Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fantasy Art - Alex Popescu

© 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.

Alex Popescu is a Romanian artist specialized in digital art. He discovered his passion in high school and developed his skills through self-teaching. He will receive his Bachelor in Computer Science this year. Alex currently works as a matte painter at MediaPro Magic. Alex also worked as a matte painter for movies like “Hush”, “The Escapist”, “Shine a Light” and “Fire & Ice: The Dragon Chronicles”. His works were featured in publications like “Exposé” and “Digital Art Masters” and recently Alex Popescu was awarded with Master Award in “Exposé 7” for his work “Sail City”.

Interview - Alex Popescu

Mihai (Dark Wolf): Alex, thank you very much for this interview.
How did you become interested in art? How did you start drawing?
Alex Popescu: I think I was always attracted by the visual impressive things. Although I used to draw a lot as a kid, I stopped at some point and rediscovered this passion in high school. I found the freedom given by the digital medium to be extraordinary and at first I was impressed by the power of the tools. Now I try to rely on software less and less and focus more on the fundamentals.

Mihai (Dark Wolf): Which are the artists who inspire you? What influences your work has?
Alex Popescu: If I were to name all the artists that inspire me this would be a very long list. Having learned all the basics from the web, submitting my work to several communities for feedback, I was first inspired by web celebrities like Dylan Cole, Dusso or by a really talented guy from Romania, Dragos Jieanu. But as I got more and more into this I learned about a lot of amazing artists that aren’t that active on the internet but are the best of the best in what they do. I am trying to learn all I can by looking carefully at these masters’ work and not copy but understand the principles and apply those with my personal touch.

Mihai (Dark Wolf): I’ve noticed that you are a self taught artist. Do you feel that a self training is sufficient? Do you think that following the art courses at a specialized school can improve your technique?
Alex Popescu: I think education is extremely important when trying to get past a certain standard. There are a lot of talented people that lack the basic principles taught in an art school, like the understanding of light, perspective, composition, color, etc. I am one of the lucky people who is able to learn pretty fast and I studied all that on my own. But another important thing is the position you are going for if you work in the visual effects industry for example. For me, working as a matte painter, having a technical background education helped a lot, because this is a position that also requires technical skill not just artistic vision. But I would encourage anyone to at least take some classes of classic art theory because those are the basic skills that everyone needs.

M(DW): Where do you think that your work needs improvement? Is there a particular technique which you would like to learn?
AP: As I said earlier my work is a combination of technical and artistic skill. At the moment I master the technical side and I believe I don’t have any trouble in this area. But the artistic side is something you are always improving and at the moment I am working on my painting skills.

M(DW): Your works are exclusively made digitally. Do you also draw using the traditional methods? Do you feel more comfortable using the digital tools?
AP: I do use pen and paper from time to time to sketch my ideas or explain something to others and quickly show how I see one particular scene, but I do feel more comfortable in Photoshop. Although I can see myself concentrating more on traditional methods in the future.

M(DW): Looking over your portfolio I’ve seen that the fantasy and SF themes are a majority. Do you prefer working in these themes? What other themes attract you?
AP: Because as a matte painter you have to imitate reality, most of my work on my day job is realistic. That is why in my personal studies I often try to do something different, like Sci-fi or fantasy. You will notice that the colors get a lot more saturated in my personal works, there is much more contrast, opposed to the realistic approach I have on the matte paintings used for film. Of course you can say that Star Wars and LOTR have a lot of “illustrative” matte paintings and I am a huge fan of those, but I am referring to the majority of films that need work, and most of the stuff you do has to be invisible.

M(DW): You worked as a matte painter on several movies, including the first movie produced by a Romanian company for the US market, “Fire & Ice, The Dragon Chronicles”. How was the work on this project? What rewards offered you this project?
AP: Fire and Ice was the biggest project I ever worked on at that time. The sheer amount of visual effects shots that had to be done in the given time was scary. More than that I had the chance to be the lead matte painter, so actually worked in one way or another on all the shots that needed digital sets. And there were a lot. But what I loved most was the team I worked with. All the guys at Media Pro Magic are very dedicated and everyone did the best they could possibly do given the restrictive conditions. It was a very intense experience that taught me a lot about film production.

