Meet Dave Carleson (@draw_r)
Seattle concept artist and 3-D generalist Dave Carleson @draw_r dazzles us with his creative process for drawing the details that build the extravagant worlds of TV and film in the newest Bee Paper blog.
What first inspired you to create art?
I’d have to say my parents are what inspired me to first create art. From as far back as I can remember they have always encouraged me to draw. I was also extremely fortunate to have some fantastic art teachers throughout grade school and art school.
What initially drew you to concept-style illustration over other types of illustration?
Ever since I learned what concept illustration was, I wanted to do it. As an avid sci-fi and fantasy movie watcher, I loved the idea that I might have a hand in creating props, costumes, environments and more someday.
What is your favorite Bee Paper product and why?
This one is easy: Bee Paper Marker Art journals! They were the first Bee Paper product I bought and I’m so glad I did. The paper is super smooth and easily accepts marker, paint pens and inks. As an added bonus, it can handle a lot of erasing! I’ve only recently finished my first Inktober challenge and the Marker Art Journal was amazing for it. I’m planning on dedicating individual journals per future Inktober (and other art challenges)!
Do you have any artists who have inspired your work?
Oh, so many artists have and continue to inspire me! Masanori Ota, or better known as Shirow Masamune, for his work in Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell. Drew Struzan for giving us so many fantastic movie covers and posters. The Hildebrandt brothers for colorful comic cards and fantasy book cover paintings. Joe Madureira for his expressive comic book characters. Jean Giraud (Moebius, Gir) for his huge imagination, massive and colorful scenes, and contributions to movies like Tron and Dune. There are far too many to list, especially since the list just keeps growing for me all the time!
You tell us you are an avid comic book reader and anime watcher. How has your love of comic books and anime influenced your artistic style?
I’m not sure how much they have influenced my style as much as they have influenced the way I think about telling stories with my sketches. What I’ve learned from comics and anime about framing, creating a mood and a feeling of time, or lack thereof, has been a significant help in creating storyboards for various projects. If anyone is interested in learning more about the creative process behind story art, I highly recommend the book Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, by Scott McCloud. It’s a fantastic read and immensely insightful.
What has been the most challenging aspect of doing concept illustration?
I think, for me, the most challenging aspect of concept illustration is the responsibility that goes along with it. You are the tip of the spear, so to speak. What you sketch may eventually be fully realized as digital or physical products. Perhaps you designed a sword for a fantasy TV series. That sketch, which you may have only had an hour to create, is approved and sent to a prop master and/or a blacksmith to be physically made. This means it will be used and carried on and off camera. It not only has to look “cool” but must be relatively comfortable and durable.
What is the most rewarding aspect of concept illustration?
For me, the most rewarding aspect is the same as the most challenging. When I get it right, there’s nothing like seeing my creation come to life in a physical or digital form. It’s incredible watching and hearing from others what their experiences were like interacting with something I helped create.
We have seen you draw original characters to iconic characters from video games, comic books, manga/anime, television and film. Which media do you feel most inspired by when drawing concept art?
I think it would have to be a tie between movies and music. Movies are a great way for me to get out of a funk or rekindle some inspiration, but there’s nothing like sketching to music. Music can help remove outside distractions, but it can also heavily influence the mood of my sketches and even re-energize me better than a strong cup of coffee.
What is the best advice you can give to anyone wanting to do concept art?
Learn and continue to focus on fundamentals like proportion, value, composition, and perspective. In addition, be observant! Notice details of the people, creatures, objects and places around us. Don’t be afraid to use references! I’ve never been able to put a finger on how or why it came about but, at an early age, I became afraid of using references because I thought it felt like cheating. None of my art teachers said this; they only encouraged me to use references. After all, how could I know how sunlight might pass through thick layers of a glacier without gathering photographic reference? Or how fuel line cables can be routed through motorcycle frames? Using references will only improve your art. There’s so much more I could say but I’ll wrap it up with this: Never be afraid to experiment with new art techniques and never ever stop sketching!