An Interview With An ArtRage Artist
Lothar Zhou is a multidisciplinary artist who specialises in fantasy and historical scenery. He is currently a lecturer on gaming art, and has worked as a professional artist for a number of major companies.
Who are you? What do you want the internet to know about you?
ArtRage Editions: ArtRage 4.0
Platforms: Windows 8
My name is Lothar Zhou, currently I am working at Norwich University of the Arts as a lecturer, teaching 3D and 2D art for various game platforms. In over 30 years I trained myself in traditional and digital art, specializing in sketch, painting, and engraving style drawing. I also have 12 years’ experience in the games industry as a senior artist, worked for Crytek, EA, Ubisoft, Creative Assembly, IO Interactive and Lionhead in 5 different countries.
I am also researching fine art to link the traditional artistic approach to our course to enhance students’ game concept art skills. Travelling around the world and drawing are the most exciting parts of my life.
What kind of artist are you? (how would you describe your style and niche?)
I consider myself a cross-discipline artist, as I not only work with traditional and digital medium but also have long experience in 3D modelling and texturing within the games industry. Historical and romantic fantasy subjects are my favorite subjects when it comes to digital work. I take a fair amount of time to research and paint war related scenes, and most of my works are narrative driven, normally combining characters within an environment with strong mood and atmosphere.
Apart from digital works I spend all my time travelling and drawing on location and landscape. My pen and sketch pad had been my faithful companion for decades, and I found it’s hugely beneficial to have many sketches in different continents, they sometimes provided valuable first hand references for my imaginative digital works.
Do you come from a digital or traditional art background?
I have always been a traditional artist and you can clearly see the influence of traditional style in my digital paintings. I started to draw when I was only 4 and later I went to University to study fine art and interior design. I am also a keen hobbyist photographer.
Do you use other programs or traditional media?
I use mostly pen and black ink for my on-location drawings, and use Photoshop and Painter to teach concept visualization in the University. I sometimes also paint with watercolour, and did lots of oil studies when I was younger.
How long have you been using ArtRage?
The first time I tried ArtRage was back in 2006 and recently I use ArtRage exclusively for my works.
How did you come across the program?
One of my colleagues at IO Interactive in Denmark introduced it to me and I fell in love with it ever since.
What ArtRage works or projects are you most proud of?
There are a few paintings that I like the most, but the medieval port which I painted exclusively with ArtRage is my favorite so far. It’s a commission painting completely based on imagination without references provided by the client. I think I depicted the hot weather and heat of the sun from a busy Moroccan port very well. With all the stalls and crowds, the atmosphere felt intense.
Also, as you might notice, I have changed the design and composition in my final painting, adding a mosque in the distance to replace the large bulk.
Why do you use ArtRage?
For me it’s the right tool for the right course, since the first time I touched it I immediately fell in love with it. I came from traditional art background, using oil, watercolour and pastel for painting when I was at University, and I sorely missed the feelings and looks of those traditional medium until I found ArtRage, which gave me creativity and freedom again in painting. Put it this way, to lay down and block out colours is really a pleasant and enjoyable process.
Where does ArtRage fit into your workflow?
ArtRage fit my style and workflow perfectly well, since I don’t have the habit of using millions of layers. The simplicity of the tools and user interface is great, the greater part of my paintings were done in ArtRage with a bit of adjustment in Photoshop.
What are your favourite ArtRage features?
Oil brush, colour blending and Knife tool, I always say that with these tools you don’t really need anything else, again the simplicity is just what I am looking for. Also I love the navigation and movement of the canvas, very smooth and easy to handle.
I guess same as some other artists, I don’t use glitter tube and gloop pen that much, and they are there for a reason but not ideal for my type of work.
Do you have any tips for other artists who might want to do the same thing as you?
I have already been talking to some artists on different forums, some of them kept asking what sort of brush I used for my works. I just told them to try ArtRage as it’s all I use to produce my painting work. A solid traditional art foundation is still the key for a good painting rather than the tools. Research and reference gathering should be an important part of the learning process as well.
Any ArtRage specific tips?
Artrage is unlike other painting program, if an artist tries to achieve the traditional oil painting look, the fewer layers the better, not only does the canvas respond quicker but more importantly the oil brush blends so much better and the knife tool makes better textures on colours also. But again you need to be more brave to work with few layers and lots of practice is the key.
Is ArtRage suited to professional artwork?
Without a doubt, I have been using Artrage for many of my professional works already.
You can view more of Lothar Zhou’s work at www.lotharzhouart.com