Feb 26 2009 4:03pm

John Dickenson, artist interview

John Dickenson

I’d like to say that when I saw John Dickenson’s work I made some informed comment about his great sense of space and his ability to subtly insert human elements into epic environments without losing them altogether. Instead, what I did after seeing a sample in Spectrum and then turning to my laptop to look up his website, was to start singing to the friends that were with me, “My new b-oy friend, my new b-oy friend!” And then immediately asked him to join our gallery and answer a few questions.

First break in the business?
When I got a call from Scott Williams of the then Homage Studios to help him ink three of the comic books he was working on per month. This new job allowed me to ink over Jim Lee, Jeff Scott Campbell, Travis Charest, and other world class comic book artists. It was amazing to be a part of that studio with all those incredibly talented artists back in the early 90s. After that I got another big break in 1997, to go work with Justin Sweet & Vance Kovacs at Black Isle Studios, and learn how to paint and create art on the computer. I’ve never looked back.

Your biggest influences?
Early on it was artists like Rick Griffin, Roger Dean, J.C. Leyendecker, Drew Struzan, and many of the Disney old timers. As I matured as an artist I continued to add new artists to my list such as Sargent, N. C. & Andrew Wyeth, Dean Cornwell, Joseph Clement Coll, Fechin, Winslow Homer, Mucha, Dulac and Bob Kuhn. Of course there are many other artists both past and present that continue to inspire and influence me.

John DickensonDream assignment?
My dream assignment would to find a publisher who would contract me to create my uPuP children’s book idea which would contain fifteen or so full color paintings along with a dozen pen & ink drawings. And I’d have a year to complete it, along with making enough money to meet my financial needs for that year. Oh, and to still have time to take on other creative projects as well.

A career highlight?
When I got the call to work on the Narnia Films as a pre-production concept artist. Plus the opportunity of getting to work with director Michael Apted, Jan Roelfs, Andrew Adamson, Roger Ford and others. Also getting to meet with Richard Taylor of Weta Studios. But the icing on the cake was to work on these 2 movies with my 2 best friends Justin Sweet and Vance Kovacs. An unforgettable ride.

John DickensonAdvice to a young illustrator?
I’d say without hesitation to learn first how to draw. Become a competent draftsman before anything else. I didn’t have the proper training early on. I went right after my natural strengths of color, design, and composition and for the most part, only focused on the “surface” aspect of my artwork. I didn’t work enough at improving my basic drawing skills. If I could go back to my first day in class, I’d only work in black and white, and stay away from too much surface detail. To this day I’m still having to go back and re-learn so much of what should have been done at the beginning of my artistic journey.

You can check out more of JD’s work on his website and his gallery.

John Dickenson

John Dickenson

Jon Schindehette
1. Jon Schindehette
Sweet interview and lovely images. Thanks for sharing Irene
Irene Gallo
2. Irene
Thanks for stopping in, Jon!


Anyone interested in fantasy art should be checking out Jon's ArtOrder blog:
Patrick Garson
3. patrickg
Oh yes, I can see that early Disney influence there - there's a spalsh of some of Ted Sears work in particular, I'm thinking his storyboard stuff from Snow White, Pinocchio and Sleeping Beauty.

Also I think the Rackham water colours (people always focus on his figures, but I personally feel his backgrounds were easily as influential).
Irene Gallo
4. Irene
Patrick - I don't know Ted Sears but i'll look him up. Thanks for the recommendation. I'm terribly unschooled in classic animation. I stumbled onto this blog-- -- and have been blown away by all the background work in particular.
Patrick Garson
5. patrickg
Wow Irene that's a gorgeous blog. I love the attention to backgrounds. I mean don't get me wrong - the figures are great, too (count me emphatically not amongst the people who view Disney as somehow effete because of its mixed messages), but when you have a background that's going to get several minutes of screen time versus several milliseconds, the care taken is beautiful.

That deep canvassing in Snow White and its subsequent homage in Beauty and the Beast. Sigh. I love drawings of trees, particularly from artists who play around with light a lot.
Patrick Garson
6. patrickg
Oh also I got mixed up, it wasn't Sears I was thinking of - though he did work on all those movies - it was one of the Scandinavians Disney imported (not Nielsen), his name escapes me. Gunther? Gustav? Humboldt? Can't remember. He did lots of dark tree-y backgrounds.
Irene Gallo
7. Irene
Oh! Gustav Tenggren. Yes. Excellent call.
Jon Schindehette
8. Luke Swain
Wow, thanks for the interview! Definitely concentrating on the B/W studies for now. That first image reminds me of Don Bluth's The Secret of Nimh for some reason.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment