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Interview with Luke Feldman AKA SKAFFS

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Luke Feldman is an Australian artist working professionally as a multimedia designer. He has developed SKAFFS, a collection of vibrant and quirky ideas which can be best described as beautiful, elegant and colorful. His original and distinctive style of illustration makes his work easily recognizable and immediately succeeds in grabbing full attention of a viewer.

This freelance illustrator, animator and sound producer has worked for huge companies like Coca Cola, Apple, and Facebook among others. Being fun, colorful and attractive his work quite naturally translates into sculpture, animation, skate deck lines, vinyl adhesive lines, toys, and more. So lets have a digital chat with this multi-talented artist!

1. Hello Luke, tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from and how you got started in digital arts? Did you have any formal training in this field?

I would say that I am a typical Aussie bloke who loves the outdoors and hanging out with my mates.  I grew up in Warrnambool and Geelong and moved to Melbourne after high school.  I studied Visual Arts and Multimedia Design to get a good technical grounding.  From University, I worked in various industries such as the Department of Education, the gaming industry and social networking industry for over 10 years.  A few years ago, I utilized my multimedia design background to develop the world of SKAFFS. The SKAFFS product line consists of original art, digital art, skateboards, giant vinyl adhesives, t-shirts, toys and animations.

2. Share with us some memories of your very first illustration? When did you first realize that you wanted to be a commercial artist and illustrator?

My very first notable illustration was one that I entered into an Art Competition at a local bank in Warrnambool when I was 8 years old.  It was then that I realized that I had a glimpse of making something of my designs.  I continued to develop my style throughout high school and studied multimedia design to help take my designs to the next level.  Being able to animate my characters has helped me visualize my work in 3D and allowed me to give my work depth.  I enjoy what I do and I am passionate about what I do, and I think that is inspiring to those who meet me.

3. What are the tools and application that you use? What does your workstation look like?

It’s organized chaos really. I have a studio where I have my MAC and other accessories on one side and on the other side I have an area for traditional artwork.

4. Please walk us through your creative process. Do you start with traditional sketching and scanning or do you start it directly in digital media? I also notice that your illustrations and animations have a story to tell, so is it the story that comes first or illustrations?

I have my trusty sketchbook that I carry around with me at all times.  I never know when an idea will come to me.  Everything I do, whether it is an original piece of art, digital illustration, animation or installation, will start off as a sketch.   The story always comes first, then the sketch, and then it is scanned into Illustrator or Flash.  One of the most important features of my work is color and therefore it is the last step that can often take the longest time.

5. What is it about vector media that fascinates you? Since we are a vector tutorial site, I would like to ask you, what are your favorite Illustrator tools, tips, or techniques, and which one that you find yourself using the most?

My work is based on symmetry, flow and vibrancy.  Vector media allows me to capture these elements really well.  My favorite Illustrator tool would have to be the rotate and duplicate tool.  My tips for working with Illustrator is to know what your output is going to be, plan out your file first i.e. CMYK vs RGB, for print or the web, as changing from CMYK to RGB half way through a project will cause color changes which may affect your finished piece.

6. You have not only illustrated but also co-written a book, "Chaff n Skaffs: Mai and the Lost Moskivvy." How did the idea evolve? How long did it take from concept to its release for readers? What made you interested in writing which is a different branch of creativity altogether? Have you planned to write more books?

I have been illustrating for children’s books for a few years now, working for various international publishing houses.  It was always a passion of mine to create my very own book.  The "Chaff n Skaffs" series has been in the works now for a couple of years.  The characters, designs and story line had been conceptualized prior to meeting with San Francisco based publishers, Immedium.  The Chaff character is one of many bizarre characters in the world of SKAFFS. The story is about a young girl and her brave journey to help a little mosquito home.  It’s a fun adventure story for all ages to enjoy, with a lot of Aussie elements and lingo.

I always have numerous projects going at one time.  And because of that I have quite a few manuscripts and character concepts for further books.  It’s a matter of finding the time to research the right publishers for each story and determining the right way to bring the projects to market. 

7. I enjoyed watching your animation movie, Who Saved the Moon which was the finalist in International Independent Film Festival 2007 in San Diego, how was the experience like? What inspired you to make that story and how long have you been exploring Flash media?

Being involved in such a huge events like Comic-Con was an awesome experience.  To have the opportunity to address the audience and watch my animation on the big screen was an unforgettable experience.  As you can probably tell by my art, I am truly inspired by Asian art and culture.  A few years back I came across some Chinese fairy tales and this animation was a result of this.

I have been working with Flash ever since the beginning.  It is a versatile software package that most computers have installed.  Content can be developed and then exported to multiple platforms including broadcast quality animation, mobile media and for the web.  Flash has become increasingly popular for the development of broadcast animation. I have spent many years developing Flash interactive content and animations for use on both television and the web.

8. All the girls that you have drawn have pretty eyes, long hair, beautiful figures, but I can’t resist asking and am curious as to why don’t they have any defined feet? Is it a planned attempt to add fantasy to your illustrations?

