Artist Spotlight: Sheridan Johns

Thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview. Can you begin by introducing yourself? Give us a short bio and tell us where you’re from.

Born in Australia, I’m a Freelance Illustrator who got into art about seven or eight years ago which was during my mid years of high school (2001).

After graduating, I continued my studies of Design and Illustration for 2 more years in which I was able to visit galleries and meet a number of well established Australian Modern Artists and [freelance] Illustrators such a myself. A number of them had specialized in Digital art and working with Photoshop.

Sheridan Johns

A self-portrait. If you look closely you'll see Sauron's ring!

How did you get started as a designer?

I always treated art as more of a hobby, but when I was studying my Tertiary degree in Illustration and Design, we spent a lot of time learning about the Industry; maybe even more than the actual Art/Drawing itself! We had the opportunity to meet other established artists who were well and truly into their careers, which was very motivating to me as an aspiring freelancer.

I decided to keep building up my [digital] portfolio and sharing my work online, and that is how I got noticed and began getting work for myself. It wasn’t until I really started focusing on realism did I then start getting a lot of job offers.

Sheridan Johns

A digital portrait of William Fichtner

Tell us a bit about your workflow. How do you typically start a new design? What software do you use?

First and foremost, Adobe Photoshop is now my official pen and paper. I use a WACOM tablet so I can just draw or sketch straight onto the computer (I like to save trees). That way, it’s also easier to scale and layout my initial plan quickly before it gets away from me!

I have trouble visualizing my idea using just pencil on paper- I need to use big blobs of colors and tones and quickly capture what I was after before refining it down in detail.
If it’s a big piece, a lot of planning and research goes a long way! I get onto Google and study my subject matter and gather as much reference images I can find depending on the piece, such as environments, animals , figures, even sampling colors and tones from photos.

Some days however, I find myself leaving a piece half completed because I’ve suddenly developed an idea for a NEW piece. I tend to do this a lot because Photoshop painting can easily become quite tedious. Staring at the same image for hours on end can really kill your motivation to keep working on it, so it’s always good to step away from it for a while and come back to it.

Neytiri from the movie 'Avatar'

Neytiri from the movie 'Avatar'

I noticed that you made a lot of digital portraits of actors. Are movies and series your prime source of inspiration?

Absolutely. Also Video Games and Cartoons also inspire me to create, as well as anything Fantasy and Sci-Fi related. Everything I grew up watching, basically! But people do sometimes ask me why I usually only paint actors/celebrities, and never everyday people, friends or family members. Not only is it extremely fun and good practice, but it’s a good way to get my portrait work noticed as well. People are drawn to familiar faces and TV personalities they recognize, and find a stronger interest in the portrait and can relate to it.

What is the most important lesson you have learned since you started designing that might help the newer designers?

Networking! Meeting other artists, sharing work and blogging is a freelancers’ lifeline. There is a big market today for Graphic Artists and Designers. So whether it be in person or online, getting your work out there and selling your skills are the most important aspects.

Even if you aspire to create your own project; such as your very own Manga or Car Illustration Magazine, you still need to have the skills and experience to get your idea noticed and build business relationships to make it happen.
In this industry, creating art is one thing, but being able to market yourself as a valuable designer and attract clients and potential projects is what it is all about. It all comes down to business!

Sheridan Johns

Please say hello to me

What’s the best piece of work you’ve created so far. Why is it so important to you?

Right now, my best piece would have to be my “Sons of Anarchy” themed portrait of Kim Coates. I replicated it from a common black and white Promotional Photo from the TV series. Being able to colorize it and bring out all the tones and details makes the painting feel a bit more “unique” to me. I’ve been strongly focused on painting [photo-realistic] portraits for almost a year now, and I find that one to be my most perfect one yet, and also the one I spent the most time on (about 30-35 hours).

(True story: I once submitted this portrait to a website strictly for Digital Paintings, and it was declined in a matter of hours- the reason being that they “do not accept photographs”. Needless to say, I was a little shocked at first, but also quite pleased with how realistic I got this sucker!)

Sheridan Johns Artwork

Kim Coates - Sons of Anarchy, Sheridan's favorite artwork

We’ll end this interview with 10 quick questions:

  1. Who’s your rolemodel? All the artists I have ever looked up to!
  2. What’s your favorite song? “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” – Aerosmith
  3. PC or Mac? PC
  4. Twitter or Facebook? Facebook- again, good networking, photo sharing etc. :)
  5. What’s your favorite food? Nachos
  6. What’s your favorite sport? Tap Dancing (yep, dancing is a sport people!)
  7. Cats or dogs? Dogs!
  8. What’s your favorite movie? “Armageddon” (1998) starring; Bruce Willis, William Fichtner and Ben Affleck!
  9. Favorite book? Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  10. Winter or summer? I’d say Winter. I’m less productive in the Summer!

Thanks again for providing us with the opportunity to interview you. Any final thoughts?

I’ve said it before, but Digital Illustration and Painting is no easy trade. Just because we have shortcut keys and magic ‘buttons’ doesn’t excuse an artist for not putting in effort to research and practice their skills! Like everything else, there are no shortcuts and the outcome will strongly reflect on how much time and dedication you put into it!

You can find Sheridan on DeviantART

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