The Art of Shredding – an Interview with Coffee & Perspectives Marc Lee
As previously mentioned both on here and in the venerable pages of Airsoft International. My interest and passionate pursuit of Militaria, History and naturally Airsoft/MilSim or as we’ve popularized ‘Plastic Deth‘ all grew from one thing. A combined interest in art as inspired by none other than the very pages of 2000ad ergo Judge Dredd.
Such illustration set a high standard both towards my own artistic endeavors, the visual form associated with load outs, and the very aesthetic attraction of participating in what is a very visually driven past time.
Such attention to detail has its draw backs, aside from Dick Kramer, world renowned Militaria and Law Enforcement illustrator, the vast majority of illustrators do not observe some of the finer details required to bring their subjects to life.
Here enters Marc Lee, whilst an already established and accomplished illustrator, as well regularly teaching students, he’s quickly defined himself as one of the gloves more authentically capable illustrators around today. Specializing in bringing the gloves SF, Elite Militaries and Law Enforcement alive on page, with his armory of pen, ink and paint.
We’ve been afforded the opportunity to sit down with Marc for a few questions and go behind the scenes and find out how he brings it all together.
S23: Marc, thanks for coming aboard to sit down with us and answer a few questions. How’d it all start, what’s your earliest recollections of drawing ?
ML: Hey guys, thanks for taking the time and having me on board for this litltle sit down. I remember being rather enamoured with drawing robots and fighter jets battling monsters and aliens back in the day, and cartoons like The Transformers, MASK and Starcom were amongst the big influences for me as a kid towards what I liked to draw then.
S23: What inspired you to start covering the Globes SF, Elite Military and Law Enforcement Units ?
ML: I was more into jets like the F-14 and A-10 when I was getting a taste of military related stuff as a kid, and fixing the obligatory aircraft model kits from Tamiya, Dragon and Hasegawa. Does anyone still buy those? Then I remember one day in 1995, I was in a model shop and saw a model kit from Dragon’s 1/35 figure model kits: US Delta Force, Somalia 1993. That was the first time I encountered the subject matter of Special Operations Units, it all went downhill from there: From the SAS and SBS to Rhodesian Special Forces and Russian Spetznaz, I would look for books, videos and material to learn more about them.
The internet was not widely prevailant then so most of the material was still quite hard to find which made the sparce information about SOF units even more precious since alot of it was still classified back then.
S23: From my own amateurish pursuit of illustration, I was highly impressed that you render an almost flawlessly detailed and rendered pencil piece before moving to inks and color. What can you tell us about this process, is this born from years of confidence and having a strong image in your mind, or do you do more preparatory work behind the scenes ?
ML: I am flattered that you would consider them as flawless, however I always find each piece has space for improvement, and to have its own challenges. Not a single one has been a piece of cake, but there are those which I enjoyed drawing more than others.
I only started doing these traditional pieces for my military artwork in 2013, so I am still learning to use the medium of watercolor and inks. Being in the creative industry doing concept art doesn’t really lend itself much for traditional media, since most work is done on computer these days so traditional work is a welcome avenue for me.
Prepatory work wise,consists of some pre-visualization on how I want the final colors to look on the brown paper, and other considerations like space (I cant say how many times I had to erase away an entire sketch simply because the end of a rifle barrel did not fit onto the paper space! (No Cntl-Z here! – laughs)
S23: You’ve developed a particularly eye catching style, one very suited to your chosen subject matter. Is this pretty much how you’ve always approached art or something that’s naturally evolved over the years ?
ML: This style is not something I would not consider unique to me, since I was very much originally inspired by Japanese brush artwork; in particular myself being a huge Metal Gear Solid fan, the artwork of Yoji Shinkawa left a very deep and indelible mark on me since I first saw it back in 1998. I have since tried to apply that style to my military artwork to try and create my own unique styling and I hope to say it is still evolving in its own direction.
S23: Now, preparatory pencils work, ink and color aside. I’m aware you do further work to attain that finished standard using photo shop. Is this to achieve certain textures, optical and other effects beyond the medium of pen and ink – or does it allow for a faster process where rectifying mistakes is easier, or simply leveling the inks to give a piece that consistent solidity ?
ML: Digital software like photoshop allows for a degree of flexibility towards editing any traditional work, since you can tweak it to no end: colors, linework, tonal values, etc. Personally I use it to bring out colors, and tune any tones or contrast for my traditional pieces, as well as sometimes filling up the areas that I ran out of space on paper. In essesnce, digital software is just another tool and/or step after the pencils, pens and watercolor come into play.
