At just 16, Brittany Myers is surprising viewers with her energetic characters and sincere, animated style. Her careful treatment of colour and form, and her loose drawing technique continues to inspire artists globally.
Thanks for granting us this interview Brittany! You have a great style and a careful treatment of colour in your work. How did you start on this artistic path, and what are some of your major inspirations?
Thank you! Like a lot of other artists I was known at a very young age as, “The Artist” among my classmates, though I never thought anything of it. And for whatever reason when I reached age 12 I grabbed an old sketchbook that was given to me years before that I had stashed in my closet. I never thought I’d use it but I was clearly wrong. And after a few years of constant drawing I’m where I’m at now and I love it. From the start Disney animation has amazed me, I quickly realized how interested I was in drawing and animation when I began to notice that when I was watching any of the classic Disney movies I’d study the animation; I would watch the way the characters walked, how they posed, and their body language more than the movie itself. Glen Keane’s work has had a huge impact on my own; he’s a major source of inspiration for me. So many other artists inspire me too, such as Jin Kim http://cosmoanimato.blogspot.com/ and Brian Kesinger http://briankesinger.deviantart.com/ and so many more. I’m continuously discovering new brilliant artists each day!
You have a lot of expressiveness and energy in your works. How had you learned to energise your characters and inject emotion into them? What advice do you have for artists wanting more dynamism and expression in their art?
Thanks! I have a real interest in drawing expression and body language, which both play huge roles in the way we perceive a character. I often tell people that my favorite part of the character to draw are the eyebrows. They’re one of the most expressive features of the face. I think what’s helped me most when drawing expressions is to feel the expression, and what I mean by that is I like to imagine myself making the same face as the character I’m drawing. What muscles are tensing? Which are not? Where would my face be squashed and where would it be stretched? The funny part about thinking this way is that I sometimes catch myself actually making the face, at times like those it’s probably best not to draw in public. But the same technique goes for body language. If ever I’m drawing someone in a simple standing position, I almost always draw a shift in their hips, and even in that situation I imagine how one leg would be carrying more weight as compared to the other.
What would you say your aspirations are once you’ve left school? Are you considering a career in art?
Yes definitely, I can’t imagine not going into something art related. I’m currently interested in visual development, animation, and storyboarding. I’m excited to learn more and improve. Thankfully I have very supportive parents and they’re willing to help me along the way.
Let’s talk about art theory. How important is it for artists to understand fundamentals such as anatomy, and perspective? How do you yourself go about studying and growing in art?
Personally I think it’s very important to understand both anatomy and perspective. I also certainly know those are two things I’m still trying to improve. What I do to help better myself in those areas is a lot of gesture drawings. Often times after finishing a drawing I will immediately spot out all of the mistakes, it can get frustrating but I try my best to acknowledge them and learn from them. I also find that I’m a very visual person and I can’t go a few minutes without taking mental notes of random anatomical observations. As far as the importance of drawing perfect anatomy, I think it depends. I definitely think it’s good to always be learning and improving on your grasp of anatomy, but it’s no secret that cartooning (in most cases), is a very exaggerated interpretation of the body. That being said, I also really like the saying, “Learn the rules before you break them”. I think it becomes extremely relevant with any type of character drawing. Long story short, do I think you need to know perfect anatomy? Maybe not, because I find that many times the story and emotion of the drawing can be just as important. But I do think you have got to have a great understanding of it, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to strive to that level of perfection.
Your use of colour is fantastic. What general principles guide you in your colour choices?
Thank you! I definitely try to match the color with the mood of the drawing. For example if I’m working on a character, and say the character is shy or sombre, I’ll stray toward pale or dull colors. And I’ll apply the opposite to bold and strong drawings, most often using very saturated and intense colors. In that way I feel as though coloring comes very naturally, for the reason that right away I seem to be able to sense what color that drawing is “asking” for. It has to work with the picture and I think it helps to further enhance the emotion of a drawing.
