Interview: Paul Willocks
A few days ago i wrote an article about some very cool brushes from PaulW. It was so popular that i had to do an interview with him. Read, learn and get inspired.
First of all we would like to thank you for taking the time to provide Abduzeedo.com with this interview. Please tell us more about your art and design background and what made you become an artist and designer?
No problem at all, if there is one thing I like to talk about its Art and Design. Interviews such as this allow me to talk passionately about a subject I love and in turn hopefully help and influence upcoming designers and give them the confidence they need to be successful in what has become a very competitive environment.
Ok, so to tell you a little about my background. I’ am currently 28 years old; I live in Birmingham, UK and have been designing digitally since I was around 15 years old. When I was very young I was always very interested in drawing and at Primary School art class was always my favourite. This continued all the way through to High School. During my High School art classes I was introduced to many artists and styles but decided that Abstract/Cubism painting was the route I wanted to explore. I slowly built up my confidence with the painting but always had a thing for digital art. You see, I had a Commodore Amiga when I was younger which came with a copy of Deluxe Paint. I got the design bug from this software and even though I loved traditional mediums I would always go back to messing around with digital media.
After High School I enrolled on a one year art and design foundation course at Stafford College which I found extremely useful. It was the perfect course to prepare me for going to university and gave me a much broader range of skills than I had previously. Unfortunately this course was over too quickly and it was time to enrol on a degree course. I chose a BA(hons) course at Staffordshire University called ‘Electronic Graphics’. This course covered all aspects of digital design and was what introduced me to software packages that I now use daily. I graduated from this course and with my degree in hand I went straight into a job working as a graphic designer for a local lifestyle magazine whilst freelancing on the side. This was a great job and I loved every minute of working there. It gave me priceless industry experience but unfortunately the magazine eventually closed down and I was out of a job. I now work in Marketing so spend most of the time briefing design agencies and managing design jobs. I still love designing although it is now more of a hobby than a full time paid job.
So ultimately what made me become a graphic artist and designer? Well I suppose when you have been playing around with computers and drawing from a very young age it get engrained into you. There was never a point in my life where I suddenly decided “I want to be a graphic designer”. I just feel like I have always been one.
Paul, your work is pretty unique and full of creativity. Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration comes from all over the place. Firstly, I have to say being a member over at DeviantArt.com has been a massive source of inspiration for me. The amount of amazing imagery on that site is unbelievable. You have to sift through a lot of crap to find it sometime but I can spend hours on that site just browsing the galleries. There are some truly inspirational images over at there and if you are ever lacking ideas or motivation I can guarantee that browsing some of the top rated work will have your head exploding with ideas. Also the feedback that I receive at Deviant Art inspires me as there are some great members always willing to offer constructive criticism. ?I also get inspired whilst reading magazines, watching TV, and visiting other design community internet sites. Basically I’m never really short of inspiration as I always know where I can find it.
Could you describe for us your typical ‘start to finish’ workflow when working on a design?
I will answer this question using my most recent artwork as a basis. For those that don’t know my most recent works are 3D abstracts created using both 3DS Max 9 and Photoshop CS 3.?Typically I will load up 3DS Max and experiment with shapes, materials, camera focus etc until I produce a render that I like (I render with VRay 1.5 as it has some great material and lighting options). This will then be saved as a .png file so that I don’t need to cut the render out in Photoshop. The next stage for me is to import the render into Photoshop and begin the post work. I will start off by adjusting the colouration of the render. Next I will begin producing the background for the image usually painting by hand and slowly building up the layers. Once I’m happy with my background I will go back to the render and subtly blend the two together. The final step is to add some design elements on layers above the render. These are usually lighting details and typography. To finish the image of I will modify the colours and levels until I’am happy with the results and that’s pretty much it.
I have just recently released a Photoshop .PSD file of my ‘skyLAB’ image over in my Deviant art gallery. This file contains all 30 layers of the image to show how it was built up. If you head over to Deviantart and download the file I’m sure you will get a better idea of how I typically create my work.
What are your tools of the trade, both hardware and software?
