Artist Interview: Alli ‘Skirtzzz’ White

05/07/2017 • Artist Interviews, News


Artists Real Name: Alli White
Artists Alias: Skirtzzz
Artists Country: US


With her flair for dynamic and expressive characters and charming stylization, Skirtzzz’s work is as eye-catching as it is endearing. Exquisite control of lines and line weights, and a unique and sincere character art style will quickly grab your imagination and draw you into her world. We caught up with her to get to know more.


Scott: It’s great to have you on ArtSketch, how’s your art life right now? Playing any Nintendo games… hmmm?


Alli: Thank you for taking the time to interview me! I really appreciate it! Art life is a never ending tsunami of chaos, but I wouldn’t have it any other way! I wish! I haven’t had proper gaming time for a while now, and I’m a bit behind on Nintendo consoles as is it *sad trumpets*. I live vicariously through game announcements and making fan art in my elusive downtime! Peach is definitely my favorite subject!


Scott: Let’s start at the very beginning, when did you get into art? How did drawing become a part of your life?


Alli: As cliche as it might sound, I really have been drawing since before I can even remember. It’s just something I’ve always done! I have a lot of memories of sitting in the back seat or at a roadside diner with my sketchbook. My entire public school experience was spent drawing on assignments, tests, book covers…you name it! I even got in a lot of trouble at my retail jobs because I would draw on receipt paper at the register. I could not be stopped!!! Not drawing never occurred to me!


Scott: In terms of education, did you have any formal training, or are you self-taught? How did you develop your current skillset?


Alli: The first 20 years of my life were simply enjoying art as a hobby. Early on, in my small town high school, it was made abundantly clear that art was not a feasible or serious career choice (in their opinion, of course). To boot, I was a terrible student! Nothing ever came easy or made sense to me- so it was an exhausting battle just trying to graduate.


In my final year, we were all handed paperwork to apply to our community college, to which I declined, saying I’d like to focus on finding an art school out of state. I was told by my counselor that day that I would flip burgers the rest of my life- which is certainly a charming attitude for someone in their position to have, yikes.


Regardless, I still felt like art was all I was meant to do. I spent a few years traveling and generally being confused as I careened into my adult years, but the art kept calling! So, setting aside the nay-saying, I took off to Washington to attend Digipen in Redmond, near Seattle.
Their art program was a bit newer, and frankly, in the long run it wasn’t for me AT ALL (it focused on game design/3D assets and animation), but the foundational skills and boot camp-like classes the first few years really helped me to grow exponentially faster than I could have ever expected! It was there that I was told I did in fact have potential and was surrounded by a very expansive networking circle, so the idea of art becoming a career was finally something I could visualize. That was a big motivator to really start taking art seriously.


Scott: Day to day, what would you say are your primary influences and inspirations?


Alli: It’s very easy for me to be inspired by just about anything. Just browsing my social media circles (all comprised of very impressive artists) is enough to get you pumped for the work day. I don’t have any one singular inspiration, but I like to inject my eyeballs with a bevy of various medias to get the ideas juices flowing. That can be just putting period piece films on the TV while I work, letting my chip tune playlist do its thing, or flipping through concept art books.
I sometimes picture my brain as a cocktail shaker. I just sort of dump things in and give it a toss. Whatever comes out is a mystery- but that’s what makes it so much fun! It never goes as you expect.


Scott: You have a unique and charming character art style, how did that come about? Did you actively develop certain design choices, or did it grow another way?


Alli: I definitely feel I have a prominent evolutionary timeline of stylistic shifts! My juvenile years resulted in heavily referencing Looney Tunes,early 90’s Nickelodeon programming, Disney characters; all the usual suspects! It’s blatantly apparent when I discovered anime too- hoo boy. My style started to dramatically shift in that direction- and quickly!
Come early high school, I finally delved into some western graphic novels, such as Marvel’s Runaways and X-23/Nyx series- and tried to feel out those more realistic styles. They were very refreshing and appealing after all the anime I had consumed over the years.


One thing that has been consistent over the years, in my opinion, is the fusion of classic JRPG character art styles, with a heavy nod to Amano’s clothing aesthetics. A big reason I’m so drawn to the iconic Art Nouveau artist, Alphonse Mucha as well (hair, bling, and drapey fabric? Yes please). Hand in hand, those are some of my biggest inspirations. I became absurdly fascinated with Japanese games and animation in about third grade and it all had a MASSIVE impact on me.


