Recently, we had the opportunity to chat with digital artist Gerrel Saunders who had some fantastic insights into merging formal education with self-education and the influence of video games on his art. Let’s take a look!
Q Welcome to Psdtuts+! Please introduce yourself; tell us where you’re from and how you got started as a digital artist.
Hello and thank you for having me. My name is Gerrel Saunders aka Gaks designs and I’m from the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago. I wasn’t always interested in the Digital realm of the art world; I started off as a fine artist. I was very much into drawing, painting, sculpting etc., but I never really loved what I was creating per sè. Then I got the Adobe suite and everything changed. I was instantly drawn to the digital medium more than any other art form I had ever dabbled with. I found that my fine arts training complemented my newfound passion as well, so I had no difficulties jumping from traditional to digital. Now, it’s been a couple of years since I firmly established myself as a digital artist and I have no regrets whatsoever.
QYou recently graduated from the University of the West Indies, with a B.A in Visual Arts; what do you feel are the benefits of schooling in the field of art, over being entirely self-taught?
I’m all for being a self-taught artist; I can be categorized as one myself. I taught myself everything I know about Illustrator, Photoshop, Painter, Cinema4D etc, but on the other hand, I believe that a formal education is indeed important as well. We live in an information-driven world, with such an assortment of blogs and articles that one can learn from. It’s a great time to be a self-taught artist, once you’ve got the discipline and patience to go through with it. Self-taught individuals in my opinion, tend to retain and understand the information being learnt better than an individual in a work environment, which would be expected if you were your own teacher. Formal education however, is set up to prepare students for the working world, something that a self-taught individual isn’t exposed to. Another advantage schooling has over the self-taught group would be the convenience of having lecturers to guide students. It definitely helps speed up the learning process if you already have someone on hand to relay everything to you instead of searching for the answer. The last, but most significant aspect that I believe schooling has over being self-taught is a certificate. You can be the most talented and creative artist, but easily overlooked when job hunting because you don’t have any paper certification, which most companies looks for. At the end of the day, I guess it all boils down to what you’d like to do. If you’re looking for a job with a company, I’d recommend a formal education. If you’re planning to make a livelihood on your own, maybe schooling would just be a hold up. It really depends on the individual at the end of the day.
Q Outside of creating art, what are your other hobbies or passions and how, if at all, do you think they have influenced your art (or vice versa)?
I’m definitely an avid gamer and that’s basically my primary hobby. I have put countless hours into multiplayer games. My favorite genres to play are action adventure and first person shooters. Besides creating art and video games, I don’t really have any excessively interesting hobbies or passions to share, unfortunately. Do I think video games have influenced my art? Absolutely. The video game industry is bustling with countless talent, from concept artists to level designers. It takes a lot of very creative and imaginative individuals to produce engaging characters, landscapes, themes and stories that players would eventually participate in. Being such a visual and interactive aided medium, video games above all else have the best formula to really capture my senses and draw me into its world. It’s a combination of all those factors that lend themselves to the inspiration behind some of my artwork, sometimes subconsciously, other times purposely.
Q Who are some of the artists who you look up to, or who have influenced your style over the years? What are some of your favorite pieces of art?
Hydro74, Caramelaw, Ken Wong and Stuntkid are a few that come to mind, all great illustrators. I don’t think I have a favorite piece of art, as weird as that may sound.
Q Your style of illustration is extremely bright, vivid and colorful, yet at times it can be rather morbid. What made you pursue that sort of style? How much work goes into creating the one artwork?
I have always been interested in dark, morbid and obscure themes, but at the same time, I’ve been attracted to bright, intense and colorful aesthetics so I decided to blend the two. The colorful and bright visuals make for an interesting contrast to the themes explored in my illustrations, which makes them fun to experience. A surprising amount of labor is put into each illustration. I tend to stress on the amount of detail I can pack into one illustration, and so I end up with a heap of layers to sift through. Each piece of the illustration is created and refined on its own layer.
Q "The Candy King" is a detailed, complex piece of vector artwork that manages to maintain a sense of simplicity. Could you explain the concept behind the piece, and walk us through the process of creating the piece?
The Candy King is a personal favorite of mine; it served as a passage of sorts from my old style to new. It was my attempt to combine the graffiti aesthetic with the cheer and playfulness of a candy visual. All of my illustrations start as rough concepts on paper at first, and then they’re scanned and fleshed out in Illustrator. The second step would be to establish the primary line-art. Then I move on to the more time consuming aspect of any of my illustrations – the coloring. I start with a base color located right beneath the line-art and build upon that. Usually I work on a particular element of the illustration on its own, I treat it as a stand-alone illustration and then integrate it with the final image. For example, The Candy King’s gas mask was a project all on its own. When each element is completed I put them into place and work on blending all the elements together to look like one cohesive piece of work.
QWhat do you hope to have achieved within the world of art in the next five years? Tell us a little bit about what we can expect from Gerrel Saunders in the future.
I hope I make it onto a few art magazine covers, haha! More importantly, I hope that i continue growing as an artist. In the next five years, I can see myself still doing what I love to do for a living, but on a larger and more extensive scale than I am right now.
Q Thank you for a great interview, Gerrel! Do you have any final thoughts or reflections for our readers?
Do what you love; life will catch up to you.
"Green Stare", one of two pieces from his "Animal Instinct" that Gerrel has chosen to debut in this interview.
Where to find Gerrel Saunders on the Web
"Blue Howl", the second piece from the "Animal Instinct" series that Gerrel chose to debut in this interview.