Artist Spotlight: DELICATE DREAMSCAPES / Q&A with Blake Kathryn
Blake Kathryn is a Los Angeles based visual artist working fluidly across the digital landscape. Her work includes influences of art deco x nouveau, cinematography, futurism, science fiction, and solar punk. Fusing vibrant palettes with ethereal undertones, Kathryn creates dreamlike experiences across various subject matter and forms of media.
In our conversation, Blake shared her creative journey, inspirations, and perspectives on starting at as a graphic designer and becoming the 3D legend she is today.
H+: What inspired you to become a digital artist and how did you first get started in this field?
B: It was a happy accident of simply burning the midnight oil for myself. I was working full time as a graphic designer about two years out of college and feeling constricted through the 2010's minimalism era that I was illustrating within. What started as playing with dimensional pixels to break my mental cycle began a swift and long-term journey into pivoting my craft and career—largely shelving my design practice and embracing digital art in its steed. I credit the lovely era of pre-algorithmic social media sharing for the visibility I was able to gain at this time as well as the publications and galleries that took a chance at a fresh face in the field.
H+: What is your creative process like when you are working on a new piece of artwork?
B: I'm very much a traditionalist from a design perspective. I still do the same ebb and flows I learned in my collegiate years. Mood board/thumbnail sketches, tedious notes over promising doodles, narrow in references, then full digital. In the digital phase I start with composition, blockouts and camera. Once established I build out the scene/subject and end with paintover, whether still or animated, for a touch that has overtime become associated as my signature.
H+: You spoke about getting into game design before, is that still something you'd like to get into?
B: Absolutely! I've collaborated with developers on the coding side as well as UE/Unity artists in the past to deliver assets or full designs depending on the build process for those teams to translate. Holovista was a game I was fortunate enough to lead environment design in which was 360's with coded animation for mobile loading. I'm currently also concepting a character for an art-related side project that will be retopographed to be able to work as a functioning avatar. While I remain on the visual end of the spectrum, collaborating with those who offer skills to create immersive and engaging moments is always a dream as they level the playing field for folks of all backgrounds to experience the art.
H+: What advice would you give to aspiring digital artists who are just starting out?
B: I enjoyed the line starting out as a rookie minimal illustrator: "Be so good they can't ignore you." I try to live by that with each work. Each new piece may not be "better" than the last, that's subjective, but it is an improvement in some area: technical skill, experimentation, concept, etc. My subject matter varies greatly, I enjoy bright lighting and certain materials though I don't associate that as a concrete-style and view the idea of having one as a trap to lock yourself out of untapped potential. If you're fortunate enough to pursue your passion, embrace the journey and know the destination will be a serendipitous discovery.
H+: How do you see the digital art industry evolving in the coming years?
B: Well I am on a very solid track record of being wrong with every guess I've made so let's see if I can keep the streak. Programs are becoming more and more accessible already so we'll continue to see an influx of creatives - some with promise, some for more artificial purposes. As always unique voices will empower future aesthetic movements. Big scary AI will hopefully be ethically enforced to empower vs. outright steal, allowing holistic introductions into some areas of creative process. Video and immersive experiences will continue to take priority in "content" and commercial endeavors. Lastly a selfish optimistic hope is that due to indie creators, like myself, not benefiting from most social applications mentally or work-wise now it'll revert to early 2010's culture (and forever before) where the process is simply more pure and less reliant on trends or regurgitation—bring back the funky fresh!
H+: How do you find the right balance there?
B: My art is at its best if I take care of my own body and mind and the difference is quite notable from my perspective at least. I have to credit my graphic designer era where I learned the values of time management, milestones, check-ins, with whatever said project then iron-clad securing my schedule in addition. I have quite a color coded calendar as well as a physical daily check-list and abide by that, including flexible hours where I can go for a walk or cook or if in the throws of creative passion carry on. If work or passion projects are visually and mentally booked, balance naturally falls into place.
H+: What do you hope people take away from your art and what messages or themes do you try to convey through your work?
B: My pivot from design to art-proper years back was also a shift from creating for others vs. the practice becoming an extension of myself. The art is the message and hearing how others interpret or connect with a piece is part of the process for me. I'll allow a more elegant and vastly more talented individual speak the rest:
“It makes me uncomfortable to talk about meanings and things. It's better not to know so much about what things mean. Because the meaning, it's a very personal thing, and the meaning for me is different than the meaning for somebody else.” - David Lynch
H+: What are some of your favorite tools or software for creating digital art and why do you prefer them?
B: If I am to be labeled in the technical field I'm a generalist. My general program of choice is Cinema 4d, it has a similar visual language to Adobe which was my introductory application suite and made for an easy transition that I stuck with. Zbrush for sculpting is unbeatable, Photoshop and After Effects are my primary post programs. Then there's the odds and ends programs such as Daz3d for figure bases, Gigapixel for up-res, Midjourney is how I create stock assets now such as skies, Forester for basic plants, etc.
H+: What are some of your favorite things to do outside of creating?
B: I've heavily embraced pushing my culinary skills this year. Pushing my palette, cooking more international cuisines and focusing on plating even though the audience is a humble house of two. I typically fall asleep to Iron Chef most nights to further push my awareness of unique ingredients and techniques. Otherwise I live quite chill and host projector movie nights, grill out, and game beneath my furry children.
For more information on Blake Kathryn, visit her profile page!