There are times you will see something you really like and admire; something that is able to convey a type of personality you resonate with; perhaps a feeling- or one might say it ‘speaks to you’. Trying to express all of that in your work is so important, but the long quest in finding yourself in your art can be daunting and arduous. I tried my best to emulate the things I liked in my own way. Learn from it. Then it finally just stuck with me. It changed overtime with all the additional influence I added on top of it. It’s all one big experiment.


College character design classes really put all of this to the test and forced me to challenge myself and take everything I knew and regurgitate it into something brand new. That’s really been it since then! You never stop learning and growing, and your style is certainly apt to change with each passing year. It’s been a fascinating journey so far! All in all, every single thing I’ve enjoyed up until this point has played a part in inspiring my style.


Scott: If you haven’t mentioned anyone already, who are some of your favourite artists, and why? Is there anyone you look up to?


Alli: I’ll just reiterate Amano and Mucha! Though to be honest, there is a massive list of influences and artists I really love online. The people I admire most are not only incredibly skilled and unique, but the ones who have taken the time to talk with me and show me kindness (I’m often too shy to reach out, so hearing from them is seriously fantastic), whether it be online or at conventions- It always means so much to me to connect with other artists, and personally, makes their art even more enjoyable!


Some folks you’ll definitely want to to look up and drool over are:


David A. Lojaya (david_ardinaryas_lojaya on IG) Such a killer knack for wildly attractive characters. Painterly and dreamlike. Great movement and color palettes. You can’t go uninspired when you see it- SO refreshing.


Benjamin Hale (@BenjaminHale7 on Twitter) We met at CTNx in Burbank this last November and traded art books. Not only was he incredibly pleasant to be around, he was wholly supportive and inclusive to the artists around him. He makes it looks SO easy! Every line brings a tear to my eye, ha! Just completely stunning.


Vixiearts (on IG), brilliant BRILLIANT expressions and emotions- paired with bewildering movement in line work. I can only aspire!


Scott: You utilise a very beautiful pastels and tints colour palette, what would you say drives your colour choices in your work? Is colour something that you are very intentional with?


Alli: You know, I think about this a lot myself- I’m not entirely sure when it started exactly, but late in my college excursion, I got bit by the Rococo/shabby chic bug- which resulted in a wild appetite for dusty rose and sea-foam greens in my outfits and accessories. They are just so soft and pleasant! So it’s no wonder it started to show up in my work so regularly. I feel really calm and joyous when I’m coloring with a pastel palette. I try to branch out into more rich, rustic tones, but I always end up going back to pastel! It just makes me happy! So much so that my home is decorated in a very similar style! I have sea-foam green walls! :’)


Scott: How do you feel about digital versus traditional art? What benefits and disadvantages have you experienced between the two in your own work?


Alli: Once you step away from any one media/tool, you’ll notice you get rusty with it! That’s definitely what happened with my love for charcoal, brush pens, and my trusty Tombow pencils. Early years of college, it was all traditional- so I was very comfortable using them! Though, as I started taking commissions and illustrating for various internships, I became a lot more productive and quick on the computer. I’ve since whipped up a pencil brush for Photoshop so I can even rough sketch digitally. I became spoiled by the ability to see straight on, without my doofy left hand getting in the way and smudging everything. OH, and resizing as I went with the lasso tool? Miracles.


Drawing on a flat surface is a nightmare to me now. Plus- have you ever caught yourself ‘ctrl-z’ing the table?! EMBARRASSING!
A bought a tilted desk for the perspective issues, but I found it very uncomfortable resting my arm up like that all the time.
Biggest issue? Scanners are jerks. Cleanup is such a nightmare sometimes.


Frankly, I’d never go back to traditional media. It’s too inconvenient and messy (I have completely run out of storage space for the last 20 years of drawings/sketchbooks as it is!). With the work I do, speed is everything, so the digital set up is just right for a streamlined work process. Everybody is very different though! You just find what suits you best!


Scott: We are huge fans of fan art, and it’s becoming an increasingly popular focus for many artist’s portfolios. What are your thoughts of fan art in terms of both artist and portfolio development?


Alli: Fan art is almost all I did as a kid, so thanks to all that, I stayed very inspired! On top of it, for an awkward mountain dwelling youth, connecting online with others over things you like via fan art- what a wonderful thing! I met MANY of my closest friends years ago through fandoms!  It’s been a positive for so many reasons.


If it weren’t for fan art, I wouldn’t half nearly as many people watching my work. Nobody would have found me! My most viral work has been character redesigns. When you share something A LOT of people like, that’s the potential for so many more eyes on your work- especially when it’s getting shared a lot. This means more people checking out your overall body of work and staying for you and your art style! You got to draw what you love and you also gain a larger audience to share your original work with later on. It’s a win win. Another positive is when the companies enjoy it too and share it! Always a very exciting feeling! (You know, so long as they credit you, ha!)


