ARTIST & CREATIVE INTERVIEW SERIES,
Digital Painting, American Werewolf in London, Stan Winston & King Kong’s Fay Wray and California’s Terry Wolfinger
I’m pretty happy about this artist interview series for various reasons. Mostly because it has very little to do with me and very much to do with the intriguing stories of OTHER fascinating folks. It gives me a chance to leave the cool, if not somewhat dusty, depths of my own brain and enter the amazing worlds of others.
As fantastic as the last interview with Paul Sloboda was THIS second artist continues to uphold the high standards of awesome. *insert meme with lower lip biting teariness here* Here’s a quick Scooby Doo flash back as to why THIS interview is so awesome for me in particular. About a year and a half or so ago I had been thinking about upping my skills to keep them from requiring some of my grandmother’s moth balls and eau de parfume and lo and behold I got “the” course I had been coveting for my birthday; Painting with Photoshop with Terry Wolfinger through the Stan Winston School of Character Arts. (If you don’t know who Stan Winston is do a bit of Googling because THAT’S a whole ‘nother jaw dropping geek-fest fantasy story. Looks like I’ve outted myself for the movie and horror geek that I am. Ooops. Can’t let that cat back into that Pandora’s box of crazy.) I had seen Terry’s work a few years before and was blown away. Because well who wouldn’t be? His work is amazing (or as the kids these days say “amazeballs”) especially if you’re a movie, TV, pop culture or horror movie fan which I will abashedly admit I am. I was even more impressed after the course because not only was it full of fantastic info but because typically artists are quiet types who don’t do well in front of a camera. (Or at least the creative flourish in me shrivels and dies a little each time I think about pulling off such a feat.) Well, not only did he pull it off but he was hilarious, albeit with a quiet caution and sparkle in his eye, and he is SO freaking humble. C’mon seriously just admit you’re awesome. Just. Once. But don’t get too starry-eyed art fan geek girls. This fella is taken and has a stunning wife. I could dork out about Terry forever BUT he’s graciously agreed to do this interview so let’s get to it. *takes off super fangirl outfit and puts on professional interviewer pants* Presenting the TERRY WOLFINGER …
shari: TERRY, WHEN DID YOU GET YOUR ARTISTIC START?
terry: Well, my parents have a drawing that I did when I was 2 yrs old, so I guess you can say that’s when it started. It was a drawing of a little man. I can’t really remember a time where I was not drawing. I’d always have a little pad of paper and a pen with me in case we were stuck in a waiting room or something. Family gatherings I was parked on a sofa, taking it all in and drawing my relatives. Neither of my parents were artists but, my mother was into arts and crafts and constantly making things, like stained glass windows. My father liked to draw and was really quite good at it. He loved drawing cars as a kid and wanted to someday become a car designer. He was also good in math so was encouraged by his family to go into engineering, which he did. When I was young, he was still drawing little sketches here and there and I would come and ask him to draw me a car, or a pirate or robot, etc. I would watch him draw it then I would disappear to my room and come back with my version. My father got a kick out of it and it encouraged me to do it more.
shari: IT CAN BE A TOUGH GIG so what inspired you to continue following a creative path?
terry: It can be a tough gig and I’ve had my share of lean times for sure. But being creative is all I’ve ever done and can’t really see myself doing anything else. I remember shopping my stuff around and looking for work at one point. I interviewed at a company that was looking for a Photoshop expert. They were impressed with my work but said, “well, these are great, but good luck finding a job painting monsters all day.” That just lit the fire to prove them wrong. Its taken a little while, but I can now say I basically paint monsters all day. That and and video games.
shari: WHAT LED YOU TO TRANSITION into digital painting from classical illustration?
terry: I was working at a start up video game magazine, GameFan around 1992. I was hired to paint the covers each month as well as artwork throughout the mag. I was doing traditional airbrushed covers (I taught myself how to use an airbrush a few weeks prior to get the job). This magazine was the first to be created solely on computers, from what I was told. We had a couple Macs and I remember one of the layout guys doing something in a program called, Photoshop. I asked him if the little airbrush tool worked like a real airbrush. It did! And was there a way to cut out masked areas for painting? There was! So I pretty much applied what I knew about airbrushing into painting in Photoshop. There wasn’t really anyone else doing that at the time, either, as far as I knew. This was all pre-internet and youtube so I pretty much was finding my own way. No tutorials. I did this all using a mouse too!
