Alex Storer – photograph by Dave Yeaman

Beginnings...

I've been drawing for as long as I can remember. As a child, it was usually Daleks and Doctor Who, or the characters from the films and shows I would see on TV. Through that I developed a passion for cartoon and comic artwork, but it wasn't until the age of 12, when I first encountered computer-aided art, on an Archimedes computer during art class at school. That day something clicked (and not just the mouse!).

In 1990 I got my first computer – an Amiga 500, and I began to discover the wonders of digital painting. This would evolve into an interest in graphic design throughout my college years and the discovery of Apple Macs.

I have worked as a professional graphic designer since 1997, but my real artistic interest has always remained in science-fiction and fantasy artwork. Yet it took me a long time to realise that I should be producing my own work as well as admiring that of others.

In 2008, I knew it was time to pick up where I had left off years before.

 

Inspiration

I grew up in awe of two things – the first was a huge print hanging on the wall at home – it was like a window into another world. I'd listen to Jean Michel Jarre's Oxygène album and stare out through this portal across a vast alien terrain. I could almost feel the heat radiating out of the painting. It was mysteriously signed "Hardy" in the corner. It wasn't until over twenty years later, that I found out more about this mysterious Hardy chap and the rest of his work, which still inspires me today. In 2007, I was finally able to put a name to both the artist and painting – Stellar Radiance, by David A. Hardy.

Stellar Radiance by David A Hardy

Stellar Radiance, © David A. Hardy/AstroArt

I soon discovered more of Hardy's work, which has a real gravitas to it – we're not simply talking dreamed-up planetscapes, but photo-like images backed up by scientific fact. Those far away worlds we thought we would never see – well, now we can, through Hardy's paintings.

After a couple of years of regular email exchange, I went along to Birmingham one rainy afternoon to finally meet David in person, and have the pleasure of seeing one of his paintings on show. Up until this point, I'd only produced a couple of pieces, so it was soon after this meeting that I turned my hand to digital painting with a revitalised passion.

Space Wars, Worlds and Weapons

The second item of importance was the most incredible book of art, called Space Wars, Worlds and Weapons, originally published in 1977, by Steven Eisler with a foreword by artist Chris Foss. Every page was adorned with paintings by artists such as Chris Moore, Michael Whelan, Chris Foss, Jim Burns, Tim White, Boris Vallejio, Rodney Matthews and David A. Hardy although (back then, I hadn't made the connection between the images in this book and Stellar Radiance… or maybe I just didn't read the credits at the end!).

The imagery in Space Wars, Worlds and Weapons took me on an intergalactic tour, as it's title suggested, into space and other worlds. Any page was an instant source of fascination, and still is. It may have sadly lost it's dust jacket somewhere along the way, but I still love that book – it encompasses everything that was fantastic, visionary and iconic about space and fantasy art of the 1970s, which for me remains just as exciting and inspirational today.

 

Other influences

Creative people are often sponge-like, in that you spend years soaking up influence from all the things you love, and there comes a time to recycle and release that influence, turning it into something of your own in the process.

THe City and the Stars, Chris Moore, Arthur C Clarke

Chris Moore's artwork for Arthur C. Clarke's The City and the Stars
(© Chris Moore)

I am also an avid SF reader of authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Philip K. Dick, H.G. Wells, Brian Aldiss and John Wyndham. However, I didn't start reading SF novels until the summer of 2001. The first book I read was Arthur C. Clarke's The City and the Stars – a book which had a profound effect on me! Reading something with such vision and ambition especially for the time it was written, just blew me away. And so did the cover painting; a fantastic cityscape by artist Chris Moore. I originally picked the book up purely on the strength of the cover, which remains my favourite painting. A large, signed Chris Moore print of that cover now hangs in my studio for constant inspiration.

A lifelong adoration of Doctor Who also plays its part in my long list of influences, as well as classic science-fiction films such as Metropolis, Logan's Run and Westworld. I also find a great deal of artistic inspiration from music, and rarely paint without it. Artists such as Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, John Foxx, Gary Numan, Jean Michel Jarre and Mike Oldfield to name but a few, provide a regular soundtrack to my work. Their work, in turn, also inspired my own musical projects over the last few years.

It'c clear to me, that without any of the above, I probably wouldn't be producing artwork. What I aspire to achieve in my art is something that evokes a similar feeling and atmosphere as the work of those space art greats of the 1970s and 80s, but at the same time something distinctive and timeless.

 

Photo by Dave Yeaman

Working methods

Although my roots are in fine art, I never cared much for paint as a medium. It didn't like me. I always did my best work in ink, pencil or charcoal. Yet I couldn't ignore colours, but nor could I find my comfotrable medium for them. That all changed when I first discovered digital painting, on the Amiga computer in the early 1990s. However, once I'd moved over to Apple Macs and discovered the potential of Photoshop, I knew that was the medium for me.

I currently work in Photoshop CS5 with an A4-sized Intuos tablet. My preferred medium is digital, although many of my pieces start out as a rough pencil sketch, which I’ll scan and then work over. I try to avoid working in too many layers where possible, as the challenge for me is to recreate the feeling of working on a single layer as if it were a real painting – although I still prefer digital – it comes without the mess!

I don't paint many figures or faces at present – it doesn't particularly interest me, and there is simply so much of that kind of art already out there. I enjoy creating environmental pieces which place the viewer in the heart of the scene; like a snapshot from a dream or glimpse of life on another world. You'll also notice that I like using single-word titles.

While this website focuses mainly on my science-fiction and fantasy artwork, you'll also find examples of my other work, from abstract paintings to cartoon illustrations.

Science-fiction and fantasy have fascinated me from an early age – countless books, films, music and television serials. From my first ventures into computer-aided artwork in the early nineties, to finally putting digital pen to pad in 2008, that influence has come full circle as I produce artwork designed to take the viewer on a journey into other worlds and beyond.

 

Music

After years of being a passionate music fan of artists such as David Bowie, Jean Michel Jarre, Mike Oldfield, Peter Gabriel, John Foxx, Depeche Mode, Gary Numan and Simple Minds (among others!), the time finally came in early 2006 for me to try and make my kind of music. And to my surprise, despite having no musical training and little technical knowledge, it worked!

Two pivotal albums for me are Jean Michel Jarre's Oxygène and Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells – both of which I still love to this day, and are what also set me on course to produce my own instrumental music. My work has also been likened to that of Vangelis and Tangerine Dream – where atmosphere and mood are key, and the music is designed to paint pictures in the mind of the listener.

I find that painting and making music are similar activities – one uses colours, one uses sound, but both use layers and a large amount of imagination. I've even found one to influence the other!

My music work remained a purely personal project until 2012, when I first made it publically available. Later that same year, I was invited to be Honorary Interstellar Musician for the Initiative for Interstellar Studies™, so it seems my music has found a home, and it's going to be an exciting journey from here...

Alex Storer, March 2013