Check out my interview with fantasy painter Raoul Vitale from the United States. He is a self-taught freelance artist working professionally since the early nineties.
What’s your background?
Drawing and trying to paint are part of my earliest childhood memories. I would draw whatever caught my eye – animals (extinct and living) people, etc. Since my mother and I lived with my grandparents, we had no money for art supplies. So my grandmother saved paper bags from the grocery store and even brought home the sale ads for me to draw on the back of. I’m self-taught and didn’t go to art school. I would ask questions to general art teachers in high school, but their answers were less than helpful. So the struggle continues – even to this day.
Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your path as an artist?
I guess there was never a question as to what I wanted to do, but “wanting” and “attaining” are quite different things. After high school, I got a job as a stained glass designer which I got to hate for 25 years! During that time I submitted portfolio pieces to potential clients, but I wasn’t what they were looking for at the time. I didn’t know any other artists and just couldn’t seem to catch a break. I decided to accept my fate and gave up the thought of ever illustrating for a living – and I was cool with that. After I no longer cared, things started happening; with small illustration jobs and designing sculpts for collectables companies. The stained glass studio was starting to sink, so I left and became self-employed.
What inspires you? Where do you find ideas for your work?
Light and its effects have always been my biggest inspiration. I remember as a kid being outside at certain times of day and just looking at light and shadow and just wanting to draw and paint it so I could have a tangible expression of that particular mood. In the past 20-some years, I haven’t had time to do any personal work; all ideas are basically handed to me by clients. There are occasions with private commissions where the client has no clear idea of what they like, so I try to build something that I think would be fun to paint and those always work out the best.
Have you ever experienced a sort of artist’s block? How did you overcome it?
Yeah, artist block – that seems to be my middle name. A good example is my work for Magic:The Gathering. Because they are very specific in their prompts, I have a bit of a time deciding how to incorporate all that they need in the image and how to make some artistic choices. Fortunately, I’ve found that some of the prompts I was most worried about actually forced me to go beyond all the specifics and make it more than what I first imagined from reading the description.
Does your art represent something about you? Does it represent a message about the world?
I guess you can’t separate the art from the artist in some way. After all, it is expression from the only thing we can really draw from and that’s ourselves. Honestly, I don’t care for art with a message because a message always comes from opinions, and there are way too many of those for me to care. I don’t like it in any art form, especially in something as limiting as a two dimensional single image . . . I know, I’m a bad person! I just figure that if someone has an opinion or wants to comment on ’the world’, then words are their best tools.
Have you ever had a moment when you questioned your career entirely?
Every time I see another artist’s work. In 2008 I was invited to exhibit at the first ever IlluXCon. (If you’re not familiar with it and you love art, check it out.) I’ve met hundreds of other artists over the years and I’m blown away with what they are able to do.
What role does the artist have in society?
I have unpopular opinions on that subject because a lot of artists, in my opinion, have an inflated idea of their roles. I generally see art as escapism and beauty, and you really don’t need me to find that.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an artist?
It’s purely a technical one for me. I’m not good at finding or getting reference material. Most of the time I only have basic reference for figures and all the other elements in my pieces come from imagination, and that’s usually not a good thing. I know some who can construct what they need in 3-D software and I imagine never find themselves in my predicament. One of these years, I’ll have to at least learn Photoshop – could be helpful.
What do you like most about being an artist?
I guess the good fortune to be here with my family.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
That’s a tough one. To my younger self, though, I already put in practice the advice I would give. I knew there were more important things to be achieved besides my wants or dreams so I was content with whatever hand life dealt and do my best in any capacity. I truly love art, but there are many things I love even more. So to lose one love when I had a pocketful of other greater loves would not have been that earth shattering. I’m blessed in that I can do these things, but my happiness doesn’t depend on it. If I never painted another picture, the world has lost nothing. Anything I’ve ever done with pencil or paint has never improved anyone’s life to the extent of my actions or words. So to me, at least the whole notion of the artist’s role is brought to nothing. I do this stuff for my own pleasure and if for a moment you found some small beauty in it, or if it reminded you of some pleasurable mood, then that is all it was meant to do.
I guess I’m just not that deep!