Interview with Sci-fi/Fantasy Artist John Dotegowski

Today, I’m interviewing John Dotegowski.

Hi, John.

I want to welcome you to my website and introduce you to my fantasy reading audience.

Frosthammer Artwork by John Dotegowski

For those who don’t know, John Dotegowski is the artist for the phenomenal covers for Books 3 (Frosthammer) & 4 (Shadowfae) in the Aetheaon Chronicles. I’m incredibly impressed and overjoyed with those covers and want to ask some questions about your artistic process.

How early in life, did you know that you wanted to become an artist?

I’ve been drawing my entire life. I don’t remember when I haven’t actually. I’ve always wanted to be an artist and create images.

Did you keep drawing journals throughout the years?

Not really journals but I’ve got a lot of sketchbooks. I’ve tossed a few but not many.

What inspires you to paint?

Stories and books. I grew up reading almost only science fiction and fantasy books and I loved the covers. When I read, I saw the scene playing out in my head and I always wanted to try to capture it. Trying to capture a pivotal or emotional moment was the goal.

Do you have any mentors that have influenced you early on and/or even now?

My influences are pretty much the big ones in this field. Frazetta, Boris, Michael Whelan, Donato, the Hildebrants, Larry Elmore, Jeff Easley, Brom and many more.

What mediums do you work with?

For digital I use Photoshop and Painter and oil for traditional media.

Artwork by John Dotegowski

You’ve created some incredible digital illustrations and oil paintings, some of which are posted at your website: A lot of artists are producing more digital illustrations. I imagine the advantage digital has over acrylic or oil paints is the lack of mess or the need for a large studio. You mention that you’re starting to work with oil paints again. Which medium do you prefer: digital or oils? And why?

They both have advantages. Digital is great for freelance and commercial jobs. It’s faster and much, much easier to make changes to. If someone wants the size of a major figure changed you can just cut and paste it bigger, and then make the adjustments as needed. The same with color changes and so on. There is certainly is less mess and much less space needed as well. A computer and a tablet fit most anywhere. It’s also easier when getting a final image to a client. You just send them the file. Traditional media requires scanning or photographing the image, then correcting it and sending it off. Painting traditionally takes up more space and requires more forethought and planning. Once you start putting paint on canvas, changes are much more complicated to make. I think I prefer oil painting though because there’s nothing quite like seeing a physical, one of a kind painting in person. Enjoying the texture and the brush strokes. It’s not the same with a print of a digital image.

It fascinates me how artists can take a visual idea from their minds and paint pictures on canvases or produce digital art with such precision. How many years of drawing/sketching/painting before you reached the professional level?

I’m not sure I’m there yet… I’m still working at it. I have been constantly practicing and sketching and working towards getting better. I don’t think any image has ever been what I’ve thought from the beginning.

Describe your studio:

My computer and tablet are actually set on a table in the corner of my bedroom. I have some pictures on the walls and some miniature figures around. Kind of a nerdy setup, I’d say. My easel for oil painting is in the basement next to a work bench that is quite messy and covered with paint tubes and brushes, thinners and brush cleaner. It’s hard to have a setup for oil painting anyplace you want to keep clean.

Can you briefly describe your process from idea to finished project? What tools do you use?

I start out sketching ideas, sometimes on paper and sometimes on the computer. I’ll kind of get a basic idea of what I want and then I’ll look for some reference images. Sometimes these can give me more inspiration. Then I work towards a final rough making changes that I think are needed, whether they are to the values or the composition. Once I get what I want in place, I’ll then proceed to the final. If it’s digital, I’ll just start painting with color. If it’s oils, I’ll outline the picture and print it off the size of the canvas or illustration board. It’s printed on 8 ½ X 11 paper, so it usually means putting the paper together like a puzzle to get it right. Then I transfer the line work to the canvas and start painting in base colors and values and go from there.

How do you know when you’re finished with a piece?

I don’t know to be honest. I’ll just kind of get to a point where I realize it’s gotten to be the best that I can make it. I think I could probably keep working on one forever; always thinking that I could make something better, but it’s also easy to overwork and ruin something that way. I just have to kind of make a judgement call.

On your website, you have a tab that shows your murals. Since my grandson is four years old, the dinosaur mural intrigues me. What kind of timeline does that require?

Murals do take a while. The concept part can be any length of time but the painting for one the size of a wall is probably a good week or two of solid painting.

Will you be attending any sci-fi/fantasy conventions this year?

I will be in the showcase at Illuxcon in Reading, PA, this October. So far that’s it. I’m hoping that next year I’ll be able to make a few more. Scheduling with the day job can get in the way.

What do you enjoy most about being an artist?

Creating. I like having something in my head that I can bring to a reality on one way or another. Or being able to bring someone else’s vision to life. Also, when someone looks at something I created and likes it very much. Sometimes they see something personal to them and it touches them and it’s a powerful thing to be a part of.

What painting are you the most proud of?

I have a few, but I think the one I like most of all is “Chat with a Moon Dragon”. It’s one of my biggest at 24” X 36”. It took about 60 hours of painting time and I think the color and mood all came together just right.

That’s an impressive piece.

What’s the most challenging aspect in creating a painting?

Trying to capture the vision in my head. I have an idea and sometimes it’s difficult to get all that’s inside my brain realized in a two-dimensional image.

As an artist, what do you consider success?

I guess creating things that people appreciate. Being able bring to life something from imagination and having people happy with my work is wonderful. Of course, if my painting sold for millions of dollars that wouldn’t hurt…

With your talent, such isn’t impossible.

Thank you for taking the time to respond to these questions. I wish you much continued success. Readers, please take the time to check out John’s other great artwork at his website: 

Until next time ….

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