I don't even know where to begin. To call my artistic journey "bumpy" is an understatement. I've been a full-time graphic artist in the apparel industry for most of my professional life. There were rare moments where I was pushed to go outside my comfort zone. Most of the time I was expected to pump out artwork like a machine. Maybe I'm being overly dramatic here, but if I kept creating artwork that doesn't challenge me, or have a bigger purpose, I would die a little every day. I don't want to get too personal here, but I resorted to drinking heavily, abusing drugs, and sabotaging my jobs. I would jump from one job to another hoping that things would get better. NOPE, at the end of the day, it was the same old crap just packaged differently.
I had zero prospects, didn't have a plan B, I was just left out to dry. I decided to make the most of my free time while I started looking for another job. That is when I started drawing ornate animals. For the first time in about 10 years, I decided to draw for myself. To draw for the love of drawing. To draw anything I wanted with zero compromise. I didn't have to answer to any freelance clients, I didn't have to answer to any art directors, it was 100% me and it was marvelous. The "Ornate Elephant" was one of the earlier ornate animals drawings I drew. I uploaded onto various websites and that's where it started getting traction because people apparently loved it. There are easily over 100 tattoos of that elephant if you do a google search, it was crazy. I had no job and no money, but I did have a lot of time. I just kept drawing for myself. From the elephant, to a leopard, to an owl, then a tiger, etc. etc. I never felt so alive, to be at peace with myself. To finally got in touch with why I fell in love with art in the first place. It still gives me goosebumps when I reflect on this. Stuck in my tiny apartment, cranking out artwork that I personally love... I would like to call this my moment of Artistic Nirvana.
What motivated me? Well, I can't take full credit for this ornate style. I was heavily influenced by Iain Macarthur (you must look him up). I like to refer to him as the "Godfather of Ornate Artwork". He's the one took this style to the next level. If you look at my earlier work, you can definitely see Macarthur's influence. However, as I spent more and more time in this style, I was able to develop my own look. To the untrained eye, our work would often get confused with each other. But if you are familiar with our work, it's pretty easy to distinguish the difference.
How do I create my artwork? It usually start with a spark of inspiration. I use Pinterest on a daily basis to see various artwork, photos of animals, vintage designs, type treatment... inspiration is everywhere. When I decide on an animal, I would start by collecting images for reference. I use to sketch on paper, but I usually create my sketches digitally. It speeds up my process. I would sketch out the general shape of the animal, then created a wire frame. Kind of like what you see for 3D modeling. The reason I do this is because it's important to me to capture the 3 dimensional form of the animal. When that's done, the fun part begins and I start adding random patterns. Some call it tribal, others call it paisley. The best part is that there are no rules and I can use whatever patterns I feel like. Sure they may be influenced by existing types of patterns, but it's not a concern of mine. When I'm happy with the sketch, I would print it out and do a graphite transfer onto bristol paper or illustration boards. Then I would ink the lines, and start shading with a ballpoint pen, black india ink washes, and a black colored pencil. A typical ornate animal illustration usually takes about 18-24 hours. However, I've worked on some that took over 100 hours. Nothing is better than being in the "flow state", to get lost in what I'm doing. Most of my work is in black & white. Lately, I've been adding color digitally. I hope you guys like what you see, and if you have any questions, just shoot over an email. It's my personal mission in life to help my fellow artists.
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