Monday, November 13, 2006

The Tale of One Bad Mongo - Mattias Snygg

After a far-too-long hiatus, the Ninja Mountain interview series resumes with your humble editor taking a poke at Swedish painter and concept artist extraordinaire Mattias Snygg!

Hey Mattias, how are you?

I am fine, thank you!

Where do you live these days?

I live in Uppsala, about 70km north of Stockholm, Sweden.

So how come you are an artist/illustrator? (circle as applicable)

Hard to tell, it’s probably because of my parents. They encouraged me a lot - especially my father – and since he had been painting in his youth he introduced me to a lot of this stuff. Also I had a kindergarten teacher who could draw, and that had a profound impact on me.

So what's on your monitor/drawing board RIGHT NOW? (Editors note - this interview was conducted in August 2006, so its painfully out of date on this point!!!!)

I’m doing promo material for The Darkness video game, finishing up some loose ends here and there. I just completed a cover for an upcoming Vampire book by White Wolf, and now I’m starting a limited edition The Darkness comic book. It’s my first stab at doing one and it’s taking a lot of my energy, but hopefully it will be worth it!

How do you first start a piece? What's stage zero?

There are many different ways, and all of them are equally valid but amount to very different results. My favorite is just to sit down, select a funky Painter brush variant and start whacking at the canvas. I make a horrible mess of everything and then stop to see if there’s anything going on in there. Usually there isn’t, but once in a while you see a face or something vague and interesting. Then it’s quite enjoyable to try and bring that stuff out and refine it.

Expanding on that, what's your general working process?

There’s a lot of shuffling back and forth between Painter and Photoshop. I have a hard time really defining my process because it’s a very organic thing, and you never know what kind of tricks you have to pull out to get the image done. Mostly it’s a very straight-forward, classical process with underpainting, shadow, mid-tone and highlight, placing the highest white, bla bla bla. Recently I’ve been experimenting with incorporating various effects to speed up the process for the commercial work, and also using 3D renders and photographs as a base for the images.

So you work mostly digitally right? What impact do you feel that has? Any at all? Pros and cons? Spill the beans on the whole 'art in a computer' thing!

Switching to digital was the greatest thing I could have done. It was very easy for me for some reason, using Painter came very naturally. My work improved by a factor of ten almost instantly. I miss having a physical painting around, there’s that collector part in me that feels empty with the fleeting nature of digital art. I usually try to shrug that feeling off and just don’t think about it. I paint for a living, I like most of what I’m doing and that’s more than enough.

What's your favourite piece of your own work, and why?

I always find the process to be far more interesting than the actual end result. For commercial work there’s almost never an artistic process, you rely on old skills and methods to get the job done. A lot of artists get stuck in their old ways for this very reason, they chase their deadlines using the same, trusty routines and it’s a comfy trip from point A to point B. The really cool stuff happens when you take off from the old path and throw yourself at something new. My Corben work is one of those things, where I tried to emulate someone else to get a feel for what goes into that. I really like how that turned out.

What would be your ideal gig?

Anything that generates truckloads of cash and throngs of screaming fans. No seriously, I don’t know what that would be, I can’t say that I have something in mind specifically. I’m getting lots of good gigs by working in the video game industry, and that’s cool. I would love to try out movies, but mostly for the money. I’m more of a printed media guy I think.

Who's your favourite artist? You can say why as well if you like!

Favorite right now is probably Banksy, he kicks so much ass it’s not even funny. As for painting I like a lot of what all the young, beautiful people on the American west coast are doing. The Juxtapoz crowd, I think they’re very interesting.

What sort of art education have you had?

Three years in total, one basic art course and two years painting. Standard art school, nothing fancy, but a very good experience nonetheless.

You're full time in house, right? How do you find that as a way to make a living?

It’s awesome, it’s great to feel that your art is part of a larger context and that so many people are dependant on what you produce. Its also kind of scary. I need people around me, constantly, so being in-house is really my kind of thing.

Do you find much time to make work for yourself? If so what sort of things are you producing?

Can’t tell you that unfortunately, it would spoil the fun, but I can tell you that I have many projects in the works and that they’ll all kick ass.

Any influences on you as a young artist you'd care to share?

Richard Corben really fucked me up when I first saw his stuff at the age of 6. The next big thing to hit me was Dave McKean that I can think of, he’s the one guy who has influenced me the most. Nowadays there are so many people I look at so it’s hard to keep track of what goes where, but those two were big very early on.

Got any snappy one liners for up-and-coming artists?

[insert horrible insult]

What's the plan for 2007?

