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

THE CHAL­LENGE

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.

GET­TING THE PROJECT

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 BRIEF

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.

COM­MU­NITY OUT­REACH

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!

ROUGHS & VI­SU­ALS

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.

MA­TE­RI­ALS & PREPA­RA­TION

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.

PAINT­ING

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.

THE FEAR

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.”

03

02

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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