I’m super excited about today’s blog post.
One of the things I tell people when discussing Souls of Astraeus, is that when someone reads it, I want to get out of the way of their imagination as much as possible. I want them to be able to picture characters or settings however they like, but for fives scenes, there were a few things I wanted communicated a specific way, because I didn’t want there to be any ambiguity on how that particular location looked. Well, four locations and Akal’s ship. Anyway…
I started browsing online for artists long before I put the finishing touches on my first book. I looked and looked, browsed, Googled and interwebbed… No one’s style was talking to me. Until I found Jonathan Powell and his work!
I gave him a few paragraphs for each piece and let him run with it. A few quick exchanges between drafts, and BAM, he was done. He absolutely surpassed what I wanted the five illustrations to convey. He nailed it, rocked it and owned it. I can’t say enough about him or his work. He’s a great person and an amazing artist. Check out this fun Q&A with the artist behind Souls of Astraeus, and cover artist for Games of Astraeus, illustrator Jonathan Powell! (Links way below to his bio and portfolio)
Q1: Hey Jonathan! What kind of personal info can you share? Places you lived, neighborhoods, how you grew up, that kind of thing.
A1: Well, I was born in Tennessee but most of my childhood was spent in a small town in Maryland called Pocomoke. It was a bit of a run-down, old-timey kind of town where everyone knew everyone and you could walk from one side to the other in about 15 minutes. My siblings and I grew up in the rectory by my dad’s church, and we were home-schooled till I was in 4th grade. My brother and I spent most of our time going on adventures in the woods, exploring old run-down buildings, getting into trouble, that sort of thing. Around 9th grade we moved to a nicer town in central Maryland, and it was around that time I started taking art a bit more seriously and working towards launching myself out to California by the time I graduated.
Q2: How early do you remember becoming passionate about art, whether it was sketching, painting, or a different medium? What was it that pushed you into wanting to study it in school and pursue it professionally?
A2: I remember spending time drawing with my mom when I was about 4 or 5 I believe, and she was always very encouraging. I kept drawing throughout my childhood, but it wasn’t until 10th grade or so that I found out about digital painting and thought to myself “hey, you know, I could probably make a living off of this kind of stuff”. I was in a graphic design class in high school when I met one of my first mentors, Mrs. Hines, who was another motivator for me to pursue art as a career. I was always hungry to improve and she was eager to push me along, and so I spent the rest of high school watching videos on youtube and painting all hours of the day under her direction. There was something really exciting to me about creating new worlds and I knew it was something I wanted to develop further.
Q3: Over the years, whether casually, academically or professionally, what is your favorite medium that you like to keep coming back to?
A3: If it weren’t for digital painting, I honestly might never have made the jump towards becoming a professional artist. I find it so approachable, versatile, and unique that I really can’t think of anything else to compare it to. I still like to draw traditionally and I’m learning to love painting in oil, but digital is definitely my playground.
Q4: What are your favorite subjects and settings to work on?
A4: I think it tends to vary, as I’m a very passionate person and my interests are always fluctuating. I think one subject I always love coming back to is space/the unknown – it’s incredibly fascinating to me, and I just hope to do it justice because it deserves a great deal of respect and admiration.
Q5: What is your ideal career? What type of business, creating what type of work?
A5: Ideal career… that’s a tough one. I mean, obviously I want to be an artist, but I’m not really that picky about where I end up as long as I’m able to do work that I’m proud of on projects that are in-line with my personal values. Ideally, I’m sort of hoping I’ll end up doing my own thing or working with a talented writer such as yourself to develop stories that can make an impact on the world, but films/games/virtual reality would be pretty exciting as well. Like I said though, I’m a passionate person and my interests are always fluctuating!
Q6: What are a few styles or aspects of your craft that you feel most comfortable with? For example, landscapes or faces.
A6: I think it just boils down to what you’ve invested most of your time doing, and for me that’s definitely landscapes. Like, I’m comfortable enough that I know a lot of the problems I might run into and how to avoid them, but ultimately it’s still a challenge because you have to be constantly offering something new, some kind of new insight, something of interest to the world.
A7: Well, this may not be what you meant by the question but I think the most intimidating aspect for me is still the blank sheet of paper. It’s sort of a cliche, but whatever, it’s cliche for a reason. You have to wrestle over that self-doubt and fear every time, but with more and more experience it gets easier and easier to put the fear behind you.
A8: Well, it’s an old piece that I’ve worked on over and over that I’ve eventually titled “Isolation in the Vastness”. I think it’s had a few other names over the years, but I think this one is my favorite for a few reasons. Visually it’s probably one of my most successful, plus it conveys a mood that makes it successful emotionally, and on top of that I see it as a fulfilling testament to my progress. I started this while I was still in High School and kept going back to it after making more progress in my studies until it finally came together as a representation of myself as an artist.
A9: I think my favorite one was the cyborg bar scene. It’s sort of weird talking about old work, because you’re not really supposed to criticize it too much or praise it too highly or people get turned off – so, just being as objective as I can, I think I was able to convey the mood very well in a way that fit with my interpretation of the material and the rest of the pieces I did for the project. There are a lot of technical things I might do differently now to improve the image, but overall there’s something very nice about looking back and seeing my voice showing through in the work, if that makes any sense.
Q10: What’s something you wish non-visual artists knew about your profession and type of work?
A10: I guess I’d just say that I think we’re both driven by the same deep creative drive, but through the lens of a different medium. Visual and non-visual artists may never see the world the same way, but that’s why it’s just all the more important to work together, so that we can better express our love of humanity.
Q11: What’s your immediate future looking like as far as school and after you finish?
A11: Right now, I’m just focusing on improving through school, internships, and other work opportunities. I still have a long road ahead but I’m loving every minute of it!
Jonathan Powell is a freelancing concept artist and illustrator currently based in Pasadena, California. Having recently graduated high school, Jonathan is continuing his artistic training at the renowned art and design school, Art Center College of Design, in their program for Entertainment Design. He began his career at the young age of seventeen, working for various low budget independent game companies, and now caters to a large variety of projects including AAA games, feature films, and television.
As a concept artist, his usual role is to visualize the look and feel of a game, movie, or show during pre-production, through sketches and paintings of characters, environments, vehicles, and props. In illustrating Souls of Astraeus, Jonathan brought along valuable experience in art and design that translated to beautiful, bustling cityscapes, crowded bars, and stunning galaxies. To see more of his work, check out his online portfolio here
Main website: http://www.jeramygoble.com