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Penguins and Top Hats: Interview with Chris Malidore
Penguins and Top Hats: Interview with Chris MalidoreArtist Spotlight
by Constanza Ehrenhaus
Chris Malidore is an incredibly talented young artist who has worked really hard in improving his skills. His images are very interesting, combining wonderful values and dynamism, usually using complementary colors. But Chris's best characteristic is not his art, but his willingness to help younger artists. Despite his very busy schedule he puts a lot of time into art communities, giving advice to those who need it.
Did you pursue a college degree, if so which one?
I did not pursue a degree -- however it was no easy decision, and I put a lot of thought into it for some time.
We are raised to generally believe that we as productive members of the community are useless without a degree -- and in most fields that's probably not far off of the mark, but in illustration things become more about your capabilities than a noteworthy piece of paper. Mind you, that degree represents hours on hours of refinement with a real instructor... but I felt that I could teach myself the same material, even if it might take a little longer.
It is a personal goal of mine to pursue a Masters Degree in a few years and then follow a teaching path.
Why did you choose not to pursue such a degree? Is there anything you feel you are lacking because of that? Likewise, is there in anything you feel you are better off because of that?
It's a double edged blade of its own. I chose not to because that's a lot of money to repay! And I'm not living too comfortable as it is right now. If I feel that I can be just as productive without it, and not pay that money... then I'm going to take that path. Now, because of this I don't have some bits of refinement that I'd have liked. I would not have struggled as much with anatomy or color, and likely would have garnered some good networking. Instead I was forced to build it all on my own with lil bits of knowledge I could suck out of other artists who I greatly admire.
I have no regrets though; didn't have to worry about being taught an instructor's style, or being pushed out of a direction I wanted to go. It was all up to me to do with it what I wanted. Like a blank canvas!
I imagine that after deciding not to go to college you did not just sit to doodle sometimes and play games. How was your art training to bring yourself where you are now?
All art all the time, really. Now, I could have taken more time off from it, but I am a dedicated, 100% sort of person; I don't like doing something part way. It's what I personally needed to achieve my goals, but is hardly how everyone should do it. Go live your life a bit! But me? I'd draw, assess the weaknesses, and draw some more to fix those issues.
It is my personal opinion that you would be a terrific teacher. You seem to enjoy teaching. What would be the class(es) that you would love to teach?
I would love to teach anything from basic drawing to illustration itself to a high school crowd, as that's a really important point in a creative person's life... and so many art teachers of real skill and love of what they do go to colleges. I wanted an art teacher with passion for what they did, and really didn't see that until I got a life drawing class while doing some community college stuff. It would have made the transition far easier to have that appreciation of the arts instilled in me earlier.
Your pictures have a lot of dynamism, there are very few static compositions. Is that your personal preference or the art directors' choice?
Personal choice really. One that my art directors tend to be really happy about as it's something they don't often have to push in me.
How do you achieve such dynamism?
Well I grew up reading comic books like any geeky non-social young boy and that is where I learned many basics of drawing (and gained a huge amount of bad habits in the process!). It's always been a lingering aftereffect over the years that I just don't like drawing static images, I want things to be happening... a story, a flow, etc. I think through my pictures like music sometimes, and that movement and dynamism can be quite the tempo.
You have a wonderful understanding of values. Do you work in grayscale first or you start in full color?
For a looong time I did nothing but graphite art, I love working in pencil. And over the years this gave me a strong understanding of value. On my images I work both ways depending on my mood -- there are many times where I lay down my value study first, because if you don't get your values right first no amount of color will save the scene. But I lay down colors first at times. I wish I could say I use the same habits with each image, but I like changing it up!
Many of your images are almost monochromatic. Does this make the process of delivering a memorable image more challenging or easier for you? Why?
It's never been a hugely calculated move on my part, but I seem to just gravitate to images where one color dominates. I don't think it's hurt me or helped me much as it's just where my preferences are, and we adapt with that and it becomes our little artistic self so to speak.
As I sit here thinking about it a little more I can say that it likely eases the work during the rough deadlines, as at that point most of the colors are pretty related and then I can mostly think about values... and I'm pretty comfortable with values.
You work your compositions not only through shapes and lines, but also through color. Could you summarize how you can use color to make a good composition better?
I think back to magicians. When I was young I liked watching sleight of hand tricks – y'know, where they'd be moving the coin all around their person only to pull it out of some really confused person's ear? Well, it's all about misdirection and putting an eye where you want it. And a color is just like a shape or line or dot or whatever you use in an image -- it's just a tool. So I use it the same way. Once I get my basic shapes done, I start thinking about what colors need to go where to create the right moods, dynamics, interest, and what tells the story best. Colors mean different things, and so I think through them pretty carefully.
So I'll be sure to pay heavy attention to complements. If I have a mostly fire based image, then throwing in some blues won't be a bad idea to spice up the image. But only in spots that I want the eye to go. And then we're looking at what intensity that blue needs to be... every image is different, and requires its own set of rules.
Lately I've been hodge-podging a lot of different colors into my work and then finding the right balance for them as I go... it's like flying blind but creates a bit of freedom as you go. After all, if I don't like it, I can just paint over it. Stop fearing the color and you'd be amazed of what you can do with it.
I think your composition and colors are probably your best asset, but your anatomy and perspective are also good. In your opinion, where do you think you should improve to be a better artist?
Oh everywhere! Every day I learn something new and I just adore that. I've found that sometimes the areas of our biggest need to refine are the things we think we know a lot about -- we get cocky, and assume we know it, and then we get stuck because we put too much faith in ourselves on it... so I watch just about everything I do pretty carefully.