I’ll probably keep doing what I’m doing now, working in some sort of creative environment with people from different disciplines. Don’t know exactly how or where but that will sort itself out!

Thanks to Mattias for taking time out to answer our questions!

Useful links: - paintings and some of the best tutorials on the net - about The Darkness video game - Mattias' blog - Richard Corben's site - Finnish site about Richard Corben - Dave McKean

Monday, July 10, 2006

ENnie Awards Nominations

Check out this year's ENnie Awards nominations!
Ninja Mountain member Scott Johnson's cover for RIFTS: Ultimate edition gets a well deserved nomination! You can see the piece here. A vote for this piece is a vote for quality! See the links below for details of how to support you favourite NMer!

Useful links:
Scott's Website:
About the ENnies:
How to vote in the ENnies:

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

San Diego Comic-con panel

Hi, Ninja-Patrick here. Are you doing anything July 20 - 23rd? I'll be in San Diego with 100,000 of my closest friends at Comic-Con International 2006. Among other fun stuff, I'll be appearing on a panel along with some of the top colorists in the comics industry, talking advanced PhotoShop techniques!

The artists on the panel will be: David Baron (Authority), Jeromy Cox (Catwoman), Alex Sinclair (52), Snakebite (Red Star), and Dave Stewart (Everything else) and... me, Patrick McEvoy (Gatesville Company, oodles of game art, and an upcoming Secret Comics Project which I might be able to announce by the time of the show).

The panel is currently scheduled for Thursday, 12:30 - 2:00 in room 8. It's one of the first shows in the Con so you'll have to make a bee-line to it as soon as you're registered on the first day. We'll probably have some interesting things to say individually, but we plan to make it mostly a Q&A session driven by audience questions. So if you have anything to ask about PhotoShop, comics coloring, digital painting and the like, come on by and join in the fun.

See you there! Feel free to say "hi" if you want. Oh, and stop by my home site Megaflow Graphics and click on the "news" link to get more up-to-date info about this and other appearances this summer as it becomes available.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Exalted Andy Hepworth - Interviewed!

Well now, there's been an inexcusable lack of action on the Ninja Mountain Scrolls the last few months. Everyone on the mountain has been madly busy, and Jon Hodgson is a lazy monk.

But we're back with a goodie - Andy Hepworth has submitted to a bunch of questions, and heres the answers!:

Hey . How are you?

Fine, thank you.

Where do you live these days?

I’m based in Edinburgh just now, and have been since the start of 2003. It’s a beautiful city, when you pause to have a look around and appreciate the architecture, and the unique lay-out of the place.

So how come you are an artist/illustrator (circle as applicable)

I think it’s because I’m rapidly becoming unemployable as anything else… I love drawing and painting (although if you saw me faffing about on a bad day you’d never believe that). Besides, I tried working in a bakery (can’t knock the cheap scotch pies!) and teaching (which was great fun – for a year) and found that the only thing I really wanted to do was draw elves and goblins for a living. And when you put it like that – drawing elves and goblins for a living – I think it’s the best, but also the dumbest job in the world;p

So what's on your monitor/drawing board RIGHT NOW?

I have a bishonen angel boy to paint for a writer’s website (Sarah Ash, 'The Tears of Artamon' trilogy) and am working on some pages for my comic portfolio. I’m always working on comic pages for my portfolio…

How do you first start a piece? What's stage zero?

Recently I’ve got out of the habit of doing small thumbs for composition and thrashing out ideas, which is a bad thing. I’ve noticed how certain images haven’t quite been thought through, so it’ll be thumbs galore from now on!

Expanding on that, what's your general working process?

Once the rough pencil sketch is approved by the AD (The pencil sketch might be quite rough, or quite close to how I want the finished article, depending on client, time, mood) I’ll gather any photo ref I might need (I have an embarrassing gallery of me in pants posing about in ridiculous fashion for all kinds of things – jumping vampires, gurning Abyssals. I do ‘lanky elf’ very well). My final work is done on Bristol Board, sketched up with 2B, HB and H as tightly as time and pride allows. When I’m satisfied with the pencil image, it gets scanned into my PC and prepared for digital toning by tweaking ‘levels’ and sometimes ’curves’. If it is a particularly light pencil where I’ve gone mad with the H then I might copy and paste in a layer of the entire image and set it to ‘multiply’ to darken the pencils.

With the image safely prepared for the digital phase I find a mid-tone I’m happy with and lay it flatly on a new layer set to ‘multiply’ and then attack this layer with the eraser to paint the highlights. The advantage to using the eraser on the transparent layer is that it preserves the pencil underneath, instead of painting over it. However there are limitations to using the eraser and I always couple it with paint on the same layer to vary the flat tone, other layers of texture, SFX, lighting etc. Finally the image gets flattened down to TIFF format, and there’s some post-production adjustments of ‘levels’ again if it’s needed to make the image more punchy for publishing.

