Ep.100: About the legacy of your work with Daniel Lieske (Wormworld Saga)

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: Jan 29, 2018 •  Interviews

Hey, guys! In this episode, I am chatting with Daniel Lieske, a full-time author, and illustrator, known for his famous digital graphic novel Wormworld saga. He is also the founder of digitalartforum.de one of the biggest German digital art community.

Get in touch with Daniel

Key Takeaways

“Hard thing is to start with something. if you manage to start and keep the pace, you will end up in situation where you will be astonished by the results you achieved!”

Resources mentioned

💡 Please note: We are supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you! For more info, please read our disclosure.

Special thanks to Daniel for joining me today. See you next time!

All artworks by Daniel Lieske, used with permission

Episode Transcript

Announcer  

Creative, artistic, happy! That’s you. There are endless possibilities for living a creative life. So let’s inspire each other. Art Side of Life interviews with Iva.

Iva Mikles  

Hello, everyone and welcome back to the next episode of Art Side of Life, but I chat with inspiring artists five days a week. My name is Iva and my guest today is Daniel Lieske. And you will learn how he started his famous graphic novel, and what is his biggest inspiration for his work.

Daniel Lieske  

For example, I haven’t have a character in my in my story that is called masa Otomo, which is a direct reference to Katsuhiro Otomo, the creator of Akira, the famous manga and the famous anime movie, which was the biggest inspiration for my comic work up to this date.

Iva Mikles  

Anyway, he’s a full time author illustrator, mostly known for his famous digital graphic novel worm world saga. He is the founder of Digital Art Forum, the E, one of the biggest German digital art communities. Daniel also does lectures, talks and workshops about graphic novel creation, independent publishing, and digital art. So please welcome Danielle Liske. And let’s get to the interview. So welcome everyone to the next episode of Art Side of Life. And I’m super happy to have Daniel

Daniel Lieske  

here. Hi. Hello, welcome.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, yeah, I’m super happy that you joined us here. And that like took time from your busy schedule. And let’s just dive into your background and maybe you can give us a bit of a glimpse of your like childhood and maybe what was your creative outlet as a child and if you always knew that you want to work with art.

Daniel Lieske  

Yeah, I remember that I drew a lot as as a kid. And I had a special thing whenever I saw some something that interested me or that I was fascinated by be at a movie or one of those early computer games. And I did not have that at my home because I mostly played computer games that my friends or wherever, and when I didn’t have it at home, I would draw me little fake versions of those computer games on paper, and pretend that I could play it. I definitely remember that with with elite, you know, the this space trade simulation back in those days. And I played it on at a friend’s house and I was completely fascinated by that. And, and, and at home, I was really bummed out that I didn’t have a computer to play elite. And I drew the cockpit on a piece of paper that just pretended that I could play it. So and and with movies, too. So when I clearly remember that I watched the first Batman movie, you know, the Tim Burton Batman movie. And I was completely fascinated by some scenes, and I recreated those in little comics, just so that I could kind of relive these, these scenes from the movies. So pretty early. I used drawing as a substitute for reality, you could say,

Iva Mikles  

oh, yeah, and so did you already use also colors then? Because now you use a lot of different colors and to express stories and settings? Or was it mainly focused on characters and just the story moment?

Daniel Lieske  

It was a lot of drawing. So yeah, of course well as a kid you have those, you know, those felt markers and colored pencils and stuff like that. And I of course I used that I remember that when I drew Star Wars scenes, I always had those green and red laser colors in that but um, yeah, it was a lot of drawing and when I developed and grew older and didn’t did not stop drawing i i Actually concentrated on line art mostly for for many years. And well and when I when I when I when I got to school, I started to draw little funny comics of the teachers and my the other my schoolmates enjoyed those even the teachers and enjoyed them and that kind of got me into the groove of creating art and creating drawings to entertain people. Okay, and this went on for quite some years, like into my teenage years. But then I actually had a hiatus of two years from art and concentrated completely on pyrotechnics. So I was completely fascinated by explosives and by explosions and and I created a little paper models Have spaceships and and vehicles and I blew them up and I filmed it with a video camera and I played those videos in slow motion hours and hours of explosion videos I was completely into that. And I’m at this point, if you had asked me I would have sworn that I would become a pyro technician for film or whatever. I was absolutely going into that direction. How old were you at the time? are like 1514 1516? Maybe?

Iva Mikles  

So it’s still like a high school right? Yeah,

Daniel Lieske  

yeah. And I was really I was really talented in this field, I think I was able to mix my own explosives, I researched all that stuff. And that was before the internet, you know, it was really hard to get mixtures for for explosives. And today, it would be completely impossible to do of course, you would go to jail in a second. But back then it was actually it was it was doable. And I was really going to be come a pirate technician but then I kind of blew it. So to say so I had an accident was my explosives. I had to spend a whole summer vacation in, in hospital because I had severe burnings on my hands and in my face. And I was really lucky that I’m not scarred by that. So this kind of ended the explosive thing.

