Digital Painting is what makes concept art in todays age. No matter if it's for a movie production or video games, advertising or even architecture. There are only a few masters left that use paper to bring their ideas to life. Those select few, who dedicate their lives to tradition, are still the kings. Digital painters use graphic tablets to visualize their ideas on screen efficiently. The most common tool on the market are Wacom products. A brand fully dedicated to the art industry. I own a Wacom Tablet myself and I'm completely fascinated with the possibilities I've only just started to explore. Now, with digital painting becoming more and more popular, there is a danger of losing personality in paintings, because everyone seems to be using the same tool. But there are a few extraordinary people that have developed a complete own style. One of these few is Gary Tonge. And we're proud to present you this exclusive interview.

The first time I met Gary, was when someone reported an art ripper on while I was an admin. Someone used Garys’ artwork with a fake account. A few hours later that fake account was history and deviantART was happy to have another world class artist in its club. He was/is always a friendly and helpful person. I must admit I didn't know him before that accident and soon I learned a few details about him and his art. What fascinates me most about him is his style of architecture in the sci-fi paintings he does, oh so very well. Basically he is doing what I’ve always wanted to do... and that is why he is one of my biggest inspirations.

Christian: First of all I want to thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions I, and some friends, have. We all know your amazing painting and concept artworks. We're inspired and fascinated at the same time... wondering how a single person can create stuff like that. We all know the artist through your works but we don't know with what you earn your money. I know you're working as an art director. Who are you working for and what is the job of an art director? How does a usual Gary Tonge work day look?
Gary: LOL! Ok, that's a big question to start with!

Indeed, I do work as an Art Director in the Computer Entertainment Business; I've worked professionally as a Game Artist, FMV artist, 3D Modeler, Texture Artist, Lighting Technician, Animator, Lead Artist and more recently as a Concept Artist/Art Director for the last 18 years.

I currently work for Core Design in the UK, working on two titles, both of which I am not allowed to talk about, but one of them does have an adventurous woman in it. Currently, my days involve a lot of meetings and directing my teams, which to be honest is not the most stimulating of things I would like to be doing, but somebody has to give direction and keep things on track. I do not get a large amount of time to actually paint and design in my day job currently, as the projects are both up and running and it's basically guiding the others on the teams I am focused on.

Christian: That sounds cool! I’ve known core for a while now, especially the games. From back then when all this tomb raider stuff started.

Gary: Right then, well I originally started working for them about 9 years ago, but I split away with the original owner, Jeremy Smith in 2003 to become AD at Circle Studio, I finished my work on one project with them and decided I would rather be back at Core, so I returned.

Christian: Was there a significant moment in your life, when you knew you wanted to be an artist? What gave you the inspiration to become the Illustrator/Concept Artist you are today?
Gary: Hmm, good question.

Well, I'm 35 now, so when Star Wars Originally hit the screens in 1977, I was 7 years old. I remember sitting in the theater in Atlanta in the USA (I think it was one of the few "Dolby Stereo" screens at the time LOL) and watching that Star Destroyer sequence at the start. Apparently, according to my Mum, my mouth just fell open and stayed that way until the movie finished.

Christian: ROFL, I can imagine!

Gary: I would say that was the moment I first felt the pull to be creative. After that I would just keep painting space ships all the time, in every lesson. The funniest I guess were "music" lessons, we used to be asked to listen to a piece of music and then paint what we saw in our imagination afterwards. I always painted a spaceship; normally a triangular shaped one with three big engines at the back... You get the idea..

..I always felt happiest drawing, I don't know why.

Christian: Hehe - It's strange how a lot of the big artists that work on today’s big movies and videogames, say that Star Wars was a big influence. But I can understand why!

Gary: Indeed, I hear that because a bit of a problem for George Lucas, a lot of people were afraid to say "Actually, I think that idea sucks George" - everybody hero worshipped him. That's a shame, I would love the opportunity to work with him and I would do my very best to be honest if I did (Even though he's my hero).

Once I got into the games industry it took a long time to actually become a painting artist. I started out doing pixel art - which was fun, then moved onto low poly modeling for games, FMV and mega high res work, back into medium poly games stuff (PS1) and then started to get really tired of the whole 3D thing. The challenge to create something in 3D got less exciting, but the time it took became much greater - you need a many person team these days to create cutting edge 3D work.

