Science Fiction & Fantasy

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

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Artist Spotlight

Artist Showcase: Dylan Pierpont

Dylan Pierpont is a young artist focusing on concept art and illustration. He got his BFA from the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in 2011 and has already worked with a number of companies, doing everything from environment illustrations to album art. Whether working with brush or stylus, he has a strong grasp of the foundations of art, giving even his conceptual sketches a strong sense of roundedness and texture.

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What are your personal touchstones when it comes to steampunk, and how did they influence “The Cartographer?” Are you more gaslight romance, or airships on Mars?

I had wanted to do a steampunk-themed piece for some time before the inspiration finally hit for “The Cartographer.” It’s such a uniquely diverse genre to work with, and there are all sorts of interpretive ways to approach the subject matter. I suppose it depends on my mood, but if I had to choose I’d be part of an airship crew. I’m a huge adrenaline junkie, so I’m game for anything that gets me off the ground and into the stratosphere!

Elsewhere you’ve laid out your process for creating “The Cartographer” in great detail, including use of digital and traditional media for different stages of the project. The charcoal value study stood out in particular. Do you regularly combine media, or did something in the piece demand it?

Using charcoal for the value study was something my professor at the time suggested. Normally I would have maintained a completely digital approach, but I really enjoyed mixing up the media for a change. Charcoal was the most logical choice because of its malleability and versatility in regard to value. You can swath a whole page in a layer of charcoal and start drawing out your highlights with a kneaded eraser. All that’s left to do is re-establish your accents and shadows; you’ll start turning those forms in no time.

In general, what tools and media are you most comfortable with, and how do you choose between them for different projects?

I think it’s fair to say that I’ve started to grow into the title of “digital artist” despite my very traditional schooling. Learning to mix oils or feeling the crumble of charcoal in your hands is something no digital application can match. There’s something to be said for creating a one-of-a-kind original sketch, even if it’s just the foundation for a computer-generated end product, but I feel as though the tools each artist wields, whether digital or traditional, don’t matter nearly as much as the idea he or she is trying to convey.

Which artists inspire you and contributed to the development of your style?

Honestly, I’ve lost count. After entering art school and building relationships with other students and professors, my library of inspirational artists has just exploded. Anyone from Alberto Pasini to Craig Mullins; Jean-Léon Gérôme to Russ Mills to Kai Lim to Zdzislaw Beksinski. On the illustration side I’d definitely say Kekai Kotaki, Aleksi Briclot, James Gurney, Michael Komarck, and Lucas Graciano. Those gentlemen can compose like nobody’s business. If I had to list the people whose work has pushed me to pursue a career in production art, I’d say without hesitation Dylan Cole, Raphael Lacoste, Marko Djurdjevic, Feng Zhu, and Dermot Power. These guys are a wealth of knowledge and motivation, and they push me to keep working long after dark, night after night.

Can you talk about the experience of working on CBS’ Facebook game for The Big Bang Theory?

It was a completely different working environment than what I was used to in school. During my art education we were conditioned to construct stories for a multitude of fictitious clients, but overall the deadlines were fairly generous in comparison to production art. You were given days, not hours, to work through the thumbnails, explore lighting and color options, perfect the composition, design the characters and sets, and throw some nice polish on the whole piece before a class critique. At my internship working on Mystic Warlords of Ka’a, we were expected to handle all of those creative problems and work within the confines of a pre-established design. It took me a while to find my bearings, but I can’t thank my illustration lead and art director enough for their support and for teaching me how to further my craft.

Your more recent work includes naturalistic backdrops, often with trees and other vegetation incorporated into the central figures. Is this due to personal inclination? The demands of assignments? A desire to solve different problems?

Fantasy is a relatively new genre for me. I grew up on game and film titles like Halo, Splinter Cell, Pitch Black, and The Matrix, so my personal interests have always sided with a modern-to-futuristic design treatment. I’ve only just recently started exploring the fantasy realm and I’ve had a tendency (for better or worse) to set the scenes outdoors. In the case of Warlords, a lot of it had to do with the history of the given race or faction, so there wasn’t a lot of leeway as to where those particular characters could be depicted.

Do you follow any particular art/illustration blogs or communities? If so, how does what you get from them influence your own work?

One of the most valuable presents I’ve ever received was a subscription to ImagineFX magazine nearly 2 years ago. Along with a slew of new artists, IFX exposed me to online groups like Crimson Daggers and the Chiustream. It’s really amazing how guys like Dave Rapoza, Dan Warren, and Bobby Chiu offer free advice and critique to just about anyone that’s willing to submit their work. Feng Zhu uploads new work on his Twitter page almost daily, and he records a video tutorial that’s posted to YouTube at least once a month. I’m also a big fan of the guys over at sidebarnation.com and follow their artist interviews almost religiously. I need to be more proactive about this, but the weekly/monthly challenges on conceptart.org, cghub.com and gameartisans.org are great for getting your work seen by both amateurs and professionals alike and can help to get you working outside of your comfort zone.

What would be your dream illustration assignment?

Aside from publishing my own personal intellectual property, I’d love nothing more than to see my name attached one day to a piece of key art/illustration for one of two clients: Weta or Ubisoft.

Sometimes your palette is restrained and naturalistic, sometimes saturated and electric. How do you determine where you’re going to go with the color scheme for a particular painting?

Color has always been one of those tricky elements in painting for me. I have a habit of over-saturating my pallet, and that can at times completely go against the mood I’m trying to create. Every other day or so I’ll do some quick, hour-long color studies from movie stills or National Geographic photos just to see how certain colors work in various lighting situations. It’s amazing how, for example, one artist’s use of yellow brings warmth and light into a piece while another artist might choose to use a shade of that same yellow to bring about a feeling of sickness and despair. The images I see from games like Assassins’ Creed and Uncharted are absolutely gorgeous examples of what I’d like to see in my own work someday.

What are you working on right now?

For the past six months I had the good fortune to freelance with some extremely talented people over at Digital Adaptations on their first studio project, “The 39 Steps,” which should be released later this spring. Since finishing, I’ve been utilizing my time to work on personal projects or take on whatever commissions I can manage to help bulk up my portfolio. I’d like to start sending out my work in the next month or so and see what’s available because I’m ready to stop working from home and get back into a studio environment, wherever that may be.

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J. T. Glover

J.T. GloverJ. T. Glover has published fiction, non-fiction, and poetry in Dark Recesses and Underground Voices, among other venues. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, he currently resides in Richmond, Virginia with his wife and a not inconsiderable number of aquatic friends. By day he is an academic reference librarian specializing in the Humanities.