My colors are starting to develop a lot lately, and have much further to go, my anatomy use clears up every day due to all of the people I draw, and so on. Personally I have great interest in escaping the fantasy genre right now a bit -- so that I can explore new shapes and ideas. I think that will teach me plenty of new things that I don't know yet. I guess in the end that comes down to ideas... I need to explore my ideas in new directions.
How did you break into the illustration industry?
Slowly but with force. After I graduated high school I couldn't get work; our area was pretty dead on jobs that year... so I said, "Hey, at least I can put together a portfolio in the mean time." I had no intentions of making a career out of it, wanted to be a hobby artist really. But I got the first taste of it in late 2002, when I stumbled onto a small rpg company website, submitted some work, and they gave me a few things to do. And it snowballed into something from there... and I'm quite glad that it did.
If you could choose to illustrate anything, what would be your dream job?
Oh that's hard to say... I've enjoyed doing so many great projects this year. Still reassessing my goals a bit to see where to go next... but I've always wanted to push hard into the book cover industry. That's something I've always wanted to do more of.
I still have a graphic novel project that I heavily wish to do and I see that coming up later this year I think. So that would be quite fun.
You are an excellent pencil artist, is there any reason for you not doing pencils regularly anymore? Is digital easier to get things done?
Many of my clients don't want pencil art. Simple as that. I love pencil art, it's the one medium that always makes me happy when I'm down. An hour with some graphite can rewrite a bad day for me. But ultimately it comes down to time and finances. The people who pay want digital paintings? They get digital paintings. When my schedule is more free I'll do more graphite again.
How do you combine working for companies with freelance work and real life? How do you make it? Please, give us the secret!
Gosh, somebody give ME the secret! Haha. My schedule is this: Wake up, go to the day job where I illustrate people stretching for a physical therapy based group, and then I go home and freelance until it makes sense not to... which usually gives me a half hour to do the real life thing... I don't have much of a life right now! As it is I'm looking to remove freelancing slowly from my schedules soon for a break. Almost time for a vacation!
Dreamed vacation place?
I'd love to go to Japan. I love the culture over there. Europe also has some snazzy places that would be fun to see. On limited funds I like going to the beach though - a few hours drive for a peaceful recharge for my artistic battery? Yes please!
Despite your busy agenda, you always seem to find quite a bit of time to help growing artist in the art communities. What makes you put the time into this, instead of being relaxing?
I really don't know... but I've always seen these young aspiring artists and seen myself in them -- I remember not knowing where to go next, and I remember not having much help. It was a real struggle, and I want to be able to save some people a bit of that... if they'll let me. I've never understood the reason to hoard knowledge, I prefer sharing it.
But I really have no idea why I do that instead of resting and what not. Never made much sense to me... but it's just what I feel I gotta do. A basic drive, if you will.
Do you regularly go to cons? Where can the fans find you in the near future?
I do about two conventions a year, give or take. Right now I have none booked but usually you can find me at the Seattle Emerald City ComiCon each spring. I love that show. But in the near future my plan is to hide away in my cave of an apartment and finish projects, just before eventually finding sleep. Sleep sounds awesome.
I MIGHT attend a street fair with a collaborative friend this summer, but we'll see -- scheduling is rarely on my side.
Why is your nick Yrindale?
Old role play character! It just sorta stuck. I liked it, nobody else had a screen name close to it, it seemed -- so eventually people just recognized me as Yrindale, Yrin, Yrinner, whatever. But as with most things in my life - it gets traced back to role play gaming.
What's with penguins?
I like penguins! Never knew why, but the struggle they go through fascinates me. It's such a survival based animal. I find a bit of inspiration there. Nonetheless, the penguin series of pictures I do are just for fun... we need a bit of humorous irony in our lives or it all gets too serious. I like seeing people smile!
What's with the top hat? Is it related to penguins?
I wear a top hat because it's one of the few hats I look good in, haha. I like them! At the same time my interest began years ago when I saw one associated with a biker zombie... they grew on me ever since! I am that damaged of a person, yes.
New Year night, alcohol and art?
My yearly tradition! Every new year the last few years or so, I like to get some nice alcohol (last time we got a fantastic port wine), get some friends over, and paint or draw the night away. It's social, low stress, and is a fine reason to drink. Not that I need many reasons to drink.
Chris by Julian Edwards:
In my opinion... Mr. Malidore isn't just a superb artist - he's a very level-headed and responsible individual with a sense of respect. From personal experience he's given people fine advice, not just on art itself, but on conduct and dealings, as well as his vast experience in the industry. He's a good friend to have as well as an idol - he sets you straight when you do wrong, he's willing to show the path the best he can. IDK, a good mate is someone who ticks you off firmly but remains helpful when they see you caving in to nonsense.
Generally he's a really balanced guy when it comes to both fun and work. Really serious in work. Tends to have passionate burnouts -- it's his passion, though, so it's understandable. I meant art as his passion, not that he has a passion for burnouts. We can learn a lot from this guy. He's got practical solutions to many things.
Chris by Louisa Gallie:
Chris isn't just a great artist, he's also absolutely tireless when it comes to helping others grow and develop. He's full of great advice and selfless in giving it out. I've learned a lot from just observing his WIPS on Epilogue. Thanks Chris!
Chris by Patrick McEvoy:
I've been keeping an eye on Chris's work for several years on Epilogue. In that time he has gone from a promising young amateur to an up-and-coming young professional. It's been fun to see his style grow and mature, but still keep the same unique visual spark it has always had. I look forward to see where time and experience take Chris and his art in the future.
Chris by Melissa Findley
Chris is an amazing artist, always willing to hold out a helping hand. I've found his advice to be absolutely invaluable. Also, he's kind of cute in a scruffy, Johnny-Depp sort of way.
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