I migrated over to 2D painting because I wanted to make exciting images without it taking hundreds of hours and needing big teams. The concept work followed on from this, I love pre-production art, it's really exciting (you are giving visual direction) but you don't have the long timescales of final work. I prefer moving about with my ideas, it suites me really well.

Christian: One of my all-time favourite Sci-Fi artworks is your piece, 'NIMBUS'. My question is where did you find your inspiration for that piece? The architecture for that amazing structure going into the center of the picture, is simply amazing and delivers a useful path for the eye to follow into the image.
Gary: Yeah, I quite like that one too, which is odd for me, I normally don't like my work much after it's finished. I'm not liking "Raevona" very much currently, it did not come out how I wanted it. Hmm.. I think I really wanted to create a dynamic perspective, swooping the viewers eyes from the left to the right, I love outrageous scales to things and the simplicity of the arch coupled with the engineering complexity of something like that, would pose created a nice balance. It's loose, smooth and simple, but at the same time it's incredibly imposing and improbable with our current technology.

Christian: I can relate to you when you say that you actually don't like your artwork anymore once it's done. I feel the same way mostly... what is kinda weird I think, lol.

Gary: Indeed - I think it's what keeps an artist progressing. I would hate to think I had created my best work already.

Christian: That's true! Say, the pieces nimbus and theistic dawn, do they show the same scene from different point of views?

Gary: Not really, although people have asked me that. I just had a thing for arches at that time. The arch on Theistic was added quite late on in that picture if I remember.

Christian: We all have idols we look up to. Mine for example are a Syd Mead, Dylan Cole and of course you. I think especially when you are doing any form of art, you really need someone to look up to, someone who inspires you. Someone that makes you want to be as good as them. Who are those people for you?
Gary: That is very kind of you to say BTW. Yeah, Syd Mead, he's the daddy as far as I am concerned, his work was ground breaking at the time, amazingly rendered and when you look at how he actually creates his works, astounding. I've always loved his work. As far as other people go, I have a big list of people who I love the works of, but the top of my list is Craig Mullins. His work is very powerful. He can paint the most incredible final image and then throw down a sketch that is invigorating to look at. I like the way he over paints photos on the odd occasion, making them into unique images of his own. Put bluntly, I find his work unnerving to look at, which is a good reality check for an artist. His work says, "Must try harder".

Christian: I fully agree.

Gary: I like Dussos work too, he does some nice Matte work.

Christian: He recently updated his site with paintings from episode 3.. They’re absolutely amazing.

Gary: Indeed. The mattes are nice, but a lot of them are 3D/Photo, he's very good at integrating mixed mediums. My favourite image in that group is the one for Mustafa, the concept, that's a great image.

Christian: In your job, you have to force yourself to paint/draw stuff, to find ideas. Especially for concept art, the ideas must come in with a constant flow. From my own experience, I know that it's hard to come up with ideas when you are not in the right mood. How do you keep yourself on track? How do you make it so that you can create your work even on a very bad day?
Gary: That's a good question. To be honest, it can be hard to keep creatively motivated, but I get so little time spare currently in my AD position that when I do get some free I can't wait to paint one of the images I've got in my head. If I am lacking in inspiration, I look through some images on the net, or in books to get stoked up. If I'm really having a bad day, nothing can fix that!

Christian: Lol, good to hear even real masters have such days sometimes.

Gary: One of the reasons I have not migrated over to full time concepting is I am waiting for the right project to come along. I would love to work in a pool of talent like the guys over at ILM and the like, it would be very hard to lead full time and concept, you need people you can trust and gain inspiration from to keep you going.

Christian: That's true.

Christian: After lots of recognition and thousands of people loving your work, you are an often featured and published artist, on screen and print. Does that influence the way you create your artwork? Does it motivate you to be admired so globally? What do you think about the reactions of people that see your work? Can you still use the feedback you get or is it always the same?
Gary: Ooo.. I think that having my work published and recognised does affect the way I paint to an extent. One of the things that making a great image can affect me is the worry about being able (or having the time) to make another. I'm sure you are aware that if you don't paint for a while you start to feel like you are losing your abilities. The more recognition I get, the higher the pressure gets to keep creating and improving.

