Lets take a brief look at Philip Straub, a world-renowned artist who has worked on a bunch of children books, films and video gaming projects. He’s so famous, that just about every digital art-related website has written something about the guy! And by golly, this guy is amazing.
One of Mr. Straub’s greatest strengths has always been his color choices and intense lighting, as he said in one interview “I use color, like value structure, positive/negative shapes and line, as a compositional tool. Bold color is just something I’m drawn to – it’s important to me that my images have a wow factor drawing the viewer to look even further.“

“My personal taste goes for dark and moody colors offset with vibrant secondary and occasionally primary colors. I tend to approach the worlds I create as if they were illuminated by an “otherworldly” light source that creates this dark moody and often luminescent appearance to my personal work.”

My thoughts:
I’ve always feared the use of vibrant colors for fear that the overall image might look tacky, like some cheesy painting from the 80’s or something. I guess that’s my problem, is that my artistic comfort zone is still relatively small! I’m trying to figure out the problem, and I guess its because I still haven’t nailed down a technique in painting I am comfortable with.

Yes, I have painted a lot of stuff in the past, but I always felt that I spend too long in a certain piece, or that the colors didn’t look right or something inane. Mr. Straub offers his own unique look at his ‘creation process’.

According to Mr. Straub:
"I tend to approach my paintings focusing on the following elements:

  1. Composition – I start by creating simple abstract values and shapes that are pleasing to the eye.

  2. Perspective

  3. Value structure – I shift my focus to figuring out an interesting lighting solution for the piece, or defining my staging.

  4. Color composition

  5. Depth

  6. Atmosphere

  7. Scale
... While there aren’t any hard and fast rules during my creative process, I’ve found out that solving one or two fundamental illustration issues at a time works well for me. More specifically, I usually begin an illustration with a grayscale gestural drawing that focuses primarily on interesting abstract shapes. Then, I refine this basic drawing.”

My thoughts:
Interesting. Normally I would bypass certain steps in painting thinking they may be unnecessary - Which is also probably why a lot of my stuff sucks. A lot of my art fails to make an ‘emotional impact’ on my audience beyond a few ‘that’s cool’ responses. (an inherent flaw of drawing fan art). I like what he said when discussing a weekly class he once held “In my opinion, every artist develops a process or a way of working that allows them to get to the result they desire.”

What you may not know, my teeny, tiny, audience, is that Mr. Straub’s work really shines in this aspect. He creates stuff that manages to elicit some kind of emotion – something many artists say is the most essential ingredient in a painting.

Phil Straub: “...my personal work tends to deal with human emotions and human experiences.” It’s a kind of aesthetic therapy, which sometimes veers into metaphysics: “The question of what exactly is real in human existence is a subject I find fascinating... The fact that our reality is only based on the senses that we use to navigate through our environment begs the question, just what is reality?”

Well, I don’t really think that deeply, but I think it’s a start, don’t you? So in order to create great art that evokes an emotional response from the viewer, I’ve got to become the kind of person who continues to question his existence and be sensitive and stuff. Goddamnit, I gotta be emo! (Okay, that was stupid)

The subject finding its own way to expression through our visual language is like a, “…springboard for imagery that enables layered symbolism and multiple interpretations… The darker human emotions, fear, greed, and nightmares, are favorite subjects of mine in that their visual metaphors are seemingly limitless…”

My thoughts:
I would certainly like to dig in on this topic of evoking emotion and all, but perhaps next time. For now, I would like to see what ol’ Mr. Straub has to say about working in the Creative Industry. Does working in a project destroy the joy in creating art? Well, does it??

Phil Straub:
“At the end of the day, a job is a job, no matter what you’re doing. Even the coolest projects can, at times, be a real drag due to all the challenges related to creating a polished piece of work like a game, film, or book cover….whatever.

...That said, if an artist enjoys creating and is given the opportunity to do so in a work environment, I think they will find pleasure in the creative process, regardless of the specific situation. The fast paced entertainment studio environment isn’t for everyone, though. It requires a certain balance of skills. With the inherent challenges associated with working in games, there are a ton of opportunities for an artist of any level to develop their skills. Since games require such a varied set of skills to be completed, there is always a new opportunity or experience to acquire; and an artist can usually try new things, and even find skills they never knew they had.”

My thoughts:
Great, huh? Wasn’t I talking about stuff like this in the blog earlier? Something about the rigors of creating art for the media industry – like how film and game directors want the concept art to be able to actually convey the mood and feel of the actual product? So you might wonder, how does a master like Mr. Straub go about his creative process?

Phil Straub:
“I guess the most interesting thing about the creative process for me is the experience of extracting a personal extension of myself, my soul, or my ideas onto a 2D canvas. I like the concept that what I’m creating is unique to my experiences, my skill set, my personality, and is saying what I want it to say. I also enjoy the therapeutic dream state I enter (most artists do) during the creative process, especially during the early sketch stage.”

My thoughts:
That certainly is the case for me as well. Aside from lounging around and daydreaming, I also like to look at a lot of pictures from magazines and books, to get the ol’ brain going. The latter sorta helps, but it can sometimes lead to distraction.

I end this fairly enlightening post, with advice from Philip Straub to the new generation of young, talented artists from all over the world – Even though I feel none of them read this blog.

Final Words of Phil Straub:

Practice, practice, and more practice. In order for a young artist to break into the industry they must be relentless. It really isn’t different from anything else in life, if you fall down you simply must get back up, learn from your mistakes, and try again and again until you reach your goal. I’ve said this many times before: it’s not always the most talented individuals that find success in life, it’s the individuals that work hard at their craft, constantly trying to improve. Determination is the key!


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