photoshop creative

Mastering mixed media

Posted in:
Interviews, by Mark White
October 6, 2017

We ask internationally recognised Anthony Dart how he creates such electrifying artwork, what tools he uses and what motivates him

Millions have seen Anthony Dart’s work, and it’s no surprise. His powerful mixed-media pieces are eye-catching to say the least, so it’s hard to believe that he only discovered Photoshop in his first job. But what are the secrets of his exciting style?

What’s your background in art and design, and how did you first discover Photoshop?

I come from probably the last generation where computers were not a prerequisite. When I finished studying art I had zero computer experience, so when I was lugging around a physical portfolio, people told me that I had talent but they required computer skills. I eventually landed a job at a small graphics studio; they had a Mac but nobody knew how to use it, so I set about learning about it. That was where I discovered Photoshop.

Coming from a traditional art background, you must have an array of influences. How did you transition from working with natural media to digital?

Yes, my initial influences came from the art world, the likes of William Blake, Rodin, Rothko, Francis Bacon, Dali, and also in architecture; Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe. I think the fact that I have always had a very ‘DIY’ approach to art has helped me to develop. Photoshop very quickly became the centre of my process, and when I discovered I could use as many layers as my machine could tolerate, that was a revelation. Back on that first Mac, I would use a 3D program and a vector drawing program, and I would mash them all up with photography in Photoshop.

Your work looks complicated and multi-faceted – are layers still your favourite Photoshop tool?

These days people do not give it a second thought, but layers are still the backbone of my work and my all-time favourite feature. Smart Filters and Smart Objects I love too, and the Pen tool gives me great flexibility and crisp selections. I use the Lasso tools a lot, Selective Color, Hue/Saturation, Levels and Channels – oh I could go on and on!

As a long-time user of Photoshop then, was it an honour to be asked to create splash screens for Adobe products?

Yes, it was a surreal experience seeing my artwork launch in apps I use every day. A creative director at Adobe spotted my work on Behance and inquired as to whether they could use some of my artwork for new releases of InDesign and Muse CC for splash screens and other materials. I was delighted to contribute. Both pieces came from an experimental graphic series where I was exploring how Photoshop could composite Illustrator vector art. Experimentation is my way of embracing failure – if I don’t expect to be proud of my work, it motivates me to keep improving.

It seems that no matter the project, the two things unique to your style are type and colour. How important is it to pick a good typeface for a poster?

It’s absolutely crucial. It’s like picking the right tie or jacket for an outfit; that’s actually how I got into making my own typefaces, as I could not always find the right fit. I like to try and speak in my voice; that’s how I see creating fonts, and crafting my own letters is now an ongoing love affair.

And how important is colour?

Colour is an extremely deliberate consideration on my part too, and I labour over their selection to heighten mood and enhance composition. I like hard-hitting, impactful colour. You’ve worked with a plethora of high-profile clients. What is it about your work that you think resonates with so many people? That’s a difficult one to answer! I would hope it’s the love and passion I pour into my pieces. I think that when I create something good, people relate to that. Work that was created with love is the kind that goes on to inspire and influence other like-minded individuals.

What advice would you give to Photoshop users wanting to create mixed-media pieces?

I would encourage people to experiment as it can often give unexpected results to try as many things as you can. I recently started exploring Cinema 4D and ZBrush, for example, and find they complement my work very well. There is still so much to try and learn I guess. It’s a lifetime commitment; who knows where that journey will lead?