One of the reasons I have started speed painting is to break from that procession of ever more complex images and the worry about getting too "tight" and soulless with my work by pursuing draftsmanship rather than an exciting subject/composition. I love hearing good things about my work, but I do appreciate people being honestly critical about it too, it's never nice to hear that something you've worked hard on is not that great, but normally it's no surprise as I've got feelings like that about the piece myself, it's related to "hating all my old art"
Christian: When you look back, what do you think about the digital evolution? How did it change from back then to now and which direction do you think it will go in the future? Will it improve, or deteriorate?
Gary: Crikey, yeah, when I first started "painting in anger" - to get work, it was early 1987, and I used an Atari ST with 16 colours on screen at 320x200 res. At the time it was amazing, but as the years have gone by, technology and software have improved so much that digital is now the medium of choice for the serious professional. I do think there is a danger of digital art becoming too "procedural" with programs designed to make things easier for people, making it far to easy to create mediocre work very quickly. I love the way that 3D packages are becoming more organic, such as ZBrush, I look forward to the 2D tools becoming ever more like painting for "real".

Christian: Do you think all the Photoshop’s, painters and Wacom’s make it easier to learn the art of painting? Or is it still as complicated as on canvas?! Is there still talent needed?

Gary: I think there will always be the need for talent to create striking and new images. But, one good thing about the technological assistance is that it allows anybody to create, which has got to be a good thing. It's a bit like the way Video games allow anybody to be a Racing car driver, or commando. That's got to be good.

Christian: lol, good point of view and I agree. Have you always painted digitally or have you learned the traditional ways too?

Gary: I used to paint traditionally, but for the last 17 years or so, it's been mostly digital. I would like to do more traditional work, but not having an undo function scares me a little. I painted the wall of my daughter’s nursery recently, which was fun.

Christian: Lol, yeah... God thanks for the undo ability...

Gary: Indeed. That's why Syd Mead kicks ass.

Christian: Yes I once saw one DVD where he is explaining how he works and it's amazing.

Gary: Indeed. His technique is totally the reverse to mine, white - to - black. I love it.

Christian: When creating a new piece, I try and think of new ways to be more efficient in the way I work, sometimes this means developing a new way of painting, or assigning new hotkeys, do you try and speed up the process every time? And what was the last thing you learned while painting? Professional, or for yourself?
Gary: I do use Hotkeys, so much so I would have trouble telling you which ones, I just use them instinctively. I would say that my painting process is pretty settled, although I do modify the brushing I use often, trying out different techniques etc, I like the idea of being able to smack out nice images very quickly, so I guess as far as that goes I try and keep my speed up. The last things I've learned... Hmm.. That I like the different brushes in PS - I'm going to buy a Mac soon and when I do I'm going to set up my PS with a load of my favourite brushes, I can't be bothered to do that at the minute on my PC.

Christian: I have no experience with Macs but what is the big advantage of a Mac in comparison to a pc when using Photoshop today?

Gary: From my (small amount of) experience, PS works a lot faster on the Mac. I am falling for Macs as they are a very well solved machine, with a lovely GUI - you should love it, it's called "Tiger"

Christian: Lol, yeah I know that. Ok... so it's still a fact that Macs are TEH THING for image editing?

Gary: I don't know really. I would say not, but what I do know is my PC in my studio takes longer to boot every time it loads and is as noisy as a jet turbine. My friend has just bought a quad core G5 with a 30'' screen. It's whisper quiet...

Christian: lol, ok that's definitely a good thing.

Christian: What kind of system do you work out your personal ideas? PC? (Yes a pc like we know now) Tablet? Mouse? Aside of that, a lot of artists listen to music when they work on something, including myself. It helps to slip into some kind of flow. Some people can't work when music disturbs their concentration. What type are you? And if you are listening to music, what kind of music helps you to work as efficient as possible?
Gary: Currently I have an AMD 2.2 with 1 GB of Ram and 200 GB of HD. I use a 20'' LCD for my work and a Wacom Intous 2 tablet for painting. Music wise, yes, I love to listen to some tunes when I'm in the flow. Once I have the basics of an image solved that is. I will listen to a wide variety of music while painting, including currently: Hybrid, Sasha, Moby, Jarre, The Rage against the machine, even!

If I'm struggling with a piece, music can make things worse though.

Christian: Rawk and Rooolllll! OK...

Gary: LOL!

Christian: What was the biggest project (in job or privately) you ever worked on? How did it influence the way you work?
Gary: Hmm.. Good question. At home, I only take small-medium projects as I have a finite amount of time free after my day job. In the day, oh crikey, I've worked on a lot of big projects, Tomb Raider probably. I was brought in to fix a lot of the work on TR 6 for about 12 months, which was stressful. That was 3D work though.
Christian: In addition to that last question... What is the weirdest or funniest thing/mistake you did while working on a piece/project?
Gary: Hehehe.. Crazy questions!

Christian: I try my best, lol.

Gary: Years ago I did a golf game on the Amiga called "Nick Faldo's Championship Golf" Which I designed (OMG) along with the coder and did the artwork for. The company we did it for was not the best at paying it's creditors and true to form they did not pay quite a large amount of the outstanding funds...

Christian: That games’ name sounds familiar...

Gary: Anyway, I put a level in the game set on Mars, with a "Total Recall" look to it. The boss of the company we did it for rang us and started ranting about "who did I think I was putting this into HIS game" - to which my reply was "If I recall, you don't own it". He was not happy as about 50-60k copies of it were on the shelves at the time.

Gary: I thought it was a fun level, - if you used a 7 iron, you could drive a 600 yard hole! (low gravity)

Christian: Rofl... fantastic

Gary: Nick had a really dodgy space helmet on - which did not animate with him to make it even more stupid. LOL

Christian: Lol, too cool - Very nice one!

Gary: ;-)

Christian: Every good artist kinda needs someone to ask if something in an image works or not. Someone who knows you and your capabilities, who can look at it and tell you what it needs etc. Do you have anybody like that? Who are they? Are they artists too or even family members?
Gary: If it's a VA piece I will always ask my Fiancé, Lisa. She's got a great artistic eye and is straight to the point if something bothers her. I trust her and having fresh eyes looking at a piece is a good thing when you are locked in your studio for hours at a time. My family are quite artistic, my Mother and Auntie are good artists, and both my Grand Dads too. One of them is not on this world anymore, but he taught me a lot about art, the other used to design aircraft for Lockheed in the USA so he has a strong grasp of design and engineering.

Christian: Looks like you have a lot of good people around you that have the right eye for your stuff. That's a good thing when you need it.

Gary: Indeed.

Christian: Please tell us how/where you get all the ideas for your futuristic cityscapes. I often lie in bed at night thinking about all possible things I could manage and suddenly an idea comes up and I start to think about how I could realise it in Photoshop, or scenes in movies that make me think about how I could do something like it. Sometimes even books inspire me. How is it with you?
Gary: You know, very much like you have just described, things I see inspire me, when I have some quiet time to myself I tend to get ideas too. I get excited about an interesting *way* to illustrate something. With my VA pieces I try and create a believable, unbelievable scene, so finding a nice way to portrait is it the goal.
Christian: VA pieces... how did that 'vision afar' thing started? When I compare your website to the websites of other big digital artists, yours definitely stands out. A fantastic presentation, achieved through nicely flowing flash animations. What do you think about the internet and its possibilities to present artworks? And how important is a good working website for a digital artist?
Gary: Yeah, the VA thing started when I was between projects at Core, I had some spare time and I started tinkering whit some images for myself in that time at work. I painted "Planetary", "Orbit" and "Other World" over a few days and started to think "I should really have a web page for this stuff". When I first came online I was taken resident on (where there is still an old HTML site and the print pages), after about 18 months I think I bought and and did my own page. Funny you should say about my site, I'm toying with the idea of having a simpler HTML layout one. Flash is lovely for design, but it's a pain in the butt to update if you have a lot of nice stuff going on. Plus I get mails every day about problems in Firefox and on Macs. I am worried about making my new site as attractive, but I think it is also important to remember that a lot of really great artists let their art speak for itself and not worry too much about the look of the site.

Craig Mullins site for instance, it's a mess! But he still kicks ass.

Christian: Dussos site too, lol, yep.

Gary: Hehehe.. Yeah, but their art speaks for itself.

Christian: Absolutely.

Christian: We know that you enjoy digital art a lot, but what are you doing aside the art side of things? To get away from that, sometimes stressy, job. Doing things with the Family? Do you have any other hobbies than the art stuff?
Gary: Until recently I used to work out quite a bit to keep fit, but since Lisa fell pregnant and Catherine was born I am pretty busy with my family when I'm not working. I like to watch movies and to cook, cooking really does help me unwind, it's an art in itself.

