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Brandon Spahn An interview with XXVII: Nostalgia's featured artist
Introduction Ted Yavuzkurt
Brandon Spahn is a long time Evoke member and extremely talented digital artist. At the age of 19 he's already well on his way to becoming an established graphic designer and illustrator. Evoke's Ted Yavuzkurt had the chance to sit down with Brandon and pick his brain on his workflow, inspiration, and techniques. Brandon went to the trouble of making two youtube videos showing the progression of his work for aspiring artists. Don't miss this interview!
Never feel intimidated.
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The Interview

Ted Yavuzkurt: {1} Well Brandon, you've been a member of Evoke for 3 and a half years. Tell us a bit about yourself and what role art plays in your life right now.

Brandon Spahn: Well, I am your pretty average person; I'm currently enrolled in college at Indiana University working on a degree in Informatics. Informatics has different branches which allow you to focus on a specific subject known as your cognate.

I am working on a Bachelor of Science in Informatics with a cognate in Graphic Design. This is why art and design plays a crucial role in my life right now - I am trying to push my talents and abilities to the highest level possible I can so I can have a solid portfolio for my future. EvokeOne plays a huge part in achieving this goal.

Ted Yavuzkurt {2} Glad to hear Evoke has played a role in achieving your design goals. If design is going to be your profession, what are your hobbies? Are you into any other art forms such as music or photography? What's the rest of your life like?

Brandon Spahn: I'm really into music, but just for the enjoyment. I enjoy listening to any genre as long as the music is good. I really enjoy going to the gym and playing sports though. I have always been a fan of basketball, baseball, and tennis. I grew up playing those sports, and I try to find time to continue the activities.

At the moment though, my life is similar to most other college students: studying hard during the week and going out on weekends. I just try and take it one day at a time and enjoy life while I can.

I just love creating.

Ted Yavuzkurt: {3} How does it feel being a graphic design student at a large university in this economic climate? Graphic design and digital art can be quite competitive industries. Are you happy with your choice?

Brandon Spahn: Originally I went to college seeking a degree in Computer Science. After taking a few programming classes, I realized this was not for me. Instead of going for a degree in Fine Arts, I wanted to find a way to combine Computer Science and Graphic Design. This made me change my major to Informatics with a cognate in Graphic Design.

I am satisfied with this choice, because now when I am out of college I can apply for a job that involves various types of technology. However, a job in graphic design or digital art field would be my prime choice regardless of pay. I just love creating, and I could see myself doing it for the rest of my life.

Ted Yavuzkurt: {4} Passion is definitely a big component of success in the design/art world. And you've got that, so you should do well.

How did you become introduced to digital art? Did you start out drawing as a child, or did you just download Photoshop one day and start playing? What held your interest in it for so long?

Brandon Spahn: I enjoyed playing computer games as a kid; I was a huge fan of the Age of Empires series. This is relevant because I saw people on forums making logos, images, and signatures. This inspired me to download a program called Gimp. Gimp is basically a free program that is really nifty when it comes to digital art, but is limited compared to Photoshop.

I worked with Gimp for over a year making various images - nothing special. My friend introduced me to Photoshop, and it just took off from there. I took my time learning the ins and outs of Photoshop over the past six years, which eventually brought me to the stage I am at today. Photoshop has held my interest because plain and simple, I enjoy it. I love making imagery and designing. I think it's amazing how art can influence and affect other people, and I like being a part of that.

I think it's amazing
how art can influence
other people.

Ted Yavuzkurt: {5} What role did art groups like Evoke or community websites like DeviantArt play in your development?

Brandon Spahn: The online art community plays a huge role in developing my work. I could sit and browse through DeviantArt all day looking at artwork. It's great inspiration, and every person who contributes to DeviantArt's vast gallery deserves respect. This same notion goes with EvokeOne and all other groups creating art. It's just awesome seeing people come together to create art with a purpose. It's indescribable; I cannot even think of the correct words to represent how amazing it is seeing a group of people with similar interests create art at such a high caliber.

