- Who are you and what do you do?
I'm Talon Dunning and I'm a world-famous physicist, neurosurgeon, test pilot, rock star. No, wait, that's Buckaroo Banzai. I'm a fantasy illustrator working in the RPG industry. I've done work for the Star Wars roleplaying game(s), Ravenloft, Mutants & Masterminds, Mage: The Awakening, and quite a few other so-called third-party publishers. I also publish my own original RPG material under the name Fantastic Gallery.
- What are you working on at the moment?
I'm working on a project for Savage Mojo. They're re-issuing one of their older books, Dogs of Hades with all new art and layout and I'm doing all that art. I'll also be doing the art and layout for a sequel book. Aside from that, I'm working on several of my own Fantastic Gallery projects and attending conventions across the US Southeast.
- Who inspires you?
Artists, mostly. The specific list is long and varied and includes a lot of familiar names, like Adam Hughes, Wayne Reynolds and Iain McCaig. I draw a lot of influence from 19th Century art as well, including the Neo-Classicists, the Pre-Raphaelites and, of course, Art-Nouveau. A love of Art-Nouveau is almost a requirement for fantasy illustrators these days.
- Name an artist who has inspired you.
Just one? Michael Whelan.
- Name a place that has inspired you.
Ummmmm... Zambia? I went on safari in Zambia and South Africa in 2010 and was inspired to write a book about catfolk after seeing the big cats there.
- Name some "thing" that has inspired you.
I found the recent Spectrum Art Live convention in Kansas City, Missouri to be quite inspiring. Does that count as a thing? The annual Spectrum art book has been a continual source of inspiration for nearly 20 years.
- What drives you to do what you do?
Genetics, mostly. I'm a third-generation artist and have been compelled to create art my entire life. I'm just lucky that there's people out there actually willing to pay me to do it!
- What values do you wish your creativity to express?Values? Ummm...I'm not really sure that I want my work to express any values. Illustration isn't, necessarily, about personal expression. It's about storytelling; boiling down a story to a single moment or image that captures the feel of the words being illustrated. Even if there aren't words involved and the illustration is simply art for art's sake, then it's all about creating the illusion of a bigger story. The viewer should be able to piece together a basic narrative by the scene I've chosen to illustrate. Now, I can say that I've chosen fantasy illustration because I enjoy the prospect of creating a window into the imagination. I like illustrating things that don't actually exist as if they did. To me, that's much more meaningful than creating art based on stuff we know exists. If I paint a tree, it might be one awesome tree, but in the end, it's just a tree. We've all seen trees. I haven't contributed anything new to the world. But if I paint something that doesn't exist, like a dragon, a knight, or some horrible, nightmarish monster, then I feel that I've done something worth doing.
- What role does community play in what you do?
Unfortunately, almost nil. At least, not in a direct sense. I spend most of my days (nights in my case) alone in a basement drawing in total solitude. Such is the plight of the freelance artist. We tend to live lonely lives. On a greater scale, though, all art is, in a sense, communal by nature. We draw inspiration from the world around us and desperately seek the approval of peers, critics and fans. We post our work to deviantART and Facebook and slavishly check our feedback and count our “Likes.” Art, by its nature, is meant to be shared, and in that respect, community is of paramount importance.
- What is next for what you do?
More of the same, mostly. I'll continue to work as long as people keep paying me to do it, and if that stops, I'll do it for free. Art is simply what I do and what I am. And if the universe is willing to let me, I'll do it forever. Or at least for the next 40 years or so. Give or take.