I would like to welcome Pierre-Alain, as 3mmI, a french digital artist and graphic designer based in Nantes, France. He is a long term member of the photo-manipulation community of deviantArt with a fine taste for the dark and the oneiric. For our Project Educate Photomanipulation Week this year he agreed to answer a couple of questions for us.
It's a great pleasure for me to do this interview with him!
Hello Pierre-Alain, thank you for taking the time for this interview. With nine years of activity you are a long-term member of the photo-manipulation community on deviantart. Did your career start right here nine years ago, or did your journey through digital art begin even earlier?
First, thank you Erik for your questions. To answer you, the first years were for me mainly about practicing, learning, trying, and of course, exploring, discovering. I'm 100% self-educated in art, so I had to learn all by myself, and it took a long time. I think I managed to hit a "correct" level only a few years ago... but I think I still have to learn, it's an endless journey.
We all do! Being an expert at combining photos with textures, has photo-manipulation always been your main passion, or did you ever give other art genres a try?
I have always been interested in some various kind of art, mainly music (I'm also a bit musician), but also photography or sculpture, but the need of practicing by myself only came with photo and photomanipulation and, I must say, the advent of new technologies and softwares that, to me, opened the world of creation. As for many people, I guess, I started by taking my own pictures, and tried to manipulate them to make them look better. Finally, I liked this so much and saw so many artistic possibilities that I never stopped. Maybe one day I'll give a try to some other disciplines, I already make a lot of photos even if I don't publish a lot of them. Here too, I still have a lot to learn! I would really like to try sculpture, but it's really another world.
You should share the original photos more often! We also get a better idea how much work and vision goes into your artworks. What is your favorite time-killer besides art? Seeing the huge list of bands in your profile I'd say it's probably music? Did you ever play in a band yourself?
You're totally right. Music is something that takes a huge part in my life. I just can't live without it. It's literally a drug for me. I play guitar since something like 15 years I think, it's also a real passion, even if my level is not phenomenal ahah. I like to improvise or just play the killer riffs I listen to, also to find the perfect sound. About that, -not sure if it will interest anyone ahah, but- I think I learned a lot by listening to Andreas Kisser from Sepultura or Dimebag Darrell from Pantera (RIP). Now my main "guitaristic" references would maybe be Adam Jones from Tool or Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth... man, those guys are real gods for me.
Yes, I played in a band a long time ago, but it was much investment and I was not really good at that time, so I mainly continued to play electric guitar as a personal hobby, and that's what I still do. I always have my guitar next to my computer. Very often, when working on a graphic project, I leave my graphic tablet to take my guitar and play a few riffs, just to feel good. I think I would never have started photomanipulation without music, and more precisely, metal music. It's really my most important source of inspiration. Even if I listen to a lot of various kind of music, and even if I cut my hair, from deep within me, I'm a metalhead before all ahah. Since my debut in photomanipulation, my wish has always been to make images in connection with the metal world, to illustrate the music I like. So, now, I feel honored each time a band asks for my art to illustrate their music, really.
I totally understand. It's a great feeling to hold a CD in your hands with your very own cover, even more so if you love the band's music. Back to your artworks, your work with grayscale is amazing. I am thinking of „Attrition“, „Taste of Insanity“ or your latest submission „Protection“. I am sure the readers are dying to hear any tips on how to make black and white so appealing. Can you share a secret with us?
Thank you for liking those pieces, Erik. A secret? Well, not sure to have one, it's more about perseverance and work, I guess. About "Protection", this is an artwork I started long time ago, the idea was about to make a portrait with some natural elements, but I didn't manage to finish it so I did what I always do in that case: I left it in a folder, to come back to it again later, with maybe more ideas, with a fresh eye. So I just reopened it recently, and this time, with new ideas. The only thing I could say, would maybe be that, when you work in black and white, you have to pay very special attention to all the lights. Light is always important of course, but in B&W, it is even more important, you have to focus on it all the time. A second "secret", if I can call this like that, would be the patience. Yes, patience. Inspiration is not a 100% full time skill, so sometimes the best thing to do when you're working on a image and when you feel blocked or slowed, well, just stop, work on something else, do something else, go outside, and you'll come to it later with a fresh eye and new ideas. It can be a day or several weeks. I almost always worked in that way. Art has not to be rushed, and patience is a valuable asset in all circumstances. So you see, no real secrets, just perseverance, I suppose.
Thanks for sharing your work philosophy with us. Most of your work is dark and eerie, thematically and stylistically. What inspires you to such themes? Do you draw inspiration also from other artists? If yes, can you name any?
