Interview: Jamie Noble Frier, Science Fiction & Fantasy Artist
Today, I’m thrilled to welcome the super-talented artist Jamie Noble Frier to my blog. Many of you have already expressed admiration for the front cover he created for my novel Desiccation. It’s my belief that unless Indie authors are blessed with artistic talent, it’s a worthwhile investment to commission professionals to produce their book covers for them.
Jamie was such a delight to work with throughout the creative process: always communicative, courteous, and with a wonderful sense of humour. Armed with an excerpt from my novel, plus the request that he design a cover in the style of Amazing Stories Magazine in the 1960’s, he worked with impressive speed, completing the commission two weeks early to an exceptional standard.
Anyway, enough preamble from me. It’s interview time!
SP: What age were you when the Muse of arts captured you in her thrall, or were you just born brilliant?
JNF: I have always been interested in art. My grandfather painted landscapes with oils, my mum was very creative, and my brother would spend hours sketching his favourite characters from video games and TV shows. He still is very talented and needs to find time to do it (if you’re reading this Bro!)… Mum is retired now and has found time to paint and sketch and has even started an art club with her friends. So I would say I had a lot of creative influence when I was younger… I used to obsess over fantasy illustrations in books and quite often try to sketch them, so I would say that was my first venture into art. Born brilliant? I think only Mum would answer “yes” to that.
SP: When did you decide to make a career out of your art and how did people around you respond to your choice?
JNF: I think I decided I would be a monster drawer when I was about 3… then life got in the way and you get to a point and think that’s not a real job, not for me anyway — you have to be pretty lucky to get a job like that. You don’t. To get there, you just have to work really really hard with what you do. It’s the same with anything, football, music, whatever — you need to get obsessed with doing it, learning it, enjoying it. I’m not sure if natural talent is a thing to be honest, I’ve always thought you’re just born with a certain level of tolerance/patience for making mistakes and if you enjoy the subject enough, you’ll work through to get better. That’s the only difference in people, I feel like you could do anything; you just need to work really hard. So after managing a restaurant for several years I thought painting pizzas on chalk boards just wasn’t cutting it and I had to aim for what I wanted to do and got back into art in a big way. I quit my job and did a course in video game production, but pretty much spent the whole year drawing and learning digital art programs. My girlfriend (now wife) was super supportive. She could see my frustration in my day job and, considering she hadn’t seen much of my drawing, had incredible faith in me. I wouldn’t have had the guts to do it without the support network that quickly formed around me. In that respect I was really lucky.
SP: Why did you decide to specialise in science fiction and fantasy art?
JNF: I specialised in sci-fi/fantasy because I was desperate to do it. It had been my obsession since I was a kid, so everything I did forced its way towards that genre. Whenever I had to try a new technique, instead of drawing a regular landscape, I’d make sure there was a dragon flying overhead. If it was a portrait, the guy would probably be wearing armour… In that way it worked pretty well for learning, too, as you had to extend your imagination a little, as well as have pictorial references to help. I can’t think of the first image I saw that switched me onto the sci-fi/fantasy genre, but I do remember carrying several wargaming books around everywhere with me that were illustrated by Geoff Taylor and Ian Miller among other folks.
SP: What else do you illustrate other than book covers?
JNF: As well as book covers, I illustrate board games, album covers, articles for magazines and I cut my teeth in the video game industry when I started. I also do a lot of stuff for personal enjoyment or commissions people want for their walls/desks, I’m pretty much happy as long as I’m busy!
SP: Do you feel a constant urge to sketch and paint outside of your working day and, if so, do you use this time to diversify in your art?
JNF: I do find the urge, yes! As any 30 something year old, I might have a mild video game problem, but since I’ve been working creatively the battle for my spare time has been consistently won by painting (digitally). Sometimes I’ll have a free day and think, awesome, time to nerd out and play some games, then I switch off after 5 minutes and end up drawing a portrait… There always feels like there’s so much to do/try/experience with art, I don’t think I’ll ever feel satisfied. That’s why I love fantasy and sci-fi. You can just launch Photoshop and see where your imagination takes you. In terms of diversifying, I do a lot of regular portraits of people, which is something quite unlikely to pop up at work. I find it relaxing and comforting. It’s also so useful to get more and more experience with the human form.
SP: Are you good at organising your time, or do you need reminding to eat, sleep, take the pup for a walk, or do your paperwork?
JNF: The pup is a creature of routine, so she keeps me in check. It’s a perfect bond really. She always comes and gives me a nudge and gets me up, which is great. I worked for about a year on my own before we got her and it starts to wear a bit on the soul. So it’s great to have company, although I think she’s bored of me. Everyone else gets a better reception when they see her! I forget to do the necessaries a lot — I have to make sure I drink water as I might start the day with a coffee and then forget anything after that.
SP: Who or what have been the main inspirations behind your art in the past, or continue to inspire you in the present?
JNF: As for artists, the names I mentioned before as well as some real digital masters like Daarken and Dave Rapoza have been really inspiring. I Feng Zhu runs an awesome series of tutorial on YouTube, he’s inspiring both artistically and in terms of what he’s given back to the art community for free. If I ever have time, I’m flying out to his school of design in Singapore. I think my family — and now extended family since I’ve been married — are inspirations in life. It’s much easier when you have a whole load of people rooting for you.
SP: What interests do you have outside of art?
JNF: Outside of art, my time is consumed by a hungry, playful puppy, binge watching TV-series with my wife and playing board games. I’ve become a real addict in the past few years and it’s been really awesome to fall into working on board games, too. I would say that is my main “hobby” these days.
SP: This question is a bit of a cliché, but where do you see yourself in ten years from now?
JNF: Ten years from now I imagine I’ll be trying to force my children to play board games with me that are far too complex for their age. I hope that I will have given a little back of what I have taken from the online arts community; I’ve just started to try and record some of my own tutorials of me working. I’m not fussed about being particularly rich. I just want to be comfortable and enjoy every day like I do right now. I hope to have some recognition. I guess, I’d value that over a skyscraper and a private plane…