"Hang out at a coffee shop or the mall or something and just draw the people walking around. This not only gives you some great drawing practice but it helps you build up a mental reference bank of different looks that people have that you can then reference back to for other projects."
Phillip Light knows how to insert life into his creations. He’s built an RB portfolio of striking quirky figures and grand imaginative scenes. He took some time out to talk to me about developing characters, how fashion has influenced his work, and shared his tips on creating portraits from observation.
Beth Caird: Has fashion has influenced your work very much? I’m speciallythinking of your work “Hyena Girl.”
Phillip Light: Most definitely! I’m very interested in fashion not only because of how beautiful and artistic it is, but because it really defines who a character is and what your first impression of them will be. I’m always referencing fashion, old and new, as well as traditional fashion from other countries and cultures. I believe it really helps ground a character in that world you are presenting if you have a good understanding of clothing and how to properly present a character with costuming.
BC: Your characters are so strong and vibrant, what advice would you give to other creative people out there if they want to improve character development?
PL: When I design a character I try to really understand who they are and how they would act or react in a given situation. This also affects their look and costuming. What story am I trying to tell with how I’m dressing them? How best will this article of clothing or hair style inform the viewer about who this character is? These are questions I try to ask myself during the development process. I would encourage others wishing to improve on character design to ask these same questions as well as just go outside and draw the people around you. Hang out at a coffee shop or the mall or something and just draw the people walking around. This not only gives you some great drawing practice but it helps you build up a mental reference bank of different looks that people have that you can then reference back to for other projects.
BC: I love your work “Monster Vacation,” where did an idea for something like that spring from?
PL: My inspiration comes from all over the place! Books, photography, fashion, music, movies, etc. Something as small as the shape of a shadow on the ground can inspire a new piece for me.
“Monster Vacation” was my entry piece for a monthly art challenge that LAIKA/House puts on through their Facebook page. The prompt was to draw a monster on vacation. I was really into 1960s retro illustrations when that challenge came up so I wanted to make this illustration embody that with the overall design and costuming of the monsters. I also wanted to juxtapose that ideal human vacation with what a monster would love as a vacation spot, so a lava ocean came to mind with volcanoes erupting in the background!
BC: You’ve been exiled to Alcatraz for life and can only take three art supplies with you, and one character from one of your artworks to keep you company. What and who do you take?
PL: Oh gosh! …..I’d probably take a heavy duty sketchbook, a pen, and a watercolor set? I’ve been meaning to work more traditionally. I’d probably take one of my sea lion maids from my “Selkies” illustration that I did recently, because they seem like they’d be a lot of fun to hang around with and would help pass the time of my life sentence.
Thanks to Phillip for taking the time to chat. You can head on over to his entire portfolio here to support his work. See more of his work below.