I’m a sucker for digital art, especially when the themes fall in line with something that looks like it came straight out of an RPG. I found JWT Illustrations through Facebook suggesting his page (thanks Zuckerberg), and I couldn’t be happier to find out not only did this human attend my alma mater VCU, but he also is an outstanding creative; his art reminded me of my younger days of playing Final Fantasy games in my pajamas. I had the opportunity to interview JWT:
Age: 21, until October 7th!
Occupation: Freelance Illustrator and Concept Designer
In the ultimate Pokémon team lineup, who would your 6 be, excluding all legendaries?
Feraligatr, Noctowl, Gengar, Lucario, Luxray, Tyrantrum (this was the hardest question)
Black Nerd Problems: Please tell us a bit about yourself!
JWT: Well, I love illustration and painting, and I’m a longtime gamer and internet lurker. I grew up in a suburb around Philadelphia, and from a young age I was introduced to video games and loved all the different worlds and settings they could take me to! I’ve been hanging around various communities online since elementary school, from Sonic forums to DeviantArt, and it naturally led me down the art career path. For a while I was in denial of wanting to do illustration – I originally applied to VCU Arts to major in Graphic Design – but I’m glad I gathered up my courage to do so. It can be challenging, but it’s so much fun! I’m currently in the process of world-building, creating a setting of my own for my own personal pieces.
BNP: What influences the subject matter in your work?
JWT: Video games are the easiest influence of mine, and one I’m exposed to often! I play a good lot of different video games, but the ones that always captivate me the most are in the fantasy genre. Shining Force, Soul Calibur, Golden Sun – swords, armor, magic, dragons; it’s all so much fun to me. The same holds true of the genre in other media, I just play video games more than I read books or watch movies.
In particular, I’ve always been so easily absorbed by character creation in video games, and that follows through to my own personal work. I’ve spent hours on creation modes in video games, and so its only natural I’ve gravitated towards that in my own work. I create so many creatures and characters that I don’t always know what to do with them. I just design stuff for fun. With a lot of the social movements happening online and in real life, especially regarding video games and diversity, it’s definitely opened me up to many more things to think about when creating characters and settings. I was never against diversity, but these movements changed the way I think about design and how I approach it, and if anything it’s just filled me with so many more ideas and possibilities to make really interesting things!
BNP: How do you go about creating new pieces?
JWT: For a lot of my personal pieces, I usually do a small amount of thumb-nailing first, and then several quick sketches to doodle out ideas and see which poses and compositions work out the best. This is usually where my idea generation happens, as well – coming up with different things to depict the general feeling I’m going for. Sometimes I get new ideas during this process that excite me more than the original. It’s never anything more than just some small sketches in my sketchbook though, no larger than a couple inches each, and usually it’s done in pen so I don’t get caught up in revisions. From there I go right into Photoshop and start laying things out with a quick sketch, looking back at my original thumbnail and values to make sure everything’s looking good before I throw in colors using a bunch of different layers and layer modes. “Throw” is nearly accurate because a lot of the time they’re just going everywhere, trying new stuff and balancing the composition as best I can, seeing what new palettes I can use and how to make them work. With my own personal work I experiment as much as I can, so the process changes sometimes. When I feel satisfied with that, then I start getting into refining, making sure the forms are cleaned up and readable, adding in textures and details. Given that it’s digital, it’s not too hard for me to just dive into work.
BNP: If your art could speak, what would they say about you?
JWT: More than anything, I think it would speak to my creativity. And that’s not me trying to toot my own horn, I’m just constantly coming up with new ideas and designs and characters whenever I’m exposed to new things. They may not all be very good, if at all, but my mind is just constantly working and generating so much content that I’d love to get to share with people! It can be very frustrating because I often want to do more things than I have time for. So I think my art would definitely say something along those lines – some crazy guy who is easily caught up in his own world or something like that, super enthused about sharing his silly ideas with others and entertaining them.
BNP: What do you do when you feel discouraged from creating your art?
JWT: I usually try to ditch the project and restart it another time after I’ve experimented on my own or just done something else. I’ve always held the philosophy that art is fueled by your life and your experiences, and so the problem that I run into often as an introvert is that I’m running dry on my own non-art experiences! Gotta take a break, gotta do something else, talk to people, go somewhere, watch new movies, or read a new book. It’s mentally and emotionally refreshing. I usually restart problematic pieces from scratch because once I pull up that drawing or open up that canvas, every part of it can throw me right back into the bad mindset I was in before – almost like a horse with blinders on. If I was having issues before, I need to approach it in a new way. Like a lot of artists, it’s easy for me to hate a piece once completed because I can see all the mistakes in it. But I try my best to use that information to inspire new studies, new experiments so that I don’t have that issue again.
BNP: If you could cook breakfast with any celebrity, who would they be and why?
JWT: Hopefully one that can cook! I enjoy cooking, but I almost never have any idea what I’m doing, so they’d be there for damage control. Ideally, I might have to say Neil Patrick Harris, he’s a funny guy. Either him or Estelle; it might be because of Steven Universe, but she seems gentle and wouldn’t judge me when I inevitably mess up!
Find JWT Illustrations right here on Facebook.
*Pictures provided by JWT Illustrations
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I loved the interview, very encouraging to young upcoming artist