Donnerstag, 26. September 2013

Interview with Les Edwards

I feel honoured that legendary Fantasy and Science Fiction Illustrator Les Edwards  put his brushes aside for a moment to answer some of my curious questions.
Here they come:

When and why did you make the decision to become a professional illustrator in the field of Fantasy and Science Fiction?
I don't think I ever made a positive decision to become an illustrator. It was a chance that came along and I thought I'd give it a shot. It was believed at my Art School that it was impossible to make a living as an illustrator and so I didn't expect it to last. Then, suddenly, it was twenty years later and people began to talk about my "Career in Illustration"

Les Edwards, "Lovecraft in Britain"

Which themes (e.G. sword and sorcery, weird fiction, Science Fiction etc.) do you enjoy most working on?
What is it that attracts you about them?

Generally I feel most at home working in Horror but the specific genre is not terribly important so long as there is a high level of weirdness. I've always been attracted to the strange and grotesque and I suppose you could say that I've never grown up.

  "Black Charade", Cover for the second book in the Dr. Caspian series by John Burke. Published by Coronet. Les' interpretation of Dr. Caspian inspired German Fantasy author Wolfgang Hohlbein to create victorian researcher "Robert Carter - the warlock of Salem", published with the same cover by Bastei Lübbe, Germany.

When you look back on 40 years of experience in Fantasy-illustration:
what would you say has changed in the meantime within the Genre?
What were the most important twists in the industry from your point of view?

Of course, the introduction of digital technology had a huge effect but the real change is in the success of the genre itself. When I began illustrating there was no "Fantasy Industry" as there is now. You could not describe yourself as a "Fantasy Artist" because no one would understand what you meant. Comics were for kids, Science Fiction was for weirdoes and very few people in the UK had heard of Conan the Barbarian. Michael Moorcock was writing his books about Elric and Dorian Hawkmoon but that was about it. Now Fantasy is everywhere, TV, movies, games and of course endless books about teenage vampires. It's hard to remember that at one time this kind of material was rare. I expect there will eventually be a backlash and Fantasy will fall out of favour. After all, does the world really need another Superhero movie?

There's a huge discussion going on whether young artists should offer traditional painting techniques as well or whether to use right away digital tools to produce their artwork. What's your opinion towards that issue?

You can't escape the digital world and I would expect any young person coming into the field to use digital media. I think it's a shame because my love is painting and, whatever anyone says, there is really no comparison between working with real paint and using a computer. That's just my opinion though, because I have spent a lifetime learning to paint. The reality is that the world is now digital and there is no going back.

"Caverns of the snow witch", Commissioned by Puffin for one of the Fighting Fantasy gamebook series

To research your material, do you use models, maquettes or photographs as visual back up?
I read that you did some of your pieces completely from imagination.
How do you train your visual vocabulary, your imaginative muscles, to do so?

I use a lot of photographic reference. It's very important, if you are painting something that does not exist in reality, to give it a sense of conviction, so photography can be important for lighting, anatomy and real-world details. What I never do is photograph something and just copy the photo. What's the point in that? The most important thing is to draw, and keep on drawing; that's true even for digital artists.

"Heroquest", Copyright © MB Games, 1988. Heroquest was a fantasy role-playing game aimed at kids.

What is your most important advice for aspiring artists and students who want to break into the field? 

Don't expect to get rich.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer my questions!

"Triple Zombie", Les Edwards

All picture material in this blog post is courtesy of Les Edwards.

Official website of Les Edwards