3D Valley’s first 2D Featured Artist – Jeff Coles or for you probably better know as Mysnapz. Jeff is a draftsman for 27 years. During day time he works in the 3D design/ engineering industry and in his personal time he enjoys taking photos and manipulating them with a little help of Adobe Photoshop. He has won several awards for his work and some years ago one of his photos has been selected as the best image in Great Britain. Read the interview below to get to know Jeff and his work a bit better.
Rage (self portrait)
Christa: Can you tell us a bit about yourself: Who you are and what you do in your daily life?
Jeff: Yes certainly; I am married and we have two children. My eldest is at university studying mathematics the youngest is a trainee hairdresser, we live on the outskirts of Oxford the city of dreaming spires, in a small village on the edge of a reservoir. I am a designer for a scientific company working with cryogenics and magnets making research and medical equipment.
Christa: Which software packages and/or traditional tools do you use for your artwork?
Jeff: All my images are created using Photoshop I use a number of different plug-ins from Flaming Pear and some free ones, I also use Painter for some of my initial blends I love the smudge and clone tools in Painter, one day I will get to grips with the rest of it.
Christa: Do you remember the first time you knew you wanted to be an artist?
Jeff: I have always liked art and images, I guess school was the first influence I was lucky to have a great art teacher who encouraged me, art was a great escape from the sports field and provided me with a great sense of achievement.
Christa: Did you attend a formal art school?
Jeff: No, I have attended a number of art related part time courses for photography and a series of life classes. I have a healthy obsession with things and once started I will stick with it until I have mastered it, learning to use Photoshop was just a matter of spending time with it, playing and exploring all the menus, I don’t have a fear of software and love to try things, you don’t have to save and you never know where it will take you until you try.
Christa: You use your own photos for your photo manipulations. What for camera do you use to take your photos with?
Jeff: I use a Digital SLR Nikon D70S with a number of different lenses, I shoot all my images using RAW and use Adobe Bridge to import all my files and make basic adjustments.
Christa: Can you tell us a bit of the way you work on your art?
Jeff: Ok, I guess you can divide my manipulated images up into two camps my early work and some of what I do now is very planned, often inspired by an photograph I might have taken I will start with a sketch of an idea and lay out the composition of the image thinking about the other elements of the picture, what I don’t have already in my archive I will then go out and photograph, then I will just work the image in Photoshop, my image Observatory and Apocalypse are good examples of this approach. Observatory started with a trip up a church tower I took the statue and the gargoyle, Apocalypse started with a picture of some carousel horses. Now I often work with components that I feel will work together, I use a lot of statues and gothic elements bringing them into Photoshop, with no real planned image I just work the different elements like you might mix paint until I find a combination of layers and blends that work, it is a very free way of working and has a great element of discovery in it.
Christa: What is your favorite piece of your own artwork and why?
Jeff: That’s easy Frenzy, it embraces the style and freedom that I have been trying to create. I like the depth to the image and the way it is not always immediately obvious, making the viewer look deeper to understand the image, I like complicated images that demand your attention.
Christa: How would you describe your own style?
Jeff: If you had asked me this a year ago I would have said dark, gothic and planned, the dark and gothic elements are still there but now I have a very free approach to my images.
Christa: Who or what would you describe as having the most influences on your style?
Jeff: There are lots of artist that I have drawn inspiration from but if I am to pick one who’s work provides a constant source of inspiration its H R Giger. I am sure if you are familiar with his work you can see the influences in some of my images. Dali is on my list too nothing is ever straightforward with his images, you are always rewarded by looking into his images, he was a great draftsman and painter you just have to admire his skill even if you don’t get his images.
Christa: What is your goal as an artist?
Jeff: I guess I would like to be recognized for my images having a signature style, something I am always working towards, in photographic circles my work is very prominent, more for its heavy manipulation than its actual style, yes to be recognized by my style has got to be one of my ambitions.
Christa: You have received two awards for your photographic work. One from the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) and one from The Photographic Alliance of Great Britain (PAGB). Can you tell us a bit about those organizations and where your awards stand for?
Jeff: Here in the UK we have two main photograph institutions the Royal Photographic Society goes way back in history 1853 and is used to promote all types of photography, The RPS runs a system of Distinctions and awards where you can submit work for assessment, there are a number of categories and a number of different levels you can be asses at, I have gained an Associateship in visual arts by submitting a panel of 15 images along with a statement of my work
The Photographic Alliance of Great Britain is the institution that all camera clubs and societies are affiliated to, it is split into regional federations under the one umbrella of PAGB. They too run different level of distinctions, the difference being these are geared to exhibition photography, you submit a number of individual images if they are all of the standard then you are awarded the Distinction, I have a DPAGB this is judged as international photographic exhibition standard photography.
Both these institutions promote photography so it was very pleasing to achieve these awards with heavily digitally manipulated images, showing that even these institutions are open to creative photography.
Christa: How did your online portfolio help you to promote your own art?
Jeff: Being online has to be a must for anyone wanting to share their images the audience is potentially massive, if you are not out there then no one is going to find you. The only down side to sharing online is others taking your work, I am very open with my images and I have no problem sharing I just want to be credited, not altered, or used for commercial purposes without permission, very simple if you want to use my images then please ask.
Christa: How many years are you working in the design/ engineering industry?
Jeff: I have been a draftsman for 27 years, not that we are know as draftsman now Designer is the PC word, started out using a drawing board I guess that was the fist attraction of the job, moving on to 2D computer aided design, and now using 3D solid modeling software.
Christa: Which areas of creating art do you enjoy the most?
Jeff: That first step when you only have a specification and a scribbled concept of a design, taking that and modeling up the components and assemblies that make it a reality, like my art the first few steps are always the most exciting as you start to bring a idea together.
Christa: You work in the design/ engineering industry and use 3D software professionally. On your website you don’t show any 3D work. What made you decide to use only photography for your personal art?
Jeff: I have a good appreciation of 3D modeling and fully respect artists that work in 3D, my first interest is photography and 2D digital manipulation is a extension of that, I know other artist who use 3D elements in their work and I am sure it’s only a matter of time before I explore this too.
Christa: Can you name a career highlight?
Jeff: Having my photograph selected as the best image in Great Britain, this was at the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain annual exhibition, where all the photographic societies in the UK compete. It was before the days of digital imaging, even then I had manipulate the image taking the original, on Scotch 1600 ASA slide film and copying a small section of the slide onto 100 ASA slide film to make my final image.
Christa: Do have tips for beginning photographers/ artists?
Jeff: Yes just get out there taking pictures and looking at pictures there are loads of galleries online to draw inspiration from, don’t be afraid to imitate what you like it’s a great way to learn, especially with digital effects, no matter what you do if you have a passion for it you will always make it your own, remember nothing is original its all been done before you just need to shape it as yours.
Christa: Besides 3Dvalley.com, which other graphic sites do you visit regularly?
Jeff: Yes I put my work about, I guess Renderosity is the most active of the sites I use I have a number of online friends there, from photographic and 2D backgrounds, they have been a great source of inspiration and encouragement, I also have a gallery at Flickr another massive site with loads of images and groups to share your work, there are others but these are the two I am most active in.
Christa: Is their something you can’t work without?
Jeff: Yes my own Photographs, these are the key element in all my images, I don’t use stock images, so keeping a large stock of images is a big part of my work.
Christa: What do you do when you are not working or creating something?
Jeff: Well I am never far from a computer screen, I like to surf the net and I run a couple of websites apart from that its family stuff, walking and sleep, some of which I should get now
Christa: Thanks for your time and the interview Jeff!