An interview with Lewis Terry, digital impressionist artist
Lewis Terry combines impressionism and traditional oil painting styles into his digital artwork – with a dark twist! We find out more…
Lewis Terry is an artist with a one-of-a-kind style. An overused phrase, maybe, but it really does apply to this artwork, because Terry takes his inspiration from an oft-overlooked place in the world of art.
His is the domain of digital impressionism, where images take on a part-photorealistic, part-dreamlike quality. Greatly influenced by the fine art Impressionist movement of the 1870’s, a movement which gained prominence from artists such as Monet, Terry’s work features sumptuous colours with soft edges, defined strokes and a real body and depth to it.
Terry is not only a digital artist, but is also the brains behind ‘Royal’, a macabre fantasy-noir comic that revolves around a missing woman, famine and corruption in a dystopic UK city.
But to add more to the mix, the standalone art pieces also feature a horror twist – Lewis Terry is known for his ‘zombification’ artworks, whereby famous characters or paying customers are ‘reimagined’ as zombies- have a taste of what he did with the Renegade Revolution editors!
Terry routinely appears at major UK conventions, so do make sure you stop by to say hi! Until then, however, check out our exclusive interview with the man himself:
An interview with Lewis Terry.
Hey there, my name is Lewis Terry and I work under Twin Sword Trading.
So tell us a bit about what you do: how did you get into it, and what is the most rewarding thing about your job?
I am primarily a freelance artist, but from time to time I do a bit of writing as well. As a kid I loved drawing and was influenced by my Dad who was working in the computer games industry as an artist and later on as head of his own design team. When I got to secondary school I studied art and it kind of killed it for me. I wasn’t very good, I didn’t enjoy it and I gave up. Whilst at university, I picked up my pencil again and started drawing. Heavily influenced by the art of Mike Mignola and Frank Miller, I worked in stark black and white. I couldn’t fathom how colour worked on paper. Three years ago I then went to the Tate Britain and the National Gallery. It was here when I discovered how to use colour, I saw the messy paintings of the impressionists and how nothing was precise, something just clicked.
In short what I am trying to say is that it was always a hobby for me, but a hobby I worked hard at. I was encouraged by Jess Bradley and John-Paul Bove to get a stall at conventions and actually sell my artwork. I attended the LFCC and eventually got a stall at the MCM. This year I got sick, fell out of work for a few months and that was the kick I needed to launch fully into freelance work. My time had come and all the hard work has finally paid off.
I would say the most rewarding thing about my job is seeing people’s happy faces or hearing how they felt about my work. I mean, sure, we all need money to live but knowing you are making people happy, well that’s what keeps me working and creating.
Now, one thing we immediately notice about your artwork is that it is has a very dark, creepy and unique theme. You are quite well known for your ‘zombie’ incarnations of various characters. What was the motivation for this?
Yeah, the horror thing kind of happened by accident. Having drawn in black and white for so many years the harsh shadows lend themselves to darker themes. There was a time when I couldn’t draw anything without making it look creepy. It was very frustrating. Despite this I have accepted that horror is what I am best at and what people that like my art love. I started doing the zombie portraits because my fiancées brother’s girlfriend loves most things Zombie related, we shared that in common, so I drew her a portrait, it caused a bit of a stir so I did a few of friends and some famous people and now I just keep it up. I enjoy it, they are nice and relaxing to draw despite the subject matter.
Another thing we notice is that your style seems to follow the impressionist style. Is there a particular artist from history you admire?
Yes there is. I love the paintings of William Turner. The mood in his pieces really gets me, also his obsession with the sea, waves and light. His work is truly beautiful and taught me a lot about how to use colour and mood in my pictures.
What about current artists?
Well like I say my work has been influenced by Mike Mignola and Frank Miller but I have to say that I tend to fall for work that is very different to my own. In recent years the work of my now pal James Stayte and the sexy high octane art of a UK based artist, Mark Pearce both really grab me. There are a lot of gems in the UK indie scene but these two are my favourites hands down. Their work baffles and inspires me on a daily basis.
