Jonathan Gragg is a self-taught 2D artist from Ohio, US. I met Jonathan through DeviantArt and I was impressed with his work, so I decided to use on of his pieces for the first issue. Here I talk with Jonathan about his artwork.
Iulian: Tell us a little bit about yourself: where did you grow up and how did your early life influence your future as an artist?
Jonathan: Well, I was born and raised in a dull and boring town called Frankfort in Ohio. I am the middle child out of three strange children. We were a poor family living in the middle of nowhere, and instead of playing with toys and friends, we really depended on our imaginations. Me and my older brother would join two pieces of paper and draw a line across both of them, then go to separate rooms and draw elaborate (as elaborate as an eight year old can get anyways) fortresses and armies. Then we would re-join the papers, and see who we thought would win. Of course my brother being four years older was the first to come up with force fields and nuclear missiles, which really over-powered my dragon-riding ninjas.
What are your favorite design tools and how did you get to learn them?
Of course my first tool was a pencil and paper. Honestly I’ve never even tried using any kind of traditional paint, or any form of color based art medium whatsoever. After graduating school I stopped drawing for about three years. I was really lost, and I didn’t know what I wanted out of life. Then one day I was surfing through YouTube videos and came across Chris Scaff’s ‘Speed Painting a Dragon’ video. Wow. I was blown away. I instantly knew what I wanted to do. The next day I ordered a Intuos4 tablet, and Painter 11. And it was not as easy as I thought it was going to be. Now, four years later, I am using a Cintiq 24 HD and Photoshop CS5. Still on the same mission of making digital illustration my full-time job.
Are there any other artists out there that you admire and whose work has helped shape your work?
Too many to count. The main ones would probably be fantasy artists like Frank Frazetta, Paul Bonner, and James Gourney.
Where do you find inspiration?
A lot of my inspiration comes from other fantasy artists. I spend a lot of time browsing art communities like Conceptart.org, Deviantart, and CGHub. But the real inspiration comes from the people who like what I create. I’m not a very well known person in the digital art field, but every once and a while I’ll get that awesome comment from a fan that just makes me want to work harder. Even being asked to be a part of this magazine inspired me.
How would you break down your workflow in steps?
My first step is simply closing my eyes and diving into the world I’m thinking of creating. Once I have an idea of the mood I start sketching. I rarely use a pencil anymore, I use Photoshop from start to finish, only using three or four different brushes on each painting. After I’m satisfied with my sketch, I begin filling in with color on overlay and multiply layers. When the mood really starts to be visible, the composition feels good, and the colors are in harmony, I start over. Using the previous version as a guide I gather reference. I can’t afford to pay a live model, so I’m stuck with forcing my family members to pose for me and snapping pictures of them with my phone—it gets pretty funny sometimes. Sometimes the end result is nothing like I previously imagined. Even the painting chosen to be the cover of this magazine started out a lot different.
Your work is very fantasy-driven. What drives you to that subject?
Reality bores me. Don’t get me wrong, I love nature, animals, the ocean, and those perfect sunsets that no one can refuse to stare at. It’s just the mechanical day to day life that most of us are stuck in that consumes freedom and creativity. I love to just forget about it all and get lost in another world where anything is possible.
If there was one piece of advice you could give other beginning artists, what would that be?
Don’t give up. There WILL be times that you think you are not good enough, or you are not talented enough, or it takes too much time to learn. If you love what you do, do it, and the more you do it, the better you will get at it.
We selected one of your pieces for the cover of our magazine. Tell us a few words about how that piece came to be.
It was just one of those awesome accidents. I was just sketching one night and it came out of nowhere. If you look at the process in my gallery on Deviantart (the link is below) you can see that it changed a lot from beginning to end. Now that I look at it I can see a lot of things that could have been done to make it better, but only because I’ve learned a lot since then.
Where can we find you on the web?
Samples of Jonathan’s works:
Jonathan, thank you very much for your contribution to our magazine!
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