Meet Renderosity Artist Mike Fyles [Mikeall]

July 11, 2010 11:06 pm

Tags: 2D, 3D, Artist Interview, comics, Corel, mikeall, Photoshop, Poser, Vue

file_455806.jpgMeet Renderosity Artist Mike Fyles [Mikeall]

Renderosity artist, Mike Fyles (known here as Mikeall), showcases a wonderful collection of his amazing illustrative projects in his Renderosity gallery. On having work commisioned by Marvel for the Iron Man Noir comics series, I got to talk a little with Mike about this, as well as finding out more about him and his work.

From Mike's Renderosity Homepage:

"I have always liked illustration and tend to produce it either as Cover Art or Sequential imagery. The former is probably the more challenging because of the balance that needs to be struck between form and content, decoration and narrative. Cover Art, like the short story, gets a limited shot at indicating what lies beneath the cover."

"Stylistically, I'm keen on the commercial illustration of the mid 20th Century that was made to promote 'fringe' books (which includes childrens's annuals), magazines and comics. There is so much creativity and artistic competence to found on the covers and within the pages of even the most mundane examples."

I also asked Mike to pick out some of his favorite works from his gallery, which are pictured throughout this article, including a bit of info about each.

Who is "Mikeall"?

My name is Mike Fyles. I'm 55 years old and live in North Staffordshire, right in the middle of the UK. I work in Education.

What might we find you doing outside of creating art?

My working week (four days) consists of providing academic support to students studying A-level subjects in a local college. Generally, the students seek tuition (one to one/sometimes groups) for clarification and further practice in the tasks and activities representative of their level of study. Specifically, it often means, cultivating the judgement, and confidence, that makes it possible for them to start teaching themselves. It also means that I get to explore, with the students, the 'craft' of writing, which I like a great deal – particularly how to build exposition and argument.

Outside of work I can be found reading, watching old films, browsing second hand books, swimming, and this time of year, watching and playing cricket. My reading is pretty eclectic, largely because of how everything always seems to connect/reconnect in some way. So, recently reading a book on the siege of the Mediterranean Island of Malta in the Second World War connects with a story in a 1950's Boy's Adventure Annual collected from a local Market, along with a book I bought at the same time about Lord Byron's love of swimming open water in the Mediterranean, which in turn, rekindled my interest in Johnny Weissmuller, Tarzan Films, and Adventure Serials, which started me thinking of a picture, which begins a bit of research, which leads to a visit to…etc. Why I like cricket will take too long to explain, but let's just say a five day game in which players and spectators stop for lunch and tea every day is quite unique!

The Most Dangerous Game - What comes of watching the 1932 film version of the short story by Richard Connell a few weeks ago. Liked it so much have considered illustrating the whole story. Poser scene render worked up in PS with text. Daz Mike 2 and 3, Victoria 3, and Millenium DogLE used as models.

How and when did you get your start in digital art?

I started using a digital toolset about six years ago. It consisted then of Poser 3, which I bought largely to see how it might help in the composition of pictures. It had always been difficult asking friends to wear sheets as capes, and hold broomsticks for spears.

Any traditional art experience/training?

I liked to draw as a child and got better at it copying the pictures I saw in the new wave of Marvel and DC comics that arrived in our local sweetshop back in the 70s. When I finally wanted to refine my technique at art school the prevailing trend was conceptual. I therefore had no choice but to continue to teach myself. The high point with oil paints and canvass was trying to paint prize winning cattle, horses, and pigs, at local agricultural shows. My fondness for traditional methods is obviously evident in how I use digital tools, not just in terms of surface emulation but also because of how they continue to inform the digital process of composition, design, and workflow.

In many ways the improvements to workflow (and their effects on costs) have made it possible for a return to illustration as the default choice for popular magazines and books.

Space feature for Magazine - An 'as if' weekly feature for the kind of magazine children could buy in the 1960/70's. Another Project X - but then there were so many! Poser for posing, Vue for scene render, and Photoshop for 'painting' emulatuion.

What do you have in your digital toolset?

At present I use Poser 6, Vue 5, Adobe Photoshop, and Corel Painter. Poser and Vue provide the means to experiment with figure and scene composition. Photoshop and Corel provide the canvas for digital manipulation and painting.

Pulp Cover (CX) - Another interpretation of Jay Piscopo's online character Commander X ( He seems well suited to 'pulping'! M3 and V3 postworked as if 'original artwork' reproduced for pulp digest cover.

Is the Poser/Vue to Photoshop/Painter a constant workflow in your works? How do you use Photoshop and Painter, or moreover, what is it that you like in each of these programs in your work?

