From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Artist Spotlight: Scott Grimando

Over the course of his career, Scott Grimando has worked as a fine artist, illustrator, photographer, and art teacher. The luminous worlds of his of artwork are populated as naturally by the hulking, brooding Conan as the most ethereal of fairies, the leanest space marines, or the sternest priestesses. Readers of science fiction and fantasy will recognize his work for Prime and Ace books. In this artist spotlight, I asked Scott about his inspiration for the March cover of Fantasy Magazine, “Guinevere,” as well as working as a commercial and fine artist, where he seeks inspiration, and his advice for new fantasy artists looking to break in to the industry.

What inspired “Guinevere”?

“Guinevere” was inspired by a book cover done by Cliff Nielsen. He’s a great designer and his covers always catch my eye. Besides that, the latest King Arthur movie portrayed Guinevere as a warrior woman.

Where do you typically look for inspiration?

Today I look to the bookstore shelf to see what’s hot and what moves me. Sometimes it’s a sprawling spacescape; sometimes it’s a compelling figure in a moody setting.

Is there a storytelling component in your art?

I have always studied illustration. Even while studying classical art I’m drawn to the paintings that tell a story. Pretty pictures of flowers do nothing for me. An illustrator’s job is to tell a story with an image. The viewer must be drawn in to study what’s going on in the picture. It’s that interaction with the audience that I find compelling.

Is it a different experience for you when illustrating on commission versus producing art for yourself?

It depends on weather I’m creating a portfolio piece or a painting for a gallery. My portfolio work is designed to reel in new clients so it has the same feel as the commissioned work but without the restrictions of the editors and art directors. There has been a marked divide between my commercial and private work in recent years. The publishing industry isn’t interested in fine art anymore. They want something that looks like a movie poster, and that’s fine. The new trends present their own challenges. I do try to keep my hand in painting fine art. I feel like it compliments my digital work, and you never know if the industry will swing back in the other direction.

You’re also a photographer, and on your site, you say: “Light is the brush with which the photographer paints his masterpieces.” It seems light also plays a large role in your illustrations—why is light so significant to you, as an artist?

All a painter is doing is rendering lighting effects. Beyond that as an illustrator I use negative and positive space (light and dark) to create drama and composition. As a photographer I look and wait for the right light. In the studio I can mold the light to my will. That’s where I feel the most like an artist with a camera.

How do you think your experience as a photographer has altered your artistic style?

Artists have used photographic reference since photography was invented. I’ve been shooting since college to gather reference material, but with the development of digital cameras I was able to develop my photography skills much more quickly and I started shooting professionally. The heavy use of a photographic style in my illustrations is dictated by trends in the publishing industry. I always felt a little stupid trying to fake a painted look to my digital work anyway. It’s so much more pure this way.

How did you first get into making art?

My father was a commercial artist and I’ve always had all the encouragement and art supplies I needed. Since I could hold a crayon I always considered art my profession.

What have some of your favorite projects been, and why?

I love that Ace books hires me to do space opera pieces since it’s so outside my normal style. I thrive on challenge. The Conan The Hour of the Dragon piece I did last year for Prime is one of my favorite projects because I’ve always wanted to do a Conan cover.

I put my heart into making that cover both contemporary and at the same time a tribute to the classic Conan art I grew up with.

You were Chair of the Fine Arts/Photography Dept. at Adelphi Academy. Was this a teaching position? If so, did you enjoy teaching art and design?

I do enjoy teaching and I still do it through various private art schools and the Nassau County Museum of Art. The Adelphi position was a bit of a nightmare because I taught pre-K through twelfth grade. I did learn a lot about communicating the theory of art to a huge range of ages. I also feel like it’s a tribute to the great mentors I’ve had to pass on the knowledge.

What advice would you give to aspiring fantasy artists?

Study. Use reference. Tell a story. Don’t copy—instead, be inspired. In my book, The Art of the Mythical Woman: Lucid Dreams, from SQP was written with the fantasy art fan and art student in mind. The first half covers commissioned work and how an artist completes an assignment. The second half is personal work and I delve into art theory.

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Molly Tanzer

Molly TanzerMolly Tanzer is the Managing Editor of Lightspeed and Fantasy Magazine. Her fiction has appeared in Running with the PackCrossed GenresPalimpsest, and is forthcoming in Historical Lovecraft. The account of her adventures going minigolfing with zombie polka band The Widow’s Bane appears over at Strange Horizons. She is a fan of the semicolon, an out-of-practice translator of ancient Greek, an infrequent blogger, and an avid admirer of the novels of eighteenth century England. Currently, she resides in Boulder, Colorado with her husband and a very bad cat.