February 6, 2017

Illustrator, Janelle Barone, talks to UO about the motivations, inspirations and influences behind her work. She begins by explaining how she creates these atmospheric pieces of digital work and ends with leaving our UO readers a great piece of advice.

UO: Where do you most commonly find inspiration for your personal work?

More and more recently I’ve loved reinterpreting scenes from movies, books and music. There’s something about art that’s inspired by art that just clicks. Still, most of the time I draw from life- broad I know. But I love to create atmosphere in my art, so when I see something atmospheric, a building, a tree, an alleyway, a dark suburban street, I can imagine things happening there, like a scene from a film. I try to re-create these visions with my art. It’s all about stylising reality.

UO: When did you realise that you wanted to pursue illustration and graphic design as a career?

Honestly, some days I still have doubts about my career. Making a commitment to becoming an illustrator is tough. It won’t happen overnight. But some days people, (like you guys) take a genuine interest in what I do and that’s very encouraging!

I’m not sure if I could pinpoint a specific moment of revelation or epiphany which solidified my choice. I do know that if I couldn’t draw for whatever reason, I think I would go a little insane! I’ve done it for as long as I can remember. Letting it go would be like forgetting a language I’ve spent the majority of my life learning and manipulating. I have matured with my art, and knowing how to draw has attracted a lot of opportunities in my life. So in some ways, this question doesn’t suit me. I never decided to become an illustrator, I think it picked me. I hope that doesn’t sound too cliché!



UO: How have you seen your work develop over the past few years?

This is an interesting question for me. Looking back, I think I can say that I have been steadily influenced by a set selection of artists’ work and styles and have returned to those influences again and again in different ways. It’s only in the past 1-2 years that my personal style has started to make itself known.

I would liken stylistic development to buying clothes, sometimes it’s by purchasing items that you end up never wearing, that you start to understand the kinds of fashion choices that suit you.

Additionally, I was lucky enough to complete an internship as an assistant for a couple of well-established illustrators right near the end of my university career. This experience really helped me to up my game I think. After spending time with them my digital proficiency increased and so did my attention to detail. I learnt new techniques, more about colour, composition and about good workflow. Not that my education is over.

UO: What is your design process like?

Sometimes a little sloppy, haha. All my work is completed digitally, from the line-work to the colouring. I collect references and arrange them on the screen as a sort of collage. From this, I can begin to sketch out a coherent line drawing. This can take a lot of time, depending on the drawing. When the line-work is done I start adding layers of colour underneath. Sometimes I have a set colour scheme in mind and sometimes I colour the image ‘naturally’ and then use filters and other editing tools to experiment with colour until I’m happy. This is just to give you a rough idea. My process changes and evolves with every piece I do.



UO: Which has been your favourite project to work on to date?

It’s tough to say! I did enjoy creating works for my first artist residency, which launched in April last year in Melbourne, Australia. I was given a lot of freedom, and I think it was during that period that I did start to see shifts in my style and created some pieces that I’m still pretty proud of. Additionally, working alongside other artists in a proper gallery space was a nice change of pace.

UO: What motivates you?

I think as long as I love looking at art, I’ll love making art. But as I said before, I have matured with my art. So by extension, what motivates me is my potential to keep growing and maturing as an artist. I’m very curious to see what’s going to become of me! I’m only at the start of my career, and I’m only just beginning to make the kind of art that I’ve always wanted to. So why stop now?

Beyond this, I have a great group of friends who support what I do and who make their own, brilliant art. It always helps to surround yourself with the right types of people.

UO: Can you tell us about any future illustrations that you are working on?

I don’t have any specific projects in mind. We will all just have to see what comes my way. I can say that, as of your next question, I am looking into exploring more animation and motion graphics in my art. So expect experiments!



UO: You also use aspects of animation; what made you move into more digital work?

There are lots of reasons! From an outsider’s perspective, using a computer to make art might seem a little unnatural, but once you get going, they can make your life a lot easier. Everything you create digitally can be completely erased or edited beyond recognition, the digital medium is quite forgiving in that sense.

However, this isn’t the main reason that I love creating digital art. The aesthetic that I work to simply lends itself to computer generation! You can’t get the same saturated, flat colours or pristine gradients with paint as you can with pixels. I’m really drawn to flat, graphic art. The more I’ve learnt about using Photoshop and other software to draw, the more I’ve realised that a lot of artists that I once assumed created their work by hand have actually used a computer, at least in part. It’s quite a popular technique, I think for a good reason. The animation side of my work is more recent, and will continue to grow- but it certainly wouldn’t be possible without the right tools!

UO: Describe your art in three words.

Hmmm. Atmospheric, story-driven, evolving.



UO: Do you have any advice for young freelancers?

Gosh. I’m not sure that I am the right person to ask! I’m only a youngster myself! In the end, I think simple things motivate me. Exercise, coffee and a great album- these are pretty much my trifecta of freelancing fuel.

On a more thoughtful note, the best advice I have is to take your work seriously, but not yourself. I’ve created so much bad art! But you can’t let that define you, let your determination to progress define you instead. Channel your inner Kanye West and treat the world like it’s a better place with your art, writing, music (or whatever) in it.

I also remember the comedian Jimmy Carr saying that the first step to becoming a comedian is to become a fan of comedy. I think this was a pretty wise thing to say. Take an interest in others and their work, and you’ll be naturally motivated to figure out how their work, works. Let other people’s knowledge and creativity work for you, not against you. This is a great first step for anyone pursuing the type of skill set you can’t learn from a book.