Looking over your folio, it looks like you are moving more towards a digital approach. What's driving that?

There are a lot of things affecting my move to digital. For a start all the work has to be scanned at some point for mailing to the publisher, so at first photoshop became indispensable for adjusting the art before it left my desk. It was a real pain waiting for them oils to dry before they could be scanned. Then I figured out my convoluted monochrome technique after playing about with digi for months (ok, ok, years…) and it became pointless and clumsy to do work outside the computer. I’m not at the stage with colour work where I can get the same results as I could with oil paint, but the advantages of digital art outweigh that – no dry time, easy to make changes, using lots of different techniques together, textures, etc. etc. etc.

What's your favourite piece of your own work, and why?

This changes regularly, especially after just finishing an image – I’ll hate recent work for months, and only judge it coolly a long time after I finish it. I like Canaltown a lot just now – perhaps it is one of the most complete images I’ve got, and it was uncomplicated – done before I really knew what I was doing with monochrome in digital. The Background works for me. Mind you, the comic pages on my drawing board just now are satisfying me quite a lot. In a similar vein the comic pages I’ve been doing for Exalted have come out looking the way I wanted them to.

What would be your ideal gig?

Heck, that’s a tough question. There is so much that I’d like to do; concept art for games and film, matte painting, comic art (in a lengthy project, not one off pages here and there). My ideal job? Writing and drawing my own comic, I reckon is my main dream job just now, but hey, I like the variety of freelancing and not doing the same job day in, day out. They do say be careful what you wish for.

Who's your favourite artist? You can say why as well if you like!

Wow, this is a tough question. My favourite all-time artist? A few years ago I was a die hard Masamune Shirow fan, but more recently I prefer Hiroaki Samura (Blade of The Immortal) and the OH GREAT! Manga studio (Airgear). Still, I wouldn’t rate either of them as my favourites outside of manga. Colin MacNeil is a UK based comic artist who I respect a heck of a lot and whose work still blows me away from time to time, and Frezatto’s Secret of the Mazer is magical but all time favourites…? Frazetta? McBride? Kim Hyung-Tae? Lockwood? Gil Elvgren?

OK, having had a good look at my art shelf I’ll settle on Alan Lee. He has a magical bent to his work and an imagination which really impresses me. But most of all he uses watercolour, which must be one of the most unforgiving mediums, so there is always an element of ‘wow’ when looking at his stuff, ‘cause I can’t quite figure out how he does it. He’s a bloody excellent draughtsman too.

What sort of art education have you had?

I studied at Dundee College, a further education institute, rather than at art school, though I wish I’d forced myself into art school instead of listening to my arrogant youthful brain. Having left high school a year early I did a three year course at the college (higher national diploma) which I guess would be a step down from a degree, but they did teach the students to draw and paint and we picked up a lot of technical print skills, model-making, and photography skills. It was a good course, but geared for getting folks into drafting jobs afterwards, rather than branching out as artists or illustrators on their own.

It in no way prepared me for the real world, I have to say, and from speaking to plenty of art school people they felt similarly unprepared by their experiences too. Maybe that’s expecting too much? At best I came out with a decent base of drafting skills to build on (and three years of fun).

You're full time freelance. How do you find that as a way to make a living?

Rubbish. I’m in the position where I have no dependants, so I earn enough to survive plus a little extra, but I don’t live in great style. It’d be fine if all my money came in when it was supposed to, but one late payment can blah blah blah. These days I sound like a broken record when it comes to talking about money and payment issues and stuff.

If I had a family they’d be in trouble. Or I would be. Or something.

Any influences on you as a young artist you'd care to share?

I’m happy to admit that I made most of my initial steps into art under the pages of Boris and Patrick Woodroffe. Boris gets an awful lot of stick nowadays, but I owe quite a lot to his influence and learnt a lot from trying to paint like him (hahahahahahaha, if only!). Woodroffe comes from a wildly different angle – he’s in the slightly psychedelic mould of Roger Dean and Rodney Matthews with an occasional cartoony edge to his highly detailed and stylised work – I love his weirdness. Heck, I’ve just realised that the duality of my early years survives 100% to this day, and my attempt to do both realistic and manga-esque work might stem from those influences directly. They were the guys whose art books I bought first, but of course there are dozens of guys whose work I liked and tried to emulate at one point or another.

Got any snappy one liners for up-and-coming artists?

Pride is for work, not for the classroom. Try different things.

