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Subsign Spotlight #075.

The simple, yet detailed creations of witskill have gotten us amazed!

witskill: Well, hello! My name’s Lisa, I go by witskill and I’m an illustrator and a graphic designer. Those two would actually be the official and indisputable titles I have, but I guess I could also call myself a youtuber wannabe, a social media addict, a jack of all trades and a visual hustler (I just invented that…).

Subsign: What was your childhood like? Do you think your experiences from childhood have influenced your present creative endeavors?

witskill: I don’t really have that many memories from before I was 5, even though I have a great memory, but I do know I’ve seen the process of creation from an early age because my father was a caricaturist. I do remember having a big poster on my door with Cartoon Network’s characters drawn by him.

I grew up with a lot of classic cartoons like Tom & Jerry and the bidimensional hand-drawn Disney movies and I believe that played a huge role in my development as an illustrator, because I wasn’t only watching cartoons, I was studying how they’re made, and how a static background is different from a background where something is about to happen (Has anyone else ever played this game?). I still can’t watch cartoons or movies if the way that they are drawn bothers me.

The thing that shaped me the most, both as a person and an illustrator is the fact that while I was very outgoing as a child, at the age of 11 or 12 I kind of started isolating myself because I was bullied a lot, I couldn’t make friends and I was in fact scared of human interaction. And because I didn’t have friends to hang out with, I was spending a lot of time drawing.

I would get back from school, eat, start drawing, panic because I wasn’t doing my homework and I knew my mom would get upset, ending up doing my homework… ish, and then drawing again. Lunch breaks in school were also for drawing because I was feeling safe staying hidden in my corner and just drawing instead of having to engage in human interaction.

Subsign: What did you want to be as a grown up?

witskill: I can’t recall the first thing I wanted to be as a grown-up, but funny enough at the age of 10 or something like that I was actually aspiring to be a math teacher, and my teacher at that time told me “No, you’re far better than that, you can do anything you want! You’ll see, time will fly by and you might wish for something else!”.

And then I started middle school, I was running behind on math, failing it somehow and ending up despising it for the next 8 years. I was only good at stereometry and three-dimensional geometry because let’s face it, my pyramids were so much prettier than everyone else’s in my class! C’mon! (Only thing I can brag about when it comes to school).

I also recall dreaming of becoming a writer at around 12 years old because I was obsessed with Shakespeare’s Macbeth and I was writing plays in English hoping I would someday see them play in a theatre. And I was also fantasizing of casting Johnny Depp in basically all the movies that would ever be made based on my stories.

I still have a novel I started writing around 7 or 8 years ago. Now I just write in a blog that no one reads yet. And at 13 years old I started drawing and dreaming of becoming an artist. And it stuck to me like a tiny ring on a fat finger. And I can’t get it off and I don’t want to ever get it off. I’m 24 and I still dream of becoming an artist.

Subsign: How does your workstation look like?

witskill: My workstation’s a mess. I keep telling myself I will invest into a huge minimalist white desk but I’ve been saying that for over half a year already. As a designer, I’m glued to my desk and I don’t bother with it that much because I’m the “organized chaos” type of person. When it comes to illustrating though, I don’t really care where I’m drawing as long as I’m not getting too distracted and I know I have a few free hours.

The most extreme place I’ve gone drawing so far was the “Pietrele Doamnei” peak in Rarau Mountains, for my “The Travelling Sketchbook” series, where I’ve actually hiked and climbed around 1 km with an A3 sketchbook placed between my back and my backpack, because I couldn’t fit the sketchbook inside the backpack. It’s an amazing experience! I dream of being able to travel a lot and draw in different places around the world.

Subsign: Do you have a work style? How would you describe it?

witskill: I used to think that you have to work a lot on creating your own style and I did try to define a style for at least 5 years and I couldn’t stick to one. The style I have now, which people actually recognize, is something that came to me naturally once I stopped trying to figure out what is my style.

I’m an overthinker and I used to struggle with neuroticism and my present style came naturally because I was turning to art as a way of helping myself to slow down everything that’s in my head. My style is detailed, some might say extremely detailed (but that’s not true), bidimensional, flat, and surrealist-ish. I rely heavily on ink, the black and white contrast, a dark or mysterious feeling in the final artwork and not drawing pupils, which I might have to turn into a personal meme soon.

I’ve also heard a lot of people say that my illustrations seem to have an Asian vibe, so I guess I could it describe my style like that too.

Subsign: Can you share with us how your creative process works?

witskill: I don’t sketch a lot because I use the mind palace technique to store, in visual form, finished artworks, concepts, keywords and let’s say leitmotifs inside my brain so I’m somehow sketching everything in my head long before I actually start drawing. And then I just try to convince my hand to cooperate…

I create the concept at the same time as the “mental sketch”, and this is the second most time-consuming part (sometimes it’s the first most consuming part also). I don’t know how people perceive my illustrations but the majority of them have a really complex concept behind. They’re full of Easter Eggs.

Making the actual sketch on paper usually takes from 10 minutes to 30 minutes depending on difficulty, while the whole inking process that follows can take from 2-4 hours on a small piece or even 10-15 hours on a bigger piece. (I don’t have the guts to try drawing bigger than an A3.) Occasionally I scan my works and clean them up in Photoshop and takes at least a few hours because I have to deal with a lot of lines.