M(DW): Would you like in the future to work in a similar project?
AP: Ha, hopefully I will. But I would also love to get involved in a science fiction. I guess this is what I’d like most right now.

M(DW): You’ve also made a book cover illustration for a German publishing house. How did this commission opportunity arise? Would you like to repeat this experience in the future?
AP: I made a lot of book covers. Actually my first paid job was a book cover for a Romanian publishing house. I really like doing it, as I find it is a challenge and an honor to give the first visual impression for the text. And most of the times someone sees your portfolio on the web, they send you an email, and your work gets on the cover.

M(DW): If it were possible, for which novels would you like to make the cover illustration?
AP: Creating an illustration for Dune would be one of the things I’d love most.

M(DW): I think that job opportunities for a digital artist are limited in Romania since we don’t have many computer games companies, movie production or the book companies using original cover art. Do you find difficulties in finding such job commissions?
AP: I am currently employed at Media Pro Magic, the postproduction division at Media Pro Studios. So, I am not actually looking for commissions right now. But I have to agree that the market in our country is limited to just a couple of companies. But if you are good enough and serious and reliable about your work, you shouldn’t have trouble finding work, here or abroad.

M(DW): Do you believe that working in a country with more such job opportunities will help you develop as an artist?
AP: Of course. The environment you are working in has great influence on your work. I love a competitive environment where you need to push your limits to stay in front. If there aren’t any job opportunities it is easy to get distracted, lose focus and stop growing as an artist or as a professional. And that is the worst that could happen.

M(DW): You have been featured on several specialized publications, including the latest digital art annual album, Exposé. Also in the “Exposé 7” you received a Master Award in the futurescapes category for your work “Sail City”. How did all this make you feel? Do you think that this award raises the standard of your works?
AP: I was really happy to find out I received the Master of futurescapes Award. The quality of the work in the book grows by the year and I was proud to be selected in the top few. This of course puts a bit of pressure on your shoulders. If I have the time I would love to work on another personal image and hope it gets included in the book.

M(DW): At what are you working and what other future projects do you have?
AP: Our studio is involved in a cool project at the moment but I cannot talk about it. And on the personal side, I just graduated from the university, where I studied computer science and finished my degree paper on procedural generation of cities which was really fun to work on. I got some very cool results and I hope I have the time to develop it further in the future.

Thank you very much for your time and answers.
Thank you. It was a pleasure.

For more information about Alex Popescu and for a complete portfolio please visit his website,

© 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.


Anonymous said...

Great news and bad news. I was stunned to see the first image of this post as I've had it as my background wallpaper for several months. I found it on the web in a google search and loved it. Then, I read the disclaimer re: copyright. Should I ditch it as my screen background?

Alex Popescu said...

Hello and thank you for the opportunity to talk about my work.

And Peter,of course you can use this as your desktop's wallpaper, copyright is not an issue in this situation.

Maria said...

Really, really like that first one and the other castle/natural looking one a bit further down.

Such great detail. I can see the ripples in the water and that makes me feel like I'm standing on the shore.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Popescu,
Thank you. Truly phenomenal work. I hope to see some of it gracing book covers in the immediate, or near immediate, future.

kyodnb said...

The images are looking pretty cool..
I was curios.. what covers did you do for romanian publishers? if you can tell us of course :D

dolls like us said...

wow I could learn a lot from you you are very talented.

Mihai A. said...

Peter, you have a very nic wallpaper :) I am glad that Alex helped you out.

Alex, thank you too, it is my pleasure :)

Maria, those are good works indeed :)

Bogdan, good question, one I forgot to ask :)

Donna said...

I like them all. I really looked them all over trying to see if I liked one more than another but the looker I looked at each, I'd find something else I liked. They are all beautiful. Thanks for the interview, I always enjoy the Fantasy Art post.

Mihai A. said...

Thank you very much, Donna. I am glad you like Alex's works that much :)