Be aware of what’s going on around you. You don’t have to use the same techniques as other artists, but you do have to be aware of who’s doing what in the market. What’s working/selling, what’s not.

Don’t just sit in the office and assume that you’re drawing good stuff. Easy to be the best artist in your house and think that’s a good thing.

What's the plan for 2006/2007?

Ahh, you make the mistake of assuming I plan my life!

Draw and hope, draw and hope, draw and hope. Then drink some beer. And do some more COMIC SAMPLES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks to Andy for taking the time out to answer so many questions! You can check out more of Mr Hepworth's fine work at:

Other links:
Masaume Shirow
Boris Vallejo
Alan Lee
Todd Lockwood
Rodney Matthews
Patrick Woodroffe
Gil Elvgren
Kim Hyung-Tae
Ninja Mountain

Monday, April 03, 2006

Andy Hepworth's Website Update

Andy Hepworth has redesigned and updated his website. Comic pages that were shown briefly in teaser format in Imagine FX 3 are up o the Comic page, as well as Exalted 2nd Edition work and some odds and ends. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Araya:The Interviewing

Now then! Its interview time once more. And this month we are blessed with a chance to chat to the mighty Sam Araya!

Hey Sam. How are you?

Sleepless but good. I still cant beat Geese Howard on "King of the Fighters: Neo Wave" tho, damn that "Repuken".

Where do you live these days?

South America, Paraguay, its small, green and hot as hell, but the rent its cheap...

So what's on your monitor/drawing board/ in the dark room RIGHT NOW?

I'm finishing a cover for a CD, its 99% painting so its taking me forever to make it work, its for a Hardcore Straight-Edge band called "Eye of Judgment", real nice guys and always a pleasure to work for em. I'm doing something for a certain black metal band too (yeah, they are both on the monitor! Hardcore and Black metal living toghether!) but thats top secret I think.

So, your work is scary good and pretty individual. How do you first start a piece? What's stage zero?

Hey thanks, but you know? I dont think I'm that individual or good, and thats its starting to irk me, I mean, I must be an individual! just like all my friends! heheh.

Stage zero should be the concept, that's the meat in the hook, and that's the hard part, its not because it needs to be clinically detailed ( I think I managed to alienate myself from the idea that a picture should be EXACTLY like the image I got in my mind), its because I need something that lends itself through vast extrapolation. After that its just fooling around with materials and the computer.

We gather you like heavy metal music? WHY? lol

Why on earth would you think of that? heh.
Its funny cause the other day I was talking about that with someone, incidentally we where talking about why we like metal in a Krisium gig, dude! Krisium equals total devastation, they really ripped the place apart! but back on track, I like metal because it has the coolest t-shirts, obviously! and you can sing about Burning Goats Heads or about Satan, or Burning Satan, so its all about the diversity, right? hehehe.

You also exhibit in galleries? How does that compare with illustrating books and cd covers?

At first I was heavily on the idea that galleries were fucking bullshit, and I have to admit, to a certain extend its true. I'm not going to rip another one on the subject of being postmodernist or something equally boring. I'm going to say, thats its a wonderful experience seeing someone reacting to your work, talking about, engaging on the picture, its like all the work you do feels complete, because you finally see totally hot chicks digging your stuff. So it boils down to inmediate gratification, something one rarely gets on the normal illustration business.

How do you make your work so frightening? Seriously, some of your stuff really gives me the creeps! Do you work at it, or are you naturally really frightening?

I have some pretty vivid nightmares from time to time, and suffer from chronic insomnia, I guess that kicks in when it comes to terror, tragic isnt? thing is, If Im so familiar with the sense of dread, then what the hell I do? I try to understand the nature of the things that disturb me, I try to distill em to ideas that I can actually like. I cant paint something that Im scared of, do I? by working on it, you start to remove layers, you begin to glimpse the true nature of what its moving you to act like a chicken, and then comes it comes and bites you in the face, you can absorb this knowledge and use it to make money.

Okay, people like to use the word cathartic, but I don't think its all about getting my troubles out of the open, its about having fun, Im sorry, but I cant possibly cope with the idea that I'm drawing zombies in order to overcome the traumatic loss of my transformer toys.

Yeah, I work on it, it fascinates me to no end, I love horror, in all formats, except real life, heh.

Who's your favourite artist? You can say why as well if you like!

Oh yeah, my favourite artist, it changes every week, right now its George Higham, his sculptures are beautifull and his whole works stands for what I want to achieve someday, its decadent, gothic, fantastic, multimedia and somewhat sexy, if you look at it from the right angle.

Got any snappy one liners for up-and-coming artists?