Subsign: What is your favorite work you have done so far?

witskill: My favorite work would be the “Geoshapes” set. I don’t love it, because there’s still some mistakes I see there, but it’s one of my favorites because it means a lot to me.

It’s a landmark in my career because I believe I’ve managed to achieve incredible things in the past year and a half since I created it. It’s about unity & diversity and it uses the 3 basic geometry shapes (circle, triangle, square) in order to create a rule for the set. Some people just see the illustrations drawn as a shape, others see the rule. That’s the fun part of it.

My favorite-favorite work so far, which I haven’t turned against yet is my illustration for an Inktober prompt, “Star”. It’s a small A5 drawing but it’s one of those drawings where you aim high, you’re scared you’re going to mess it up and have to redo it, but you still do it because comfort zone never helped anyone.

Subsign: Who do you follow for inspiration?

witskill: This might sound weird, but I’m not really following specific artists for inspiration because I’ve done that in the beginning of my journey as an artist and I was ending up “storing” their works and involuntarily “coming up with a concept” extremely similar. I do follow some illustrators, like Loish, Kelsey Beckett or ArtGerm because I want to see their journey.

My inspiration comes from a lot of places, but I’m heavily inspired by tattoos and graffiti art (not the colorful tags, but the stencils). I get my inspiration from there because it’s sometimes similar to what I do: heavy lines, lots of black, and very graphic.

I also get some of my inspiration from art, especially block printing (notably the Japanese Ukiyo-E) and lithography, because some of them rely on just black and white so the variety of work comes from different concepts, of course, but also from different techniques which I’m trying to constantly learn to avoid the “same drawing” issue, while still keeping my style in place.

Subsign: What advice would you give to someone starting out in the creative field of work?

witskill: I can be a good motivational speaker but this time I’ll be frank and harsh.

It’s tough! If you’re just starting out, it’s gonna be tough. The thing with talent is that it is bullshit. In my opinion, talent manifests itself just as a tendency (and in some cases obsession) towards the thing you’re “talented” at.

The rest of it is hard work; some say it’s even 99% hard work. Ages of hard work, practicing and studying. Da Vinci did not come out of the womb with a canvas. What made him amazing was his obsession to learn and evolve, which actually made him turn to corpses. Da Vinci and Michelangelo were trafficking dead bodies in order to understand human anatomy.

In the creative field, you have to be persistent, you have to create a lot, you have to accept the fact that you will fail several times, you have to let go of fear (especially if your medium is digital), and I believe you need to really want it. As sad as it sounds, if you’re not “desperate” about it, chances are you might not have the patience for it.

I could talk about this for hours and if I had the guts to record myself I would’ve already made a Youtube series out of it.

Subsign: If you would have a superpower, what would it be?

witskill: Well that’s a tough one… I did think about this question a few times in my life and I usually wanted invisibility, but man, that’s kinda boring at useless at some point… No hard feelings to anyone who’s invisible!

But right now, I’d say the best superpower for me would me being able to manipulate time. Think about it: I would be able to save someone’s life AND undo in real life while I draw! How cool is that? And I could also reverse time, and then forward it at higher speed and watch myself in a live speed painting video. I also wouldn’t mind being the next Dr. Strange. That’d be cool.

Subsign: Can you recommend for our readers a book, a song, and a movie?

witskill: “12 Rules for Life – An antidote to chaos” by Jordan B. Peterson

One of the best books I’ve ever encountered, especially when it comes to psychology and self-development. I would call it quite an in-your-face self-help manual. And even if you believe you don’t need any help whatsoever, I still recommend the book because it will most likely take you on a little self-discovery trip.

“Heat” (1995)

This is by far the hardest thing to answer in the whole interview! I had narrowed it down to “No country for old men” and “Heat” and I hope I made the right choice. This movie is by far one of the best crime & heist thrillers ever; you can’t have a movie with Al Pacino, De Niro and Val Kilmer in it without turning it into a masterpiece.

“Pirates of the Caribbean – Medley” by Hans Zimmer

When I was young I was in love with “Pirates of the Caribbean”: the ships, the curses, the spells, the pirates, everything! And that’s when I fell in love with Hans Zimmer. I still randomly turn up the speakers, play the whole medley and sink into this song. Goosebumps every time!

Subsign: If you could throw any kind of party, what would it be like and what would it be for?

witskill: Oh oh a “sing-in-the-car”/carpool karaoke party! But like, in a van, or a tram, so you can have a lot of people in there. I’m no singer, but if you’re traveling with me, you’ll have to listen to me singing at least 50% of the time. God, I would love this kind of party.

Subsign: What famous people would you invite to the party and why?

witskill: Well, I would definitely NOT invite any singers, because… well, it’s just a party for bad to average amateurs singers. I would probably invite Johnny Depp just to console him for not making it into my movies.

Thank you, witskill, for being a part of it!

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For more of witskill’s work, you can follow her on the links: witskill on Instagram, witskill’s portfolio.


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"Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard."

Guy Kawasaki