I’m of the mindset that it’s very helpful in gaining traction when you start off too. My personal projects are doing well years later because of the time I spent doing crossover fan art series on DeviantArt- so hey! It’s not a bad investment of your time. Though, like all things in life- everything in balance!


When it comes to anything industry related, I’m definitely not the best person to ask. I never apply for jobs! I have no idea if it’s necessarily looked down upon, but I imagine that if it shows a strength for design/style to match the position you’re applying for, why not! I’m sure a balance of fan and original are appreciated though.


Scott: Based on your experience, what would you say is the most important thing for new artists or beginner artists to focus on when learning, specifically character art? Any Do’s and Don’ts you could recommend?


Alli: I feel like the best way to develop base level skills and to excel in character work is life drawing. I shiver to think how my anatomy skills might be had I never taken such extensive sessions in school. You’ll NEVER learn the same things looking at a photo of a person or only looking at cartoon illustrations. As they say, you have to learn all the rules first, THEN break them.


All studies are important, and I think the best way to utilize another artists work is through master copies to learn how they handle lighting/shades and color. Sometimes it helps to get into somebodies head and ponder why they did what they did! Yet again, you’ll want to pair this with setting up your own still life sets, and focus on lighting, perspectives/distance, and draping. Then you just try to draw it all over again by yourself 10,000 times and I promise- at least one of them will be good, ha! Then do it all over AGAIN!


To be specific about character art though, my favorite way to study was to compile my favorite drawings, copy the part I liked (let’s say it’s a REALLY great expression, or a hand). You do it a few times, then put it away and forget about it. Go to bed. Let it marinate. Then the next day you try to draw it from memory. Rinse- repeat. The brain is seriously amazing sometimes! I spent years practicing hands, and one day it almost felt like I woke up and it just made sense. Granted, I still have plenty of infuriating encounters with drawing hands- and I have an embarrassing stack of sketchbooks full of my own hands- but you do what you gotta do! Fill up the mental art repertoire! It’s the greatest tool you have!


Finally, and most importantly- success is NOT an overnight thing. DO. NOT. get discouraged when it takes you years to cultivate a following and improve to the point you are happy with the majority of your work. It took ten years of intense practice to get where I am, and I’ve still got a loooooooooong way to go! Everyday as a freelancer is new and exciting and you never know what’s going to happen! Take it all one day at a time! Be steadfast. It’ll all happen when it’s supposed to.


Scott: What one key thing, if any, has helped you personally grow and mature as an artist the most?


Alli: I suppose it’s not really one particular thing, but more an amalgam of ‘life doing things’, haha!


The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve started to understand the long term importance of happiness, security, and personal fulfillment.
The thing that launched me from an immature college student to a mature professional freelancer and small business owner was my drive to make a decent living doing this to support myself and my parents; I HAVE to be at home. I had to make it work. My Dad is still recovering from a stroke and my Mom was just diagnosed with stage one breast cancer.
It’s been rough. Nothing can prepare you for any of it. Things like this force you realize that life is in fact HAPPENING- so get to it. The responsibilities of caring for the other people in your life become paramount. Stupid things that you once worried about fall to the wayside and you rearrange your priorities. It’s what gets you out of bed everyday and you just do your damn best.


I’ve juggled my fair share of health problems over the years as well, and came close to biting the dust four some odd years ago- so I’m beyond grateful to still be here and in a position where I’m able to help my loved ones. I think the most interesting thing is how unstoppable you feel when faced with these challenges. I can’t picture doing anything else. Having a steadfast audience that enjoys and supports my work, and having the ability to work from a faraway, Idahoan mountain is truly a blessing. It honestly never seemed possible (just ask my HS counselor! Ha!). It’s just one of those things that always felt meant to be. The struggles have all absolutely been worth it.


Scott: Thanks so much for chatting with us Skirtzzz, we look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!


Alli: Thank you again, Scott! Hopefully I didn’t just depress everybody with that last bit there. If anything, I hope this just is a reminder that we’re all just a bunch of confused and emotional flesh boats with plenty in common, but I also hope it might give somebody out there hope that- HEY, even when it gets super tough (and it will), your dreams can absolutely come to fruition, give you hope, pull you through, and bring you the utmost joy. Just keep at it! Do that thing you wanna do!


Savor the adventure, my friends! It’s a wild one.


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