S23: Your work has already already publicly been very warmly received, and as such seen you attain a fast growing legion of fans. Among these are some notable giants amongst the tactical industry, more relevantly some of the actual units you’ve portrayed. Whilst observing the privacy, OpSec and Persec does any of your artwork reside, taking pride of place, at any of the units ?
ML: I am always very happy to hear from members of any LEO or Special Operations units who get in touch with me and tell me they enjoy my artwork, since these are men and women who have chosen a literally elite path in our society, and of course the sacrifices they put themselves through. I know a few of my artworks have reached a few units based in the US, UK and European units through friends or contacts made online.
S23: I’m struggling to think of a particular unit you’ve not yet covered, but I was very impressed with your two prices on the MPS‘ CTFO’s and wondered if you had plans to diversify and cover more less well known, or other units not immediately in the public eye. I’d surely like to see either some Royal Marine, SBS or LAPD art …
ML: Thanks, I am actually trying to cover more units if possible. Usually I also tend to be quite subjective in terms of looking for attractive images to work with, so these tend to come from the US since they have the best equipped units globally and have the most exposure. I have attempted to cover a couple South East Asian units like the Singapore SOF, Malaysian PASKAL, and hope to do some on the other nearby units from Phillipines and Indonesia as well. My goal would be to hopefully have a collection of most of the more well known global units at some point! A book perhaps, but in the far future for sure.
S23: So, having completed a piece, what do you do to self assess the process, and draw from that to explore ways to improve or develop and push your self further ?
ML: I feel whenever I look back on a piece of work, I always find something that I would change or improve and no one piece is perfect. Trying to find ways to experiment and actually make mistakes is one way for myself to learn, since making mistakes is a good way to learn. As long as one learns the correct way of doing something after the mistake!
S23: Inspiration, who’s out there that inspires you, or artists that are a particular favorite. For me Frazetta, Bisley and Alan Davis have been firm favorites for many years, aside from your good self the only other Militaria artist I enjoy is Dick Kramer …
ML: Oh, that is a really tough question. Years ago, I would have said Dick Kramer (of course!), Jim Lee to name just a couple. Today with so many awesome professional and amateur artists out there, it is tough to pin down even a few. If I had to name a few off the top of my head; military artists like Ian Coate, Stuart Brown, Ronald Volstad and Yoshiyuki Takani, and other artists like Kai ‘Ukitakumuki’ Lim, Leinil Francis Yu and Sean Gordon Murphy come to mind.
S23: I’ve often been left cold that a lot of military art is either inaccurate or has very visible discrepancies. Poor trigger discipline, badly researched kit. I was blown away with attention to detail in your work even allowed me to identify the correct buckle, torch or eye pro. Such authenticity, combined with your stunning ability to realistically bring these warriors to life is for me stirring stuff. I take it this is just as important to you ?
ML: ‘God is in the detail(s)’ is an old idiom I stick by, so yes, it is important to me. I find it disturbing when I read comics as a kid and saw artists who drew rifles as cobbled together parts of AKs and M-16s. I think any artist owes it to himself to do at least some research into any subject matter before they sit down to illustrate be it a weapon or even an animal. It helps to be interested in the subject matter of course! I have quite a few pieces of kit lying around my room, and having spent some time in the army during my National Service, it helped better my understanding of the military to a degree.
S23: Marc, thanks for taking time out to sit down with us, you deserve a hot coffee for sure. Before we go, a huge thank you for taking time out to speak with us. Anyone you wish give a shout out to or any advice for budding artists out there reading this ?
ML: Thanks for having me, a hot coffee sounds like a good idea, I think I shall go grab one actually.
Hmm, well if I had one piece of advice I hope could inspire other artists out there, it would be this: do not be afraid to try something, and to make mistakes. Fear of drawing something ugly is the first obstacle to taking up that pencil or pen to draw; and even if it is not nice so what! The next drawing you make should be to improve and do something even better than the previous, and you may even discover something new, which will eventually lead to a great of art.
Cheers and stay frosty folks. 🙂 –Marc
Huge thanks to Marc, he’s a busy guy and I’m honored to of been afforded this amazingly insightful interview. Be sure to check out more amazing artwork from Marc Lee here: