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: http://www.andyhepworth.com/

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

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