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Imaginative Illustrating with Wylie Beckert

Sketch Workshop and Sketching from the Imagination contributor and illustrator extraordinaire, Wylie Beckert, shares her words of wisdom and more of her portfolio...

Sketch Workshop and Sketching from the Imagination contributor and illustrator extraordinaire, Wylie Beckert, shares her words of wisdom and more of her portfolio...

Wylie Beckert is a highly creative and talented illustrator, who lent her skills to a chapter in Sketch Workshops: Characters in a tutorial teaching how to draw fantasy characters. She also shared her amazing sketchwork with us in the bestselling Sketching from the Imagination: Fantasy. So what makes her tick? Let's find out...

3dtotal: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you first became interested in illustration?
Wylie Beckert: I'm a freelance illustrator, relatively new to the game (going on about 3 years now). I always knew I wanted to do something involving art, but wasn't really aware of illustration as a career path until well after college, when I began stumbling across resources like Muddy Colors and The ArtOrder.

3dt: We are big fans of your style! What do you think has influenced you to develop this?
WB: I think the distinguishing characteristic of my work is whimsy (strange characters, intricate settings, and a certain amount of cartooniness) tempered with a darker mood and muted color palettes. I think a lot of this is just 'me' showing through in my work.

I've been heavily influenced by artists like Arthur Rackham, JC Leyendecker, and Alfonse Mucha and while I think there are elements of these artists' styles apparent in my own work, I saw a huge improvement in my art when I stopped pursuing any particular 'style' and started focusing on the underlying principles anatomy, perspective, values, and so on that make up a strong image. Letting go of the pursuit of style freed me up to interpret reality in my own way and experiment with a range of tools and techniques; doing so helped me develop a more cohesive visual language that I'm not afraid to build upon and adapt as my skill sets and interests change.

3dt: What is your current workspace like?
WB: My current workspace is pretty improvised, as I'm working from my (small) home while awaiting an eventual move to a more permanent studio space. Most of my pencil work takes place with a drawing board on the couch. I work flat on the kitchen table for inks and acrylics; I have a French easel for my larger work in oils, and a dedicated space (standing desk!) for my digital work. As most of my pieces involve a little bit of all of these, art travels around my house as I work on the different stages.

3dt: Do you prefer traditional or digital methods? Do you find you will often use both methods for
one project?

WB: I'm relatively new to traditional media but, time permitting, I much prefer it to digital media I find it less tedious and more engaging. Even when I work in digital media, there is always a strong traditional element in the form of detailed pencil underdrawings. Because of this, I've found that a lot of the techniques I learned while coloring my drawings digitally have carried over surprisingly well into traditional media.

3dt: In Sketching from the Imagination: Fantasy, you describe how Browsing through the sketchbooks of other artists is always a great source of inspiration for you we hoped the book itself would help people in a similar way; are there any artists featuring in the book you particularly like the work of?

WB: Sketching from the Imagination: Fantasy features a ton of artists I've been admiring since the start of my illustration career (I was especially excited to see the sketchwork of Jim Pavelec, Sean Andrew Murray, and Mark A. Nelson) but every time I open the book I find someone else to follow. Sketches can be so different from finished pieces, so it's neat to look up an artist's work and see how it compares to the sketches featured in the anthology.

3dt: You also contributed a fantastic chapter on learning how to draw fantasy characters in our Sketch Workshop: Characters workbook, how useful do you think these workbooks are to beginner artists?
WB: While it's different from how I learned to draw (trial and error, lots of cursing) I think the workbooks are a handy tool for artists who are starting out and are at a loss as to how to begin translating the ideas in their heads to paper. While there's no shortcut to 'learning to draw', working off of templates and studying or copying sample art is a good way to start developing the basic skills that everything else is built on; and of course, anything that gets a beginner to put pencil to paper and start practicing is a good thing!

3dt: Are you working on any projects at the moment?
WB: I just wrapped up a large advertising project, which hopefully I'll be able to unveil early next year, and I have book covers for a new YA series in the works. Also a ton of personal projects, most of which are still in the early stages I'm hoping to make more time for my personal work and traditional painting in the coming year, and maybe even roll out a Kickstarter or two with some of my ideas.

3dt: Who would be your dream client to work for?
WB: I'm always on the lookout for clients with a collaborative take on the working process those exceptional art directors who are able to guide a piece in the right direction while still preserving the energy and life of the original idea. I'm still in the process of figuring out exactly where I want to take my work, but I'm growing increasingly fond of advertising work (where I've found some unexpectedly complex and lovingly-crafted assignments) and I'm hoping I'll get to tackle a large-scale, narrative project (graphic novel? children's book?) someday maybe even in traditional media.

3dt: Do you have any tips for artists considering freelancing work?
WB: Don't undervalue your work! You will never, ever get back the hours you spend on a project, so think long and hard about why you're taking an assignment and if it's just for the money, make sure it's good money. If you don't already know exactly how long it takes you to finish a painting, start timing your work now (and always divide the pay rate by the hours it will take to make sure you're earning a living wage). Always budget your time to allow for study and practice (lots of it), and if you're worried about needing work for the 'exposure' don't forget that you can build a killer portfolio entirely out of personal work.

3dt: What has been your biggest creative challenge?
WB: I just wrapped up a huge project on a tight deadline 10 A2 poster illustrations in just over a month. I never would have thought I could complete that volume of work in such a short time, and I was a little terrified going into it but I met the deadline and turning in all that work on schedule felt awesome. It made me realize how much I can really get done when I put my mind to it, and I think that knowledge will give me a lot of confidence (and some enhanced time-management skills!) going forwards.

Related links:

Get your hands on a copy of Sketch Workshop: Characters and Sketching from the Imagination: Fantasy now!
Head over to Wylie's personal site for more

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