Spotlight on Mr. Jack

Australian artist Luke Mancini is perhaps most widely recognized for his prolific work on the Starcraft franchise, the game that spawned his "Mr. Jack" handle and ultimately landed him a full-time gig at Blizzard Entertainment.

When not up to his infra-red visor in Zerg entrails, it's not uncommon for Luke to unleash some serious cheesecake. Case in point : Here's a piece he whipped up exclusively for his Babe Lab interview, "Ambition."

Babe Lab : Thanks for joining us, Luke! Beer?

Mr. Jack : Most definitely! A black Brazilian Xingu perhaps?

BL : I have Pabst...

MJ : *sigh*

BL : Let's get right down to it. A hydralisk, a T-Rex, or a Frazetta-style jungle princess : which would you be more likely to draw first? (No pressure.)

MJ : From the latter to the former respectively, I think - though preferably combining the tyrannosaur and princess - from purely a personal enjoyment perspective. After all, one's jungle women should surely have some sort of context, don't you think? And what better a context than a cretaceous one!

BL : You've just been itching to say that in casual conversation, haven't you?

MJ : Ha! Oh most definitely. You've got to take these opportunities where you find them.

BL : Your work shows a wide range of interests within the geek spectrum. (Note : This is not a put-down.) There's your sci-fi stuff, your dark fantasy stuff, your prehistoric stuff, your comic there a universe you feel most comfortable in? Which do you think lends itself best to pin-ups and why?

MJ : As far as comfort goes I would probably have to choose the fantasy end, and I think I would say the same for pin-ups, probably because I feel the presence of 'magic' and the supernatural in whatever sense I see fit to accept at any given moment allows one to get away with the most. I do love science fiction of course but there is at least sometimes a rational part of me that finds it easier to accept a scantily clad angel than a girl in a mech suit with no armour from throat to mid-thigh. Though of course that's certainly not to say there aren't cleverer ways of going about sci-fi pin-ups than that, or that I'm not occasionally drawn to exactly that.  (Plus from a purely technical side when you're drawing sci-fi stuff you always have to pay a lot more attention to perspective and proper construction what with all that tech, so a warrior girl clutching a spear clad in naught but bearskin does one-up mech-girl in that respect as well.)

BL : The vanishing points are less obvious while you're being attacked by a mastodon.

MJ : Precisely! Or, at least, you get away with fudging them a little better in that case.

BL : You've attained what could be called a "direct painting" style -- a very bold, immediate lay-in of tone and color (as seen in your process section). How did you arrive at this technique and in what ways does it differ from your sketchbook approach?

MJ : Where it came from is sort of a difficult question since it really has been a gradual transition, but I think there are a couple of reasons for it - one being that it's a lot quicker to get to a 'finished'-ish piece (especially when working with a sort of rough painterly style as I do a lot) than to go through sketches and neat line drawings and greyscale rendering first. The second is perhaps a bit more of a stylistic thing but it really helps get a richer natural feeling to your colouring if you leap straight into it - it feels more like mixing paint, I guess, and you can get more complex and interesting things happening with colour a lot sooner. That said, depending on how tight I want my final I will do sketches of varying tightness, often working directly over the top of a rough colour comp just to plan out details or work out my anatomy properly.

BL : Your progress over the past few years has been staggering. Do you attribute this to any sort of formal art training, or is all just observation, experimentation and tireless toil?

MJ : Well to start off I wouldn't count any training; my uni course was in Graphic Design and while interesting and still fairly relevant, as far as painting and art goes it wasn't in the same direction. So no, I think it's been pretty much self driven in all 3 categories. Something super important to my own development especially is experimentation; getting out of your comfort zone whether technically or stylistically (I can't say I experiment quite so much with subject matter a lot of the time though) really helps push you along.

BL : When drawing girls, what aspect do you feel is most important to depict, physically as well as psychologically? Is there anything that gives you trouble? (Girls are troublesome, after all.)

MJ : Looking through my gallery it might look like I would answer that there are two particularly important aspects to depict - and I would have to admit that I do definitely have a penchant for bustiness in my pin-ups - I think the face is always the most important part to get right in an image, both to make clear any emotional intent of your image and to make it work as a successfully sexy pin-up, even if the only expression you're using is a sly come-hither or the like. This might sound facetious, also, but you've pretty much summed it up there - girls are definitely most troublesome, and while I would say I that I've got a pretty good grasp on things pretty much everything will at some point give me no end of grief, whether it's a face on a certain angle, hands or feet, a particular twist of the hips that just isn't working. To pinpoint something especially that I think I have to work on more than others though is probably getting some more variety into my posing of characters; I often find that I have a couple of fallback poses that I end up relying on when more adventurous things turn out too ambitious.

BL : Art often reflects personality. Looking through your galleries, I'm seeing a lot of play and an almost total lack of restraint. Are you (a) a free-spirit, (b) a mad genius, (c) an untamed, frothing were-beast or (d) none of the above? Should we be scared of you?

MJ : Haha. To be perfectly honest I would probably go for d, mostly because it can sometimes be difficult for introspection to really get a proper answer and I can't quite decide. I approach art as a release, for all sorts of things, and especially now that I'm working full time in a relatively straightforward creative environment I find myself pushing my personal work into more and more playful directions - and so yeah, I try not to hold myself back and just let myself go a bit sometimes. I'd like to think I'm not particularly dangerous, but I imagine only time shall tell.

BL : Time, or a trail of mutilated art directors.

LM : Haha if I'd stuck with doing educational illustration that could quite possibly have been the case, but I think Samwise is pretty safe (at least for the moment).

BL : What kind of music would your ideal muse be into, and how would this affect her look and attitude?

MJ : I think I'd feel sort of bad saying 'the same sort as me', and I'm not sure that would be quite the right answer anyway. Interesting music, at least; musicians who make music without worrying about the trappings of popularity or the mainstream (not to say that they can't be popular, however you feel the need to use that term); with a good dose of melancholy thrown in for good measure, perhaps. (Part of me is just tempted to say 'post-metal' here, however).  As far as reflection on personality goes I think that'd mostly lean towards a thoroughly artistic sensibility and the confidence to follow her own interests whether they're accepted by the norm or not - not to mention the attractiveness of the whole art-alt-goth-ish style...

BL : Games or girls : which is more interesting and why? (Answer carefully.)

MJ : Girls, by a a bit of a margin probably (if you'd asked 'art' there instead I might've had a harder time, though I'm still not sure . . .). The 'why' part is a little more complicated to get into; I'd like to think these days that it's more than mere adolescent fascination (and I'm not quite sure whether your question's about women artistically, or in a more immediately physical sense, though of course both are wonderful). As I said earlier, I'll always lean towards the pin-up over the space marine.

BL : Which direction(s) do you see your art taking in 2011 and beyond, or do you even attempt to steer it?

MJ : When it comes to things I should probably be working on and improving I probably should steer myself a little better, but on the whole I like to let these things carry on organically; you can at least be sure that I'm going to be carrying on my pin-up art through though, however it develops along the way.

BL : Does that mean we can keep prying pieces like "Ambition" from you?

MJ : I have to be prodded sometimes but yes, I think I could probably be convinced to keep contributing.

BL : Excellent. Thanks, Luke.

You can see more of Mr. Jack at his Deviant Art and CG Hub pages!