We recently had the privilege of having graphic artist Steve Thomas answer a few questions about his work and career. We would like to thank Steve for taking the time to answer our questions and we hope you'll be inspired by his passion for art. To see more of Steve's work, visit his website at stevethomasart.com.
How long have you been an artist? How did you get started?
I guess I’ve officially been an artist for about 14 years or so, but I’ve always liked to draw and paint. I started out as a graphic artist at a newspaper creating informational graphics and illustrations for news stories. From there I branched out with some of my own stuff and am trying to do that more.
Could you tell us about some of your work? What styles or subject matter do you prefer?
When I first started to branch out with my own work, I tried to focus on fantasy and sci-fi illustration for role playing games and collectable card games. That was okay, but I wasn’t getting enough work so I created some travel posters to the planets. From there my interests have migrated to early 20th century advertising art, pulp and retro-futuristic illustration from the mid-20th.
What inspires your work?
Almost anything I see. Something will catch my eye and a thought will develop as to how I can spin that into an art piece or poster.
Are there any artists that inspire you; if so, why?
There are too many artists to list here. My favorites list in my web browser is long. I’m inspired by some of the illustration masters of the early-to-mid 20th century as well as those working in the field now. I like the painters that can work the brushstroke so that in the end piece you can still see each swipe of the bristles. This differs greatly from my digital vector work. But the movement a brushstroke can create is amazing.
Without giving away trade secrets, can you walk us through your process of creating a new piece of art?
I start with some thumbnail sketches, usually in pen, that are about an inch wide by two inches deep. From there I’ll find one I like and develop it more in pencil. After that it’s on to search for reference photos. I Google a lot to find what I need. Or if I’m looking for something that I plan to use more faithfully, I’ll grab something from a stock photo site. Depending on what I find, I may have to redraw it to get the angle I’m looking for, but if I’m lucky, I will trace the landmarks of the photo (in Illustrator) to get perspective/placement/etc. correct. Once I have all the elements I need I will start to play with the colors. This is fairly easy on the computer as I can change the colours with the click of a mouse. When the vector piece is done I’ll take it into Photoshop and do some shading and add textures, if needed. And that’s about it.
What have been your favorite projects to date and why?
My favorite projects have been the space travel series, the Star Wars travel series and the 80s arcade game propaganda series. Each one of these were inspired by the vintage art of the early 20th century. Plus, they’ve each been well received by the public - which always helps. That’s what really keeps me going.
What was/were your favorite class(es) in school?
Computer illustration. I wish now that I had taken more traditional illustration classes (oil painting for one). I’d really like to do more traditional work on canvas.
Does any teacher stick out in your mind as having an impact on your life?
Not that I can think of.
What advice would you give students pursuing a career in art?
To do what you love, you may have to do things you don’t. If you are just getting started, and in order to fill up your portfolio, you may have to take some jobs that don’t appeal to you. But do them to the best of your ability. Each piece can get you closer to the work you desire. And it doesn’t hurt to keep doing the stuff you love, for free and for yourself. These will also add to your portfolio.
Professionally, where do you hope to be in ten years?
Working 100% for myself, taking the jobs I want to and not the ones I have to.