How long have you been painting digitally?
I started teaching myself digital illustration back in 2000. I didn't have any formal education about it; I just browsed several online tutorials. One of the most helpful digital painting tutorials to me was one made by Julie Dillon, and it was what taught me how to use layers in Photoshop (unfortunately, I don't think it's still available for browsing now). Mid-2003, I stopped painting when I moved to Manila and I totally got sidetracked by real life and other distractions until 2007 when I finally got my own place and personal computer. From there, it's been mostly trial and error. I'm still learning even now.
Drawing, however, I've been doing since I was a kid.
What are your art style influences? Is that anime I see?
Being heavily exposed to jRPGs and anime back in the 90s, my art style was heavily influenced by anime. Blame it on Final Fantasy, Street Fighter and Rurouni Kenshin. However, during the last couple of years, I've been deviating from it and into the more traditional Western style as I became more serious about my work. That isn't to say that anime-style art isn't serious, but most professional companies in the industry prefer the more adult and mature style of Western concept art and illustrations.
What about artists?
In the beginning, when I was still treating art as nothing more than a casual hobby, I didn't have any direct artist influence since it's mostly just generic anime. However, the first artist I would say that have influenced my style would be Hyung-tae Kim. Then, as I became more serious with my art, I started to appreciate the varied styles of Yoshitaka Amano and Akihiko Yoshida. Jo Chen is also an influence. Recently, the works of tobiee and Alvin Lee, as well as Bengal, have caught my eye. That is not to say, however, that my art style is similar to theirs (it's usually not). Most of the time, their influence is subtle, usually bordering on nuances and the style of rendering.
I draw anime and my artist friends say that it's a crappy style. Is it true? :(
No style is ever crappy. If that was the case, then cubism wouldn't have its fans. Unless your friends are just out to troll you, I think what they're trying to say is that you shouldn't limit yourself to drawing the anime style. This is mainly because of several reasons:
1) The anime style is very much overexposed and the market today is oversaturated by it. Most of the anime arts you see these days exhibit the same style of drawing, even more so than the usual "big eyes, small mouth" trademark that is anime's. Too often, you cannot the distinction between one anime-style work by one artist from another. If you must adopt an anime style of drawing/illustration, make sure that yours have that distinctive mark that separates your work from the rest.
2) Owing to the oversaturation of anime-styled works (or perhaps because of it), a vast majority of the anime derivative works often display poor knowledge of anatomy or form. Now, some of you may say "But it's anime -- it's supposed to be stylized!" but remember that the foundation of any and all figure drawing is proper anatomy. The best mangakas have studied anatomy to ensure that their characters still have believable forms even when exaggerated. Remember: you first have to know the rules before you can break them.
3) Sure, anime is cool and all, but the more respected companies prefer the more traditional "realistic" looks, regardless of whether it's sci-fi or fantasy. Inspite of how anime has permeated the mainstream market in the past couple of years, anime is still, by and large, a niche market.
What painting programs do you use?
I mainly use Photoshop to make my works, although I occassionally dabble with Painter. The latter is much harder though, since I don't have real-life painting training.
What hardware do you use?
I mostly do my work using my archaic Wacom Graphire4 which I bought about 4 years ago. As for my PC specs, I'm currently using a C2D 2.0 Mhz Intel processor with 2 GB of RAM, although my first digital works were done using an old Celeron computer. Basically, as long as your computer is able to handle your preferred digital painting program (Photoshop, Painter, Paint Shop Pro, etc), you should be good to go.
Can you teach me how to paint? I am a great padawan!
Uhm, no. Putting aside the fact that it would be hella hard to teach someone over the Internet, I'm also still a student in digital illustration myself. I am nowhere near the caliber of such great artists as Randis Albion, Marko Djurdjevic, or Andrew Jones. If you really want to learn online, ConceptArt.org has great tutorials and lessons you can download from some of the best illustrators today. However, if there's a question about digital illustration that you have that I can maybe help, then just chuck me a line via email or the Comments form on my Contact page. I will try to answer them as best as I can!
Any advice for a newbie artist?
