APPRECIATION & INTERVIEW
Elvis Zaldaris and the Art of Making a Cast Poster
Today marks the release of an incredible Breaking Bad series cast poster by Elvis Zaldaris, a 21-year-old freelance designer and illustrator from Lithuania. I’ve been following the creation of this piece for the last few months on his Facebook page, and I’m blown away by the amount of effort and dedication it took to make it. Needless to say, I’ve been very curious to know more about this young, up-and-coming artist and his process.
Elvis was kind enough to chat with me this week from his hometown of Vilnius, the capital and biggest city in Lithuania. I learned that he has no idea why his parents named him Elvis, that he’s a huge fan of Badger and Skinny Pete, and that he only creates art under the cover of darkness.
Is Elvis your real name? Were your parents fans of Elvis Presley?
It is indeed my real name. I wouldn’t say they were huge fans of him. Honestly, I have never thought about why they named me Elvis, LOL. I will have to ask them.
When did you start creating art? How did you get into making art?
It’s difficult to remember when exactly I started creating art. I would say it was back in 2007 or 2008. I started off by doing icons and signatures for a European football (soccer) forum. From the very start, I felt that I was capable of doing such things and then I moved to more advanced stuff - vectors and photo manipulations. After many years spent doing such stuff I came to conclusion - illustration will be my main art type.
How did you make the transition to being a freelance graphic designer and illustrator?
I’ve been doing this for a living for about 2 years. The transition was very slow and difficult. I always like to experiment, to try new things, so this was probably the main factor in improving my skills. I am a completely self-taught artist, never attended any art school. Many people keep telling me I have a talent but I still tend to stick to my opinion – hard work is much more important than talent.
What’s the biggest challenge about being a freelancer?
The search for clients. It’s always cool when a client finds me and offers a project but if it isn’t happening, I have a pretty difficult time finding them on my own. I still have much to learn on how to approach a client and how to work with them.
Your art reminds me of Ken Taylor’s work. How would you describe your style?
Ken Taylor is an amazing artist. He is in my list of top five artists. Both he and I have a similar style which mostly consists of limited range of color, usually 5-6 colors. Many people tell me that my art reminds them of comic books, especially the cover art.
What artists do you consider influences?
As I mentioned, Ken Taylor is a huge influence for me. His art is really inspiring. Also, Chris Parks (aka Pale Horse Design) is a big influence as well – love his stuff. I also really like Luke Dixon’s art, even though he has a completely different style. There are many more great artists on Behance, most of them are not as popular as these three guys but they are very talented and I always keep an eye on their portfolios.
Most of your subjects are from pop culture, like The Walking Dead and The Dark Knight. How do you chose a subject, or is just as simple as whatever inspires you?
I choose pop culture because it will guarantee sales and interest in my art. If I did an original artwork, I am sure it wouldn’t be as popular as my current works based on TV shows and movies. I like to draw people from shows and movies that I’ve watched and really liked. For instance, I am a big fan of The Walking Dead. You can definitely see that from the amount of art I’ve done about it. There is one show which you most probably won’t see anything in my gallery, Doctor Who. I watched it and didn’t really like it so I can’t imagine creating some art for it. If I am not fan of a specific movie or show, I won’t bother making art about it.
Which pieces are you most proud of? Which ones are your favorite? Definitely The Walking Dead cast poster. Also I quite like the outcome of my TWD season 3 piece. I can’t wait to see people’s reaction to my new Breaking Bad poster.
It looks like most of your illustration is digitally made. I’ve seen some of your process on Facebook. What’s your process for creating illustrations and what tools do you use when making them?
My process starts with pencil sketches. Then I do the inking with Sharpies. After that, I scan it and work in Adobe Photoshop, where I add more detail as well as shadows/highlights and color. My main tool in Photoshop is the Pen Tool - most of my work is done with it. I also use a Wacom Intuos 5 tablet from time to time to draw small and repeating details such as hair. The tablet saves me a lot of time. I often compare my characters with original photos/screenshots and then correct the mistakes I made. (You can see some of his process pics on Behance.)
This must be very intricate and time-consuming work. I’ve read that this Walking Dead poster took 3 months to create. How many hours, including research and conception, did it take?
