An Artist’s Summit
“Art is not only my passion, it’s also my profession.”
Starting with the basics, what made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
Jose-Luis Segura: I’m not sure that I chose this career. It’s more like a natural predisposition. My parents told me that I’ve been drawing since I was a kid and I do have memories of creating artwork from a very young age. Being an artist is unconventional although I personally never thought it made me cool. I just like creating cool images.
How do you come up with the concept for your illustrations? Are there specific factors it is dependent on?
Jose-Luis Segura: All of the concepts I develop for clients are based on the brief they provide. However, when I’m creating for myself I take inspiration from comics, movies, the news, or other hobbies and interests I have. I often think of a story I’d like to illustrate when I create thumbnails for an illustration. It’s always been about the story I’m attempting to tell, for myself.
You have quite a large range of drawing styles, it’s amazing. Is that at all common in an artist, from your experience?
Jose-Luis Segura: I’m not sure if it’s super common among artists broadly speaking. I am aware that some artists struggle to develop a personal style and others lack the experience necessary to have developed a rhythm. As for me, I like to experiment a lot and I often don’t consider adhering to a certain style, instead focusing on how to approach an illustration’s challenge most effectively. I’ll try my best to match the requirements of the story I’m trying to convey, even if it means adapting or switching to a different style. That being said though, there are habits and visual choices I will make consistently in the course of making art. So, in a way, you could call that my style.
"I’ve always been drawn to fantasy. I read fantasy novels as a kid and was inspired by the illustrations. There’s just something about the hero’s journey that is just so appealing to me. ‘The underdog who struggles to overcome and then succeeds.’ All the while holding a sword and battling a dragon. What’s not to love?”
What is it about the fantasy and horror genre that inspires you?
Jose-Luis: I’ve always been drawn to fantasy. It was my first love. I read fantasy novels as a kid and I remember being inspired by the illustrations that accompanied them. There’s just something about the hero’s journey that is just so appealing to me. ‘The underdog who struggles to overcome and then succeeds.’ All the while holding a sword and battling a dragon. What’s not to love?
Horror on the other hand is inspiring because of how challenging it is to portray. When it comes to illustration, there are traditional troupes. But for me, it’s those psychological images that linger in my brain, the ones that just find a chink in my mental armor and settle in to keep me up at night. Those are the kinds of pictures I want to make.
What media and techniques do you use to create your art? Are there any that you would like to experiment with?
Jose-Luis: Nowadays, I primarily work digitally. I’ve painted with oil in the past and it is still something I adore. So much so that I buy ground pigments and make my custom paints. Yep, very old school.
One media that I’d be interested in experimenting with but haven’t had the chance to is fresco. I’m personally terrible at watercolor but I love the look of a well-done fresco. And I have a suggestion for a highly experimental method to develop one, but I’ll keep it to myself for the time being.
What is the best part of having your studio, Lucid Shanty?
Jose-Luis: I love being my boss. Yes, it’s tough finding your clients and dealing with the day-to-day business. It’s tough managing your time and finances. But I think it’s worth the freedom you get in return. I guess it goes back to the underdog story. I’m in charge of my successes and failures in life.
You have a degree in art and also continue to take classes even today. How important do you think is a formal education in art? What advantages does it have over being self-taught?
Jose-Luis: If attending art school has any benefits, it’s the advice and support you get from your professors and classmates. It can be quite difficult to create art, therefore having someone to help you is essential to moving forward.
I made the best decision for myself by attending art school when I did. I was very lost about what I needed to do and how to go about it. Art school exposed me to a lot of different styles of art, materials, and processes. I don’t regret my formal education at all.
What were the process and parameters you had to keep in mind when creating illustrations for children?
Jose-Luis: I think about what scared me, made me feel a sense of awe, or excitement when I was younger, and lean on that to guide my art. I want my images to linger in the minds of children for years to come. Just like the images of NC Wyeth, the Hildebrandt Brothers, or Arthur Rackman stuck in my mind. Those are the parameters I work by.
You have worn many hats over the years, from illustrator to game designer to storyboard artist. Is the process and method for each similar or different?
Jose-Luis Segura: The process always starts the same. Starting with the brief, you look over the specifics before chalking out a course of action. But after that, everything proceeds swiftly to the pipeline’s characteristics. A drawing requires thumbnails. Rough storyboards would feature three to four boards per action. When creating game assets, designers must consider readability and game mechanic requirements.
Every procedure is unique because the results are industry-specific. Yet, there are also all the same. Every project I’ve ever worked on has demanded different aspects of my experience. I guess I should thank art school for my versatility.
What projects would you like to work on in the future? Do you have any lined up that you would like to tell us about?
Jose-Luis Segura: I’d say that if there was a project I’d like to work it’d have to be doing concept art for a marvel feature film. That’s just the fanboy in me.
I do have a couple of projects coming in the new year I can talk about broadly speaking. I’ll be working on a comic horror anthology. A first for me. Also, I’ve got a book planned which has been brewing for some time but I’m pulling the trigger on it now.