As I said previously, music is my main inspiration. Good music inspires countless different worlds, universes, stories, feelings, places... But of course, I was also influenced by many amazing artists around the world. Some of my favorites would maybe be Travis Smith, Alex Grey, Seth Siro Anton, Dennis Sibeijn (damnengine), Marcela Bolivar (MarcelaBolivar), Pierre Doucin (www.soemone.com), Daniel Valencia (Fenomeno), and so many more... In terms of music, Opeth and Tool are probably the musics that inspire me the most. Talking about Tool, I'm still waiting for their next release... almost 10 years we're waiting for it, this is a torture, ahah.
Haha, some bands do take their time. Will we ever get to hear Wintersun's "Time II"? Anyways, we can find a plethora of awesome CD cover artworks in your gallery for various bands. We know now that you're a selftaught artist, so how long have you been doing commissioned work?
Thank you. As I said, I'm a 100% self-educated artist, and nothing was easy. My background isn't artistic at all, I spent some years in the french Air Forces, I was also a network and a computer specialist. But a period of my life came and suggested me to make a radical change in the way I wanted to spend my life. So, it took a long time of work and perseverance before being able to work on some commissioned projects. I had to learn and practice a lot before going further than just "cool little manip" as a personal hobby. In the beginning, I didn't think that I would be able, one day, to see some of my personal images as CD covers, but well, after all that time, it looks that my perseverance has resulted to something, and I'm now very proud each time I can work for the metal music industry.
What is it like for you to work with clients? Do you have a funny or unnerving story to share? I am thinking of extravagant or simply weird requests for example.
Well, each client is very different, it's each time a new story. Excepted for confirmed band, most of them are not always aware about what is working on a graphical project. So of course sometimes I have to explain what is possible and what is not possible. Personally, I really need a great part of freedom in my art, so, even if the client has a very precise idea of what he wants, I sometimes have to explain that I'm not a machine, and if I don't have that very important part of liberty in my choices, the work won't be as good as it could be. So, working with me is, I think, a simple exchange of views and confidence. Of course, I sometimes get strange requests but when it's too weird, I prefere to say "sorry man, I don't feel it, I can't do this". It's really important for me to feel the ideas/concepts, I don't want to make something I don't agree with. But, I must say, except few ones who can sometimes consider you as a machine, most of my clients are very cool and easy to work with. Some of them became great friends.
Do you do other client work besides CD covers? Would you say it is possible to make a living from cover art alone? I have heard before it can be pretty difficult.
I don't think you can live by only making CD covers, you have to do more. Personally, I don't only make CD covers, but also all the CD graphic parts of an album and often, all the merchandising part of a band's project. Tshirts, logos, banners, website elements, etc... Sometimes I work for some different kinds of projects such as event poster, brochures or more "corporate" stuffs for littles structures or individuals. I think that's what you have to do if you want to live with your "art". Actually, I like to work on any kind of project, to have challenges and opportunity to adapt myself to a total new context. But let's be clear, living as a graphic designer or illustrator is not easy at all. Often, people don't realize the time and efforts it takes to make a good image. Some of them think that making an image is just a funny hobby, well, it's not just this, it's also a real work that needs many sacrifices when you invest yourself totally in it (and that's my case), and so, that needs to be rewarded and properly paid. Graphic designers have a life, family and bills, just like everyone. I am often really hallucinated and disappointed when I see that some artists completely devalue their work, or to see that some clients have sometimes really disrespectful budget. Seriously, sometimes, you have some people that offer you 50$ for an image on which you have spent 3 weeks or more! This is not correct and it's sad that sometimes, we have to explain all of this. I'm sure you will understand what I mean. Graphic design is a passion, but also a real work that need, as I said, many sacrifices, years of expertise and experience. Graphic designers are passionated people, that's not a reason to exploit them. Unfortunately, nowadays, various companies, voluntarily or not, exploit tons of young graphic designers... I think about some magazines, but not only...
I totally agree! I guess a lot of selftaught artists who are working with clients for the first time are often inexperienced and don't know what their art is worth. Thank you for sharing your views on that matter, I think it is great advice for everyone. Now, these last two questions I have are probably the most difficult to answer. If you could pick one single artwork that presents your gallery, which one would it be and why?
Ah... not easy indeed. I think my art have several facets so, it's hard to pick just one ! Maybe "Attrition" would be something representative. It's dark, a bit creepy, with a lot of weird details. What do you think?
Good choice I would say! Like I said, I'm a big fan of your work with grayscale. Now you can highlight one other deviant- who do you choose and why?
Well, there are a lot of deviants I could talk about. But again, I think I would choose the art of MarcelaBolivar. Discovering her art was really a slap for me, in a good way. Something very unique and enchanting. Someone that pushes the technical boundaries further without neglecting feeling and emotions. She's an example and deserves a lot of respect. For good, one of my all time favorite artist.
"Sulfur III" by MarcelaBolivar
I agree, she is an exceptional artist and has inspired me for a long time! Thanks a lot for this great interview. Best of luck with your further art career and your sculptures. I hope we'll hear a lot more from you in the future!
Thanks for your time and your questions.