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Decoding Daily Deviations: Cat Girl

Tue Jul 26, 2016, 8:34 AM

Decoding Daily Deviations is the series that aims to unlock the secrets of what it took to create these magnificent artworks and motivate others to work towards similar recognition. Each week we will present an interview with one artist who has recently received a DD and have them share the details on that specific piece, relating to their creative process, techniques, and narrative inspirations. If you've ever wanted to know more about a beloved artwork and the talented skills applied to it, this is the series to keep track of!"

FEATURED ART: Cat girl by Alex-Brady-TAD
DD DATE: 2015-06-01

Cat girl by Alex-Brady-TAD

Share with readers the details of how this piece came into being. Did you have a clear story idea/inspiration from the beginning? 

The setting is an interpretation of a moment in a book called Engine Summer. It is a powerful and mysterious book, as well as being very beautiful and lyrically written. From hints in the story, it is set long after the Storm that ended our world, and the earth and the people who sparsely populate it have been changed in strange, deep ways. It is a short book, so it offers only a few hints at the history and nature of the world, but they are expertly chosen so that the book feels like a door into a wider world. 

The book provided the key elements of the scene: the girl with the level, appraising, potentially hostile gaze, the great cat, the cool light and the pool, the collapsed concrete flyover... The girl Once a Day and the narrator Rush that Speaks are born into a small settlement of people who live a little like Native American peoples, but whose biology and psychology seem to have been deeply altered. They live largely free of violent disagreement or territorial or marital dispute and have not expanded their settlement much in millenia. They have very little technology, but a complex oral history and philosophical tradition, and venerate the skill of Truth Speaking, clear communication between people. Far from being a hippy commune, they seem to simply be unlike modern humans in deep ways. The narrator describes how at the end of their childhood, Once a Day's unusual defiant independence leads her to leave their home and join the mysterious traders of Dr. Boots' List. In the second part of the novel, she has grown up and become one of the List, people who have a strange spiritual relationship with an enigmatic artefact; what appears to be a recorded mind state, and a very different approach to communication. To say more is to spoil the book somewhat, but her intelligent independent character and manner of speaking reminded me of an artist friend, Robin Doody, so the drawing equipment and eyes are hers. In the story, against Once a Day's wishes, Rush embarks on a quest to track her down and finds her on the far side of a small forest pool seated with an immense cat. She looks up ..."

“Cat girl” has strong atmospheric appeal in both the setting and the serene connection between the central figures. Please, discuss your creative process on the painting, and what you prioritised to achieve its distinctive impact. 

Reading the book is like a strange beautiful heartfelt dream. At times bright and colourful, at others cool and quiet, always imbued with a dreamy quality. The girl has received the enigmatic Letter from Dr. Boots and been changed by it, but how to hint at this? The closest thing my research turned up were paintings by William Waterhouse.

I wanted to attempt the mood of his paintings, however Waterhouse was a grand master so I wanted to do the best I could with the tools at my disposal, specifically Google search and Photoshop! I wanted to ensure a strong steady still composition locked onto her eyes early on, then tune the detail and mood along the way till it seemed closer to the impression in my mind. I used what amounts to collage to search for potential references and stick them one over another, moving and swapping bits till I had something I felt had some potential. 

Then I crudely painted it all together, starting with large details and working in to tight ones in strategic places. This part is always a treat, as you can start to correct small problems and start to vibe it. New ideas occur and can be explored. Put some tunes on, zone out and paint. All the analytical and engineering work early on leads up to this. Enjoy!"

Did you encounter any creative challenges when working on the piece? If so, how did you tackle them? Is there anything you would do differently now if you could? 

My normal science fiction art interests lie toward the spaceships and ring worlds end of the spectrum, and I have always been afraid to tackle subjects from the more humane, literary end, which I love just as much. Engine Summer feels more like Mark Twain and Ursula LeGuin than Asimov or Ted Chiang, so I was nervous I wouldn't be able to catch some of the feel. I'm not sure I succeeded but it was enjoyable to try. If I had a do over I'd like to draw and then painter the image properly without using collages so much. I think reading a book, especially one as good as Engine Summer is a very personal experience so I'd almost recommend not looking at any artwork associated with it till after reading so that it doesn’t inflect ones own impressions too much! So if you do want to read it, pretend you never saw this ok!"

What’s one piece of advice that you would share with other artists hoping to reach this standard of work in the future?

Hmm, I have loads! Please pick and choose any that seem useful. Start very rough and spend at least a day at the start just researching, sketching very rough doodles, thinking, walking, mulling, planning, you get the idea. Then another day just making simple 3D models or collages. I like to take several swings at something. 

Like a video game level, you never nail it first time, but after you've fallen down all the pitfalls and started to get into the controls, you get there. It can be frustrating but also rewarding, just take it in small pieces. 

Don't give yourself horribly hard tasks at the same time; separate design sketching from polished rendering; use whatever cheats you can like Daz, simple 3D sculpts as underlays for difficult geometry; collages; try all sorts till you can assemble something you kind of like. I think it's a bit like science, you do experiment after experiment refining your technique each time. Only when everything is looking well do i start detailing and rendering it, which is a pleasant mindless task. I don't want to be worrying about composition or perspective at that point just music and mood and colour, imagining what the highlights on the water might be doing. Take your time, make quick multiple versions exploring possible alternative approaches. And finish it, sleep then do the final details with a fresh mind. Works every time."

