An artist with a flair for entrancing fantasy work and intricately detailed scenes, Sandara has captivated tens of thousands of viewers with her stunning art pieces. With a strong focus on fantasy artwork that is executed beautifully, it’s hard to not be impressed by her skill and craftsmanship in creating dragons, creatures of myth and lore, noble warriors, and much more.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Sandara. What have you been doing lately in the art world? Are you working on any new projects you can tell us about?
Currently I am teaching digital painting at Digipen Singapore. I am also working on a new project for a large studio, but I’m afraid I can’t give out any details about it until the product is launched.
Clearly you are inspired by fantasy fiction, myths and legends – who would you credit as being your main artistic inspirations?
I don’t have any one artist that I’m a big fan of, but Daarken and Kekai Kotaki are two of my favorite artists.
You have a wonderful painterly style, it’s soft yet detailed, stylised, but aslo leaning towards realism at times. How would you describe your average workflow when creating art? Do you start with a sketch, or do you just start painting?
I usually start with a sketch. However I am a rather messy person and it shows in my workflow. My sketch is never clean, it’s usually quite rough. You don’t see it because I usually paint over the sketch lines eventually. When painting, I will block out the main shadows and highlights and get all the color and lighting right before I start detailing. I will just flatten my layers as I go along, since I tend to use many layers and it gets messy.
At what stage in your life did art become a passion? What are the earliest memories you have of creating artwork?
I have always enjoyed painting and drawing even as a child. My earliest memory of drawing was when I was about 4 or 5. Art has always been a passion for me. It started as a hobby, but I am thankful that I am able to make a career out of it.
What kind of artistic education do you have? Were you a self starter, or did you have formal training?
I have formal training in traditional watercolors, but my digital painting was self-taught.
Would you be able to share with our readers one of your greatest tips or tricks to digital painting?
Oh dear… This is hard. There isn’t really an easy way to learning to paint well. It’s just practice and more practice. Foundational stuff like basic colors and anatomy are important. It helps to see other artists’ workflow and tutorials, so you can pick up some small tricks here and there. I would say a helpful tip would be to visualize as well as you can, in your mind, your image before you start painting. It helps a lot if you can “see” your completed painting in your mind.
If anything, your dramatic and awe-inspiring compositions bring depth to your work – how do you use composition to get your message across?
For me, composition is used to pull the viewer’s attention to the focal part of the illustration. So when painting, I will decide what is the most important part of my drawing and plan the composition accordingly.
When you realized you were at a higher skill level that was commercially viable, how easy or difficult was it for you to find a way to make a living from your artwork?
There never really was a point where I say to myself that I am at a high enough skill level. Sometimes I still feel surprised when I get contacted for freelance. It was not easy at first, definitely I needed a day job just to get by! But after I built up my portfolio and skills, I have to say it is much easier now. (Though I still have my day job)
What are your primary tools when creating your artwork, and do you have any tips for speeding up the painting process?
I use Photoshop CS5 and my Wacom intuos 4 tablet. Practice will help train your speed. The more you draw, the faster you will get. Of course your personal style will affect the time taken. If lets say I had a very loose and sketchy style, it will definitely take me less time to complete an illustration than if I had a style that is extremely detailed.
What good advice do you have for artists just starting out, and those who are trying to break into the art industry, particularly in terms of fantasy illustration?
For those just starting out, practice is the key. I have been drawing almost every day for years. For those trying to break into the art industry; know what you are applying for and adjust your portfolio accordingly. Every studio has their house style and it would help greatly if you can match their style. Note that it is style, not fan art of that studio’s characters. For example, if you were applying to illustrate for Fantasy Flight Games or WotC, you wouldn’t put manga or anime styled illustrations in your portfolio to show them, since they don’t do that style. You should look at their products and see what kind of art they need. However, studios also like to see your personal style, especially if you’re applying for a full time position. So not only should you be able to match their house style, you should show your individuality (your personal style) in some of the pieces in your portfolio.
What is it like teaching students, and what challenges are there in training others in art?
It is mostly fun. It’s great to see the students improve as the semesters go by.
What are your views on using references to create art? What are the advantages and disadvantages for you?
I will use references for things I am unaccustomed to drawing or things that I am not quite sure of how they look. Anatomy, or mechanical things (which I am bad at) are some examples. They are references only, I don’t really recommend copying directly from your reference, unless it is for practice.
There are more and more people engaging in digital art – what are your thoughts on the future of the art industry?
It’s definitely great that more people are getting involved in digital art!
When you’re having a creative block, what are some ways you use to inspire yourself to carry on creating?
When I have a block on my personal art, I will just switch to my freelance or paid work. I never get art block on those since the clients are very clear on what they want. After working, I will usually be very glad to get back to my personal art. Taking a couple of days break could be helpful too.
Thanks you for your time Sandara, it’s been a pleasure!
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