Raoul Vitale talks fantasy art.
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.”