This was such a big, time consuming project. I worked about 3 months on this piece, about 3-4 hours each day [approximately 300 hours!]. It was very difficult to tell myself that I can do this. In the beginning, I really thought it was a bad idea that would kill a lot of my time. There were many moments I wanted to stop but I did my best and carried on.
Do you have a ritual or routine when you are creating art? Paint us a mental picture of you working in your studio.
This is an interesting fact. I’m only able to work in the evenings, nighttime. I don’t know why but I simply can’t work during day, in the sunlight. During the day, I prefer to meet friends, play soccer, go to gym and when I get back home, I start designing (usually I finish creating art at about 3 AM - LOL).
Why do you think you are only able to work at night?
I don’t know, I feel kinda relaxed at night, so it’s easier and more fun to work. Football (soccer) is a big part of my life so I try to use day time for it.
Let’s talk about your new Breaking Bad piece. What about Breaking Bad inspired you to create this poster?
For me, it’s clearly the best TV show ever. When I did The Walking Dead cast piece the first thing which popped up in my mind was to create a similar artwork for Breaking Bad. This show really deserves artwork like this.
What’s your favorite episode of Breaking Bad and why?
There are many episodes which I dig, but my all-time favorite episode would most likely be “Fly” (3.10). Many people think this episode is dull and boring with no action, but it was really important for Walt and Jesse’s relationship and character development.
What’s your favorite character of Breaking Bad and why?
I can say 100% you are expecting me to name a character from main cast. I think it’s quite strange but my favorite character is Badger (as well as Skinny Pete). This guy is so cool and his lines & jokes were great. I loved that moment in the series finale when Badger and Skinny Pete were ‘hired’ by Walt. Also his Star Trek script was hilarious! He was only a side character with rare appearances but he was definitely interesting. I would love to see him in the Better Call Saul spin-off.
The amount of work into this piece must be tremendous. All tolled, how many hours will you have put into this piece?
I would say it took a few more weeks than my Walking Dead cast piece [approximately 350-400 hours]. There are more characters and I put quite a lot more detail in this one.
Take us through the steps of making this piece. How do you get started?
I made a list of characters which I thought deserved a place in this poster. Then I looked for reference pics of those characters on Google or captured screenshots from the episodes (I have all of them on my computer). Then I make a composition with all those pictures I found in Google. I draw a pencil sketch of each character separately, scan them, and then connect all of them into one big piece.
How do you arrange a composition this large and involved? It’s daunting just to think about.
The main cast are always in the center of the image. I put secondary characters on the sides. Also, there is usually a connection between characters who are next to each other. For instance, check the left bottom corner - all three guys have a huge connection in the show. Same goes to Saul Goodman. All of the characters around him (Patrick Kuby, Huell Babineux, etc.) had something in common with him.
How did you decide which characters will be in the piece?
It was very difficult to choose those 40 characters from Breaking Bad. I fast-forwarded through all the episodes, asked friends which characters to add, and looked at the Breaking Bad wiki - they have a section of all characters so it was easier to choose the remaining ones.
Was there a character that was challenging to capture or draw?
It was difficult and challenging to draw all of them. But if you are asking me which one was the hardest, I would say Hank. He had a really weird lighting on his face, so it was difficult to capture and it took a lot of time to nail it.
How will you go about promoting and selling a piece like this? What’s your strategy?
I have many plans for the promotion. I need to get it a Daily Deviation on deviantart. My TWD cast piece was selected and it got between 10-12k views that day. I want this artwork to be noticed by as many cast members as possible (on Twitter). Also, I will do a lot of advertising and promoting on Facebook. I hope your beautiful BrBa blog will help me with the poster’s popularity and sales. I had a scheme for promoting my TWD piece and it was successful so I think I will use it here as well.
How are the internet & digital technologies important to you as an artist?
Without them I can surely say I wouldn’t be where I am now. It’s very important for me for promoting my art and learning new techniques.
What’s next for you and your art?
I plan to take a small break from the poster art. I’ll still work on freelance projects during that time. I currently have no big plans for the future but you might see something with Game of Thrones or another TV show or movie quite soon. Stay tuned!
Purchase this poster on Etsy
24”x17” prints on 220 gsm paper. Signed by the artist. Ships on May 5th.
Exclusive: Use coupon code “HC2014” for a 10% discount at checkout
– Interview by Shayne Bowman, Heisenberg Chronicles
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