Interview : Fantasio, the goth graphic genius from Germany
Fantasio is a household name among friends of fine fantasy illustrations with a dark and gloomy twist. This fine young man is constantly creating new and fantastic worlds to explore, populated with surreal creatures, half man, half plant, half something else. His spectacular work has grown from illustrating fliers for goth parties in Germany to supplying the cover for international book publications. Enter the fantastic world of Fantasio while we scry his mind!
How long have you been active as an artist, and how did you discover your passion for pictorial art?
Wings of Steel
Well, if you consider scribbling in books and doodles on the walls to be artistic activity, then I have done so as far as I can think back. Consciously, I got interested in art back in school, in sixth grade, probably, when I found out that caricatures of teachers and fellow students will trigger lots of interesting reactions.
At age 12 I got into the possibilities of “Deluxe Paint 4” on the Amiga 500, and also 3D modelling software like “Reflektions 2.0”. Up to my 19th year this was only fooling around though, usually with a ballpoint pen and aquarelle colours.
Later, with roleplaying games, I started putting more efforts into drawing characters, and that was the turning point when I started getting serious about putting down work that others really like.
Drawing always was more relaxation or therapy to me than anything else, but I have to admit that the reaction of my fellows had some attraction on me.
But the real trigger was when I moved out from my parents home into a flat-sharing community, other people noticed my skills and encouraged me to pursue, I really owe them some!
Do you have a classic education in graphic arts, or how did you learn your skills?
I first got into contact with PCs and Photoshop 5 back in 2000, this had a major influence on me, but failed to convince me yet that it is possible to render your ideas 1:1 with those tools. In 2002, next to my regular job, I decided to study Airbrush Design at the IbKK in Bochum, Germany. Initially I had applied at public design schools in Saarbrücken and other places In my area, but in the end I am very happy that it did not work out with the state schools, as the IbKK taught me self-discipline and how to deliver results in less than 4 weeks, in the form of semester exams. This prepared me really well for freelance business.
Say no good
In 2003 I then bought my firt own computer, so I could at least scan my works and display them on online communities like Epilogue.net and deviantArt, to get feedback and critique in order to learn and grow – something I still do to this day. Eventually I reached the point where even my lecturers at the IbKK were no longer able to tell digital and classic drawings of mine apart. From there on, I used the remainder of my studies to approach tasks and exams on a more experimental level, using collages and other techniques than pure airbrushing. In my final year, I specialized in illustrating, and left custom painting to others, and focused on getting my ideas down directly on computer, through the use of graphic tablets.
Like many of my peers, I steadily moved away from pure “Realism” and got attracted to fantasy, to the niche of “Magic Realism”, which enables me to use traditional as well as digital visions as an outlet, a sort of speaking tube for my creativity, that is not restricted by technique.
Which artists have inspired you?
Plant or Not
Giger, Royo as well as Sorayama have contributed to “mould” me – I had a phase when I really bought records just because of the cover! Usually it was the work of Dave McKean that fascinated me.
Back then I somehow started analysing, albeit unconsciously, what it takes to make a good image.
Today, my inspirations are basically anyone who has achieved something, hats of to everyone who has dared to give up a well paid job to pursue their passion.
How must we imagine the creation process of your images…
Variable. Very variable. Because I now am essentially working as a mainly digital illustrator, I have to start with sketches, then colouring and finally putting finishing touches to them. However, on free projects, I compensate by experimenting, which results in pictures that are collages created with the computer, then printed, and then assembled as collages again on canvas.
Other images start out with a sculpture I create, a piece of art in its own right, and then doing a photo, retouches and post production, it’s a bit like a movie director presenting his movie to an audience. It’s a very unique challenge.
…and what are the challenges ?
Nessis & Dragon
As for the challenge, my biggest challenge is and has always been to create something that will astonish onlookers. Especially when it comes down to how the image was created. I have managed to amaze experienced artists and illustrators by creating an image by printing on canvas and using structured acrylic paste, and not relying on oil paint.
And let’s be honest, painting with oil colours is no longer an art, at least not since Bob Ross. To me, using the same effort and amount of time constructively represents a greater incentive, and pushes me to create things that are otherwise difficult to create, even with traditional means.
Do you have a preferred medium, and what techniques and tools do you use?
The pencil – it’s the extension of the brain! With a pencil you can create and correct new worlds at a superfast pace, get ideas from the brain down on paper, work out details… Other media have their advantages too, but usually involve much effort and energy – it requires more time to get from a blank page to a satisfying result.
Currently I am working on a Wacom tablet most of the time, with Photoshop and Painter. For private or personal work, as I already mentioned, I like to experiment, for instance with collages, plastilin, plaster, or acrylic.
What are your favorite works, and are there any you don’t like at all?
To be honest, I don’t have a real favourite among my pieces, or if at all, everyone of my new pieces, if I am happy with the result, temporarily becomes my favourite. But as soon as a new work is in progress, it becomes my favourite.. I guess it’s a bit like children. In retrospect, there might be two or three that really stick out, that I’d consider to be milestones in my progression, like a red thread leading through my work, testimonials to specific points in my evolution where I successfully managed to step up and raise the bar.
As for work I don’t like, fortunately most of those only exist in form of sketches, and never made it to a finished image! Phew! But there still are a few I am not particularly proud of, essentially images that were too strongly influenced by the artists inspiring me in my early days.
What are your current projects?
During the little spare time that I have, I am creating a series of works titled “Fantasio-Girls”, in collaboration with models and photographers, like pin-ups, fantastic creatures and all kind of weird ideas – simply Fantasio Girls! When I have collected enough of them, I will probably release the whole set as a portfolio-book.
I am also collaborating with Christian Aster, it is a fairytale book I am illustrating, but because of lack of time, progress is sluggish. Release of that book is scheduled for end of this year, but more realistically, it will be 2010. And then there are several smaller projects I am collaborating on, or series that are to be finished soon.
Last question, where can we admire your work?
You can see my work in publications and expositions, or lately, more and more frequently on the cover of books published by Lübbe, Piper and Bastei. I have on and off expositions in Germany and abroad, but am always interested in new opportunities to show my work.
Contact the artist
Fantasio – Official Website