I have always had a fascination and an appreciation for the female form.  Curve, flow, symmetry and balance, are the basis for my style.  In developing a SKAFFS female, I always start with the flow and curves of the body.  I enjoy the challenge of experimenting with different body poses and designing the clothes for them to wear. Other key elements are the eyes: intense, yet, naive.    The hair and clothing are the last details to be added; they follow the flow of the piece.  I take pride in my work to ensure that the SKAFFS females are always stylish and sophisticated and hope that they appeal to all sexes and all ages.

In terms of the feet, it definitely flowed better to have them blend into the leg.  It’s funny you should mention it as my mates joke about me having an aversion to feet and it’s not that at all. :)

9. You have been quite innovative in your approach to adapt your digital works in a variety of media. What are the important projects and clients that you have worked with in the past? And what are the other projects that you are currently working on?

I would consider all my projects and clients as important.  I enjoy the challenges that come with each project and enjoy seeing a piece go from sketch to finished form.  Some of the major companies I have been fortunate to work with include Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Coca-Cola and Disney.  A few highlights include designing the 2008 MAC World Conference booth in San Francisco.  I had the opportunity to design a jungle theme using my characters and environments and to see them in a one-story high booth.  And I worked with Coca-Cola in Australia to develop their advertising campaign which was designed for billboards, buses and magazines.

2009 is going to be another busy but awesome year!  I will be doing a lot of artist signings and live paintings to launch the limited edition book "Chaff n’ Skaffs: Mai and the Lost Moskivvy."  Further details on the book and upcoming events can be found at skaffs.com and pr_skaffs.html.

In 2008, I completed a music band CD slick and there is talk of appearing live at one of their events (unfortunately I cannot disclose any further information at this time).  I have numerous exhibitions in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles.  And most importantly, I will continue to develop my SKAFFS product line through collaborations.  I am also currently working on my own animation series for television. But, I’ll leave those exciting details for another time!

10. You seem to be a most creative artist having dabbled in everything from illustrations to animations to sounds to toy designs, how do you manage it all? Isn't it too much work for a one man or do you delegate your work? What are the challenges involved?

I think it is important to keep up with the industry changes and by challenging myself to work with different formats can be fun.  Being self-employed and having opportunities to work on large projects, I think it is extremely important for me to understand all aspects of a project.  It helps when I work in art director and consultancy roles as I can give the best insight and guidance to my clients.  Constantly working in these different fields and doing continual training ensures that I am up-to-date with the latest techniques.  Certainly, in projects with strict timeframes, there are times where certain aspects must be delegated out.  The challenges are then working to my schedule and overseeing others.

11. Having travelled extensively due to work reasons, do you think the diversity of various cultures and traditions influence your creativity, do they reflect in your art? Apart from that, are there any particular artist(s) that you get inspiration from? Or any particular website(s)?

I love to travel and I appreciate the opportunities that have presented themselves. I enjoy meeting new people and experiencing different cultures.  I have gained a lot of inspiration from my travels and I would hope that it is reflected in my work.  In terms of artists,  I am inspired by Salavdor Dali, MC Escher and of course Theodore Geisel (Dr Seuss).  Websites such as VECTORTUTS, Lost At E Minor, Juxtapoz, BoingBoing and Cold Hard Flash always have interesting new trends.

This video was put together by Coothwork with the music and animation by myself. It is one of my latest 2008 Melbourne exhibition called "Perpetual Kagemi."

12. You do a lot of gallery exhibitions of your work and having dabbled in both digital and traditional medias, do you think digital art is acquiring the same status as that of traditional art especially with reference to collectibles and gallery clientele?

When I started out in digital art many years ago, there was definitely a stigma attached to it. Galleries would not see digital art as a true skill and would choose not to exhibit it.  Nowadays, it seems to be a lot more accepted with the limited edition, high quality digital work. Digital art allows more people to enjoy the piece and makes artwork a lot more affordable.  It can take me longer to produce a digital piece than a hand-painted piece and both require skill.  In the end, it comes down to personal preference.

13. You have been in the design industry for over ten years now, how has the design industry changed from when you started till today and what changes do you see happening in the next few years? How much is it important for an artist to keep oneself updated of the latest technologies, software and stuff?

I think the design industry will become more digitalized with the influx of mobile media and applications.  I think if you want to keep up with change you need to adapt to it.  Software is always being upgraded to become more user friendly and efficient, and new software and technology is always being developed.

As a multimedia designer, I have had the chance to work with many different software packages including: Illustrator, Photoshop, Flash, After Effects, Maya, Fireworks, Dreamweaver, InDesign, Reason and Adobe Audition. With every new version and update of these packages, I find that using design software is an evolving process that requires continual learning. I spend a lot of time using Flash for my personal work, that being the development of my own animation series and interactive content. Attending conferences, participating in webcasts and meeting others in the media industry are important.

14. When you are not creating, what do you do to unwind and recharge your batteries?

I love to travel and I like to hang out with my mates.  Taekwondo is also my passion and hopefully in the next few weeks I will be a 3rd Dan Black Belt!

15. Thanks Luke, it was great talking to you! What advice do you have for aspiring digital artists and illustrators?

My advice would be to develop your own style, perfect it through practice, don’t give up and enjoy what you do!

Luke Feldman AKA Skaffs on Web:

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