Hi DC Fans, creative design and illustration is such an important component of the pop culture industry. The professionals who contribute their key talents in this area bring our biggest characters and stories to life. Their work doesn’t go unnoticed and in the same breath we have been lucky enough to catch up with Production Illustrator, Mr John Gallagher. I had the pleasure of crossing paths with Mr Gallagher and his work in my personal opinion is nothing short of exceptional! Having people like Mr Gallagher to help visualise the characters we love is a privilege! We hope you enjoy the interview!
(DCN) DC COMICS NEWS 1. John, thanks for making time to talk with DC Comics News, would you mind giving our fans a brief introduction / bio on yourself?
John Gallagher (JG) Hi Damian! Hello to your readers and thanks for the invitation to talk some shop and discuss tradecraft. My name’s John Gallagher and I live and work as a production illustrator out of Vancouver BC. I serve filmed entertainment, games, animation, comics and freelance clientele in multiple generalist capacities as a visual problem solver and concept engineer. I’m currently on The Flash for the CW and have had the privilege of working on remarkable projects with amazing people most of my adult life, from my time in film since 2008 to my previous decade long career as Director of Concept Art and Design at BioWare.
DCN 2. What was it that inspired you to get into the art/ creative industry?
JG: Interesting question. I was an only child, prone to adventure and fearless explorations as a child, raised in the hostile majesty of northern Ontario. I had the ocean of Lake Superior to one side, with its mysterious depths and the impenetrable dark forest to the other so between those two wonders the bedrock for imagination was laying all around me. Add in a steady eye protein diet of monster movies, comic books and pulp novels and the pump was primed. The catalyst, like many of a similar vintage, was when I saw Star Wars in the theatre for the first time. I wanted do THAT. Up there on the screen. THAT. Dreams finally had a form language I could utterly relate to! Visual storytelling had a new parlance. After that I knew it was something I wanted to do it was a matter of build the apparatus to manifest that dream and make it my reality. And like most artists and our relationship with reality I have a healthy reality distortion envelope of denial around me and I was convinced it would happen. It was only a case of outliving obstacles in the way of the goal and for a few massive paradigm shifts to happen before an opportunity to be a professional creator presented itself, in this case BioWare as a fledgling studio and me blind lucking my way through the front door all those years ago and seizing the chance. After that, proverbial history was written.
DCN 3. What was the first DC Comics related piece of artwork that you created, and what was it that drove you to create it?
JG: I’m sure there were many Batmans in there but that I recall vividly? Mike Grell’s Warlord. I was eleven when the dam burst. I was cuckoo for cocoa puffs over his double page spreads every issue and really dug Travis Morgan and the wonderful choice of using a cutlass and a .44 Magnum to dispatch your enemies. The great pulp tradition of exotic locales, terrifying monsters, clear and present villains, gorgeous tribal women…the complete package was in play. I was also overdosing on Vance, Howard, Burroughs and Moorcock then so sword and sorcery were my mainline. It was also the first series where I threw down serious coin for back issues and for the first time in my comic collecting career became a series completest. I had the chance to meet and befriend Mike at the C4 Convention in Winnipeg last year and share that story with him, which he got a huge kick out of.
DCN 4. Take our fans through the different mediums and styles you apply to your work.
JG: I’ve run the gamut in various capacities and degrees : pencil, charcoal, conte crayon, gouache, acrylic, oil to various degrees of success and quality of result. My progression through media has been a fairly linear path, pencil and paper to pens and markers to computer and software. Prior to BioWare I was pencil and paper and it as there I was introduced in a front line assembly way to what computers could do and their latent potential. It was only a matter of applying skills learned the analog way and migrate them to the digital realm. Now I’m almost exclusively digital for professional work – I still sketch for personal enjoyment and paint by numbers for laughs- and use a variety of programs depending of course on deadlines, turnaround and look the client is searching for. My primary fabrication space is Photoshop, augmented and offset with assets from a dealer’s choice of ZBrush, Painter, Maya, SketchUp and Modo.
