Well known digital concept artist Dan LuVisi sits down and shares his experience and artwork with us as we discuss past, current, and future projects. Get the lowdown on his Popped Culture series, Last Man Standing project, and his inspiration and process as an artist.
Hey Dan, thanks so much for the interview. Let's start from the top: What got you into art?
My father was the first to introduce me to art. I remember the moment as clear as day. We were lying down in the living room, and reading a children's book of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We were looking at the character Leatherback, a crocodile in jean shorts (80s). I wanted him to draw it for me, which he did. In return, I promised him by the time he got back from work that I would have drawn it as well. He laughed it off, but upon returning came back to what I promised. Now, it sucked and looked awful, but I put my damn all into it. From there, he had created a monster.
Who or what are your main sources of inspiration?
My inspirations are Todd McFarland, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, George Lucas, Richard Taylor and John Lasseter. Each one of them has inspired me in a direct way: McFarland's Spawn and Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan inspiring me to tell stories, Richard Taylor's attention to detail at WETA, Tarantino's bloody revenge quest in Kill Bill, and the obvious love for Star Wars. Each of their work has propelled me to do what I'm doing today.
Are you formally trained or are you self-taught?
I'm not trained, I'm self taught. I couldn't really ever afford college, so I put it off. I was introduced to digital art by seeing an inspiring Justin Sweet piece some 15 years ago. From there, the rest was history. I stuck to it, especially during a time when there wasn't all the knowledge there is today, and just continued to practice. Eventually when I became comfortable with my art, I began to post them on DeviantArt, which built my portfolio and a fanbase for my book LMS.
What's your creative process like?
I begin usually with a couple of thumbnails, loose sketches, and then sketch them out until I'm prepared to bring in the line art. From there, I'll draw out the scene, and begin to lay down colors underneath. Once happy with it, I'll merge both together and begin to render on top and bring it all together. No tricks, masks, fancy layer modes other than Screen, Overlay or Multiply. Try to keep it simple.
What programs do you prefer using?
I just use Photoshop. I've dabbled in Zbrush, which could help a lot. But I prefer to just paint. Keep it simple.
For how long have you worked professionally?
Since I was 18, so about 12 years now.
What is your typical workday like?
Like clockwork, my cats wake me up. I feed them, then lie in bed for a half an hour, searching reddit for funnies. Once I get up, I bike to the grocery store to grab breakfast, then head straight to the office by 10:30, usually. From there, I work until about 12 or 1 am, where I Bike home with my office mate Alex Konstad (another great artist who lives right near me) and then rinse, and repeat.
What's your work space like?
I hate to sound so boring, but I keep a pretty standard desk and office. I have a statue of Gabriel, from my book LMS, made by the amazing people over at Legacy FX, and photos of my cat, and art from my girlfriend. LMS, my cats, and my lady are the three pushes I need to keep working.
Your series “Popped Culture” is incredibly bizarre. What inspired you to start painting such delightfully grotesque versions of beloved characters?
At the time, Popped Culture came from an unstable relationship that was proving tedious. So out of frustration, I would work on these dark and bizarre pieces. Similar to LMS, it began to just build itself into what it is today. It's a fun series, which I've taken a break from for now, but I'll eventually return to it.
You’ve mentioned “L.M.S.: Last Man Standing: Killbook of a Bounty Hunter” has been optioned by a studio (previously it was Paramount). For readers newer to your work, what is LMS and what are your plans for the series?
LMS is really my bread and butter. I came up with LMS, once again, out of a frustrating time working for someone I wasn't fond of. The characters began to grow, and I started posting them on DeviantArt. After I painted Gabriel, everything came together, and I knew there was something there. I spent two years working on a book that would become The Killbook.
"LMS is a satirical/action-adventure poking fun at the colorful world of tomorrow. Gabriel is a Paladin, the world's first genetically created super-soldier meant to be indestructible and unmatchable. Designed and destined to win an interstellar war for Earth, Gabriel is rushed to Mars to fight the undefeated alien race, The Nomens--As No Man was able to defeat them. But with a single punch and an ounce of gut, Gabriel is able to wipe out the Nomen race in less than half a year.
"After returning back to Earth, Gabriel is awarded with fame and many accolades. From TV shows, movies, toys, and more, Gabriel himself becomes pop-culture. But over the years, soon the line between Hero and Celebrity begins to blur, and at Gabriel's weakest moment, he's framed by a Nomen-extremist group, PANDEMONIUM, for a crime he had nothing to do with. Sentenced to execution in the inescapable Level-9 Facility, Gabriel is forced to endure tremendous pain and torture. But upon his execution, Gabriel is granted one final visit who offers the fading super-soldier a chance at redemption.
"After breaking out, Gabriel makes his way back to America, to find it taken over by gangs, terrorists, hybrid animal-people, and worst of all, corporations. Dropping his superficial lifestyle of before, Gabriel must not only prove to himself, but to the world what it means to truly be a hero."
The first book, The Killbook, is Gabriel's blueprint, designed by himself, building a pre-cursor to Gabriel's road to revenge. Every following book (the next coming out this year) will tell the story of how he did such, leading to his eventual death.
LMS is my everything. I've put the last seven years into it, trying to bring the project truly to life. Thing is, it's not really about the revenge side, or anything else. There's something a lot deeper in the property that I can't wait to show. It's a very personal story to me. As for where it's headed, it's no longer with Paramount. At the moment, it's being sought after by a studio and a producer I'm very excited about. But, in due time...
Let’s talk about your work for DC Comics. How’d you get the gig creating covers for “Secret Six” and what is the process like from sketch to press?
It was a pretty chill job that I still wish I was doing (DC or Marvel, you listening?). I always love doing illustrations, and DC was very open and easy to work with. They would give me a basic idea of the story, and I'd throw them some thumbnails. The editor would pick one, and let me do my stuff. That's all. One of the best jobs I ever had.
What words of advice do you have for aspiring artists?
I'm still young, but I've learned a lot. These are my few lines of advice.
- Compete with yourself, and no one else.
- Every day you're not practicing or honing your craft, someone who wants it more is catching up.
- Be kind. Give. Inspire. And lead by example.
Many thanks to Dan for taking the time for a chat and sharing his work with us. You can check out more of his work and follow him around the web at the links below: