Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fresh Famous Interview: Artist Adrian Smith

We here are Fresh Coast 40k are extremely excited to have scored an interview with Adrian Smith, perhaps one of the best known and certainly this author's favorite GW freelance artist. I have admired Adrian's art all through my Warhammer career. He has an attention to detail that really puts you in the scene. Look at the picture above. Now look at your minis. Now look at the picture above. Now look at your minis. Doesn't this inspire you?

For those who haven't heard of you (FOR SHAME!) can you tell us a little about yourself?
Ha! No shame. There are a lot of us freelancers under the radar. I am a freelance artist that has been responsible for hundreds of illustrations for many tabletop game companies such as Games Workshop, Rackham, Target games and many more.

Also lots of work for computer games companies with many concept works that the public rarely get to see. Amongst these there has been THQ, EAMythic, Ubisoft, Vivendi Universal and others, the latest being the iPad game Dungeon Hunter 5 for Gameloft.

Can you tell us how you got started being an artist?
Sure. Pretty much self taught, as I was refused entry into art college. Scribbled away most of my life up into late teens when i started to realize that there were people out there actually getting paid to draw fantasy art.

I started to get a portfolio together in between work at a lumber yard. At the time and for a few years before I was a keen collector of Citadel miniatures and so quite naturally thought I’d send some photocopies of my work to the GW studio. I managed to get some freelance work on the 'Lost and the Damned' book, which they had just started work on at that time.

Whilst doing this my dad took it upon himself to phone John Blanche at the studio and ask if there were any full time positions. An interview was arranged and I started pretty much immediately. I was placed amidst the likes of Steve Tappin, Paul Bonner and Tony Ackland. So....quite daunting for a noob.

Something you guys may find interesting is that during my interview I had Jim Burns' painting of the Dark Angels for the Space Marine game sitting in front of me and Blanche. Great painting and quite influential at the time.

What are some of the major projects / companies you've worked on in your career? 
I try to treat all jobs on an equal basis.

Lately what have you been working on?
For the past month or so I have been compiling my art book 'Illuminations'. This is a self publishing venture so everything pretty much has been in my hands, from layout and choice of artwork. I just finished a bunch of concepts/illustrations for a Forgeworld Warhammer Fantasy book (ed’s note: SQUEEEE) and paintings for a private buyer and am now getting to think about the next series of self published books for next year.

How did you get started working with Games Workshop? Are you basically a 'freelancer' working for them when you want / when they want?
See above. Work for GW is becoming more scarce as they have extended their in house team of artists and freelancers are nowadays a last resort for them.

The art style for GW's games, to this gamer, has clearly changed from the early early days to now. Why do you think that has happened? How have you had to change your style?
This has been a natural progression if anything. All artists change over time. We can’t progress without change. No different I suppose from any similar field of expertise.

What is your favorite piece that you've worked on for a GW game?
Ooh… that’s tricky. Probably the chaos army book cover or the siege pic I did for Warhammer siege or maybe the blood angels intro illo in the last codex......there are many.

How do you think the internet has changed your profession? Do you utilize sites like Deviantart?
I stick with cghub, a good site run by great people with many spectacular artists.

When you draw / paint for the two main games, Fantasy and 40k, how do you differentiate your styles between the two games?
I don’t deliberately do different styles for the two, if it seems that way then it’s a natural thing.

What is the process you go through when working with GW?   Do you work with the design studio or marketing teams?
I work with the design studio. I have worked with them on and off for a while now so the briefs are usually straight forward. They tell me what part of the book it is for and leave me to it usually.

Also, do you do any work with the concept models GW uses to make miniature sculpts?
Sometimes I have to. If it’s a bestiary illo and the fig is new and a character then you need to stick reasonably close to the sculpt.

Do you think the GW aesthetic bleeds over into your other work? Is it tough to try to get away from that to make other projects work?
Any 'aesthetic' you see in my GW work is from me. The subject matter is GW. So obviously the aesthetic or style is in most if not all my work.

What would you say has influenced you in your artwork?
I can’t walk down the street without getting influenced in some way shape or form. So, everything!

It seems like you've worked for a variety of game companies - how would you say each one compares to the other?
I am a freelancer/mercenary ;) So all are the same to me. I may enjoy some more than others but I try to put 100% into all jobs.

You've recently put out a book of original artwork. Can you tell us about that and how to get it?
Ah, very kind of you to let me plug my book. It’s basically a 'dump' for all the work I’ve done over the years. Obviously not 'all' my work but a representation of the work I’ve done over the years.

A lot of it is personal work from sketches through to finished paintings, black and white and color, from all the major clients I’ve worked for. There’s a section dedicated to GW, with a selection of some of my personal favorites.

There is stuff from AT-43, another tabletop game. There are 160 pages so plenty there to satisfy most fantasy and sci-fi art fans. I’m aiming to release it early November. Preorders get a signed print inside the book. I’ll let you know as soon as I do when its due and preorders can be taken.

Would you like to say anything else to our readers?
Thanks for reading this; it must have been hard work. To my fans and followers over the years a big thank you for your support and interest. I've got a Facebook page! Why not pop in and say hello. There, two plugs! Haha! Cheers Michael!


  1. Great interview. Put me down for a copy of his original artwork book!

  2. Adrian Smith and Paul Bonner have always been my favourite GW artists from back in RT era when I were a wee lad.

    I think I'll have to look this book up.

    Thanks for sharing this interview!

  3. Wow, I will also be on the lookout for this book. Amazing stuff; great interview. Thanks!