Callan, or as he is known on Renderosity, Callanhead, is an Australian artist currently studying digital media. It was a while ago that I first took notice of his work posted on Renderosity. Taken by his unique style, I wanted to learn more about him, his art, and his creative process.
What can you tell us about yourself? Who is Callanhead?
I'm a student studying Digital Media, that includes a lot of film and animation stuff, also a little bit of drawing and digital art. It's a very broad subject, but over the next few years I'm hoping to move to Melbourne (I'm in Australia), to start focusing on studying animation exclusively. I'd always wanted to be an animator as a child, but I spent most of my late teens and early 20's scared that I wouldn't be allowed any choice to do what I love with my life - it just took me a long time to realise it was actually possible. So, now I'm almost 30, and I'm finally starting to take what I do seriously as a business. I started my Facebook page CALLANart at around the same time I started posting to Renderosity, kind of as a hobby to create some nice images and hoping to gain more traffic to my page, in the hopes of selling prints or making commissions. Since then I've managed to get some work and even some industry-level jobs making commissions, which is pretty good for what started as a kind of hobby.
Callanhead is just an internet handle I made a long time ago that stuck. David Lynch's film "Eraserhead" was kind of a game changer for me. I created my Renderosity account about a decade ago, but only recently started posting images on it. I probably would have just called it CALLANart these days, but, oh well.
How did you become interested in digital art? When did you start into it?
Digital art specifically was a very incremental change. The more programs I started to learn, the more digital my art became, from scanning my drawings in to alter digitally, to working from photographic references, all purely digital. I only started selling prints and making commissions of my work until I had finally come across a style that I thought I would be able to use commercially, that a general public amount of people would be able to appreciate on a personal level for themselves. This didn't come until I was taught specific techniques in class last year.
What might we find in your digital toolset, and what do you rely on most?
The Adobe creative suite, primarily. I rely mostly on creating a prototype image by using assets from resources such as digital film or photography, taking them into Photoshop to layer in a basic composition. If I can't find a specific pose from a model, I'm photographing, or if perhaps a particular limb is out of place or unusable, or if I simply can't find someone willing to model for me - which is often the case - I'll try to create one myself. Sometimes, I may use an old version of Poser to create a reference. Using that image as a basis, I'll use Flash to create the vector based effect, and maybe even After Effects (my personal favourite program) for some of those post-production effects. So, some of it relies quite a lot on the interest of others, not only to be able to create business out of it, but for other things like modelling for reference images, or even general feedback.
Huntress with Skull
Do you have any traditional art experience? Any formal training?
Nope. I feel like if I can keep attempting new ways to create things, I'll feel validated through experimentation. Though often it just leads to feeling like an impostor.
What do you think your best piece of work is and why?
There was one that I made featuring an artist/model I know named Emily, which I thought was really quite gorgeous, but I think that's more her fault than mine. I like my elephant ones too just because I like elephants. I'm pretty bad at this question. I could attempt to critique my own work on a technical level, but I'd rather not. I'll go with an answer you probably get a lot - the piece I make next.
What do you enjoy doing outside of creating art?
Probably the hardest question. Not a lot. Escaping reality, I guess.
Your artwork is incredible and unique. Who or what inspires you?
Sources of inspiration is a tricky one to answer. I could give you a list of artists I like, but that will grow mega-vast, mega fast. I think when you get to the core of it though, the female form, in general, is probably the first ever source of inspiration for anyone. I think it's a rare form of pure natural art. Speaking of which, I love patterns found in nature, on plants or in outer space, or on insects, etc. Reading about them is pretty inspiring. Mythology, too, is a big one and, perhaps, folklore to some degree. Dreams from time to time. It's a really difficult question without just making a big list. Actually, the first thing that ever got me drawing was Mortal Kombat, the first one. When I was a child there was an arcade machine at the video rental place down the road. My friends and I would start designing our own characters for that, then our own imaginary game. Then, eventually, they didn't necessarily have to fight each other, just get into adventures. Creative process in action, kind of naturally.
You mentioned using Flash and After Effects (my personal fav program, too) in your artwork, which both of these one would normally consider for animation. So, I have to ask, how did you come to incorporate these two programs into your workflow for 2D art?
I actually much prefer After Effects for animation. I like to make use of that 2.5D space and I get the feeling it can be overlooked - I've been working on my final submission piece for my Digital Media class that's due at the end of the year, all in After Effects, inspired pretty much entirely by a performance of Aese's Death - it's an Edvard Grieg piece from the play Peer Gynt, conducted by Rebecca Lord. You can find it on YouTube, it's quite stunning. Classical music is another big source of inspiration.
I have a lot less practice with Flash though, I've always had a lot of trouble trying to get my head around it. Some people seem to pick it up quickly and it makes a lot of sense. I'm not one of those people. However, in the same class I learned a lot about vector art and what it's capable of. So, using pretty much the line and fill tools, I'll use Flash to convert compiled assets from Photoshop or After Effects into one vector image, then it's back to Photoshop or After Effects for post work. The image swaps between programs quite a lot.
Do you have any final words, or advice for other artists?
Advice for artists? Keep going, make all the mistakes you can, let yourself fail a lot - it's all progress. Experimentation is important. So is patience. If you keep doing it, you may just be able to let yourself go into a Flow State (there's a really interesting article on Wikipedia about Flow). The only thing you should compare your work to is your own earlier work. Comparing your work to others' is not a good idea, doesn't lead to anywhere good. You're not too old or too young. Take your time, but start as soon as you can. All that stuff.