Welcome to our midsummer ‘Misty Isles’ issue, very loosely based around the idea of our own British Isles. We’re pleased to have a lead interview with two young lads from England who have a hit videogame, set in the wilds of the Lake District. The game deftly blends three British concerns — shop-keeping, gardening and ancient mysteries. Representing Wales is the equally young Aled Thompson, a very talented digital artist who is developing a fine set of themes in response to his landscapes. Mike Thayer has a mini-interview talking about the making of one of the best-known freebies for the DAZ V4 fantasy figure, his ‘Dryad’. Finally we’re pleased to have a long interview with the artist Susan Houndsville, held over from our previous issue.
(can’t see the subscribe button? – try this page)
Inside this issue
ALED THOMPSON Aled is a young artist from Wales. A recent degree graduate, he now works as a storyboard / concept artist.
PHOTOSHOP | CONCEPTS
“… My landscape was fascinating as I was growing up — with a mountain hollowed by an old slate mine, ruins of a 13th century castle and the mountain the burial mound of a giant killed by King Arthur. Every mountain and lake has its own name and lore.”
BAD VIKING We interview the two young brothers who used Unity to create one of the best-reviewed indie videogames of 2022.
UNITY | VIDEOGAMES
“Going down to my local shops to buy a copy of PC Gamer — the main UK gamer magazine — and finding our game Strange Horticulture had scored ‘90’ and was the joint highest game in that edition! That was a career highlight that I will never forget.”
Mike is the creator of one of the all-time most popular freebies, the ‘Dryad’ conforming figure for DAZ’s Victoria 4. POSER | VUE | FIGURES
“My hard-drives at the time were littered with thousands of .OBJ ivy growths that failed to make the cut! I kept thinking ‘there has to be an easier way’. Then while adjusting clothing morphs to a Victoria 4 model one day in Poser, I had an epiphany…” Also find inside…
- BACK ISSUES
- GRAPHIC NOVELS SURVEY
- INTERVIEW: SUSANN HOUNDSVILLE
Interview Snippet from Issue 69
We visit Wales to talk with young Aled Thompson about heritage and art, landscape and styles, and how he’s taken to freelancing after graduation.
DAL: Aled, welcome to our ‘Misty Isles’ issue.
AT: Thank you, it’s a fascinating subject and I’m looking forward to reading the full issue.
DAL: Great. It’s only loosely themed that way, but it sort of hangs together. We didn’t want to go into either the ‘Celtic gift-shoppe kitsch’ side or the ‘Wicker Man’ rural horror side, both of which it would have been easy to do. Something a bit lighter and more ‘midsummer’. Which was partly why our eye was first caught by your recent move into a series of wonderfully stylized Welsh landscape pictures. Very striking and fresh, and also made digitally. But then we also noticed your amazingly detailed and atmospheric ‘mossy treescape’ work, which is just as interesting. And back of that, there’s your darker and more mythic-horror work. Such as “The Black Sheep”. Am I right in thinking your creativity first began with the latter, with a more Arthur Machen-like ‘horror in the rural’ approach?
AT: Yes, I’d say my interest definitely began with darker aspects of myths and folklore. I was always fascinated by stories of mysterious creatures and ancient times. Creatures which evoked a sense of uneasy atmosphere that I began to channel into my creative work. My treescape making in particular was an interesting process, as I would set out without a clear direction, just layering shapes on top of each other until they started making something interesting and then developing that into a complete scene. Throughout the entire process my mind was always on those stories and they definitely guided my hand. More recently I’ve been exploring ways of incorporating more playful shapes and vibrant colours into my artwork that became my series of stylized landscapes.
DAL: I see. Did that initial impulse to create come from where you live in Wales? In terms of the landscape influencing what you wanted to paint and put in the pictures?
AT: I’d say so, I was fortunate enough to live in an area that was incredibly rich in culture and history. My landscape itself was incredibly fascinating as I was growing up — with a mountain hollowed out by an old slate mine, the ruins of a 13th century castle and the tallest mountain that was said to be the burial mound of a giant killed by King Arthur. Every mountain and lake has its own name and unique lore, there’s just so much to draw inspiration from and it feels like I’ve barely begun to illustrate all the ideas I have in my head.
DAL: Wonderful. How did you go about learning digital art, in the first years?
AT: I’d always admired makers of digital art, but had never really considered it as a viable medium for me… until I decided to pursue a career path in the creative industries. It was incredibly challenging at first, as I would approach digital drawing the same way I did traditional drawing. So the marks I was making were static and dull. I had to train myself through countless studies to embrace the digital medium as its own thing and allow myself to have fun and experiment with the process. It was then when I began to see the improvement in my work.
DAL: I see. And you’re now a recent graduate. And from MMU in Manchester, which along with neighboring Staffordshire (Stoke-on-Trent) has a good reputation for creative courses. Well, if you’re making work of such quality now, I’d say you have a fine career ahead of you. How did you like the degree course and the city? Was it a good experience? What stood out, for you?
AT: Thank you, it was a really big decision to move from a quiet rural village to such a big city. But I’m incredibly glad I did, as I would not be where I am today without taking that step. The degree course wasn’t what I was expecting at all, as it gave me the freedom to explore my own ideas in a creative environment. Also encouraged me to explore a range of styles and techniques. But I an important lesson I had to learn was that I had to take steps to teach myself about the industry I was interested in, and to curate my own portfolio to stand out in that industry. The city of Manchester itself was a wonderful amalgamation of different cultures and style, the art scene was lively, I was blown away by the variety of architecture. I met, so many inspiring, creative people from all walks of life.
DAL: Great. And now you’re back in Wales? And freelancing as an illustrator. How is that going?
AT: Yes I am, it’s been great to get back to my roots and I’m using my time here to really get the most out of Wales. Graduating during the pandemic was incredibly challenging and I was woefully unprepared for freelancing. But I was able to make the most of the lockdowns to really refine my art style and build my portfolio.