Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fantasy breathes life into Temple grad's career

Telegram Staff Writer

"They call me Daarken. It's my pseudonym, the only one that seems to fit. Everyone always says my work has a dark nature to it, so the name fits, and it's a lot more memorable than Mike."  - Michael 'Mike' Lim, 1999 graduate of Temple High School
Nothing thrills him like the heroes and villains of his video games.
'I love fantasy,' said Michael 'Mike' Lim from the Temple High School class of '99. 'Comic books and video games have spectacular worlds, and for as long as I can remember, I've always been fascinated by the way the look.'
So Lim didn't dote on his schoolwork. He did what he needed to pass, and he focused on the images he sketched in his notebook. The harder he worked, the more interesting his images became.
'They became characters with back stories and personality,' Lim said.
After graduating high school, he went to study computer programming at the University of Texas, but quickly found that was the wrong approach.
'That was learning how video games worked,' Lim said. 'I wanted to know about the look of video games.'
So he enrolled at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and earned a bachelor's degree in traditional illustration.
That gave him the skills he needed to unleash the creatures of his imagination.
'I learned how to make the art digital,' Lim said. 'You draw on the computer, give it color and depth and make it mobile.'
Most of the 'genius,' he said, happens on Photoshop.
Talent scouts from multiplayer role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, Magic the Gathering and World of Warcraft saw his work on his online portfolio and hired him as a freelance artist.
'I was making character cards for the board game versions,' Lim said. 'It was pretty cool to do art for the games I grew up liking.'
By 2007, he was a full-time artist for Mythic Entertainment in Fairfax, Va.
'I'm in charge of computing the art for Warhammer,' Lim said. Warhammer's an online multi-player character game that revolves around duels, quests and special powers. It's fairly popular with more than 750,000 registered users, about half of those living in the United States.
So his teenage obsession with video games was the opposite of detrimental.
'He's had so much success,' said his mother, Carol Lim of Temple. 'We're so proud of him and everything he's done.'
But Lim's story doesn't end with a neat job.
One of his works is on display at the American Museum of Illustration in New York.
Entitled 'Poised,' Lim's image is of a fantasy warrior on horseback, well prepared for battle. It's part of the Spectrum Exhibition that will continue through Oct. 17.
Established in 1993, 'Spectrum' is an art annual that features the year's best art from the fantasy, science fiction and horror genres.
A poll from professionals and patrons determines each year's honorees, said founders Cathy and Arnie Fenner on their Web site at The goal is to broaden the exposure of fantasy art.
To be included in 'Spectrum' was a high honor for Lim.
'I'm still in awe,' Lim said. 'There are so many good artists in 'Spectrum' every year, people who have been doing this all their lives, people who I admire, people who inspire me.'
One such artist is Gerald Brom, a name popular among fantasy enthusiasts.
'His work is also on display at the exhibit,' Lim said. 'I got to see an original print at the museum.'
Lim's images caught the attention of Spectrum agents because of his bylines in 'Digital Art Masters' volumes 2 and 4.
He's authored several tutorials on digital art, and to illustrate his lessons, he incorporated some of his character illustrations.
'It blows my mind to think of how much he's already done,' said Freddy Lim of Temple, the artist's father. 'He's just 28.'
Success keeps coming for the young artist.
Just released Sept. 23, 'Digital Painting Techniques' features the work of Lim on its hardcover binding. It's a portrait of a man, stubble-faced and concerned, lurking in the shadows.

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