March 16, 2011

You’re Going to Heart This Art!

An interview with Thomas Fuchs

Part 1 of 2 (link to
Part 2)
Click on any picture to vergrössernize
I’ve been trying now for weeks and I just can’t do it. I don’t know, maybe it’s me, maybe it’s this di... I mean, food re-education thing I’m currently on, but I just can’t. I’ve done tons of on-line research; I’ve stared at it all for hours on end; still, I can’t. No, as hard as I try, I can NOT pick out my favourite aspect about Thomas Fuchs’ work! I like it all. There, I’ve said it. I’ve failed you all and for that I’m truly sorry... NOT! What am I, nuts? (Don’t answer that...)

Hi gang! Despite all the rampant jocularity, we are indeed very thrilled to have Thomas with us here at ZN HQ. Not only is this affable nearly 40-something year-old in very high demand, but he’s been a real pleasure to work with! As you’ll see in the coming paragraphs, Herr Fuchs’ styles range from the sharp yet extremely poignant digital pieces he produces to a flair for portraits that is simply fantastic! His quirky yet thoughtful editorial pieces are highly sought after and can be seen in just about every genre of publication out there. Even his ‘for fun only’ projects like ‘A Heart a Day’ are beginning to sell like extra-large pretzels fresh out of the oven at Oktoberfest!

His unique touch in the broad fields that he covers can be traced back to his education in Stuttgart, studying with the legendary Heinz Edelmann (see I-view with fellow alum
Christoph Niemann). Still, despite his upbringing including an interest in all things amphibianistic (keep reading), Thomas has grown as an artist over the years and firmly established himself in the realms of graphic art-dom here, there and everywhere!!

Greetings Thomas and welcome! Can you tell us a little bit about Thomas Fuchs please and how he became the interesting and über-talented man that he is today?
Hi Ziggy, thanks for having me!

About me: well, I grew up in Germany (the sticks, to be exact) and spent most of my childhood chasing frogs and the like. Great for a kid, but boring as hell for a teenager. I guess I did find a lot of time for drawing simply because there was not much else to do (once that obsession with amphibians had subsided). That may have definitely had something to do with my later choice of profession...and it seemed more practical...

I studied Graphic Design and Illustration at the Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart, under Professor Heinz Edelmann (of Yellow Submarine fame). I graduated in '97, packed my bags and moved to New York the same year.
What do you think was your strongest influence coming along in terms of you deciding to become a graphic designer/illustrator?
I guess that would have to be LP covers. You know, those ancient big, black music discs that came in big cardboard sleeves with all manner of cool art and design on them.

I mean, how can you look at the cover of Pink Floyd’s "Dark Side of the Moon" and not be floored? Or, in a different way, all those
Frank Frazetta or Boris Vallejo illustrations of scantily clad maidens in distress with some sort of monster lurking in the shadows that would grace many a rock band's album covers? I mean, how do you beat that?

So, after I realised that people actually did this for a living I guess there wasn't much choice anymore as to what I was going to do professionally!

That’s an interesting ‘shield’ on the front page of your web-page, very Germanic! Is this family related or just something you put together for fun and profit?
Yeah, rather Teutonic, eh? I've always been into the whole medieval heraldic imagery, you know, crests and the like. As I said, I grew up in rural Germany in an area with medieval castles abound, and that just always struck a chord with me. Eventually, being an artist and all, there wasn't really any excuse anymore not to do one for myself.

I also expanded on this shield for the singer/songwriter Shelby Lynne. She saw it on my site and requested something roughly along those lines (of course personalised to her own person/work). That was quite a fun gig.

I quite enjoyed your selection of paintings and the different senses of vintage looks, coupled with both ultra-realistic and even dream-like imagery. However, these seem to have been done almost exclusively for specific clients. To this: how do you decide whether to use painting or another ‘media’ for a client? Is that usually your own choice or is it dictated more by the client’s brief?
There are different ways this happens:

One would be the client requesting an exact recreation of the look of one of my images they have seen either on my site or in some other publication. That right there narrows things down quite a bit.

It does happen very rarely though that a client will be that specific with their preferences. Instead, most will give me enough rope to try and come up with the best approach to the topic at hand, which I do prefer. I believe that the concept I come up with to solve a visual problem should dictate what style best transports said concept. I think for the most part the people who are crazy enough to work with me are rather aware of that (and cool with it), as I do think it comes through when you look at my portfolio.

Plus, working mostly in an editorial field, there are certain factors like deadlines which will put a clear restriction on how crazy/elaborate one can go with a piece. I mean, having a really tight deadline will not allow for an intricately rendered scene and it will therefore most likely done in a more graphic style.

And, of course, the simpler the better – meaning, if you have a good idea you do not have to render the life out of it, which is my preferred approach. I'd rather think a little longer about a concept and come up with an idea that works, which then saves me some time on the execution...and I really like strong, graphic solutions...maybe I'm just lazy though...

Comparing your painting to your work in digital: what is the biggest difference for you as an artist concerning either the preparation or even finishing a piece?
There’s really not a big difference at all. The approach is very similar : I usually decide what the idea needs and then do that.

How did your focus on portraits come about? Is this a particular favourite aspect of illustrating for you or did it arise more out of reputation?
Yeah, that's kind of a weird one, as I don't think I'm even all that good at it. I mean, there are people out there that are just insanely good at nailing a likeness, and it seems like they do it effortlessly as well. In my case, I'm always almost surprised if the picture looks like the person it's supposed to. Mostly, I think I just get lucky.

The thing though that's really tough about portraits is the immediate controllability. What I mean by this is that no matter how amazing a painting you may have just crafted, if it doesn't look like the subject, you’ve failed. There’s no way to cheat!

But yeah, ‘good work delivered, more ordered’ is how the whole business works. A strong reputation for reliability is a big factor, I think.

Continued in Part 2

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