Louise McLennan is a young talent vector artist just starting her illustration career. Louise’s colorful and fun illustrations are inspired by Pixar, Star Trek and ‘point n’ click’ adventure games (ie Monkey Island, The Dig, Machinarium). Louise has been kind enough to provide Vectips with an interview, so read on to learn about her Illustrator experience and thoughts about just getting into the industry.
Louise McLennan Around the Web
Hey Louise, thanks for taking the time to provide Vectips with an Interview! To start, could you tell us about your illustrating background?
As probably every illustrator will tell you I’ve been drawing since childhood. My friends at school were all a bit arty and we pushed each other to be better – although I think we let anime influence us a bit too much! When it came time to choose a university course I somehow ended up doing computer science and maths for two years, but spent most of my time drawing. Right now I’ve changed to an IT course which will let me do multimedia development next year and that should be more relevant to my illustrating bent.
According to your website, you are represented by YCN. Is this your first experience with doing illustration professionally? How did you go about creating this relationship?
The YCN representation only happened a few weeks ago and I am very excited about it. A lot of my favorite illustrators are also represented by them (Aaron Miller, Jack Teagle and Andrew Groves to name a few.) For the past year I have been absent-mindedly e-mailing agencies, so I sent the link to my portfolio. When they accepted I took it as a sign that I’ve improved considerably in the past year.
As for a first experience of professional illustration, even though it wasn’t paid I would say it would be the cover of the Amelia’s Anthology of Illustration which I did in late 2009 before completely transitioning to vector work – the cover is a combination of traditional art and Photoshop. It was very weird being art directed for the first time on such a big project!
How have your studies in Information System Technologies affected your illustrations?
At this point I’d say that studying Information Systems Technology has only hindered me because I’d love to be drawing all the time, but I have learned quite a bit about marketing and business which I hope will be useful down the line. IST is just a stepping stone to Multimedia Development next year which should be more useful, and I’m looking forward to the 3D classes.
What is your favorite and least favorite thing about your studies? At this point, do you feel it has prepared you for your career?
My least favorite thing would be going to lectures, and favorite would be doodling during lectures. As for career preparation … I guess it just adds something else to my CV.
Could you describe your typical workflow for an illustration?
First is obviously an idea, normally a vague gut reaction to a brief or something which I have been thinking about for a few days. Color is very important to me, so sometimes before opening Illustrator I’ll browse COLOURlovers to try and find a palette which matches the mood of what I’m going to be working on. Next I’ll make a very quick rough sketch in Illustrator and start building up elements from the background up to the foreground.
In all of my illustrations, even my black and white ones, color is the part which takes the longest to get right, and I’ll spend sometimes a day or even days tweaking color until I’m happy with it. Because I’m always anxious to start another picture I never spend more than a week on a personal illustration, which can make it frustrating if I’m illustrating for someone else and they keep wanting changes made – but I guess that’s something I’ll have to get used to.
You are still relatively young in your career, how did you develop your style so early on?
My style was developed simply by doing an awful lot of drawing, and recently a large number of vectors. I ditched my sketchbook last year and at the moment only draw in illustrator – from start to finish. I vector every day, and although this is quite time consuming I think it’s worth it.
Of course other vector artists have invariably influenced my style, most particularly Zutto and Chris Leavens. Zutto’s technical ability and color sense is of a level which I constantly strive for, and Leavens achieves an artistic quality in his work rare in vector illustration.
If you were magically be turned into any Illustrator tool, what tool would it be and why?
Hmm…I think the 3D extrude and bevel tool. In three dimensional reality this could prove to create four dimensional objects. Who wouldn’t want to make tesseracts?
What is your favorite Illustrator tip, trick, or technique?
At the moment my favorite thing is to take a base gradient, then layer above loads of other transparent gradients and pattern layers. It makes a very dense texture and avoids the gradient mesh which my computer can’t handle.
Another very basic thing to do is just add shadows to objects. It makes such a difference.
What aspects of your illustrations reflect parts of your personality?
My love of sci-fi, Pixar films and cartoons is a strong influence on all of my illustrations, even if it may not seem like it at first glance. I have a bit of an obsession with color and that definitely comes through in my illustrations. It might be a bit sad but looking at great lighting makes me far too excited.
Thanks again for the interview! Is there advice any that you could give for aspiring illustrators and students?
I suppose to realize the importance of contacts, possibly even over technical skill. Never be afraid to e-mail someone for advice or to show your work. Competitions are fun and a good way to experience illustrating to a brief, and can make your portfolio diverse – but never pay an entry fee.
While I might not have much knowledge of the financial side of illustrating, I see a lot of young illustrators being taken advantage of, and then being crushed when they either don’t get paid or get no recognition – so be careful!