I decided to take a pause from my personal projects to study the work of an artist I admire and see what I could learn. I started with Swedish sci fi artist Kilian Eng who creates stunning, futuristic worlds. Dark robots, intimidating structures, tapestries of wires fusing together with more organic shapes and nature. His use of detail and composition is incredible. Looking at his blog, it is hard to believe how much work he has made and even harder for me to imagine how long it takes him to make it!
I wondered how he went about creating his complex illustrations and decided to take a magnifying glass to a particular piece and see if I could unpick it and create a copy. I am wary of even writing this because as an artist I know that copying is a very touchy subject. But I don’t mean to copy in the sense of ripping off and stealing, rather to study the work of a master, as many artists in history have done, with a hope to picking up new techniques and skills that might enrich my own work! I won’t share the completed copy I created here (though you can see a section of my attempted line work above and Eng’s original illustration below), as I feel that would give the wrong impression, but I want to share what I learned along the way.
Whilst it is not too difficult for me to mimic shapes and create the same line work as another artist, I could not easily create a similar work from scratch at this time. There is a huge amount of skill and thought that goes into creating an original composition. Which shapes are pleasing to the eye? How do you draw people in? Give a world depth and make it feel real?
You can’t rush the sort of detail that Kilian draws into his pieces. My patience needs improving! Drawing such tiny, beautiful creatures and worlds takes time and patience. When I found myself rushing to finish a piece of the picture I was studying, it was like breaking a spell. When you lose that interest and desire to render everything as perfectly and beautifully as you can, the image suffers for it!
He is a master of colour, something that I still struggle with and am learning about. Once I completed a copy of his line work, the next step was colouring in. It was time consuming, therapeutic in many ways and to some degree easy, using the colour picker tool in Photoshop to directly copy his colours. HOWEVER knowing which colours will work in harmony is another skill and his use of light and dark is very effective. Copying is one thing, again, creating from scratch quite another!
I had a few photoshop issues that it took me a while to figure out. The main problem I came across was matching the colours in his pallet, I couldn’t work out why for a long time, my colours weren’t picking correctly, until I realised a curves layer I had forgotten about was darkening everything and the multiply layer style I’d added to the line work was having an effect too.
Having successfully completed a study of one of his works, I now want to try and create my own fantasy scape using his style. Part of me wonders if that is fair, and whether I should share the outcome, because I would never want to rip off the work of another artist. As it is my scribbly sketches are very different from Eng’s finished, polished work. So I don’t think there is any danger of my work sitting too near his style on the spectrum. I have found this study really useful and it has taught me new respect for composition, colour and patience. Also that I am not the same sort of artist… and that is ok too! My style is quicker to create for me and that suits me. But I will think about spending longer on future pieces and be stricter with myself about cheating and taking the quick route!