Christian: Lol, agreed... congrats to your child! How old is Catherine now? If the question is allowed.

Gary: Hehehe.. Sure. She's 6 months today.

Christian: Cool, I guess you have some sleepless nights? Or is she a quiet one?

Gary: She was quiet, but she's teething. I'm up 2-5 times a night. Oddly, I don't feel too bad... *thud*


Christian: Hehe it'll get better with the time... that's at least what I heard.

Gary: Yeah.. So they say...

Christian: Thank you Gary so far. There are a few selected Questions left that i collected from fellow Artists on They all know and love your work and are, like me, interested in some Details.
RoyalBlade: Do you use standard Adobe Photoshop brushes, your own custom brushes, or do you smudge/blur stuff with it’s tools as well?
Gary: I pretty much use the standard brushes to be honest. Mostly the normal round one with different hardness settings and that one that looks like a slanted brush. I will use normal, lighten, darken and occasionally colour dodge etc. I rarely smudge, but I used to when I first had the package.
BPauba: Out of the three main subjects you paint (architecture, vehicles, and characters) which do you find the most rewarding and why? What is the most valued technique you have in your arsenal? Why do you believe so many people love your work? Is there one thing you could say really makes your pieces?
Gary: Hmm.. I would say I like vistas the most, so they would include all of these elements, but architecture would be the largest element, followed by vehicles etc.. I love nailing the compositional balance of a piece, getting the whole thing to hang together. I don't know really, maybe a lot of my VA work is created from inspirational thoughts I have, so they are quite tranquil and optimistic. I would say that "perspective" is the one word that would sum up my work. I love it.
Suirebit: When painting objects, do you use any "background reference"? Some of your works are really, really detailed.
Gary: Rarely, I try and paint the VA work straight out of my head. For speed paints I may use a photo as ref or even a little area of a photo as a start point to paint over. Concepting images involve a balance of both.

Christian: How do you sketch down your ideas... On paper, or everything digitally?

Gary: Almost always I use PS these days. I used to sketch stuff in Pencil, but I'm normally near a computer so I use that instead, particularly since I started using a tablet.

Tul: What tips or comment would you like to convey to beginners, or those who look up to you?
Gary: The best way to get good is to really love what you paint. Get good doing what you enjoy and then, when you have the skills solidified you can be adventurous with your new powers.
Realillusions: I've noticed from your art that you tend to use colors that flow well together. Not necessarily complimentary in the traditional sense, but that just fit well given the piece. Obviously, this is in several cases influenced by the actual end result you want to achieve, but the rest of the time; do you always start with the colors you plan to end with? Or is it typically more of an explorative journey as you go? Also, do you ever make deliberate attempts to have clashing colors as some sort of 'artistic statement'?
Gary: One thing I always try to achieve is a colour balance. Whether that is a flow of colour or just the use of aggressive colours in a balanced way. I do tweak values while painting too, its one of the most powerful things digital has to offer.
Bennybeee: Ever since I first glanced at your gallery, I was amazed at the thought that someone like you exists. I’ve used all your sci-fi work as inspiration somewhere down the track. One would say I look up to you in a way, to aspire to your level, where anything could be achieved. How far do you think you can aspire to? Are there limits to where Digital Art can take you? If so, where will you go from there?
Gary: Thank you for your kind words. Personally I think I am far from being up to the quality I would like, every image I have created is the foundation for the next. I am always chasing the goal of improving my skills and knowledge.
Christian: As a concluding final question for our journey through your world. Everyone has dreams! Artistically, what are yours? What path do you want to see yourself going with your art? What is it that a Gary Tonge has in the backhand to blow us all away?
Gary: I would love to increase the amount of cool projects I am working on and also to move into Illustration or Concept Art Direction full time. I would also love to work on a book project and have enough time to create the myriad of images I want to paint. Also, I want to continue to diversify my works, I love new challenges.

Christian: I bet you will get these challenges. I wish you good luck for your endeavors and a big, BIG thanks for your patience today answering our questions so perfectly detailed!

Gary: It's been a pleasure Chris.

Thanks A LOT to Gary Tonge for the Interview. I will remember that 3hr talk for a while! We are watching your artistic career now for a while and i guess we will do so in the Future. I'm confident that you can reach all the goals you have in mind and wish you best of luck in your bright Future!

gary @

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