Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Interview with Dave Seeley

Dave Seeley claims to be a victim of modern mass media and the one-second-MTV-vid-shot, hence the moniker “Image Junkie”.  He is far more influenced by contemporary sci-fi film noir than by the legacy of science fiction illustration.

Dave came from an education in architecture and fine art.  After 10 years as an award-winning architect, he was seduced by the glamour of illustration and derailed his career for the far more immediate gratification of image making. The inner-architect is flourishing in his work, where a sense of materials fetishism and a love of spatial atmospherics are omnipresent.

Dave’s recent monograph, The Art of Dave Seeley, published by Insight Editions, has received top-ranked reviews from ImagineFX magazine and io9.com.  In addition, Dave is one of 10 artists profiled in Dick Jude’s Fantasy Art Masters by Harper Collins and profiled in Karen Haber’s Masters of Science Fiction and Fantasy Art.  He is a contributor to Jane Frank’s Pixel or Paint by NonStop Press. Dave is interviewed in issue 39 of ImagineFX Magazine and is featured in the August ’06 Art Scene International.  He is also featured in the documentary film by Michael MacDonald at Roadhouse films called  Visions From the Edge: The Art of Science Fiction, and is included in the Bill Neimeyer film Art of the Fantastic.

Clients Include: Hasbro, Disney, Lucasfilm, Vivendi Universal, Microsoft Games Studios, FromSoft Games, Sideshow Collectibles, Sony, Baen Books, Tor Books, Randomhouse / Del Rey / Ballantine Books / Penguin, Harlequin Gold Eagle, Ace, St Martins, Kensington Books, PYR press, Simon and Schuster, Harper Collins, Scholastic, Harcourt School Publishers, Night Shade Books, Solaris Books, Midway Games, Fox Interactive, The Village Voice, Heavy Metal Magazine, Popular Science Magazine, Boy’s Life Magazine, Humanoids Publishing, White Wolf Publishing, FASA, Wizards of the Coast, TSR, Wild Planet Toys, DC Comics, and a host of advertising firms.

You can see, commission, learn about and buy work in multiple media at DaveSeeley.com.

1.     Tell us about your work.

I’m far more influenced by contemporary sci-fi film noir than by the legacy of science fiction illustration. I strive for edgy, sexy, dark, high impact, gritty, witty, substantial.  At any given moment, I’ll have several obsessions bubbling in my psyche, and they all will play a role in current work.

I utilize all available tools in 2D and 3D, using photographic, digital and traditional media, and I try to add to my toolbox as often as I can.


2.     Tell us about your artistic training, learning process, and particularly how your work evolved as a result of it.

While I’ve been making art for as long as I can remember, I went to school as an architecture major and minored in fine art. Then I practised as an architect for a dozen years while collecting comics and fantasy art before I decided to make the lateral move to being a pro illustrator. I certainly approach image making with an eye toward complex problem solving, which is the core of architectural design. I also still have a strong sense of materials fetishism and a love of spatial atmospherics. Not sure if that was in place prior to architecture training, but it persists in my work as an illustrator.

3.     How did your interest in science fiction and fantasy develop?

I’ve always been fascinated by visions of the future or alternate visions of our past.  Early television shows certainly played a part and pulp novels as a teen.  Heavy Metal magazine was a great source of sci-fi, fantasy, and libido tickling rolled into one visual package.  It introduced me to adult-centric euro-comics.


4.    What is the glamour of image making?

There is glamour in the conquest of a satisfying final image, and the reaction of my audience as the rabbit is pulled from the hat.  That sets one apart and provides for a low level simmering celebrity, in our tiny circle.

5.     What are your ambitions as an artist?

My ambitions have always been “to feed the art spirit, and still get paid.”  Easy to do one OR the other, or both part-time; but tough to do both simultaneously full time.  Of course, the art spirit is a moving target, so I make an effort to take time to reflect and plot my course.

6.     Tell us about your fine art tools and techniques and how you incorporate them into your art and illustrations.

Oil painting is my primary fine art tool.  Digital tools have replaced almost all else because of superiority in explorations and modifications.  I used to draw incessantly, and now, almost never.  It’s the final look/feel and painterliness of oils that I love, so often when I use it, I have already developed the image digitally to a very high degree of finish, then make an archival print, and cover it in oil paint as a final massaging of beautiful abstract mark making. 

7.     What do you find most rewarding in the creative process, and how do you overcome that which you find challenging?

The most rewarding part is emerging from the inherent struggle of the creative process with something that is surprising and or satisfying.  All of it is challenging, and I find that sustained attention and iteration is how you overcome challenges.  Sometimes mixing several projects into a timeline helps by getting me disengaged and allowing a fresh look when I return.

