Gary Tonge is a Conceptual Art Director and Visionary Artist who lives in Warwickshire England. He currently works for Codemasters in the UK and has worked for many other publishers, development companies, and magazines in his 23 years as a professional artist.
- You are an award-winning painter and conceptual artist, known internationally for your science fiction and fantasy art. For the benefit of those who may not be familiar with your work, tell us about your career and the work you create.
Ok then. I started out as a computer graphic artist in 1987 (I had just turned 17 at the time) working on games and over the years I progressed from the little single colour graphics of the old 8-bit machines through the enormous technological advances of computers and the software written for them. I have worked in high-end 3D modelling, rendering, and animation in my time, and also on many platforms. About 1999 – in between projects – I thought I would spend some time doodling in Photoshop, just for fun. I ended up painting a number of space and sci-fi landscape pieces and, with the advent of the Internet sweeping the world, decided it might be nice to put the pieces online. My website was set up as a gallery for my personal art but I have added some sections over the years to show some of my art I create in my day job as a conceptual Art Director and Illustrator. I am at my most happy these days painting conceptual art and my Vision Afar works when I have the time.
- Why did you choose to produce conceptual art, and what do you hope to achieve with it?
I think I have ended up working conceptually because the time it takes to produce state-of-the-art 3D work these days is just so long. I prefer the faster and more dynamic way of visualising “what could be” illustration-ally. I always try and find new and unique ways of portraying ideas, which tends to be invaluable to the art teams I work with in my day job and interesting to anybody who comes across my work online.
- Is there an underlying theme or message in your work?
My personal art is my attempt to express that there is much more to life and the universe than many of us might think- that there is a greater reality out there, in the infinity of space and beyond our current understanding. I guess I like to try and get people to “think bigger” with my art.
- Straight out of school, you started work at a computer games company called Elite Systems. How did this help the quality of your work, and what impact did it have on your choice of career?
Hmmm… Good question. I think working professionally in the games industry certainly made me have to work hard at my skill set – and I learned a great deal from being around the other creative people who worked there. And I still do from everybody I work with. I cannot imagine my life without art in it anymore and trying to look back at those formative years I do remember I truly wanted to be an artist!
- Of the artwork you’ve created, do you have a favourite? If so, why this particular work?
I really like the works I have created based on The Urantia Book and I really want to have the time to create as many more of these as I can. I also quite like “Nimbus” still (it is odd in general for me to like my art once I finish it – I tend to be bored of it quickly after it is finished!)
|Master Universe Map|
- How is creating science fiction or fantasy art different from creating other genres?
Well, working on my personal art is a more emancipating experience for me as I am literally working on something I have seen in my imagination and trying to bring it to life. Working with real or near-real art means I have to take into account a little more of a cohesive goal for the finished piece – rather than the more emotive end result in my personal art.
- What do you find most rewarding in the creative process?
I just love creating to be honest. I love being part of a creative mechanism when working with a team of artists or designers and I also love expressing my own artistic ideas too.
- What do you find most challenging in the creative process, and how did you overcome it?
When I first started out as an artist I used to become very nervous about people seeing anything I was working on before I felt I had nearly completed it. But, as I have grown, I have overcome this fear and now I am happy to literally doodle in front of other people while discussing the ideas we are trying to bring to life.
- Tell us about ‘Bold Visions: The Digital Painting Bible’ and what inspired it.
A number of years ago, I had been asked to do some writing for a couple of art publications as a featured artist or an expert in a specific field of art. I was contacted by F&W / David and Charles Publishing after they had read some of my articles and they wanted me to create an entire book about how I create my art. I spent some time with my publishing editor, Freya Dangerfield and designers working up some ideas on what I could write about. The aim of the book was to give some instructional ideas to new, aspiring and adept artists while also showing off some of my work in the process. It came out quite well, I think.
- Evolution is an inherent facet of science fiction art. What new developments are you aware of, with regards to the application of technology, in this genre?
Wow... That is a deep question. But one thing I have noticed recently is the architectural flamboyance on this planet has come on leaps and bounds in the last 15 years or so. There are buildings being erected and already built that challenge my own structures I have created previously in my art. Now that is an impressive leap in development!
- You have produced work for the biggest names in computer gaming. What aspirations, or reservations, do you have regarding your art being applied to film or television?
I would like to work on some feature films in the future, but I think the right project needs to come along. I am willing to work on those sorts of projects and I have a great deal of interest in seeing what film and TV art is up to.
- What advice would you give to artists considering a career in art?
If you really feel inspired to be creative as a profession, I can say that it is a very rewarding and invigorating experience. It can be challenging and stressful at times also, but to be honest these things only make the payoff for great art even bigger.
- Tell us a little about any good science fiction or fantasy art you’ve seen recently.
I see amazing art everyday, to be honest. Whenever I have a little spare time or want some inspiration I will check in on some online galleries to see if there are any new and interesting images. I love seeing other people’s artistic efforts.
|The Sky Opens|
- What are you doing now?
At work, I cannot say as it is a secret – but it is great. At home, I have just finished my second book – due out at the end of the year. Which, at the moment, looks like it is going to be called 'Digital Painting Tricks & Techniques'.
- Describe your art in one sentence.
Visionary (hopefully!) – wait that is two words...
- Where can we find you and your art?
All over the Internet, to be honest; but mostly my art can be found at: