In the first of a series of RE Tut interviews we speak to professional digital artist Eithné Ní Anluaín, whose exquisitely fantastical work has graced the covers of magazines and books the world over. We asked Eithné about her personal journey, and she gives tips for digital painters and composite artists who are starting their own.
RT: Tell us about you! Where you’re from and what attracted you to digital art and your particular style?
Names Eithne O’Hanlon, I go by my Gaelic name as Eithne Ni Anluain for work. Why you ask? Some twit already took “crazy legs” on a particular site years ago and all I could think of was “Ni Anluain” at the time. It’s stuck – I’m stuck with it. Everything is branded around the Gaelic aspect, images are names in Gaelic etc.
I went to science when I left school, I’ve two degrees, one in Geology and the other in Environmental Science. Random? Yep! Anyhow work wasn’t so hot (thank you recession as I was a greenfield site surveyor) and I started doing work for a online author forum. I had a friend that gave me a ‘copy’ of CS3 extended and then it started. The 8 hours a day, every day, teaching yourself Photoshop. Thankfully I could actually do that and get good enough now to be hired by publishers and advertising firms. No copies now, all CC 2014!
The attraction was gradual. It just sort of built. Being arty from a very early age I think helps. Also not seeing a tree as a tree, but as a magical kingdom for sprites is much more up my street. My imagination influences the artwork, particularly my own work. I could name many artists and photographers that influence me – but I would be here all day. I think its fine to take inspiration from someone else’s work, downright copying is not ok. Get your own ideas, people that copy are just showing they have no imagination. Bless!
I have several styles. I have my own fantasy style thats very colourful and mad! The second is the commercial one that goes into the publishing and advertising. The third which is very new is my photography. I have such an imagination that sometimes editing others photos really annoys me! I’d prefer to edit my own! To that end I’ve started making costumes and props and doing it my way. Having a full studio is very handy as you can work away even when it’s raining!
RT: What was the first project you landed that made it all real for you, the career turning point? Can you tell us about the books etc. that you design work for?
The first project that made it all real was Renegade by Jessica Souders for Tor. TOR! Seriously, you could have heard me screaming and doing he Crazy Dance for about 6 hours! The books themselves vary from YA to high fantasy. The last one I did had no models in it at all which was a real nice surprise and head wreck. I can retouch a model in a hour…standing stones take far longer…. alas this cover isn’t released yet so I cannot share it.
The first time I thought I may be able to make a career out of it was when I was contacted by Imagine FX and Advanced Photoshop within a month of each other. Two highly respected magazines wanted my work – sign me up!
RT: Can you tell us a bit about your use of composition and colour? You frame your pieces exceptionally with a great eye for complementary colour palettes, what should a new composite artist do to develop that eye?
Go learn about The Golden Section or Golden Ratio. Go wreck your head learning it. All my compositions are done off that ratio. Overlay it, you’ll see!
Though when it comes to composition and colour you have to be aware. Don’t go into “auto” mode driving down the road, look at the way the light reflects if it’s been raining, the colour cast from a big yellow lorry to the surrounding trees. That in itself will tell you about colour theory. The Gamut Mask is a brilliant tool as well to look at complementary colours and where you should be going with an image. Alas the only way to develop it is to work at it. A lot. Every day and then some more.
RT: Do you have any further technical advice for readers who want to create composite digital artwork?
I do workshops and I advise when picking images to look at the:
* Model/Object (how they are positioned, shot from above or below, general tone/mood of said image)
* Lighting (match the lighting to the model or object, NEVER the other way around. There is only ONE sun, remember that!)
* Grounding (How the model/object interact with the base. Is there two light sources (moon and a lamp?))
* Perspective (Match the perspective to the model – again never the other way around)
* Color match (this can go either way, it just depends on which is easier to match. The surround to the model or vice versa)
And thats just the start of it….masks, extractions, blending modes, pen tool….all ahead of thee budding compositors!
You can find more of Eithne’s astonishing digital artwork at http://nianluain.com/