I would certainly hope he can make something fictional. Someone with that much talent will hopefully have the creativity to come up with his own composition. I guess, thinking about it, for all we know he could be a really technical guy with little artistic ability. I seriously doubt that, but this gets us back to the classic “artistic abilities versus technical abilities” conversation. In my opinion, it would take a tremendous amout of both to be able to make work like this without copying a photograph. It would probably take a lot of both just to make a copy of a photograph.
I’ve worked some in Illustrator and it’s not easy. To do well in Illustrator you must master the pen tool. To do well at what he’s doing, you must also master the gradient mesh. I got inspired by all of this, and wanted to make something like that. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. In the limited time I had, I was able to do some stuff, like make a vase, but no where near that level. If anybody has a chance to play around with it and ends up making something neat, I’d like to see it and learn how to do it. I want to gain this skill if possible, I don’t know if it will happen with all the other things I ought to be doing and learning, but it sounds like somthing worthwhile to try.