Interview with artist Mike Winterbauer —
1. Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Mike Winterbauer and I have been a working artist for thirty years. I am most notably known for my work in illustration having done a string of classic computer game covers in the 80’s and 90’s. You may have seen some of the covers I painted which included Might and Magic Clouds of Xeen and Darkside of Xeen and interior maps, Wing Commander, Solstice, Wolf Child and Power Blade to name a few. I enjoy creating new traditional paintings which are tied to my earlier work but I also continue creating new work in digital painting and combining digital painting with traditional painting.
Recently, my work received worldwide attention after I self published my book Classic Game Covers about my experiences being an artist. It is an honest and humorous read about being an artist and how I created my art. The book is available for free on my website.
2. Why art?
I wanted to be an artist so I would be remembered and leave something that people would enjoy looking at and talk about in the centuries to come. It was about creating pictures that would become timeless and collectible. I remember looking at album covers as a kid and thinking these are interesting and will be around for a long time especially if the album is a classic. I tried throughout my career to align my art with projects that would have staying power like classic computer game covers.
3. What is your earliest memory of wanting to be an artist?
When I was about ten my Mom noticed I liked to draw and asked me if I would like to take art lessons from a real artist. I said I would love to and began being tutored by a professional artist. I used to really look forward to our weekly meetings at his studio and was always impressed with the beautiful paintings and drawings he did. His house was a combination of a studio and museum, I thought it was a great place to live. It was then that I began considering being an artist.
4. What are your favorite subject(s) and media(s)?
My art is heroic, adventurous, romantic, beautiful and fun. Science fiction and fantasy subject matter that has heroes, castles, dragons, outer space and mythical lands works well in my paintings. I am a traditional painter who enjoys working in acrylics and oils but I also enjoy working in the digital painting world. My new work combines the traditional with the digital. I create traditional paintings and scan them so they will become digital paintings that I can further work on in the computer. I also create digital paintings and print them out so I can paint on them to take my art to a surrealistic level.
5. How do you work and approach your subject?
I spend a lot of time thinking about how to portray my subject matter in clever and dynamic ways to engage the viewer. Coming up with an eye catching concept that will lend itself to a great design is important to my work. I try to engage the viewer on some emotional level. It could be the subject matter, the design or color they find interesting. I want the viewer to always enjoy looking at my art. Most of my works relies on photo reference I shoot myself. After I come up with the concept I will set up a photo shoot to get the reference I need to make a believable painting.
6. What are your favorite art work(s), artist(s)?
Some of my favorite art works are The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, The Scream by Edvard Munch, Lily Pad paintings by Claude Monet, and The Thinker by Auguste Rodin. Artists who I find inspirational are Maxfield Parrish, Alphonse Mucha, Gustav Klimt, John Singer Sargent, JC Leyendecker, Frank Frazetta, and Tolouse-Lautrec.
7. What are the best responses you have had to your work?
The best responses to my work have been in the last couple years since I have been promoting Winterbauer Arts. I realized that I created a lot of artwork that had been seen by people all over the world. My work had appeared in magazines, movie posters, and game boxes but people didn’t know that I had painted the art. Having retained most of my original artwork I was able to sell these pieces as collectible artwork twenty years later. My free ebook Classic Game Covers, Confessions of an Art Junkie really brought to light my story as it was featured on many sites worldwide. I was very happy to see the nice response the book got after working in the shadows for decades.
Here are just a few of the comments my book received:
“Mike Winterbauer is the artist behind some of the most fondly remembered retro box art from gaming’s golden age, including covers for classic titles such as Might & Magic, Wing Commander and Spaceward Ho!. Okay, maybe that last one doesn’t count. If you ever wanted to know the process behind those classic video game covers, you can download a free .pdf from Winterbauer’s website in which the man himself tells us how he did it.
Mostly, it involved lots of heroic posing in his underwear. Winterbauer couldn’t afford to hire models, so he had to get his friends to photograph him in the pose he wanted to draw. Enough childish giggling, though, the fact is that his work rate, particularly in the early 1990’s, was astonishing.”
Find out how classic video game box art was created
“Veteran game artist Mike Winterbauer is a crazy person. He’s written a book showcasing (and telling the story behind) some classic examples of PC and console cover art, and instead of charging a premium for it, is giving it away for free. OK, so it’s not exactly to the design standard we expect from publishers like Titan (he published it himself), but the art and processes we get to see here are just the best.”
How awesome old box art was made!
“Artist Michael Winterbauer has self-published a free book with stories about his life in the game cover art business…..You can download the complete “Confessions of an Art Junkie” here (90 megabyte PDF). Pages 26-28 on Wing Commander are below. Retro also published an interview with Michael recently. Both the Q&A and the self-published volume are fascinating reads for anyone interested in breaking into the industry or learning about its old school roots.”
A unique perspective on cover art.
8. What do you like about your work?
When I started my art business back in 1985 I made the decision to get commissions that would hopefully would become collectible. I was fortunate to paint covers for many classic video games. The artwork I did for these covers is fondly remembered today. I like that my work has become collectible.
9. What advice would you give to other artists?
I believe there is power in creativity. If you keep working on your art good things will come from it. You may never be rich or famous but the personal growth and satisfaction you will receive are priceless.
Also to be successful you need to be the single best promoter of your work. Learn the art of self promotion. You could be the world’s greatest artist but if no one knows your name you will never claim the title. Being an artist is a tough road that requires perseverance, patience and hard work to be successful.
10. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
I am hopeful that I will continue to make people aware of my art past and present all over the world. I will continue making new and exciting art and finding new audiences who will enjoy it for years to come.
Retro – http://readretro.com/features/interview-game-cover-artist-michael-winterbauer/
Retro4Ever – http://retro4ever.com/qa-with-artist-michael-winterbauer/
ImagineFX magazine – http://www.winterbauerarts.com/WinterbauerArtsImagineFx.html
Classic Game Covers in the news:
Game Watcher News – http://www.gamewatcher.com/news/2014-21-07-find-out-how-classic-video-game-box-art-was-created
Kotaku News Australia – http://www.kotaku.com.au/2014/07/how-awesome-old-box-art-was-made/
Wing Commander News – http://www.wcnews.com/chatzone/threads/unique-perspective-on-cover-art-recounted-by-wc1-snes-artist-september-1-2014.27566/
Finland News – http://nyt.fi/a1305850910220?ref=hs-art-new-10
HC Gamer News Poland – http://hcgamer.pl/najstarsze-okladki-do-gier-zobacz-jak-zmienily-sie-standardy-34747
Hobby Consolas Spain – http://www.hobbyconsolas.com/noticias/libro-gratis-sobre-arte-videojuegos-clasicos-79746