Daren Bader talks the great outdoors.
Where did you grow up and how has this influenced your art?
I grew up in California, with lots of family camping in the mountains and on the coast. I was always a fan of the outdoors, and I think I absorbed lots of the California landscape into my sensibilities, as well as organic shapes in general.
You’re a child, you see a painting that changes everything… what are you looking at, and what effect did it have?
Well, that would be the Frazetta painting Dark Kingdom on the cover of the Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta Book 2. I’d seen plenty of “fantasy art” before, but this painting had a grittiness and mood that really struck me.
What was your first paid commission?
That may very well have been painting copies of Frazetta and Boris’ pieces on to Vans skateboard shoes for friends in high school. In the industry, though, I think my first paid commission was a couple of painted trading cards for a Ray Harryhausen comic book in the early 90s.
What’s the last piece that you finished, and how do the two differ?
I’ve just finished a card piece for Hearthstone, and the biggest difference is the quality of colour choices. But we’re talking about a huge difference in time and almost 30 years of artistic evolution.
Where do you usually create your art?
I have a studio in my house where I paint traditionally, as well as a Wacom touch screen for digital work. I have sketchbooks and bring them around while I’m out, but I need to stay in the habit of doing that. It’s like exercise: you need to create good habits and stick to them. If you stop, you can feel those little things not working as smoothly as before.
What character that you’ve painted do you most identify with?
I would have to say Tarzan, simply because of my awe and appreciation of wilderness and nature. But I don’t really think I identify with the characters I paint, so much as the worlds they live in.
There’s an extremely illusive feeling of recognition and familiarity that I strive to achieve when I paint a scene – like a memory from childhood or from a dream, some form of connection to a time and place, and not necessarily a real time or place. Landscapes can pull something up from deep within you… bring strong feelings of ‘ locale’ or ‘place’ forward that don’t usually come to the forefront. Though in truth, all types of art and subject matter is capable of doing that.
Is your art evolving? What’s the most recent experiment you’ve made?
I don’t think that my art is evolving, or at least not fast enough. For that to happen, I’d need to spend more time on purely personal works of exploration, since clients don’t usually want you to experiment with your style on their jobs! What I would like to see evolve in my art would be a better use of paint itself. When I look at work by someone like Petar Meseldžija or John Singer Sargent, I’m deeply disappointed in my skill level.
Do you tread the convention trail?
Since I have a day job, I do very few shows because they take a lot of prep. I did do Dragon Con this year as a guest juror, along with Scott Fischer and Stephan Martinière, and had a great time hanging out with them. That’s the attraction, by the way: spending time with other artists and friends you only see at shows.
How has the industry of fantasy art changed since you’ve been part of it?
The internet has made viewing tremendous amounts of art and reference instantaneous, and that has in turn pushed the quality of work to new levels. The flip side of this is, of course, there are many more capable artists out there competing for the same work.
Why is it still the best place to work?
Because where else can you paint pictures of monsters and heroes fighting it out on planets light years away!?
Among other things, Daren is a video game art director, fantasy illustrator and 2016 Spectrum Fantastic Art gold award winner. You can see his art at www.instagram.com/darenbader.
I don’t identify with the figures I paint, so much as the worlds they live in
White Witch Dramatic lighting helps to generate mood and atmosphere in this forest scene. Shadow of the Coloss us “This was done for a gallery show entitled Video Game Artists Doing Art of their Favourite Video Games.”