spaceship in the stone LordDoomhammer

Exclusive Interview with digital artist Elias Stern

1. Introduction about yourself.

spaceship in the stone LordDoomhammer

My name is Elias Stern and I am a freelance illustrator living and working in the beautiful city of Vienna, Austria. I earn my living by making art for a couple of years now. But I am a creator at heart, ever since I can remember.

2. Your space sci-fi images are so good. Any reason you create such particular kind of art?

realm wars eyes of the descendants

The first movie I ever watched was the Star Wars. Ever since then I had a keen interest in science fiction. I grew up watching the entire Star Wars series back and forth, as well as Star Trek and Battle-star Galactica and read the works of Isaac Asimov, Stanislaw Lem, Arthur C. Clarke, Frank Herbert and Robert A Heinlein amongst many others. In games as well, the SciFi-Genre was among my top contenders, from Halo, Home-world and Mass Effect amongst many others.
As such it was only natural that my artistic journey would take roots in space as well.

3. All your works are so movie like. They look great. What software are you using?

calm seas ship

Thank you very much, that is very kind of you to say. The backbone of my digital work are Blender and Photoshop. The latter was there almost from the beginning, ever since I was given a copy of Photoshop when I was around eleven years old. Blender came in much later, after having used Sketch-up for the longest of times, but is now doing a lot of the heavy lifting and the software where I want to grow the most (and where there are probably an infinite amount of possibilities.

4. How do you get inspired? Any favorite artists? Do you take inspiration from movie posters?

entering hostile waters

Yes, the many examples mentioned above inspire me to no end and fans of some of these franchises can surely see their influence in my work. Movie and game posters surely inspired me more than once.  When done well it can be an incredible combination of visual atmosphere, character and emotion, that I strife to achieve in my work as well. But my greatest source of inspiration comes from an old master. Having started my creative endeavor in traditional painting, that got kick-started by JMW Turner when I was around eleven years old, it has been my driving force ever since. Back then my visual arts were split in two. On one hand I had the colorful, more romantic way of painting, that focused on landscapes, everyday life and the surreal, whilst on the other, the digital realm was mainly occupied with exploration of space. At some point, those two fields started to overlap which eventually led to the colorful, vibrant scifi pieces you can find now. To me space needn’t be dark nor silent. Whenever I can, I put style over realism, however shallow some people might find that approach, but I slowly left behind any trepidation of using strong and powerful colors.


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5. Share any of your favorite art from your gallery. Any special reason you created them?

It’s really hard to pick favorites, but since we are mostly focused on scifi for now, that makes things easier for me.
I’ll give you three (more or less), all of them commissioned by wonderful people, that allowed me a lot of creative freedom as we were developing these cover artworks. First up a series of covers, that together were meant to be a collection of shorter prequel stories to Eric Warrens Infnity’s End Series of novels, each of them focusing on a single character of the main series. The Trouble was, we also had to have the ship in focus as well, so it was quite difficult to find a suitable approach, until we settled on a simple setup: the characters looking out from a station towards the ship. To avoid repetition, each artwork would feature subtle (and not so subtle) differences, aside from the coloring. For example, Robeaux isn’t a guy that follows the rules and is
less levelheaded than the others. As such he got a warmer, more vibrant colour, was put off center and the camera was slightly angled.
Elias Stern wallpaper fates arrow robeaux
In contrast to that, the “military-man” Greene is in center, the camera is squarely behind him and the color not only fits his name, but is also a subtle hint to his military background. There were more considerations made in these four covers, as the foreground station that has different styles, that were meant to mirror each character.
Elias Stern fate's arrow green
Next I absolutely love working with Jamie McFarlane on his Junkyard Pirates series (as well as his other works), that lets me focus on something that’s not usually the focus in scifi: the junk that is left behind. It gives me an opportunity to add in tiny details here and there that remain unseen by most (the cranes in the back are piling up junk from a salvaged spaceship, whilst a small shuttle on the rightmost is strolling around with its price for example) and giving a wonderful sense of chaos, whilst not coming off as a hostile universe.

junkyard veterans wallpaper Elias Stern
Last is a piece made for a novel by M.G. Herron which is to me quintessentially Space Opera. He wanted a heavily industrialized world, our hero-Starfighter and some traffic in the background, but I got so captivated by my imagination, that I spent ages making more ships and stations to fill the background, that in the end came together with some unexpectedly beautiful colors, despite the more gritty world that was depicted. If I ever have space to print and hang this piece, I would, because it always inspires me to go back in, make even more models to fill the scene with many,many more ships, each of them telling a story of their own.

hidden relics space art Elias Stern

6. How much time does it take to create a single image? Do you work on multiple projects?

Its hard to give a number on that. Most personal work gets done rather quickly, since I usually don’t get to do that often. Mostly it’s me having an evening or afternoon off, so I have to do it in 3-4 hours. With commissions it highly depends on revisions and on how quickly the customer finds a direction they like. Sometimes the first round of sketches is enough to find something to pursue until completion, whilst with others it may take 20 (24 was my record!). Though that is luckily the exception.

YES, absolutely YES! I always work on multiple projects simultaneously. It gives me a chance to switch back and forth, should I ever lose my drive on one of them. Maybe another picks my interest more at the moment? I can always come back later. Also, I like to experiment and widen my horizons beyond
SciFi. At the moment I am working on some historical clothing for a client. Not something I’m good at and far away from my comfort zone, so I jumped at the chance.

7. Please share any tips on how you create such amazing art.

traveller of worlds dragon

Patience. For every artwork you see in my gallery, at least a dozen got left at the wayside. Some were simply bad, some were never even completed, some were just meant for me. There is no failure in art. You just got to follow your inner artist, get your energy out in whatever way you prefer, try new things, experiment. Each ‘failure’ is a step towards success, whatever that might be to you.
And also, when people ask about time, I am always hesitant, because it gives a fall impression. Now I might be able to do an acceptable piece of scifi art in a couple of hours.  I have got experience and I am comfortable in my workflow. I have a lot of things to use that I would have to make from ground up otherwise. When you start out, take your time. You learn much, much more from doing things in your own pace. What takes me an hour now, took me a day many years ago. But if I had strived to get it done in an hour back then as well, I wouldn’t be where I’m at now. These twenty-four hours taught me more, than an hour ever could. The process is just as important as the end result. Besides, if you are worried about taking long, that’s just a matter of time (bad pun intended). What took you 20 hours at first, might only take you 10 the second time around, and 8 the third and so forth. In the end it is only important that you enjoy what you do. If you can inspire others, that’s just a bonus.

8. It’s not easy to create a particular kind of art continuously. Every artist goes through an art block. You might be aware of it. How do you get ideas to work with?

Most of the things were already mentioned before. Repetition is indeed a challenge, as such it is important to vary wherever possible.
I try to mix up the colors I use (the reason why my gallery looks like someone puked a rainbow all over), but without losing all the harsh contrast I usually use. As said before, having a couple of projects at the same time also helps with that, since it allows you to do something else, if you lose steam on one of them.
Trying out new things also helps immensely. There are many more things I’d like to create, but due to a lack of time and urgency they tend to remain on the back-burner. I nonetheless try to make something different whenever I get the chance, whether it’s doing some traditional paintings or drawings, or try something entirely different and new – I wanted to do a huge crowd scene for ages but didn’t get to it yet. Maybe 2022 is the year for that?
And lastly, probably most importantly: it is alright not do be creative 24/7 and to take a break. There are days where I just cannot get into the mood to do something artistic. Rather than force yourself, go outside! Meet up with friends, do something else. The spark isn’t lost, it just needs a pause. Give it some time to rest and it will come back in force.

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