Recently, I had a chance to talk with Ranko Blazina who is a very talented and award winning digital artist from Croatia. We talked about his work, career, his techniques and style. Amazing and inspiring words came from Ranko and I welcome you to read the interview.
Q Hello, welcome to the PSDTUTS! Please, introduce yourself, tell us briefly about yourself, where are you from, and how did you start in digital art?
Hi there ! My name is Ranko Blažina aka RaneZ, I come from Samobor, Croatia. I work full time at my graphic design studio - Snooze. In the rest of my free time I spend it developing new skills in retouching, digital art and abstract art. For the last eight years I was working and developing a broad range of illustrations, web sites and graphical products.
My studio deals with innovative solutions which enables clients to get a satisfactory product. Despite the fact that I use my skills for business, I see digital art as a way of living. My first contact with Photoshop was 10 years ago, maybe more, when the first Windows came out. I remember those hand scanners...they were fun!
So I started like many other digital artist, playing with abstract 3d pieces from 3D Studiomax or Cinema4d.. Good old 90's. Then I realized that I wanted more from 3d...so I started doing some photo manipulations. Especially when the first digital cameras were released. As years passed by I was improving my skills. Today, anyone can do photo manipulations. But, there are just too many average guys out there. You really have to push yourself hard to be better these days.
Q You come from a very small Mediterranean country, Croatia. How does that affect you and your work? Is this relevant for your career?
Well, I must admit, it's really hard to push a career here. We are just too small for any big plans.
But in some cases, that is an advantage. I must push even harder to be up-to-date.
As I recall, me and 2 other guys that I know, here from Croatia, are the only crew that makes such (digital) art. We have some plans for the future, to get people familiar with these digital techniques and programs that we use. I hope that next year I will have my first exhibition here in Zagreb, so I can start spreading my "digital art revolution" in Croatia :)
Q After browsing your work I couldn't not to notice your "Winter Cloud Makers" artwork. I see that it has a story behind it. I was inspired and it really opened my imagination. Tell us more about it.
Hehe, that artwork was produced in a few winter nights, just like the title says. A few days before starting to draw this piece, I was starring through my window and watching snowflakes fall.
We have really SNOWY days here in Croatia. Did you notice that every time the snow is falling , there are no clouds?! Just an awesome site to whiteness covering the sky. So, it hit me! There must be someone who MAKES clouds! At least in my imaginary world. A few girls blowing the clouds from their mouths, but only when no one is watching. So I started sketching, planning, and finding some base plates. After few sleepless nights, the "winter cloud makers" piece was done!
Q "Snail Guardian" is my next favorite piece in your portfolio. Really deep and inspiring. Where did the idea came from and how long did it take you to make it?
As you can see, all of my artwork is usually inspired by oversized animals and little humans. That's just the way I usually dream them up. Snail Guardian was a long time in my mind. A Jungle, little waterfalls, few spooky eyes watching the scene.
The point of this piece is a little girl that controls a giant snail, and together they guard the forest. He can't exist without her, together they are the one. I especially love this piece because I used tons of brushing for lightning, toning, coloring and making perfect blends.
Q What is the first step you take after you get an idea for a design and how does your process looks like afterwards?
Sketch, sketch, sketch. I always use paper before starting. Paper, pen, coffee. I must admit that I am not so good with paper and pen, but I know what it is in my head that I want. So those sketches do not always look so good, but I don't care. After some basic scene drawings, I decide which rule of thirds I will use. Not always, but often. Then I search the web for starting the image. Images, that will be plate.
Usually, after I finish my artwork, plate is unrecognizable so I delete it. Then I do some quick placing images in one file so I can visualize what is going where. At the end this process, when I am pleased with order, I start merging, painting, and coloring. Details are added afterwards.
Q You use a lot of photomontage and matte painting in your art and your Photoshop skills are sharp! Could you give our readers an advice on how to approach these techniques and where to begin? Is it hard?
To be honest, I am also new to matte painting. You can search web for this phrase, and you will probably end with some mattes for movie industries. But I am using this same techniques to create my own world. Photomontage is the best way to start using Photoshop. That's why Photoshop exists ! The hardest things is probably lightning. Good light source and quality shadows and are the basics of digital artwork. I am a former photographer, so I got my "lighting" knowledge earlier. But the principle is the same. Light and shadows. You paint with light. Secondly, the thing to be good at photo manipulation is color balance. Merging black stripes of a zebra taken in local Zoo with flash and a low Mp camera into some winter night scene with lots of different light sources that will be printed on billboard is THE job. Practice. That's all I can say. Read online tutorials. Browse online artistic groups. Practice.
Q I also see you're experimenting with Typography, new drawing and Photoshop techniques. Do you do that often? In your opinion, do you think this is necessary step for every digital artist in order to define her style or just to expand knowledge?
Once more, practice. Experiment. You will be surprised what kind of stuff you are able to produce when mixing different styles, techniques. See what are you into. I experiment a lot with typography because I am using it in everyday designs. Not only digital artwork but in Posters, flyers, billboards, signs, letterheads, and booklets. Running my own creative studio (Snooze), I have learned that you must know different styles to satisfy clients.
Q You worked as a freelancer for almost 6 years. Now you're a proud owner of a Digital Studio based in Croatia. Can you tell us how did that happen? What are main differences in being a freelance digital artist and a Digital Studio owner?
Yep, I run a little creative studio called Snooze here in Croatia. Much less stress than working in an agency. The first and main reason I left the traditional ad agency work is they didn't allow designers to produce something that YOU thought up, something with YOUR technique and YOUR style. I was so unhappy. So, running my own was like big explosion of ideas in my head. I was able to create client demands like I wanted, and most important thing is that THEY were really satisfied.
Q Your work was published and recognized many times on the web and in offline publications (books and magazines). Among others you were also a 2nd place winner of the American Design Award for the "Day of the planet Earth 2008" poster. How was that experience for you and did it help you in your professional career?
ADA for Earth poster was really a morale booster. I got a few emails from possible clients asking me to produce more stuff like this. So I have learned that online recognition is important to succeed. How can someone find you if you are a caveman in front of your iMac?
Q You apply your knowledge and skills to all kind of work including advertising and packaging design! How does that work for you and do you think you could start designing websites too?
Packaging, advertising, digital art. Same old story, different clients. That is design. Every day I learn something new, that’s why I love design and art. We have designed a few websites, and I am looking forward to use more Snooze skills for online content.
Q How do you see your industry in 5 or 10 years from now? Does it evolve rapidly as the web industry? Where do you think you could end up by then?
I am looking forward to expand my studio a little more. Add a few more people, a few more Macs, a few more Wacoms. 5 to 10 years? That's a hard question. Like you said, evolving too rapidly. But, I will try to stay in the flow!
Q Thanks again for providing Psdtuts+ with this opportunity to interview you. Any final thoughts or advice for our readers?
Experiment with your art. Don't copy. Be yourself. Learn from websites, tutorials, and friends.