Managing Thought Process and Creative Methods with Sophie Blackhall-Cain

Working in editorial illustration as she does, Sophie Blackhall-Cain spends a lot of time racking her brain around how best to grow intangible concepts into recognisable images—with the answers often appearing at the most inconvenient times!

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Just as she has learnt that the best way to manage her thought process is to simply keep a pen and paper nearby at all times, Sophie continues to work on ways to nurture her creative method.

From where to look for colour inspiration to the different fields of illustration she would like to explore, Sophie talks to us about materials she uses, stages of her process, and more.

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I predominantly work in editorial illustration, which I find intellectually stimulating and challenging. Trying to convey nebulous concepts into images is a tricky process that is immensely satisfying when you finally crack it!

Usually, the problem will haunt me for a few days until I finally have an idea, usually lying in bed for some reason. Paper and pencils on my bedside table are a must for this very reason. 

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I find myself more drawn to children’s illustration of late. There’s an amazing burgeoning interest in testing the parameters of children’s illustration, with publishers like Flying Eye Books at the fore.

I’m just getting to work on my first ever children’s book. It’s a really interesting process that I hope to explore more. 

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I find my process changes with the demands of each illustration I work on. I like keeping my work really loose, so I usually start out with charcoal sketches, a medium that lends itself to loose, flowing lines. When I find a design I like, I scan it in and work from it as a skeleton in Photoshop.  

As a general rule, I limit my colour pallet to four colours: lighter or darker shades of the same colour are okay, but keeping it limited lends to a more cohesive illustration.

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Colour inspiration is the part of the process I usually spend the most time on, tampering with different combinations until you find one that ‘clicks’.

I’d say a good 70% of my time spent on an individual illustration is spent fiddling with colors. I find natural photographs to be an excellent source of inspiration for colours—you’ve got a pallet already made up for you! 

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When the flat colours are done, I fiddle around with textures and shading. This is the make-or-break moment: a few well-placed textures or shading can lift an illustration up or make it wholly mediocre. I have a plethora of textures made from messy paint, which give the digital pieces a more handmade look.

Finally, I usually apply a single colour layer on top of the whole thing and set it to overlay. It gives it all a nice cohesion.

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© Sophie Blackhall-Cain, 2016

 

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