Concept Art, Well-Conceived

The Works of Tyler Windham
by Amy Farley

          Monet painted pretty flowers, Picasso painted geometric shapes and Tyler Windham paints zombies.
          That may be a bit of an oversimplification. University of Georgia senior Tyler Windham draws and paints zombies, sea monsters, Vikings, aliens, futuristic cityscapes, you name it. If it’s inspired by science fiction or fantasy, it’s well within the limits of Windham’s work.
          These are not the frenetic doodlings of a 16-year-old Spiderman fanboy (though Windham emphatically claims Spidey as his favorite superhero). No, these are works of detail and precision. Windham starts out by sketching figures in his Moleskine notebook, and when he sees potential in one of them, he draws it onto the tablet he has plugged into his Dell (he does much of his work in Photoshop). Once he’s done digitizing, he prints the image on archival paper and mounts it on wood, touching it up with a bit of oil or acrylic paint to add texture.
Sea Fight #1 by Tyler Windham          Take “Sea Fight #1,” an illustration of (get this) a sea fight Windham recently completed. It features a pirate, identifiable by his tri-cornered hat, defending his ship against a raging sea and, even more threatening, a giant blob of a sea creature with tentacle-like fangs, rising up out of the water as if about to come crashing down on the ship. There’s a whimsical intensity to the image. The wood on the side of the doomed ship looks rough to the touch. The frothing foam of the ocean spits salt spray, and you know what will happen next—either the ship will capsize, or the monster will come crashing down, effectively capsizing it himself. There’s a careful balance struck between cause and effect, creating an image full of motion and suspense. This is no still life.
          Not every one of Windham’s works is so action-packed. He also likes to create environments, like “Waterfall 1,” a lush forest setting. Rich green trees grow thick together, their blurred leaves obscuring any patch of sky. Their trunks fade into roots which fade into brown ground, flecked with calm blues and almost glowing reds—flowers, perhaps. In between all this is a waterfall, cascading down into a misty pond. The overall hues of the scene are dark, but the rich greens, blues and reds make the picture less foreboding and more welcoming. It is at once tranquil and exhilarating, like a hidden waterfall that is a secret between you and the forest. All these things are imbued in Windham’s image without any need for action or suspense, proving that as an artist he can tackle both mythical beasts and Mother Nature and come out on top. Waterfall 1 by Tyler Windham
          Windham, who is influenced by fellow concept artists and traditional artists alike, draws thumbnail sketches of figures, monsters, creatures, before committing to bigger pieces. Sometimes eight or nine to a page, they are little black and white ink-blot-like drawings, full of detail. A page full of mermaids and mermen yields a few with intricate, feathery tail fins and others with stiff-looking dorsal fins, some with seaweed laced around their arms and others with ink-black hair floating loose in the water. Windham creates these reductive style drawings in reverse, by taking a blotch of blackness and coaxing an image out of it by erasing like a sculptor carefully chipping marble off a half-formed bust. They are unique figure drawings, but are still based in that style. A concept artist Windham may be, but he does not lack knowledge of the fundamentals.
          “Waterlilies” Windham’s work is not. “Guernica” might be closer, but last I checked Picasso rarely painted warrior Vikings or the undead. Tyler Windham’s concept art is more comic books than cubism, more superhero than still life. But as far as comics and superheroes go, it’s beautiful.

See more of Windham's art at www.tylerwindham.com.

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