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

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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.

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