The Artists Journal: Sam Dalton

Ever since I can remember I’ve always been interested in art. My mum was very creative and would get me involved in whatever she was doing. While she was sewing, I would sit underneath the table and push the pedal when she said go. We would make cushions and design the front with silk paints as presents around Christmas time. I even remember sitting in front of the painting and singing very badly at them when I was really young!

Me with my painted cushion. So happy I'm even sporting a slight pout.

Although my mum really tried to help develop my artistic talents she was ill from the day I was born with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which resulted in terrible aches and pains with her barely being able to move sometimes. My dad would often have to look after her, while my brother is nine years older than me and had very different interests to me. We had a few shared interests, like painting miniatures together and gaming. My brother was given a Street Fighter 2 arcade machine for his birthday (my parents bought it at an auction house for £50) which was in his room and the source of a lot of entertainment between me, him and his friends.

My brother, Joe (left) and I

I think this kind of upbringing resulted in my passion for art as it is today as I had to spend quite a bit of time entertaining myself. I would often escape by going into amazing fantasy worlds such as the Riftworld saga by Raymond E. Feist. But of course, no type of immersion is better than gaming, even in the late 90’s. Occasionally I would get to go into a Game store, look at all the big boxes that contained PC games and be able to choose one, only one. The first consideration was the artwork on the front and was inevitably what drew me in. Getting home, I would open it up and immediately go for the game manual and read it back to front. I loved the concept art inside, the small tidbits of lore. There was something about showcasing the process of design in a small book format that fascinated me.

90's video games are what first inspired my love of digital art. Image: Clubizzare

By the time I got to Secondary school, I noticed that I was perhaps a little more advanced with my drawing skills than others. I showed promise in Art lessons but I was generally an unmotivated student. It was around this time that I learnt of the Surrealists, the Impressionists and the many different techniques that are used in the landscape of art. The work of artists like Chuck Close, Dali, Escher, Musha, Beksinski and Van Gogh amazed me while also starting to influence me. I was constantly getting into trouble for drawing all over my school books during lessons which were covered in drawings of strange fantasy characters, eyes, odd patterns. Generally a creative mess. Not only my books but also my hands and arms, sometimes covering my whole forearm or bicep if it was a particularly boring lesson.

My self designed tattoo, resembling many of my doodles growing up.

After I finished school, I was like so many others, unsure of what to do. By chance, I got to meet the Lead Concept Artist for Lionhead Studios, who had worked on the game Fable. As he showed me his portfolio I realised this was the kind of artwork I had been looking to create. Digital concept art. It was the first time I was able to put a name to it and at that moment I had a direction. He himself had studied Graphic Design, which in turn became my path as well. I studied at Bath College and then on further at the Arts University of Bournemouth to acquire my degree in Graphic Design. I went into the world of freelance but found I was unsatisfied. I had chosen this path as it had seemed like a sensible option but I did not feel any closer to being able to paint digitally, which was my true passion.

Fable 2 concept art. Image: Lionheart

However, six months ago I had a serious accident where I ended up breaking my back after a 30ft fall. As I lay broken in the hospital bed barely able to move, the doctors told me that I had a burst fracture on my t12 vertebrae. To start with I could barely turn my head the pain was so intense in my spine; it felt like a white-hot rock the size of my fist. With time I was able to walk around with a brace.

My victory pose at being able to walk.

Now, I am able to pretty much do most things again without any aid and consider myself to be extremely lucky. For the three months that I was recovering from this fall, I had a lot of spare time to think about my choices in life and my passions as a person. This fall has led me to reevaluate my life as a Graphic Designer, which was never my passion in the first place. But it has also let me discover that while I want to devote my life to art, I want to express my social views and perspective on the world through painting rather than concept art in the entertainment industry. In a way, breaking my back was the best thing that has ever happened to me and has breathed a new determination into my life.

Join us Saturday 16th February 2019 for a Digital Art workshop with Sam. For tickets and more information click here.

Some examples of my digital artwork:

A digital self portrait

My latest commission

More than a wave album artwork

Sketch of two figures

Dominance War 5 challenge artwork

- Sam Dalton