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Interview: Theo Black

Written by Darren 'Starscream' Jamieson on February 2, 2002 | Features,Interviews |

We managed to catch up with Theo Black from Black Arts Illustration. Theo has created the artwork for Maverick’s Transformers season 1 DVD boxset, and what a fine job he’s made of it to. If you’d like to own one of Theo’s numbered prints depicting the artwork present in the DVD release then check out his website here.

Without further ado, lets talk to Theo Black.

Can you start off by introducing yourself and what it is that you’ve done that involves the world of Transformers.

I am the illustrator for the UK Deluxe Edition G1 Season 1 DVD set published by Maverick Entertainment. Other than that I have created a few personal Transformers pieces because I love them so.

How did you first get into the role of a professional illustrator?

I got my first gig in gaming. I went slowly up the ladder in that industry. I’ve worked for about 15 gaming companies including Wizards of the Coast and White Wolf Publishing.

What kind of things were you into at school?

Art, Fantasy, Sci Fi, karate, pets, gaming, girls.

What artists influenced your work and whom do you admire?

Honestly I get my influence from lots of media. When I have artist block I watch a movie, read, look at other art etc. Of the artists I love and wish I could paint like I’d have to say: Maxfield Parrish, Sir John Everett Millais, Dore, Waterhouse for old masters and Donato, Brian Froud for new masters.

What artistic media do you prefer to work in and there any that you don’t like to use?

I used to be an oil purest but it took forever so I switched to water and led mixed media: water colour, gouache, pencil and pen.

How much of a fan of Transformers are you?

Before I talk about Transformers I would first like to discuss the concept of the modern myth. A myth is a fantastical tale that offers qualities that one can draw upon. This is often done subconsciously I think in times doubt and question. The Vikings relied on stories of Thor and Loki, the Egyptians had Osiris and Set, and the list goes on. I had Prime and Megatron.

G1 is about a slave who seizes the opportunity to escape with some of his friends. They escape and the symbol of the action causes the breakdown of the society on Cybertron. Megatron, obsessed with punishing Prime for his actions, pursues him and his small band of rebels to Earth. The Great War Begins.

The contrast between Prime and Megatron is very much like the conflict between Jean Valjean and Javert in Les Miserables. A man commits the crime of stealing (Jean took bread, Prime took a ship) and the a leader of the ruling dictatorship (Javert / Megatron) view it as symbol of the destruction of the society and become obsessed with punishing the rebel for his actions. The G1 story is very much the story of the poor rising upon the ruling class. The story could be told in the form of a fantasy tale with knights with little difficulty I think. What are the Autobots, if not a band of knights, men of honour who were once slaves? Being American I can very much appreciate this concept.

Till all are one.

How did you land the enviable task of designing the artwork for Maverick’s Season 1 DVD release?

Darren, How can you ask me that? It was the doing of Darren and his incredible TF site. I was out of work for about two week so I decided to paint one of my childhood heroes, Prime. The response to the piece was tremendous and a fan telling me of the Transformers.net site emailed me. When I saw the site I was amazed. Previously I thought Transformers died in the 80s. I could not have been more wrong. I sent the piece I did to you, Darren for the fan art site. Darren sent it to Sharon at Maverick and that was that. I got the DVD job!!

TheTransformers.Net regularly holds Fan Art competitions in which very talented artists send in their work, do you have any advice for people like this who would like to become illustrators?

Use a media you can control the best. Steal whatever you can from toys, other artist, and animators etc to get the perfect image. When I work I use a bunch of stuff just to get one figure. When I did Prime for the DVD set I took an animation still for the chest and head only, made up my own arms and legs and then looked at a bunch of stuff to get the texture down including: My PVC Prime, a matchbox car, photos of tractor trailers I got off the web and the red and blue side of a rubix cube.

What other projects have you worked on besides Transformers?

I have worked on Dungeons and Dragons, Werewolf, Changeling, a few d20 games, lots of collectable card games, a few book covers and some concept design.

Is there anything you’d like to work on if you had the chance?

The Baroness with a riding crop.

What piece are you most proud of and why?

To date it is “Roiben” http://theblackarts.com/royben.htm because it has a lot more detail and expression than most of my other work. The Great War Piece is up there too for the same reason.

Thanks for the Interview Theo, and good luck with your future projects. Remember you can see Theo’s work for the DVD at his website here: http://www.theblackarts.com/prints.htm, where you can also purchase prints of the art.