DW: I’ve read that usually you start your works in pencil on paper and finish it on the digital medium. Does it happen for some of your works to remain in pencil? Or the process to go the other way around, from a digital piece to a traditional one?
RS: I do have the occasional personal piece that goes all the way to finish with traditional mediums, but all my professional work these days ends as digital. However, just as I mentioned that I try to avoid stagnation in my process, I do the same with the mediums I use. I’m currently reacquainting myself with acrylics and oils on canvas in order to get back in touch with the pleasure of texture and dirty hands. I’m also continuing to explore my great love for working with bronze sculpture as a completely different process than anything like painting. Coming full circle, I do tend to do color sketches in the computer that will lead to my finals in oils or even bronze. In the end, I don’t see clear distinctions between or carry strong purist loyalties for particular mediums. Any medium that leads me to express is a good medium.

DW: Wandering through libraries or surfing the Internet your illustrations capture the eye immediately and with ease I can say that “this is a Raymond Swanland work”. How long and how difficult it is to develop such a personal touch to your works? Does this personal touch develop and suffer changes further on?
RS: As a result of all the media we are bombarded with in our modern culture, as well as the wealth of artistic history we draw from, it seems difficult and rare to develop ones own artistic style completely independently. What this means for most modern artists is that we tend to attract to styles that really resonate with them and then go on to emulate that style as we gain confidence and technical skill. As we hone our craft, our unique voice begins to emerge, sometimes through subtle changes, sometimes through dramatic leaps. Although my style has emerged and defined itself as recognizable, I still have every intention and desire to allow it to keep expanding into new territory.

DW: Speaking of libraries, you illustrated many book covers, especially fantasy novels. How much do you enjoy this work? Are you interested in the fantasy genre outside the art field as well?
RS: I would say that I’ve never lost my love for fantasy and science fiction, but my interests have certainly expanded into other genres over time. Quite possibly as a result of my working in imaginary worlds during so much of my professional time, I tend to enjoy classic literature in my reading time. Perhaps out of a sense of balance or just a personal preference, I’ve grown to enjoy the stories that explore the inner-workings of the mind and soul as well as epic stories that explore the fates of civilizations and galaxies. History, politics and world culture have also grown to a fever pitch in my personal interests throughout my adult life. I’m sure all of these interests will be featured more and more in my art in the future.

DW: From the authors and novels of fantasy genre or other genres, with which author would you like to work or which book would you like to illustrate?
RS: With any novel, short story, or even magazine article I read, the art of words transforms directly into images in my mind’s eye. Although fantasy, sci-fi and ancient mythology lend themselves to amazing flights of the imagination, I think it would be truly exciting to illustrate a story that takes place predominantly in emotional and psychological territory. From Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis to Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, I would love to take on the challenge of depicting the transformations of the internal world of the mind rather than just the action and drama of the world outside ourselves.

DW: One of the greatest qualities of art is that it can bring forth a story in one image. Do you think that one image can do more than words? Can one image tell a wider story?
RS: I believe that visual art and written words are both capable of achieving the same reactions in an audience, just down different paths. What a single image can do that words can’t is to hit the audience in an instant, perhaps without even thinking about it. Telling a story in one image can sweep that audience away to another place in a single moment, and once there, the written word can continue the journey even deep. I believe this is one reason that illustration is such a perfect and important marriage with sci-fi and fantasy literature.

DW: You have created artwork for films as well. How much different is this work than that on video games or on book covers? What new satisfactions do you have working on films?
RS: The approach to creating art for books, films and video games all comes from a similar place. It almost always starts with a story that the art is wrapped around and embellishes. For me, the value of film is that it offers the space to truly flesh out an idea until it becomes tangible. Film, in its finished form, goes on to bombard many senses all at once and can convince the audience that the imaginary story they are seeing is truly real. The power of film to suspend a viewer’s sense of disbelief is tremendously satisfying both as a creator and a member of the audience.

DW: On your website I read that your future projects might include an illustrated novel. Is this project only an idea or is it a work in progress? Can you give me a few details, please?
RS: My illustrated novel is definitely a work in progress at this point. It’s been a long time coming, but I’m dead set on taking it to finish as soon as possible. The only thing I can say about it at this point is that it takes place in the future and that it follows many of the characteristics of ancient fable storytelling. We’ll see where it goes as it evolves to finish.

DW: At what are you working right now and what other future projects do you have?
RS: In addition to my many book cover projects, much of my work these days goes towards the expansive worlds of Magic: The Gathering and Worlds of Warcraft. In addition to that, I’m excited to be working on the covers for a new series of comics based on the Predator franchise for Dark Horse. As an old favorite of mine, it’s a great nostalgic project. Perhaps this new open door into comics will continue to open wider in the future.

Thank you for your time and answers. It has been an honor and a pleasure.
For more information about Raymond Swanland and for an extensive portfolio please visit the artist website, The Art of Raymond Swanland.

© 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.


ediFanoB said...

You always find interesting artists. I like the style of Raymond Swanland

Mihai A. said...

Raymond Swanland has an unique and amazing style. I like his artworks a lot :)

dolls like us said...

I like what you do looks kind of goolish or like it is something the devil might do .

Anonymous said...

I've really enjoyed his artwork on the Glen Cook books that have been released from Night Shade. They all look spectacular.

Mihai A. said...

Harrison, those covers are so spectacular that I would have bought the books anyway if the covers would have been the only good thing :)

kyodnb said...

These are some of the best images i could see around from such an artist

Mihai A. said...

Raymond Swanland is one of my favorites :)

Anonymous said...

Where can someone purchase prints or originals?

Mihai A. said...

I am not sure, but you can contact Raymond Swanland. I am sure he can help you with that :)