Iva Mikles  

Apparently turning right, yeah.

Daniel Lieske  

But fortunately, I learned about the existence of 3d graphics at that point. And I had my first computer that must have been around 1997 98. And I had my first 3d software with and with that I created the spaceship and vehicle models in 3d, and blew them up on the computer. And my parents were very happy about that. Because it was less dangerous. And yeah, and then I kind of got back to art through the 3d graphics and I rediscovered my drawing abilities, which did not suffer too much from this hiatus. And I started to I had my first graphic tablets then around 1999 It still had a cable attached to the pen. So it was really, really uncomfortable.

Iva Mikles  

It is this distracting? Yeah. Yeah.

Daniel Lieske  

But then well, and then when, when school, when when when when I when I neared the end of school, of course, the question arose, what I would be doing as a profession. Yeah. And, and yeah, I kind of thought okay, I maybe I can, I can stall on that decision a little bit if I go to university, and I applied for, for university for graphic design course. But my, my portfolio got rejected, which was a real bummer for me at that time, because I really thought I was a real artist, I knew that I would that I was doing real cool stuff, but it was all 3d. And I think the professor’s back then did not really understand what I was trying to do with this stuff. And it looks pretty ugly from from, well, from the standpoint of someone who’s doing fine art, you know, or graphic design,

Iva Mikles  

but it wasn’t like an art school like a fine art school or more like just graphic design focus, or it was kind of like a combination.

Daniel Lieske  

It was a it was I don’t know what the what the international term for that it’s, it was a university, but these kinds of university with a practical background, you know, there is a difference in Germany between pure University and the other one is called fafo Shula, which is like it’s like a university degree. You get a degree, but it’s, well you haven’t, you’re working on a lot of practical stuff, but I got rejected. And while I My plan was to overwork my portfolio, maybe do some pencil drawing, like they told me that they were were looking for something like that. And and to just bridge the time. Until then, the next application cycle I I got an internship at a computer games company that at that, at that point, luckily, was looking for someone who could do like scribbles and drawings, because their whole graphics department was only 3d artists. And no one in the graphics department could actually draw and they were looking for someone and after the internship they offered me a job because my skill was was okay for them. Well, and then I just So I just abandoned the idea of studying and just well did learning by doing, which was awesome because I was working in, in, in computer games, which was the place to work with 3d graphics, and also with digital painting, which I really started only then. So my first usage of Photoshop as a as a painting tool was, was when I started my job there in 1999. And yeah, and from that point on, it was the typical game development roller coaster. So the company went bankrupt. Two years later, I had a couple of months where I had my own little company with some colleagues, we were doing little games for advertisement agencies, and then the old game company, reconfigured itself, created a new company. And we came back and work there a few more years until the next bankruptcy and, and so on, and so on. And this kind of went on until 2011. Well, for me, personally, the big break came when I, when my hobby, my then hobby project, my graphic novel, The worm world saga became famous and on the internet and, and I saw the opportunity to just jump off the ship and try to find my own way with my project.

Iva Mikles  

And so how long have you been working on the book before like, it started to be recognized?

Daniel Lieske  

Yeah, it’s not not so easy to pinpoint it to a specific date. I know that my first scribbles and my first idea notes happened around 2003. And I know that the project got a big push when I created maybe my most famous painting, the journey begins in 2006. And at that provided a protagonist for my story. And from them on my notes in my notebooks became more specific, and I was more concentrated on creating the background story for that protagonist. And, and, and then I started working in a dedicated fashion on the graphic novel in 2009. So that was when I when the plan was ready to create that and I, and I think I worked the whole year of 2010 on the first chapter, which was then released on Christmas in 2010. And then in 2011, the the hype got started and, and in May 2011, I decided to quit my job. And I would just adjust Yeah, just do it.

Iva Mikles  

And so what kind of helped you to promote the story and artworks and books? Was it kind of published on some of the blogs? Or did you started to share it more on like some of the social media? Or was it like through word of mouth, you know, some of your friends and friends and friends. So how did that work out?

Daniel Lieske  

Yeah, it was kind of a wild mixture of everything. So I know that the first big links that I got were on other popular web comics. And then the biggest the biggest traffic at some point came from Reddit. Which I didn’t know that it existed before that. And so I stumbled into all this pretty naively so to say so and then when the buzz on the internet was picking up the traditional media also jumped on the bandwagon and I had had interviews for radio and TV and stuff like that. It was pretty crazy at this point. And at the same time my first son was born so that was a complete I was completely thrown off the of the track during the first month of 2011 It was totally crazy.

