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Glen Angus

From X-Men to Norse-men, the tight, powerful images of Glen Angus bring characters boiling to the surface…

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Age: 35
Country: Canada
Average time per image:
Varies depending on the mood and moment. Average is 25-30 hours for a painting. Often I find myself trying to squeeze that down to 10-15 hours.
Software used: Painter, Adobe Photoshop

Glen Angus has a talent for capturing powerful characters with the kind of immediacy that escapes lesser artists. He looks Dredd’s monsterised nature right in the eye and paints him as if he’s suffering from a nut allergy. Likewise Superman – the man of steel has rarely looked so stoic and determined to be impressive. These images have drama.

 “My main goal with a new piece,” says Glen, “is to make and capture a dynamic, tense moment.” And indeed his characters look as if they were lifting heavy weights, which brought on a foul temper, before the incredibly dramatic moment depicted even occurred. But that’s the point: the goal, for want of a more professional term, is to make them look cool. So cool, in fact, they’re only just keeping a lid on it.

Decisive nature

Glen seems to have had a decisive nature right from the offset: “At the age of nine,” he recalls, “my older brother came home with the first hardcover Deities and Demigods book for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.” After a day thumbing through the black and white fantastic, Glen was entranced. Fantasy art won the day.

A decision had been made, but the signs of his artistic talent had been there long before. While Glen was still in kindergarten, Mr and Mrs Angus were called to an unscheduled parent-teacher meeting. “They thought I was in trouble,” laughs Glen, “but the teacher wanted to show them some figures I had drawn.” These figures, with fully articulated arms, legs, hands and feet, presaged the arrival of fantastic creatures, comic book heroes and mythical beings.

But his calling to this kind of art wasn’t without misgivings – Glen knew very few artists make the grade. It wasn’t until he left college and the cash started to materialise that he realised it could be a career. “I just assumed my position in life would be related in some way to a name tag and a polyester uniform,” he laughs.

Skewed view

There’s a school of thought that kowtows to our visual obsession with cinema and tries to make every image a frame from a movie. The results can be stunning, but Glen comes from the other school of thought: “I strive to create something that can’t be done with a camera, which is why my figures are often exaggerated or skewed beyond normality.”

Of course, the element of cinema that’s most rapidly encroaching on the concept artist’s work is 3D, but Glen remains unswayed. “Competing with incredibly talented high-poly modellers with impressive renders is pointless,” he argues. “In this day and age I find capturing a moment much more important.”

Working at Raven Software, it’s not as if Glen has a problem with modellers: “I have an incredible respect for how cool they can make things look.” But you have to play to your strengths, and Glen’s is the rare but defining talent of a painter. “I have to go beyond a static image and create emotion or character with my pieces,” he explains.

Coming together

This approach has mutual advantages and one school can learn from the other, says Glen: “Having had the pleasure of working with so many talented modellers, animators and colleagues, I’ve learned so much more about lighting and material properties in my work. I believe the future of this industry will bring illustrators and modellers closer together in pursuit of the same goal.” And that goal is better art: “Software packages like Mudbox and ZBrush are perfect examples of trying to bridge the gap.” At the moment, though, they’re only rough approximations of what we can expect in the future. “I just really hope it gets to the point where you never need to do any maths,” he laughs.

“And yet,” says Greg, “when we got [to the publishers], the only responses they’d had were from fan artists – there were no professionals. Imagine if you did that today…! Fantasy art was still this kind of kitsch sub-genre, people looked down their noses at it. People were reading it secretly, and artists were the same – they disdained this genre.”

The illustrations were huge, six feet wide canvases, created by one brother starting at either end and working towards the middle, where their creations would meet. Somewhat to the Hildebrandts’ surprise, they were an instant hit, and the pair were bemused to suddenly find themselves receiving fan letters.

Whatever it takes

The question that springs to mind is: how do you give an image something 3D can’t? “It’s funny,” says Glen, “I didn’t really think about my working process until I started this ImagineFX workshop.” [See page 74.] It’s something that’s evolved: “I consider myself more of a ‘feel’ painter as opposed to a true technician.” This means there’s no standard methodology, although some patterns can be detected. Lately, Glen’s been leaning towards working up his initial thumbs and sketches digitally. This helps because, “I tend to be more spontaneous this way, and do less detail noodling.” As always, digital’s sheer flexibility gets it to the front of the queue: “I can move my sketches, resize,

re-crop, pinch and prod them until I’m ready to tighten them up,” he enthuses.

Coming from a graphic design background, Glen enjoys composing his work. “I really try to use tools like eye movement, emphasis, scale and contrast to control the viewer’s eye through the composition,” he says. With the elements in place, it’s all about attitude: “Once I’m painting, I try to aim for a certain ambience and do whatever I can to achieve it.”

Strange Marriage

A willingness to do whatever it takes can have some startling results. Dredd, ugly as sin but looking cooler than ever, is the perfect example. “That was an image I created to help develop my style,” says Glen, “to become more comfortable with creating atmospheric character in my paintings.”

This means just accepting the character as you find it and trying to bring that out with every means at your disposal. “I try to show the ugly as much as the fantastic and marry the two,” explains Glen. “I’m a strong believer in giving a painting the kind of realism that shows that life doesn’t have to be perfect and clean.”

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