In terms of hardware, my tools of the trade are an ancient Dell Optiplex GX 270 desktop PC running Windows XP and a Gateway Laptop. I use the laptop most of the time as it is very fast and allows for a quick work flow. I also have a 21 inch Think Vision LCD monitor which is great for any large scale work. The software I use on a regular basis includes 3DS Max 9, VRay 1.5, Photoshop CS (Desktop), Photoshop CS3 (Laptop), Bryce 5, Quark Xpress 5. I have many other programs but they don’t really get used so I wont mention them.
What, for you personally are the pros and cons of being a designer?
I love creating, in day to day life if I’m doing something that I feel is not creative or productive I’m not happy and feel like I’m wasting my time. Being a designer allows me to be both creative and productive. That is the biggest pro for me. Another benefit of being a designer is meeting people with similar interests who help each other out and offer great advice. The design community is a great thing to be a part of age of the internet has amplified this ten fold.
As for the cons of being a designer, there really isn’t that many. I suppose in my early days I found it difficult to find a design jobs and had numerous interviews and rejections. This wasn’t a good feeling. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that the design industry is over saturated.
Another con of being a designer, especially in my case is art theft and violation. I offer a lot of free resources over at Deviant Art and all I ask is that if people use them they need to credit me. I’d say about 25% of the people that use my Photoshop brushes etc credit me. The others just try and pass my free resources off as their own work. Also many websites will rip my resources from my Deviant Art page and offer them on their own site without asking my permission and many even offer them without my terms and conditions.
How does your job as and artist and designer influence your life? Do you feel that you see things around you differently for example?
Well, technically my job is not as a designer as it is more of a hobby but this hobby definitely has some influence on my life. I do see things around me differently especially things such as architecture. I also see advertisements in magazines and on TV and find myself evaluating their design and figuring out what I would have done differently for example.
What are your favourite 5 websites?
My favourite website of them all is Deviantart.com . This art community is thriving and there is always something new to look at. The majority of people over there are very pleasant and helpful and very appreciative of my work. I suppose the only downside in my opinion is that the community is a little too over saturated with anime drawings and masses of useless stock imagery for my liking. Excellent community though and well worth checking out.
Ok, the next site is Depthcore.com . Depthcore is a great site to go to if you need inspiration as all the imagery over there is of a very high standard. I’m not a member there but I love what they do. Unfortunately some members over there suffer from severe superiority complexes.
Next up is ColourLovers.com. If you are ever struggling to create a colour palette for your work then heard over to Colour Lovers to be inspired. A great idea for a website and one that all designers should add to their favourites.
Getting away from design slightly my next favourite site is Engadger.com . This site is a blog that is updated constantly and gives the latest information about the latest technologies around the world. I check this site daily.
Finally we have Xbox 360 Fanboy. I’m really into my Xbox 360 and I check this blog every day. If you want the latest Xbox 360 news before anyone else then this is the place to go.
Once again Paul, thank you very much for the interview. As a final word, do you have any tips for upcoming artists and designers?
It may sound cliché but stick at it. There were times I would want give up when I was low on inspiration and motivation, and when everything I turned out looked like crap. But then I would see something that triggers off an idea in my head and that’s it, I’m back in the zone. Always keep your eyes open and look for inspiration. That’s the most important part of being a designer.
Also don’t feel like you need all the best software to become a good designer. There are all kinds of free design programs out there on the web that are of excellent quality. You could run a design studio on free software if you really wanted and be able to compete within the marketplace. A great example is a program called Blender. This fully functional 3D modelling program is completely free and very easy to use.?
Finally I know I offer a lot of free design resources, but try to use free resources as sparingly as possible. It’s best in the long run to create all the elements of an image yourself. Don’t get me wrong, I use the odd stock photo here and there, and I create brushes to use in my projects. Don’t create images entirely out of other peoples brush sets for example as you aren’t learning any vital design skills by doing that.
I would like to thank Abduzeedo for the interview opportunity, keep up the good work guys.
For more information on Paul Willocks please visit PaulW.Deviantart.com where you can find his personal portfolio.