Friday, February 26, 2010

Fantasy Art - Dave Rapoza

© 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.

Dave Rapoza is an American freelance illustrator and concept artist currently living in Littleton, New Hampshire. Dave Rapoza is a self-taught artist and in his career so far he worked with companies such as Wizards of the Coast, Privateer Press, White Wolf and Paizo Publishing. Recently Dave made the cover artwork for the upcoming James Barclay’s novel published by Gollancz, “Once Walked with Gods”. He also started The Crimson Daggers group where, together with other artists, he tries to improve his artwork and other illustrators to improve theirs.

Interview - Dave Rapoza

Mihai (Dark Wolf): David, thank you very much for the interview.
How did you start to draw? What attracted you towards art?
Dave Rapoza: First of all, no problem! Glad to do the interview :).
Art was never really the end all profession I wanted. I really enjoy it but art was just another hobby I had that just turned out to be the only one I could see myself doing forever (and make a decent living). What attracted me was the idea of being able to achieve the same level of work as my favorite artists. When I was younger I used to go into the book stores and just stare at all the awesome book covers and I'd go and buy Magic: The Gathering cards just to look at the artwork. I loved how these artists seemed to just really be able to totally realize what they saw in their heads. That was really what turned me onto drawing, being able to create whatever I wanted.
But like I said before, this wasn't really something I had a huge passion for. Most of the time I'm just studying and trying to push myself to improve on each piece. That’s what attracts me to everything I do, the ability to just constantly move forward and the feeling of accomplishing goals. It’s probably the greatest feeling in the world to me. So when I got serious about art was when the pressure of life set in. I got in trouble with the law and was in court for a year/feared never getting work again.
So I decided to just put my all into art. Every day I studied for close to 14 hours a day (alternating to apply my studies and eat food of course). That was just over 2 and a half years ago. Now that I'm doing it for a living I am still consistently studying everyday along with my work. I have a constant fear of complacency and comfort haha.

Mihai (Dark Wolf): Who are the artists that inspire you? Do you find more inspiration in the classical art or the modern one?
Dave Rapoza: There are far too many artists to name! What really inspires me are the people I study with everyday. They aren't necessarily the greatest artists in the world but they're always there every morning with me pushing for their dreams. It’s really crazy how driven they can be and that always drives me forward. If you don't know what I'm referring to, I run a Live Streaming daily study group for free every morning called the Crimson Daggers. This whole streaming thing has inspired me far more than I could have imagined.
As far as current artists go I'm most inspired by people like Craig Mullins, Jaime Jones, Jana Schrimer, Jason Chan, Paul Bonner, and many others. My favorite old master is probably Ilya Repin but I have many, many favorites!
There isn't any one single group that inspires me more though.

Mihai (Dark Wolf): You didn’t attend any art school and you are a self-taught artist. Do you believe that an artist can improve faster and better through art classes or through self-teaching? Do you feel that you still have things to learn and improve in your art?
Dave Rapoza: First of all, nobody ever peaks and is just fantastic at art. There is no roof, no limits and thinking you have reached that point is limiting to say the least.
I don't believe there is any one single way to become great at art. Schools tend to vary quite a bit and you should really look into the staff, make sure it’s a great school. Many times art schools can hinder an artist by giving them pointless exercises and asking them to do such things as mimic Picasso without any knowledge of how Picasso does what he does. Things like this really bug me, I believe in basic fundamental training (anatomy, color, light, form, and all that good stuff), all the rest is just icing on the cake. People like Picasso have vast understandings of how to create these images, Picasso himself could render the human form really well before he did his own thing. He never just started drawing weird shapes without any knowledge.
At the same time being self taught can be detrimental. You have to be totally driven in order to succeed. If that is the route you take then you must be strict with yourself. Creating schedules and making sure to focus on the fundamentals for a few hours every day. A lot of time people just end up procrastinating or just getting one job and becoming lazy. Forgetting why they started in the first place.
I myself have a long, long way to go in art. Every day I wake up and study for a couple hours before getting into my freelance schedule. It’s very important to always stay focused on your goal. When I work I don't just try and limit myself depending on the rate I'm getting. It’s all about the next level of finish and how hard I can push myself. I'm always the first person to point out my own mistakes :)!

M(DW): You work almost exclusively using digital tools. Did you start to learn directly on the digital media? Would you recommend starting with the traditional tools and then moving to the digital tools?
DR: Well, like I said before, I was in big trouble a few years ago when I really started working hard. Back then I didn't have the right kind of traditional supplies to learn how to paint and whatnot. In high school I had won a scholarship for art school but couldn't attend due to grades/lack of funds. So instead of the scholarship money they gave me a Wacom Intuos 3 tablet (which I used up until last December).
Digital pretty much felt the most convenient to learn, all I needed was my tablet and time. After this I just started trying to learn everything I could about Photoshop and how to use my tablet. Only now am I moving backward to traditional and working more in my sketchbooks (although I always do rough sketches on paper for pieces).

M(DW): In your comments of your works I saw that many of your art pieces are made at night. Do you like to draw more at night than during the day? Why?
DR: That’s strange haha, but I suppose a lot of my older works were finished during all nighters. When I lived in Peoria, Illinois (moved there for a job that fell through) I was pushing myself to move to New Hampshire. So I often pulled all nighters to finish my work as fast as possible to save money for my move. Back then I was under a lot of pressure to basically save me and my girlfriend from having to spend the whole year in Illinois. At the time we had no car or any real big jobs to speak of. She was just starting her online shop ( so I was making most of the money for our move. Very stressful time haha, probably accounts for the late nights.

M(DW): Also on your blog I’ve noticed that you have a passion for music. What role does music play in your art? Do you have one or more paintings inspired by a certain song or musician?
DR: Music plays a huge role in most all of my personal work. When I work on client stuff I generally just listen to audio books, interview, and podcasts. This is mainly because my personal work is geared towards speed/thrash metal :). I've been developing that world for quite a while and people will probably see a lot more of it soon if they're checking out my blog. There isn't any one song or artist that inspires my work, pretty much all metal! I just love the intensity, a lot of artists listen to slow moody music but I can't handle that. My mind tends to just wonder if that’s the case.

M(DW): I’ve seen on your portfolio that you approach fantasy themes, as well as horror ones. With which theme do you feel more comfortable working? Are there other themes that you would like to try in the near or distant future?
DR: Hmmmm... I think I prefer more dark fantasy elements, mostly because I love to draw creatures. When I'm painting creatures I tend to have a lot more interest and am generally more excited to see the outcome. I'd really love to do my own comic in the future. Which is a mix of the metal/horror/fantasy stuff I do. Not sure when I'll have time but it will come out even if it’s not in comic form.

M(DW): Speaking of fantasy may I ask if you have any fantasy works of fiction as favorites? Would you like someday to illustrate a fantasy novel or its cover?
DR: I'm a big fan of fantasy for sure! I've been reading the Dark Tower series recently, currently on the 2nd to last book. Really enjoy all the ideas Stephen King delivers in there, also keeps thing vague enough for me to fill in all my own images. Would love to do some illustrations from it! Then of course I love the classics like Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.
Favorite cover? Not sure, I always see so many I love! I love all the covers Todd Lockwood has done for that Drizzt series of books. He’s also a really nice guy, helped me quite a bit when I was working on my first book cover.

M(DW): Your portfolio is also inclined toward portraits and characters. Do you like to draw portraits more than scenes or landscapes? Do you feel that you need to improve your work on scenes?
DR: Yes, I do feel I need to improve my landscapes and scenes. Also when I was doing all those portraits that was just an exercise between jobs (I work all day everyday on freelance). Portraits are pretty easy for me, so they're a nice break between jobs to just relax. Although when I was doing them it must've just seemed like that all I ever did haha. This interview is also overdue(sorry :() so there are quite a bit of new pieces up of mine that are full on scenes and environments w/multiple characters.
As much as I enjoy portraits I love doing illustrations a whole lot more. The work I've done for Wizards of the Coast has been an awesome opportunity to consistently put out illustrations. Working on Magic has been by far the most fun in that regard though.

M(DW): You worked on a personal comic book, “Thrash til’ Death”. Is this comic finished or is it still in the working process? Would you like to work more on the comic industry?
DR: Thrash til Death is still in development, I've done some sample works of it and have most of it written... It’s just a matter of finding the right style to use. Not sure if I want it to feel totally serious or have a slightly cartoony feel. I may do samples of each and see what kind of feedback I get.
Not sure if I'd enjoy drawing comics for a living. I really just want to do mine so I can tell the story I've had in my head! Don't think I'd enjoy drawing spider-man all the time.

M(DW): From the commission works you made so far which one did you enjoy the most? Would you like to repeat one of these commission experiences?
DR: The commissions I enjoyed most were my Magic: The Gathering cards and my work on Orion Publishing's Elves Once Walked with Gods series. These were the most fun to polish and bring to final. I loved having the extended amount of time to finish things and really put my all into each piece. The deadlines weren't as constricted as some of my other work and that was a big relief.
Also the art direction on both projects has been perfect. They get where I'm going with my sketches and then it’s just a matter of finishing. I'd love to work on projects like these all the time, everyday if I could.

M(DW): Do you feel more comfortable working as a freelance artist or would you like to work on a permanent artist position?
DR: Comfort to me is a terrible thing and is the main reason why I haven't taken a full time position. I've been offered a few, some from friends but have had to deny them. I don't believe I'm ready to just sit still and accept paychecks. A lot of my pressure to improve comes from the feeling that I don't have the option to sit still. Maybe someday in the future I'll take a full time position... But for now I'm all set working freelance!

M(DW): I noticed on your blog that you post a series of video tutorials about your art and work. Do you like to help other artists to improve their technique and art because of your self-taught background? Would you like someday to teach an art class?
DR: Again, this interview is long overdue! Haha, and yes I love helping all I can. Not that I'm a master or anything like that. But I enjoy giving out everything I know about the industry and any techniques I come across. That’s why I started the Crimson Daggers study group. It’s just been growing and growing. This study group is about as far as I'd go with teaching though. Don't think I could just continually show up at a school to teach. Got too many things to do and work at!
Yeah, I do think it comes from me being self taught. I always wanted somebody doing some sort of live platform where I could just ask anything I wanted in real time. It was always a pain to send emails to pros and never hear a response... But they're all so busy! So I just decided to do it myself now that I've been working in the industry for a few years. Basically I just want to show that anybody can do it and for free.

M(DW): At what are you working at the moment? What future plans do you have?
DR: Currently I'm finishing my second set of Magic cards, some work on a new D&D book, and the next Elves book cover. I plan on releasing some downloadable content in the future and hopefully producing some Thrash til Death related product. Other than that I'll keep on pushing to become a better and artist. Hopefully everything good will just happen haha.

Thank you very much for your answers. It has been a pleasure.
No problem! Thanks for asking!

For more information about Dave Rapoza and a constantly updated portfolio please visit his website, Dave Rapoza.

© 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.


The Fantasizer said...


This was truly great looking stuff.
Amazing artwork thanks for posting

Mihai A. said...

I am glad you like it :)