Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Artist Profile: Rachel E. Morris

Rachel E. Morris known as subeo to those more familiar with her deviantART gallery, is a recent graduate from the Pratt Institue with an awesome illustrative style. Especially her storybook pieces, that look like they come straight out of a classic children’s book. Originally from Silver Spring, Maryland, she currently lives in New York City with her boyfriend of 4 years and 2 cats. In the mean time, the 22 year old artist is working on a flash video game while working on other side projects that come her way.

How long have you been drawing?

Pretty much ever since I can remember, my parents still have some pretty hilarious drawings I made when I was a little kid. I never really took any classes, aside from required high school art classes and a summer camp or two until I got to college, but I was always, always drawing.

What made you interested in becoming an artist?

Honestly, I picked it as a career path because I didn't really know what else to do. I was such a slacker in high school that the only colleges I felt I could get into were art colleges, as drawing always came pretty naturally to me, so I guess I just figured I might as well. Of course, once I got there it became more of a passion, but even now I worry about it losing its appeal for me someday now that I have to do it for a living and not just for fun.

Who are your main influences?

I'm influenced by a huge amount of things, but if I had to pick a few I'd say Egon Schiele, Winsor McCay, Hokusai, Hiroshige (lots of ukiyo-e artists), illuminated manuscripts, Albrecht Durer, Willy Pogany… it goes on. Mostly master artists, I'm not as good at keeping up with what's going on now as I probably should be.

How would you describe your style?

I'm not very good at this kind of thing, but I'd probably say it's a blend of western and eastern aesthetics, emphasizing line and color and the human figure. I've had more than one person tell me my work is complex and simple at the same time, a contradiction I think applies to lots of things in my life.

How do you get ideas for your artwork? Do you ever start with a message that you're trying to get across to the audience?

As an illustrator most of my work is assigned to me, so a lot of the time the basic idea is already there. Usually, I am not trying to get a message across so much as tell a story, even when I draw for myself, though I guess you could argue they're the same thing. When I'm coming up with my own ideas, I get a lot of influence from the lives of myself and people around me, as well as the culture around me (books, movies, etc.).

Can you describe your technical approach to creating a picture?

I think it's pretty standard - I start with thumbnails, move up to sketches of details (I usually end up using myself or my boyfriend as a reference)...sometimes I'll scan these in and create a composite sketch in Photoshop, which I enlarge and print out. I'll use this as a guide for the finish - I pretty much always do linework with traditional media and colors with digital.

What's your work environment like? Are you the kind of person that has papers everywhere? Or do you need to have a clear open space?

I love having everything organized, but it never stays organized for long. I think I work better when I have a clear open space but I also think art supplies are probably the hardest thing on earth to keep neat and tidy.

What traditional media do you most often use?

Drawing, as opposed to painting, has always been my forte. Depending on the look I'm going for, I'll draw with a pencil, dip-pen, brush, technical pen, or ball-point pen. I'm trying to get more into watercolors lately though. I don't like to limit myself and I'd like to branch out a bit more and use some of the other supplies cluttering up my studio - it's just that you can't beat pen and paper for ease of use and simplicity, and it allows me to work extremely fast.

What programs do you primarily use for your artwork?

It's pretty much all Photoshop with me. I color most of my stuff digitally and Photoshop is the only way to go. It's not the industry standard for nothing! I just wish it weren't so expensive.

You recently worked on project that involved an interactive mural for the Adobe CS3 launch. Could you tell us more about that experience?

I didn't do anything creative with that job, it was my first real job after all, and it was fun. It's not really what I "do", if you know what I mean - I'm trained to draw and color, but this was a lot of computer work. I mean, I know how to do that sort of thing, but I was out of my element. Still, I like being able to do so many different kinds of things, I think it keeps me from getting bored and it certainly opens up a lot more job opportunities for me. The Adobe job was fun to watch evolve, but like I said, all I did was convert .png sequences into .fla files...necessary, but not really worth talking about.

Can you tell us about any other projects you're working on and anything that we can look forward to hearing about?

Right now I'm working on backgrounds for a flash game at Pop & Company, which is a lot of fun. I may be working with Nickelodeon as a freelance illustrator, just for marketing or DVD covers and stuff for Avatar, if they like the sketches I have to turn into them sometime this month. That's kind of completely ape someone else's style. Not really my thing, but I'm still at the point where I need all the work I can get to survive.

What are thoughts on the future of the art and animation industry?

I don't really follow fine art as much as I probably should - or graphic arts, for that matter. I'm excited that art seems to be borrowing so much from a comic-book aesthetic these days, not least because it suits my style, but I feel like a great deal of the anime-influenced stuff is just painfully derivative. I also think that there's a little bit too much digital going on - it can be fantastic when used properly, and definitely makes things like animation much more accessible for your average broke artist, but it's still overused.

What are your future aspirations? Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?

My dream job would probably be as a concept artist for a video game company. I am obsessed with video games and I love sketching more than creating finished pieces. I also love telling stories and am a big fan of escapism. I'd like to be able to work freelance in 5 years - right now I'm a little too intimidated by not having a steady paycheck to do that, but it's always the dream.

Do you have any other interests besides drawing?

Oh, lots. Books, video games, photography, languages, travel, nature, politics, music, technology, pretty much everything interests me in one way or another.

Any advice for other aspiring artists?

Don't draw from photographs unless you can help it, draw from life; don't worry about your "style", just draw as best as you can and it can't not develop; try and push yourself outside your comfort zone as often as you can; and always learn the traditional tools before you learn the digital ones - if you can't draw it with a pen, don't bother trying to draw it with a wacom.

Any other comments or things you'd like to address?

Nothing except maybe thanks for interviewing me!

To see more works by Rachel you can visit these links:
- Main portfolio page - deviantART site

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