shari: DID YOU PAINT TRADITIONALLY before you moved into digital painting?
terry: As I mentioned, I did do some traditional airbrushing, but had no real formal training. Just what I had read in some books. I did have some color and design classes in college, but my major was character animation, so most of my studies were centered around drawing. I only did the airbrushing for about a year before moving into the digital realm. I did try to learn what I could about traditional painting and and color theory etc., and apply that to what I was doing in Photoshop. It wasn’t until much later that I tried my hand with traditional media again. I’ve spent the most time with acrylics and only recently have tried my hand at oils. I still need to do more of that.
shari: IF YOU HAD TO PICK ONE what would be your favorite medium? The one you couldn’t live without?
terry: I definitely could not live without drawing, so it would have to be good old pen (or pencil) on paper. I just need that tactile feeling of the pen pressing into the paper. I sketch on the computer here and there for work, but its just not quite the same. To this day a sketch book is usually never far from my grasp. If I’m not sketching every day, it’s pretty darn close.
shari: WHAT CONTINUES TO DRIVE you to create?
terry: I suppose its the emotional connection to art that drives me. It’s just in the blood as they say. I’ve always gotten a great deal of satisfaction from it. In my portrait paintings I’m definitely trying to connect with the viewer in some sort of emotional moment.
shari: TELL US ABOUT YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS. Does it differ from medium to medium?
terry: Drawing and sketching is something I will never stop doing. And yes, the process does differ a bit from medium to medium. For digital painting I always start with a scanned, usually ink sketch. From there its a similar approach to classical oil painting; I lay in a background color and texture, then start with an under-painting where I work out the values. Next I start laying in the color and usually work from dark to light. I used to paint to cover all my line work, but now I like leaving a lot of the sketch showing through, because that’s where all the energy is. It gives it a certain organic quality too.
shari: WHO ARE YOUR MAIN creative influences?
terry: I grew up reading Mad Magazine so I’d have to say that their artists, like Mort Drucker and Jack Davis, have left lasting impressions on me. That and Warner Bros. animation and Marvel Comics helped shape my young mind as well. When I really started to pursue painting, it was artists like Frank Frazetta, Simon Bisley, and Sebastian Kruger, that I really studied and tried to break down their approach by pouring over their paintings. Kruger was especially influential. He started out as this amazing caricature painter and is now a brilliant portrait artist that works solely in acrylics. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend his workshop in Germany in 2008 and again 2 years later.
shari: YOUR WORK IS AMAZING, particularly your horror pieces and more specifically your American Werewolf in London Piece. (My personal ultimate geek fan-girl lovin’ movie.) Is there a reason you chose to create a piece inspired by the movie?
terry: Thank you so much. Well, American Werewolf in London was the movie that pretty much changed the course of my artistic trajectory. I saw it in the theater with my older brother and his friend when I was about 13-14 yrs old. Up until this point I was not a huge fan of horror movies, because basically they scared me! But I was so blown away by how beautiful the “gore” was. Some real loving attention to detail went into all the prosthetic makeup and effects.
Not only are there some truly terrifying scenes, but also some real humor, especially in the character, Jack. He’s the character that is killed by the werewolf and comes back to visit/warn his friend who survived. It managed to be both funny and disturbing at the same time. From that moment on, everything I drew had its throat ripped out, from Garfield to E.T. One of my top 2 favorite movies. Right up there with the Road Warrior.
shari: WHAT WAS IT LIKE MEETING DAVID NAUGHTON? (For you folks not in the know *nod nod wink wink* that’s the forever-hunky actor who played the main character, David, in American Werewolf in London.)
terry: Total fanboy moment! I was 14 again. It was really cool meeting him and getting to give him a print of the painting I did of him. He really liked my work and was a nice friendly guy and was kind enough to chat with me for bit.
shari: TELLS US ABOUT YOUR FAVORITE PROJECT to date?
