10 Questions with Nathan Milliner
1…. what medium and tools do you use to create art?
Almost 100% of what I do starts with pencil and then inks on cardstock and the drawing is scanned into photoshop and finished there with digital coloring. If I get time, I am planning on dropping the digital painting altogether and doing the painting practically.
2…. can you describe your creative process when making art?
Fast and NOW. Professional commercial art is pretty much a speed race. You have so many projects thrown at you–as well as your own–that you have to be quick and not only in executing the artwork but in ideas and layouts, designs and compositions. I never realized just how fast I am. Say Scream! Factory writes me up with a new movie title they want me to do for a blu ray release. They first want a sketch. If I know the film very well I just start brainstorming and sketching right away. If not, I will find the movie and watch it and try to find the core of the film, a visually effective image or more within the movie, little details that the fans will pick up and appreciate seeing represented in the movie they love–the fans of the film are very important to consider (why do they love it? Find that out). Then it is all about figuring out the most attractive, dynamic, eye catching way to bring it all together. This usually takes me a half hour maybe. I’ll do a sketch and ship it off to Scream! and 9 times out of 10 they love it and that ends up being the final piece. They have commented that it is rare that they get concept sketches as fast.
I just get the picture in my head. I’ve never had a big problem with that. It’s there upstairs and I just need to put it down on the paper.
3…. what helps boost your creativity?
I just love creating stuff. I am also a writer so I think that helps a lot too. I love storytelling. My background is in comics so it is in my nature to think in storytelling terms and to work fast. My whole life has been about stories. A movie fanatic so a lot of times I will find inspiration from a film. So it is pretty perfect that I have found work designing movie posters and blu ray covers.
4…. what helps you maintain focus and motivation when creating?
I am a get it done now kind of artist. I could never be one of those artists who spends weeks or even months composing one piece. I can’t leave things undone or I will get tired of it. I have had a few jobs where I just didn’t want to keep working on the piece. It was a labor. But most of the time, I just fall in love with the project and the piece and it motivates me enough to push forward and see it through. In recent years, maybe the last 5, I have become a fan of my own work. An artist is their own worst critic–totally true–but I think every artist gets to a point where even they want to see what they can do next. I am also motivated by a lot of peers. There are some tremendous horror artists out there working today and they all help motivate me to be better and to produce work at their levels. Guys like Jason Edmiston, Daniel Horne, Christopher Lovell, Gary Pullin. As Edmiston said a week ago in a conversation, “We love the healthy competition we have.”
5…. what is the secret to creating a great piece of art?
Composition. It is all about where things are and how they flow and relate to each other at the same time being completely pleasing to the eye and having an immediate connection to the viewer. Most people’s gut reaction is pretty simple. You are shown art and you either get immediately excited for it and want it or you dig it, you are indifferent to it or you simply don’t like it. Great is up to the person looking at it. One person may look at a piece I have done and think it is the Mona Lisa–to be hung in galleries (or their living room) and cherished and marveled at for centuries. The next guy may look at it and see complete and total garbage. It is the connection to the individual that matters. I’ll never please everyone so I have let that go. In the world of social media it is easy to fall victim to the naysayers but this is the nature of art. Some will love it, some will hate it. For those who love it, you feel that connection and that is really all that matters. As long as you, or your client loves it, there is little else one can hope for.
6…. do you feel its important to follow your passion in your career?
Absolutely. Even if you aren’t a great success at it, just the act of DOING something is reward enough. Before my career broke and 10 people knew me and what I was doing and loved it, that was contentment enough for me to keep doing it. You have to always be content with your station while going forward because I always felt that things will keep coming if you keep moving forward. And it is the truth. I always look at it as the snowball effect. People will see it–the right people–and from there, it is one thing after the other and the snowball gets bigger and bigger and out of control. So you should always DO it. Don’t talk about it. Do it. If you fail, at least you tried. But there is no real failure. The failure is not trying or giving up. We all get rejected. Rejection is just a part of art be it drawing, dancing, acting, filmmaking or cooking. You will fail to live up to other’s expectations. But there are those out there who want to see your work so keep making it for them and most importantly for yourself.
7…. how do you find your passion?
When I wake up. If it is really a passion, it is all that you are. It is what you think about when you get up and when you go to sleep. It is like breathing. If you don’t feel that way about your work, then you aren’t doing what you were meant to be doing.
8…. who are your favorite artists?
Jim Lee, Bernie Wrightson, Drew Struzan, Brian Bolland, Frank Miller, Mike Mignola, Frank Frazetta, Carrivaggio, Daniel Horne, Jason Edmiston, Sam Keith, Marc Silvestri, Neal Adams, John Byrne, Alex Ross. The list goes on and on.
9…. do you offer workshops for artists?
I haven’t but I would love to do that. Whenever an artist writes me looking for critiques or advice I am always immediate in helping them out in anyway I can. I learned all of this on my own, through my own studies and there were things I learned slowly because no one was there to help or advise. I always wonder how much faster I would have progressed had I had a mentor. So if I can help speed an artist’s growth and motivate them then that is just an amazing thing. Some bring up the competition thing. Why help someone be a better artist? Isn’t that going to hurt your business? No. Again, people either like your work or they like his or hers. It’s not personal and it’s not anything but personal preference. As long as I keep working hard and producing quality work, someone will always want me to work with them on their projects. What I do and what John Doe does has no relation. I’ve just never had the notion that I am good enough to tell others how to do something. Ya know? I see a lot of people who haven’t achieved much in a field out there giving workshops and classes as if they have all the proven knowledge and success to inform others on how to match it and they just don’t. They are bulls#!$$ing people and I wouldn’t want to feel like I was being that way. I can only tell you my own experiences and if you think my career shows that I have knowledge worth sharing to others then okay, I’ll teach you what I know. But not it a way that I am above you–but with you.
10…. if you could give other artists one piece of advice what would it be?
Keep working and putting your work out there. It’s all about the right set of eyes seeing your stuff. People think there is some big secret to getting a break. My work with Scream! Factory came from me doing an event poster for a convention. The right eyes saw it and the timing was perfect for it to be seen. It is luck. When I did the artwork at the Museum of Modern Art for the celebration of the films of Quentin Tarantino it had nothing to do with me being a well known artist in the horror movie world. It came down to basically a staffer at the Weinstein Co. doing a google search and seeing an old peice of fan art I did. They didn’t know me from the guy on the street selling oranges. They searched, they found me, they called me. Timing, perserverance and luck. Just keep DOING. Never stop. When you stop, then everything else stops too.