Ana Jaks breaks down how she en­livened a shop­ping cen­tre

Bris­tol-based il­lus­tra­tor Ana Jaks re­veals how a per­sonal chal­lenge re­sulted in her il­lus­trat­ing and en­liven­ing a lo­cal shop­ping cen­tre

Computer Arts - - CONTENTS - Ana Jaks


Up un­til 2014, ev­ery­thing I cre­ated was hand­drawn or hand-painted. Then came the Wa­com tablet. Where I’d pre­vi­ously spent hours prac­tis­ing my tech­niques on pa­per, sheets of wood or spoons, I now be­come fix­ated with learn­ing how to cre­ate ev­ery­thing dig­i­tally. My ca­reer has def­i­nitely ben­e­fit­ted from the count­less hours spent try­ing to nav­i­gate dif­fer­ent soft­ware, and days have been saved once I dis­cov­ered I could change the colour pal­ette of an en­tire project for a client without hav­ing to start over! But last year I de­cided that I wanted to chal­lenge my­self.


When I moved to Bris­tol last Septem­ber, af­ter com­plet­ing an artist res­i­dency in a pri­mary school, Face­book com­mis­sioned me to cre­ate the vis­ual iden­tity for its House of Us event. It was to­tally dig­i­tal (bar a see­saw that they wanted me to paint by hand) and was a chance to put my dig­i­tal skills into prac­tise.

I worked along­side a paint tech­ni­cian, who got me all the right paints, taught me how to care for brushes and sup­plied ev­ery­thing I needed. Nat­u­rally, af­ter man­ag­ing to com­plete two projects in­volv­ing paint that the clients didn’t hate — and with a ba­sic knowl­edge of ma­te­ri­als — I de­cided it was now part of my pro­fes­sion and some­thing I could (naively) of­fer.

Now des­per­ate to make the leap into mu­ral paint­ing — or any­thing out­side the con­straints of my lap­top screen — I started con­tact­ing busi­nesses in Bris­tol and tweet­ing that I was avail­able for work. Al­most in­stantly, The Gal­leries shop­ping cen­tre asked me to come in for a meet­ing, and within a month I was asked to trans­form the up­per level of the cen­tre.

I felt as though I’d man­aged to blag my­self into a sit­u­a­tion I wasn’t ca­pa­ble of do­ing, but I wanted to ex­pand on my cur­rent skill set and The Gal­leries gave me the plat­form to do so, which both ter­ri­fied and ex­cited me.


The Gal­leries made it clear that it was es­sen­tial for this project to feel rep­re­sen­ta­tive of all peo­ple that used the space; di­ver­sity and inclusivity were im­por­tant, and we wanted all peo­ple, re­gard­less of age, race or gen­der, to look at th­ese il­lus­tra­tions and feel rep­re­sented.

I was asked to cre­ate four dig­i­tal il­lus­tra­tions that would be used as win­dow vinyls and two mu­rals that fol­lowed the same theme, all hav­ing to be bold and colour­ful to liven up the space.

As this was con­sid­ered a com­mu­nity-based project, the brief asked for the vi­su­als to mostly be made up of peo­ple eat­ing, drink­ing, shop­ping and spend­ing time in the city. A lot of my pre­vi­ous work is char­ac­ter-based, but this brief in par­tic­u­lar re­ally helped me build on my style and has made me far more com­fort­able with draw­ing peo­ple.


As the brief asked to in­clude parts of Bris­tol that were loved by the com­mu­nity, I re­quested that we con­tacted schools in the city and asked stu­dents to draw what they loved best about liv­ing in, or vis­it­ing, Bris­tol. De­spite The Gal­leries be­ing very open to hav­ing my in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the city within the fi­nal art­works, I wanted to in­volve the com­mu­nity as much as pos­si­ble so that our au­di­ence felt as though they could re­late to the con­tent.

This meant that I could in­clude parts of the city they en­joyed most or con­sid­ered most im­por­tant in Bris­tol, such as the SS Great Bri­tain or fish from the aquarium. Later in the project I also got to meet a group of the chil­dren who sent in draw­ings and had them paint part of the mu­ral with me, which was lovely!


Af­ter many meet­ings and a large amount of draw­ings sent in from stu­dents, I had plenty of re­sources to use as in­spi­ra­tion for sketches. The roughs for the dig­i­tal il­lus­tra­tions were done as usual: a cou­ple of op­tions for each scene

in sim­ple line draw­ings so that the client had a va­ri­ety of op­tions to con­sider.

How­ever, this was the first time I would be hand­ing in roughs for mu­rals. Un­sure on the best way of do­ing this, I cre­ated a va­ri­ety of sketches along­side coloured sam­ples so that it was eas­ier for The Gal­leries to vi­su­alise how it would look on the wall.

