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A Conversation with Digital Artist: Jim Gallo

Written by J.M. Hunter on Monday, December 29 2014 and posted in ZineSmiths

A Conversation with Digital Artist: Jim Gallo

Chris Oatley Art Academy and Painting Drama alumni, artist Jim Gallo speaks with J.M. Hunter about art before and posts Photoshop. Also, Jim’s latest effort to run a GoFundme campaign to get back on track and show people his digital painting prowess!

Source: None.

Origins of a Man Named Jim
IH: So, Jim Gallo! Thank you for joining us here on the Outhouse, and welcome to my small lil’ Indy Hunter corner! I’ve been an admirer of your work, specifically your digital work, and I figure it’s about time the rest of our audience gets the chance to peep these paintings! 
JG: Wow, thanks!
IH: Let’s turn back the clock a little bit. Before Chris Oatley Academy, before Painting Drama, and before working with Digital tools what mediums were you working with?
JG: I got into drawing at 13 when I read a few Spider-mans and The Incredible Hulks. I started copying them. And that is really how I've learned nearly everything I know about art to this day...learned by way of observation, not just comics more accurately.
IH: So the usual suspects eh?
JG: It took me a long time to realize that digitizing tablets were something regular people could afford. So prior to that I worked primarily in traditional pencils, ink and even some markers when I was a bit younger and thought I’d try a hand at manga. This, BTW, never went anywhere (the manga.)
I just ended up drawing girls a lot, ha-ha.
IH: So Jim, I’m going to come back to the tablet and pen a bit later. I do have a few questions about the mechanics vs. traditional tools like pencils and ink pens.  Were there any “go to”, traditional tools to be specific that you were fond of using?
JG: Back then and now, whenever I can, I sketch with pencils or ink. Various kinds.  Brush pens and micro liners are great but even a regular old ballpoint bic pen is fun to draw with.  Surprising amount of control with those.
IH: Specifically regarding pencils, what's your go to lead? Mechanical or regular, HB or 4H?
JG: If I have a choice of one, it’s usually a 2B or because you can get a decent value range of light to dark with it. But I'll take whatever. If it’s a 6H or nothing at all, I'll take the 6H if I have an idea I have to get down on paper.
Truth Be Told, (The Wonder Years?)
IH: Well I guess we should probably stop talking about our pencils and move on to the work you were doing back then.  Regarding women and manga, back in those days, what was your favorite to draw or create? Any particular pieces that are memorable? 
JG: Ahh well see back then I wasn't very productive person.  I would buy a lot of books on "How to draw this" or "How to draw that", many of them being manga ones.  But I wasn't taking art at all seriously, so I would repeatedly sketch out a random girl, maybe ink it, maybe try to color it, but there was no direction. I had no direction. So then I would go drink a beer or watch a Simpsons rerun, ha-ha. Good times.  Not productive art times though.
IH: When did that change for you?
JG: This may sound funny but that truly changed for me around 2006 or 2007 thanks to the video game Halo 3 and a visit to Barnes & Noble.
I was watching a video documentary on the making of the game and there was a brief scene where a game artist was drawing/painting one of the monsters using the tablet. And you could see him and the changes he was making on his screen and I was in awe from those 3 seconds of footage.  I had vaguely known that these tablets existed in schools but had never until then wondered if I could just purchase one. Which of course led to a google search, which led me to Wacom...
Around the same time, on a trip to Barnes and Noble, their magazine rack specifically, I picked up an issue of ImagineFX, which is a magazine dedicated to fantasy/sci-fi art, showed tutorials on how to create these kinds of art.  By then I knew that’s what I wanted to do.  Illustration.  Digital.  Fantasy, sci-fi, imaginative stuff.
Dreaming In Digital…
IH: So what was your first step when you were inspired to make this leap?
JG: Well after the "Halo revelation" I ordered my first tablet and I figured it would be just another tool.  Realistically, it is just another tool.  The skills and know how required to use the tablet are the same as if you are making traditional art.  But once I got acclimated to it, which didn't take long, it became so obvious that it would be the main way I create artwork. It’s so convenient, no mess, easy to experiment...
There are drawbacks for sure. It can't be the only way and it can kind of spoil you if you aren't careful though.
IH: What was your first tablet?
JG: My first was a Wacom Intuos 3.  I still have it as a backup to my current Intuos 5.  That first one is a sturdy little beast, probably more so than the newer on.  But the Intuos 5 is larger and easier to work with for me.
IH: …When you went digital? Was it Photoshop you started with or another application?
JG: I started with Adobe Photoshop Elements which is a smaller, cheaper version of Photoshop that came with the tablet. I've tried nearly every application there is, but Photoshop is the industry standard for digital painting, even if that was sort of accidental.
IH: I’ve used Photoshop elements. Much like you, because it came with the tablet/Wacom. Though I have to say, when you talk about actually trying to do something other than correct a few photos or adjust some lighting, I mean when it comes to trying to organically create original artwork and to try and paint… having access to the full application is a must!
Right now I am experiencing the difference between CS4’s version of Photoshop and the creative cloud’s version. Sometimes it really does seem to matter!
JG: For me, there are a few things here and there in the full app that I use regularly, so I agree, but others do a lot with other apps. You should see YouTube videos of people using it with MS paint.
That’s dedication.
IH: (Yea, I've seen them). Santa Claus has never looked so bad ass! Ha-ha.
Okay so getting back to you Jim. Did you find the transition difficult at all, or was it like… Wow a whole new world just opened up and is asking me: “Please….please Sir, can you come KICK MY ASS?!”
