A couple of days ago I received an email from an A - Level student asking about how I produce my work, and where I get my ideas from:
I'm currently doing the last year of my A levels in Tre-Gib school, Wales.
The theme for my work is my family but I didn't want to draw people and faces as I have done that in the past.
I wanted to represent them by objects that they remind me of, For example, Golf clubs remind me of my grand father.
Whilst doing my research, I came across some of your work and found it to be quite an influence.
I really like the "belongings" collection you've done and wanted to use it to influence mine.
I was wondering if you could answer a couple of questions to help me with my work?
1. What was it that made you think of this idea?
2. How do you choose the objects?
3. Is there a specific style in which you work?
4. What media do you use and why?
5. Are you planning on making changes to the way in which you work. If so why?
If you could answer these questions for me I'd be really thankful,
I thought I would share my response on my blog as not only do I love to know about the process of other illustrators myself, but also I have received a couple of other similar emails, and so I thought I could also direct them here as this is quite a thorough break down of my working process.
Hi Lian, thank you that it very flattering! I hope I can be of some help...
The idea started after I did an exhibition with some other artists from my university - we jointly decided on the theme 'treasure'. I began looking at famous women who had inspired me, I knew I wanted to do something to do with Frida Kahlo, who was the first 'treasure' piece I did - the blog entry can be seen here and it explains a little more about how I came about with the idea, although I also look at a lot of other artists and illustrators for inspiration. After I had completed more of the 'treasure' pieces I did a couple for friends and family as I thought they would make unusual gifts. example can be seen here.
I knew quite a lot about Frida Kahlo already but I also spent quite a while researching her, and even more so with the other women as I knew very little about them, the research probably took a day for each one, and I looked at symbolism in their song/art/poetry and went from there. With the personal 'belongings' of friends and family it was a little easier in some ways, for example I did one for my dad, I already had quite a few ideas I knew I wanted to include, I think it is nice to do some obvious ones (a football scarf for example) but also some more symbolic, such as a flower to represent a trip to fiji (in the one before I did for my friend Stacey)
if you are thinking of doing your grandfather I would definitely recommend looking at the work of another Illustrator I studied with - her name is Lilly Allen (not that one!) and she did a really wonderful book about her grandfather based on his belongings. you can see her blog here
Throughout my time at uni they tried to steer us away from using the term 'style' and create what they call our own 'visual language' I think mine has naturally evolved, but when approaching any piece I still have to assess how I will draw it... for example for something like a poster or greetings card I might use more simple shapes and lines. As these pieces were about the detail of a persons life I worked in quite a detailed way to compliment it. However when I made the original 'treasure' pieces I did adjust the style to reflect the persons character, for example with the Frida Kahlo piece I used thick, vibrant, paint to reflect her own work and the colours of her mexican culture, contrastingly for Virginia Woolf I used lots of dull, watery blues to reflect her dark, hopeless outlook...
photoshop I begin to composite it. This is the bit I enjoy the most as it really begins to take shape - until then it is just a pile of paintings and sketches. I begin by picking a background, then I put the colour and pencil images together, using photoshop i can get the right effect by experimenting with the layer properties, colour saturation etc, I spend quite a while positioning, adjusting and finalising the piece before I'm happy with it. Then its ready to send to the printers, where I get the best quality images, or to upload to my website.
I don't have any plans on changing the way in which i work at the moment, although an artists' work is constantly evolving. Currently i think I found a good balance between photoshop and hand drawing; I can use it to make my life easier but without making my work having an obviously 'digital' look.
I hope that helps! let me know if you have any other questions!
Best of Luck,