According to his bio ‘PoltArt also known is Aleksandr Poltavskiy is a freelance illustrator located in Meridian, ID. He has been doodling his entire life but decided to try it on a serious level about seven years ago.’ What I dig about Alex`s work is that it marries old-school thrash and hardcore designs with a the more urban vibe of skateboard graphics. The work is bold, it stands out and each piece definitely has PoltArt`s unique stamp on it.
What inspired you to first start drawing? Did you struggle in your formative years or did it come easy to you?
Everything inspired me honestly. I was drawing ever since I can remember, when I was younger I had a friend who had a huge collection of comic books, I loved those covers! At the same time while growing up I played a lot of video games such as Atari, Nintendo (The original), Sega Genesis and such. So all of those video games and their covers really made me want to draw since I loved how colorful they all were.
As far as struggling goes, I did struggle a lot at first. Posting in non art forums can be very difficult. I remember one time I did some Grand Theft Auto fan art and showed it off and people just bashed it and laughed how my hands looked like penises. So I did have a rough start, but not quitting really helped me improve. And always looking at inspiration and reference did a whole lot as well!
First professional work (piece / year) and maybe a quick story behind it.
I am not sure if we are going with first art sold or actually a professional level illustration so I will go with the second one. I think in 09 I actually got a chance to do stuff for the band Lamb of God. I did a few designs for them but the one that was chosen was a girls T-shirt design. I was still very excited about it and the interesting part was that this design was a random one. On others I tried very hard to think of complex concepts, on this one I threw together random things I doodled and surprisingly it turned out nicely!
Were you self-taught or formally educated? (or mixture of both, mentors etc…)
I was all self taught. I actually went to art school one day and one day only. When I got there the teacher told us to draw what we wanted so I thought of drawing a sadistic voodoo doll. Apparently when you are 12 years old you are not allowed to draw that so they just told me how I can’t draw things like that. This quickly took away any interest I had in art school.
Tools of the trade: Taking a quick glance over at your pens, brushes etc…what tools have you mainly been using over the last few years?
Over the years I really evolved with my work. In the past I would draw a sketch on paper then scan it over and ink it using the pen tool in Photoshop and go forth. Then I started inking using the brush tool when I got better with a tablet. Now days I start with a sketch digitally, and ink digitally. I have tried to ink on paper and scan it and color that but I could never get my lines as crisp as I would like them to be, so I just stick with digital inking.
How has your toolbox evolved compared to when you first started out?
Well over the years it got a lot smaller heh. I still do have pens I ink with when I care to do something on paper alone, but for most part everything I ink is digitally.
Favorite brand of ink:
When inking on paper I tried various companies and the one I like the most is the Faber-Castell Indian Ink pens.
Type of paper:
I always liked standard computer paper, it’s just perfect the way it is for me. Cardstock is also very nice, especially when working with color markers that bleed through typical paper.
Which artists or creators do you return to for a quick boost of inspiration? Who are the masters of ink?
A lot of the time I go to the conceptart community. A lot of high end professional artists go there and it is a very overwhelming place even with inspiration. I only try to look for it every once in a while because I feel the more I look at someone’s work the more I kind of start leaning to his or her style, and that is definitely something I want to avoid. As far as masters of Ink I don’t really have any names that I know of. One of the artists I always loved ever since I saw his work in a book was Albert Durer, he puts so much detail into his inked pieces!
Once a client has handed off an illustration job to you, how do you first tackle the job. Could you give us a quick overview of your process?
Usually I start doing research on the client if I hadn’t beforehand. I find exactly what this person is into and try to create something that would work for those interests. I always do a sketch or two first and submit it while explaining to them that the sketch is a rough idea of placement rather than accurate details of the art so they know it will look completely different and better once I attack it completely. After I get the sketch approved I begin to ink the piece. Sometimes I color a little while inking that way I can get some colors thrown on and plan how I am going to color what. I continue that proves until the illustration is done. I typically try to keep the client updated the entire time to make sure they are still good with the art and they don’t want any changes yet. Because if I finish then they decide they want the hand to be a little bigger I have to re-work a lot of colors!
How have digital tools affected your creative process over the past few years?
