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Artist Spotlight: Dalex Smith

1) Please tell us a little something about yourself. For example: where are you from, where do you live, do you have any formal education or are you self-taught, etc.
Hi, I'm a 26 year old digital artist born and raised in Rhode Island. I've been drawing as far back as I can remember, and I always loved it absolutely. I went to the University of Rhode Island and received a BFA in Fine Arts. After getting that and not really knowing where my future was headed I tacked on a BA in Anthropology which allowed me to travel and do some archaeology that I feel has really helped my work. Now I'm working on my portfolio and trying to learn as much as possible.

2) What experiences influenced your artwork? Where do you get your ideas for your artwork?
I've always loved cars and car culture, when I was in elementary school I would draw a car a day which continued on for a very long time. Even when I'm designing a sci-fi vehicle or anything really I always end up referencing car styles and sexy body lines. Also, through my travels and work with archaeology and in museums I've been exposed to a wide range of styles and shapes that I think have really worked their way into my designs.

3) Can you tell us a little about your creative process? How do you create your artwork? Do you sketch an idea first or do you keep the design in your head until you're finished?
I think it really depends on the goal. If I'm trying to come up with a really unusual design then I'll do several concept sketches, usually in Photoshop, then choose the most interesting of the bunch, or take aspects of all of them. But if I'm doing a project that I already have vaguely in mind like a simply shaped ship or car, then I'll usually just jump in and design on the fly.
Sometimes, like with my Batmobile P1, I'll design with a mixture of photomanipulation and Photoshop painting. This style can be really fun and useful if you have a good sense of perspective and an eye for painting.
Other times though, I'll start by creating a quick blockmesh in 3DS Max, and I'll paint directly over a render of that. This can help save a ton of time setting up perspective grids.
And if I'm doing something that needs to be particularly detailed then I'll start in 3DS Max (model), head to Substance painter (texture), and finish in Marmoset (render).

4) When or how did you decide to get into digital artwork? Did you start with traditional media first or did you jump right into the digital world?
I've been using Photoshop since I was probably in the 9th grade but when I went to college the art program was extremely focused on 'fine art' as opposed to digital so I struggled for a while to figure out what I really wanted to do.
Along with all of my traditional art courses I would usually mix digital and traditional mediums together. For example, I tried emulating printmaking techniques in Photoshop, or digitally painting into pictures of spray-painted plywood. These did very well in exhibitions but I never really identified with the wine and cheese type of art. I always wanted my work to be more functional and less 'expressive.'
Nothing against expression. I just don't have much to express. Unfortunately, I didn't really jump headlong into digital art until after college, the idea of working in a game studio is kind of a taboo subject in a 'fine art' setting. But now that I've found game art and concept design I've never been happier or worked harder. That being said I still make time to draw on paper or spend a day painting in the woods. It really helps with digital techniques

4a) What tools do you use to create your artwork?
Usually I focus on Photoshop but I'm becoming very confident in 3D packages like 3DS Max and Zbrush. As far as actual 'tools' I have an Intous Pro Medium that I'm completely in love with and a big PC me and a friend recently built named 'Ancalagon the Black.' You don't need an up-to-date gaming computer to use Photoshop or modeling programs but it certainly helps.

5) What piece of artwork are you most proud of? Why?
Even though I'd say it's not my best work technically I'd have to say I'm the most proud of my H1 Viper. Its an H1 hummer mixed with a Dodge Viper. I think I just love it because once I finished it I knew that the 14 year old me would be excited beyond reason to see it. I feel like I somehow finished what he set out to do.
I think as far as the success of a piece is concerned though, I'm really proud of my Batmobile P1. I took the newest Batmobile, which I thought was in serious need of a touch of sexy, and mixed it with elements from a Mclaren P1. The result is really a concept sketch that I might model eventually but the overall feel and aesthetic works really well for me. Plus Bruce Wayne would have the money to get that thing painted every day if he needed to, why can't the Batmobile be sexy?

6) What keeps you motivated when things don't seem to be going your way? What are some challenges you've faced in your career?
I think my biggest hurdle was choosing what I wanted to do. I spent so much time trying to decide, telling myself "no, no, that jobs impossible to get" when really I shouldn't have been so focused on the future. I should have focused on learning and doing work that I'm actually excited about. Once I sat down and decided that this is what I want to do no matter what, and started running at it headlong, I haven't looked back once and I find myself putting in way more time than I ever have because I look forward to getting in front of my computer.

7) Do you accept commissions from people who enjoy your artwork?
I do occasionally, although I have been trying to spend most of my time working on my portfolio and learning programs that will help me get a dream job in a major game studio.

7a) If you do accept commissions, have you for worked for many clients? How does your creative process differ when making your own artwork compared to making artwork for a client?
I usually play it safer with commissioned work, sticking to techniques I know rather than forcing myself to learn new interesting processes. The practice certainly helps, but I prefer to do personal work because I can really focus on things that I don't know well and work through them.

8) How do you handle criticism of your artwork?
I think handling criticism was the most important skill that I learned while in school. It's hard to take at first, but all artists are in a perpetual state of improvement, and designs come out best when a few different opinions get mixed in. Humans greatest advantage is our ability to work together and mix knowledge, why not take advantage of that fact while drawing spaceships and cars?

9) What advice do you have for up-and-coming artists who want to improve their artwork?
Take a few months off from work you like doing to really learn the fundamentals of drawing and painting. Shut up and do it. I spent a very long time putting it off, rationalizing it every way I could, but when I finally did, and realized I'm comfortable drawing really anything, it was beyond worth it.
A good place to start is with a few books. I think I learned more in a few months of self teaching than I did in my time in school. Some good books are:
• Scott Robertson's 'How to Paint" and "How to Render"
• Richard Schmid's "Alla Prima"
• Michael Hampton's "Figure Drawing Design and Invention"
If you read these books and do every single exercise, you'll probably be able to draw virtually anything confidently. It really is that simple.

10) Some people claim that digital art isn't "real art" mainly because it's made with software programs. How would you respond to this?
I think it's just another medium, and it's pretty new so people aren't used to it yet. It has strengths and weaknesses like any other medium but I love the fact that it's underexplored and in a constant state of change right now. It's by far the fastest means of communicating ideas visually so it works for what I want to do, but to each their own.

11) What are some of your more notable achievements? Have you been published in a magazine or exhibited your artwork at an art festival or gallery?
I once had one of my 30 minute spitpaints (from DailySpitpaint Facebook group) featured in 'It's Art Magazine'. Besides that I was in several exhibitions throughout college and I usually managed to take home the first prize which was always a huge confidence boost.

12) Any other comments or anything else you'd like to say?
If you're just starting out then I highly recommend getting involved with some kind of community, even if that means just networking on Facebook, adding and following artists you like. This can really help you stay focused if you're always seeing great work scrolling down your newsfeed. Level Up, Daily Spitpaint, and Ten thousand Hours, are all amazing Facebook groups to get you started.

Where can people go to see more of your artwork? Do you have your own portfolio website or do you post your images mainly at ArtStation?
ArtStation is my main portfolio, I love how easy it is to use and that you can upload marmoset viewer files and process images super easily. Feel free to add me there and also on Facebook, I always like talking to other artists so feel free to message me anytime.


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