Free Vectors & ImagesFeatured Artist – Illustrator Michelle Whitehead

Featured Artist – Illustrator Michelle Whitehead

Today, in Vecstasy’s Featured Artists series (Actually the first of) , we are talking with illustration artist Michelle Whitehead, a.k.a. mmishee. Michelle is 21 years old and joins us from Australia.

Tis the Season Illustration for EB Games Showing an Illustration by Michelle Whitehead depicting a child in a room with his Pokemon and other belongings

Hi Michelle, thank you so much interviewing with Vecstasy today.  It’s great to have someone of your talent spending time to talk with our readers.

Michelle:

Thank you for the opportunity; this is actually my first interview! I’m pretty excited about it!

Vecstasy: 

Wow your world premier! Thanks for giving us the honor. Forgive us if we jump right in but can you tell us, when did you know you were first attracted to illustration?

Michelle:

I have been drawing since I could remember, and before that I was filling books upon books with my stories, so I have pretty much always been creative in some way. I think my love of drawing started when a friend of my parents, a graphic designer, showed me how to draw. After years of drawing my favourite game characters (Sonic and Pokémon mostly), I discovered Deviantart.com and was incredibly inspired by the artists that post there. I just kind of kept drawing until my silly drawings kept evolving into full-blown illustrations, egged on by my drive to keep improving and the competition and inspiration on Deviantart. It wasn’t quite a defining moment of epiphany as it was a natural transition into professional art, I’ve just been doing what I’ve always done, it’s just that people pay me for it now!

An Illustration by Michelle Whitehead showing a mountainous landscape

Vecstasy: 

From doodles to paychecks, sounds like your hard work paid off. Can you tell us a bit about your creative process when planning and starting a new project?

Michelle:

First I take a look through my inspiration folders for ideas; I have files upon files of photos and images saved on my computer for this very reason. They get me in the creative mind-set and inspire ideas. Then I gather the needed resources from the internet and the client, such as reference images and anatomy photos (extremely helpful when drawing the human figure or animals, unless you know anatomy from heart, I recommend always having as many resources in that area as you can). From here I’ve already got a few ideas in mind, and I grab my sketchpad and start to draw thumbnails of each idea, trashing some and changing and enhancing others as I go. These are to figure out the composition of the image and placement of characters. I can end up with anything from 3 to 10 thumbnails before I decide on the best ones and either re-sketch them in Photoshop, or scan them in. I will then send them off to the client for their opinion, and once the winner is chosen, I start my project in earnest!

A dark illustration depicting two people running in a moonlight sky

Vecstasy:

Of all of the work you’ve done, which illustration is your favourite and why?

Michelle:

This is a difficult question, asking me to choose between my babies! But I would have to say my favourite is World’s Derpiest Heroes – Avengers. I have always been in love with drawing funny, dramatic and sometimes terrifying expressions, and this idea allowed me to indulge this passion. It is also pretty successful in its own right as an illustration. It’s also been very rewarding seeing people’s reactions to it in person as I displayed it at a recent convention.

World’s Derpiest Heroes – Avengers: by Michelle Whitehead

An illustration by Michelle Whitehead Showing Super Heroes Making Whimsical Faces

Vecstasy:

What artists inspire you or have influenced your creations?

Michelle:

When I was young it was an artist called Vaporotem (Rotem Moshkovitz) who really inspired me to draw. Her work is funny, expressive and colourful, and you can see a lot of her influence in my work. More recently the director and artist behind Lilo and Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon, Chris Sanders, has been incredibly inspiring to me. I adore his depictions of the female body and his monster and animal character designs, there is something incredibly charming and stylish about his work. I am inspired by many artists on the internet these days, but my favourites right now have to be Oxboxer (Jemma Salume), Loish (Lois Van Baarle) and CoyoteMange (JL Hirten).

An illustration depicting two wolves in a forest - Michelle Whitehead

Vecstasy:

As Christmas is only 13 days away, what do you plan on buying the Vecstasy team for Christmas this year?…friendly chuckles all around…no seriously what are we going to get?

Michelle:

You can all expect Ferraris filled with very expensive fruit baskets and hand creams. I look forward to the solid gold statue of Tom Hiddleston you will surely send me!

Windmill Landscape Illustration  shown in a country side setting

Vecstasy:

Great! we will certainly hold you to receiving those Ferraris! Can you tell us about any mistakes you feel you’ve made along the way that could be avoided by our readers?

