Giving Your Right Brain a Regular Workout

Featured Artist: Talking Photorealism with Senator Greaves

Redbubble artist Senator Greaves (aka the lovely Mr. Wes Greaves) is a talented digital artist I recently took a few moments to speak with about how he creates his highly stylized and meticulously executed artworks. After scoring an amazing gig at Disney, Senator Greaves set aside time to work on his own artistic pursuits by selling his goods on Redbubble.

In the interview below, Senator Greaves shares his process and influences, while giving us a small insight into the large mind of this ambitious artist.

"My process usually consists of a complete and crippling mental block for a few days; struggling to overcome that, then getting a basic idea or story down in my head and just diving in. "

Can you tell us about where you developed your incredibly technical skills? Did you go to art school?

I did study illustration in college but that was before any real classes were being offered in any kind of digital art. Then, about 8 years ago, my brother-in-law, Toph Gorham (check out his website, he is brilliant), who is a very talented concept artist that had been working in the video game industry for many years, pointed me down the digital art path. He showed me the basics in programs like Maya and Photoshop. From there I pretty much taught myself through YouTube videos, tutorial DVDs, playing around in different art programs, and learning on the job. I did the whole fake it while you make it routine.

I think I really hit my stride in 2010 when I was offered a position with Disney in Austin, Texas. Unfortunately, this took me away from my wife and daughter for a two and a half year stint (there was a lot of flying back and forth to Salt Lake City during that period), but it did afford me some uninterrupted art time. I realized that I could take all of these tools that I had been using for my work in the game industry to make illustrations and images for myself. So for those two and a half years I basically went to work every day, then came home and blasted out as much art as I could. It was a bit lonesome, but also very exciting and educational.

I see you work at Disney as an environment animator, can you tell us about that and what your typical day is like for you there?

Well, I WAS an environment artist, now I work as a marketing artist. I make a lot of back of box shots and promotional images for Disney Infinity characters as well as creating worlds for Disney Infinity commercials and promo spots. I also build some of the props and environment elements in our games. My typical day is a mishmash of all those things. I suppose the highlight of the job is the fact that I work for Disney. It’s pretty cool to be a part of the same organization that owns both Captain America and Darth Vader. Seeing my name in the same credit role with Samuel L Jackson is pretty slick as well. 14 year-old me would be pumped.

"RevoK" (iPhone 6 Case) by senatorgreaves

"Supernaut" (Throw Pillow) by senatorgreaves

The characters in your illustrations look like they would have some stories to tell. Can you tell us about your own process of how you develop characters when creating them? Do the subjects you draw have elaborate back strories?

My process usually consists of a complete and crippling mental block for a few days; struggling to overcome that, then getting a basic idea or story down in my head and just diving in. I listen to a lot of music while I work and that always seems to direct the final image to a degree. I would say about 60% of the time I actually end up with an image that is pretty close to what I had in mind when I set out to create it. The rest of the time, they seem to spiral out of control and take on a life of their own. From there, I just let it all flow, naturally.

As for a backstory is concerned, I would say yes. All of my characters do have an elaborate backstory. I am not always privy to what it is… but they definitely have one.

And following on from this, I particularly like the portrait “Supernaut,” can you talk about how this work came to be and what you learned from creating it?

“Supernaut” was created when I was trying to produce a photoreal image. It was really more of an experiment with rendering than anything else. After completing it, I decided I didn’t necessarily like the harsh, 3D look. What I learned most from that project, and I use this technique still today, is to get as close to a true, photoreal image as possible in the beginning , then work backwards to soften and stylize from there.

What you create seems to have quite creepy and dark undertones, who was your inspiration when you started? Who would you say your three biggest artistic influences have been (across any medium or artform)?

I like my images to be dark, but not as overtly dark as my younger influences. Now I prefer just a smidgen of disturbing.

When I was young, I would copy Bernie Wrightson and Vincent Locke comic panels all of the time. They had drastically different styles, but both appealed to me quite a bit, and both were clearly coming from a dark place. These days, I really enjoy Hannah Faith Yata, and our local heroes Sri Whipple, and Elmer Presslee. All truly gifted and amazing artists with that dash of disturbing I dig so much.

"Blue Nun" (Tote Bag) by senatorgreaves

Discuss Senator Greaves’ work in the comments below. And be sure to visit his shop to support this Redbubble artist.

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