Quit it if you are still cranking the same shit after 6 years. Start counting now...

What's the plan for 2006?

Back to basics! life drawing classes! Oil painting! and surely, things will happen, eventually, I started also a blog for a you spanish readers at: and I'm saving to visit you all on Gen Con, but you know what they say about best laid plans.


Thanks to Sam for taking time to to chat! It was a good one I think!

Here's some links that may be of use on an Araya Intarweb Odyssey:

Sam's Online Folio

Sam's site in development
White Wolf Online
George Higham
Ninja Mountain

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Interview: Matt Dixon

Starting off '06 we're trying to find the time to get some interviews of our members up on the blog to offer a little bit of a peek info what they are upto, and where they are coming from.

The first "lucky" victim is Matt Dixon!

Hey Matt. How are you?

Hi, Jon. I’m well, thanks.

So, Heavy Metal magazine are about to print some of your work! Tell us a bit about that - how did that come about?

I wish there was an interesting story to weave around my first appearance in such an iconic publication, but I’m afraid there isn’t; I sent Kevin Eastman some of my work, and he asked if he could feature me in the mag! If only it was always that simple, eh?

Can you say anything about the work? What sort of things are seeing print?

It’s a gallery feature, so there’s no new work involved. I haven’t actually seen what’s been published yet, but I understand it’s four pages of paintings accompanied by a short bio.

Heavy Metal is reknowned certainly in the States, as focusing on a European-style of work. Would you agree with that, and do you think you have Euro Style? Do you like Euro Style? What the heck is Euro Style?

Perhaps someone stateside would have a better insight into that question than I. In the context of comics, I think perhaps us Europeans ( and this applies far more to continental Europe than the UK ) have traditionally been more experimental. Maybe this comes from a more diverse market in Europe, which seems to favour narrative rather than character driven stories? I don’t really see a clearly defined ‘Euro Style’ as far as the art goes, however.

Mam Tor Publishing are also printing your first sequentials! That's some esteemed company to be printed in! At the risk of repeating a question can you tell us anything about how that came about?

Much the same as with Heavy Metal. Mam Tor, and the Event Horizon anthology which features my work, is the brain child of veteran comic artist Liam Sharp, aimed at publishing work which is created for the love of the medium. Liam saw my work, and asked if I’d like to contribute. I was nervous at the idea of producing my first sequential work, but the process was extremely satisfying, not least because of the encouragement and support offered by Liam and the rest of the Mam Tor family. I really can’t speak highly enough of those guys. What they’re trying to accomplish over there deserves all the support they can get.

(c)2006 Matt Dixon

You're very prolific! Do you have a strong work ethic?

I don’t really think too much about it, Jon. Painting pictures is what I enjoy most, so I tend to do it as much as I can..!

You work at a computer games company right? So what does that job entail?

It varies considerably from day to day and project to project. It’s a great industry to bein from that point of view. I have a lead position, so the one constant in my working life is a fair dollop of meetings and email action, but the rest of the time is taken up with creative duties of one kind or another which offsets that ‘work’ aspect nicely. Most recently, I’ve been working on environment concept art for our current project. Ordinarily, this would concentrate largely on the way things look in a particular location and establishing some ‘rules’ that should help create a coherent visual design. However, as the project in question is a movie license which has a well-defined look already in place, I’m concentrating my efforts more on the lighting scheme, location layouts and key dramatic events.

What do you like most - drawing or painting?

Painting. Lines and I don'’t get on too well.

Do you have a definite process when you make work, or are you more of a "make it up as I go kinda guy?"

I have a process in as much as I approach each picture in pretty much the same way these days – sketch, values, underpainting, rendering, finish – but it’s a very organic process and I’m happier reacting to what’s happening on the canvas ( screen ) rather than following a plan laid out before I start work, so things are constantly changing while I work.

Who's your favourite artist?

What a question! I’ll spare you the tedious ramble listing all the major figures in illustration in the last century; if I had to pick just one artist, I’d have to go for Norman Rockwell.

Go on, give us a one liner piece of pithy advice for upcoming artists!

Don’t waste your precious time with trivial distractions like the internet, TV or friends – GET DRAWING!

(c)2006 Matt Dixon

What's the plan for 2006? Any more sequentials?

Maybe. I’m very busy right now with commissioned work but I have a few personal projects which are long overdue for attention, so I’m hoping to spend some time with those later in the year.


Thanks to Matt for taking the time out to have a chat! Here's some useful links where you can see more of his work, and check out some of his publishers:
Matt's Homepage
Matt's Award winning "Master and Servant"
Mam Tor Publishing
Heavy Metal
Norman Rockwell Museum