First Im­pres­sions

Don re­lates his rise from bagel painter to ac­claimed sci­ence fic­tion, fan­tasy and mar­itime artist

ImagineFX - - Fantasy Illustrator - Don Maitz

Don Maitz talks mar­itime.

You're a child, you see a paint­ing or draw­ing that changes ev­ery­thing. Where are you and what are you look­ing at? I’m in an at­tic read­ing my older cousin's dis­carded col­lec­tion of comics. I’m en­joy­ing the in­ter­play be­tween words and pic­tures to tell a story. On the back of th­ese comics I keep see­ing a pic­ture of Nor­man Rock­well of­fer­ing up the chal­lenge: “If you can draw Bambi and this pi­rate, we can make you an artist.” At 13, I took up that chal­lenge. There was a pos­i­tive re­sponse and my par­ents agreed to en­roll me into the Fa­mous Artist Cor­re­spon­dence Course. I’m still draw­ing pi­rates to­day. Did the area you grew up in af­fect your ca­reer in paint­ing or your art? I grew up in cen­tral Con­necti­cut, in a small town called Plainville. The lo­cal school would take us on field trips. One was to a quarry in town where I saw huge chunks of earth be­ing ground up to make paving ma­te­ri­als. See­ing a nat­u­ral area be­ing eaten away by ma­chines both­ered me, and to this day, that sort of sacrifice has be­come a mo­ti­va­tor in my work. The other trip I re­mem­ber was to the Pe­abody Mu­seum in New Haven, where I saw a 110-foot long mu­ral with lots of di­nosaurs. The artist who painted the Pulitzer Award-win­ning mu­ral would later be one of my teach­ers. What was your first paid job, and what do you think about it now? I at­tended the Paier School of Art and some­times lo­cal busi­nesses would of­fer jobs to stu­dents. One such business was Lenders Bagel Bak­ery in nearby New Haven, which was look­ing for artists to paint faces on mini bagels. My­self and a few other art stu­dents were ap­proached to be­come bagel painters. The wel­come in­come was 25 cents a head and helped us with art sup­plies.

Around that time, I also had some pen­cil draw­ings pub­lished by Mar­vel Comics as ads. Th­ese ex­pe­ri­ences in­tro­duced me to ad­ver­tis­ing and the comics in­dus­try.

I’m al­ways learn­ing new ways to ac­com­plish re­sults that sat­isfy the needs of the work

What’s the last piece that you fin­ished, and how does it dif­fer from the first? I just fin­ished a pri­vate com­mis­sion to paint an in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Long John Sil­ver. The job re­quired me to do a wa­ter­colour. While I have done a lot of wa­ter­colour ‘spots’ with no back­ground, this was an il­lus­trated scene that of­fered a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge. The big dif­fer­ence was that no bagels were in­volved! How did you come to spe­cialise in both myths and mar­itime paint­ing? When I left art school, sev­eral paint­ings in my first port­fo­lio pre­sen­ta­tion were later pub­lished. My first com­mis­sioned book cover com­bined fan­tasy and pi­rates. In 1985, I was in­vited to be a vis­it­ing guest in­struc­tor at the Rin­gling School of Art and De­sign in Sara­sota, Florida. This en­abled me to ex­pe­ri­ence another part of the coun­try and I be­gan imag­in­ing buc­ca­neers ap­pear­ing next to palm trees, ships an­chored off the beaches, pi­rates com­ing ashore with shov­els and such. Cre­at­ing the orig­i­nal art that launched Cap­tain Mor­gan Spiced Rum and sev­eral ad cam­paigns was an ad­di­tional in­cen­tive as that as­so­ci­a­tion with pi­rates re­ceived global pop­u­lar­ity. Can you name one per­son who helped you on your way? Jim Aparo, who let me watch him work on DC Comics. He cri­tiqued my comic art and took me to visit DC Comics head­quar­ters in New York City be­fore I en­tered art school. He even let me ink some pan­els of an Aqua­man comic he was work­ing on. It seems ev­ery per­son I have met pro­fes­sion­ally since has en­hanced my life.

Is your art evolv­ing? I be­lieve each work I do is an evo­lu­tion. I seem to ap­proach my art in dif­fer­ent ways to com­plete each task. I'm al­ways learn­ing new ways to ac­com­plish end re­sults that sat­isfy the un­der­ly­ing needs of the work. I’ve taken to oc­ca­sion­ally paint­ing on lo­ca­tion with oil paints, and then adding el­e­ments later in the stu­dio. Pre­vi­ously, I’ve re­lied solely on pho­tog­ra­phy for back­ground fea­tures. How has the in­dus­try of fan­tasy art changed dur­ing your ca­reer? When I en­tered the field, book cover and mag­a­zine com­mis­sions used to be the only out­let for re­al­is­tic fan­tas­tic art. Now the ma­jor block­buster movies, best­selling books, video games and most watched cable shows have em­braced fan­tas­tic im­agery. Th­ese are ev­er­ex­pand­ing mar­kets and op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Don is best known for his Cap­tain Mor­gan character, but he has also twice won the Hugo Award for Best Pro­fes­sional Artist, sci­ence fic­tion’s high­est hon­our for an artist. www.par­avia.com/DonMaitz

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