John Zeleznik shows us how to learn from the masters of the past, illustrating the same through his journey.
John Zeleznik is a professional illustrator working traditionally in acrylics, charcoal, and graphite. He’s published 3 books and 2 calendars of his artworks. John’s clients include Marvel Entertainment, Palladium Books, Wizards of the Coast, etc.
What has your journey as an artist been like? Please take us through it.
John Zeleznik: It’s been an enjoyable career working on a wide spectrum of projects. I started by taking the bus across town to deliver movie poster sketches and comps, and toy box covers for Mattel and Hasbro. I’m now enjoying the ease and convenience of the digital age to create and deliver eye-catching and sales-producing artwork.
What draws you to create acrylics in Photoshop?
John Zeleznik: I don’t. They are two separate mediums. Although in a deadline pinch, I have painted on top of printouts created in PS. They are very suitable for easy alteration and vital for commercial work.
How is working in acrylics, charcoal, and graphite different from working in digital?
John: While vastly different and enjoyable in their unique ways, they all slowly emerge from the fog, utilizing notan. Then I move onto eye-moving composition and end in eye-catching detail, vibrant colour, and dramatic or moody lighting.
What’s your process to come up with a carefully crafted composition?
John Zeleznik: A series of small pencil thumbnails on paper to explore the subject matter, then moving the viewer’s eye around the composition, is my main process.
Please tell us about your work for Marvel Entertainment.
John Zeleznik: For a year or two, I had a great gig rendering out Marvel characters in Photoshop for their merchandising catalog. Great times!
Likewise, what did your project for Disney involve?
John Zeleznik: I created a Snow White illustration in a very specific, detailed, and meticulous style.
Please tell us about the 3 books and 2 calendars involving your artwork
John: “Lightstrike” was published by Cartouche press around 2001. It featured most of my best work then. “Rifts & The Megaverse The Art of John Zeleznik” is a complete collection of my work for Palladium Books over 2 decades. I was fortunate to design and lay it out to my liking. The publishers of Heavy Metal Magazine published two calendars of my fantasy pin-up art in 2008 and 2011. Exciting stuff.
What is your fundamental work process or approach for a new project?
John: Research, thumbnails, final drawing, colour sketch, and then the final art is my standard art order so that all involved are kept in the loop.
Which has been your favorite project so far and why?
John: Oh, there have been many favorites. It’s always rewarding to enjoy the process of creating fantastical worlds and characters for the viewer to explore and revel in.
What is your advice to fresh artists out there?
John Zeleznik: Study the old masters and traditional artists to become a master of your craft. Then explore your visions.