First Impressions

The artist known for his dra­matic Star Wars art talks in­flu­ences and more

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - First Impressions - Dave See­ley Dave’s painted for the pub­lish­ing, film and video, and ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­tries. You can see more of his work at www.dav­esee­ley.com.

Where did you grow up, and when did you re­alise you had a tal­ent for art? I grew up in the Bos­ton sub­urbs. I used to have kids hang­ing over my shoul­der when I made coloured pen­cil draw­ings of mon­sters at ele­men­tary school re­cess. That’s my ear­li­est mem­ory of un­der­stand­ing I was good at it. Did your up­bring­ing in­flu­ence your style of paint­ing? That’s a given, though I think of my style as flex­i­ble de­pend­ing on the piece I’m work­ing on. I love a rel­a­tively wide range of styles as a con­sumer of art. Nowa­days, I’m us­ing photo col­lage to work up images, and I’ll take that to a high de­gree of fin­ish be­fore choos­ing the stylis­tic fin­ish of any given piece. That al­lows me a range from fully pho­to­graphic to what I’d con­sider rel­a­tively painterly. How did sci­ence fic­tion and fan­tasy art get on to your radar? I watched early black and white hor­ror and sci-fi films as a kid. I read Tarzan se­ries and Stephen King books as a teen, and the 1977 re­lease of Star Wars made a deep im­pres­sion. I copied from Frazetta and Boris art books. I had lots of comic books, but ul­ti­mately felt like su­per­heroes were wear­ing silly out­fits. It was prob­a­bly Heavy Me­tal mag­a­zine that sold me sci-fi and fan­tasy by si­mul­ta­ne­ously tick­ling my li­bido. Have you en­joyed ex­plor­ing the Star Wars uni­verse through your art? Ab­so­lutely! It’s been a kick to con­trib­ute to the world build­ing and to de­sign new as­pects of it. I also lived the pre­quels through the eyes of my then-young son, so it was a great fa­ther-son bond­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, and it helped me see the Star Wars uni­verse from an in­no­cent, “born-again” per­spec­tive. What’s been the high­light of your ca­reer so far? Any low points? I just had The Art of Dave See­ley pub­lished by Insight Edi­tions. Insight does amaz­ing qual­ity books, and I was in­tro­duced to the com­pany by Lu­cas­film when it was do­ing col­lec­tor edi­tion Star Wars books about a decade ago. That seems like a huge mile­stone. Low points all oc­curred while do­ing my in­come taxes in the early years, and re­al­is­ing that my wife was sub­si­dis­ing my shift from ar­chi­tec­ture to illustration. To date, what would you say has been your most chal­leng­ing com­mis­sion or as­sign­ment? I did an ad­ver­tis­ing com­mis­sion sev­eral years ago, where it was a se­ries of real-life he­roes in po­lice and mil­i­tary ac­tion scenes. It was three weeks of very lit­tle sleep, and gen­er­at­ing many images that were re­jected be­fore get­ting to the yes stage. Still, that was a sat­is­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, hav­ing met the chal­lenge and work­ing on great sub­jects.

If I in­ter­pret your ques­tion dif­fer­ently, then the most chal­leng­ing task for me is if I take on a com­mis­sion that I have no in­her­ent in­ter­est in. Then it’s bat­tling my lack of at­ten­tion span. That’s a chal­lenge… but per­haps I have blocked out those spe­cific mem­o­ries! Are you con­stantly re­fin­ing your paint­ing process? It’s ab­so­lutely a con­stant evo­lu­tion, al­though when lay­ing the oil paint down, I slip into a rep­tile-brain state that’s more about the beauty of mark mak­ing. Over­think­ing can in­hibit that. What ad­vice would you give to your younger self? I think I’d be care­ful about be­ing too hon­est, as it might have put me off en­tirely, and ul­ti­mately, I’m glad to be me. I think the best ad­vice for any il­lus­tra­tor look­ing to find ideal com­mis­sions is to as­sign your­self your dream job, ex­e­cute it, and mar­ket the hell out of it. The work you do begets the work you’ll be of­fered. That seems ob­vi­ous, but it took me a long time to un­der­stand it. You can’t ex­pect clients to look at some­thing very dif­fer­ent from what they want, and un­der­stand that you could do what they are af­ter. How would you sum up your work, in un­der 10 words? En­gag­ing, in­tense, gritty, sexy, nu­anced, heroic, epic, spa­tial and at­mo­spheric.

Heavy Me­tal mag­a­zine sold me sci-fi and fan­tasy by tick­ling my li­bido

Done as a print for Star Wars Cel­e­bra­tion IV, but used for the novel Luke Sky­walker and the Shad­ows of Min­dor. Here’s the front cover of The Art of Dave See­ley. We’ll be re­view­ing the book in a fu­ture edi­tion of Imag­ineFX. Star Wars: Rogue Leader

The God­dess An­i­malia

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