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Bobby Chiu is an independent artist from Toronto, Canada. He started his career at the age of 17 designing officially licensed toys for companies such as Disney and Pixar. Today, he runs Imaginism Studios and has clients in the movie industry, publishing and web media. He also teaches digital arts and has written many tutorials and articles on the subject. Bobby Chiu’s work is known worldwide and he is recognized as one of the most talented digital artists of our times.
IT’S ART: Can you tell us more about your evolution in digital art and how and why you started using these tools to express yourself?
Bobby Chiu: I started out using traditional mediums and methods. When I experimented a bit with Illustrator and Photoshop 3 I quickly realized that "digital" will be the way to go in the near future. With digital art there is no need to buy paint or canvases and you can take your art with you to work on almost anywhere. You can't do that using traditional materials.
IA: What was the major difference for you when using these new tools rather than traditional art tools?
BC: The main difference is definitely the speed and the time you save. With traditional mediums, oils, acrylics, chalks and watercolor, everything always took so long for completely non-creative reasons. For example, you have to wait for paint to dry. With digital art, I can paint as quickly as I can think. I'm no longer slowed down by physical laws that I cannot control. I can finally express my ideas instantly.
IA: Do you think your way of conceiving artwork has change with the evolution of the technology?
BC: Yes, definitely. I'm always looking for new ways to do things, always asking myself how can these new functions or computer power help me evolve my art? It would be foolish to learn only the basics in digital art and not progress as the technology evolves. Just as artists demand more from existing technology, new technologies also require more from the artist. It's a never-ending cycle and you have to keep up.
IA: What tools do you use today?
BC: I mainly use Sketchbook Pro, Photoshop and Painter.
IA: What is the most valuable lesson you think should be taught in digital painting?
BC: The most important thing is to teach people how to relate the functions in the programs to the common processes of traditional art. Digital art programs are a TOOLthey can only be used effectively if you know what you want to accomplish and how to accomplish it. If you have poor traditional art skills, doing your art digitally won't help you. It's not magic.
IA: Is this much different than what you write books?
BC: No, not really. The tutorials and articles in my books are based on the same techniques I teach in college.
IA: Can you speak about your personal work?
BC: As with all artists, I think my work has gone through a number of phases but for the most part, I try to keep my work fun and positive. Even some of my works, such as "My Red Bike," which may have a slightly menacing undertone to it, also contains lighter and humorous elements.
My personal works are like my diary. I can look back at them and remember how I was feeling on a particular day or what kind of style I was into at the time.
IA: Can you describe to our readers your creative process?
BC: This is a pretty broad topic and often varies from piece to piece. However, I can say that even though I use many different styles and processes in my works, they are all based on traditional methods. When I have an idea I draw out some thumbnails to experiment with composition and then I do rough drafts, followed by rough colors and finally the finished look.
IA: Your work is sometimes compared to caricature or cartoon. Is this a comparison that you would agree with?
BC: I love animation and children's illustrations; they've influenced my art quite a bit. I'm very interested in playing with stylized shapes, which is of course a lot of what caricaturing and cartooning is.
IA: Humor seems to be always present in your work, and you give this feeling to your artwork with a very subtle touch. What’s your secret?
BC: I believe that artists do their best works when they do what comes most naturally to them. I guess I'm just naturally drawn to paintings that anyone of any age or from any culture will be able to understand. I like looking at funny positive images much more than at dark negative images, so that's what I paint.