Sunday, August 03, 2014


I was pleased to see the talented Nathan Fowkes giving practical demonstrations on painting backgrounds at Comic-Con.  

Fowkes is a concept artist for animation studios such as DreamWorks, Blue Sky and Disney.  He is also a highly regarded teacher of drawing, painting, color and design.

Here are a few of his recent paintings for the film, Rio 2:

His finished backgrounds are gorgeous, rich and colorful

...and they benefit from the insights recorded in his hundreds of quick sketches from nature.

Fowkes described the time that he and his new bride had to abandon their first home because it was in the path of a California wildfire.  He stopped and turned around to take pictures of the illuminated orange sky over his home, saying "well, yes... my house is about to burn down but this is great reference."  He is a truly dedicated artist, and his dedication pays off.

Fowkes offered the following wise advice for his audience:
Creating an environment is not just showing our viewer a place, it is creating an experience for them.

False dramatizing is no longer enough for a background.  There are 100,000 concept artists out there who have learned to fake it by putting some dramatic [Photoshop] filter over an image.  We have to do better.

If you want to make an extreme statement, you have to push further and further into what the image is about.

I'm a big admirer of his deft brushwork.

To see more of Fowkes' landscape paintings, visit his excellent land sketch blog.


Kim Smith said...

Fun to see what you discovered this year, David. Maybe next year we'll be able to stay longer and really get to explore.

kev ferrara said...

I love those sweet little color sketches Fowkes makes from nature. So much knowledge and heart in them. Even though he doesn't seem to make finished gallery paintings (wish he did), his prowess with the understanding and abstracting of nature ranks up there with some pretty heavy hitters, imo.

MORAN said...


James Gurney said...

Did he do a painting demo or was it a talk about his work? If it was a demo, was it digital or hand-made? He's so good at both.

David Apatoff said...

Kim Smith-- Tnanks. As an artist, you would enjoy Fowkes' demo. I hope he'll be back again next year.

Kev Ferrara-- Agreed. The color sketches on his blog are a wealth of insights. For me, the more abstract the better.

Moran-- Glad you like them.

James Gurney-- Fowkes conducted a demo which started with a partially completed digital image which he then took in different directions, showing how he could change the mood, angle, lighting effects, etc. In previous years at Comic-Con, I have seen him do portraits in charcoal.

Jared Shear said...

Wish I could have seen it. Nathan is one of the best! Those color studies of his are so beautiful and inspiring.

David Apatoff said...

Jared Shear-- Yes, they really are extraordinary. He's one of my favorites.