I’ve been playing around with Daz and Vue as well and may get to finally learn Nuke but in the end, you make art with the tools you enjoy and I stick with my favourites I trust like anyone else. As far as styles these days I’m interested in exploring a cinematic photoreal-ish style of representative work, enough to engage the audience to winder if it’s a screenshot from a movie they haven’t seen yet but not over processed enough that I bake out the energy being slavish to academic illustration rules. We live in a wonderful time of tremendous superhero films and I love the space and the opportunities to create there that it occupies in the popular collective imagination
Click on the images below to enlarge the brilliant artwork of Mr Gallagher
DCN 5. Who is your favourite DC Hero and Villain and why?
JG: It may seem deliberately contrite but Batman occupies a special place for me, from his worldview, his pathology and his arsenal to his extraordinary rogues gallery to his cherished position in the pantheon. I’m onside with anyone not innately a super powered being who has a kill protocol in place for everyone in the Justice League. And they’re his friends. And villain without hesitation is Darkseid and of you have to ask why you’ll never know. Kirby showed us, as he did countless times, the template for the definitive and timeless supervillain
DCN 6. When you gear up to create a piece, can you take us through your process in how you prepare.
JG: At any one time I have a VERY long request list of characters not just from comics but popular culture so I’m never at a loss for what to do next. I started doing superhero work as a skill-building exercise while waiting for approvals from network/studio on submitted work. Rather than sitting idle I thought it was time to put my mettle to the test. So during that time I experimented and still do with technique, pipeline, process and software. Of those choices software is most prohibitive in terms of being a time gravity well. So generally its technique and process oriented exploration. First thing is I get a feel for where the character is at right now, their history and heritage previously, and other artists take on them. I let that ruminate and then extrapolate what I think is the most important elements and thumbnail a bit to figure out what the piece is and isn’t. After noodling I usually jump in and start moving pixels around, letting happy accidents occur and usually have something dialed up a couple of hours in. Whether it’s height of action or repose, portrait or landscape.
Once the broad strokes are in place it’s down to details and textures, assets that excite the eye and get the piece hopping a bit. I switch back and forth, foreground to background, left to right, anything to ensure that I don’t get stale or repeat a routine and keep the results fresh. I’ll often abandon it for a few hours or a few days as there’s usually half a dozen works in progress on my desktop and will move between them at various stages as often the answers to finishing one are in another and they all inform each other. So it’s an unorthodox approach but one that has served the work adequately so far. I’m always curious about how others ply tradecraft so will adapt new techniques from observing others. The ecosystem of support online is remarkable so I take full advantage of that egalitarianism at every stage. Then I commit for the homestretch and bring it across the finished for now line, as I often revisit work down the road and clean it up or take a fresh crack at it and solve problems that were not as evident to me previously. Hence my WIP tag on most of my work as it is always a work in progress over a long enough timeline.
DCN 7. What’s your proudest piece of DC related artwork?
JG: I would say the most satisfying piece of DC work so far has been the iconic Flash image I drew at the beginning of season one for a number of reasons: First superhero TV show, first show my good friend and Production Designer Tyler Harron was wholly in charge of and wow was it worth the wait, first and last word accountability on the artwork, a really fun show to work on with a great cast and crew. The list goes on. I was pleased to see it become so widely used as I feel like it captures the height of action energy and excitement of what we all here like to bring to the show every week. That and Grant loves it so that’s a big bonus. In fact has my poster signed “For John – love this image! Thanks for making me look bad ass!’ I think I did good-by my own standards and most importantly, the team and that matters a great deal to me
DCN 8. Do you have a favourite piece of DC related art that you haven’t created buy admire and why?
JG: I’m a shameless fanboy so almost without fail virtually every day I see some beautiful new piece in the pro or fan community, often many, and the celebration of these characters is a pleasure and a privilege to be a part of. Some I admire purely for craft and execution others for their singularity of vision and unique identity but dig it all so I’d have to say ALL OF IT from neophyte hobbyist to veteran pro. It makes me smile to see care, passion and focus, no matter who drew it, how long it took or for whatever intended purpose is secondary. Just people making marks and moving pigment. The unity of participation and the love of the artform is everything.
We’d like to thank Mr Gallagher for taking the time to talk to us, the time spent was enjoyable and we wish him all the luck in the future. A true creative artist!
You can follow Mr Gallagher on that big thing called the “Internet” across these platforms:
Official Website: http://uncannyknack.com
Etsy (Purchase digital files) : https://www.etsy.com/shop/Uncannyknack
SmugMug (Purchase Posters): https://uncannyknack.smugmug.com/