Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Artist Interview with Joel Bisaillon

Today I'm interviewing another illustrator. I met Joel on one of the facebook groups I joined. Let's jump right in.

What are three words that describe your work?
Narrative, esoteric, dark
"Out of the Shadows"
How did you get into illustration?
In the late 90’s a friend introduced me to Pov-ray. A text based 3d rendering program that with a shell called Moray offered an introduction to more complex programs like 3D studio. Unfortunately it took quite a bit of work be make the renders feel organic. Eventually over the years of dabbling I came across vue d’esprit and poser which offered a chance to become a world builder instead of a hobbyist. The possibilities opened up and reminded me of my old Roleplaying days. It has taken me 20 some odd years to see this as a possible career opportunity and craft in worlds I have imagined.

How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?
I find this one of the hardest questions to answer. I could offer a technical “the tools at my disposal” response but that wouldn’t pose a style per se and I never thought of it really. Of course I have been influenced by fantasy artists like Frazetta and Vallejo or Sci-fi artists Foss or Moore but I’ve only just started to understand how they work. You see I’ve never had any classical training in art or programing. I have fallen in to my style and it continues to evolve from whatever I find that catches my eye. I feel like I am at the genesis of my artistic career. My style will eventually reveal itself.

Tell us about your creative process, mediums, etc.
The main thing is to schedule time to work as if you were at a day job and list your priorities. I tend to start with a small idea within a large project. Then I gather visual resources from the internet or my extensive collection of coffee table books to reference within the scope of the assignment I’m working on. I have adapted speed painting to open the door using poser as my guide. It initially creates an outline of for the main work. Piece by piece it starts to take form. I’ll allow for a few brakes and comeback to attempt to build the “masterpiece”. Very rarely have I found myself making thumbnails on a sketch pad but I know I should. It’s funny how we avoid our weaknesses especially when we shouldn’t.

With the tools at my disposal I had found that I felt less as an artist and more of an arranger of objects. For the most part so would the community of traditional artists. More organic and natural creations came in to focus when I started to teach myself Vue D’esprit and Zbrush. As a digital artist with my talents I have found that I’m not so much of a painter as I am a drafter with an artistic bent.
"Rend" mentioned below.
Where do you find your inspiration?
First and for most I have to say roleplaying opened my imaginative mind. Those games showed me that I am clear to create instead of being a passenger in a world. I know now how much that has helped me become the artist I am and still reference stories from those days past.

At a rave in 97 I was a little messed up and noticed a postcard of Diane Arbus’s “Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park” in the washroom and pinched it. I remember thinking how dark and perverse the story was behind such an image. This style led to directors of stop motion animation like the brothers’ quay or the Czech director Jan Ć vankmajer. Artists like BeksiƄski, J. K. Potter, and Giger for their twisted style. Authors such as Burroughs, Lovecraft and Palahniuk offer a nihilistic, hopeless and gritty environment to work in. Finally music from the M. Gira, Mike Patton and Bill Laswell. Music plays an important role in my creative process and I seem to find more video game or movie music fitting the gothic/baroque influence I crave. Deviant art is an amazing website and paired with a nice single malt scotch goes a long way.

Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then?
For the most part procrastinate. A lot can be said for letting an idea stew for a little while however this wastes time. I will find a tutorial online to teach myself a new skill or play a little music. Within my work schedule I tempt to offer a few “outs” such as making sure I post on my deviant art page, critique someone else’s work or research classic styles. Time tends to go quickly and you come back with a little more enthusiasm knowing how hard the process is for everyone. Not quite schadenfreude but you get the picture.

What kind of projects would you love to work on?
I love dark gothic ghost stories and things shambling in the shadows. Graphic novels set in a medieval period, trading card artwork, and horror and fantasy book covers. I want to stay a freelance artist but you never know when you’re going to get the next job or if it falls flat after you’ve invested so much of your time already. I have yet to work on an epic battle scene set in a snowy forest. The frosty breath of thousands of soldiers, frantic movement of warfare , the clash of black and red (like a frank miller comic) across a white misty background all coming together…ah that’s just beautiful.
"Tentacles" mentioned below.
What's been your favourite project so far? The hardest?
By far my favourite work was “Rend”. The subject is a revenant painfully bursting in to flames. It took some time to create with a number of layers of detail but the contrasting colors and his expression made it so satisfying to finish. That one I am proud of.

The hardest had to be a poster of a woman battling a Kraken called “tentacles”. It was one of my first works that I taught myself Photoshop on as well as the first job I had for my new agent at the time. It has never felt finished and somewhat contrived. The way the topic was presented to me I felt a little detached mentally because I was told “she needs more skin showing cos that’s what guys want to see”. No dude you’re just sexist.
You can browse more of Joel's work on his DeviantArt page.


  1. Interesting interview and fascinating to see how Joel works. His illustrations are awe-inspiring and Rend is just incredible.

    1. I agree Susan. "Out of Shadows" is my favorite.

  2. Amazing work. I've always known that. Vividly, frighteningly realistic.


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