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Interview: Nathan Anderson

Nathan Anderson shares his gorgeous fan art with us, plus advice on designing characters and keeping your portfolio fresh...

Nathan Anderson shares his gorgeous fan art with us, plus advice on designing characters and keeping your portfolio fresh...

3dtotal: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?
NJA: My name is Nathan Anderson, and Im a Michigan-based freelance illustrator. Ive been drawing nearly my entire life, and since I was a kid Ive had an interest in characters and creatures. My father was a graphic illustrator and my mother is a graphic designer, so I grew up being surrounded by art, leading me to develop a rather rabid appreciation for Illustration and design.

A redesign of Ganon from Nintendos 1986 classic, The Legend of Zelda

A redesign of Ganon from Nintendos 1986 classic, The Legend of Zelda

3dt: Tell us about your art and the things you like to create.
NJA: Being born four days from Halloween, for the longest time all Id draw were monsters and creatures, often in collaboration with my siblings. While I still dabble in creature design frequently, I generally just come up with project prompts I feel Id enjoy, and stick to them until theyre finished. Sometimes this is fan art, sometimes a reimagining of a favorite book, standalone illustrations, and other times, original characters and stories of my own.

A redesign of the iconic Doomguy from Id Softwares classic Doom series

A redesign of the iconic Doomguy from Id Softwares classic Doom series

3dt: What, or who, inspired you to go into art and design?
NJA: My parents and my older sister were key to my artistic upbringing, as they always encouraged my brother and me in our drawing. It bred a comfortable environment to grow in and, because of my parents profession and their interest in the field, a cornucopia of inspiration to draw from. Illustrators like N.C Wyeth, Frank Frazetta, Brad Holland, Bob Peak and Moebius became go-to sources of amazement and aspiration.

Sometimes I just like drawing people and non-fantastical character designs

Sometimes I just like drawing people and non-fantastical character designs

3dt: Which piece of work are you most proud of and why?
NJA: Its hard to say, since Im always trying to level up, so to speak. However, every artist has those breakout or landmark pieces in their portfolio that set a standard to follow - A couple years back I did a piece called Aboard the Nostromo inspired by the original 1979 Alien film. I may have newer pieces I feel Ive executed better, but that piece represented a big breakthrough for me, from a stylistic and craft-based standpoint.

The crew of the USCSS Nostromo, from Alien (1979)

The crew of the USCSS Nostromo, from Alien (1979)

3dt: Tell us about your process. What tools or software do you use? Do you have a very strict workflow or do you like to experiment?
NJA: Even though I bring a sketchbook and a pen wherever I go, I do nearly all of my finished work digitally, Photoshop usually. I generally have a regimented process of thumbnails to sketches, to lines and colors, though Ive been trying to loosen up lately for certain projects, to encourage experimentation and happy accidents as Bob Ross would call them.

Part of a series on mythological creatures

Part of a series on mythological creatures

3dt: in your opinion, what makes for good character design?
NJA: Id say characters that feel appropriate for the world that they inhabit. Practicality doesnt always equate to better character design if a world is designed to be obnoxious and over the top, the characters should follow suit. Silhouette and shape is important, but equally important (if not more) is whats happening inside of the shape, how the color and design break up that shape and activate it.

Character designs based on the descriptions found in William Gibsons Neuromancer

Character designs based on the descriptions found in William Gibsons Neuromancer

3dt: Whats your dream project?
NJA: A dream project of mine would be to work as a concept artist on a film Id be proud to be a part of, the upcoming adaptation of Dune comes to mind; being able to collaborate with others on a property that Im a big fan of, essentially. I do have aspirations to establish my own properties as well, though getting those exactly how I want them will take a lot of patience.

Gravelord Nito from Dark Souls

Gravelord Nito from Dark Souls

3dt: What skills or techniques would you like to master in the future?
NJA: I feel as though Ill always be learning new techniques and better ways to draw, but if theres something Ive always wanted to try, but have yet to dive into, its traditional sculpture. Even though I do my work digitally and love doing it, Ive always been an analog kind of guy, having a deep appreciation for physical media and art forms. Creating a character in three dimensions would feel very fulfilling to me.

Book cover design/illustration based on Phillip K. Dicks A Scanner Darkly

Book cover design/illustration based on Phillip K. Dicks A Scanner Darkly

3dt: What advice can you give to aspiring artists hoping to make a career from their art?
NJA: In short, keep very active in your art making and learning to aid in not only your craft, but your speed as well. Being able to do more than whats asked of you is an invaluable asset. This doesnt mean to exercise quantity over quality, but if you have that drive to draw every day, add to your portfolio often and keep up a consistent presence on social media and self-promote, you will find work. I also think its important to diversify, to be able to draw in a myriad of different styles and approaches.

Illustration for H.P. Lovecrafts The Shadow over Innsmouth

Illustration for H.P. Lovecrafts The Shadow over Innsmouth

3dt: What can we expect to see from you next? Any cool projects we should look out for?
NJA: Aside from client work, I tend to be rather overactive with my personal projects. As soon as one ends, it seems that two others pop up in its place. At the moment, Im wrapping up on a series of mythological creature designs and a portfolio based on H.P. Lovecrafts The Shadow over Innsmouth. Following these two, I have plans for a Metroid redesign and two original comic ideas that are in the conceptual phase.

Related links

Take a look at Nathan Andersons tumblr for more of his work and musings
Follow Nathan on Instagram
Nathans twitter is full of his art and wisdom
Nathans portfolio is available on his Deviant Art page
If youre interested in creating characters check out Character Design Quarterly in the store

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