Interview: Milivoj Ćeran, Fantasy Illustrator

Nidhoggr, by Milivoj Ćeran. Image copyright 2009 Milivoj Ćeran

“Hello, My name is Milivoj Ćeran, I live in Zagreb, Croatia. I’m a professional illustrator specialized in fanastic art.”

At work. Image copyright 2009 Milivoj Ćeran

Q: What made you want to be a fantasy illustrator?
A: “That idea was in my mind since I was kid, but the first „real“ idea was while I studied at academy of fine art. I’ve seen too much „contemporary“ art like video art, art installations and performance plus abstract art that I really don’t like. In illustration I found that everything I’ve ever learned about art (and craft) can be used, and I can enjoy what I’ve done. Drawing, perspective, anatomy, storytelling, mixing colors in illustration is basic and can’t be „outdated“. I’ve also found that most of my biggest influences are illustrators that actually make living with their work – like John Howe, Alan Lee, Brian Froud, Brom… etc.”

Q: How did you land your first illustration job?
A: “My „first“ illustration job was during high school – b/w illustrations for fanzine of Music academy in Zagreb (back in 194). But my first real illustration job that I count as start of my career was picture book „Faeries of Croatian writers“ made in 2002, while I was finishing academy.”

Starski morski vuk, by Milivoj Ćeran. Illustration for the game Uskoci (Croatian Pirates), Amalgam 2010. Image copyright 2010 Milivoj Ćeran
Dungeon, by Milivoj Ćeran. Illustration for the game Uskoci (Croatian Pirates), Amalgam 2010. Image copyright 2010 Milivoj Ćeran

Q: You do a lot of work for the games industry (e.g. World of Warcraft) – can you tell us about something that is specific to working in this industry?
A: “Working in this industry is great, but can be very hard – you must be able to do a lot of changes even if you made everything as it was commissioned. That’s something you won’t have in publishing industry. I worked covers and illustrations for books and when something is approved it’s approved – for every other change the publisher pay extra money. Here you have sometimes to make extra revisions on already approved artwork. And it’s different type of illustration – covers are big and very detailed. On the other hand, card illustrations don’t have to be so big, because they are printed on a few inches. The original illustration, no matter how detailed, must work also cropped at 3 inches small size. Another thing that’s here typical – a lot of illustrators work digitally. That’s the reason why art directors can request bigger changes (removing layers, moving or re-sizing characters, lighten/darken everything separated etc…). Problem is for us who still work traditionally – we still aren’t so adjustable, because it’s much harder to make changes in traditional media.”

Q: How long does it take to develop a typical illustration (say, a games character) – from idea to finished piece?
A: “It depends on brand, timeframe, other projects that I work on etc. But basically I make card illustration in 2-4 days. Covers can be much more time consuming, usually between 7 days up to 2 or 3 weeks.”

World of Warcraft: The Vainglorious, by Milivoj Ćeran. Image copyright 2012 Blizzard Entertainment Inc.
World of Warcraft: Fimlet Sparklight, by Milivoj Ćeran. Image copyright 2012 Blizzard Entertainment Inc.
World of Warcraft: Mark of Growth, by Milivoj Ćeran. Image copyright 2012 Blizzard Entertainment Inc.

Q: What/who are your influences?
A: “My absolutely biggest influence is John Howe. And it lasts for years. My other influences are: Alan Lee, Brian Froud, Brom, Todd Lockwood, Frank Frazetta, Esad Ribić, Petar Meseldžija, Steve Prescott, Zvonimir Grbašić, Adrian Smith, Simon Bisley, Paul Bonner, Greg Staples, Chris Rahn, Kekai Kotaki etc. I’m also very much influenced by traditional art and paintings – Holbein, Dürer, Caravaggio, Memling, Rubens, Rembrandt, Waterhouse… and old illustrators like Arthur Rackham, Howard Pyle, Edmond Dulac, N. C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, Norman Rockwell to name a few.”

Flaming Sword, by Milivoj Ćeran. Image copyright 2011 Milivoj Ćeran
Templars -Battle of Saj, by Milivoj Ćeran. Image copyright 2009 Milivoj Ćeran

Q: How long have you been working as an illustrator? Do you still have to do a day job to pay the bills? Do you find that living in Croatia is a disadvantage as opposed to being in the UK or US? Or an advantage?
A: “I’ve made my first big illustration project while still studying in 2002 just before I graduated. I’m working as Art teacher on School for applied arts and design in Zagreb since 2004 (9 years already). But in September I’ll take a year off in school, and work one year as freelance illustrator only. That’s something like test for me – if it worked, I’ll resign my teaching day job and continue to work as full time freelance illustrator. Working on school has advantages and fails. The payment is every month in the same time, so I can count on that money, and when I’m teaching students I’m also learning some things again. But on the other hand, sometimes I have very tight deadlines for illustrations, and I would likely be in my studio painting, but I must be in school. Freelance is unpredictable – you can have one big project and make big bucks, and after that few weeks no one is calling you. But it’s great, because you can work what you love the most and that’s illustration.”

Wizards of the Coast: Courst of Dark Prince Grazz’t, by Milivoj Ćeran. Image copyright 2013 Wizards of the Coast, LLC
Paizo: Sajan and Damiel fighting Kokogiak, by Milivoj Ćeran. Image copyright 2013 Paizo Publishing
Legend of the Cryptids, by Milivoj Ćeran. Image copyright 2013 Applibot, Inc.

Q: You have been selected for the main show at IlluXcon this year – are there any particular opportunities you hope this may open up to you? Have you been attending IlluXcon before? Are you looking forward to it?
A: “I’ve been on IlluXcon main show last year – 2012 – together with my good friend Filip Burburan, and it was great experience. We spend a lot of money on trip (travelling from mid Europe to US isn’t cheap), but at the end we got offered to display our work on main show with all the big shots like Wheelan, Giancola, Lockwood,Zug, Meseldžija etc. We made our „Croatian booth“ and we got a lot positive feedback (-…who are these guys coming from nowhere and suddenly take part in show?) It was nice to meet all the artists, hang out with them, talk to them and absorb all the positive and creative energy. We also sold a few originals and prints and cover our trip costs, so yes it was good. Another great thing – I’ve meet in person my Art directors, who I worked with already: Jon Schindehette from Wizards of the Coast, and Andrew Vallas from Paizo. I’ve also made some portfolio reviews, and I’m currently working on a project for Sony Online Entertainment, and the first contact was on IlluXcon. So that job is Illuxcon’s credit – if I wasn’t there I couldn’t meet art director Joe Shoopack from Sony.
…and I look forward to come again this year.”

Fighter, by Milivoj Ćeran. Image copyright 2011 Milivoj Ćeran
Warrior Queen, by Milivoj Ćeran. Image copyright 2009 Milivoj Ćeran

Q: Last but not least: Where can we buy your work?
A: “I sell my originals and prints on my Etsy shopĆeranArt?ref=si_shop
or you can drop me an query on
I’ll also be this year on Gen Con at Art Show in August, and on IlluXcon in September, so hope to see you there!”

The Chronicler of Old Times, by Milivoj Ćeran. Image copyright 2013 Milivoj Ćeran
Orc Cook, by Milivoj Ćeran. Image copyright 2012 Milivoj Ćeran

Milivoj’s website
Facebook page
Etsy shop

Images may not be reproduced without the permission of the respective copyright holder.

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