Of Mechs and Men: Interview with Russian Artist Fyodor Ananiev

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fyodor profileFyodor Ananiev (Deviantart) is a young Russian artist whom I found through when I was seeking cover art for the first volume in my novella series.  We talk not only about the evolution of the book cover, but also is art in general, which recently includes images for a tabletop role playing game, Fragged Empire.

JD for Amazing Stories: How did you first become interested in art and who inspires you (then and now)?

Fyodor Ananiev: been drawing as long as I remember, without particular individuals acting as inspiration. Rather, I was inspired by wonderful films, cartoons without thinking about who may have created them.

For years I didn’t feel particularly inspired by anyone, until, at the age of  17 I stumbled on the artists working on the Metal Gear computer game series, the most famous being Yoji Shinkawa. The Japanese art style is energetic and experimental, with long gestation periods and fast production time, which helped me realize how I wanted to work.

bad seedsASM: Tell us about your creative process – from ideas to completed images. Do you use purely digital techniques, or a combination of traditional drawing and painting and digital?

FA: That’s something that changes as time passes! Talking about medium, digital was the place where I saw the most potential years ago, and even now I keep exploring that vast medium, trying new ideas and developing my skills.

As for the approach to making art, my first creative breakthrough when I set myself a tight timetable and aimed to produced the very best work I could to a tight schedule. In practice that meant sticking rigidly to the timetable and stopping at the cutoff point, regardless of the results. With this approach, I’ve really motivated myself to explore the amazing number of ways not only to create the very best art I can, but it an organized, constructive and fast way. This approach is changing a bit, as I understand that working at my own pace may be the key both for improvement of my work and for my mental and spiritual happiness.

ASM: Your work is mainly science fiction and fantasy. Why choose those genres?

FA: That’s quite simple for me to answer actually! Living my conscious part of life with the goal of “reaching perfection, enhancing everything that is good”, and being an avid fan of flashy, colorful artwork, I just couldn’t ignore such expressive genres as these.

spaceshipASM: When I was searching for a cover artist for the first volume in my Bad Seeds novella series, the story was still a work-in-progress. Interestingly, when I found your work on Deviant Art, though I was drawn to a number of images, the one with the fiery-headed mech not only seemed perfect but a version of it found its way into the tale. How did your original image come about, and why did you decide to put more work into it to make it so different from the original, exclusively for my cover?

FA: I was happy you reached out me out for that reason, investing your time in studying my work and picking that special one as a cover. The original image was developed using my tight schedule technique, in this case to produce something good in a maximum of three hours. The idea for the image was entirely subconscious. I had the idea of an impressive giant creature dominating the whole scene, in epic contrast with human figures below. I discarded several ideas, but this impressive guy was my favorite, and I’m glad it was also the best one for you, too.

LandscapeThe redo of the piece for your book cover was a logical step. In the modern art industry, a clear and polished look is extremely valued by the audiences, so I felt my sketch should be pushed to that stage as much as possible.

ASM: You are currently working on a role playing game called Fragged Empire. Unusually in these times, it’s a tabletop board game. Tell us about the game, how you came to be involved and whether it’s ongoing or if it has an end point.

FA: Thank you so much for noting that. I’m happy to participate in this wonderful project and to work with its creator, Wade Dyer. As for it being unusual, after all the work Wade has put into the Fragged Empire world, judging by how intriguing the core elements of the setting are, it was clear that a tabletop board game was just something we absolutely had to do. It helps Wade reach an audience of hardcore gamers, and to share his vision with them. As for artworking, we have been doing a tremendous amount of things, and even though I don’t feel myself in position to ask “where we are” at this stage, so long as the new ideas keep coming I will continue to produce them for Wade.

ASM: Are you working on anything else at the moment?

FA: Absolutely. I have so much energy and focus on helping others with professional artwork ‑ I can’t tolerate too much free time in my life. I am working on a collaborative project at the moment, which I can’t talk about just yet other than to say it’s all very exciting and I think unique. I can tell you, though, that it’s a great story in a sci-fi setting, so I’m on my favorite ground again. I couldn’t be happier with it, really.

ASM: What are your goals and ambitions at this point?

FA: I think I have a very unrealistic goal, but that also the reason why I love it: to achieve perfection in everything I do, and as I strive for this world becomes a fascinating and rewarding place.

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John Dodds novel, Bad Seeds, can be found here.

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