I have always had an artistic crush on Kevin Walker. A fascination that has lead me to long conversations with the man, not in real life, but in the small lonely and very simple land called my brain. In there I have asked myself countless times, “What would Kevin have done, to solve this. How would Kev have painted that bracelet?” in my mind he would answer me. When I studied his artwork it spoke to me about simplicity and colours. Looking at his comic books he taught me the power of rimlight. He whispered to me the secret of exploiting the underpaint. To be honest. I learned most of my way of painting in acrylics from Kevin Walker. Not from talking to him ( except the brain conversations ) but from studying him.
What I really like about his artwork is the simple and clean execution of it. It is as if he is using the minimum amount of colour, strokes and composition possible to tell the story of the picture just right. His pieces might seem simple and sometimes almost empty of depraved of details, but to me it is like he has edited out all disturbing elements to get the image as strong and pure as you can. That strictness and economic way of thinking artistically has been a great appeal to me over the years.
When I first discovered his work it was through a British comicbook called ABC warriors. The way the colours and contrast of full painted comics attacked my eyes, left me changed. I wanted to be able to do that. I switched from gouache to acrylic. A friend of mine, Jan Kjær, taught me the way of painting like Simon Bizley. A technique he was taught at the Joe Kubert school. I realised that it was very similar to the way Kevin Walker was doing it. ( I was wrong but hey, it lead me on )
I did all I could to find this man. I wanted to ask him a billion questions, but no matter where I looked on the internet I couldn’t find anything. This guy does not have a homepage. No blog, no nothing.
And then I gave up. I went my own way and tried painting down my own road.
Until the day I got a magic assignment from Wizards. To be perfectly honest – even telling it now, I feel a bit embarrassed – I couldn’t help myself during my first telephone call with Jeremy Jarvis, the Art Director at Magic. I had only just gotten my first assignment, and was discussing some changes that I needed to do, and I couldn’t stop myself from asking for Kevin’s Telephone number or email or address or; well anything. I would have settled for dental records! Fortunately Jeremy must have consigned my behaviour as being merely European strangeness, because I kept working for him. But he also very politely told me: “Jesper, I am sorry. I cannot give away his mail, It wouldn’t be proper”. And he was right. I guess he sensed that I had all the marks of a stalker and wanted to save me, and Kevin, from some trouble by keeping us apart.
Again I eased up on my search and went back to talking with him in my head.
I found articles on Wizards.com where they showed Kev Walker illustrations from sketch to finals. I got into a way of painting that was thicker and less transparent using lesser and lesser washes and slowly I settled into my own style, no longer wanting to be exactly like Kevin Walker…
…and then one day I got a mail from WoTC: it was one of those mails they send out to a bunch of folks, asking if you were interested in going to sign at a Magic tournament. And there, right among the other mail addresses was Kevin Walker’s!
I wrote him a nice letter telling him how much I loved his artwork asking him only a tip of the iceberg of questions I had. And he didn’t write back.
Turned out it was a very old email address that he only checked rarely. But one day, a couple of months later, I got an answer back and I was happy. He told me small details of his technique and he said my paintings looked great. Happy days.
He also gave me one very wise advice that I have been following ever since: “Get the light right and everything else will follow.”
If you want to find out a bit more about his technique, there is a book out called “Drawing & Painting Fantasy Beasts”, by Kevin Walker. In that book he shares his way of painting and it wasn’t until reading those words that I really found out how he does it.