Combining art and music into futuristic storytelling with Tony Washington

February 10, 2023

You may already know the charming and always-smiling artist Tony Washington from visiting his table at Artists’ Alley at San Diego Comic-Con, at which he’s been a regular attendee and exhibitor since 1995. Or maybe you’re familiar with his extensive, award-winning creative resume, which stretches from concept art to illustration to coloring to matte painting.

But you may not be aware that he’s got a knack for music production as well, and has recently launched a project called Stations Stories, which combines both of his talents into a fantastic alternative rock/electronica/sci-fi adventure. Tony gives us a glimpse into his creative process in the below video, in which he uses his Wacom Cintiq Pro 24 and Wacom Intuos Pro tablet to create both music and visuals.

Tony grew up in a very eclectic musical household; his parents shared a wide variety of music with him and his siblings, from rock to jazz to R&B. Seeing that he had an interest in music, his parents purchased a Casio SK-1 keyboard to nurture his enthusiasm and further develop his skills, which Tony took a liking to immediately.

“I nearly played the keys off of that thing,” he jokes. Shortly after receiving this gift, Tony added to his instrument collection. First with a Yamaha KeyTar — a lightweight synthesizer/keyboard worn by a strap around the neck and shoulders, which is played almost like a guitar — and then with an actual bass guitar.

Tony got serious with music composition as a teen; by 15 he was recording music, and in his final years in high school he had to decide whether he wanted to attend college for music or art. He decided to pursue art and, at 18, joined the summer program at the California Institute of the Arts.

Over the years, Tony has continued to write music and perform in different bands in his hometown of San Diego, CA. “My love for music production will never fade,” he says. “I often use my music to inspire my art and vice-versa. I started a project in my late 20s titled Stations Stories, which is a sci-fi concept that combines both my art and music disciplines into one futuristic storytelling idea.”

“I build my music and art concepts using both analog and digital tools to enable endless creations. Just like my sketches in art, the wavelengths in my music work are the same, almost giving me a sense of scale and even style in the way that they are shaped into the environments that I envision. Having the ability to use the same stylus across all my Wacom devices is key to keeping the creative process seamless,” he says.

“Music, art, books, and even locations all play a key part in my creative process, as I continue to build and refine my art and music alike. Having the incredible opportunity to work anywhere further empowers limitless creativity, as I immerse myself into each piece of audio and visual content that I do, as the worlds that I create in musical and digital art begin to take shape into their final form.”

Behind The Scenes of Tony’s Creative Process

Tony creates both music and art, and each has similar but slightly different processes. How does he do it?

Music

Step 1: Production

I use the touch controls on my Wacom Cintiq Pro 24 to set up instruments and adjust settings, so I can play on my hardware midi controllers. The vibrant and sharp screen is perfect for adjusting my timeline canvas and arranging my samples.

Step 2: Mixing and Mastering

When I move to mixing and mastering, the Cintiq and Intuos Pro’s touch controls are very intuitive. This makes my process fluid and saves tons of time, allowing more creativity — compared to sliding though tons of windows and hot keys.

Art

Step 1: Shapes

All of my matte paintings start with shapes and silhouettes. Using the incredible 4K resolution of my Wacom Cintiq Pro 24, I can quickly draw in sharp, contrasting colors, as I layer and stack elements for pre-production, before moving to textures and rendering.

Step 2: Textures

With my shapes finalized, I can move to rendering and textures. I try to reference images that I’m applying mattes to for easier compositing when available. But overall, I try to push a unified light along with ambient light, to help give volume to each building and the scene.

Step 3: Completed Rendering and Textures

I fine-tune all of my textures and rendering and compress my layers, so the file can be added into my brother’s working file for final compositing and color correction. The large ultra high-resolution display on the Cintiq is pivotal in every aspect of the mattes that I create.

Step 4: Depth of Field

Then, color correction and blurred depth of field are applied, to bring home the imagery of the matte painting. This finalized image would be used for final animation!

About Tony Washington

After showing his impressive portfolio at the 1995 San Diego Comic-Con, Tony was hired by Image Comics, where he had his first encounter with digital art.

For over 20 years, Tony has successfully freelanced in multiple worlds: comic books, films, concept art, and even animation. He worked on the highest-selling World of Warcraft comic book series, designed promotional poster concepts for Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball Tour, did concept art for several Sony PS3 titles, and worked on the Hearthstone card game. He will be releasing all-new music and companion art for Stations Stories, as well as a new single and album, in 2023!

You can stream Tony’s music on a variety of platforms including Spotify, Pandora, YouTube Music, Apple Music, Amazon Music and Tidal.

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