Thursday, 10 February 2011

SciFi Art Now Creator Interview: Graeme Neil Reid

About two years ago, Graeme Neil Reid went full time as an illustrator after having produced work part time and in conjunction with his job in the marketing and advertising industries for over 15 years. "These days I spend every moment drawing and when not working for a client I produce sketches for sale on my blog site ( and contribute to the Scottish art blog 'Scotch Corner' (," he tells us.

"I've produced work from book illustrations, magazine editorial, television adverts, comic strips, concept design, wall murals, beer labels and just about anything you could think of. When I'm not working I like to watch films and practice my hobby of photography."

Some of Graeme's illustration work

Sci-Fi Art Now: What tools do you mainly use to create your art?

Graeme Neil Reid: Day to day I'll use my various propelling pencils, various pens for inking and my Apple Mac for all the Photoshop, Illustrator etc. When I can I'll paint traditionally with acrylics or inks.

Sci-Fi Art Now: Why?

Graeme: Well, I sketch out my work in blue lead (non-reproductive you see – or don't in this case) and then I'll pencil quite tightly with my Kuru Toga pencil (it slowly revolves the lead to supposedly keep it sharp but it doesn't quite manage all the time).

I'll use a mixture of pens and brushes for inking. For sketches I'll use the Pentel Brush Pen because it's so fluid and quick. For more finished inking, I use Staedtler Pigment Liners as they hold a good line and you can to a certain degree alter the line you get from them. I used to ink with brushes but I found I got a lot quicker using pens and there's a lot less mess too.

I've used an Apple Mac of one kind or another since I was 16. I love the ease of a computer when creating art. I like having a real physical finished product in your hand but a computer opens up lots of possibilities that are risk free and it can be a lot quicker. I use Photoshop on a daily basis and I dabble with Painter when I need to. I want to try Manga Studio soon as everyone seems to rate it highly.

I love painting traditionally but it can be time consuming and a bit tricky to get the desired look you were after so its often left to projects that I have time enough to do or as personal work.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What inspired you to become an artist?

Graeme: Most likely a combination of things but undoubtedly a mixture of UK comics that I read. Foremost was 2000AD but there was Eagle, Scream, Warlord, Starblazer and a few others. I didn't show any inclination to drawing when I was younger and it wasn't until I was around 14 that I started to draw pictures from those comics. Once I started that, I spotted lots of things to influence me including the art from role playing games, rock albums and films.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What was the most useful piece of advice you were given when you began learning your craft?

Graeme: The one piece of information I retained from High School was actually from my woodwork teacher who said "If there is an easier way to do things, do it that way". Now that might sound like he's saying don't try hard at anything but what I took from that is that there are so many ways to over complicate what you have to do that you'll end up taking twice as long to finish the job. So for instance, those out there that turn their noses up at light boxes and referencing, well that's fine for you but for me it makes my life easier and the job quicker.

Sci-Fi Art Now: Which artists most inspire you?

Graeme: There would be a never ending list of artists that inspire me and would be impossible to write. I enjoy finding new artists on the internet on a daily basis.

The thing that inspires me most are the artists who have been around for a while and never dropped the quality of their work, didn't shirk out on a job. You can see their work develop and mature over the years. Some take enormous risks and change their whole style but they still maintain the quality and effort they put into their work. Try harder with each new job.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What is the appeal to you of science fiction as an inspiration for some of your work?

I think the age I grew up in was a really strong one for sci-fi in general, Star Wars being an obvious source to inspire. I think also the whole man in space thing wasn't just an obvious daily routine thing and NASA launching the first space shuttle was extremely exciting for me. I have a distant relation who was an astronaut on those early shuttle missions so that quickly absorbed my mind and I used to think that my middle name was given to me because of Mr Armstrong! I didn't read a lot of science fiction work until I was a lot older but I always enjoyed the sci-fi films. Alien, Westworld, Bladerunner etc.

Worlds Strongest Man,Graeme Neil Reid,illustration,advert
One of Graeme's illustrations for The World's Strongest Man. © 2009 Virgin Media
Sci-Fi Art Now: Do you have a favourite piece of work or project you have worked on?

Pencils for Judge Dredd:
The Natural
Graeme: Just last year (2010) I finally drew Judge Dredd (Megazine #301) for the first time and that fulfilled a long held ambition for me. One of my favourite jobs and quickest was my work on the TV advert for The World's Strongest Man, it was great project and the production company Mainframe where awesome to work with.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What most frustrates you about being an artist?

Graeme: Not being good enough. I set my level very high and constantly fall below what I hoped I'd reach but nobody else knows what I was aiming for so it's a very personal frustration.

Final art for Judge Dredd:
The Natural
Sci-Fi Art Now: What keeps you going despite the hopefully occasional frustrations?

Graeme: Coffee, Biscuits. Family. Music. Films. (In no particular order)

Sci-Fi Art Now: What advice would you offer to anyone starting out as an artist?

Graeme: Be professional. Hit your deadlines, be polite. Don't hassle or bombard editors, keep in contact but don't become the artist they instantly junk your mail because you just won't leave them alone. If you are going to show an editor your work, take about 10 or 20 of your best pieces for them to see in an A4 folder. Don't take a massive awkward portfolio and don't take loads of sketch books - you are not going for an interview to get into art college so keep it simple and clean. Spend some time finding out about your rights as an artist, copyright and licensing are important. Keep up to date with your accounts.

Promote yourself constantly, get over the shy and awkward feeling about shouting about your work and promote yourself. One thing though is that you have to produce the work, you can't shout and point at your work from six months ago.

Don't do free spec work, just don't. Don't believe the exposure line that you'll be given. Choose your 'freebie' jobs carefully, do the ones you like and interest you and that will not have you crying over the drawing board for two years wondering when the pain will stop.

'Victory of the Daleks'
Dalek by Graeme Neil Reid
• Check out more of Graeme's work at: and

• Contact Graeme via

Judge Dredd ©2010 Rebellion

World's Strongest Man Advert ©2009 Virgin Media
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