This month we welcome cover artist Quentin Castel to the fold. Castel’s imaginative talents range from mystical landscapes to fascinating characters and creatures within horror and dark fantasy settings. With interests in working for video game companies and creating original sci-fi stories, Castel’s work offers a magnificent view of fantasy and science fiction that is perfect for Apex Magazine.
APEX MAGAZINE: “Lady Galaxy” seems like a serene piece, yet the conflict between massive and small, organic and mystical, even youth versus older age, is apparent. How do your beliefs about the scene or your original ideas match up with viewer feedback? Have you found different interpretations of the piece than you would have expected?
QUENTIN CASTEL: This is a really good question, because I am still asking myself how this work had such popularity. Actually, this piece comes from a series of mine I called “Twisted Beauties.” The aim of the series is to combine contemporary ideals and their opposite, by taking references from both (male or female) models and human deformity. For instance, I made Lady Galaxy’s planet head in reference of the starchild skull syndrome. I think space is something that makes people serene, but can scare them too, and the viewers’ reactions have been varied, some focused on the beauty and others on the twisted part.
AM: On your DeviantArt page, you describe the guidelines you use for those who want to commission a piece of new art. How has the experience of commissions changed how you work? Do people usually know exactly what they want, or do they rely more on your expertise and style?
QC: It depends on the commissioner. Sometimes, they give me a lot of freedom. This is very enjoyable for me, since I can appropriate the idea completely. Some other times, they would be very demanding about want they want, so I have to deal with modifications and I have to restrain myself. It is harder for me but very instructive. Most of the time, people already know what they want and they give me a brief that describes quite precisely their idea.
AM: You offer a free tutorial download of your piece “Poveglia Ghost,” including all of the layers in an Adobe Photoshop document, on your DeviantArt page. As a digital artist myself, I go back and forth between single layer digital paintings and images with hundreds of layers (all of which are named “Layer”). Does the ability to use multiple layers become a burden as you work further into an image, or do those layers allow a flexibility that traditional art might not be able to match?
QC: For me it is a real opportunity to be able to modify pretty much anything that I want all along my process. But too many layers can also become a problem. I have to admit it happens to me and I end up with a messy Photoshop file. I try to merge them as often as I can, especially with simple pictures (like when I just paint a character with a gray background). When it gets overloaded I make sure all of the layers have a specific name so I don’t get lost. But sometimes I don’t! Haha!
AM: History features strongly in images like your “Royal Dolphin” piece, and the work reminds me James Gurney’s book Imaginative Realism. Gurney walks through one of his paintings for National Geographic Magazine of a naval battle, and corrections by the magazine’s staff for inaccuracies. Did you face that same challenge with your historical works, and if so how did you work through bringing accuracy to the historical representations?
QC: It’s quite funny you compare this work to James Gurney’s because I was actually reading his book at the time I painted that piece. He’s one of my big inspirations and Imaginative Realism (along with Color and Light, also by Gurney) helped me improve my technique a lot. “Royal Dolphin” was a piece I did for a video game project (by Studio Nyx, France) and it had to be an entertaining piece. Actually, I had to give up on some realistic aspects to make the piece more epic. I still had to do some specific research into archives and museums along with the studio’s team to get the feel of this age.
AM: Your galleries seemed to be balanced between character art and environmental works, or combinations of the two. Do you have a preference? Does that preference change with personal work versus client work?
QC: I do prefer characters. Actually, I draw characters, or scenery with storytelling involving characters, every time I can do something personal. I like environmental works too but it doesn’t inspire me as much as characters. Most of the time my commissioners on DeviantArt ask me for character artworks, but I plan on doing more environments from now on, to try and really be a part of the video games’ pipelines.
AM: Thank you to Quentin Castel for his insightful answers, and to see more of his work visit his ArtStation portfolio at https://www.artstation.com/artist/quentincastel.