Oh yes, it’s another instalment in our team-up with the brilliant folks at Poster Posse! We absolutely love this piece that Andy Fairhurst has created for Susan Hill’s classic ghost story The Woman In Black, which you can see in the issue on sale now.
We took the chance to chat with Andy about how he got started as an artist, his favourite projects and dream commissions, and what advice he has for people just starting out.
Tell us about your background as an artist. Where did you study and how did you get in to digital art?
I have always drawn, ever since I was a 5 year old kid having seen Star Wars for the first time. I studied for a degree in animation and illustration at university but dropped out half way through as I felt it wasn’t that good. I have learn way more just doing it and learning from others over the years. The internet is a great tool for learning and that’s where I started getting into digital art. Going on forums such as deviantArt, CGsociety and an old site called GFX Artist really gave me the bug for digital and I ended up switching from traditional to digital about 12 years ago. The last five years have been the most rewarding for me where my artwork is concerned, even though I have been at it for many many more years than the.
How would you sum up your style? And how has this developed over the years?
I don’t think I have a style. Others say I do but I tend to feel like I am still searching for a style. I go through phases I guess. At the moment I am doing a lot of what I call ‘Nerd’s Eye View’, which is basically everything seen from directly above, which Woman In Black is in this instance.
What have been your favourite projects to work on so far?
By far my favourite things I have worked on are the Star Wars sets I have done with Bottleneck Gallery in New York. I have been lucky enough to produce licensed artwork which is a dream come true for such a massive Star Wars fan like myself. I feel like there is a tiny part of me that is now in the Star Wars universe, haha!
A lot of your work is based on popular culture, what attracts you to this kind of work?
I have always been inspired by pop culture. It started, like I said earlier, when I saw Star Wars as a five year old and the first thing I did when I got home was draw the Death Star. Ever since then my main influence in art has always been movies and TV. Even when I am not directly basing my work on existing pop culture, the vibe or influence of movies, TV or books is still there.
Are there any dream clients/collaborators you’d love to work with and why?
My dream client was and still is Lucasfilm. If I could have said to myself as a kid that I would have official Star Wars art when I grow up, no matter how small, I’d have told myself to get out of town (that’s what we would have said back then). As for anyone else, well they are all my dream clients to be honest. I have done stuff for the BBC, Marvel, Disney, 20th Century Fox and more and I am always over the moon to get those stamps of approval. Oh, I reckon something with James Gunn would be completely awesome too!
What is usually the most challenging part of a commission?
For me it’s when the idea is theirs and not mine. Now that’s not to say that the client’s idea is wrong or worse than mine, but I find it a lot harder to create someone else’s idea than my own. The best clients are the ones who just want me to do my thing, its a lot easier. I’m also really bad when it comes to discussing the money side of things. I hate all that but I need to feed the kids, so I have to bring up payment at some stage, haha!
What is your process? Are you a ‘tight’ sketcher of ideas or does it start loose and come together digitally?
I will think about an idea for a day or two (while working on something else) and then get a few rough pencil/pen thumbnails down on paper. From there I go straight into Photoshop and draw what it is I want and right up until the end it tends to be a right mess with many changes on the way. I am not the right person for time lapse tutorials, put it that way.
What programs/tools can’t you live without?
I have always draw/painted in Photoshop with a battered 7 year old Wacom Intuos tablet, which I will probably upgrade next year to a Wacom Cintiq. I also work on an iMac these days but started out on a very cheap PC for many years. And lots of pads and pens around the house to jot down ideas that just happen when making cups of tea etc.
What would you say separates you from other artists?
Hmm, now I have never thought about this one! I honestly don’t know. Maybe you could tell me that, haha! I don’t know if I am that different?
What advice would you give to yourself if you could travel back in time to the start of your career?
I would say don’t listen to the people in your life who told you to take your head out of the clouds. You should have done this years earlier!
What would be your three key tips or pieces of advice for artists trying to start a career?
Patience is the first. It rarely happens quickly, but if you keep on doing it and practicing and honing your skills eventually you will be rewarded, but it might take years, so enjoy it first! Secondly always try and use references when working. You are not cheating if you use photo references. Very few people can draw perfect anatomy or landscape without some form of reference. Thirdly I would say market yourself.
This is something I have been quite bad at as I am in the ‘not very confident in my work’ camp but I have seen artists whose work is good, nothing I would call ground breaking, but they are mega popular and that is partly down to how they sell themselves as well as their work. You need to get your work seen to make it in any way shape or form so you need to shout a bit louder sometimes to get noticed. Join lots of art forums, make contacts with other artists, talk to them, follow them on twitter and Facebook. Networking :)
Anything you are working on/upcoming that you would like to plug?
I have just released depending on when this is published a new set of Star Wars prints in partnership with Bottleneck Gallery, Acme Archives and Lucasfilm in December, and another two ‘Nerds Eye View’ Star Wars prints with The Poster Posse and Le Cafe Pixel in France. Other than that I have a lot of other nerdy work to be revealed or completed so there is always something to stay tuned for.
See Andy’s The Woman In Black piece in the issue of SciFiNow on sale now!