Back at it again with the personal analysis. I’d like to apologise for the months delay on my last post (which is posted on the correct day but was actually uploaded this month) I had left it half finished in my drafts and completely forgot about it with some current happenings. For a brief catch up I have moved into a new studio in Newcastle with some peers as we run a studio together “Loose Tooth Studios” where we host exhibitions and are working on some workshops to start in the new year as part of the life long learning program our building offers. I will talk more about this studio in a later post when we are more settle in the studio and I can provide a better tour of a tidier room, for now we have a facebook ad instagram you can keep up to date on any events we host or we also have a wordpress we will start to regularly in the new year also. Right now we are just finding our feet and getting ourselves comfortable… For now let’s get into the analysis
Lately I’ve been itching to work more on detailed environmental illustrations, ever since finding Kirsten Rothbarts artwork in 2017. I eased myself into detailed environments with my collection of valentine illustrations from February which I was very proud of at the time as I took myself out of my comfort zone for the first time in a while and turned them over in just 2 weeks. As I move forward in my illustration however these are now old and I believe my skills have definitely developed since then (as I would hope). Rothbarts unique style is something I find appealing as her own style, the obscure face shapes, enlarged lips, exaggerated eyebrows, and use of monotone colour palettes was something I wished I could do when I found her and began to create a few artist studies. When working on your own unique style it can be intimidating to find someone who has already found their artistic voice, but you wouldn’t mimic someones accent because you like it better than your own, would you? It’s important to guide your inspiration into your own unique accent and this is what I have been doing. Rothbarts heavy detail and colour choice inspired me not to mimic but to create something as equally unique back in February as I wanted to make environmentally driven illustrations. In the end the illustrations came out more character driven, similar to Rothbart I used the environment and the props to show more about the characters interests and personality however the environment wasn’t ever detailed enough. I think the closest I got to my original goal was with the “Treat Yourself” illustration with the detailed environment, but my favourite design was “Re-charging” that showed a couples embrace in bed at night. The colour choice in this piece was calming and the emotion on their faces showed their comfort for each other, along with the message I wanted to show came off well and was the best received piece of all. From these illustrations I knew moving forward what I preferred out of my own art work and what I wanted to work on more in the future.
Recently I have been seeing a lot more in my social media feed from Kelsey Smith (@amidst.silence) which has been more of an inspiration for me of recent and was the main inspiration for the illustration I will be discussing in this post. Smith’s illustrations are always captivating and draw you into a scene with the use of colour and composition (as any good illustration would). Her environmental pieces are always chocked full of detail, showing an up close and personal look into the characters life from pictures on the wall, pets on their lap, to the clothes on their back and expressions on their face. Sometimes you can see the characters face but almost always they are looking away or fully turned around so you can’t see their expression, even then there is always an emotion in the air. It is interesting the amount of detail and depth Smith can get into her pieces with bold black outlines and primarily cell shading. Similar to Rothbart, Smith always has a high level of detail and depth to her illustrations but in an entirely different style and method. Seeing her beautiful scenery has been on my mind for a few months before this illustration and is what ultimately drove me to work on something for myself in a detailed fashion. Unlike Rothbart I didn’t want the character displayed to be the focus of the piece, instead like Smith the character would be a part of the scene and add life to the environment along with the use of props, etc. Smith already shares a style characteristic with me as instead of using a monochromatic colour palette similar to Rothbart she instead uses a range of colours closer to their real life form and the mood is set by using colour hues that mimic a time of day that will commonly be displayed through an uncovered window so you have a further understanding of the time of day or environment outside of the immediate view, displaying this character lives within a universe, something we don’t always consider when looking at art.
At the time of starting this piece the UK was 2 days in to a horrendous heat wave, during which I was sat in a room with the same bed, desks, and windows as in this illustration after my partners house mate had moved out. I needed somewhere comfortable and breezy to draw on my tablet and with no bedding on the mattress I could starfish my sweaty body across the cold, uncovered bed to cool off. Also carrying a plant mister filled with cold water to cool myself down wherever I was at the time helped my ginger ass during this dreadful time of sun (hissss).
