Scene & Heard, Springfield

Digital Monsters

Josh Searl’s inspiration especially comes from birds. He said that he loves watching them move and watching how their wings work. Searl said this piece was his mother’s favorite. Aliya Hall

If a bird were to fly up to the window, digital artist Josh Searl said he would stare at it for at least 20 minutes.
”I love watching them move; I like to see how their wings work and how their movements are different than humans,” he explained. ”My imagination starts running wild. What sort of creature or monster can I come up with out of this animal? Having something that grounds a fantasy monster into reality is important; it gives a connection and looks realistic enough that it could exist.”
Animals are one of Searl’s biggest inspirations when it comes to his art – especially birds because of their relation to dinosaurs, which was another popular inspiration for him growing up. This imagery is present in his work, which is on display at Springfield City Hall throughout the month of August.
Searl has been drawing since he was a child, although at that time his medium was pencil and paper. He didn’t use pens, because he liked to be able to change aspects of the piece, which is one of the reasons he enjoys digital art now. He made the switch to digital art in high school, when his dad was able to get him a popular software tool.
”I fell in love with it and taught myself it,” he said. ”I’m still drawing digitally – I love the freedom and ability to move things around and resize it; but I still do sketch on paper occasionally.”
Searl graduated from the University of Oregon with a digital arts degree, and he said that the classes he took helped take him out of his comfort zone and got him interested in trying different media – one of which is 3D modeling and rendering. Searl has been teaching himself this style for the past four months, which he is expecting to incorporate into his art as well as into a game that he’s creating with a friend.
Video games hold a lot of inspiration aesthetically for Searl. Games such as Bloodborne, Pokémon, Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Halo and Bomberman in particular have influenced his work. Craig Mullins, who was the lead concept artist for Halo and is considered one of the founders of digital art, is Searl’s artistic idol.
This mix of dark and whimsical aesthetics lend themselves to Searl’s subject matter, giving his work a mysterious, quirky and moody vibe.
One of the challenges Searl faces is balance and keeping his pace up when working on art. When he isn’t drawing, he works part-time at Hirons pharmacy. The other challenge is physical; when he was younger, Searl had bad posture when he was drawing for six hours at a time that caused back pain. Although he’s been doing physical therapy, he can’t sit still for more than 40 minutes without his back hurting. To combat this, he invested in a standing desk and started living a more active lifestyle.
”Making sure you’re taking care of your body… I don’t know if it’s helping me draw better, but I’m feeling better,” he said.
It was actually through his part-time job that Searl was able to establish a connection with Springfield City Hall. He was invited to show his work at the gallery and he said it’s ”very exciting.” Now, his goal is to apply to other galleries in the Springfield and Eugene area, as well as to sell stickers of some of his pieces in stores.
”I think most creative people like it when people appreciate their art,” he said. ”It’s really fun seeing people look at my stuff. I like imparting a feeling or mood and that I can share with people.”



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