Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Interview with Bob Bello

Bob Bello graduated from art school in 1983. He has been a traditional matte artist and an assistant producer for television. The father of five grown children, Bob is now a semi-retired independent writer, producer and visionary who specialises in impressionist space art and writes mainly sci-fi involving time travel, alternate reality, and space colonisation.

  1. Tell us about your artwork.
My works are called ‘impressionist space art’ or ‘space impressionism’. I strive not so much for astronomical accuracy, as for personally expressed feelings about space and the cosmos in general. Before graduating art school, and being fascinated with the mysteries of the universe, I began painting space impressionism. Soon, I worked as a sci-fi illustrator and television artist. I studied animation and filmmaking; and in 1987, I began writing and producing for both TV and radio, while also being involved in teaching.

  1. Why did you choose fantasy art, and what do you hope to achieve with it?
In 1974, at the age of 13, I survived a deadly accident; and thereafter, the topic of ‘cosmic survival’ somehow came naturally to me. I began writing and illustrating my first attempt at sci-fi in the hospital. Because of my ‘unconventional art’, as it was called at my first solo exhibition in 1980, I won a scholarship for a private educational program. I studied multimedia production, but not in terms of concept art for computer gaming. It was all-media production for theatre, radio, television and film, including acting, scriptwriting, music, and editing - the whole nine yards. At the end, it was up to us to decide what we want to be: film, video, or radio producers, or just animators, scriptwriters, actors, score composers, or teachers in these areas. As for me, I ended up doing all of it, including teaching, either with production teams or alone. Then I married a Greek musician with an opera background, and we started our own multimedia production company, called Timeship Studio. With that, traditional painting became somewhat of a hobby to me, which I applied now to all the desktop publishing and package design we needed for our clients’ videos, CDs, books, etc.

  1. Is there an underlying theme or message in your work?
The main theme of my work is ‘cosmic survival’ or, “Can humanity survive in space, in case of global emergency?” To me, this is simply unavoidable. You may read all about it my short story, Crazy Bobby (written in 1983), posted at RedBubble - there is also a link to a free mp3 audiobook version.

  1. Of the artwork you’ve created, do you have a favourite? If so, why this particular work?
If I have to mention a particular piece that holds special place in my heart, it would be A Million Moons. Painted in 2007 with oil on canvas (48” x 24”), it depicts a dying extrasolar system. You can see it at RedBubble.

  1. How is creating fantasy or science fiction art different from creating other genres?
I don’t know about fantasy, which is grounded in mythology, but sci-fi requires at least basic knowledge of astronomy and spacecraft concept design. It’s not sheer imagination, you know. A professional “space artist,” for example, is often called ‘astronomy illustrator’ and there’s very little sci-fi in their work. A NASA/ESA artist might use both to portray a future landing on Mars, but be sure that this isn’t sci-fi either, never mind that space engineering and sci-fi imagination might intermingle on some levels. It all depends what kind of futuristic or space-related artist you are.

  1. You are also a science fiction writer. Has this helped you to create your impressionist paintings, and if so, how?
My traditional paintings of “space impressionism” were neither made to portray real stellar objects nor Hubble-photographed “space vistas,” as critics called them, though later some of them became sci-fi book covers. Indeed, they look like illustrations from space fantasy sagas or a world of stellar dreams, being born in a visionary writer’s mind. However, I can’t compare them to my digital “space art” and sci-fi illustrations, because the latter are striving for astronomical accuracy and photo-realism. My digital art is not impressionistic.

  1. Tell us about your work as a writer and producer?
Now that I’m retired from active audio/video production, I finally have the time to sit down and write, though I might occasionally record audiobooks. Today, the digital technology allows just about anyone to shoot-and-edit HD videos or Flash-based anime, even air their own podcast and vidcast shows. But, no matter how fascinated I am with new media, I still find old-fashioned writing more rewarding than anything. I can paint my characters with words and construct cinematic scenes, free from equipment or budget limitations.

  1. What do you find most rewarding in the creative process?
The storytelling and worldbuilding, which in serious sci-fi, are as inseparable as two sides of a coin. Developing a fictional world, whether alien or human, perhaps involving alternate reality, caused by some time-travel paradox, is not an easy task. To make it believable, it has to be a marriage between good science and good fiction.

