The fantasy artist talks treefolk, traditional art and the Aliens film
You’re a child and you see a painting or drawing that changes everything… Where are you, what are you looking at and what effect did it have? It was actually the movie Aliens that changed everything for me. Before that, I was probably going to be an artist of some sort, but I hadn’t really considered it as a career. After seeing Aliens, I became a full-fledged genre geek and it sent me careening down the road to a career in illustration.
Did other interests vie for your attention at the time and what was your next step in art?
Art was really my only thing. Nothing else competed for my attention, probably because I wasn’t much good at anything else! From memory, I think I became more focused on art the further I got into high school. Then I got a scholarship to Cleveland College of Art and Design and that was that.
What was your first paid commission, and does it stand as a representation of your talent?
I was paid for one or two art-related jobs while I was still in high school. But I consider my first truly professional illustration job to be for White Wolf Games around 1995. My very first illustration was a gothy vampire girl with a bandaged stump of an arm. Dark, kinda sexy, stylised in a comic book sort of way. My skills are much more honed and nuanced now, but I think you can definitely tell it was my artwork, even though it’s been over 20 years.
In contrast, what’s the last piece of art that you finished, and how do the two items differ?
The last piece I finished was a painting of a treefolk. They differ mostly in media (this one is acrylic) and a 21-year increase in artistic eye and polished skills. But they both have a similar flair for character and detail.
Can you describe the place where you usually create your art?
I have a smallish studio in the loft of my home. It’s often in disarray and overburdened with supplies and reference books, but it gets pretty good light during the day and is suitable for how I work. I have a cluttered table where I do much of my drawing and a ramshackle drafting table-turned-easel where I put the acrylics to work. Most of the decor in the studio is stacks and shelves of books, drawings by my daughter, a few paintings by other artists, a few by me, and an old television that plays DVDs.
The Aliens film sent me careening down the road to illustration
How does your approach towards card art and mobile game art differ?
The one mobile game I worked on (SoulSpark) was a combo of pencil and digital colouring to get nice bright colours for little screens to display and almost all the work was character vignettes. Card art I do traditionally. It enables me to get more subtle with colour and makes it possible to immerse the character in an environment.
What gripes do you have about the fantasy art industry?
I try not to gripe, because there are so many great things going on in the industry at the moment. We’re in the age of geek culture right now and never has fantasy art been more accessible, popular and more welcome. There are always things that could be improved of course, such as freelance pay, the rights of the artist and copyright infringement. Despite the size of the industry, it can be very difficult to make a living from it, but a lot of that is just the tribulations of being self-employed.
And why do you think the art industry is still the best place to be working right now?
However my brain works, and the need for me to problem solve through creativity, makes being an artist my only option. Fantasy art, at least for the time being, allows me the most access to a lot of creative avenues to channel my interests. And I quite enjoy the anything goes freedom found in fantasy art.
Steve Prescott is a fantasy artist with a BFA in Illustration whose work has appeared in Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons books, World of Warcraft TCG and much else besides. You can see more of his art at his website, www.rottface.com.
war oracle “With Magic: The Gathering work the tone is important. Here War Oracle is in a sort of trance of destruction – she’s a divine tool for killing entire armies.” swamp dragon “A cover for a D&D manual. Years afterwards, I decided there was a small section I didn’t like. So I repainted that part so that it didn’t drive me nuts.”