CGSociety | Artist Profile, 28 February 2011, by Arthur Haas
Arthur Haas started painting 16 years ago out of what he calls, "a desire to pour the images I saw in my head into physical pictures." With no formal art training other than two years of photography, he got the 'painting virus' and abandoned these regimes mid-stream. "In the beginning, the gap between what I'd seen in my head and what came out of my hands was huge," Haas admits. "But I was driven, obsessed even and I ploughed on. Slowly that gap became smaller and smaller."
"When I started painting I was very much influenced by Giger. The whole idea of an alien life-cycle really stirred something in me. His style and subject choice were a bit too dark for me though so I never really felt like copying him. There was also an English illustrator, Tim White, whose work deeply touched me: the first alien jungles I ever saw were his and somehow that opened a door for me. Suddenly it seemed my horizons expanded to infinity, anything and everything is possible somewhere surely."
Later on, Arthur Haas was staging exhibitions in Amsterdam, where he lived, which were 'quite successful'. "At one point I turned to digital art as a faster way to put images down," he adds. "Nowadays I do both since each medium has it's advantages."
Two years ago Arthur and his partner moved from a cramped apartment in Amsterdam to a house in a nearby town. One of the main reasons for buying this particular house was the big attic which is now his studio, spacious and light. It has a workstation in one corner, several work tables and easels, a couch and lots of inspiring prints on the wall.
The project Haas is working on at present is the most enjoyable one he says he's ever had: designing alien environments for a sci-fi movie about which he's not allowed to tell anything about (yet). "To be part of a team of people I look up to is such a kick," he says. "I'm really curious what ideas are going to make it to the screen and how they will look."
Inspiration before work is different every time. "Sometimes it's images on the web from artists I admire, sometimes it's an idea in my head that gets me excited," he explains. "Lately I start with Alchemy as a warm-up for the creative side of my brain and to get some unexpected shapes and compositions." Adobe Photoshop is his main tool these digital days, as they, "give this oily smear feeling like the artist's oils in Painter."
Arthur Haas has learned to be quite intuitive in his approach. He knows what works and what doesn't so what helps is not to think too much about how he goes about it. Not to think too much about the 'how'. "Whenever I do find myself getting stuck, I either take a break or start playing around with what I have, sometimes destroying parts I detailed out already or starting all over again from a different angle," Haas explains. "This conjurs up 'happy accidents', as Bob Ross would say," he adds.
It depends on whether it's personal work or an assignment but I usually start by playing around with custom brushes, making them, combining them and this way getting unexpected shapes. With personal work I find that just by trying out those brushes, it starts to develop into an image.
With an assignment I start with a basic line-work drawing, then blocking in the main shapes, then adding detail (with custom brushes) etc. Of course I continuously flip the canvas to check my composition, add temporary adjustment layers to see what might improve the punch of the picture. And take a break in time, play nice music while painting, singing along with it (really loud if it's going well) and try to stop in good time. (Very important).
However, I'm not the type to work on the whole picture at once then, layer by layer add detail. I see this a lot in tutorials. I guess it makes sense but somehow that's not my way. On the other hand I try to avoid detailing the hell out of on aspect of an image and then getting stuck on trying to make it a whole unified composition. My way is somewhere in between.
I need to see some detail somewhere to get me enthusiastic about the potential of the picture but I have to leave enough room for change in it to stay flexible.
I'm mostly attracted to somewhat monochromatic pictures since they tend to have a more powerful emotion than pieces with a lot of screaming colors.
Sometimes, either I already see a color combination in my head even if I don't know what shapes I'm going to make, or I start in greyscale and add different layer modes on top like overlay or soft light and then add colors to it, play with different hues until it feels right. I try to keep the saturation level of a picture fairly low most of the process and use the more intense colors sparingly and then mostly on the point of impact.
What brings atmosphere to a piece for me is to have one main color which is more desaturated towards the horizon and add adjacent colors on the hue scale without changing the brightness or saturation. Complimentary colors for the shadows but toned down with the main color makes the whole image look natural. There is no hard and fast rule for me. It's more instinct than mental reasoning that makes me choose one color over another.
I'd love to do more of what I'm doing right now. The pre-production phase of a science fiction movie involves a lot of brainstorming and sketching wild ideas in a creative team. I'm also illustrating book covers, which is something I'd like to keep on doing. I haven't worked in the game industry yet but I'm open to try that out too.
Things are going so well right now that I don't really have much time for personal work but funny enough I don't miss it like I thought I would. It's actually quite challenging and rewarding to find creative freedom within the confines of a brief. Another challenge for me is to get as much as possible out of the way, meaning: to not let my head take over and to just allow the creative process do its thing. This might sound a bit flaky but I can imagine many of you recognize this. It gets easier over time to recognize this state.
Creativity for me comes from roughly two different directions: Either I try to put down an image I saw in my mind or I begin from nothing and let randomness dictate the direction of a piece. Both ways have it's pros and cons for me. Putting an idea down can be very rewarding. Seeing something on my screen that was previously in my head, as long as I don't religiously hold on to that idea but allow room for surprises. On the other hand it's great that digital art can be spontaneous and random. Then it becomes a discovery, not just a painting.
If there is any theme to my work it's definitely discovery. I try to evoke the feeling of wanting to be there, to step into that scene and explore what's there. That's what drives me, and the feeling of unlimited other scenes waiting around the corner.