Iva Mikles  

Yes. A lot of stuff happening at the same time. Right? Yeah. So what was the main inspiration for your stories? Like how do you kind of keep the level of reality and the fantasy? Do you also take like real life stories? What happened to you and then put it in your fantasy stories? Or is it from I don’t know books and movies? Maybe you watched before and how do you create your world kind of what is the most important for you in the inspiration area?

Daniel Lieske  

Yeah, I think that my story is a big melting pot of of of other stories that inspired me of stuff that I experienced myself in my life or that I heard other people experience it. And yeah, and it’s a big mosaic of, of all that stuff. I could pick dozens of things from the story where I could tell you what’s the real life reference? Or what’s the movie reference, or what’s the novel reference or, for example, I haven’t have a character in my in my story that is called Master Otomo, which is a direct reference to Katsuhiro Otomo, the creator of Akira, the famous manga and the famous anime movie, which was the biggest inspiration for my comic work up to this date. I’m reading Akira, the manga, and that’s why I put the name Otomo into my, my, my work. And that’s, that’s happening all the time. If there’s some fragment from my life, from my memories, or from other things, I just put it into this big melting pot and try to create one coherent story with it. And do

Iva Mikles  

you have something like a journal where you write down you know, your ideas? Or where you travel somewhere? And you see like maybe, I don’t know, cool outfit, or a character or interaction between some people’s conversations you like? So do you write down things? Or is it something you remember? And then when you get to your working time, there’s like, okay, okay, this is what happened.

Daniel Lieske  

Yeah, interestingly, I don’t, I don’t really keep a sketchbook or something like that. This is something that I’m actually considering to do more in the future, because I’m writing down a lot of stuff. So I have actually a whole bunch of notebooks filled through the years. And I normally, when I get this inspiration for the story development, I will write it down in my notebook. And we’ll refer into these notes at a later point when they are when they are needed. But visually, I have to say I’m pretty much designing stuff on the page when it’s needed. So this is not the ideal approach, I would actually would love to put more effort into into collecting reference and creating more concept art and testing out more stuff. But I normally what I end up doing is that if I need a new character, in the next chapter, and I’m starting to work on it, I will just design it, and we’ll do one or two iterations, and then I will just stick with it. And that’s, that’s, that’s my approach. So yeah, on the on the text on the on the literary side, I’m doing a lot of preparations and notes, and also digesting and rewriting and throwing away stuff. And on the visual side, I’m, I’m I’m mostly straight ahead. And let’s just painted.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, and so when you were creating your world first time, was it from characters used as a starting point? Or was it like, story moment, do you like and then you created also the universe? Or how were you adapting stuff to each other? Like, if you create the universe first, then you were like, Okay, maybe this character needs to be adapted this universe, like with the feed or outfit or whatever, or you start more with the character, and then you go create the universe around him or her?

Daniel Lieske  

Yeah, well, for me, the starting point was a very specific idea for four world lore, I had this idea of, of the, the elemental Gods pretty, pretty common concept. And that one of the elemental gods, the gods of fire was betrayed by the other three elements and was buried under a mountain. And from that point on, there was no fire anymore in that world. And that, that was my initial idea. And I turned around that idea in my head for several years and toyed around with it and, and, but at some point it this core idea kind of attracted other ideas. And it really got done and dynamic process when my when I had my protagonist and when I had the basic concept of the little boy finding a magic painting on a on a dusty attic, and, and entering a fantasy world and I knew that this fantasy world would be the world with the fire god buried under the mountain and that was a framework where everything else kind of connected over the years.

Iva Mikles  

And have you found something interesting in your attic or grandparents. I think you might have had this question before, right?

Daniel Lieske  

I had I had a nice hideout in the attic of my my parents house. So this is definitely inspiration from my own life, and I also enjoy visiting attics. Actually the house in the story is pretty much 100% recreation of the house my brother lives in. So he lives in the country. And in a farmhouse like that they don’t have their attic is actually completely clean, and there’s no stuff in it. So that’s the only thing where we’re differs a lot, but the location, the landscape, and the houses, even the configuration of the houses, you could actually visit that in real life.

Iva Mikles  

They should make a museum you know, whether your books get even more famous and everything. So they can you know, like,

Daniel Lieske  

yeah, they will rip off the tourists.

Iva Mikles  

Right? So what about your daily life now? And what do you how many hours maybe do you draw a day, if you still have time for either, if you can take us through your classic day now, maybe projects you work on now, which are not confidential, or something you can tell us about?