Practice, practice, practice. Seriously, drawing/painting is not some mystical skill that only a select few have. All of us who've achieved some sort of proficiency with art did so through years of drawing and painting. If you're frustrated by your first few attempts, don't worry, everyone goes through the same phase. Even the Great Masters of old started from scratch. If you really need a serious dose of inspiration, read this.
Learn anatomy. Don't copy off of comic books, cartoons, or anime shows. While they may look right to you, they're only superficial. Get an anatomy book and start reading about muscles and bones. Once you get a feel of how the human body is structured, you will be able to draw any pose with ease.
Always cultivate your powers of observation and curiosity. Study a painting that you like and ask why. Why are the light and shadows painted that way? Why did the artist use this particular color? Why is this item placed here and not there? Always asking why and researching their answers via the net is a good way to learn composition, lighting, shadows, and color theory, among others.
Have fun! Art is expressing yourself and deriving satisfaction from something you've created, not for pleasing others.
Lastly, I leave you with some words of wisdom from Jason Manley, founder of the studio Massive Black and co-founder of ConceptArt.org:
"First, you are not trapped in your situation. You can get out of any situation you want if you are willing to take the pain of doing all the things you dont want to do...the long, hard way. The fruitful way.
At seventeen I was homeless and orphaned, taking care of my fourteen year-old brother who I somehow managed to keep in school. I had dropped out of school. I did two years of wasting time eventually trying to get my head on straight. At nineteen I was homeless again. Scraped together enough money to get my ass to Arizona to study art. Got a temp apartment to get me through to the end of the month and took a job at Subway (applied all over til I found something). The Subway job paid enough money to sometimes eat and pay my small studio rental. I went back to school to get my graduation and was working full time (thought I needed to graduate from HS to get into a good college). Trust me...it was fucking painful. I transferred to a community college the following year and slowly got better and better jobs. Worked telemarketing fundraising to afford a 1977 Datsun and art supplies. Shittiest job ever but paid double what Subway did. Worked three jobs during the summer to get caught up including going to Alaska to work the salmon docks across the country. I did not give a shit what it was, if it paid for my goals to be met and didn't involve anything illegal, I did it.
As time went on I realized I needed to arrange my priorities again. I took a nighttime job so I could exhaust all my energies in my art and studies. Eventually got a job at AT&T...Att this is Jason how may I help you?...I was still far behind those who had life handed to them their whole life. However, I was catching up. In time I realized it was not a chase against others but only my own race to my goals. Kept the nose down. Chose friends who worked on art or learning always. Ignored the time-wasting folk who never will amount to anything other than regular. Grew up around enough of those to realize the difference. After three and a half years I took my first art job and quit my shit job...have lived with and from art ever since.
By the time I was 29 I had achieved every goal I had reached for when I first set out. That is when I realized it was time to set new goals...each time this happens it feels like starting over...get something done..start again...in time your life becomes what you want it to be. Even those of money have to do this if their life involves learning, skill, and growth. It is not money that holds people back...is just their own mind.
The hard part about certain situations is not everyone is told they can do and reach their goals if they just work their ass off starting RIGHT NOW. Some know it and won't work for whatever reason. They listen to that voice that says I want to chill and watch tv or I don't feel like it. Others have addictions or mental issues keeping them from growing and learning. I didn't want to be any of that. I wanted to do cool stuff...to have an interesting life...and to work in a creative way.
Hard manual labor growing up taught me that my mind would rot if I chose that kind of path. I wanted something to use my mind. Bored if not...and with boredom comes making trouble or distraction. Gotta turn that into work ethic...no choice. Carl Dobsky was telling me this about the atelier every day. It has to be just uncomfortable enough to make the coolest thing to do be art. If there is a blaring TV or anything else, then there are other options. Options that keep one from not working to reach their goals.
Complacency is the womb of mediocrity. You clearly are not complacent. So do something about it in every free second of your day. All this wandering around doing not a whole lot but thinking isn't getting you much done. It is however, giving you a taste of life many others would never have the guts to explore. Just don't stay down there too long without coming up for air.