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INTERVIEW WITH Neil Hanvey

12: Steampunk

November 14th, 2009

As we celebrate yet another release, we would like to take this time to congratulate Neil Hanvey (neil_akoga) on being this pack's featured artist. He has submitted several spectacular pieces showcasing his unique illustration style. Be sure to visit the release page and read the interview between Neil and Saad Moosajee with this extremely talented artist.


Saad Moosajee:
Hey Neil, congratulations on being our featured artist for slashTHREE’s 12th Exhibition "Steampunk". Tell us a little about yourself.

Neil Hanvey:
Well I’m 30 years old, I work as a web developer by day and let off steam at night by drawing. I mainly work digitally although in the last 6 months I have switched back to a lot of traditional pen and paper pieces. I’m not a traditional ‘went to art school’ guy and I don’t take life too seriously, not that I don’t take my art seriously though. I just appreciate the fact that I’m not saving lives or saving the world, I’m just drawing because I like doing it. Oh, and I got a D in graphic design in high school.

Saad Moosajee:
We will have to start using your stuff for charity then, and save some lives! On another note, we had a much more complex and intricate theme than normal. Steampunk can most arguably be described is a more concept-based theme, however, your works were designed very aesthetically. How did you approach this exhibition's theme?

Neil Hanvey:
I watched a lot of films, did some Googling and read some books. I spent about 2 weeks watching films that had a “steampunk-esque” vibe and just tried to think of ways of doing steampunk that didn’t involve using a million shades of brown. I’ve still got a long list of pieces that time didn’t allow me to complete so I’ve got lots of ideas left to draw from in my sketchbooks.

Saad Moosajee:
In general, the exhibition saw a lot of your cartoon-esque drawing style, was it tough to integrate this in with Steampunk?

Neil Hanvey:
Not really, from what I found out from research steampunk is supposed to be tongue in cheek so I decided to do some comical pieces. A lot of people have commented in the past that my stuff has a comical/humorous slant. Without sounding clichéd I’m a pretty upbeat laid back person so I prefer the lighter side of life. I didn’t want to just go down the route of a dark machine spewing out smoke and looking all evil in every piece. That’s why my digi/matte paint stuff in this exhibition is mixed in with my crazy cartoon stuff.

Saad Moosajee:
If that’s the case, how long does it typically take you to complete one illustration in that style?

Neil Hanvey(neil_akoga): Something like the toybox piece can take about 2-3 hours. An hour maybe for the initial pen sketches, half an hour to an hour to do the coloring and an hour to assemble. So yeah, 2-3 hours unless I’m in the mood for doing something with a lot of details which would double the time. The matte paints took a lot longer but a lot of that was because I was getting a lot of good feedback and secondly because it’s not my usual style. I’d definitely recommend everyone to get a tablet though, even a cheap volito or bamboo as it makes your workflow a lot smoother and gives you a lot more freedom

Saad Moosajee:
Which would you say was your favorite contribution to the exhibition, and why?

Neil Hanvey:
Journey to the center of Hell. I see stuff by people like Bechira, Zack and recently Gloom on here and I think ‘I draw cheesy cartoons and I wish I could do the stuff they do’. Its early stages for me doing this kind of piece but it’s the one I probably enjoyed doing the most as I learnt a helluva lot of things doing it.

Saad Moosajee:
How about your favorite contribution in general?

Neil Hanvey:
From other people? Definitely trackwalker by gloom, he’s gonna destroy worlds, mark my words. If you mean stuff I’ve contributed to the exhibitions so far I’d say birdo from Déjà Vu. It took about 5 hours to draw and I think I did 99% of it in one sitting.

Saad Moosajee:
Yes, that's definitely one of your best contributions to date. Who would you say is your biggest inspiration and outside influence in general?

Neil Hanvey:
Hmm, too many names come to mind but a few people at the moment include Jon Burgerman, “jeremyville”, “j3concepts” and “niark1”. I’m spending a lot of my free time doodling because of these guys.

Saad Moosajee:
The theme Steampunk is much broader than just steam powered machinery as we've discussed, did you draw on inspiration from the pre-Victorian era?

Neil Hanvey:
Not really. For me the steampunk era has to start during the Victorian era. I grew up reading Jules Verne stories and I think he made such a big impression on me that I can’t get my head around envisaging steam power existing before the Victorian era. I advise everyone to go get a copy of his 20,000 leagues beneath the sea. It’s timeless sci-fi by one of the genres most underrated authors.

Saad Moosajee:
Give us a walk through the production of “I Will Grow You a Home” from the brain-storming stage through to the final product.

Neil Hanvey:
Ok, I got my sketchpad and penciled out a wire frame pose. I got the title before the piece so I already had an idea of what I wanted to do. I wanted something platonic rather than sexual but still for it to have that connection between the two characters. Once I’d got the pencil version down I got my fine writers out and created the ink lines. Then I took out my trusty Staedtler eraser and removed the pencil. I then scanned the page in my sketchbook along with some textures. The splats in the background are some custom brushes my wife made for me using Indian ink. If you look for stock puppet in Google you can download them from my secret deviant art account. After coloring it in Photoshop I just messed around with some opacities and textures to give it a nice crusty feel. My final step was a flesh tone fill on a new layer with the blend mode set to hue with the bit over the green tree erased. The whole thing probably took about an hour and turned out quite nice. The back story makes me sad though because by the time the tree is big enough that bird will probably be dead.

Saad Moosajee:
Steampunk has been shown in more than just illustrations, but even in movies like ‘Steamboy’. What does this theme mean to you on a personal level?

Neil Hanvey:
Well I grew up in Manchester which was one of the birthplaces of the industrial revolution so the whole steam vibe has been a part of me since day dot. A lot of my family are also engineers so I’ve always been around machinery and like I mentioned earlier, Jules Verne is one of my favourite authors so I was really happy when the theme got picked.

Saad Moosajee:
Thank you for your collaboration this exhibition Neil! Any last words to all of your fans?

Neil Hanvey:
Thanks for picking me as the featured artist, as it’s my second exhibition with you guys it’s a real honour. For all the people reading this – go check out the rest of the exhibition then go get a pen and paper and go sit in the park and doodle, practice doesn’t always make perfect but it will make you better