Daniel Lieske  

Yeah, I’m, I’m a pretty structured person. So I really like to plan stuff. And basically, my work is organized in Yeah, in two tiers. So I have a block of eight hours, that’s my work hours every day. And into these eight hours, I put my regular project work at the most time that’s working on the graphic novel, but I also have other side projects that I schedule in this block of eight hours every day. And then there’s those two hours that I can have in the evenings when the kids are in bed. And these two hours are like a second time account. And from that second time account, I Well, I put into fire off projects and or in just hobby stuff. I recently I started to make music. So this also goes into those two hours in the evening. And I really tried to think in those two time accounts just to because I need the feeling at the end of the day, I need the feeling that I have done my my work in the eight hours. And that I actually can grant me the extra two hours in the evening to do something completely different. And that’s important from it’s so important for me that I actually I have I have that lying here on my desk. So this year is my clipboard for the the eight hours for the eight work hours. Perfect. And I have a second clipboard for my late hours. And I’m actually switching between those clipboards and this is a physical, like a physical act for me to signal me. Okay, now it’s work. And now it’s fun time. So it’s different clipboards. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

So you can actually draw on it like okay, yes, done.

Daniel Lieske  

Yeah. And it’s actually the checkboxes are really helpful too. So to see your progress,

Iva Mikles  

I like that as well. Yeah, can check stuff that is like it’s not?

Daniel Lieske  

You need checkboxes it’s not going to happen without checkbox.

Iva Mikles  

And do you have your studio at home? Or do you travel somewhere so

Daniel Lieske  

you kind of know it’s at home, it’s my, it’s my, it’s my home office.

Iva Mikles  

So you can be flexible with the timing if you need to do something else and just walk around. So you don’t have to travel somewhere for a one hour.

Daniel Lieske  

And that’s true. But I really don’t like to be very flexible. I have my schedule. And I try to stick to that as because I get stretched. I get stressed out if I leave my schedule. Because it’s really I’m I’m working on experience. And I normally I can plan ahead pretty much in pretty much detail how long it will take me for a specific portion of my project. Because I’m tracking all all my work in a software where I can track the the hours that I’m working. Do you use jungle or something else? No, no, it’s a small freeware tool called to do list. It’s very lightweight. It’s just checkboxes where you can say okay, I’m working on this panel add work, for example. You start the timer, you end the timer and add it you get the list just of the hours you worked on on the specific tests.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. And then you can also write down how much you would charge for the time so you know exactly how Yeah, I think the other app I’m using toggle that’s the same app. I think they have the similar thing. And so you can now schedule like how much time you would need for writing for like line art or coloring or do you have someone who helps you with this project now or do you do everything by yourself?

Daniel Lieske  

I am still doing almost everything by myself. I’m writing my story in German and I’m creating the initial English translations I call it. And I normally have some native speakers who helped me editing the English text. So that’s in editing, I have some some assistance, but the writing and the illustration is all done by myself.

Iva Mikles  

And can you share maybe how did it happen all the, you know, translation to so many languages? Like, did you contact some people to help you? Or did they contact you through social media?

Daniel Lieske  

Yeah, that’s, that’s, that was the case, I was contacted by people who wanted to, to provide translations. Because I think I don’t know, I provoked that maybe because I published my first chapter in English and in German, and in Spanish, because my, my wife is from Spain, and she provides the Spanish translation. And I don’t know, maybe these different translations triggered. People who then contacted me and asked if they could provide translations on their own and, and especially for the first chapter, there are a ton of translations actually like, like 30, or something.

Iva Mikles  

It’s so impressive. That’s amazing.

Daniel Lieske  

A lot of the translators kind of drop it after the first or the second chapter because they realize that it’s hard work to translate stuff. But anyway, the first chapter has the benefit that a lot of people put time into into the translation.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. And then they can be hooked to the story. And then they continue maybe in other language, maybe they progress. Language. Yeah. And so whatever project they are working on now, something you can share.

Daniel Lieske  

Yeah, right now I’m working on on a special chapter of the warmer time, which will be out of the story continuity, a little bit like the, like the Christmas special that was published in 2015. That was the fifth anniversary of the project. And I created a little mini chapter for a Christmas special. And the chapter that I’m currently working on I unfortunately, I can’t tell you what kind of chapter it will be, because it is commissioned by a partner who’s paying the production costs. And he wants it to be a complete surprise when it gets published. But I’m currently I’m working on it, it will be finished around mid January, I could actually say, tell you the exact day when it’s going to be finished. But let’s say mid, mid January, and then it will be published somewhere in the middle of 2018. And I’m absolutely looking forward to publishing this chapter. Because it’s, it’s going to be awesome. I really, I really liked the way it developed. And I’m pretty happy that I that I’m able to create this little story story aspect that I would not have been able to create in my normal story continuity, because because it’s it’s out of continuity, and will provide a lot of stuff to fans and new readers.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, perfect. Yeah, I’m looking forward to see that. And so when you were starting with, with the stories and publishing the books, how was how were you kind of financing this project? Where did you still have a job on the side? Or did you kind of like save up money? And you went full on like, Okay, I want to work on this.

