This month’s cover art is a collaboration by Chris Cold and Tobias Roetsch, artists who work in multiple media to create awe-inspiring scenes of worlds other than ours. Cold is based in Russia, where he does freelance work as a digital artist. Roetsch is located in Dresden, Germany, where he works in graphic design, photography, and digital art. Each has been working long enough to build a substantial body of work, and their styles mesh seamlessly.
Can you talk about your process for collaborating on “Any Direction?”
Tobias: The idea for a collaboration was quite spontaneous. The first question was the format. Chris preferred a wide one, which was okay for me in order to make it available as dual-screen wallpaper later on. Next, Chris came up with some quick sketches to outline our ideas better. Then we just sent the image back and forth from step to step. I was responsible for the background and he for the foreground. We both worked on the final touches, and the final coloring was up to each of us individually.
Do you have any common points of inspiration? Looking at your bodies of work, I immediately get the sense of scope that also comes from the paintings of artists like Syd Mead or John Berkey, though you both seem to focus on the beauty and strangeness of extraterrestrial environments first, and the role of people in them second.
Tobias: I am more into landscapes and sceneries. Depth and scope are essential there. Together with the right lighting, they make an image stand out or look boring. My inspiration basically comes from nature, as it serves as the best source of beauty. Of course music and movies are inspirational as well.
Chris: Well, anything can be inspirational—even a plain brick wall, with the right amount of imagination. I don’t actually have any favorite genres or themes, I just have ideas, and if it seems more logical to focus on a character in a painting rather than having an overwhelming landscape (or the other way around), that’s what I’ll do.
What first drew you to fantasy and science fiction art, either looking at it or making it?
Tobias: I have always been a fan of Star Trek and Star Wars. These movies impressed me a lot when I was a child. I also played space-related games like Freelancer. One day I wanted to create other worlds on my own, and that is how I started working in this genre.
Chris: Yeah, I agree with Tobias on that one. Generally, it’s the movies, games, books that get you into that stuff. I always liked fictional stories more than non-fiction, which is probably why I dislike doing still lifes or portraits of people. It all just seems ordinary. Fantasy and sci-fi were always visually impactful.
What kind of work do you want to be doing in five years?
Tobias: The same work as today, only more refined and with more painting parts.
Chris: If you mean art-related, then, yeah, pretty much the same as now, just higher quality. Maybe doing it faster, etc., but essentially the same type of work.
What kinds of ideas or sketches have led you to your most effective finished works?
Chris: It depends on how you measure “effectiveness” in art. If you mean “popular,” the public likes certain things more than others. Dragons seem to be loved by everyone. If you mean which ones I prefer myself, it’s usually the pieces I started long ago and finished only later, like after two months. It just feels like the idea has had time to mature by then, I guess.
The digital art of twenty years ago was, regardless of effectiveness, crude compared to the breathtaking art that each of you can create at home using your own computers. What could you imagine happening with the digital medium in the next twenty years? Is there anything you want to do as artists for which the technology does not currently exist, or is not yet fully developed?
Tobias: The things that are on the market nowadays are already quite powerful. The only problem is the price. I personally cannot see any major improvements that are needed; if I could, I would sell them!
Chris: It’s doubtful that a lot of things will improve much. Artists will still need the same knowledge and skill to create quality art, even if the devices and software improve. It might make the process faster, though.
What elements can help an artist create mind-blowing science fiction art?
Tobias: Try to take your own photos and create your own stock-base. Free textures (cgtextures.com) and brushes are helpful as well. Other than that, time and patience.
Chris: Totally agree. You should also look for some live streams. Just watching someone paint in real time could help out.
Tobias, how does your experience with photography overlap with or influence your digital art? Do you do a lot of post-processing of your photos?
There are basically three different ways for me: pure digital art, mixed media of digital art and my photography, and pure photography. My photography makes it easier for me to realize my ideas in the field of digital art, as it provides me a good base to start working on. That helps a lot if you are afraid of a white or empty canvas. The photos that I take for digital projects get a lot of post-processing to make them fit into the scenes. Sometimes you need abstract thinking for this kind of task, and you wind up only paying attention to small portions of the photos.
Chris, a lot of your work has a limited or monochromatic color scheme, with a very strong sense of massing of lights and darks. Is this something you came to on your own, or did particular artists influence you in this direction?
I’m not sure, honestly. I never really cared for realism, so lighting and colors were secondary to me—I was just doing whatever looked pleasant in some way. I still do a lot of abstract stuff where I’m trying to get the shapes right first and drag the colors along; usually it tends to be monotone or black and white.
What do you have planned next, singly or working together?
Currently we both are working on our own projects. As “Any Direction” was quite successful, another collaboration could be beneficial for both of us.