A few weeks ago, I uploaded a chatty draw with me in which I’m talking a bit about the feeling you have sometimes when you’re growing as an artist, and I thought I could develop my thoughts in a blog post – so here I am!
A bit of context
I started digital art almost two years ago, at the end of july of 2020. Before that, I only drew sometimes and unregularly in a sketchbook with color pencils (polychromos have been my art besties for a while now!).
I started working on my style when I started digital art, and, with digital art, I discovered the fabulous world of shadows and light sources thanks to the layers modes. Not that you cannot work on this with traditional art, not at all! But this is how I discovered how fun it can be. To be honest, I think digital art was the best playground for me to try things because of how flexible it is.
For a year, I worked on autodesk sketchbook (the computer version). In my opinion and (small) experience, the medium shapes the style, at least partly. I never found how to make clipping masks on sketchbook for instance, while I use them all the time now on clip studio paint; I create textures that I love and play with color tones thanks to this tool. This only one feature allows me to create art with more discrete lineart when I want to. I started working on clip studio paint in july of 2021.
And I think I needed at some point some time to focus on my style – the shapes I’m using to stylize, the textures I’m creating thanks to brushes and layer modes, the subjects I want to develop – without all this shiny add-on that used to be the work on light and shadows for me. It doesn’t mean that light and shadows are just shiny add-ons to me: what I mean by that is that I needed to work in a more sober way, if that makes sense to you.
Hence, for a few months – maybe from december 2021 to the end of march 2022, I used very light shadows and light effects, even none in some pieces, such as my “definitely a frog” illustration.
I learnt to simplify the shapes I’m using and to focus on a limited (but fun!) color palette.
With this cute little cat going on adventures in their neighborhood, I started by focusing on the anatomy of the cat. First of all, I have to say that I struggled a bit with it, but watching references pictures of this posture with caution helped a lot! Once I got the anatomy right, I tried different things with the degree of stylization, if I may say: for instance, I tried to make the paws really distinct from the rest of the “legs” at first, but ended up prefering the more simple version to it, as you can see in the finished illustration.
Color-wise, I also went to a simple yet very fun soft palette. The trees in the background were first meant to be in a yellow green shade. However, during and after the work on the textures, and even after adding the white flowers, I didn’t like how this color came out in the whole illustration. I actually realize right now, by writing this post, that this is because I wanted something that wouldn’t catch too much the eye: this greenish blue was then perfect, because it’s in the same tones as the sky and recalls the pretty cool green of the ivy leaves in the foreground. Hence, the cat is surrounded by, let’s say, pretty similar shades and stands out, catches directly the eye, in my opinion.
I also tried a nice pink for the background trees. But, even though I managed to make sure the cat and the trees didn’t blend together, the cat still didn’t stand out enough.
After chosing carefully a color for the background trees, I was almost done with the illustration. Well, at least, I thought I was. But I was enjoying so much this subject and working on this illustration, I was so glad about how I overcame the technical issues I encountered, that I wanted very, very bad to add some nice light and shadows, reminding myself in the same time how much fun I had when it was kind of my favorite part in digital art, like I told you about beforehand.
However, I didn’t approach it the same way: while I tended to be very meticulous, which could make it a bit tedious sometimes, I had a looser approach – I guess because I was in this very enjoyable “just have fun and experiment!” vibe. Not that I wasn’t thinking about what I was doing and the reasons behind my choices – as I explained about the color choice for the background trees. But if, for instance, a shadow didn’t match exactly the shape of an ivy leaf, I decided it didn’t matter because it made me feel like the process was more organic; and, in the end, it also makes me feel like the whole scenery I created feels more organic too.
A story behind
Now I would like to talk a bit about the narrative side of making art and illustration.
As I say in the video, this illustration was inspired by a cat in my neighborhood that I pretty regularly see climbing and walking on walls recovered by ivy from my window. First, I need to say how much I love when I see them having their best outdoor life! Everyday life can be very inspiring.
While drawing this illustration, the cat started to become its own character, and to detach itself from the cat of my neighborhood: they weren’t just a neighborhood cat walking around the neighborhood on the garden walls covered by ivy, they were becoming a playful and cautious cat going on adventures, happy that spring is back because they can go mess around with their bug friends again!
The neighborhood is now fully their playground, and is enhanced by their whimsical imagination.
I know this is not a full story at all, but I like how a bit of narration sticks its nose into an illustration. It actually happens to me pretty often, even in smaller drawings, as in my sketchbook for instance – and it’s one of the most preicous parts in art in my own practice.