Daniel Lieske  

Yeah, the first, the first chapter was a complete hobby project. So I was working full time in the computer games industry at that point. And I created the first chapter in the evenings and some weekends. So that was completely finished before you it was completely finished before it was published. And, and that that was only possible because it didn’t have kids at that point. And my wife was understanding enough to just grant me that time that I needed to create it, which was basically the whole year 2010 In the evenings and, and and on some weekends, although I really tried to not work on weekends. But yeah, and then when I realized that I that I that I need to continue the project because it was received so well. But I had also had my first son, I realized that I could only continue the project if I really made it my my day job and and the first the second chapter then I needed I actually needed funding for for the production and then started the big journey of finding budget for an independent production and every chapter until the last one was every chapter on its own was a big adventure to find the funding the budget and creating it or time and every chapter was financed in some other ways. So the second chapter was partly funded by, by money that you get in Germany when you have a child and you make parental leave for some month. And then it went on like that. And then there was a water Kickstarter campaign. Then there were there was an app finished and there were sales from the app, then the app got dumped, then I can’t I can’t even remember all the all the ways i i took to to finance the chapters that are already online. And it’s it’s continues. Currently, I’m, I’m working a lot with Patreon. And, and publishing to is still an important branch of the project, but also licensing. So last year, we had a board game based on the worm world saga, and it’s all these little puzzle pieces, from which I tried to drain enough money to fund my production.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, so now you can combine different income streams, right? So it’s like Patreon, then you can do like partnerships. The book sales, right? And as you mentioned, the board game, is there something else as well like selling art brains or just like more different small things?

Daniel Lieske  

Yeah, I basically I try to do anything that goes with we have a web shop where you can buy signed books and prints and, and I have a little Gumroad site where you can download digital versions of the chapters. And, and stuff like that. And, and I’m trying to experiment, I tried to put as much time as possible into experiments. For example, for the Patreon page, I, I tried to or I created a connection to the Patreon RP so that if you are a patron, you can actually log in at my website and get special content unlocked and stuff like that. So I really try to make every everything that’s technically possibly I at least like to try out. And a lot of stuff of that stuff gets done. At some point, like I said, the app, for example, the app at some point had to be dumbed because the maintenance costs created by the constant iOS updates. They ate up all the revenue from the in app purchases. And in the end, I was actually paying money to keep the app running. And the business model was just flawed. And I had to, I had to abandon it. And that’s happening all the time. I had a once I had an a subscription area on my on my website, which I had to abandon due to some new European tax laws. And I then switched the functionality over to Patreon and the Patreon RP and stuff like that. So it’s the current constant metamorphoses of this project.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, to see what works the best at the current time. Have you tried twitch?

Daniel Lieske  

No, this actually is and also, I’m not very, I’m actually I’m not very active on social media. And I identified this as some big potential that I’m kind of that I’m kind of not banking on right at the moment. And actually, one of my projects for 2018 is to get more into this direction. So streaming, videos, Instagram, I’ve just barely started with that. So this is all stuff that I that I also want to experiment with. So yeah, the playground is big, there’s a lot of toys laying around. You just have to find the time to play with all of them.

Iva Mikles  

But that which I’m sure people would love to watch your work, or if some projects or drawings you can actually share and then that can be kind of doing one, right? Yeah, maybe? Definitely. You never know. And so if we go back maybe to your whole art journey, have you ever felt like lost? Or did you have like a difficult time where you were thinking like, okay, am I on the right journey? Did I made the right decision? Because you mentioned some of these like, ups and downs also with the gaming studios. And so we are maybe the most difficult time and if you can share like a takeaway what you learned.

Daniel Lieske  

Yeah, well, I had so many drawbacks in the in the last few years. And well, I mentioned the app, which I know that in the beginning, for example, the app was my central business plan. I was planning to fund my whole production on on in App Store of that app because it was a time when the iPad was announced, everyone was completely enthusiastic about this new platform. And my comic is actually fashioned for the first generation iPad. So the 1024 pixels width, that’s the width of my website, and of the content that I created because it was done for the iPad. And then learning that the app doesn’t work in a financial way. That, of course, was a big setback for me. And I had to find other ways to do it. And stuff like that happens all the time. Like I said, that subscription area that I had on my website, I had to abandon that. I had moments when I was planning with money from some publishing contract. And then I got a got a call from from the forum from a particular publisher who said, Oh, now we have this term in our contract that this money has to be deducted from that account and goes into our licensing with that country and stuff like that, and where of where, in one moment, the whole budget for Chapter production vanished. And I had kind of had to improvise. And if you ask, what I learned through these situations, is that in most cases, if if a door slams close in your face, you mostly are able to find another door might, it might, maybe it’s a little bit smaller, it’s hidden in a corner. But if you take a step back, breathe a little bit and look around you normally find that second door, and and up to now, up until now, there has always been a new hallway behind that second door, which opened up into even more doors. And I don’t think that I have even opened all of these.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, you have so many things you can actually do in the future. And yeah, your stories are amazing. So I’m definitely looking forward to that. If someone would like to do, what do you do now? Maybe like creating stories or working with color and light and environments? And all of this? Do you have maybe some advice on what to start with? Or kind of what is the most most important on this journey?