When I started sketching this design I was loving every minute of it, I was adding so much detail I usually tried to avoid with framing. I got the bed in and all the curves of the covers, the curtains bellowing in the wind, plants which I hardly draw because they’re too intricate. Animals in general I suck at, but from behind just never ever look right, I was hitting milestones throughout this piece. I know fine well that in a years time I will look back and be so many steps ahead I will laugh at how proud I was when working on this, but right now this is the best illustration I believe I have ever done. There could be so much more, some shelves filled with DVD’s (she doesn’t seem like the book type to me), a 3DS on her bed? Or a PS Vita? More objects to flesh out her character. In illustrations like this I love to throw a lot of personality into it because I’m not just drawing a bedroom with a girl in it, I’m creating a lifestyle, a personality for this character, her interests, her sexuality, etc. If you know much about gay pride and the varying flags you might have notices her top uses the colours of the lesbian pride flag. If you look at the frames on the wall you will see a variation my life motto “You can’t change the past, but you can decide your future”. Just like Rothbart and Smith I want to fill environmental illustrations like this with so many items you might never be able to find them all, you can’t piece her entire life together without every piece and just like real people we meet everyday you might never have the full picture of someone’s life or lifestyle. We keep things hidden, even this girl. You can’t see everything under her bed, even I don’t know what’s under there.
All hell struck during day 4 of working on this, after 3 days I wasn’t even half way done and hadn’t laid all the flat colours yet. This was due to my surface breaking down as it has a battery issue and wouldn’t tell me the battery level but would shut off between 20-30% (judging from the levels after turning back on). On day 4 I worked for abut 2-3 hours laying the flats and was finally close to moving onto the next stage, I decided to leave my tablet on charge for 4 hours to give it enough time to charge up and when I went back to work on it it had turned off again. I was frustrated but not too panicked because it’s been happening so much that I save after every single asset, however upon plugging in and turning on I found that the file was corrupt. I had lost 3 days of work. After all the pain of the battery shutting off and continuously loosing work to come and find I had lost all of it was devastating. There was no way to recover the file, it was somehow too damaged to restore. Thankfully I had a backup of the line-art and was able to use my partners fathers computer to work on the piece again, HOWEVER a few days into working on the flat colours again his computer got a virus and had to be reset after a week of looking for an alternative.
Now this illustration was intended to be a big illustration for myself, pushing my boundaries, creating a detailed environment to grow my own skills and to build my portfolio. Most importantly it was going to represent me in my studios opening exhibition since re-branding, I would be exhibiting along some of my favourite artists as well as a local artist I have looked up to for about 5 years (BadWitches). I had to tell the team I wouldn’t be able to exhibit this time and I was so upset about it because I was so proud of what I had done.
The week before our opening night the computer I was allowed to use had been reset and was ready to use so from the Sunday to the Wednesday leading up to our exhibition I was working in the studio most days, promoting the even, collecting and setting up art work, then on my nights coming home and working relentlessly to get this done. Working all the time I could handle to get this illustration finished in time. I got finished on the Wednesday night, needing to have everything ready the next day as we opened on Friday. I woke up the Thursday morning and made some last minute lighting adjustments and fine details as I had a dream the night before I made them and it looked better, and it did! I was finally ready to print just in time.
Something I struggle with in my art is a consistent style which I struggle to keep up with as I change my style regularly as I develop my skills or just get sick of a drawing style, however something I keep up in my illustrations is colouring choice; I like to use times of day to inspire my colour palettes, commonly twilight and dusk as I love pink and orange tones and being able to use them together. My logo uses purple, pink, orange, and yellow, as these are colours I use in the majority of my work, along with a star above the name as I also include stars. My use of stars and sparkles I originally started including as I find them cute and fitting to my aesthetic but as I use them in environmental pieces I place them strategically around the space but mainly in direct lighting as they resemble dust that would naturally float around the room. When I use them in character design pieces they are just too add a personal touch and mainly come from my love of magical girls when I was growing up, such as Tokyo Mew Mew and Sugar Sugar Rune.
