Hrvoje Bešlić is a Croatian artist specializing in digital painting who graduated in 2007 from the Art Academy Zagreb. He learned how to draw on paper and only got his first PC a few years ago. Long hours since then spent with his Wacom tablet have brought him a long way, as you can see from the gallery. He has an affinity for fantasy, and scenes where a fight is just around the corner.
“p43” is full of atmosphere, with a strong sense of narrative. Can you tell us about your inspiration for the painting?
It was inspired by the movie Underworld, which I watched the night before on television. I just wanted to have fun with it, place it in fantasy setting. And any excuse to make armor and weapons is good enough for me.
Given how many of your paintings depict moments of high tension, what compositional elements do you use to heighten the tension of that moment?
I’m not sure. I never think about it, I just try to make things look nice. Perhaps it’s depicting the moments before the action that heighten the tension. The viewer is left to fill in what will happen after what is depicted in the picture.
Many of your paintings have a strong sense of place, or are purely landscapes. What draws you to landscape painting?
I actually started making landscapes to complement backgrounds for my character designs, and I kind of got addicted to them in the process. There is a certain satisfaction that can be gained from creating imaginary landscapes, and it’s also incredibly fun to do.
Which artists/illustrators have influenced you most heavily, or strongly inspire you?
A lot! The amazing Stjepan Šejić taught me a lot, and I probably wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without his help. People like Kekai Kotaki and Raphael Lacoste are other amazing artists that influenced me. But there is a plethora of people I admire, and I could go on forever naming them.
What skills did you transfer over from traditional to digital art media?
At first, when I started delving into digital painting, I completely neglected the basics you learn in traditional art. Needless to say, that was a huge mistake. I found myself so overwhelmed with the possibilities that Photoshop offers that I made a few bad mistakes. At some point I realized that you don’t need 500 brushes to make a picture; one is all you actually need. Everything you do on paper is the same as what you do on screen, but digital is faster and easier since you have layers and, of course, an undo button. The realization that there is no difference between traditional and digital at its core led to improvements in my work. Traditional art basics are, and will always be, the building blocks for whatever media you choose to express yourself with.
Elsewhere you’ve talked about stumbling across some amazing art on the internet that inspired you to learn to paint digitally. What was it that spoke to you in the art you found?
It was the fantasy part of them. I saw art depicting places that don’t exist, made in the creators’ imagination. It was awe inspiring how they could create such worlds and characters. I got hooked instantly, and there was no turning back for me.
What do you feel you have gained from participating in deviantART and CGHUB?
Definitely access to some of the most amazing artists around the world. That’s what’s great about communities like this, the concentration of the world’s amazing talent in one spot. It teaches you to be humble when you see all the amazing art created around the world, but it also creates a drive to improve your own skills. If they can do it, why couldn’t I as well?
Are you working to develop any particular skills right now? Are there things you’d like to be able to do a few years from now that aren’t yet within your grasp?
There are many things I’d like to be able to do, but understanding that progress in art is a lifelong process that never actually ends is very important. I’m sure that 10 years from now I’ll still have a lot to learn, and I’ll look back and think, “How did I not figure that out sooner?” But painting is an experience-based process: You learn from mistakes, and you learn over time. There is no way around it. No matter how talented you are, if you do not put in the time, you will not improve. Currently I am mostly focused on improving my speed; it’s very important to make things as quickly as possible.
A number of your paintings have a strong comics sensibility, and your deviantART gallery contains some comic book fan art. Do you want to work in comics, or do other areas hold your interest?
I do like comic books, but I don’t think I could work in the comic book area. It requires quite a unique set of skills that many artists excel at, and I have huge admiration for them. I am more of a concept art person, and making different versions of certain things, or something different, is what appeals to me.