Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Final BA Project week 3

So the third week, a week of struggles and important realizations, is gone. Not gonna fake it and pretend like everything's going smoothly because it's not. The left side of my brain, which is constantly questioning and analyzing things, started fighting with the right side, which is more intuitive and relies on my feelings. And I feel like the "thinking" side predominated the third week of my final BA project, which resulted in self-critique and procrastination. Such a bad thing at the start of a new project! Questioning things is good but not when it interupts your creative process. Stepping back from your project once in a while is useful, but not at the very beginning.

I'm looking for the balance between thinking and feeling in my creative process. How to make things look simple from the outside but complex inside? That's what makes children's books so fascinating! There's always something new to discover when you read them again. That's why most these books don't have a strict audience and could be read both by kids and adults. Some of the greatest picture books actually deal with difficult subject matter such as migration or alienation in the books by Shaun Tan. His essay "PICTURE BOOKS: Who Are They For?" is very thought-provoking.

Never ignore your feelings as they are what drives us to create crazy things and we don't even ask ourselves why or to whom we are doing it. We simply enjoy the process, just like kids do when they are creating. However, we are thinking creatures and thinking is inevitable. Too much of something and the balance is lost. I recall an idea about the "synthesis of form and content" in art expressed by the great American designer Paul Rand. Both form and content are important and should be fused indistinguishably. What a great challenge, indeed!

Last week I discovered another inspiring children's book illustrator Kevin Waldron. His characters struck me with their simplicity and sincerity, just like those of André François, Květa Pacovská or Oliver Jeffers. He created an interesting illustration of letter M for "The Small Print" Illustrated Alphabet project. It inspired me to base my BA project on the Lithuanian alphabet (it'll be written in my native language).

I've already tried illustrating an alphabet during my Erasmus exchange studies at Norwich University of the Arts in the UK, 2012. It was an optional independent project during the grading process and the alphabet was meant to be functional. I did it in one week after doing some research. It was my first attempt and the results were not very satisfying, but it was fun to create all the weird characters.

Illustrated alphabet created at NUA

You can see in here that the characters were based on words

The letters were easier to read in words (back then NUA was NUCA)

Tried using some in a calendar as well
My final BA project is all about characters and last week I had this crazy idea of basing all characters on the letters of the Lithuanian alphabet. Thought I would come up with a greater variety of them and actually did a storyboard including all the 32 letters. Some of them were based on the already existing characters, such as Drakula or Frankenstein, while the rest were taken from the Lithuanian folklore. I quite liked this mix of different characters; however, after the yesterday's critique of my project, I realized something important. Since this is my final project at the art academy and there will definitely be viewers who don't know me as a person, it's better to show what I can do best, which is paint animal characters. I was once again reminded of my main goal to just BE MYSELF and do the things I love the most.

Original-size spreads from my alphabet storyboard. For something this small, I draw with a pencil

 Accidentally inverted these three spreads, but I quite liked this effect...

The audience of my book is another issue I have to deal with. So instead of making my book educational and limited to only small kids, I'll try to expand my audience by being more flexible than with the alphabet project during my exchange studies. Stop describing and explaining things and instead let your creativity flow! Children are very clever and want to figure everything out by themselves. It's like a game for them to understand a good picture book and it's also a big game for the artist who creates such books. Probably the best advice I can give anyone is just BE A KID, curious, playful and sincere.

I've also been reading a great book about gesture drawing with the notes of Walt Stanchfield. These notes were aimed at Disney animators, but I find them very inspiring and well explained. It emphasizes the importance of conveying strong feelings through simplicity, which is exactly what I'm trying to achieve. However, I need to draw loads of characters and poses to get any good at it. Back to work or should I say playing instead?

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Final BA Project week 2

This week was a random character week. I was sketching without thinking too much about the end result and rather playing with colours. Once I find a character I'm happy with, I'll focus on drawing it in different poses for further development. The story of my picturebook is moving forward pretty well. It's taking a slightly different turn, but maybe for the better...


My initial idea was to tell a story from the author's point of view, showing the viewers what he sees and how he thinks. I realized this wouldn't be fair from all the characters' point of view, not giving them a single chance to speak up. So they'll do anything they want to show off their diverse personalities! If not to impress the author of this book, then at least try to appeal to the reader... 

Can I speak up already? Thank you.
I'll be the MAIN CHARACTER!!!

Wait, do I have to reveal everything already? The story starts with the author who decides to hold an audition in order to find the main character, which is missing in his book. He is quite picky though. Lots of different characters, but no luck in finding the right one!

Sorry, but you are ALL REJECTED...

Can I make my own book then?  

 A book of... REJECTS? Why not?

When editing these sketches I couldn't resist playing in Photoshop and inverting the originals. Looks a bit more creepy. Too creepy for a children's book? Anyways, I'm pretty sure I'll use such a contrast at the very end of the story. The very unexpected ending... where the author realizes he's the BEST main character after all... Is he too late? You'll have to stay with me to find this out as I'm not gonna reveal everything just yet!

