Interview with Denis Zilber

Apr 29, 2016Career, Creative Talent, Interviews

Denis Zilber

DenisArtist Spotlight is a place to showcase new artists as well as revisiting talent. Enjoy this interview sharing the stories about their work, career, and process for navigating the winding road that artists must take in order to become a professional in such a creative, respected, and sought after career.

This is artist Denis Zilber. For more about this artist visit their CTN Profile: CLICK HERE


What were your beginnings as an artist? Where did you grow up and did that influence your art and path to your career? 

I grew up in an artistic family, both my parent are professional artists, so I can say my future career was more or less predetermined. Unfortunately it took me a while to fully understand that and I started to build my artistic career relatively late, only when I was 26 years old. Up until today I can’t forgive myself for losing all those priceless years. I had to work really hard to catch up. Though my parents never actually taught me anything I am really grateful to them for one thing, they gave me a taste in art, they showed me great artists and explained what was so great about them.

Before I knew how to read I already knew who was Picasso, Modigliani, Miro, Michelangelo and Rodin. Instead of comic books I had red-figured Ancient Greek vases art. I never knew such thing as anime, I had my fair share of prints created almost two hundreds years ago by Utamaro and Hokusai instead. My fist hero was Achilles and it was long before Brad Pitt played his role in Troy. So I can say I didn’t get any practical training as an artist in my childhood, but I definitely acquired a good theoretical base in all matters related to classical arts. That helped me a lot in my career years later.


Does living and working in Israel influence your work or your art choices?

Not at all! I know that living in the middle of nowhere, in the Middle East, might sound like a real disadvantage for an artist, but I have to say that nowadays in the age of internet and social networks, the world shrunk so drastically that my geographical location plays very humble role if at all. I recently created two big movie posters for ReelFXstudio, it was an absolutely amazing project. The directors were in LA, the project manager was in Dallas and I was working in Tel-Aviv. Apart from time zone differences we had no problem communicating via Skype during the whole project. Vast majority of my clients are located in US and Western Europe, some of them are from Latin America or Eastern Europe. I work all over the globe without leaving my room, it is amazing. The only disadvantage I have considering my location is that I can not spontaneously jump on meetings and interviews with my US based clients so easily as if I was a US resident. I don’t say it’s impossible, it just takes a little longer:)

Can you talk about your career being a freelance Illustrator/storyteller. How did you prepare yourself, your skills for this career and what is the process you use for projects?

I’ve been lucky enough so far to work with many different clients from all over the world in many different fields: editorial and advertising illustration, character design for animation and movies, children’s book illustration and game design. So I can say my career is really wide spread across all possible industries where my drawing skills might find an application. That kind of diversity is quite unusual and has both advantages and disadvantages, but I love not being tied to one particular professional field. I love solving different problems, facing different challenges. How do I prepare myself? I read a lot. I personally believe that there is no useless knowledge. The more I know about the world, about history, science, literature, different cultures, the better. Also before each project I happen to work on I spend many hours studying the subject, gathering as many references as I can. I’d say that this preparation stage makes up to 50% of the final image. Another 40% would be a black and white sketch and the remaining 10% contain all the fancy painting and rendering techniques, color, light etc.


What is the technology that you use? Can you describe that process?

I use only Photoshop and WacomIntuos 4 tablet, nothing too fancy. I draw sketches in Photoshop, pick the best one, clean it up, create a values sketch in greyscale and then move on to color. All without leaving Photoshop. I almost don’t do any sketchbook doodles to my bitter shame. I know it’s a huge disadvantage, especially at conventions and artists meetings, but I am working on this flaw of mine right now. I promise to improve:)


Can you talk about your book? What made you write it and why?

Well, my book was a kind of experiment for me. I wondered if I could gather enough artworks to make an art-book. It worked out. Though it was pretty long ago and today I see most of those artworks as outdated and even slightly shameful. Hopefully one day I’ll come up with a new book, which will be much better.


Do you have any advice for people starting out?

Don’t get discouraged easily, or at all. Be persistent and thick skinned. When you’re starting out you’re weak and insecure, you have no experience and almost no skills. At this point sometimes is easier to give up than to grind your teeth and move on no matter what. Be grateful for more experienced professionals critique, they can save you years of trial and error with merely few words. Listen, don’t get offended, learn and work as hard as you can, because if you’re lazy today, even for 5 minute of weakness, you might find yourself way behind people who have not been so lazy. Art market is a constant competition, polite, smiling, but harsh and unforgiving.


You’ve done so much with your career already, what are you goals for the up coming future?

Oh you are too kind! In fact I don’t see myself as someone who has done so much, I am still working on my style, my storytelling skills. However if we are talking about future plans, I am thinking about creating picture books. Maybe even publishing them by myself. Visual development for animation is also something that is deeply fascinating me. Besides that, I’d like to keep doing what I’ve been doing for last 10 years, painting and illustrating. It doesn’t really matter what exactly, as long as I do art.



Interview by Heather M. Shepherd

Heather Heather is an experienced artist, modeler, and CG designer. She has worked at Disney,Dreamworks, Jim Henson and Warner Bros. Recently shehas been writing, directing,and producing her own award winning films.