Recently, we pointed to the debut Journal of Science Fiction’s first issue, and we were struck in particular by Mike Winkelmann’s artwork featured on the front cover.
We chatted with Winkelmann about what goes into his work.
You have been working on art every day for 9 years. What have you learned by doing a painting a day?
Besides the actual technical skills that I have learned along the way, I have learned a ton about how to complete projects and stick with something. Everydays are a great way to take a big project and break it down into smaller pieces to ensure that you stick with it. It’s also a great way to get shitty ideas out of your head because you can quickly try something and see if there is anything really there. I think it also helps with completing work and putting out your work as that’s something a lot of people really struggle with.
How do you put together a painting? What tools do you use?
Every year I pick a new set of skills to focus on and try to improve. In the past I’ve done drawings, digital photography, vector illustration, etc. Right now though the main tool that I use is Cinema4D. It’s a 3D animation program similiar to what is used to make the special effects in movies etc. I basically start out with a blank ‘canvas’ and first model out all of the things I want in the scene, wether that’s a landscape or building, or giant robot thing. Then I add materials to make things look like dirt or metal etc. Then you light the scene using lights or simulated skies to give it the look you want. After rendering it out I usually take it into Photoshop to add any sort of final small details and color correction.
What do you use for inspiration, and how do you keep finding new ideas after 9 years?
There is so much amazing work out there, to me it’s not a matter of finding inspiration, it’s almost a matter of not drowning in it. I feel like it can be overwhelming at times when you’re flipping though Tumblr, Behance, or Instagram and you are just inundated with amazing work. As far as finding new ideas though, I think that is the beauty of having a deadline everyday — SOMETHING will come out. It will most likely be total crap, but it’s something and sometimes getting those shitty ideas out is just as important. I also think people have more ideas in them than they realize, and I think the more you get into a rhythm with it, the less scary or concerned you come with coming up with something “TOTALLY BRILLIANT” everyday. I think good ideas are fleshed out over much longer periods of time and work.
What inspires your work? Are there any particular artists that you look to?
Right now I’m inspired a lot by these sort of sci-fi futuristic landscapes. This is something fairly new as much of my previous work was much more abstract. In terms of the sci-fi images that I’ve been creating, there are so many artists, it’s hard to even keep track of all of them. I find it fascinating how much insanely good, intricate work is created as a BYPRODUCT of making a video game or feature film and that work is never ‘directly’ seen by most people.
Your science fictional works feature major floating objects. What’s the appeal there?
Haha, honestly I don’t know. I think there is something I find appealing about a vision of the future that has these gigantic, lumbering machines floating in the air silently doing our bidding. I think it would be cool to look over the horizon one day and see these giant mundane beasts slowly floating around, quietly doing whatever boring tasks they are programmed to do.
Do you have any one favorite image that you’ve put together in your collection?
Hmmmm, honestly not really. I have certain ones that I know represented some small breakthrough or a new technique I’ve never tried, but I look at the images as more of a byproduct of learning that the end product. I’m not really setting out to necessarily make a SUPER SWEET picture each day, I’m just trying to suck a tiny bit less.
Here’s a couple of selections from his years of work:
You can check out thousands of other pictures over on his website.
Art credit: Mike Winkelmann