JG: Ha-ha wow.  Honestly, I would lean toward the latter.  It didn't take long at all to get the hang of using it.  Maybe a day or two. After that all my learning went right back into actual art fundamentals, just achieved digitally instead of traditionally. (Whenever I talk about this stuff, I end up sounding like a Wacom Sales Rep or something.  But it’s true.)
IH: So then is it safe to say, in your experience at least, going digital wasn’t the end of the world or a shortcut to making art, but really allowed you to draw upon your traditional background and use art fundamentals to still push for breakthroughs.
Using the new toys…
IH: In regards to digitally painting? How did you come by that? What type of training do you have and who have you studied under? For those that don't know what does that potentially mean in the job market place?
JG: I went to school for Graphic Design, but the truth is I hated it and even had teachers telling me I was in the wrong area of study...
That being said, I had the best educational experience of my life under Chris Oatley and his online academy. 
As far as the market I'm trying to reach, formal education, at least having the degree is less important than simply being able to display the actual skills and solve problems for employers and clients
That looks funny. I didn't mean that formal education was a market I was trying to reach. Rather that formal education is less important than being able to do the job, in the illustration market I am trying to reach 
IH: If we were to focus on said job market. In this industry what does it mean to be a digital painter/illustrator in the industry?
JG: Either really. Digital is just a tool, just a really great tool to me.
What does it mean to be an illustrator?  Well I think it means a few things.  You have to be a creator.  A decision maker.  A problem solver. A shameless self-promoter (cough) if you aren't with a specific company or studio....
An observer, a studier...
IH: So is it safe to say that having the hardware helps bridge the gap? So that you can create the right kind of portfolio and get the right gigs or show the powers that be what you really can do and what you're capable of?
JG: Yes.  Quite simply.
In dealing with clients and deadlines, the convenience of digital is extremely important. But When speaking of personal growth, it is important to fail, and visibly so that you learn and get better.
IH: For sure.
JG: So you take the good with the bad.
The Good, The Bad, and the WTH Do I Do Now?!
IH: Speaking of bad... what happened lately that this beast of a piece is left going unfinished?
JG: It’s very simple. As convenient as digital is, you can't make it with dead hardware. And that's what happened. My faithful rig, which had been working perfectly for nearly 5 years, started acting funny and within about a week, was dead.  Pretty sure the motherboard went.
I was put in a situation where it’s going to cost the same or more to repair than to simply get a new one.
I realize this sounds so dramatic
IH: Well let's look at the facts...even if you were drawing traditionally and then using a hybrid work flow to take it into an application such a Photoshop....what's good a scanner w/o a computer and the software? If you're working towards building momentum in what clearly is now growing to be an industry standard for digital do you realistically do that w/o the right tools?
JG: I guess I don't. That or change gears entirely and try to learn to oil paint RIGHT NOW, ha-ha
IH: I'm sorry Jim... but I still have oils drying in the garage that I can't do dick with right now...
JG: Ha-ha!  But yeah, the workflow.  Since you mention it, it has stopped flowing. Besides Gutmouth here, I had no less than 4 other rotating projects of similar scale.
If you look at my Instagram feed, you will see where I switched to pocket brush pen and have been making sketches out of necessity and to pass the time, lol.
Which is not totally bad!  It is nice to go back and reconnect to the old school stuff.  But it becomes real obvious, really fast just how much convenience comes with digital.
IH: Okay. So your main tool/device for operating and working towards this goal completely crashes on you. Like someone needing a car to drive long distances to work, someone no longer having Microsoft excel to do the right spreadsheets and equations for that big business meeting, an engineer w/o auto cad. What do you do in this instance? How do you recover from that, Jim?
JG: Well the simple answer normally would be "Go buy a new computer, silly"...
Jim. But for me, without getting all crybaby on you, another attractive idea was to try and crowdfund it...
But then I thought.., "Well no one is gonna just give me free money just because I'm broke and need a comp"...
Which is when I decided I'd better add rewards to it. 
There are no unrewarded donation levels.
IH: The rewards for donating? Can you give us some examples?
JG: If you donate at my, every level has some sort of reward in the form of artwork from me.
IH: For those that don’t know what GoFundme is, or if I was an old granny and I asked you... "What's" What would you say? If I'm not having a particular level of fun, do they help increase that?
JG: LOL it’s a new dance all the kids are doing...
Err... that’s a really good question.  I would tell her it’s a really convenient yet modern way to help support a cause, and in my case, you get a nice pretty picture to put on you wall in return.
And then I jitterbug out of the room!
IH: Ha-ha. Annnd about 3 of the rewards please?
JG: Yes.  Diamond Classy is the bee's knees!
(Diamond Classy is the $100 level)
More moderate is the One Print Percy $25 level which gets you a signed print mailed to you.  Or for $40 you get the "Two Print Grint" which is the same but two prints and slightly better price.
The smallest level is a simple ink sketch of your Facebook avatar or something similar.
Real ink, this one is not digital. 
And that is $7
IH: Thanks Jim!
So if you would like to help Jim Gallo out, all of these rewards and more are listed at: 
Thanks to Jim for taking the time out to do the interview! 
You can find more of Jim’s work at his site here: 
This is me, J.M. Hunter, the Indy Hunter going back on hiatus until the next time there’s an itch to scratch or the Indy Signal lights up the night!

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