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Phil Jaeger is an American painter, digital artist and illustrator. His art is a surrealistic world merged with bits and pieces of reality. Let’s take a look at his works and get some pieces of advice in becoming an artist as we feature him in this interview.
Can you tell us more about your evolution in digital arts and how and why you started using these tools to express yourself?
In the Fall of 1998 I was exposed to Photoshop & Painter for the first time at California College of the Arts. For the nine years prior to that I had been dedicated to only traditional media, particularly oil paint. It took some time before I was comfortable painting with Photoshop or Painter. For the first year, drawing with a wacom tablet felt like a disconnected, out-of-body experience.
Despite my slow start with these digital art tools I was able to successfully work on a comic book, Cosmic Soda Pop, in 2000 using a variety of self-learned digital tools (Photoshop, Painter, Illustrator, Flash, Coreldraw, Xara & 3ds Max). I soon learned that the digital process worked more seamlessly with my natural way of working than did traditional media. For instance, when I create an image I generally want the image to be equally readable at both postage stamp size and mural size. Digital tools allow me to consider the three elements, line, color & value, simultaneously or separately at a variety of sizes.
Your focus is on painting. You do digital art and illustration. Can you tell us about each?
The idea of selling prints of my paintings had been on my mind since 1997. In October, 2014 I started selling my digital art as prints on fineartamerica.com. I’m also working on licensing my paintings for other products, such as jigsaw puzzles, calendars, etc.
During the past six years most of my illustration work has been for 40+ casual video games, such as Farmville, Mafia Wars, Market Street, Virtual Families 2, EA Monopoly Slots, etc.
What would be your first advice to someone who wants to start a career in digital arts?
Art Director’s look through portfolios very quickly. They have lives, families & kids, just like everyone else. Please make sure you have relevant artwork in your portfolio. Also, the portfolio should be easy to navigate. It shouldn’t be on a “mystery meat” website.
What are your goals in regards to your art?
Long term, I feel drawn to educational art projects. Short term, I may turn a corner and work on more fantasy, steampunk type paintings. I’m also working on the artwork & development for my own apps/games. Additionally, I’m creating a series of animated 3D buildings & characters. Some of the buildings already have a steampunk direction, but I’ll see if it sticks.
Your paintings always feature animals. What's with the animals that inspire you in creating these amazing paintings?
I feel a certain empathy for animals. They seem like slightly exaggerated versions of ourselves. I look at my dog each day & just see another, albeit more hairy, person in the household.
Do you ever go through down times when you are not happy with your own work or skills? Do you ever face “creativity blocks?” If so, how do you overcome it?
While I create a piece of artwork I’m constantly asking myself, “Is there a way of doing this that would look better?” I wouldn’t really say that I face blocks. I think it’s more like I have too many options. I find that if I just work on something long enough the solution always presents itself, usually sooner than later. Artwork is sometimes the greatest exercise in patience.
How often do you experiment with new styles and how do you decide which suits you best? How long does it take you to create something?
In retrospect I think I created my best painting styles in 1991 (age 17) & 1998 (age 24), while oil painting. I constantly refine my digital painting style to more closely match the vigor in those old oil painting styles. On illustration projects I usually need to match the style the client requests or whatever the normal industry style may be for a given project.
General Time for completing art:
12000 px x 9600 px Painting - 65-135 hrs
Asset rendering - 1-8 hrs
Background painting - 6-30 hrs
Create artwork with a new style for the first time - add 25-50% to time
What advice can you share with aspiring artists?
Get as many critiques as you can from both artists & non-artists. Over time these critiques will help balance your aesthetic compass. Learn from the mass amount of art tutorials online. They’re amazing & I think in some ways more educational than expensive college classes. Finally, gain a solid drawing foundation, including perspective.