By Courtney in Digital Painters on Jul 20, 2009
Henning Ludvigsen is a talented Digital Artist who is making a name for himself in the industry. He has been developing skills and creating fantasy-related 2D art for over five years. Henning is also an accomplished Art Director for a computer game development company. He was kind enough to sit down with jitZul to answer some questions for us.
Check out Henning's official Website and his Art.
All art forms take on a different approach, so what do you feel are the most important skills necessary to make it in the digital artistry world today?
With the internet and all the different art communities and available services, the competition rises and fees drops. It’s hard to make it as a digital artist nowadays, but it’s still possible with a bit of hard work, patience, thick skin, and some luck.
The most important thing is to have a strong online presence; people need to see your art and acknowledge your skills. Be active in the major art communities, work on your portfolio, and be open for all kinds of projects.
You have a wide range of talents that keep you busy; from computer game development to trading cards to author for a digital artist magazine; which one of those gives you the most enjoyment?
It’s hard to pick just one, since they are all very different from each other. I guess I’m lucky to be able to make a living from what I love; creating art in some way or the other, and even from writing about it.
My computer game development project is a very personal matter to me; I’ve been involved with this since the very beginning which was over 10 years ago. Being able to finally see it launched and finished after that many years of hard work and sacrifice is a good feeling. Then being able to go home and do something slightly different makes it even better. Because of the fact that I’m living in Greece means that I don’t have spare time to spend of family and friends as they are all in a different country, so I spend that time on extra projects, both for clients and personal ones.
What were some of the most profound memories that you had as a child that helped shape your love for art?
I have always been the "artistic" one in my ground of friends, and I’ve been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. It’s hard to pick out something specific, but I do remember some beautiful pencil drawing my dad drew when he was young. This is at least one of my earliest memories of being fascinated these things.
In your opinion, what are the "pro's" and "con's" of the introduction of digital computer art in traditional art schools?
Sadly, there are many short-cuts when working digitally, and real, true artistic skills might get influenced by this in a negative, non-creative matter. I have traditional art school training, and we didn’t have any computer at our art school. I think this was great as I got to learn how to work with the very basics of art. It’s fully possible to translate the very same theories and techniques to the digital screen. I think lots of things can be missed here if you start out directly with digital art.
You entered the art world at a time when everyone was transitioning to digital; having had no digital background you taught yourself the skills necessary to make it in a digital era. Do you recommend that others become 'self-taught artists' or do you think it is wise to partake in the various educational outlets now available for aspiring digital artists?
You can get very far on your own if you’re being active in online art communities and open for learning. Still, I think it’s very important to have some sort of artistic training if you’re going to offer sell your services. Be it an actual art evening class or online schooling.
How does creating a piece digitally differ from using traditional methods?
Working digitally naturally brings with a couple of great things; you save a lot of time for creating the art itself, and also; you have almost no limitations to correcting or tweaking the art work. This was a different story back in the days. The creation process itself varies from person to person, but to me, the method itself isn’t THAT different from when I used paint and paper.
When creating a digital painting in photoshop, an endless array of layers seems to form, eventually, this will bog down even the most powerful computer, how do you begin to merge layers while leaving things still intact to enable editing later?
I usually save states of my photoshop files. If I’m at a state where I want to merge a selection of layers, I make sure to save a new version to keep the previous version of the file. This way I can backtrack in case I really need to edit some of the old separate layers. I try actively to keep my amount of layers to a minimum; this both to keep my saggy computer running somewhat smoothly, and also makes the painting look more hand-painted.
When hired to create art for something you are not terribly familiar with, what steps do you go through in order to ensure your work matches the feel of the final project?
I’ve been limiting my amount of clients, so I’m mostly focusing on a small base of clients which I am quite familiar with. It takes a lot for me to accept any new projects at the moment. Still, when I need to get into a brand new project, or setting, I always do extensive research. I spend some hours doing online research and reading up on things. It’s easy to jump the gun and start too early with too little background knowledge.
It is often said the most difficult task in painting is the human face as it is the single thing we, as humans, are not familiar with, and thus we notice even the most subtle flaws. What sorts of advice would you give to those struggling to create a realistic face?
This is very true; it’s very easy to critique something we know well, like humans and well know animals. When doing fantasy, monsters or sci-fi related things, you can pretty much get away with anything, he-he. When painting faces, my best tip is to look at references; A LOT of references! I find pleasure in portraying people I know if strange situations or settings, and I always use features of characters that I find from real photo references. When painting without reference, faces tends to look the same. Looking for real life "imperfections" and copying this to the canvas is a good way of creating extra realism and personality in a piece.
Many of your images feature creatures that are not human but bear a strong enough resemblance to a human that you are able to draw a feeling of humanity from them. What features are most important to focus on when using this technique?
When wanting to keep something human, my best bet is on the eyes; keep the eyes as human as possible and even the worst beast will appear to have human emotion.
Correct shading is key to making an image look realistic, what tricks are there to help ensure that you are able to properly paint the light that radiates across the scene? How much harder does it get if there are several light sources?
Contrast is very important. This is why I always start out in grey-scale only; to make sure my piece works value-wise. Your painting can have the most perfect colouring, but if the values are off, it still won’t work. Always convert your painting to grey-scale to check your values every now and then. Light and shadows should be used to help the composition of the piece, and making it easier to read. The more light sources, the more complex the piece will get, naturally, but when understanding the concept, it’s usually fairly easy to keep track of things.
Many people look to talented artists to create custom art pieces. If someone wanted to hire you to complete a personal piece, what specific things would you ask of that person prior to beginning work? Do you have any specific limitations on what type of pieces you will create?
If I am to accept a new project, then I’ve first obviously decided that this is something that appeals to me, and that this is something I would like to work on. I always ask for a binding contract of order to be signed by both parts; this to protect both the client and myself. To me, the complexity of the piece dictates the fee. The next step is doing research, and asking for as much information from the client as possible; even stick-figure doodles are helpful at this point.
Do you have any specific goals related to your career that you hope to accomplish in the near future?
My goals are kind of floating depending on how exhausted and I am, he-he. At the moment I would love to be able to continue what I’m doing, but with lower phase and less stress.
What do you think are the most common mistakes that digital artist seem to make now a days?
In my opinion, the biggest problem is artists offering their services for free or for low fees. Doing this adds to ruining the industry making it even harder for aspiring and upcoming talents. I hate seeing talented artists wasting their time and ruining their own creativity and feeling for the trade just because they had no other choice but to go under budget.
What advice would you have for aspiring artists hoping to break into the industry?
In my opinion it’s very simple and not very original, but good old hard work and not being afraid of taking on new and bold projects is definitely the way to go. If you have doubts that you are the right person for the job, give it a go anyways. You might just surprise yourself of what you can achieve from pushing yourself a little bit every now and then. ...oh, and be visible online; also very important.