Con­sid­er­ing cost, I tried lim­it­ing the pal­ettes, and for ease of paint­ing, I at­tempted to cre­ate de­signs made up of sim­pler, smoother shapes that I as­sumed would be eas­ier to paint. In to­tal, I was given a 10-day dead­line to paint both mu­rals, and so it was im­por­tant to con­sider what could be done to an ex­cel­lent stan­dard in the short time frame.

I tried in­cor­po­rat­ing as many parts of the city as I could from the stu­dents’ draw­ings, but was also keen to keep my style — fea­tur­ing ab­stract pat­terns and un­usual shapes so that the mu­rals felt more vis­ually en­gag­ing and not overly lit­eral — to catch the essence of the city rather than just snap­shot­ting well-known scenes. Bris­tol is

“It’s im­por­tant for every­one to speak to as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble through their il­lus­tra­tions”

fun, lively and cre­ative — I wanted the art­work to re­ally re­flect this.


Once the de­sign for each mu­ral had been signed off, I made sure I had a roller, tray and a va­ri­ety of thick and thin brushes for each colour in my cho­sen pal­ette. The paint I use is Du­lux Vinyl Matt in shades of blue, pink, black, yel­low and red that I’d picked from the Du­lux On­line Trade Ex­pert, where I al­ways try and match my dig­i­tal pal­ette to mixes that are avail­able to buy.

All to­gether I had around 10 pots of paint, as I also de­cided on buy­ing a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent shades to use as skin colours for the larger mu­ral. Di­ver­sity and rep­re­sen­ta­tion is im­por­tant, and as an il­lus­tra­tor I think it’s also im­por­tant for every­one to speak to as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble through their il­lus­tra­tions.

I also made sure I had good mask­ing tape to use for straight lines, plus cling film to wrap around the brushes when they weren’t in use, so that the paint didn’t dry up and ruin them.


I started on the smaller, six-me­tre wall first, which was def­i­nitely a learn­ing curve for me. Fool­ishly, I started with darker colours rather than lighter, work­ing from left to right in­stead of map­ping out the en­tire de­sign by scal­ing it to size and then ap­ply­ing it.

Paint­ing by lay­ers, and lighter to darker is how I usu­ally pre­fer to work. Ap­ply­ing the darker colours last means that ap­pli­ca­tion is smoother and gives you the op­por­tu­nity to neaten up the lighter lay­ers with darker lines over the top.

On com­ple­tion of the first mu­ral, I de­cided that with the sec­ond one I needed to be a lot more pa­tient! To do this, I up­scaled ev­ery­thing and used the heads of the peo­ple as mark­ers. This al­lowed me to con­stantly be aware of how ev­ery­thing be­hind them should be placed in re­la­tion to their unique po­si­tions.

My paint­ing as­sis­tant made sure that all ar­eas were dou­ble coated for a smoother fin­ish, us­ing a black Posca pen in some ar­eas to en­sure straighter, sharper fin­ishes.


Ad­mit­tedly, up un­til the mo­ment I was faced with a six-me­tre blank wall, I was con­vinced that the tran­si­tion from on-screen to off-screen would be easy. Mu­ral paint­ing is easy, right? Wrong! Oh, how I was wrong!

Within the first 10 min­utes of paint­ing I re­alised not ev­ery­body has a steady hand, and af­ter a day of paint­ing my en­tire body was stiff. I learned that it isn’t nat­u­ral to be hunched over for eight hours a day.

The last thing I hadn’t pre­pared my­self for — or even con­sid­ered — was that I would be paint­ing live, in a busy shop­ping en­vi­ron­ment full of peo­ple who are open and wel­come to com­ment on what you’re do­ing.

This was prob­a­bly the most ter­ri­fy­ing part of mu­ral paint­ing — but also one of the most re­ward­ing. It didn’t take long be­fore I got used to talk­ing to com­plete strangers, giv­ing out my de­tails for them to see more of my work, and get­ting to know the very com­mu­nity this en­tire project had been cre­ated for.

0101 Jaks paint­ing the sec­ond, 10-me­tre mu­ral. “I tended to care­fully mark out the out­lines first with a brush and fill on the gaps with rollers.”02 Th­ese are ex­am­ples of the types of ma­te­ri­als Jaks used for the project.03 “An ex­am­ple of me dis­cov­er­ing that it’s eas­ier to put a darker colour over an lighter area cir­cles are my favourite.”



04 A fi­nalised, dig­i­tal ver­sion of what Jaks in­tended to paint gave the client con­fi­dence in what she was do­ing. 04

0505 “I think I found the sus­pen­sion bridge in the back­ground of the mu­ral the most dif­fi­cult part to paint.”

0606 The il­lus­trated mu­ral in­cludes peo­ple eat­ing and drink­ing within the shop­ping cen­tre. Jaks wanted the project to feel as in­clu­sive and di­verse as pos­si­ble.

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