Friday, April 3, 2009

Second Interview with Ed Beard, Jr., Award-winning Fantasy Artist

The second weekend of
The Renaissance Faire in Wake Forest
is April 4 & 5, 2009

Visit Ed Beard Jr's Website

Describe the process of creating a dragon or wizard portrait.

The dragon can be looked at in several ways. It is often compared to a flying lizard or pteranodon, a giant chicken with wings or in the eastern culture more of a serpentine snake-like being. Whatever way you perceive the dragon is entirely open to debate. I personally think of a dragon as a combination of a reptile, horse and a bird or bat. With a basic understanding of the anatomy of each of these three creatures, I can combine appendages at certain skeletal junctures to create a functional, or at least somewhat believable, dragon.

How long does it take? Or, which one took the most time? Why?

Paintings that contain multiple figures and many different colors generally take far more time due to the color palette changes. I use acrylic paints therefore the drying time is faster than oils. Typically for a single figure dragon or wizard I will take from 10, to as many as 20, hours. When I am working on a more complex battle scene, it can take upwards of 100 hours, or more.

What inspires you?

I love mythology and legends in folklore, however many writers, such as Tolkien, have laid the base or ground for the imagination to expand from. I personally enjoy speaking with the public when I attend conventions and Renaissance Faires and getting the wide variety of concepts they offer.

Who or what was the most unusual (for you) inspiration for a fantasy work?

Not long ago I received an e-mail from a young collector from Florida. The commission request entailed creating a Red Dragon that epitomized this young man's battle with a chronic illness. The request described a Red Dragon trapped in a cave (representing the lack of a cure) with heavy chains around the neck, arms, and legs of the dragon just beginning to be broken (symbolizing the power to overcome this disease) and a break in the ceiling of the cave where light would come shining through that symbolized the hope of a cure. In the end, this was the most moving and inspirational work I have done using a dragon as the subject.

What inspires the skeletons of dragons?

I recently embarked on an instructional "How to Draw the Dragon" book project that I will be publishing, just as I did with "The Enchanted Realm, Art of Ed Beard Jr." art book that came out two years ago. In this book, I will take the reader from the anatomical skeletal structure, to the musculature and variety of scales and characteristics. I also will take the reader through the variety of species and their environment. The European or western dragon tends to have elements of the horse, reptile, and bird or bat skeletal anatomy.

What is the "back story" on your favorite dragon?

One of the dragons, that seems to be somewhat iconic for my work due to the fact that it has appeared on many different licensed products, is called "Bravery Misplaced". This is the classic portrayal of where the brave knight has underestimated his abilities when he comes around a bend and is face to face with a gigantic Dragon. The other dragon is entirely a different approach in that it shows an intellectual scholarly dragon sitting in his study transcribing the ancient tongue of his ancestors. This is titled "Ancient Dragon Scholar."

Who is your favorite wizard?

It would have to be Merlin as I am fond of Arthurian Legend.

Your favorite monster?

The werewolf has been a favorite of mine but I would also include other horror-type subjects like the headless horseman from "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."

Describe the most fantastic wings you have ever created. What inspired you or them?

The majestic nature of dragons incorporates the wings spread wide open. I have created two versions that I feel depicted this characteristic most effectively. The first is titled "Winter's Spirit" a celestial spirit Dragon that returns to its favorite perch from the heavens on a cool winter's night. The other is a crimson Red Dragon who has taken possession of a keep or castle and is powerfully perched upon the top of this castle looking down on a warrior who has requested access to this castle of treasures.

When you speak to a young artist (age 10 to 12), what advice do you give?

1. To study anatomy, light sources, perspective, and all of the nuts and bolts that are required for a good foundation in illustration. 2. Repetition and practice are the only way to master the skill. 3. To ignore anyone who attempts to tell them that Fantasy Art is a waste of talent or an invalid art form. 4. Have those negative individuals to visit my website if they are in doubt of the legitimacy of this amazing field.

When you speak to an artist in high school who wants to create fantasy art, what advice do you give?

Basically the same as the younger student, but with an emphasis on maintaining a tangible medium and not simply surrender to what is easier or more "efficient" as with digital programs. I remind them that creating a one-of-a-kind original painting that can be collected is a great source of income as well as sustaining the original art form. I further express how being able to do both digital and hand-painted work create a more sustainable career and a much better income.

When you speak in schools, who asks the best questions? What are some of the most interesting?

Definitely the grades 3 to 6. They are the least inhibited, and their minds are like a sponge calculating all of the most inquisitive questions imaginable. Once I was asked by a third grade student, "Have you ever painted a picture that you got stuck half way through and run out of ideas for?" or "How do you save a painting that you have made a mistake on without starting all over?"

In one case a fifth grade student asked whether I "have ever been stumped and not been able to imagine a scene, and just stare at the black canvas."

Define creativity.

The ability to take a thought or a concept and manifest it to a visual or auditory representation of that thought or idea. Music, art or literature are all conduits to communicating with one another; each is the vehicle for creative expression.

What great questions did I not ask?

What should be the role of an art teacher?

An art teacher should identify the student's strong and week points, then watch how the student approached the task at hand. Once these evaluations have been established, it is the teacher's job to find a way to utilize these natural tendencies of the student and direct and use those tendencies to improve the techniques of the student. A teacher should never attempt to mold the student into a clone of himself or herself. It is the job of a teacher to take the spark in that student and grow it into his or her own unique flower.

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