Marcin Migdal's Interview with Digital Artist Dave Seeley for Sketchozine Vol2 : Sexy Things

Article Index May 29,2011 Comments

Transcript of the INTERVIEW WITH DAVE SEELEY, INTERVIEW CONDUCTED BY MARCIN MIGDAL

David can be found on Pg.16 of Sketchozine Vol2: Sexy Things Issue - Get it now.


MM: Today I have the privilige of speaking with the great Mr. Dave Seeley. Dave Seeley is a digital and non-digital illustrator who has created cover art for a number of Star Wars novels including MedStar I & II, Enemy Lines I & II and the Shadows of Mindor. His client list includes the biggest game and movies studios in the world including Sony, LucasFilm, Microsoft Game Studios, Hasbro, Vivendi Universal, Disney, Midway Games, Fox Interactive and on and on. Dave, thank you for talking to me on behalf of a lot of independent artists. For anyone who isn’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself.
DS: Thanks Marcin, I'm an illustrator living in Boston, Massachusetts.  I do lots of Science Fiction and Fantasy images, mostly for the book publishing industry. 

MM:  You started out as an architect, how did you find the transition into the digital art world?

DS:  I've been a big fanboy for genre images since childhood...  and started collecting prints and comics in College while double majoring in architecture and fine art, at Rice University in Houston Texas.  After practicing architecture for about a dozen years, while collecting...  I won a traveling scholarship in an architectural design competition, and did a trip around the world.  When my wife and I returned, we were expecting a child, so I decided that it was time to try my hand on the creation side of the genre, in order to scratch that itch and have more time flexibility to raise my son. 

At first, the work was very slow, and the money was not sustainable....so I did architectural renderings, and architectural design consulting to make the bridge...  It was probably 5 years before I was making enough money in illustration to make that my only job.  Much as I tried to avoid paying dues at that point, it was not to be.  (BTW... There is a wonderful article on paying your dues during that transition by comics great Chris Moeller, over at muddycolors.com.)  So...  I'd say that the transition was pretty rocky overall...

MM: What is your favorite media to work on?

DS:  I currently work by collecting and collaging photography around a rough sketch or idea...  and build an image up from there.  I was originally schooled in traditional media, and started out using mostly mixed traditional media, then oil paint, in my work....but over the years, I have shifted more and more toward digital.  I will still finish many of my publishing jobs in oil paint, though only when time and inclination align.  It's the figures that I want to bury in oil paint.  I now do lots of advertising work too, and the level of changes and tweaks, and the crazy short schedules would make using oils a nightmare, so that's all digital by default.

MM: Your work is featured all over, did you ever think you'd get to this level?

DS:  Sure...doesn't everyone?  If I had been less oblivious on that score, I would likely not have had the courage to jump in with both feet.  It's a classic case of ignorance being essential to the development process.

MM: What was your first major project and how did you get it?

DS:  Major?  That's certainly a relative designation.  My first work was for a small Collectible Card Game (CCG) company called Last Unicorn Games, for a project named Heresy, a world of fallen angels.  I was painting collaboratively at night with Rick Berry for fun (some of those paintings are on the Illustration Exchange @ www.munchkinpress.com), while still in architecture, and he asked me if I wanted to do a few cards. 

He was doing some art directing for the company.  I said yes, and did a bunch of environment cards... Then at the 11th hour, a big(gish) name illustrator stiffed the company on 7 character cards, and they asked me if I wanted to do them.  I jumped.  My first game cover came from White Wolf Publishing for a science fiction RPG called Trinity.  After my agent "discovered" me in Spectrum for two unpublished pieces, Tor Books gave me my first book jacket assignment.  Years later, my agent brought me my first advertising assignment for Boeing Delta satellite rockets.

MM: Dave, in your opinion what is the most important and vital element of an image?

DS:  That totally depends on the purpose of the image.  If it is a narrative depiction, then it's critical to tell a story, so the story is certainly most important.  In a more editorial image, you want the "essence" to come across in the picture.  Typically an image has a "star"... but that doesn't need to be a person.  It can be the place, or even the idea.  Friend and colleague Todd Lockwood likes to ask "what is the star of this piece?"

MM: Dave, in your opinion what is the most important and vital element of an image?

DS:  That totally depends on the purpose of the image.  If it is a narrative depiction, then it's critical to tell a story, so the story is certainly most important.  In a more editorial image, you want the "essence" to come across in the picture.  Typically an image has a "star"... but that doesn't need to be a person.  It can be the place, or even the idea.  Friend and colleague Todd Lockwood (www.toddlockwood.com) likes to ask "what is the star of this piece?"

MM: Do you have one image or project you are most proud of?

DS:  It's called Transhuman... (See Pg.15) and it was for an anthology of stories about "The Singularity"...the moment at which artificial intelligence becomes self aware, and turns around to make contact with humans for the first time.  There has been tons of apocolyptic fiction built around this idea.... The Terminator and the Matrix come to mind immediately....  but this but was more scientifically grounded and more hopeful in most of the stories.  Because it was a collection of stories, it did not need to be directly narrative. 

This was a great chance for me to utilize both my digital work, and my traditional oil painting in a way that bolstered the concept of the piece.  All the digital bits that represent the AI are done entirely in the computer, and printed out on canvas, where the figure was entirely buried in oil paint. 

It was big enough physically that the brush strokes are nice and chunky...  Iconographically, the AI is making the interface by streaming digital DNA coils, transforming into the comprehensible human form of cradling hands, the connection triggering a mind-expanding shock of epiphany in fear and wonder...religious implications very much intended.

MM: As a veteran of the industry, what’s one thing artists should work on?

DS:  Finding your own voice, and saying whatever it is that YOU need to say.....  rather than reiterating what other artists that you admire are saying and mimicking their voices.  In most cases, that takes time.

MM: One piece of advise you can give to any artist?

DS:  Make sure to keep an eye on your personal life while pursuing your art career.  It's a precarious balance, you need to work to make both successful.

MM: What are the top 3 websites you visit?

DS:  Three that might also be of most interest to your audience would be:

1. http://muddycolors.blogspot.com - Muddy Colors is a dialogue with some of my favorite colleagues, and will have regular awesome posts...

2. www.munchkinpress.com - The Illustration Exchange, where I can see new pieces that artists are producing, or that collectors have purchased.  I'm still a minor league collector myself, but it also helps keeps that world up to date in my mind as a producing artist.

3. http://en.wikipedia.org - An often overlooked resource for artists is Wikipedia.  I use them whenever I start an assignment to learn any background on a particular property, or on a technical subject related to the piece I am doing.  Many times it has saved me tons of time because the info was better or more complete than the info I was getting from my partially informed art director.  My gratitude makes me a regular donor.

MM: I never thought of Wikipedia when researching, but i’ll definitely refer to it from now on. Everyone, get on the web and check out “The Illustration Exchange” and “Muddy Colors” today. I’ll make sure to feature these on Sketchoholic, they both sound great resources for any artist...And so, a big thank you for giving me your most valueable time and letting our audience to get to know a little more about Mr. Dave Seeley.

DS:  Thanks for the virtual ink!

MM: To see more of Dave’s incredible work and to purchase Dave's prints visit www.DaveSeeley.com. Look out for Dave's Featured Interview in our upcoming 3dFxMagazine.com.