Interview: Sheridan Johns
In this interview we’ll be putting our questions to “Sheridan Johns“. Sheridan is a digital artist who takes digital portraits to a whole new level, her work is AMAZING.
Q1. Welcome to Photoshop Plus, please introduce yourself. Could you tell us where you’re from and how you got started as a designer?
My name is Sheridan Johns, and I am from Melbourne, Australia!
Drawing, painting and art in general has always been the number one interest and aspiration in my life. It was always the class in school which I enjoyed most and spent the most time in, and my teachers always pushed me and encouraged me to enter contests and keep working on my skills.
I’ve always loved cartoons too- Especially anime. Dragonball Z, Pokemon, Yu-Gu-Oh and Beyblade were on TV every morning before school and I began collecting those little plastic Trading Cards/Pogs out of chip packets just to admire the nice artwork on them. They inspired me to create my own characters in a similar fashion, but I felt limited with traditional art and just couldn’t get the right feel. In my later years of High School, I began browsing websites like RockToons.com that featured some of the most incredible digital cartoon artists (the first I had ever met), and that really inspired me to pick up my first copy of Photoshop and give it a go myself.
Since then, I knew that Photoshop was going to be my best friend.
Q2. Tell us a bit about your workflow. How do you typically start a new design? What software do you use?
First and foremost, I’m a Photoshop artist. Everything is done straight in Photoshop now. I do have a scanner, but these days I use a WACOM tablet so I can just draw or sketch straight into a new document. It also makes it much easier to experiment with color combinations and create a nice mock-up of the piece I’m going to do before actually starting it. That way I have my idea right there in front of me to refer to when I’ve begun the final piece.
Q3. Can you give us a look into your general brainstorm process when starting a new project?
When I want to create a new piece, I only feel comfortable to actually start it when I have a very clear idea of what it is I want to create. Whether it be a landscape, a fantasy themed piece or even a portrait, I need to feel certain that it will be worthwhile to invest X amount of hours/days into the project. (I just hate to start on a piece only to lose interest or get stuck half way through!) Once I’ve decided what I want to do (a dragon sitting atop a volcano, for example) I will then get onto Google and search for as much references as I can (examples like photos of volcanoes, landscapes, dragons, dragon anatomy). I even take inspiration from existing art/concept pieces that have the same tones and colors I had in mind to see how they work together and expand upon that. If I want to paint a new portrait, searching for reference photos of the person is easy with Google. But I feel that anyone can copy off a photo, so for the reference image to grab my interest, I need to see ways in how I can make the portrait more unique and put a different spin on it rather than just directly duplicate the photo.
Q4. You have many portraits of actors, are movies your prime source of inspiration?
Absolutely. Especially anything Fantasy, Action or Sci-Fi related. I grew up watching movies like that and always took my inspiration from some of those outrageous concepts and ideas. I rolled with that for a while and developed a small following of people who enjoyed my Fantasy-themed art before I moved on to study portraits.
Q5. What’s the best piece of work you’ve created so far. Why is it so important to you?
One of my best pieces would have to be my portrait of Robert Knepper. When it comes to painting portraits; whether they be celebrities or anyone else, I try my best to put a different spin on the original reference to keep it fresh and unique, but still hold as much likeliness as possible. I was able to derive from the reference photo (which was rather common amongst fans of it’s original premise,’Prison Break‘) and give it an entire different look and feel- basing it off another character played by Mr Knepper in the TV series, ‘Heroes‘.
This is one of my favorite pieces to date because I am extremely pleased with how it turned out in regards to color, texture, lighting and all around realism, but still original in it’s own way. Also one of the portraits I spent the longest time on at around 20 hours or so.
Q6. Most designers are self taught and do not attend university, is this the same case with you?
It’s hard to say that I am “self-taught”. I fit somewhere in between that. I hunted out websites that feature tutorials on how to ink, scan and digitally color/paint your illustrations and began to practice those techniques almost every day after school. So I could say that all of those artists were my teachers.
I did attend an Illustration and Design Course right out of High School, but I knew it would be different from any old “art class”. We did have the standard modules in the course such as Life Drawing, Printmaking and Digital Typography and Illustration where we were taught little tricks and tips along the way, but the key principal of that course was not to teach us how to Illustrate, but to be Illustrators. We spent most time learning how to deal with clients, new assignments, meeting deadlines, and just general practices of the freelance designer/artist. To go into a course like that with a solid knowledge of the basics of art and drawing was just a bonus.
I still consider myself to be in the learning stage, and will be for a very long time. With digital art, there are so many possibilities and there’s always something new to try every day!
Q7. What is the most important lesson you have learned since you started designing that might help the newer designers?
First is to stay open to criticism, especially when working with a client. Look at it as a stepping stone to becoming a better artist. If someone doesn’t like the way you painted that eye, have a look at where you went wrong and apply it to the next piece or fix it up if you can. If people point out your lighting is a bit mixed, focus on studying the way it forms in different scenarios.
Secondly is not to give up. It’s easy to look at a really great artist, compare yourself to them and feel discouraged. But you must not forget that they didn’t get where they were overnight. It takes years to develop your skills (self-taught or not), and just as long to find your strengths to work towards. When you do find your strength, whether it be painting dragons on canvas, creating patchwork quilts or Manga comics, work on it until you become exceptional and eventually you will begin to stand out from the crowd. There are no shortcuts and the outcome will reflect on how much time and dedication you put into it.
And don’t forget to Network yourself! Submit your art and contact details to as many sites as you can find. At first, people aren’t going to come to you if you don’t get your work out there to be seen. There is a big market today for Graphic Artists and Designers. Creating art is one thing, but being able to market yourself as a valuable designer and attract clients and potential projects is what it is all about. It’s the business!
Q8. Where do you plan to take your designing career in the future? And what do you hope to accomplish in the next couple of years?
Since I began focusing my skills in painting portraits, I have received more recognition, freelance work and commissions than I had ever before, so I am going to be continuing my study of portraits and people and just see what else comes out of it!
Q9. Are you working on any new projects that you would like to discuss with us.?
I have actually just finished off a brand new portrait to go into my portfolio. I felt I needed to concentrate on some female portraits and start focusing more on my painting technique for longer hair (which is always difficult, but there’s really no way around it!)
Q10. What are your favorite websites at the moment?
DeviantART – I wouldn’t be where I am without this great Art networking site!
ImagineFX – A wonderful site for a wonderful magazine that provides tutorials, articles and everything Fantasy and Digital combined.
ConceptArt.org – I rarely participate in the forums, but it is very insightful to watch others develop their work in the WIP/Critique section!
Please take a moment and visit Sheridan’s Deviantart Gallery.
Thanks To Sheridan
Thank you sheridan for answering our questions and a big thank you for sharing your awesome work. We wish you all the best for the future and hope you keep making fabulous portraits.
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