Now obviously this blog is mainly for me to showcase the work that I have recently completed, but this work doesn’t just come from nowhere, it’s a skill that has been nurtured and developed over the years. I recently went digging through my external hard drives and located my old website. The fancy CSS doesn’t work any more and the layout is tiny on a screen that’s no longer 800×600 but the artwork that it holds is a brilliant treasure trove for how I personally have been developing as an illustrator over the years.
I’ve been drawing since I was in nappies, something which my mother is very pleased to be able to tell people. It was something that I just couldn’t get enough of and I could be kept very nice and quiet with a magic slate. The artwork I’m showing here starts when I was around 10 years old though, as that’s when I personally started keeping what I’d drawn (I believe I still have pretty much every image that’s in this post in its physical format as well as digital).
With hind sight gel pens were probably not the best thing to be using for my drawings, they were expensive, hard to work with and came in a range of very strange colours. But I took pretty much every page from the Ephemeral Fantasia game guide and drew them with only the passion an 11 year old can.
Anime was a huge influence on my teenage years as I’m sure it was for many other people of the same age as me. My love of all things Sailor Moon and Cardcaptors drove my family mad, they would often have to sit through repeat after repeat and I had dozens of printouts of the artwork painstakingly gathered in a ring binder so that I was sure to have plenty of images to work from. I have even been guilty of recording episodes from the television so that I could pause them at specific bits and draw what I saw on the screen. My love of drawing anime did get me picked on a little, while people were impressed by my commitment they couldn’t understand it.
As an illustrator one of my least favourite questions is “Can you teach me to draw?” I’ve had it since I was in high school and my answer still is, and will always be, NO. I don’t believe that anybody can be TAUGHT to draw, and so loathe all of the ‘how to draw anything’ books that can be found on the market. The skills needed to create a piece of work such as screen printing, dip ink pens and water colours can be taught, sure, but as for the actual artwork that you create with these techniques, that’s something that you need to learn for yourself.
For myself it was copying that helped me to learn how to draw, I copied hundreds and hundreds of images from animes, books and photographs, using them as a guide point to better my abilities.
Some of the artwork that I created during my period of copying existing pieces was hugely time consuming. Being a high school student I had a very limited palette of materials to work with, usually fine liners, fountain pens and Crayola pencils. I once completed an A3 drawing which contained a whole lot of black using just a fountain pen. Looking back at it around 6 years later I’m amazed that I had the time and the perseverance to complete it!
I was always a good girl at school. I got top grades and got on with all but one of my teachers (and the one I didn’t get on with disliked everyone who just got on with their work) and because of this my teachers pretty much let me get away with murder. I spent at least half of my lessons doodling (and listening at the same time!) but never really got in trouble for it, in fact half of them would actually often come to look at what it was I was creating and would offer help and advice. I think I must have had some of the most colourful school exercise books they’d ever seen!
Near the end of my time at high school Tokyopop announced their Rising Stars of Manga competition. My curiosity piqued I decided that I would create an entry. Yume: Quest for the Fried Egg Laying Chicken was a story which originated from me falling for a friends joke about chickens laying fried eggs (it’s a long story). All of the characters featured within its pages were actually real people from within my life, and this was easily the longest piece of work that I had completed, with all my own designs. The storyline was dire, and looking back there was no way that I was ever going to win but it’s still a piece of work that I’m very proud of. I’d love to get back to creating a web comic now, but just haven’t had the motivation and don’t have a storyline to work with (if anyone has a story that they want illustrating however be sure to get in contact!)
As I moved into college at the age of 16 I started to create my own characters. Aori and Victor (featured above) were two dreadfully mismatched characters, one being a bubbly scatterbrained mad scientist and the other a cold hearted killing machine. They were such great fun to create, working on a personality, a history and a life for these characters that I formed with my own hands through pencil, pen and ink. I still love them to bits now and need to work on an updated version of them. (I have a funny feeling that by the end of this blog post I am going to have a huge list of things that I would like to draw and update!)
Not all of my artwork was anime related through my years at high school however. I spent painstaking amounts of hours working on real life images, my hands coated in pencil. My art teacher adored me, but she hated anything that wasn’t traditional art, so the work that I was producing elsewhere in the school was ironically kept under lock and key as soon as I entered the domain it actually belonged to. Instead I worked with chalks and charcoals, pencils, paints, cut paper, all sorts of materials I just wouldn’t have used through my own choice. My high school art teacher was also the person who taught me to sew (which probably explains why the stuff that I make isn’t hugely durable!) and the strangest thing that I sewed during my time there was a kimono made of laminated sheets of flowers and leaves. It was actually wearable and I really wish I still had it around to photograph.
I became fascinated with the chibi when I was in high school. The ability to take a completely serious character and turn them into something much softer and more comical just by changing their proportions was a huge plus point for me, and also allowed me to concentrate more on the bits that I moved the most- drawing faces and hair. The chibis proportions are something that I keep coming back to even now in my work.
One of the most interesting projects that I’ve undertaken was drawing on a pair of converse. They were perhaps one of the geekiest things I’ve ever made and it’s a shame that because of the shape of the shoe I couldn’t iron them to make the designs waterproof. The shoes feature a range of characters from various video games and animes that I was interested in at the time. I still have them around and a spare blank pair, so if I ever get hold of more fabric pens and paints I will create a new and more up to date design.
College was a great time for me. Suddenly work didn’t have to be traditional beautifully crafted drawings for it to be considered worth doing and I could move more in directions that I wanted to. The above images were created to go along with a selection of Edward Lear’s nonsense rhymes using a variety of media and drawing techniques that I had never even considered before.
This short comic was created using the lyrics from the song ‘My Bloody Valentine’ by Good Charlotte. As someone who had spent so many years creating very anime-esque artwork my lecturer convinced me to try something a little bit darker and less cutesy. It was an amazingly successful piece and I’m so glad that he convinced me to do something that was different and a little more of a challenge.
My final project at college was a fully illustrated book based on the Chinese retelling of Cinderella (a nice story called Yeh Shen). For this I worked with perhaps one of my most unusual material combinations yet. The above images were based on posed photographs that I took of my friends, which were then drawn onto tracing paper for the linework, photocopied onto acetate and the colour work was then created on top of the original drawings before the two were stuck together and scanned to be cleaned up. It was a clunky procedure that caused me to ruin my own printer (yeah, don’t put acetate through an inkjet printer, just a laser one) but I still adore the end results now and it was definitely my most successful venture into paints.
Even in college I had an interest in fashion illustration, borrowing books on the subject from the library and searching it out online. It wasn’t until I started producing illustrations for Amelia’s Magazine earlier this year however that I started to consider it as being an actual viable job prospect for myself. Back in college it was just an amazing illustration style that I would love to be able to replicate.
Phew! I hope you’re still with me or that you’ve at least had a good time looking through this timeline of my work through around 8 years. I feel that I’ve improved a huge amount since the 11 year old who decided that gel pens were a good way to colour an image in, and the 14 year old who spent all her days replicating existing anime styles. I know that I have still not stopped growing and developing however (do we ever stop learning and furthering ourselves as creatives?) so maybe in another 5 years time I’ll be looking back at the work that I am producing now with as huge a sense of nostalgia as I am getting from looking back from at the work I have already created. I will continue to keep the images that I produce, whether they’re 2 minute doodles or 2 day masterpieces, as they’re always worth at least a good giggle afterwards.