Outside of the artistic world, where do you find the inspiration for your artwork?
I would say the biggest influences on my art are the films Leon, the original Dawn of the Dead and Jacob’s Ladder. All of them changed me, they are powerful and all have aspects within them that have influenced my work. Like most artists my work is shaped through my life experiences and my dreams too. A lot of my work and ideas come from dreams I have had. Whilst I love music, places and a huge plethora of nerdy things, aside from the fan art I do from time to time I wouldn’t say that they have influenced my art, but of course I appreciate it all the time.
What is your creative process like?
Whilst I used to try and be technical, now I just sit back and get into it. It’s like when you have had a bit to drink and lose a little of your focus, you sit content and happy but kind of not aware of what’s going on. Often I forget shapes and just focus on colour, my process is pretty sloppy; it would probably make a lot of trained illustrators wince.
Tell us a bit more about your comic ‘Royal’.
I came up with Royal when I was 11 and my sister was 8. I had seen Leon and became a tad obsessed with the idea of these super trained killers just being really bland and boring regular guys. Both myself and my sister invented some characters and the world grew and grew as did the characters’ stories. However unlike most kids we never let go and kept on working on it. Royal is set in England two-hundred years after a huge biochemical war has destroyed most of the world, a false monarchy reigns the country with an iron fist and the country is held together by a framework of corruption.
The first comic is about Royal’s most sought after hitman, called Pola. He is a monster, cold and with little morals but what makes his life worth living is his brother and their mutual friend Janet. The three of them are very dysfunctional but have formed a strong bond together. In Royal Three’s a Company Pola starts getting concerned that Janet hasn’t returned. Whilst this happens often due to her being a bit of a hussy and a drunk, he still cares about her. It soon becomes evident that she is in trouble and perhaps with forces unlike Pola has ever had to face before.
The whole story is self contained and the old version can be read on my blog for free along with a couple of short comics. Now it has sold out I am worked on getting it redone. I am going to spruce it up a bit and redo some of the art. After two years of being out I feel that I need to dedicate some time to the series and actually get more stories from that world out there.
What artwork are you most proud of?
My Lucky Kitty piece was one of my first digital paintings that I drew for my fiancée and I am very happy with it still to this day, it always makes me smile, but I think my favourite has to be The Nightmare. I really captured something horrible there and everyone that sees it seems to appreciate it.
In terms of recent pieces though I think Class has to be my favourite, it’s just fun.
What advice would you give a budding artist for establishing themselves in the convention scene?
I would say just go for it. Don’t be cocky though, some people seem to think it is their god-given right to have people appreciate and buy their art. Everyone can improve and not everyone is going to like what you do. Take critique well and no matter what don’t slack.
Talk to people, get to know other artists, network and trade tips. I wouldn’t have got where I am now if it wasn’t for so many wonderful people in the convention circuit.
Also a huge point is expect to make no money maybe even a loss at first. I have been very lucky and only made a loss once, I thankfully seem to do alright or well at every con, but a lot of artists and writers suffer. You can never predict what a con is going to be like even if you have been to it before. There are so many variables , people, the weather, celebs, the type of con, where you are placed, who you are next to, the list goes on.
But yeah don’t hesitate just go for it! Persistence is key.
What’s the next convention you will be attending this year?
Due to wedding planning and things I am very booked up but I shall be at the MCM in October so long as I manage to grab my table when they go on sale.
Finally, if you could ask the folks at Renegade one thing, what would it be?
I always have too many questions and I always talk to much. But I do have one. If you had to pick one person in your life who had been your biggest creative influence who would it be?
Holly: My biggest creative influence has been Peter Gabriel of Genesis fame. His psychedelic lyrics and off-kilter approach to the subject matter have influenced a lot of my fantasy writing.
Jojo: I guess I would say the late H.R Giger. He’s shown the darker side to creativity and has been a great contributor to the sci-fi and horror world.
Minxie: For me, I think it would have to be my friend Jill. Certainly from a writing standpoint!