FEATURED ARTIST: Tony Sklepic
BD: Mr. Sklepic, How are you doing?
TS: Fantastic! Thanks
BD: You’re an amazing artist from up in the great white/not always white north how’s the weather and season working for you so far?
TS: Good! The cold weather doesn't seem to deter any of my clientele from getting new pieces, so I can't complain.
BD: Tell us a little bit about yourself, where are you originally from? How do you get started with art and how did you up where you are at the moment?
TS: I’m from Edmonton, born and raised. I've been drawing pretty much as long as I can remember. My dad was always a really good drawer and he sparked my interest in art at a very young age by exposing me to The Amazing Spider-man comics that he read growing up. From the time I was a little kid I had always intended in pursuing a career in comics but when I was in high school my focus shifted towards tattoos. Seeing the progression in the art form, and tattoos becoming more and more acceptable and accessible really peaked my interest. Lots of my friends had been getting tattoos and began asking me to help design pieces that they were planning on getting when they graduated. From there I decided that tattooing was something that I'd at least like to try my hand at. Now I'm coming up on my 13th year of tattooing.
BD: With everything you have learned from when you started till now, has there been any strong lessons that have stuck with you ?
TS: I got my apprenticeship in tattooing pretty much immediately after graduating, which I feel definitely gave me a bit of a leg up, as I got into the industry right before I feel like it hit a huge boom. Getting an apprenticeship at that time was infinitely easier than it is now. My apprenticeship itself however, was a rough go. I was given very little direction and feel like the little guidance that I did get aided in forming a lot of bad habits in tattooing that I later on had to break. After a year or two of cranking out subpar work and jumping between a few different tattoo studios I decided to start my own studio and really push myself to develop and progress as an artist. Once I started actually getting tattooed by a lot of other artists and really being able to see how other people approach tattooing, I feel like my work began to evolve and progress into what it is now.
BD: I see you use Pencils, digital art and so forth... How did you make the transition from each medium without burning yourself out ? what do you find you like and struggle with on both? Especially with being heavily grounded in comic book art. What were some of the books as well you learned from growing up?
TS:I’ve always been most comfortable with a pencil in my hand. Every bit of art I do always starts in pencil. I've tried my hand at oils, acrylics, airbrush, etc. and I always end up going back to good old graphite. I’ve always had a love of comics and pop culture, so obviously a lot of my art is inspired by comics and movies but I've always really enjoyed working in realism. Initially comic books helped me to get the hang of figure drawing and dynamic composition, but ultimately I've always enjoyed drawing people's faces the most. Capturing a mood or expression in pencil was always something that I feel like I excelled at and it didn't take long for my art to start evolving from comics to realism. These days I tend to do a lot of graphite pieces that I later end up painting digitally in Photoshop. I've used a ton of great instructional books and tutorials to develop some of the techniques I use in my art but I'd have to say one of the most informative and useful books I've read is "drawing from the right side of the brain" by ....... As well as any of the Burne Hogarth instructional books, all of them are great. As far as burning myself out, it does happen from time to time, but I truly love what I do, so I find the drive to create something on a daily basis keeps me going. There are some days where I tattoo all day and all I want to do is go home and rest my eyes but as soon as I get home and see the art supplies sitting on the table, I can't help but get lost in a good record and a sketch pad.
BD: When sketching for a new piece of art or tattoo what are you aiming for when it comes to your process and execution? We notice you have a massive Hot Toys, Side show collectibles collection, do you use many of the references you have from your models? from memory or a bit of both?
TS:You nailed it! I definitely draw from a lot of different sources. I usually try to come up with most of my compositions as a rough sketch without any reference first. Sometimes this starts with something as simple as a scribble or a series of stick figures, but I always try to have an idea for a composition before I seek out any reference. I feel like this keeps the reference from dictating what the final piece looks like rather than the piece dictating the kind reference I'm looking for. It's all about pulling the information I need from the reference and combining it with what's in my head to create something entirely new. I never try to just replicate the reference. It's all about understanding and interpreting what I'm drawing or rendering as my own, not just straight up copying it. Once I've got a general idea of a layout I usually take to the Internet, my book collection or my collection of statues or action figures to photograph what I think I'll need. I also have a Blu-ray player that allows me to take HD screen caps, so that definitely comes in handy.
BD: I really love the what you with your art and tattoos capturing the mood in your art, as fellow comic book nerds we can see everything from your textured pencil drawings of SOA and Hellboy to your colorful Old man Logan / Batman Paintings and posters, a spark of Struzan inspiration which is completely your own at the same time, is it something that came natural or something that you were inspired by?
TS: Great eye! I'm an 80's kid so I sort of inadvertently became a fan of Drew Struzan before I even knew who he was, simply due to the fact that he created every awesome movie poster out there. In my adult years I've followed his work very closely and have definitely used a similar approach to my art that Drew Struzan has always used, in that he tries to invoke some sort of mood or memory of whatever the subject matter is that he's depicting in his art. I've watched a few of his tutorials and definitely tend to use a lot of his techniques in both my traditional art pieces as well as my tattooing, but at the same time I like to add digital elements and some of my own techniques that I've learned over the years to form something that's a little more my own.
BD: What are the materials you mainly use when painting or doing art and tattoos in general?
TS: I use a lot of different stuff when I'm working on a tattoo design depending on what it entails but as far as most of my art pieces go, I usually use a Steadler 2H drafting pencil, a set of Fabre castell woodless graphite pencils, an electric eraser, some cheap blending stumps and regular smooth white Bristol board.
BD: What are some techniques that you consider a must when it comes to your art work, also some you’ve tried that were let’s say popular that you figured weren’t really your thing?
TS: Well as I said, I've always been most comfortable with a pencil, so almost everything I do starts with a 2H drafting pencil. Drafting pencils are nice because you can get them uber sharp and get nice light lines for the planning stages of a drawing that can be erased super easily or simply ran over during the course of a drawing. From there I usually switch to woodless graphite to start rendering a drawing, everything from HB all the way to 8B depending on what I'm trying to achieve in the drawing. I like woodless graphite because I tend to draw with the side of the pencil a lot, this is a nice little trick to always keep your pencil sharp without having to sharpen it every two minutes. Woodless graphite is also nice to use because when you do empty your pencil sharpener you have nothing but graphite that you can use along with a brush or blending stump to fill in larger blends and dark areas in the drawing. I NEED an electric eraser on hand for most drawings. I tend to do a lot of little detail work by cutting the tip of the eraser to a point and adding highlights and textures as I'm rendering values. Canned air is a handy tool for cleaning eraser tidbits without smudging the drawing too, so I always have a can nearby. Once I'm done rendering a drawing in pencil I usually spray it with a matte finish to ensure the pencil doesn't smudge, as well as eliminate there shine the graphite has when the light hits it. From there I usually mount my drawing in a well-lit area and photograph it with my digital camera, then upload it into Photoshop and begin the colouring process. Some of these techniques I've learned from others and some of them I came up with on my own, but either way, I use these in every drawing I do.
BD: Where do you see or want to see your art to go in the next few years?
TS: I’d love to get enough attention to start doing art on a commercial level. If I could get a gig doing movie posters or album covers that would be my dream come true, but ultimately I'm super happy with what I'm doing and can see myself continuing to push myself to keep creating fun new things on people's skin on a daily basis. I love that I get to put something on someone that they get to actually keep with them for the rest of their lives. Not too many other artists that work in other mediums can say the same thing.
BD: If people want to find your work, buy anything you may be selling or contact in general where may they find you?
TS:Any general inquiries can be emailed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org I also have an online print store over at tonysklepicart.bigcartel.com