Meet Niki Browning, Renderosity artist SkyeWolf. A fantasy artist residing in New England, she has been working in digital art for the past five years using primarily Poser, Vue, and Photoshop.
She is currently working as a freelance artist and is the Art Director and Principal Artist for Mundania Press, LLC, a small internet based publishing house specializing in the genres of fantasy, sci fi and the paranormal.
Her work has been seen in the book "Aphrodisia: The Art of the Female Form" from Aristata Publishing, at the Echo Gallery in Chicago, IL during their Sci Fi, Fantasy and Fetish show in Sept 2004, and most recently as the featured artist in the November 06 issue of Heavy Metal Magazine. She is also a regular exhibitor in the Art Show at DragonCon every year in Atlanta, GA
Aside from your bio, tell us a bit more about yourself.
More?? I live in Connecticut and have been working with digital art for about 5 years now. When I set out I wanted to be a web designer. I still design but only for personal use. I designed and coded my own site www.skyewolfimages.com. I am now the Art Director and chief artist for Mundania Press, LLC, a small internet based publishing house. I love to read and have been hooked on the science fiction and fantasy genres all my life. I grew up reading about the worlds of Anne McCaffrey, David Eddings, and Piers Anthony, so when I was presented with the opportunity to do covers for Piers through Mundania it was too good to pass up.
I've always been inspired by the works of artists such as Royo, Soryama, and Cleavanger as well as more contemporary ones like Michael Turner, Alex Ross, and Greg Horn. As I said, I am an avid reader and this extends to comic books as well. I love being able to see the story told out in the artwork. The best artists are able to tell a story without a single word.
My inspiration comes from a lot of sources I suppose, a random phrase or a fleeting glimpse of something. Sometimes things just pop into my head. A lot of the time I get images from song lyrics. I tend to listen to a lot of different styles of music when I'm working. It's all depending on my mood and the mood I'm trying to convey with my art. I tend to listen to everything from classical to thrash metal when I work.
Before Heavy Metal, I had my work published in the art book "Aphrodisia: The Art of the Female Form" (Aristata Publishing). That I think was my first big break. I submitted 6 pieces to a contest and two were selected:
"Something At My Window is Scratching"
That was quite a long span of time from when you submitted your artwork to Heavy Metal. What was your first reaction upon hearing the news?
Well, I submitted the piece, unsolicited, at the end of 2004 after having it and several other pieces accepted into the Sci Fi, Fantasy and Fetish Show at Echo Gallery in Chicago. Kevin Eastman was a sponsor so that kind of encouraged me to try my luck. Heavy Metal says it can take up to 6 months to hear back on unsolicited artwork submissions, but after a year went by I had pretty much written it off.
When I got the email from Debby Yanover, the Managing Editor, I almost fell out of my chair. Once I recovered from my shock I alternated between bouncing up and down and telling everyone I could get a hold of that I was going to have an image published in Heavy Metal Magazine. The image "Awaken" appears on the Table of Contents page in the November 06 issue.
What are you currently working on?
Well, as I said, I'm the Art Director for Mundania Press. I also still do covers for a couple small "romantica" e-publishers. I am attempting to get a tutorial on Book Cover Design ready for a featured chat I was invited to give at the end of the month. I have about three different projects going right now, including trying to make sure I have time to do my own thing to keep my muse happy.
How long have you been a member of Renderosity, and has Renderosity helped you in your work?
I've been a member of Renderosity since 2001. Most of my early renders, including the first I ever submitted, are still in my gallery here. I have to honestly say that Renderosity has been an immense help. It gave me people to look up to, goals to aspire to. As a matter of fact I found my first cover job right here in the Jobs Forum. Without Renderosity's free stuff and forums and galleries I don't think I'd be as far along as I am now. It always amazes me to go back and look at my gallery from back in the beginning. I remember seeing art here at Renderosity and thinking "I'll never do art like that". In a way I was right. As much as you strive to emulate other artists in the beginning, you inevitably develop your own style along the way.
Being a regular exhibitor at DragonCon, do you have anything to share on that experience?
I am a regular mail-in exhibitor. I haven't had the opportunity to actually attend yet. I did get quite a surprise this year. I had originally not intended to send anything in because I'd not really had anytime to do any new personal pieces. I was, however, successfully hounded and badgered by the Art Director at DC so that I wound up submitting some of the covers I'd done for Mundania to hang in the art show. I found out that my name was actually recognized among other people in the fantasy genre and that was quite a shock, to discover that people know who you are based on your body of work.
I did attend the World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention in Boston in 2004. It was my first convention, both attending and exhibiting, and I did quite well according to some of the regular artists. It was an amazing experience. I was lucky enough to be taken in tow by a more experienced artist who let me tag along on some pretty amazing adventures. I got to meet two of my idols in more personal settings than an autograph table. I was invited to a party in Michael Whalen's room where I met quite a few other famous artists such as Janey Wurtz and Don Maitz, Julie Bell and Frank Wu. I met and spoke with Colleen Doran in the dealer's room and bumped into and had a brief conversation with Neil Gaiman in the hotel lounge. I have to say that all of these experiences went a long way towards teaching me that all these people, while famous in their own right, are just regular people. They laugh, they watch B-movies, they get nervous, and they hate getting up early. They don't really want you to put them on a pedestal.
What do you feel is your most satisfying or favorite work?
That's always one of the hardest questions for me to answer. It's kind of like asking me which child is my favorite. I have many different favorites for many different reasons.
"Alis Volat Propriis" - (Latin for "She Flies With Her Own Wings") This one is a favorite because it's the first piece where I felt I actually painted something more than a "happy accident". Happy accidents are nice but it's so much more fulfilling when the image on the page in front of me matches the one inside my head.
"Alis Volat Propriis"
"A Study In Red" - This one is another one that's very close to what I set out to create. It's also quite technically sound and without a scrap of postwork except for the compositing. This is one of those pieces that I feel has a lot of visual impact and for that I'm quite pleased with it.
"A Study In Red"
"Aquamancer" - This is one of the first covers I did for Mundania Press. I was just really happy with the way it came out. The colors and the action, everything.
"Goddess for a New Millennium" - This is a "happy accident" that came out much better than ever anticipated. So well in fact that E-Frontier accepted it into their Sci Fi Gallery on their website. Sometimes you just have to take what your muse throws at you.
"Goddess for a New Millennium"
Do you have any advice to share with other artists?
I know it sounds kind of hokey but you really need to believe in yourself. It took me a long time (and a lot of pushing prodding poking and pulling by my husband) to think of myself as an artist. But you really have to in order to be one. I read an article once that said the first step to becoming an artist was to actually start calling yourself one. I know it sounds silly but it really works. It helps you to start believing in yourself. (And it sure sounds a lot better than "data entry" when someone asks, "What do you do?").
The other thing is, get yourself out there. Once I realized that I could really do this, I started sending out queries to every internet based publisher I could find. I would send out query letters asking if they were looking for cover artists and a link to my portfolio and website. If you want to get work as an artist and don't have a portfolio, get one. One of the hardest things I had to do was to create an artist's resume. I'd been in office work for so long I had no idea how to do it and it seemed so daunting at the time. But don't put it off. Do your research and put one together. You won't regret it.
Finding a job as an artist isn't like finding a job as a secretary. There aren't a lot of places to go looking for artist want ads. You have to sell yourself to everyone you can find because you never know where that break is going to come from. And never sell yourself short.
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Artist Accolades is now a regular monthly feature on the Front Page News, where Renderosity artists can share their accomplishments in the field. Have something to share? Contact Nick C. Sorbin with details.
October 23, 2006