Something else that I do in most of my illustrations is colouring the line-art, if I am in a rush or am working on something less detailed I will usually change the line-art to a brown colour, since my style is quite soft in colour and shading I find black to be too bold a colour. If you analyse my art you will find that I only use a solid black colour in rare occasions and also avoid solid whites as these tones in their purest state can be distracting to the eye when they’re surrounded with such soft colours. This stems from a fine art background as I was told from a young age in art to avoid black as it can muddy a colour, so when shading I will use alternative colours such as dark blue, dark purple, or dark red to shade both digitally and traditionally as it is a softer touch and a more realistic colour choice. The reason I like to recolour my line-art in detailed illustrations is so that the lines become more blurred and although I am using a semi-realistic or sometimes straight cartoonist style there is less of a barrier around the design. Again this technique softens the design as bold line-art keeps the details from popping out. When there is a black line around a softly shaded illustration such as this your eyes will naturally follow the bold colour instead of the details it holds within it, looking at the box instead of what is inside.
Here is an example I made for possible commissions that shows what I am explaining. Shading obviously takes a bit longer, as does changing the line-art to match so these are 2 separate prices. I prefer working in the left style as I find it a lot nicer on the eyes, the soft shading and gradients makes the illustration look more detailed of course but with the line-art change you can appreciate the softness more so than in the right side which has a bolder colour throughout and doesn’t change based on where it is. The fact the colour is the same throughout make the hair look less textured and makes the facial features stand out more than they should. Looking at the 3 stages shown above this you can see the same rules apply, something I notice in the Summer Inside illustration is that the facial features when lined in black stand out way too much. Her eyes and eyebrows draw your eyes to them and from the nose to the chin her face looks very flat. When you detail with shading and recoloured lines it definitely helps soften the face and create a better image. Most illustrations have a line of sight, where the artist tries to draw your attention to one thing, however with this illustration I tried to avoid that entirely. In most people your eyes are naturally drawn to faces, if you happen to find yourself jotting between looking at people in public or see faces in places there aren’t any it might be because your brain is wired to recognise a face structure and draws your eyes to it. So in this piece I can imagine most people will look directly at the woman centred, and since she is a large character in the illustration that is natural. However my intention for this illustration is to have many different props that people will be drawn to, a snake, a cat, her plants, the shoes under the bed, the teddy bear behind her, all things that are interesting and easy to see. Things you might have to look for are her keys, her box of extra cans of pop under the bed, the T.V peaking in from just beyond the cameras sight.
What to do next time
This illustration was just the start of my personal challenge to build my portfolio with more detailed environmental concepts, I expect to be working on so many more pieces like this one where I can explore more detailed environments and lighting, really pushing myself out of my comfort zone and into some challenging material. Designs like these take longer, take more sweat and effort, take more creativity and story/world building, but in the end its designs like this that I’m way more proud of and excited to show off.
If I could add more to this design I would fill even more space with props and Easter eggs like I mentioned earlier. I want to work on designs like this with a hand full of variations. A version of this room at night, some props moved around or packed away while the character sleeps soundly in bed in a blue and purple toned room. Anther version with the bed sheets left open and some of her pyjamas scattered on the floor as the early morning light creeps into the room suggesting she just left for work/school or has gone in the shower. With that shower concept I could show some light and mist creeping in from the left side of the environment suggesting she has an en-suite door beside her bed where she is having a shower.
I hope to work on so many more detailed designs such as this when I manage to get a new tablet! Look forward to seeing more in the new year.
Badwitches (2019). Untitled. [image] Available at: https://twitter.com/nildraws/status/1171103441789300736/photo/1 [Accessed 12 Sep. 2019].
Rothbart, K. (2017). Fancy was My Name. [image] Available at: https://wowxwow.com/shop/room-of-a-thousand-doors/fancy-name-kirsten-rothbart [Accessed 11 Sep. 2019].
Smith, K. (2018). Creative Space. [image] Available at: https://twitter.com/amidstsilence/status/1022138381441138689 [Accessed 11 Sep. 2019].