Daniel Lieske  

That’s actually such a big question. I know because I’m, I’m asking that myself, and actually, my niece, she’s 14 years old. She’s well, obviously, teenage generation, she’s uses Instagram on a daily basis and all this stuff. And she’s now starting to, or she already has started to draw and paint with watercolors with pencils with markers and stuff like that. And I constantly ask myself, if I would start out today, with all the stuff that’s available. I mean, you have the digital painting, you have obviously all the traditional media still being there and also being popular on social media, then you have the super new stuff like virtual reality painting and virtual reality sculpting, then you have the whole field of 3d graphics. I would probably go crazy over over the question where to start, because when I started, I just had my paper and my pencils. And I had like two books with fantasy illustrations. And that was everything I could like, reference when I started to do my stuff. And very slowly I I transitioned from purely drawing to coloring with watercolor and then I started with acrylics and with airbrush and I tried to do bigger illustrations and and only when I had some experience in that field, I would actually the computers would be at the point where you could actually paint with them. So I have the kind of the benefit of I had no choice to start low tech and could climb the technological ladder every year with with new software that was released. And if I look at if I open up Photoshop today, I’m just overwhelmed by all that stuff. And if I didn’t have the experience of working with the first Photoshop, which only had layers as a new feature, I would but I don’t I actually I don’t want to make people panic when I listen to that. So I am it is it is big, a really big challenge starting out I think with all these possibilities and maybe the solution is to limit your to limit your your your stuff deliberately to some simple LM means like, I think even today, it’s a good idea to start with pencil on paper. Because drawing if you asked me drawing is the one central skill that you need to train and that you were you will need years and years to get to a level where your drawings will actually look like, like something that you would show to other people. And it’s still a good way to do that on paper, I think. And even if you’re working in a, in a digital software, try to limit your tools. I for example, when I’m when I’m painting in Photoshop, I’m actually using like three different brushes nowadays. And I tried to do everything with these three brushes, because I don’t want to spend my mental energy on the decision process which brush to use, or how to create the next cool custom brush or stuff like that. I just want to paint. So I try to limit my tools.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, so you work mostly also with the with the Selection tool, right? Where we say like that, then you paint within the selections and Exactly, yeah. And then you have like, something for lines and something more texture, right? Yeah, more or less. Okay, actually

Daniel Lieske  

with with my Photoshop brushes, I tried to emulate traditional brushes, because I’m super fascinated by Japanese animation, background art. And I got a lot of books on that subject. And I researched that and I I tried to find out which sort of brushes they use. And I in Photoshop, I created a set of brushes that emulate the brushes they use. And I’m only painting with opaque color. So no, no pressure sensitivity on the color or stuff like that, to have the same kind of challenge like in traditional media, where you also can really paint with semi opaque color, unless you’re doing glazing was was watercolor stuff like that. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

And now I’m sure anyone who’s listening, like do you share your brushes,

Daniel Lieske  

I will do that at some point. I actually only this year, I arrived at a point where I would say my brush set is complete. And my plan is to make a nice video about it and to explain my way to this brush said and what my thought process was behind it and how to use them. And then I will make a nice package at some point and publish those those brushes.

Iva Mikles  

Awesome. That’s amazing. And can you mention also some of the books you were inspired by?

Daniel Lieske  

Ooh, so many, I

Iva Mikles  

maybe some favorites.

Daniel Lieske  

I know that the first books that inspired me in art way or in a way where I tried specific techniques to reach that. What I saw in the books was it was the making off books of the the original Star Wars movies, with the production paintings of Ralph McQuarrie. And I tried to, to, to find the recipe for these kinds of production paintings. Before that, I was mostly exposed to like fantasy art from Frank Frazetta. And, and stuff like that. And but I remember that these production paintings, they really triggered my interest in researching different types of techniques. And that that was when I started with acrylic paint when I started with, with airbrush, because I identified these techniques in those artworks. And I started from from that point.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, nice. Yeah. And do you have something which simplifies your life now do you also use like, procreate or, you know, like this tablet drawings, or I don’t know something you use, like daily, I don’t know, awesome scanner or something like okay, I cannot live without this.