I found a great quote by Květa Pacovská, an extraordinary artist of bold colours and shapes:
"White and black are not included in the colour spectrum but for me they are colours and mean maximum contrast. And maximum contrast is the maximum beauty. I am striving for maximum contrast. Red and green. The placing of colours one over the other. It depends on the relation, proportion, rhythm, size, amount and how we placed colours together. It is like music. Each individual tone is beautiful by itself and in certain groupings we create new dimensions, harmony, disharmony, symphonies, operas and books for children." [The Art of Květa Pacovská]

CONTRAST! This is one of the main things I'll be working with in this picture book. I'm pretty sure about using plain white background again for this book so the characters stand out as the main focus. The text will probably be black for the best contrast. Very simple, very clear. Keep it SIMPLE! That's something I'll have to keep reminding myself of during this semester as it's really easy to start complicating things without any particular reason. Lots of work waiting ahead, lots of characters to be discovered, lots of fun too!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Lithuanian Winter

Before it's actually over, I'd like to share some photos of the beautiful winter in my country Lithuania. It's actually the most stunning when sun is shining. My favourite thing to do on such days is walking in a park nearby. So magical and so peaceful, even with kids playing around in snow. I can't help but smile when I see those enthusiastic little creatures or a weird snowman left behind them. Those are the best things about Lithuanian winter, in my opinion. Of course, you have to visit here and see for yourselves :)
A big forest near my hometown Siauliai I love to visit.
Look at those endlessly tall snowy pines

Vilnius in the evening

I realized kids are the best artists out there, or at least the most sincere.
Just look at those majestic masterpieces of snow we found in a park in Vilnius!

My sister insisted we build a small one too...
Walking along a frozen river in the same park
This was just a glimpse of what Lituanian winter actually looks like. Too bad we don't have that many sunny days. That's probably why I prefer summer or spring, but Lithuania can be beautiful in any season, autumn, winter, spring or summer. The nature is just fantastic and that's probably the main reason why I love my small country so much. Nature is a huge treasure and a constant source of inspiration for me. 

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Final BA Project week 1

Time for self-reflection. It's essential to learn more about yourself to grow as an artist! I'll keep track of my progress weekly as that was the main reason for creating this blog. You are welcome to follow me along and learn more about me.

First, I set myself some goals for this last semester at the art academy and beyond it. My main goal is to strive for simplicity and sincerity. It is probably the hardest thing to master, but that's why I love ink paintings, gesture drawings and picturebooks so much.

For me, children's book illustration happens to be the best platform to achieve these goals. Good storytelling is important in creating picture books, and it can be really hard to make a story simple but effective. I usually come up with a story first and then work on character designs. But great characters are necessary, aren't they?

I'll be answering this question in my final BA project, which will be all about characters. I'm posting initial sketches here. Be prapared for really bright colours, can't resist them. Can I get away without using black this time? I'm constantly seeking for balance in my art and won't settle down untill I finally find what best suits my personality and ideas. I'll try hard for this project to reflect the knowledge I gathered while studying and graduate with a sense of achievement and self-confidence in my art.

Why am I not collaborating with my twin sister again? Well, no matter how fun and challenging it was, now is the time to get serious and focus on myself as a unique personality. If we really feel like it, nothing will stop us from collaborating in the future. So what will this new book be about?

All stories have main characters, don't they? Not anymore since one author suddenly realizes the main character for his book is... missing! Do you mean it just disappeared? Or was there no main character from the beginning? I don't know yet, but that poor author has to go on a long journey to find a "perfect" character for his book. Believe me, it's not gonna be easy for him. There are so many different characters to choose from, but each of them is inappropriate for one reason or another...

So how will this journey end? Don't ask me yet, you'll eventually find that out if you follow my blog. This uncertainty actually motivates me to work until I find out the truth. For now, I know that the story is based on contrasts and I'll try to emphasize this in my character and text development. Drawing weird characters from my imagination, how more exciting can it get?

Many artists have been looking for the best way to express themselves and often reffered back to the art of children, whether consciously or subconsciously. The great art of Paul Rand, André François, Quentin Blake, Kvĕta Pacovská, Sara Fanelli and Beatrice Alemagna all have this playful and child-like quality about it. How did they manage to achieve this?

I think it all comes down to capturing the inner spirit and essence of your subject in a way that only you feel, whether it is a human, a tree or a stone. Everything has a unique character and is appreciated for that. The great master Leonardo da Vinci was right when saying: "A gesture is a movement not of a body but of a soul." This concept of gesture applies to anything in nature. There's a nice idea attributed to the Tang Dynasty in China: "Grasp an emotion or atmosphere so as to catch the 'rhythm' of nature."

These ideas are wonderfully expressed in two beautiful animated short films I'd like to share with you. The Buffalo Boy's Flute was created in 1963 in China while Adam and Dog is from the US and was published only recently. Although different in technique (traditional vs digital), both of them explore similar themes of the relationship between man and nature or man and animal, and both have this outstanding simplicity, sincerity, and subtlety in them. You can see that it's not the technique which makes a piece of art standout, but the sincerity and passion with which it was created. That's what makes it come to life and live in the hearts of the viewers. Don't you agree?

Final words for myself and for anyone reading this: BE YOURSELF! There are no excuses why we shouldn't be. That's something I learned during my art studies and it's the most challenging thing to do. No one can crtiticize your work if they don't know you well enough. So let other people learn more about you and be willing to share what only you have to offer. Even if there are many great artists out there to look up to, the one to focus on the most should be you. Love yourself for who you are but be willing to change and improve. In the end, no one is perfect but that's why we have each other to learn from. Thanks for reading this long post. Have a nice day!

Monday, 4 February 2013


Today I'm posting some photos of the finished collaborative picture book I did with my twin Margarita. We only saw how our stories looked together when the book was binded. It was supposed to be like an experiment, quite an interesting one. We didn't really know what to expect from our collaboration. As a matter of fact, we were both quite surprised that we managed to finish everything on time since there were some issues with bookbinding. Everything turned out to be fine in the end.

It's also nice to see the contrast we were striving for from the beginning of this project. You can see from these photos that "A Book about" has a lot of white space and text while "Mirror" is very dark and silent, rather cinematic. In my opinion, they work together pretty well. What do you think?

So this will be it regarding this project. I'll come back at the end of this week with something new to show. See you later!