Epic is a word that gets bandied about a lot, but in the case of this collection of Dave’s work, it’s fully justified
You know when a book is about to take you on an epic journey when you realise you’ve just been staring at pages four and five for the past 10 minutes. The image under close inspection is Dave Seeley’s 2011 The Unincorporated Future for Tor Books, and is a great introduction to this illustrator’s passion for detail.
Back in January 2009 we interviewed Dave, being the obsessed-with-process types that we are. We were intrigued by his work: pieces of grand space opera and unadulterated machismo-fuelled art, each one a stunning example of high-definition photorealistic imagery.
His approach sucked us into the narrative, while dynamic compositions grabbed and yanked us into fantastic worlds and action-packed scenarios. We guessed that a camera was involved somewhere along the line, but we assumed it was simply studiobased photographic reference Dave had taken. Turns out it went a little deeper than that…
Growing up in what sounds like a very creative environment, Dave was already fostering a healthy obsession with imagery, hoarding clippings from magazines, pinned to walls or stored in files. After walking away from a successful career in architecture to pursue more soul-food work within illustration, Dave’s first commercial art gig came via painting buddy Rick Berry for the trading-card game Heresy: Kingdom Come.
How would this influence his painting approach? In the book the artist explains that although the work that followed kept the wolf from the door, the trading-card size restriction just wasn’t scratching his detail itch. The desire to work larger found him gravitating to book jackets. Around this time Dave had been collaging photos together in software and outputting the results, then painting on top of them using traditional media to Frankenstein his illustrations. When a potential client saw an example of this and subsequently hired him, the process die was cast.
Throughout the book we see how effective this approach has been. It’s a refreshing reminder that how you get to the final image is fairly insignificant compared to the outcome. More notable though is how, in more recent work, the brush is coming to the fore, the marks are more prominent, and lost and found edges are replacing the hard focus of earlier pieces. Yet it all still feels, well… epic.
Snapshots of Dave’s work process behind the cover for Combat-K: War Machine.
Dave’s The Unincorporated Future is detailed enough to take up 10 minutes of anyone’s time.