Daniel Lieske  

Well, if I had to put something I would say I’m using a second numb numpad block. I don’t know if my cable is long enough to show it. I have to detangle it a little bit like like this. And this empowers my left hand because my left hand is normally only using the Alt key for color picking and Photoshop. And all the other times it was lying around in a lazy fashion. And I am using the second num num pad with a little software called AutoHotKey which is normally a gaming software to program your own hotkeys in games, but you can also use it to program your own hotkeys in Photoshop. And I programmed a lot of hotkeys onto this numpad and now I can access a lot of hotkeys with my left hand while painting and while using the right hand with the other hotkeys, which makes me work pretty fast. This is a huge time saver for me.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, that’s great. Well, they’re awesome idea. I think I have to try that. Yeah, yeah, definitely. That’s on my to do list now too. Okay. Yeah, try it try. And let’s talk about the future. And I would like to know, like, what would you imagine yourself doing in like five to 10 years, you know, some dream scenario like you cannot fail and like this is what’s happening?

Daniel Lieske  

Yeah, I don’t know. Well, if I could dream up anything, then I would imagine that next year or in two years, some investor turns up and says, Okay, we want your content for some kind of, I don’t know, TV show, or movie trilogy, or whatever. And we will just provide you the funding to just create the rest of your graphic novel without any without any worries. For the budget, you only have, I would only have to make sure to get the story, right, and the illustrations, and that would be everything I have to care about. That was what is kind of the dream, to to, to arrive at that point. But I got the impression from the last few years that this is a dream that you’re going to change endlessly. Because no matter what happens in a project, normally when, when you’re when your means are, are expanded, when you get more budget, or you get more opportunities, you tend to spread out and use up these new resources. And then you get into a new shortage of resources. So I don’t know if this is if this is even a dream, but I would actually be content. If I would just be able to continue work on my my chapters, slowly chipping away on my content, it’s a lot of stuff that I have to do still. And if I’m just able to do that for some more decades, I would be happy.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, can your fans see you on some of the festivals like coming up in 2018? around Europe? Or maybe in the US?

Daniel Lieske  

I don’t know yet. I know that the books will be released in, in the US and in spring, next year. So I’m actually kind of hoping that I might be invited to some comic convention in the US for a signing session or something like that. I don’t know. That would be very cool. But um, apart from that, there are a few events in in Germany, there are the two big comic cons in Stuttgart and in Dortmund, and I think next year is the comics along in Erlang. Again, which is an event that every two years and that’s like my most favorite comic event in Germany, because it’s, it’s the whole comic community comes together for a few days. And it’s it’s normally an event that you don’t want to miss.

Iva Mikles  

I haven’t been to that one yet. Okay. Next one to go to.

Daniel Lieske  

It’s Southern Germany. I think you’re in Switzerland, right. So it might even be worth to have a look at it.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, I was planning to go for the Berlin Comicon. And then also the Trojan horse is a unicorn thing. Oh, yeah. So that one I’m planning for next year.

Daniel Lieske  

Oh, and if you’re if you’re mentioning Trojan horses unicorn, actually, since since this year, there’s a new kind of event in Germany. It’s called the Digital Art convention, Frankfurt DAC fre. It has been, oh God. When was it in October, early October this year. It was a cool event. And it’s going to be continued Next year, probably in late fall or late summer fall around in Frankfurt again. So it’s also an event that you might be interested in because it’s a general digital art event. Perfect. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

Okay. Definitely. Yeah, I was looking. I was doing research on different events in Europe, and it’s sometimes kind of hard to find them. Yes. Yes. So yeah, so thank you for sharing. And actually, my last question would be about far, far future and I would like to know what would you like to be remembered for in like 100 years?

Daniel Lieske  

Yeah, you know, I decided, as a comic artists, I decided to work only on one project. So I’m not the I’m not the kind of artist that works on a project for one two years and then creates another story and maybe with another publisher or another genre or whatever. I decided to make just this one big project. And I I kind of think that this goes back to my experience I already mentioned the manga Akira and kind of blew my mind when I discovered it as a teenager, it is 2000 pages manga. And up to that point, for me comics was only stuff like Asterix, or tanto, or something like that. So reading a manga, like, like, like Akira, with its cinematic scope, and it’s unbelievable, supernatural stuff happening. And it absolutely blew my mind. And I think I kind of got set on this track of creating my own epic story in the comic medium and, and if, in 100 years, first, I would like to finish the stuff within the next 100 years. And and if I actually managed to finish it, I would really like it to be so big that even in 100 years, people will actually still know the title. They don’t actually have to know the story. But they should should at least know Oh, yeah, that’s that’s the stuff that was painted in the early 21st century, right. Yeah. From this German crazy comic artists. All right. Yeah, I know that. That.

Iva Mikles  

Sounds actually really cause like, Yeah, I heard about that one. Oh, that is this.

Daniel Lieske  

I have to read that. That’s a classic. I know.

