Travelling beyond time and space, Christian Voyager’s illustrations are a reflection of the dimensions that lie just beyond our sight. From illustrating album covers to working on gaming projects, his artworks reflect skill and talent like no other.
Christian Benavides, aka Voyager, is a digital illustrator from Medellin, Colombia. Creating ethereal artworks that reflect the artist’s journey through life, his numerous travels, and the life experiences that came with it created the artist and the art we see today. His encounters with indigenous and artistic traditions around South America, work and study at The Animation Workshop in Denmark, practising Tibetan Thangka Art in the Himalayas shaped his style and technique. Voyager has created illustrations for Wizards of the Coast: Magic, Red Bull, Riot, Huawei, Chill Beats Records, Dub FX, Adobe, Boulder Media, Domestika and several other projects with clear intentions of representing Sci-Fi, fantasy and mystical worlds and characters. Today, the artist creates cover arts for editorial, board games, music, video games, and animation industries.
Styles: Organic, Digital, Illustrative, Dimensional
Could you please take us through your artistic journey?
Christian Benevides: Art is a tool I use for integrating ideas, dreams and values that I want to apply in my life. It also works to disintegrate beliefs and limitations that I might have in the depth of my subconscious. It can also be seen by a ritual that can manifest self-growth. For example, I constantly drew images of travellers, explorers and seekers in varying environments and situations. I was doing this as a representation of something I wanted in my life. Hence, I try to give each image an intention and purpose. My artistic journey began from being lost and clueless as to what I should create to being able to establish a connection with the essence of my illustration. This journey was made with the intention of learning and developing new perceptions of life and art.
Since both the artworks and the name Voyager point to your love for travel and exploration, can you tell us about any unforgettable travel experience or a destination that rings close to your heart and how your travel echoes in your art?
Christian: Travel inspires, educates and enlightens me. I always travel to places where I feel a special connection, and I have this certainty that I would learn something new about life there; this is what I automatically apply to my artworks. When I travel somewhere, I try to understand the vision of the land and see what I can use in my art to give it a mystical vibe. My visit to India, Nepal and Vietnam marked a before and after in my life. It was an immense joy to learn from my teacher and friend, Ashal, the traditions of Thangka painting. Going to his little shop, drawing and talking, for around 20 days are such warm moments in my life.
Your artworks are primarily digital. Which software do you prefer? Can you share the technical process behind your artworks, especially since your artworks are extremely detail-oriented? How long do you usually spend on a piece?
Christian: I have been working on Clip Studio Paint (CSP) for around three years now, and I love it, mainly because this software offers several tools to make the drawing process smoother, especially since I place a strong emphasis on line art. It also saves me a lot of time with an efficient method of filling my line art with ‘Paint Bucket’. Another noteworthy feature is the vector and pixel layers.
As for my process, I start with a sketch followed by line art, flat colours, and finally add volume, lighting and other details. Though my primary concern lies in line art, I don’t hesitate to add atmosphere, highlights and shadows.
A detailed work can take up to 15 hours.
Vibrant colours and a warm colour palette seem to be your signature. How do you decide on the colour palette for a piece?
Christian: I go for a complementary colour scheme and like to saturate the colours. The colours are picked to reflect the mood of the piece and the feelings I wish to convey. Following this, I add complementary colours for some contrast and direct the attention to the focal point. As for the workflow, I start by applying the base tone, after which I add temperatures of colours in the light and shadow; this ensures that my artwork pops out.
Your artworks are a wonderful blend of mysticism, fantasy and reality. How do you capture the dynamic energy of fantasy, the ethereal calm of the mystical while reaming uncannily grounded in reality? What elements do you draw from reality, mysticism and fantasy to create such a seamless blend?
Christian: I look at this as dimensions. There are dimensions that we perceive and others that we don’t. In my artworks, the human characters in our natural environment can interact with dimensions that we cannot usually see.
To achieve this effect, I add symbols, runic texts from languages like Sanskrit, spiritual and mystical symbols from various cultures, otherworldly beings such as spiritual guardians, extraterrestrial life forms and other types of manifestations, all interacting in a place that can be identified as earth.
The Buddha figure is one that I like and connect with; therefore, I add Buddha statues or related elements to give this “aura” to the illustration. I also draw inspirations from archetypes and astrology, but mostly from my experience.
When illustrating a music cover, what are the important elements that one must focus on? How do you bring the feel and emotion of music into the artwork?
Christian: I keep the song’s name in my mind and proceed to listen to the track a few times. I analyse the mood and where the music takes me and work from there. Sometimes, the music artist would suggest specific ideas for their cover. In such cases, I use their idea as the base and proceed with the same process.
Are there any specifications listed by the clients when you illustrate covers? How much freedom do you enjoy in such projects?
Christian: There are broadly three categories of clients: one that offers complete creative freedom; another that has an idea of the setting or characters or mood or other little details that I include in the final composition; and the one with a clear idea of what they wish to see in terms of composition. But, I am grateful that all of them connect with my style. I have not had to change my style so far. So even if they have a clear idea of what they want, I have the freedom to interpret that into my style. It’s a beautiful co-creation process.
How different or similar are the illustration style and technicalities in the animation and game industry? Could you kindly elaborate on the same?
Christian: I have a specific style and, when I am reached out to work on a project, it is because my style suits the project. Therefore, when I work in animation and games, I do it in my style. It’s nice that my work attracts projects that are based on fantasy, mystical and sci-fi concepts.
When it comes to technicalities, there are some differences and points to remember. For example, while working on a game, the background art assets need to be created in a separate layer while looking like they all belong in the same layer. This is so that they can create animations and interactions for the gameplay.
Certain elements, such as swords and potions, contain multiple effects to be used in different settings, and these must match seamlessly with the rest of the composition. When it comes to animation, we must be mindful of camera movements. There are many such technicalities, which vary depending on the project and the need.
Which is your most favourite artwork until now? Why?
Christian: The piece, ‘The purification of the three poison’ remains my favourite. It was created during a special moment in my life, just as I arrived in Colombia after my trip to Nepal. The artwork is like the catharsis of that experience and marked a new beginning in my style.
Would you like to say a few words to budding artists and illustrators?
Christian Benevides: Keep creating. You are my constant inspiration..