I love digital tools a lot! Having to work with a tablet is awesome; over the years trying various applications also helped me find something I am comfortable with. About a year ago I also purchased a wacom cintiq tablet, and that made life so much easier. I am able to now do a lot more details in my work, and have it look very crisp at the same time.
What would be your best and worst professional experience?
My best work experience would definitely be when I had a single client buy over 5 designs I have done in the past all in one day. That was definitely a wonderful day. On the other hand my worst experience was when I actually first started working. I had a client who I agreed on a rate for. Afterwards he decided to not pay and I had done 6 or more illustrations. That was definitely a good time to learn to ask for a kill fee up front.
What was the best advice you’ve ever received but may not have listened to the first time out?
Light source. Back when I was starting out a guy told me to work on my light source. For some strange reason I had no idea what he meant by that and so I kept doing the same thing I was doing, so it took me a bit to realize how to define a light source and use that to add more interest to my work.
Do you approach your album cover illustrations illustrations differently than your t-shirt designs?
I do approach those differently. When doing a T-shirt design I separate each color into a different layer, whereas on an album cover I just mash all the colors together.
Which pieces are you most proud of thus far?
You know I am always proud of my current work. There are pieces that I have done in the past that is great and I am proud of achieving progress with them such as work I have done for Lamb of God or Harley-Davidson, but every time I do a new project I feel like I have a new favorite. I did a cannibal T-shirt design for Born of Osiris a few months back and even though I have done new work I still feel that is my favorite and I am very proud of it because of the concept and the colors I used.
What’s your vital daily ritual?
Well I do a lot of stuff and have a lot of hobbies. Usually if the weather is nice I like to go out and practice stunting on my motorcycle. Then I get home and start working. Throughout the day I get snacks and continue working. I pretty much continue this until 4-5am? I also take breaks throughout the day to play some video games. I have an Xbox 360 hooked up to my monitor so I just switch over play for 30 minutes then get back to hours of work. It works nicely heh.
What’s currently sitting in your mp3 / CD player / turntable?
Oh man, so much music in my MP3. I listen to a lot of music but while answering this I am listening to Gianluca Ferro an instrumental band from Italy. I do love all sorts of music from death metal – hip hop – Horrorcore – old school music such as Bobby Vinton.
What’s hanging on your walls and what is your favorite piece of art that you own (not created by you)?
Umm, well that is a difficult one to answer. I usually have random stuff from magazines cut out that I like, as far as actual work goes I do have a nifty Guild Wars poster I got with the game back in the day that I have posted.
What’s the last novel you read and last movie that you saw that you’d recommend? Which movies and books do you always return to?
Right now I am on a few books, they are I Lucifer by Glen Duncan, and Mister B. Gone by Clive Barker. Those are both great books and I really love concepts that deal with demons, and horror, and just interesting story lines. So I would recommend those, I also love the Dark Tower books by Stephen king. I always seem to return to his writing. Heh as far as movies go I can’t get enough! I watch a lot, recently purchased Netflix so usually while working I either have a movie or music playing. The other day I actually saw the movie Due Date, I thought that was pretty funny. My favorite movie is probably The Crow with Brandon Lee.
Current and upcoming projects?
Right now I am working on a skateboard design or two, which I am thrilled about because I haven’t had a chance to do any so far. I am also back to work on some projects for Bravado, which is always exciting. And always doing random personal stuff, recently started a mummy design.
What would you tell an aspiring artist who is working his ass off but still needs and wants to break through to the next level?
Keep going? Heh just kidding that is pretty much what everyone would say right? Well I would tell him or her to promote himself to everyone he or she can. Use all the different social networks and company websites to get in touch with bands and labels. Just email everyone showing examples of your work and letting them know you would be interested in working for them. Don’t be shy! What is the worst that can happen? The band lets you down and says they are not interested? On the other hand if they are interested, then you would get yourself a client! Another thing is if you have different designs you have done for fun submit them as a mock up with the band’s name, maybe the band will love it and purchase that design right away!
What’s been the most effective means of marketing yourself both online and off?
Honestly the best marketing I have ever done was online and on MySpace. Back before their high tech flash version MySpace was fantastic to use for work! I would constantly send messages to different bands/artists and get work that way.
Thanks for the interview, I had a fun time answering your questions, was nice to reevaluate how I got to my current stage as an artist.
For more of Alex’s work head on over to PoltArt.com