Friday, 29 July 2011

Interview with Nykolai Aleksander

Painting since 2002, Nykolai Aleksander’s work has been published in various books, like Ballistic Publishing's "Expose" and "Exotique" series, Focal Press & 3DTotal's "Digital Art Masters" and "Digital Painting Techniques" series, as well as numerous magazines such as Advanced Photoshop, Fantasy Art China, INTEL Visual Adrenaline, and 2Dartist. She’s been awarded for her work at CGSociety, 3DTotal, IT'S ART, and GFX Artist, and was nominated for the CG Excellence Award 2009 at the CG Overdrive Expo in Singapore. All in all though, she’s really just a 6-year-old who was let loose with a box full of (virtual) crayons...

1.   Tell us about your artwork.

Well, let’s see… I work both traditionally and digitally, and while my oil paintings are usually monochrome portraits or realism with a surrealistic twist, my digital paintings - other than being portraits - tend towards heightened realism, and are usually in colour.

2.   Why did you choose fine art and illustration, and what do you hope to achieve with it?

      I didn’t really choose it; it chose me. It just feels right for me. I’m not a full on fine artist, and neither an illustrator in the true sense of the word. A bit of both, sometimes more, sometimes less. And I don’t know what I want to achieve with it other than be happy with what I do, and perhaps make some other people happy with it, too.

3.   Is there an underlying theme or message in your work?

      There is, but it varies from piece to piece. I think the one red line that can be traced through most of my work is “the story behind”. I don’t enjoy painting something just for the sake of painting it. I need to know what’s behind it all. What’s the background story, what does the person (real or fictional makes no difference) I am painting have to say. Where have they been, where are they going, and what are they thinking. And it’s those stories I try to capture, and it’s up to the viewer to read them.

4.   I was very impressed to learn that you are completely self-taught. Tell us about your learning process, and particularly how your work evolved as a result of it.

      Mhh… there’s not much to say other than that I was (and still am) painting every day of the year. Studying anatomy, lighting, colour theory, you name it. And if you do that and keep at it, eventually you will get better. Which is exactly what happened, I got better over time. And the learning never stops. Far from it.

The Lost Dream - Digital Painting

5.   Of the artwork you’ve created, do you have a favourite?

      I really can’t answer that.

6.   How is creating fantasy art different from creating other genres?

I don’t know, to be honest, because I don’t see my work as fantasy art per se. I paint realism with a touch of surreal, or “fantasy” - but not the typical full on double-rainbow of fairytale fantasy.

7.   What do you find most rewarding in the creative process?

      Finishing a piece and being happy with it.

8.   What do you find most challenging in the creative process, and how did you overcome it?

      It’s always challenging in one aspect or another, and you never overcome it. You just learn to adapt, play and make the best of what’s on your plate, or canvas in this case.

9.   What have you done to promote and market your artwork, and what advice would you give to other artists?

      Nothing, actually. I was in the lucky position to have it promoted for me, in a manner of speaking. Various book and magazine publishers approached me over the years wanting to feature my work or asking me to write tutorials. It got my work out there, and just snowballed from there. However, I am on a number of networking and art sites, and that always helps to get your work out there, especially if you are active.

Monarch - Oil on Canvas (Metamorphosis)

10. Who, do you imagine, would be your ideal client?

      Anyone who has at least a marginal understanding of the creative process.

11. What advice would you give to help others build the skill and confidence required to produce fantasy art?

      I don’t see how fantasy art would be any different from any other art, but the answer would be practice, and patience. That’s pretty much it, as boring and tedious as it sounds. Learn about anatomy, learn about lighting, colours, perspective, composition, etc. even if you don’t want to go into realism. Knowing how things should look, and knowing how to make them look right is a solid basis for all kinds of styles. There’s no easy way, and no way around that. You have to. Confidence comes with time and afore mentioned practice.

12. Tell us a little about any good art you’ve seen recently.

      Oooh… at the moment I really rather enjoy the work of Loic Zimmermann, who also goes by the online nickname of “e338”. His very unique style, use of colours and a fine eye for subject matter and composition are just fantastic. Another artist I was recently stunned by is Joe Fenton. His pencil and ink pieces are out of this world.

13. What are you doing now?

      At the moment, I’m working on two projects that are both taking quite some time to complete. One is a picture story book by the title of “Of Light and Dust”, and the other is a series of ten large scale black and white oil paintings entitled, “Metamorphosis”.

14. Describe your art in one sentence.

      It’s the colours I feel that let me paint the things I cannot see.

15. Where can we find you and your art?

      My most comprehensive profile online is probably my Facebook page, as it has everything from paintings to sketches and painting videos, as well as other things I’ve done over the years, and it’s updated regularly, too.

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