It tends to be the preferred option, although I do add sketching/drawing/scanning into the process when necessary. I use Poser/Vue mainly to set up scenes/scenarios, just like a stage director/architect might have used actual scale models for visualisation. I like to experiment with viewpoints and lighting, and both applications provide this function as basic given. In all honesty I don't really need many of the higher functions they have grown to incorporate over the years – most of which are devoted to the ever elusive search for 'realistic' verisimilitude.

I rarely have a clear 'picture' in my head, just ideas, and I enjoy having alternatives to consider and compare. The result of this process is always a 'rendered' image that is either used as a reference for traditional painting or has been optimised for Photoshop in someway. If it is the latter, I have usually 'tweaked' Poser/Vue's lighting to flatten spatial effects; materials to represent basic colour and textures; and chosen a sensible pixel resolution to work with. The aim is to generate an image that will function something like an 'under painting' in traditional work, where the basic elements of the picture are available and can be refined.

Cover Art (Rain Sacrifice) - Reworked idea for pretend cover commission. Poser to Photoshop. Postwork to contextualise the render within the booklet format.

Among the available options for digital editing I choose Photoshop because of familiarity and the obvious value it has as an industry standard. The 'painting' I embark on in Photoshop is the result of a fairly intuitive use of it's basic tools and usually involves adjustments of colour, tone, brightness and contrast, some use of masking, some blending using layer options, some use of filters (but I find them a little crude) smudging and painting with preferred brush types, and the usual standing back and squinting!

It is stating the obvious but Photoshop provides a speed and various levels of correction that cannot be achieved traditionally, and I enjoy how that can contribute to my 'creativity' and anything I choose to do commercially. It is only recently that I have begun to experiment with Painter, especially the blending tools, but I intend to persevere with the other elements it offers too.

Space Cadets - Aimed at a younger audience this time - who by now are certainly eligible for their free bus pass! The original Victoria x3 (with Geodesic Ray Guns) and the Daz Creeper x3 rendered to Photoshop.

Using the workflow you do, are there any tips you would be willing to share share, whether software specific, or otherwise?

If anyone has any particular questions they would like to ask I'll do my best to answer them. There are two things I keep coming back to with Poser: first, it is ok to break the rules of the 3D space offered to you by 3D programmes. I'm constantly moving figures and objects in a scene beyond where they would be in 'real' world space to get something extra into the composition. Secondly, if you want a particular pose/gesture for a figure, I always find it useful to try doing it myself (with a mirror if necessary). I know animators are always doing this, and a lot of old school commercial illustrators favoured the Polaroid for reference.

Double page Illustration (Sub) - Poser render reworked as fictious 'L&L' magazine illustration. Have been meaning to celebrate Anthony Appleyard's models (and passion) for a long time - a big thankyou!

We are all so happy to hear the great news that you now have commissioned works with Marvel. Your perseverance certainly paid off. Can you tell us how Marvel took notice of your work?

Post in online galleries and begin collaborating on projects with people who share some of your interests. In my case there is a basic causal connection between the following: Renderosity, Runtimedna, and Animotions and all the people I have met there; a very talented and kindly artist called Jay Piscopo who lives in Maine, USA; Ron Fortier and Rob Davies of Airship 27; The Green Lama; FaceBook; Jim Kruger; Editor Joe Quesada, sub editor Jeanine Schaefer, and sub editor Stephen Whacker, at Marvel. As far as I can gather Joe Q, as he is called by his editors, thought I could bring something to the 'Noir Series'. So there was a coincidence of interests there as well.

Double Page IIlustration (Regency) - From a sketch made in a library of a picture in a book on famous military encounters - minus the creature of course! Basic Vue set up and render painted-up in Photoshop. M3RRs (with a combination of Poserworl and PoserStyle clothes), and a Poser Horse and a Dreampaint 'smongler'. All mocked-up 'Look and Learn' style.

Looking at your gallery here on Renderosity, I see the original Iron Man Noir idea you had and the sketch that Marvel liked. Can you tell us anything about how that decision was made?

I tend to be very enthusiastic with projects and probably, as they say, 'jump the gun ', a little. The idea of Iron Man Noir was put to me in terms of characters, setting and basic narrative. I was waiting on the pictorial references associated with the interior artwork for more detail, but I wanted to start some ideas off. I like to do a little characterisation as preparation for a picture, and even sent Marvel what was posted in my gallery here. I was a little off the mark in terms of their conception, but they really liked the image of the character wedged between two buildings as a starting point for the cover. What followed was a better approximation of the character, once I knew how he should look, and some discussion on colour and background (and stylised moonlight!).

Iron Man Noir Cover Concept - The cover composition Marvel went with. This one with a character used in previous post (see Rocket Men). That was my take on an Iron Man Noir before Marvel sent over their concept sketch.
Iron Man Noir - This time Cover Art produced for a real physical object - which hit the news stand fairly recently. This one will have to age in it's own time!