Iva Mikles  

That’s perfect. That sounds really great. Yeah. But yeah, so that’s really good. And hopefully that will happen. Yeah, maybe there will be someone who’s crossed. Yeah. Maybe we’ll be somewhere in the digital world. Kind of like as a plugins in the computer. Yeah. Like

Daniel Lieske  

in those when the people are floating in these nutrition. Tanks. You know? I hope they’re still reading comics, then. I don’t know in the pot. The pot?

Iva Mikles  

Oh, yeah. Yeah. So before we actually finish, maybe you can share, like last piece of advice, or key takeaway, and then we will like, slowly close the interview.

Daniel Lieske  

Would you mind this to be a little bit more expansive than just a little quote, of course, he got there. Yeah, because there’s this one life lesson that I really like to share. And it’s about toilet paper rolls. Okay. And it happened one day that I was sitting on the toilet, I don’t know this is we don’t have to go into the details. I was just sitting on the toilet and one of the toilet toilet paper rolls was used up, and you end up with those little cardboard tubes, you know. And next to the toilet, there is the radiator. And it’s one of these old fashioned ripped radiators where these toilet paper rolls just fit between two segments. And I put the toilet paper roll between the two segments and I looked at the rest of the radiator and I thought, ha, how long would it take to to put up a use of toilet paper roll into each cavity of this radiator? It surely will take a bunch of time several months, I guess because you know, in a household of two it was before the kids in a household of two you do not use toilet paper rolls so fast. So but I thought okay, I will just start it. What’s what’s the big deal, I will just start it and from that point, I just started to put the toilet paper rolls into these cavities. And I every time I went to the toilet from that on I was watching the my little lineup growing. And I thought okay, this is really taking long, but I’m getting there and at some point I was at the half point. And when one bright day, a few months later, I actually put the last toilet paper roll into the last cavity. And I called it finished and I said okay, I made this, I made this array of toilet paper rolls. So this is not the worthwhile life lesson. The worthwhile life lesson is that after that after it I achieved that I just kept putting paper rolls there on the radiator. And the interesting thing that happened is that what felt like no time. A second roll of toilet paper rolls was stacked on the first one. And again, what felt like a very short time, the whole space between the radiator and the window bench was filled up with toilet paper rolls and they would not have more space to put more toilet paper rolls. And it kind of occurred to me that the hard thing is actually starting with something and if you manage to start and keep the pace and you Don’t stop, you will end up in a situation where you will just be flabbergasted by the the result that you will achieve. And I continued this pattern and with other things in my life. I never managed to do the same trick with money. That’s that’s the big problem. You know, I never managed to save a fortune of money just went away. It’s, it’s something different than toilet paper rolls, I guess. But this was a very, very, very profound lesson for me because it was so physical, it was surreal to see, okay, there’s stuff sticking up, it takes time. But you actually come to a point where it’s stacking up so fast that you don’t have any more place for it. And I think it’s with a lot of stuff in life that you just have to have the preserver once. And just do it and keep doing it. And then you will be surprised by the result.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, definitely. But it’s also good that it’s visual, as you said, because sometimes when we are just progressing, we don’t see our own progress or what we worked on. And so it’s probably good to remind like, Okay, I actually did this or this and kind of compare like, Oh, I was here before now, maybe here.

Daniel Lieske  

And that brings us back to the checkboxes. Yes. Because I handle checkbox, I handle checklists, the way that I never throw them away. I just put a new piece on paper onto the clipboard. And once in a while, I will just skip through all my, my To Do lists from the last three years. And I will just be amazed by all the stuff that I did during that time. And that’s again, a way to visualize your progress and that’s a very good feeling.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, that’s actually like that because I always like throw out my to do list. Okay, I will do that as well. I like

Daniel Lieske  

just work like like the toilet paper rolls just try to make a stack so huge that you that your clipboard cannot hold any more pieces of paper. Yeah, and it will be very Yeah. Surprised by your Yeah, productivity and satisfied

Iva Mikles  

with with stuff like okay, I actually did something. So that’s perfect. Yeah. And thank you so much again for being here. It was so fun. It was so nice. Yeah,

Daniel Lieske  

thanks for the invitation was a big pleasure for me. Oh, thanks.

Iva Mikles  

Thanks again. And thanks, everyone who joined today and see you in the next episode. Hope you guys enjoyed this interview. You can find all the resources mentioned in this episode at artsideoflife.com. Just type a guest’s name in the search bar. There is also a little freebie waiting for you. So go check it out. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a review on iTunes, hopefully five stars so I can read and inspire more people like you. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to Art Side of Life podcast because I post new interview every single work day. If you want to watch the interview, head over to artsideoflife.com/youtube. Thank you so much for listening. Don’t forget to inspire each other. And I will talk to you guys in the next episode. Bye.

Announcer  

Thanks for listening to the Art Side of Life podcast at www.artsideoflife.com

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on illustration, storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help either wake up or develop your creative genius. Learn more about me.

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