This project is a personal project. My motivation behind it was very straightforward: to draw something for Valentine’s day to spread happiness. These images are not mainly for people in love but for anyone who sees them. I took it as a chance to try a new approach. At this point of my illustration practice, I try to emphasise more on clear and interesting shapes and colours. I was more focused on descriptive details.
To match the theme of celebrating Valentine’s day, I wanted to draw something new instead of heart shapes or lips, and I came up with the unusual idea of a pair of fish gazing at splendid fireworks. The expression of the firework was inspired by Calder’s art. Calder’s mobiles are always on my list of favourite artworks. I’ve always been trying to put something inspired by those beautiful and poetic shapes into my art. I chose fish because in Buddhism fish symbolise happiness and freedom. When a pair of fish swim together, they also symbolise a lovely partnership. However, the first sketch was nothing like the final rendering. At first, the two fish faced each other. It’s a very common impression if you think of a couple in love. Later, I changed it and made them face in the same direction. The message behind this was from the quote by French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” I’ve always loved this quote. After the thinking and sketching process, the final draft was fixed.
These two illustrations were done entirely digitally in Photoshop. I have sketches and drafts in my sketchbook. Sometimes in other projects, I draw the outlines on paper and then scan it to colour it in Photoshop. I always keep a hand-drawn feeling in my works. When applying colours in Photoshop, I retain the effect of brushes and strokes. I also scan some paintings and drawings as digital textures. At the beginning of 2019, I started to make my own digital background paper. When I was little, I loved a kind of paper that has lots of tiny colourful dots on it. When I started to look for this kind of paper, I found It’s difficult to come across it now, so I made my own digitally. I have applied it to lots of my illustrations this year. I also wanted to animate a little bit for this little project. To do so, I made the second image with a contrasting red background colour.
Although it’s kind of a personal little project for fun, the feedback was all very positive. Besides the theme, which most people can relate to, the main reason might be the bright and lovely colours. For me, this project is not only a practice of my new approach, but also an exercise of adding my thinking into the message. I think it really makes a difference if you know what you want to achieve, or challenge yourself in a project, because sometimes I feel it’s very easy to lose it and simply add things to decorate the image. Especially, being a former surfacing artist, I was trained to apply a specific art style as quickly as I can in each project. To carefully avoid this, I’ve written or analysed what I love or look for in illustrations in a notebook. It’s like a compass to help me to be true to my art.
This year is a year for changes to me. I am determined to think more through drawing. Honestly, I have done more thinking than drawing as an illustrator. I would think all day and plan a lot in my brain and choose one idea to carry out a project. Last December, I studied Paul Klee’s notes from when he was teaching at Bauhaus. His philosophical thinking in art inspired me not only in creating lines and shapes, but also in layering colours. Reflecting on his famous quotes, “A drawing is simply a line going for a walk. A line is a dot that went for a walk.” and, “The painter should not paint what he sees, but what will be seen.”, I realised I need to practice more in sketchbooks this year to experience what and how I see things.