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An Interview with Fantasy Artist Mike Schley

Ralph Bernhardt, SPN Reporter

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Mike Schley has been a professional fantasy artist who has done both company and independent work since 2001. He’s been the lead designer, art director, and illustrator for dozens of projects. He’s worked for companies such as Wizards of the Coast, Scholastic Books, HarperCollins Publishing, and many more. He’s probably best known for his work on ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ and ‘Sorcery!’. I got in contact with him through his website (the rather obvious www.mikeschley.com) and asked him a few questions about his artwork. He was a great sport, and his answers are below.

1. Is your art physically or digitally drawn? If physical, do you use watercolor, or stronger paints?

I work with a variety of media but almost all of my maps and recent illustration projects have been completed using Photoshop. I typically start with pencil sketches on paper to work out ideas and then scan and switch to a digital format using a Wacom Intuos tablet for the final inks and color application.

2. What motivates you to pick this unique subject matter? Did any other artists inspire you?

I’ve loved narrative, fantasy and sci-fi illustration since I was a kid so it’s a natural fit to find myself working with those subjects. Illustrators such as Pyle, Wyeth, Rackham, and Mucha have been long time favorites of mine. Some more recent representational artists that I like include Sam Weber, Vincent Desidareo, Jon Foster, and Ashley Wood.

3. What perspective (one point, two point, ect) do you prefer to work in?

I prefer working in 2 or 3 point perspective but sometimes that’s not an option. For instance, a typical top-down map limits your options since the angle of view is perpendicular to the horizon line and adding any significant depth can lead to unwanted obscuring of map info.

4. What style would you classify your art as? There’s very little like it!

I really haven’t thought much about how to “classify” my art but most of my contemporary work could be considered a melding of landscape art and environmental graphics. The style closely follows classical ink and wash illustration albeit in a digital format.

5. When and how did you begin to develop this style?

I painted in acrylics and worked in pen & ink for years before moving into the digital realm about 10-15 years ago. Since then I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting with mark making and image construction in Photoshop, always keeping in mind the underlying fundamentals of traditional drawing and painting. I love the visual aesthetic and approachability of traditional materials but also am totally on board with the speed and plasticity of working in a digital environment.

Thanks to Mike Schley for being a great artist and a great sport in this interview. For more information, you can visit www.mikeschley.com, or if you’d like to purchase any of his art, you can visit www.mikeschley.zenfolio.com.

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About the Writer
Ralph Bernhardt, SPN Reporter

I’m a sophomore here at Bixby High School, and this would be my 4th year working on a Bixby School Newspaper, if you count 2 years as editor at Bixby...

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An Interview with Fantasy Artist Mike Schley