8.     Tell us about your book, The Art of Dave Seeley.

The book was a very long time in the making… but awesome to have it published and out there.  It started as a conversation with Insight Editions, my publisher, about a dozen years ago, when they were doing a lot of high-end Star Wars related books.  The initial flirtation waned and went dormant because I think there was a lacklustre response from potential buyers.  In 2013, I reached out again, thinking it really was time to make the book, and they ultimately agreed.  An “art of” book is on every artist’s bucket list, so it’s very satisfying to have that one checked off.  The only substantive downside is that every time I finish a new image that I really love, I’m sad that it’s NOT in the book.

9.     Tell us about the role of photography in your work.

Photography has been in my life since my dad gave me a Canonette 28 rangefinder camera as a teen.  It was a necessary base skill in college while studying architecture, and even more so when I swapped into illustration.  I had a subsistence level skill up until about six years ago when I decided I really needed to up my game.  I expanded my equipment and began to learn a lot about studio lighting.  I rigged up a drop screen and began using model/photographer sites to track models.  I’d hire a model for a particular job, and then shoot for everything else I could think of.  It was incredibly helpful in image building for illustration to develop my own series of shoots of high resolution “stock.”  Typically publishers will only pay for a single shoot, so this allows me to do multiple characters from my backlog of pics.

10.  How essential are Photoshop, Corel Painter, and other types of software to you as a professional artist?

When I lecture on my process, I talk about my “toolbox.”  Within the toolbox, Photoshop is the glue.  It allows me to take all the disparate parts and pieces created with all the tools, and put them together seamlessly.  In contrast, Painter is a very specific tool for me.  It’s about digitally giving the image a painterly quality…so more like a very complex and multifaceted “filter” within Photoshop.  The way I use Painter, it’s only about the final finish.  There are times when I don’t have time to mount a canvas and use oil paint, and there are images where the client wants a purely digital workflow.  I use 3d software more and more.  It’s awesome for finding unexpected perspectives or lighting a complex architectural background.

11.  What advice can you give regarding copyright protection?

I can only speak to copyright protection under the US laws.  As soon as you create an image that is not derivative of another work, it is considered copyrighted.  If you chase another person’s infringement of your work, it becomes an issue of proving you created yours first, so documentation is an issue.  Registering your work with the US Copyright Office is the best way, but because of time and modest expense, most artists don’t bother.  That said, I don’t worry much about it.  I’d much rather be creating new work, than fretting over people stealing my images.  With time and expense, you can get a court injunction for infringers to stop, but you can’t get a monetary judgement from them unless you can show that their infringement has lost you revenue.  That’s an unlikely scenario for an illustrator.  If the infringer is looking at financial loss because they have to pull product from the market because of an injunction, then they will typically pay you a settlement in order to license the image. 

Flip that around, and my advice to artists who infringe on other artists’ work, is don’t do it.  It’s not legal, despite what you think you know.  There is no such thing as “changed it enough.”  “Fair use” does not apply to commercial work.  Anything derived from another’s work, in any degree, without a license, is illegal.  The rub is that it costs money and time to chase infringers, so they think they will not get caught, or they even evolve into believing that it must be ok because they aren’t seeing other infringers penalized.  Legality aside, artists who infringe develop a reputation as thieves, and at some point, clients avoid them.

12.  In the digital age, a lifetime of work can be lost in an instant. How do you store, archive, and backup your precious work?

I keep two complete sets of backups on hard drives…. and one is off-site.  I rotate the on and off-site copies as often as I can.  This is so much less expensive now that huge hard drives are comparatively cheap.  I depend on hard drives failing, but not at the same time.  Still risky, but so far so good.  Yet another set of drives in another location would be a worthwhile expense (maybe one for images only).  For backup files on hard drives, I use Carbon Copy Cloner to keep them identical.  That does NOT protect me from overwriting as yet un-cloned files (usually current working files) inadvertently.  For that, I use Apple’s Time Machine functionality with a dedicated 8tb drive inside my desktop computer… hourly.  That way, I can protect anything over one hour’s work.  The only time it has failed me is when I inadvertently overwrite a file without realizing it for a long period of time.  That happens.

13.  Tell us a little about any good art you’ve seen recently or good books you’ve read.

I’m constantly discovering new art I like/love.  Facebook and Instagram are great for that.  Recent discoveries are http://nicolasuribeart.com/ and  https://willeysart.com/ , both via Instagram.  Currently enjoying audiobook Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari.  Fun to get a long-term perspective, and to ponder that we were happier as hunter-gatherers.

14.  What are your other interests?

When I was an architect I had hobbies in personal computing, collecting comics and art, painting, drawing, travelling and woodworking.  Most of those have been subsumed in my career as an illustrator, and I am ALWAYS working.  Even when I’m on vacation, I shoot pictures that I might use in my illustrations. 

15.  Where can we find you and your work?

The Art of Dave Seeley is a great collection up through February 2015.  The only piece I had, but could not show because of NDA, was Ronin.
Signed Slipcased edition available through me exclusively on eBay.

Or Trade Edition via Amazon.