  1. What do you find most challenging in the creative process, and how did you overcome it?
It was devastating for me to find out, around 2000, that I had developed some sort of paint allergy. To avoid the annoying physical effects, I had to switch to digital art. But staring at a computer display for hours not only strains my eyes, it leads to other complications like fatigue, which can kill my creativity. Add to that, hearing loss from years of using loud headsets, and you have a sure recipe for an early retirement from “active duty.” But hey, I don’t complain. Life must go on, and I love writing. I won’t surrender.

  1. What have you done to promote and market your artwork, and what advice would you give to other artists?
Find an agent or join a professional guild and let them do it. Save your precious time for the creative process, and leave marketing and sales to the professional business people. After all, life is too short, and unless you write and paint more and more, you’ll have less and less books and art to sell. It’s much easier for you, if someone else edits your manuscript, illustrates it, publishes it, and sells it. You are either creator or businessperson; and most of the time these are two different worlds, with their own time-consuming strategies. For example, to produce a movie all you need is money to hire a great production team. But you can’t do it if you don’t have a good script, which you can’t finish if you’re too busy painting or marketing your books. By the time you sell your other products, you steal from your creativity and vice versa. This is my advice: paint more paintings than you can sell; write more books than you can illustrate or publish yourself. There’s an old saying, “Don’t try to sit on two chairs, or you may end up on the floor!”

  1. Who, do you imagine, would be your ideal client?
If we spend time thinking about that, we might never create anything, because there’s always someone who might not like our work. Trying to avoid them kills our desire to create for the rest of the world. “What ifs” are very dangerous questions, setting artists and writers on the path of doubt or pleasing the client rather than the creator. I have spent a lot of time teaching and coaching production teams, and I can tell you that this is Creativity Killer Number One.

  1. What advice would you give to help others build the confidence required to produce science fiction art?
Unfortunately, it all boils down to realistic self-confidence, one that is born in the furnace of constant productivity and honed by the voices of your critics. People usually know what’s beautiful and entertaining, and what’s ugly and dilettantish. Some of us have a great amount of self-confidence that we can do anything, because that’s what they teach us from preschool. But if all of us could be artists and writers, who would perform surgeries or fix cars? Robots? Well, until that day comes, be sure that you know what your biggest talent is, or you will waste your life chasing the phantoms of your wishful thinking.

  1. What aspirations, or reservations, do you have regarding your art being used in film and television?
No reservations whatsoever, although by creating TV matte painting you often don’t get credited for it, or get to keep and sell the art. It’s teamwork similar to potluck. In the same way we would come to production meetings and think-tank an idea, which someone else gets to write, though maybe it was born in your head. As a matter of fact, I’ve donated a lot of artwork and stories, for which I’ve never received more than “you rock” or a warm Christmas card. But then again, if you brim with creative ideas, you don’t mind sharing some of them because you know you’ll need a million lifetimes to produce them all by yourself. This is part of the reason why I spent time teaching others to do it. I never believed that teaching would become such a passion for me, until someone told me that the quality of a born creator is his or her desire to share their knowledge, skills and wisdom – not so much selling them for personal benefit or sheer profit. There’s a difference between ‘maker’ and ‘money maker’. The first does not necessarily create to sell. He or she creates, just because they feel like they’ll explode if they don’t.

  1. What are you doing now?
I’m currently novelising a box of radio drama scripts and synopses for several anthologies, and producing a few of them on audio for my personal pleasure. By the way, if you like to read aloud, or are just a radio drama enthusiast, let me know. There’s always room for new and old talents in my space yacht.

  1. Describe your art in one sentence.
 “Once upon a time travel…”

  1. Where can we find you and your art?
My old business website is http://timeshipstudio.us, but you may preview my art at http://www.redbubble.com/people/timeship in big format. I also coach a team of sci-fi writers and artists, at http://scifialmanac.com, with whom we publish an anthology of short stories via contests. Contact me at http://facebook.com/timeship, where you may reach me if I dive too deep in writing, switching off phones to avoid distraction.


  1. Dear Bob,

    Congratulations for the interview :-)

    I put a link to my sites. Best regards, Janos

  2. How Cool Bob! You are officially a star!! Well done, I am so proud of you!!

  3. This guy is fantastic in almost everything he does. Some day others will see the quality of his work and marvel. The best part is that he's a great guy, too. I guess when we suffer persecution and loss, it polishes us up. Would love to see his work from when he was a kid.

  4. Your impressionist space art is the best, Mr. Bello. I'd like to see a gallery filled with human-size galaxy oil paintings someday and decorate my home. Thumbsup on the interview.