terry: That would have to be Hard ‘N’ Heavy, the first (and probably only video magazine). It was basically a video tape you could buy every two months. It was a compilation of uncensored videos, interviews, and live performances the hard rock and heavy metal world had to offer. In between these segments there would be animation leading you to the next one. The H’N’H people came to my school, Cal Arts, where I was in my last semester of the character animation program, looking for an animator to do this animation. I gathered up my craziest art- sketches of guy’s heads being blown off etc., and met with the producer. He fell in love with said sketch and asked if I could animate it. In color. So long story short, I figured out how to ink and paint cells and shoot the animation directly to video (this was 1988 mind you), and beat out a London based animation studio in the process. So not even out of school yet, I was creating my own content and the Director of my own animation.
shari: HOW DID YOU WIND UP working at the STAN WINSTON STUDIO?
terry: I had been working at GameFan for a while, and friend there was talking about how his grandmother was friends with and somehow related to Stan Winston through marriage. He said she could probably get me an interview there. So I had lunch with my friend and his grandmother (who was also in films it turns out) and had great time chatting and she said she’d be happy to put in a good word for me. So I gathered as much monster and creature art and video game covers as I could and met with Stan. We talked about grandma Fay and how delightful she was as Stan looked through my art and did Jerry Lewis impressions. He brought in head Character Designer, Mark “Crash” McCreery in for a second opinion, who gave Stan the thumbs up, and I was offered a job on the spot. Just a crazy euphoric moment… I didn’t realize it at the time, but as it turned out, my friend’s grandmother was Fay Wray from the original, King Kong movie.
(An aside from Shari: I’ll admit my mouth dropped at the magnitude of this revelation and I may have drooled a little at the prospect of meeting such a legendary Hollywood icon.)
shari: WHO IS THE ONE PERSON (OR PEOPLE) who supported you throughout your journey?
terry: My parents were very supportive throughout everything, my mother in particular being my biggest fan. My art teacher in Jr. High and who later followed me to High School, Dennis Moran, was hugely supportive too, and encouraged every crazy idea I had. On the side of being a teacher he was also a very popular caricature artist in the Bay Area. His motto was “if you want to get better, you’ve got to practice, practice, practice”. Today though I have to say, my biggest supporter would have to be my wife, Nicole, also an amazing artist herself. Not only do I respect her opinion on everything I do, but she encourages me to always want to do better.
shari: TELL US A LITTLE (or big) something about yourself that no one knows.
terry: There are a few people that know about this, but they are usually surprised when they find out I’m color blind. For the most part it doesn’t effect me, but every now and then it does give me some trouble.
shari: WHAT IS YOUR ONE DREAM JOB or client?
terry: I would love to work with director, George Miller, on any of the next Mad Max films, designing some crazy vehicles and character concepts.
shari: IF YOU HAD TO PICK ANOTHER CAREER other than the one you have now what would it be and why?
terry: If I was not allowed to be in a creative field there wouldn’t be much I could do (or would want to do for that matter), but if I had to choose something, it would probably have to do with cars. Maybe working on older muscle cars or doing body work.
shari: IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE us to know? Your next project? Advice?
terry: I do have one interesting project I am just finishing that involves a very famous haunted house… And I guess the moral to this story is to not to be afraid to go after the things you want to do. Challenge yourself, even if it’s something you’ve never done before. If you never take that risk you’re never going to know. And practice, practice, practice.
Super glad you had that fire lit under you and create monsters for a living Terry and thanks again for the great artist interview! Anyone wishing to view more of Terry’s work, contact him or follow him can do so through the following websites:
(Click any of the links below to take you to instant Terry.)
Eyeball more of his work in all its glory at big cartel
(And before you go … Pssst! I have a secret. Come closer to the screen june bugs. Just between you and I: After torture, threats and holding his art supplies hostage Terry filled me in on his next project and it’s going to be something horror geeks dreams are made of so if you are one you HAVE to follow Terry to find out what he’s up to in the future. Full disclosure: there was no actual torture or threats made and no Terrys were harmed in the making of this interview.)
In peace, love and art,
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