Michelle:

A lot of the time, mistakes are inevitable, but you learn from them and grow stronger as an artist. One of the biggest ones I made was allowing myself to be talked into some less than legal work. It is extremely easy when you’re a new and naïve artist to just go along with what your client or boss tells you to do, it’s your first job after all and you want to make a good impression. But ultimately you have to make sure you stand your ground, tell them what you will not do, and if they don’t budge, find another job. There are plenty out there; you don’t want that kind of mistake hanging over your head! Another mistake to avoid is being taken for a ride by a client. Sometimes you are going to come across people who are going to try to use you and underpay you, or sometimes bolt with the finished work and leave you penniless! Do your research, educate yourself on the business of the art world and the standards of pay in your field. I terrific resource on this subject is the book ‘The Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines’. It is filled with up to date information on almost all fields of Graphic Design and art and the pricing standards that professional artists use. You must also trust your instincts, if something doesn’t feel right, pass on the job. Take precautions by either asking to be payed up front, or payed in installments. Nothing feels worse than being suckered.

A light colored illustration showing mountains, grasses and wildlife

Vecstasy:

What technical tools, software or applications do you most use? 

Michelle:

I predominantly work with a Wacom Intuous 3 and Photoshop CS5. When designing logos or vector files I will use Illustrator, I very rarely work with Indesign (for any brochures or other graphic design work). I am starting to use Paint Tool Sai again for painting on my laptop, something I wasn’t able to use due to my main computer being a Mac. I will occasionally also use coloured pencils and markers. I love to work digitally these days, yay for the undo button!

Vecstasy:

Graphic design and illustration is becoming more and more competitive; as a relatively new artist yourself, or at least a young one, what advice would you offer to other illustration artists who are just starting their careers.

Michelle:

Don’t be afraid my young friends, don’t sit on the fence and wonder what to do or how to start, just jump in and do it! Draw your own characters and art, take commissions from family members and friends, and always post them online. Make several blogs and galleries to display your work in. Look for work in the field you are interested in. Make your email available and easily seen by the public (in fact make a separate email address just for business). Eventually, you will be seen and asked for work by your first client! From there, word of mouth is one of the biggest advantages you have, and you will begin to get more and more work. I also can’t stress enough how beneficial entering art competitions can be (be careful though, some will try to use you through competitions, do your research and make sure it’s legit). Even if you don’t win, your work has already potentially been in the hands of some very powerful people! This is how I got my biggest client, EB Games Australia. I entered a gift card competition that was judged based on how many likes it received on Facebook. I didn’t win, but I was contacted by them and offered work anyway! The art world can look scary, and it does require a lot of work and patience to get seen, but I promise it is worth it.

Vecstasy:

Every artist has a weak point, for me personally it is drawing hands. I really struggle getting them right and tend to throw tantrums in the office when I have to draw them. What is your weak point and how do you combat it? 

Michelle:

Oh yes, the scourge of hands. It strikes fear into the heart of every artist. For me personally though, I despise drawing vehicles. They are very complicated and boxy, I like simple and round things. BUT its not always about what we like is it? I either find a very good reference photo or model to draw from, or I find sneaky ways to get around the subject. Especially when painting, a few gestures is sometimes all that is needed to depict an object. It being in the distance also helps. Saying that, I used to also hate drawing robots, but I have been so inspired by recent Sci Fi art, games and movies that I now love drawing them, with practise of course.

Vecstasy:

If you could do anything in the field of design/illustration, what would it be?

Michelle:

There are so many possibilities I want to explore in the future. Next year I will be trying to design and sell apparel and possibly other products. I also would love to break into the comic industry, specifically cover art. As always concept art for movies and games is a huge draw, though may be something I focus on later down the track. Really though, as long as I get to keep drawing, I’m happy! An illustration depicting a dark city by illustration artists Michelle Whitehead

Vecstasy:

Michelle, thank you so much for spending time with us today, we really do appreciate it and will look forward to opening those gifts come the 25th! All jokes aside, we really do appreciate it and we will be watching for more work from you in the future.

To our readers, we suggest you take a bit of time and get to know more about Michelle Whitehead /mmishee. You can visit Michelle and view her inspiring works at any of the following links:

Michelle Whitehead on Deviant Art / Behance / Tumblr 

If you would like to try to become a Vecstasy featured artist, you can learn more about the process by clicking here.

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