Ted Yavuzkurt: {6} Are there any other art websites you frequented to learn new techniques or find tutorials? What's your recommendation to new artists hitting the online art scene for the first time?

Brandon Spahn: Honestly, I have not read a tutorial for Photoshop in over four years. Tutorials are vital for learning the program, but once you learn each tool and its function, you need to go out and experiment. Trial and error are the best ways to improve. For new artists hitting the online art scene, I would say look at artwork you love and ask yourself - how did they make this? Experiment with techniques that you think could give you a similar result. Just learn new techniques and put your own twist on it. Develop a style that is unique and original, and do not be afraid to try new things!

Do everything
to learn every specific
detail of a program.

Ted Yavuzkurt: {7} So you think that doing too many tutorials can be harmful?

Brandon Spahn: Not necessarily, especially for someone just starting out. Like I said though, experimenting along with trial and error are the best ways to learn. This way, if you see a particular effect or technique you like, you will have the ability to duplicate it without looking up a tutorial. This can be crucial and save you time. Just do everything possible to learn every specific detail of a program.

Ted Yavuzkurt: {8} Where do you draw inspiration for your work? Do you tend to plan pieces out in advance or do you just sit down and see what happens?

Brandon Spahn: I get a lot of other inspiration from other artists. If I see work that inspires me, I want to know how they made it. So I sit down and think how I would go about making a piece like that. This gives me ideas and inspiration for my own pieces. When I work on something, I start out with a basic idea and composition. Normally it is a stock photo I have manipulated or edited to fit my needs. Then I spend time detailing the composition and adding a realistic touch to the elements I have introduced onto the canvas.

Ted Yavuzkurt: {9} So do you browse through stock photos, find one that you like, then start a piece? Or do you have an idea of what kind of photo/end result you're going for beforehand?

Brandon Spahn: Most of the time I have a general idea, but sometimes there is just a unique image or organic texture that will just pop out. If that's the case, I try and build an idea around that. For example, my piece "The Changing of Seasons" is composed of a tree I found that had a really organic texture.

Ted Yavuzkurt: {10} What is your favorite piece you've submitted to this exhibition? Can you walk us through how you created it, how long you spent on it, etc? Nothing too detailed, just general descriptions of your steps.

Brandon Spahn: That is a tough decision, but I would have to go with my "Building an Entity." I had the idea of creating industrial abstract shapes coming out of a body, but I wasn't sure how to approach it. I found the stock of the suit used in the piece, rendered it out and my idea just exploded from there. I looked up industrial buildings until I found a stock I could manipulate to my liking. I began manipulating the other main element of the piece using various coloring and blending techniques until I had a composition I was satisfied with. Then I worked on the detailing, lighting, and adding realism. That is the process for most of my work.

Note from Ted: you can view two videos progressions of Brandon's work here and here

editor's note:
progress videos are
here and here

Ted Yavuzkurt: {11} How long did the whole thing take approximately? I can see you went through 7 versions of it in our artist center.

Brandon Spahn: I would say it took a total of about 25 hours off and on over a period of two weeks. It was just tough getting all the details correct.

Ted Yavuzkurt: {12} Attention to detail is what makes greatness. Ok to rap this up, what's one photoshop trick, technique, or just general advice you wish you'd known when you started out?

Brandon Spahn: A good technique for lighting is to create a new layer and fill it with black. Set this on color dodge, and get a dark orange or color of your choice. Bring the opacity down and paint over the section you want to bring out the colors or intensify. Really awesome technique that is rarely known.

Ted Yavuzkurt: {13} Dopeness. Ok for the top ten list

Brandon Spahn:

1. Favorite Food?
Chicken Breast
2. Do you think you're sexy?
3. Pepsi or Coke?
4. What's your favorite gaming console?
5. Favorite band or musical artist?
I don't have a favorite.
6. Blonde or Brunette?
7. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
8. Favorite Sport?
9. Mac or PC?
10. What is your current homepage?

Ted Yavuzkurt: Any final words of wisdom for us, aspiring artists, or anyone else?

Brandon Spahn: Never feel intimated by something or give up on your dreams and goals.