Friday, 20 April 2012

STEAMPUNK WEEK: Guest Blog: Creating the Image - Stephan Martiniere

My career has been a constantly evolving process; I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a plethora of projects and develop a versatility of styles and skills. Regardless, I’ve found myself intensely drawn to science fiction as a complex and inspirational genre to explore through painting.

As a kid I was totally immersed in comics. My siblings and I bought our own each week, and of all themes and styles. We read both French and American comics, both cartoons and realism. Immediately I had a preference for science fiction, picking stories involving monsters and spaceships. At around 10 years old, I began to read more and my drawing skills improved, I noticed that there were particular artists I liked better. I began copying everything I liked in my own comics and drawings.

When I started in school, I still was adamant about being a comic book artist. It was the only thing that made sense to me; I hadn’t been made aware of all the possibilities of what an artist with a penchant for science fiction could do. During school, I took a small animation class as an elective and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t think much further than it being another useful skill. When I finished school, I realized I wasn’t ready to go into a career and discovered a friend of mine was going to animation school. I was intrigued; animation had a similar feel to comics, so I applied, got accepted and began to learn this new skill.

When I got hired to go to Japan and work on Inspector Gadget, my life changed completely. It was only supposed to be for one month, but one month turned into three and then into a full time job. It made me realize that maybe animation was a better career path, and that I was meant to do so much more than comic books with my art.

I attribute my time working in animation to my versatility later in my career. Being able to easily shift style and be comfortable drawing cartoon and realistic allowed me to have opportunities on a variety of projects. For many years I was primarily drawing in pencil or ink, and my color works were primarily done in markers. When I moved out of animation I had not truly developed a painting style that I could call my own. Adobe Photoshop changed all that; it allowed me to create a painterly style that was unique to me and that I could apply to a wide variety of projects.

I got to use this style in two very different types of projects: movies and book covers. The steps involved in creating art for movies are a very scripted and detailed with multiple phases. You are hired because the director feels that your style and vision would work well with theirs. It’s a collaborative process that will define the look and feel of the movie or give life to important elements of the movie such as characters, creatures or vehicles. The process can become very granular and you can find yourself involved in many of the visual details necessary for the film.

Book covers are very different. The goal of the cover piece is to sell the story with a single image. It is much like advertising; you want people to grab that particular book off the shelf at the store. In film, a production designer or a director would have a vision and very specific ideas as to the look of the movie but in the book cover industry art directors are often very flexible. Working on book covers becomes a much more personal process because you are not constrained by the details as much as with movies. It is a very rewarding experience which allows the freedom to explore and express who you are as an artist.

I believe that the style I’ve created and adapted over many years lends itself well to both the science fiction and fantasy genres. Typically my work involves creating very technical objects like spaceships or futuristic architectural landscapes, which requires a precise look and design. I use an erasing technique rather than an additive one to produce dynamic movement with the hard line of the Photoshop eraser tool. It is similar to the scratching technique in traditional painting, but applied to a digital medium. I also use a more organic and painterly approach using Painter when the subject of the story is more whimsical. Depending on the story or my desire for artistic exploration I would use a more graphic approach or a more painterly one and sometimes I would combine both.

While I enjoy creating a multitude of different pieces, I’ve continued my childhood obsession for science fiction and fantasy because of the visual diversity you can create. Science fiction or fantasy has the fascinating ability to allow you to create something more than just a piece of art. Rather, you are conceptualizing a world. You get to be more than an artist; you become a creator, an inventor, and a storyteller. It’s not just about monsters or spaceships; it’s about putting a vision on paper. With my art I’m able to convey a story and a world where anything is possible.

I think that people continue to love science fiction or fantasy as a form of entertainment because it is an escape from reality, albeit an intellectually challenging one. It offers a dream, but it also asks serious questions about what is possible, creating potential scenarios, and offering new possibilities. It lets you be somewhere else, to be someone else. You are given an opportunity to let your imagination wander in a way that real life does not. I am constantly grateful to be able to provide that opportunity to people by way of art and entertainment, and it challenges me to keep my work fresh and invigorating.


T. James said...

I've read quite a few 'how I got here' articles about writers, but it was really interesting to read about an artist.

I have to say, your work is impressive, embracing the 'techno-epic' style of SF cover I've always liked, ever since I was a teenager.

It's interesting to note the similarities between what you do as an artist, and what a fiction writer does with words. You paint for the eyes, we for the mind, and both of us aim for the heart.

Matthew Lee Adams said...

Beautiful work!

I visited his website to look through more of his gallery.

The style and just the way he brings all the elements into a gorgeous result reminds me of Marek Okon, who is another artist I admire.

Thanks for bringing in this guest blog. It's always fascinating to see what goes into the process of capturing an idea through art!