Meet Luke Preece, the Man Behind the Art
Luke Preece is an illustrator based in the West Midlands in the United Kingdom. A child of the 80’s raised on a mixture of Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Comics, Movies and Metal music.
Clients include 2000 AD Comics, Marvel, Lucas Film, Metallica, Slipknot, Ozzy, Sony Music, Music For Nations, Santa Cruz Skateboards, Metal Hammer, Xbox, Gears of War, Tony Hawk, Activision, Rockstar Energy Drink and more. He also collaborates with various galleries on limited screen-prints for various exhibitions, gig posters and events around the globe.
Let’s get the generic question out of the way – tell us, what are your main influences for your art? How would you describe your art style?
Growing up I was (and still am) a big fan of heavy metal music and a lot of the art that went alongside that. Whether it be album covers, t-shirts, going to shows and just the whole alternative scene in general. I’m sure that sank in from a very young age and came out later through my work. Outside of that, I read comics like 2000 AD. I was lucky enough to work for 2000 AD as a graphic designer for around 9 years. I still continue to work with them as a freelancer on the odd piece of cover art which is great. I also attempted skateboarding, played guitar in bands – which I did for many years then decided to later focus on my art full time. I’m sure all of this has influenced everything I do in some way.
With regards to ‘art style’ – this is something that has organically evolved over years of experimenting and trying different things. I feel it has a graphic detailed feel to it. I tend to work mostly with the screen-print medium in mind. I do a lot of gig posters and t-shirts for bands like Metallica, for example. I’m a big fan of the screen-printing process – which again links back to the art I’ve admired over the years. Whether it be band t-shirts, gig posters or even skateboards – these tended to be screen-printed. I always loved the way it made the art look. The limited colour palettes. Even the smell of the ink. There’s also something very ‘garage / punk rock’ about that way of doing things… which I like.
What do you use to work on and is everything hand-drawn? You post a lot of progress videos with a lot of hand-drawing small details!
Yep, everything is hand drawn from scratch. All artwork is created using Wacom devices with Adobe Photoshop. I use the Wacom Cintiq Pro 24″ with the Wacom Engine. I also use the Mobile Studio Pro 16″ if I’m on the move. I don’t use any fancy tricks, it’s just lots of drawing with one or two basic brushes in Photoshop. Think about it like I’m using a pen on a digital canvas. This is the closest thing to real drawing but done digitally. Before that I would have inked with bush pens and microns… which I still enjoy occasionally.
Do you listen to anything while you’re working? Anything we should check out?
As much as I’m a metal head I do tend to listen to a mixture of genre’s whilst working. Most stuff tends to be from the 90s because I’m old. But there is some newer stuff in there too…
Massive Attack, DJ Shadow, HEALTH, Run The Jewels, Ice T, Turnstile, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica, Slipknot, Mastodon, David Bowie, Deftones, Kerbdog, Therapy?, Kid Loco, The XX, This Will Destroy You, The Cinematic Orchestra, Silverchair, Daft Punk, Thrice, Baroness, Sepultura (Chaos AD / Arise era) Code Orange, Employed To Serve, Architects, The Cure, Creature, Down, Pantera, Faith No More, Gojira, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Helmet… I mean I could just keep going. Too many to name.
Love a good Podcast too! I can highly recommend Adam Buxton’s Podcast, The Gallery of Everything, Athletico Mince, Off The Beat & Track with Stu Whiffen and Sappenin’ Podcast with Sean Smith to name a few.
What excites you about working on art for Gears of War?
I mean, I’ve played all the games since day 1. So, for me personally it’s an absolute honour to create visuals for the franchise. For that reason, I find it extremely exciting working with the team on new artwork.
Tell us about the Hydra poster – what’s going on inside it?
With previous pieces I’d created individual character Omens which was great but for this one I thought we could go for something that was more ‘scenic’ or ‘in scene’. Something that felt more dramatic and told a story. I wanted the Hydra to dominate the composition then below have the COG soldier atop a hill about to meet his end. Then at the bottom of page / in the foreground litter fallen soldiers, weapons, skulls and destruction. It was really fun putting this together! I’d say it’s probably my most ambitious piece of Gears artwork to date. It took several months to complete… I’m pleased with how it came out.
What’s been your favourite Gears project to work on?
Too many to name but if I had to choose it would probably be the Gears 5 Soundtrack which was released on vinyl through Laced Records. I got to not only do the art for the cover but design the entire package. The graphic designer in me loves taking my illustration and applying it to other things like packaging/box art. I’m very much into putting my stamp on brands and this was really satisfying to do. Very honoured to have my name alongside the Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi also. It just ticked every box for me creatively.
How long does a piece usually take to complete on average, and are you someone who works on multiple pieces at one time?
A piece can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months depending on feedback from the client. Once my rough concepts are approved though I can probably complete the artwork in around 3 – 4 days. Saying that, it varies from project to project. Yes, I do work on multiple pieces at once. I find it helpful to come away from a piece and go back to it with fresh eyes.
Do you play games when you’re not drawing? What games have you been into recently?
I do! I’ve been playing the remastered version of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2, Doom Eternal and Star Wars Squadrons. I also picked up Destiny 2 again recently on Xbox Game Pass. I lost interest in the game for awhile but it’s been fun going back to it again. Lots more content to get my teeth into… And obviously, I play Gears! Although, I’m terrible at multiplayer.
Who do you idolize in the art world? Who would be a dream mentor?
I tend to idolize more musicians than I do artists if I’m honest. Mike Patton is up there… I just think everything that guy does creatively is genius. With regards to artists, Steve Dillon and Jim Phillips are absolute legends.
It’s been a hard year, how has quarantine / COVID-19 impacted your work?
Due to the nature of my work, I’ve been able to still work from home. Some jobs have fallen through here and there but that’s completely understandable… Everything is so up in the air at the moment. I am extremely grateful that I’m able to create and support my family through these tough times. Understandably, a lot of people are in much worse situations than me. I have a lot to be thankful for!
Finally, any advice to any aspiring artists out there?
Whether it’s art or music or whatever your passion is – just keep plugging away. Practice, practice, practice. Talk to people, seek advice. Don’t be afraid to fail because I did. LOTS! You’ve got to pick yourself back up and just keep going. Nothing happens overnight. Maybe, look to get your work in galleries as well… It’s great having an online presence too. Although, I sometimes think because of social media, we live in a world where people want that ‘quick success’ without any of the hard work that goes with it. I’ve been grafting for over 20 years and I’ve still got lots more things I want to do creatively. If you’re passionate about what you do then that’s the main thing. People will notice that passion and who know it might lead on to an exciting project. That’s what happened to me when the Gears team at Microsoft approached me… Also, try and find your own voice. Taking inspiration from others is fine but try and turn into your own thing. It’s an organic process of creating over a long period of time and if something comes out of that is unique to you then own it and make it yours. The possibilities are endless. Most importantly – HAVE FUN DOING IT!
The special edition Hydra poster is now available for pre-order on the Xbox Gear Store.
You can see more of Luke’s artwork on his website and follow him on Instagram.