INTERVIEW: Lucy Dowey | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Concept artist and illustrator Lucy Dowey has been hard at work alongside her contemporaries at the Cleveland College of Art perfecting her final show. Dowey’s work takes inspiration from various sources, including video games and novels, and she works in a graphical format, creating characters and landscapes using digital means.

Some of her best works will be displayed at the College’s End of Year Show between Wednesday 17th and Wednesday 24th June, giving the public the chance to see the aspiring artist’s creations in all their glory alongside more of the region’s best rising talent. Ahead of the exhibition, I caught up with Lucy to ask more about her digital art, the influence of video games and what she has planned for the future.

Your work combines traditional and digital practices; what initially made you want to blend the two together?

There were some things about drawing with pencil and paper that felt quite tedious. When colouring in, you can’t change brush size in an instant, or erase a mistake completely like you can in Photoshop, which is why I will usually scan my pencil work in to Photoshop to alter any mistakes in lineart, then colour it in digitally. This method combines the ease of sketching traditionally and colouring digitally to create something that didn’t frustrate me, and also looked appealing and distinct to me.

When I look at your work I notice that you split your time between portraits and landscapes, but whereas the characters that you sketch are obviously very inspired by fantasy and video game tropes, the landscapes are much more realistic and familiar. Is this a conscious decision? Do you deliberately mix the two together?

I actually didn’t notice that until now! I suppose that when I did my project, Clockwork, (that was to design a game based around steampunk subculture and Victorian aesthetics and tropes), I really wanted to put in some element of fantasy, as I think it goes hand-in-hand with steampunk. Designing the main character with cloaks and capes to give her a mysterious and sort of fantasy look was a choice inspired by the character designs of the Assassin’s Creed and Thief series.

As for landscapes, I usually paint something that gives me some sense of nostalgia. For example, late evenings remind me of myself as a child, sadly watching as the day draws to a close, so I’m often inspired to paint something with a sunset in the background, if it suits the context (a recurring theme that I’ve found in a number of my landscape drawings actually; another accident!)

What personally attracts you to different forms of interactive media, such as video games and books?

Ignoring peer pressure from big video game fans that will recommend I play some generic first person shooter, I find myself attracted to games that have good story telling over good graphics, although, that is a plus for me, admittedly. I identified this preference when I found myself suddenly looking forward to the Tomb Raider reboot a couple of years ago despite not being all that interested in the older games. I heard that this new game had given some humanity to Lara Croft and built up her character from the bottom up, and I wanted to see her character development. The same thing goes for films, books, and other storytellers. I feel a strong connection to fictional characters and I am fascinated by how other fans can see themselves in their hero’s shoes, regardless of how real or fictional the hero in question is.

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“I feel a strong connection to fictional characters and I am fascinated by how other fans can see themselves in their hero’s shoes”

Are there any particular video games or books that have inspired your art?

I have been quite drawn to works like American McGee’s Alice series as well at the Thief games; the main thing they have in common is a sort of gothic horror steampunk vibe that I would like to emulate in my own works. I also take inspiration from certain art styles like what you see with Gorillaz or Glen Keane’s work that inspire me to draw characters using certain quirks, to see if I could replicate these art styles myself.

Some people would claim that video games aren’t art; what do you think of that opinion?

People seem to forget that for a video game to be made, a group of people have to collectively work together to decide how the final product is going to look by creating art for it. In the same way that a measuring flask is usually the symbol for “science,” a paintbrush or artist’s pallet is often the symbol for “art.” So immediately when we think of art, we usually mean a more traditional sense of painting or drawing, but when it comes down to it, there is art involved in almost everything, including video games.

I know you’re also looking forward to seeing some of the works by other artists at the Summer Show; is there anybody in particular you’re looking forward to seeing?

I’m sure the rest of the Interactive Media students here are looking forward to seeing Fox Chaotica’s work on his video game Paradoxical. It’s a platformer puzzle game similar to the Portal series, with a certain style that is personal to Fox and consistent in all of his work. We had a great time testing to see how his game works and we are looking forward to its debut at the show.

You’re going to be studying Computer Games Art at Teesside University soon; is that because you have aspirations to be a games designer?

Absolutely! I don’t want to limit myself to just game design though; visual development for films and working in illustration would suffice as well. There’s something about designing things from the ground up and watch it sprout into something watchable/playable that really excites me and I want to be a part of that process someday.

Have you got any plans to display your art elsewhere?

I’m afraid I don’t really know anywhere else I could display my art other than online. However, if there is another opportunity I will consider promoting my work offline whenever I can.

The Cleveland College of Art End of Year Show takes place between Wednesday 17th and Wednesday 24th June.

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