Who inspires you in your work? Any particular artists you admire, whether here on Renderosity, or elsewhere?

I'm really interested in the processes of picture making, especially when the maker has to relate to the needs of storytelling. This is a broad area, but I do have a soft spot for the commercial illustration of the mid 20th Century that was made to promote 'popular' fiction and non fiction (especially childrens's annuals, pulp magazines, paperbacks and comics). There is so much creativity and artistic competence to be found on the covers and within the pages of even the most mundane examples.

There are too many specific examples to list here, but to give you an idea, I am looking at the work of Joseph Clement Coll – some 'moody' black and white illustrations produced for Colliers Magazine to accompany a serialised 'Fu ManChu' by Sax Rohmer. I love how the fine pen lines with spot blacks evoke the spatial dimension of his compositions. And I'm looking at Frank Bellamy's 'Heros the Spartan' serialised in the Eagle here in Britain in the mid 60's – very dramatic graphically, and spread across the centre pages of a tabloid sized comic.

Comic Cover Art (Ant Man) - Another cover for a pretend comic book - not available on ebay. Always had a soft spot for the Antman. Credits to Daz's Victoria 1 and Mike 1. Stefan Leng's Gnom the Stone Elemental - poses great! BillyBob's AntMan props and mat.

You've been a member here on Renderosity since March of 2005. How did you find Renderosity, and what can you say of your experience here?

Joining Renderosity was literally the start of my online experience as a whole – and I'm sure it couldn't have been any better elsewhere. I've made friends, received support and advice, and been given a great deal of encouragement. The free-stuff (contributors) and forums get you off to such a good start as a beginner. The galleries have a good atmosphere about them, and the marketplace offers very good quality. I always recommend it to people who are considering posting their first creations online.

Page Illustration (Indians) - An illustration for a unfinshed idea (New World). Poser Horse, Sharky's Headwear, and 'The Colonist's Complex' at Vanishing Point.

Update: Since my initial talk with Mike, he is now enjoying publication with The Green Lama - Unbound. Written by Adam Lance Garcia, with cover and illustrations by Mike Fyles, the paperback has been recently published by Cornerstone Book Publishers. Congrats, Mike!

3 Promotional Bookmarks in circulation from New York comic shops.
The full-length novel, Green Lama: Unbound, written by Adam L. Garcia, with cover and interior art by Mike Fyles recently released by Airship 27 Productions and Cornerstone Book Publishers. The novel continues the story-lines established in "Shiva Endangered" and "Horror in Clay" and will pit the Green Lama against Cthulhu, as well as feature -- for the first time ever -- details of Dumont's ten years in Tibet

We invite you to visit:

Nick C. Sorbin is a digital artist, sculptor, writer, and Managing Editor for Renderosity's Front Page News.
Renderosity Homepage


August 9, 2010

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Article Comments

already_taken ( posted at 10:04PM Tue, 10 August 2010

This is an interesting and enjoyable interview. I also liked the selection of artwork. A quote that caught my attention: "In many ways the improvements to workflow (and their effects on costs) have made it possible for a return to illustration as the default choice for popular magazines and books." I hadn't realized this, but I think its a positive development, not just for illustrators, but also for those of us who love illustration.

zboyi ( posted at 1:21PM Wed, 11 August 2010

Excellent insight Mike and good luck with 'The Green Lama'!

wickedmisfit ( posted at 2:36PM Wed, 11 August 2010

I like how he very simply gets the point across with soft colors and just shapes everything out and brings it to life. very realistic end result. very talented guy.

MarkHirst ( posted at 2:42PM Wed, 11 August 2010

I've followed Mike's artwork for years, so it's thrilling to see his work being recognised like this. Great interview, very informative.

gsayers ( posted at 12:23AM Thu, 12 August 2010

Very nice introduction to Mike's work for those who haven't seen it here before. He is one of those artists I admire who doesn't let the digital tools get in the way of the message he wants to convey. And he's not spoofing covers anymore - he's making real ones!

tiff666 ( posted at 3:23AM Thu, 12 August 2010

Truly a fantastic artist! Love that old school style!!!

duo ( posted at 2:17PM Mon, 16 August 2010

Mike Fyles (a.k.a. Mikeall) for me is one of the most original 3D artist that I know. I've followed him for years here on Rederosity and I really love all his works.

arlivre ( posted at 3:29AM Sat, 21 August 2010

Fantastic artwork and a great interview !

mmitchell_houston ( posted at 5:12PM Wed, 20 November 2013

I can't believe it took me this long to get around to reading this interview. Mike is one of the best artists on Renderosity. His work is wonderfully refreshing as it brings something new to something old. In other words, it's really a fresh take on old-school pulp artwork. I've been a fan for years and I'm excited to watch his work branch out of the digital world into the physical. I think he's got a great career ahead of him.