In terms of tools, how do you primarily work, and which software packages do you favour? Do you draw and sketch much traditionally?
I work directly in Gimp. It may not be the best program but it’s all I’ve ever used and I’ve grown to love it, aside from its occasional decisions to freeze (well maybe it’s more of a love-hate relationship). I do most of my work digitally now, but I still do sketch a lot traditionally, however my traditional sketches are usually figure studies or gesture drawings. So I usually don’t post much of those. Even though I work on more digital drawings than I do traditional drawings, I’ve always preferred the look of a traditional sketch than a digital one. That’s had a big impact on my digital drawing technique. I used to try and ink my digital sketches with a clean line, but I never like them as much as the original sketch and so eventually I got rid of the inking step altogether and colored underneath the sketch instead. And still today you’ll notice my drawings have very sketchy lines.
How do you approach posing and positioning characters? What makes a good pose, and what advice do you have for those artists wishing to add more appeal to their works?
First I acknowledge the situation the character is in, and then I immediately imagine what I would do in that situation. Then, more often than not I use thumbnail drawings. It’s a good way to get that initial thought onto paper. However, whether or not the final product takes after the thumbnail sketch can be determined by my thought process while drawing, maybe I discover it works, and maybe I discover it doesn’t, and I think thumbnails can be extremely helpful in the fact that they give you an idea to build off of. Personally I find a big interest in poses that are understandable at first glance. Poses that read well and tell a story stand out to me because I can imagine the character in that moment. As for advice, again I think while your’e drawing, it really helps to “feel” the pose. Maybe even stand up and re-enact the pose if you have to. That’s a great way to imagine yourself as who you are drawing, which in return makes for a much more alive pose. Also, a long time ago I read somewhere that to help your drawing to become more lively it’s great to use a lot of twists and tilts. Examples of that could be anything from a lean in the hips (tilt), or a character’s head facing left while the torso faces to the right(twist).
What would you say are your greatest challenges in art, and are there any things that you personally struggle with? What ways have you found in overcoming artistic challenges?
Overall I’ve got a lot to learn, but off the top of my head anatomy is something I’m still trying to improve. I notice that as soon as I finish a drawing I spot all of the flaws. I do a mental check of what I think looks right, and what doesn’t, hoping that some of those observations may be corrected next time around. But I’ll always have more to learn, and that’s the fun part. I’m pushing myself more and more each day to practice new things in my sketchbooks. Something else that I find had been a big struggle for me in the past was the dreaded “Art Block”. The lack of motivation that “Art Block” brings is tough and can lower your self-esteem, and I feel like all artists have them. I haven’t felt that way in a while thankfully, and I think that’s because I’ve begun to look at them in a different way. I try to convince myself that it’s a sign that I’m improving, and that unsatisfied feeling that comes with every piece during “Art Block” is pushing me to branch out and maybe do something I hadn’t thought of before. If I’m feeling uninspired I make sure that I’m not completely taking a break from art. I’ll read some art books, or do some gesture drawings. Sometimes listening to music or doing some simple fan art helps.
If any, what are the five biggest tips you would give to an aspiring artist or illustrator who wants to create expressive character art?
I’m no professional but here are a few tips I’ve learned that have helped, and still continue to help me.
1.) No one is born a talented artist. I think the real talent is not your skill, but how hard you work to maintain that skill level, and to improve.
2.) Self-motivation is very important. Coming from someone who’s never yet attended an art class, I know that it’s necessary that you push yourself, and that you make sure you’re learning.
3.) Stepping out of your comfort zone. This has been a struggle for me, but lately I am pushing myself to practice different things, and it’s extremely motivating!
4.) I can’t stress this enough, FEELING the pose/emotion/story of your drawing is extremely helpful!
5.) And last but not least, practice, practice, practice! Drawing, of course, is the best way to improve!
It’s been a pleasure speaking with you Brittany, we wish you all the best for the future!
The pleasure is mine! Thank you!
Connect with Brittany Online:
Tumblr Art: http://britt315.tumblr.com/
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