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Though he honed his artistic skills in traditional media, Church currently does almost all of his artwork digitally: "I do keep a sketchbook though and I'd love to get back into traditional media for personal projects (when there's more time!). For me digital artwork is faster and much more flexible and allows you to be far more experimental with illustrations. You almost never have to fight the media like you do with traditional paintings. Sitting at a fast computer with a large monitor and a large tablet running a good program is as close as I've ever gotten to the seamless transmission of my mind's idea to the page."

Church admits that digital media does have its drawbacks: "I doubt the computer will ever have the ability or finesse to truly capture some of the specific joys of traditional painting: the feel of brush on canvas, stuff like that. Printing and display technology can't quite generate a permanent and substantial finished product yet, compared to a nicely framed large oil painting. But a different kind of joy comes from the ability to so quickly and limitlessly create on the computer."

"It's really important to remember that a computer is just another tool for creating images", adds Church. "It won't help you be a better painter, although it can get you there quicker. Drawing and painting skills are learned through tons of practice. A knowledge of perspective, composition, color, and material indication are essential for any artist no matter what tools they use."

Church is passionate about the industry he is a part of: "This is a great industry to be in. It continues to grow and reward those with talent and good ideas. One of the great things about it is that it's so competitive, with many great ways to do things and create images. The advice I always give is to practice all the time, learn the fundamentals, and recognize your bad habits or weaknesses and try and address them as soon as possible. There's so much great artwork out there it's easy to judge your skill level."

Church also emphasizes the importance of artists doing what they love and presenting only their best work: "The quality of work an artist presents is extremely important. I can scan a 20-page portfolio in about 15 seconds and I can tell everything I need to know about the skill level, creativity and professionalism of the designer. The work either grabs me or it doesn't; it's either fresh or it isn't. There's no amount of hand waving or excuses that can help or hinder the artwork once it's presented. The lesson is to present your best work, be professional but persistent, and always draw or paint what you love because it shows."

With his talent and experience, Church is often called upon to make presentations and teach his techniques: "I get a lot of emails that ask how I work. I have done many short demos for classes and presentations, but the best way to reach a larger audience is via DVD; the format allows me to take my time and show subject-specific techniques."

Church in conjunction with The Gnomon Workshop will release a series of five training DVDs in January 2004. Each of the DVDs will have two hours of real-time demonstration and discussion of techniques that Church developed and uses on the job on a daily basis, from setting up the digital workspace to design, composition, perspective, drama, and everything else that goes into the creation of a production illustration. "The lessons show how to bring traditional skills to the computer as well as lots of methods to exploit the tremendous advantages of working digitally", adds Church. "They are for anyone who wants to learn the way I work and to gain insight into the process."

Image Credits:
Blimpcity (Top Right): "This personal piece is an example of a typical 'establishing shot' type of painting that is meant to show off a designed environment. Putting a vehicle in there adds some context and serves as a center of interest. I guess it's kind of the point of the painting, too. It's getting tougher to come up with fresh concepts for cityscapes, so in this case I started with the idea of 'upside down architecture' and ran with it which results in a fresh if not very realistic idea. It's suitable for a movie reality and it's an environment with plenty of built in dramatic potential. It's definitely an idea I intend to explore more fully in future illustrations."

Other Images: Concept Images from Star Wars Episode II


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