First Im­pres­sions

Raoul Vi­tale talks fan­tasy art.

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Contents -

Draw­ing and paint­ing were al­ways the pri­mary goal

Where did you grow up and how has this in­flu­enced your art?

I’m from a sub­urb of north-east Ohio, a very eth­nic neigh­bour­hood where you rarely heard the English lan­guage. It was a very tightly packed few blocks, with many fam­ily-owned shops in among the res­i­dents. There were no parks, so we played in va­cant fields. Even though there were no pic­turesque ar­eas, I was al­ways con­scious of and greatly af­fected by light and shadow.

You’re a child, you see a paint­ing or draw­ing that changes ev­ery­thing… where are you and what are you look­ing at, and what ef­fect did it have?

I wasn’t ex­posed to much art as a child. I would just spend time draw­ing an­i­mals, di­nosaurs or what­ever caught my eye. In kinder­garten, our class got to see a movie one af­ter­noon – it was a Har­ry­hausen film. Those im­ages stuck with me and fos­tered a love of fan­tasy. In sixth grade, I saw some im­ages by JeanLéon Gérôme in an en­cy­clopae­dia, and be­came aware that a pic­ture was care­fully put to­gether and com­posed.

What was your next step in art? Did other in­ter­ests vie for your at­ten­tion? What was the de­cid­ing fac­tor?

As a teen, I dis­cov­ered Max­field Par­rish, Frazetta and the Hilde­brandt’s work. I had started craft­ing my own com­po­si­tions by then. Other things al­ways com­pete for your at­ten­tion dur­ing your teen years. I had a few other in­ter­ests, but draw­ing and paint­ing were al­ways the pri­mary goal.

Can you de­scribe the place where you usu­ally cre­ate your art?

I have a stu­dio room in my home. On one side is a draw­ing ta­ble with all my var­i­ous sup­plies, ei­ther built into the ta­ble, or on the book­shelves that sur­round it on one whole wall. The other side of the room is set aside for paint­ing, al­though a small por­tion is shared with my son for his projects.

Have there been pri­vate com­mis­sions that you’ve turned down?

I’ve never turned down a pri­vate com­mis­sion. Many of my clients have com­mis­sioned mul­ti­ple paint­ings from me over the years. They’ve all been very easy to work with, and have given me a lot of free­dom.

Is your art evolv­ing? What’s the most re­cent ex­per­i­ment you’ve made?

I can’t say that it’s evolved much, es­pe­cially with pri­vate com­mis­sions. You end up be­ing known and ap­pre­ci­ated for cer­tain as­pects of your work, so that is what’s ex­pected. I get that. It’s like a mu­si­cian you like for their style, but if their mu­sic strays too far from what moved you about them ini­tially, then you’re not likely go­ing to care for their ex­per­i­ments.

What char­ac­ter that you’ve painted do you most iden­tify with?

I can’t say that I iden­tify with any. Most of the char­ac­ters that I’ve done, were ei­ther made-up, or were from Tolkien, or other fic­tion.

What gripes do you have about the fan­tasy art in­dus­try right now?

I have none. The only fan­tasy-based com­pany that I work with (at the mo­ment, at least) is Wizards of the Coast. Work­ing with it is an ideal sit­u­a­tion. I like work­ing on Magic: The Gath­er­ing prod­ucts: you have a whole world to draw from, but Wizard gives you the free­dom to ex­trap­o­late and add your own touches. Un­like other game art that has very strict pa­ram­e­ters, Wizards ac­tively en­cour­ages you to push its bound­aries.

Why is the fan­tasy art world still the best place to be work­ing?

Fan­tasy has re­ally come into its own in the past 20 or so years be­cause of an in­creas­ing pop­u­lar­ity in film and cul­ture in gen­eral. I would say that fan­tasy art is a very broad term. Art has al­ways had some el­e­ment of fan­tasy to it, so I don’t think its go­ing to go out of fash­ion any­time soon.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing high school, Raoul worked as a stained glass de­signer for many years. He be­gan free­lanc­ing in 1999 with con­cept sketch­ing for the Brad­ford Group Ex­change, be­fore mov­ing on to il­lus­trate books and mag­a­zines, cre­ate im­ages for Magic: The Gath­er­ing and some pri­vate com­mis­sions. See more of his art at www.raoul­vi­taleart.com.

Gar­den of the En­chantress “This was a piece a client wanted to start their col­lec­tion with. He was keen to see a red-haired sor­cer­ess.”

Home to Riven­dell “A com­mis­sion for a col­lec­tor whose wife wanted an owl in a The Lord of the Rings scene.”

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