Steven Stahlberg was born in 1959 in Australia but grew up in Sweden. He started working with commercial art in the ’80s, went digital in the late ’90s, and began working in games in 2000. He’s also lived in Hong Kong, the USA, and Malaysia. He now lives in Kuala Lumpur, working for Streamline Studios.
First off I’d like to ask you a question in the spirit of Nightmare: What scares you the most?
Drowning, and a close second, burning. I can’t imagine what it must feel like, but I also can’t help but keep trying to imagine it whenever I think of it. I’ve had a close call while diving, and burned myself a few times, so that gives me an inkling, but of course the real thing would probably be a thousand times worse . . .
What inspired this month’s cover illustration, Nightmare 3?
Thinking about vampires, and hospitals, and how a vampire working the night shift might have easier access to blood, and to defenseless people. I think the train of thought started with a blood bank, but that’s been done to death, no pun intended.
Included in the gallery is a piece entitled Self-Portrait of the Artist as an Orc. Why did you choose to take this particular approach to a self-portrait?
I didn’t really choose to, I wanted to draw a monster, because it’s not something I do very often. (Also in this particular style, inspired by another artist.) But when I was done, I noticed a strange resemblance to someone I knew . . . quite possibly some kind of subconscious statement there that I’m a bit leery of investigating further.
The lighting in Fairy and Snake is very crisp, which gives the image exceptional depth. What techniques did you use to achieve this effect?
That particular one is the 3-D version. I also did a 2-D version in Photoshop. So that was done in Maya, in 3-D.
What is your favorite medium to work with and why?
Nowadays it’s Photoshop, I used to prefer Maya, but it just takes longer to achieve similar effects. As you mentioned it can be crisper and more detailed, but it comes at a steep cost of time and effort. Photoshop to me is more responsive and interactive. 3-D of course could be used for animation, but I don’t do much of that anymore either.
You’ve traveled extensively. What is your favorite place to visit?
I love visiting new places, but I prefer to live where I live now, in Kuala Lumpur. So far anyway. I reserve the right to change my mind in the future.
How has your travel affected your art?
I think I’ve learned more about lots of little things, like how things work, how people work, what makes us similar and different, weather, environment . . . and from there to be able to be more logical and realistic when I draw. At least I hope so.
Is there some place you have not yet been able to visit, but would like to travel to someday? What is it about that place that calls to you?
Oh yes, Japan. I’ve wanted to go there since I was fifteen. Not sure what it is, maybe the purity and beauty of zen applied to everything from architecture to war to tea, the energy of giving yourself to a single task for a life time, the food, the art, the anime. I don’t think I’m the common definition of a Japanophile; I don’t indiscriminately adore everything Japanese. I don’t really want to live there, mostly because I couldn’t afford it, but I do want to visit.
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