Monday, November 10, 2014

Interview: 10 Questions with the GREAT Chris Dunn!

Chris Dunn
images copyright Chris Dunn

10 Questions With Chris Dunn
1.... what medium and tools do you use to create art?

Roughs sketches are done with my trusty Derwent soft pencils and a putty rubber (or is that eraser?). Sometimes I will scan the sketch and produce a quick tonal study in photoshop.

For the final artwork I use watercolour and gouache paints almost exclusively. I have been know to use acrylic if I want a certain colour to be permanent when glazing on top of that colour. I have a small selection of flat and round synthetic watercolour brushes made by Pro Arte that serve me well, and the odd small sable brush for super detailed work. I use ceramic plates for palettes, I picked up that idea from John Howe, they have loads of space for mixing, they clean brilliantly and you can stack them up when you've finished.

2.... can you describe your creative process when making art?

Thumbnails are the key. Often I have a vague idea of the subject I want to tackle but it is not until I start thumbnailing the idea that it really starts to take shape. I try to produce at least ten for each idea, some artists produce three or four times that, and then I'll take my favourite and try to refine that chosen thumbnail. Refining is really a case of decision making, for example, what is really in that shadow area or what type of clothing is my character wearing. Once I have made those decisions, I start to gather reference online, in books or from my own photo library. The reference is there to inform me as I produce a detailed rough, it's very hard to get owls to pose holding a quill (I'm working on that) so I have to use wildlife photos to pick apart the anatomy in order to produce a convincing anthropomorphic animal.

3.... what helps boost your creativity?

Flicking through art books, checking out art related blogs and following fellow artists work is great, and I do all those things, but I find getting out of the studio and exploring the world around me gets my brain fizzing (in a good way). I like walking and I always have my camera with me, so if I spot an amazing tree with twisted roots or some wonderful gothic architecture, I'm always ready to capture it. Some of my best ideas have come to me while walking around the English countryside or visiting historic towns like Bath, Salisbury, Gloucester etc. I live near Lacock Abbey which doubles as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films, so it's hard not to be inspired when I'm out and about.

4.... what helps you maintain focus and motivation when creating?

Some people listen to music - I can't because I end up 'air drumming'. Others have the TV on in the background - there is no way I would get any work done in that situation! To maintain focus throughout the day I listen to podcasts or talk radio on a range of subjects such as art, politics, sport, comedy, science or history. This way I waste less time looking for something to listen to and I educate myself just a little bit.

5.... what is the secret to creating a great piece of art?

Crikey! I'll let you know when I find out. I'm hoping the secret is hard work.

6.... do you feel its important to follow your passion in your career?

Without a doubt. I have been fortunate beyond belief in my career so far, however I still have lots of tough days ahead of me and without a passion for what I do then my career might just stumble and fail.

7.... how and when do you get your best ideas?

I think I might have answered this in question three. Needless to say the best ideas come to me when I'm not looking for them. Weekends away from the studio, spending time with family and exploring the world always provides the right ingredients for inspiration.

8.... who are your favorite artists?

John Howe was my first favourite artists. Now I have a long list, here are just a few; James Gurney, Sam Weber, Eric Fortune, Norman Rockwell, Rembrandt, Millais, Holman Hunt, Alan Lee, Shelly Wan, Jean Baptiste-Monge, Omar Rayyan, Luke Fildes, Atkinson Grimshaw, Charles Vess, Adam Rex, Waterhouse, Sargent, Gerome, Rackham...

9.... do you offer workshops for artists?

Occasionally, from my studio at the Pound Arts Centre in Corsham, UK. I also arrange a regular life drawing session for a bunch of artists in my area. I haven't ventured into any online classes ,although I'm interested in uploading videos of my process for free.

10.... if you could give other artists one piece of advice what would it be?

For an artist at the beginning of their career I would say, create artwork for yourself and find a market for it afterwards. There is a market for any type of art and they're getting increasingly easier to find thanks to the internet. I learned the hard way by creating samples of work I thought art directors would like, but I didn't enjoy making, just to get commissions. It worked but then it meant I was stuck creating mediocre work for a living because I didn't enjoy style or subject I was asked to illustrate. Thankfully I'm past that stage now so please learn from my mistakes!!


  1. Great article! Wonderful illustrations and great to have now discovered such an amazing Illustrator "It's very hard to get owls to pose holding a quill (I'm working on that)". - I love that comment!!

  2. My favorite artist of all time.