Interview No. 167
Interview By: @The-Great-One
Today's guest is an artist whose works show off the beauty and mystique of the female figure. From his works on pieces such as Green Lady, Pilot, and Two Lungs Breathe as One, for which he won an art contest for under the same name. I am most intrigued and pleased to welcome, @A-lieN.
Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?
A: My first exposure to Newgrounds was back around 2009-2010, one of my close friend that I went to karate class with, visited my house and noticed that I had my own computer. He started showing me all sorts of stuff he found on the internet, one of those things being a flash game on Newgrounds. I noticed he scrolled over a lot of other games in the process and wanted to try them after his visit. Newgrounds quickly became a place I would visit quite often after that since it seemed like it had tons of content to play. After a while though I started to get into other hobbies, school work became more demanding and I found other things to do in my free time like browse Youtube videos, make little tunes using ProTools that came with my digital piano and play video games that weren't just flash games. My visits to Newgrounds sadly became less and less frequent. My reintroduction to Newgrounds came in April of this year, I wanted a place to put my artwork, but also to get a little feedback. Newgrounds seemed like a good place since it doesn't compress your image and people could rate your artwork anonymously, giving me an idea of what people liked based on what I posted, the system isn't perfect but I tend to get more feedback on Newgrounds than other platforms.
Q: At what age did you become interested in drawing?
A: I think I have been drawing since from a very young age. At that age I was drawing and doodling because I found it fun and I was just playing around. I started to become serious about pursuing art around middle school. At first I wasn't too sure about fully committing to it, but finding all the resources online gave me the confidence that pursuing art as a career wasn't such a far fetched idea. I decided to go to an art highschool and planned to go to college for art, but there were some complications with getting into college since I was not a citizen of the U.S.. My family figured that trying to get appropriate papers to stay in the U.S. was not really feasible anymore. I disagreed, but I understood why they felt that way. And my formal art education ends at highschool, but I have kept studying and with the plethora of free resources online it was incredibly interesting and sometimes overwhelming! As much as I endorse learning art by yourself, nothing can replace a good teacher, they can really help you save a lot of time and energy by simply pointing you in the right direction.
Q: Looking through your works I am reminded of Edward Hopper. You both do incredible things with lighting and you both seem to have a fascination with women. How do you explain the concept of light in a piece? What is your fascination with women in your pieces?
A: Thank-you for saying that I have great lighting! As to how I explain lighting and the concept of light in a piece that is a topic I am very interested in and have read extensively about, so instead of writing your ear off for this one question I'll try to condense all that I've learned in the past years about lighting. There are basically two main resources that I use when it comes to understanding light and color. "Color and Light" by the incredible James Gurney; and the concept of "Physically Based Rendering" or "PBR". In summary the first resource is just a really good book on how to pick colors and I'll just tell you to read it, or at least skim through and take inspiration from all the great illustrations the book has in it. As for "PBR" it's more commonly associated with 3D renderers like Unity, Unreal and all the different game engines out there. "PBR" however isn't an algorithm or an amazing new piece of technology, it's more of a philosophy, a way of thinking about light in a more accurate and scientific approach. Simple principles like the conservation of energy and the fresnel effect can take your shading and lighting to the next level. A third resource i like to refer to is "Stylization with a Purpose" a Games Developer Conference presentation by Valve the developers that created the amazing and stylish game Team Fortress 2. The presentation emphasized the importance of "Readability", the idea that the shapes you use should immediately and boldly say what you want the audience to think about, the way they did this is by making absolutely sure that the shadow shapes of every character was clear and identifiable. This doesn't just apply to characters it also applies to general illustration and something I personally want to get better at.
Q: You don't seem to post on the forums much. How and when did you come across the Two Lungs Breathe As One Art Competition? What can you tell us about your entry Two Lungs Breathe as One? Will we see your works in future contests?
A: I mostly lurk the art forums looking for people who want help with their art, but I always feel like the advice I would give them would come off as unhelpful or hostile so I generally decide against it at the last minute. I came across the competition when I was lurking around and thought it might be a nice change of pace for me. I also wanted to see how I compared with other artists. When I tried to make the piece for the competition I was stumped by the prompt, the only thing I could think of was how symmetrical our lungs are sans our heart. I decided to make a piece that had a very symmetrical composition but with the two halves being different slightly and having the two figures doing the same action, hence the prompt. As for future art contests I will definitely try to make an entry, but I really want to put in a good effort into my entry and not make an entry just to make an entry, unless the time limit catches up to me!
Q: My favorite piece by you is entitled Senior Employee. You said you were practicing a new painting process. Could you elaborate for us?
A: The new painting process I was practicing was more of an exercise and an experiment. I think most artists have heard of Peter Han's advice to beginner artists to draw with a pen, a medium that doesn't allow you to erase your mistakes. This seems counterintuitive since all beginners do is make mistakes! But what it does do is make every mistake very painful, rather than something you can erase and do over and over again. I wanted to do something similar but with my brush strokes, so I set my brush to full opacity at all times and tried to make every brush stroke count. I found that the best way to go about it was by making new brush strokes on new layers and once you're satisfied you tweak its color by locking the transparency. It helped me think more critically about my brush strokes, but it was a very time consuming process. I would like to revisit that way of painting but I will have to get faster and better at painting overall.
Q: What I believe to be your best piece is entitled Painting Demonstration. This is where I found your lighting to be absolute perfect. I love that there are people painting a person painting. Where did the sketch for this piece begin. When did you come to look at it and say it's done?
A: It started out as a way for me to study hand poses. For me studying hands that aren't attached to an arm doesn't seem to be too helpful for me, in order for me to study hands I have to attach it to a whole figure so that I can properly assess it's proportion compared to the rest of the figure. I find studying hands this way to be more helpful. One of the hand poses that I find to be interesting and challenging is holding a pencil, this is where the sketch came from since I needed a figure to have an excuse to be making that hand pose in the first place. I found it weird that I was drawing a person drawing, so I just took that idea and took it farther.
Q: What is in your opinion, the definition of art?
A: In my opinion art is anything that can evoke a certain emotion or reaction from an audience. Of course the emotion or reaction has to be relatively strong. For example, a guy getting on the bus isn't really art, but a guy wearing full plate armor or cosplaying as Iron Man getting on the bus is art, it might not be your type of art, but it evokes a much stronger emotion or reaction from the people on that bus. I think it's easier to understand if I compare art to writing, writing is something that most people understand and do quite often. Asking what is art and what isn't is like asking what counts as writing and what doesn't. Shakespear, text messages, business ledgers, 4chan greentexts, excel spreadsheets, these are all written works. But random indecipherable texts like "fmA-_---nf Afd //*de=3+" isn't a written work because there is near to no meaning to be extracted from it, art is the same way. Of course as to what makes GOOD art, that's a more complicated question and probably not within the scope of this question.
Q: What can we expect from A-lieN in the future?
A: I am planning on continuing making illustrations and hopefully try to get some employment somewhere as an artist, If that does happen then I might upload less full illustrations. I also really want to teach art, but I want to first get to a level where I would consider my skill level to be worthy of teaching. At some point down the line I would like to make my own game, but that's a far fetched goal and I'm not going to be focused on that any time soon.
This was a small art contest on the forum that I was looking forward to contributing to as a prize. I was hoping that an unknown would come through it, and I was not disappointed. A-lieN is a skillful artist, whose lighting and modeling is quite the breathe of fresh air here on the site. If he decides to embark into animation at some point, I am most sure it will be phenomenal!
The Interviewer is a part of Dohn's Desk Productions