What does this DD feature represent or mean to you at this stage of your artistic development? What can your watchers look forward to next? 

I'm very honoured and flattered! I've been posting on DA since I was a kid so it means a lot! I hope to keep uploading Sci Fi art and maybe be less nervous about trying things outside of my comfort zone too."

Bonus question: Can you cite a memorable reaction to this piece in the comments at DA? 

I'm blown away. I'm very pleased people felt there was a Waterhouse vibe going on; I'm glad something that was a very personal piece gives people pleasure."

Thanks to Alex-Brady-TAD for kindly consenting to this interview!

Make sure to see more amazing pieces at his gallery: 

g1B by Alex-Brady-TAD Sea Horses by Alex-Brady-TAD Harkonnen ornithopter sketches by Alex-Brady-TAD 

Previous Decoding DDs:

Forest of Bunnies
The Journey
Malavestros: Muse of Madness
Jet Futura
The Northern Administration
Prisoned Singer
Don Kichote
On The Hunt
The Platform
I know a bank
Love and war
Chase, The Dreamer
Until the End of the World..
Crow Temple
Dragon's Breath

Spread some cheer by leaving a comment and/or :+fav: on works that you like!  
Want to suggest a DD? See the link to my guidelines below!


A Note on my DD Selections

Wed Jul 20, 2016, 10:10 AM
In lieu of doing my usual art feature today, I'd like to explore more details on what I look for when selecting Daily Deviations, in the hopes that it will assist all of you when sending in your suggestions and just generally being more knowledgeable of what I find appealing. 

To begin, I think the process that led me to becoming a CV is important here, in that I learnt over time, through constant trial and error, how to recognize better quality artworks, and what kinds of paintings were considered worthy to be showcased to the entire community. Most of you will know that before I became an official CV for Digital Art, I was a regular DD suggester, building up a collection of over 400 accepted pieces and counting. Although it's true that I have what could be considered as a natural "eye" for art, I'd stress that when it comes to making suggestions that are accepted, you really have to do your homework as it relates to looking at past DDs and understanding what those special details are that garner widespread appreciation. There was a time when I spent months making suggestions to one CV and never got any accepted before they ended their term. It was frustrating and I even got disillusioned, but I came to see it as a challenge to improve my suggestions, bearing in mind that sometimes CVs have their personal preferences and restrictions on what they will and will not feature. Bottom line: You can have a natural talent for recognising quality art, but like any other endeavour, hobby, or skill, you have to work at suggesting DDs and improve as you go along.

What I look for in my DD selections

1. Overall quality: This simply means that I want to feature art that is done properly, with due attention to details and rendering, colour harmony, effective lighting, and all the other elements that contribute to an impressive artwork. I know what constitutes "quality" can be subjective, but be mindful that you don't have to be performing at top-level skill to produce an illustration that has these characteristics. What is important is not to short-change the skills that you do have and to make sure to attend to each piece to the best of your current ability with a goal of leveling-up. Work that is done in a rush, lacking in refinement, or can be pushed further will not be selected. 

2. A narrative: I'm a big fan of artworks that contain solid storytelling, however simple or complex it might be. So often I have to reject paintings because they say nothing other than the artist is capable of producing a work that is visually pleasing, with good anatomy, lush hair and all that, but has nothing more to recommend it. A narrative is especially important when it comes to DDs, because you're showing these works to the community, and you want them to be able to connect to the piece on an emotional or inspirational level. On the flip side, sometimes an artwork does contain a narrative, but it fails to resonate or make complete sense, or is lacking in taste, and therefore it doesn't get featured. 

3. Unique styles: Having an art style that is uniquely interesting or appealing is always a welcome asset. There is hardly any new concept under the sun, but an uncommon style can do wonders for enriching people's perspective and getting them excited about a work. Coupled with this is having a unique vision: Be bold and daring in your concepts; push the boundaries of what has been done before; challenge viewers to see something in a new way. If I find a painting that stimulates or provokes or makes me look twice for whatever reason, there is a good chance I will be compelled to show it off. 

4. Development: This tends to specifically apply to those artists that have received a DD in the past, and are up for consideration again. What I want to see in this instance is some kind of growth in their work, that their "DD profile" shows an upward trajectory and continued high quality standards. If an artist has received a DD but their portfolio takes a downwards turn or their new (and old) concepts have nothing noteworthy to offer, I likely will not feature them. And for the artists who don't have a DD yet, development is still key. If I can see evidence of your continued improvement and how it has been borne out in a particular painting, that can be a convincing case for a DD feature.


Additional reminders

  • It's not enough that you like it, you have to consider objective worth as much as possible and whether or not a painting meets the kind of standards that would necessitate being featured. Remember that just because something is "pretty" or "cool" doesn't entitle that work to become a DD. Look at the technical skill displayed, the composition, how well the piece illustrates a theme, etc. Try not to send in suggestions on a whim, but to apply some thought in the process.

  • The artwork is King: I consider nothing else but the artistic merits of an illustration. I don't care if the artist is "deserving" because they are nice, hardworking, thoughtful, going through a rough patch, has no DD yet ... you get the point. And to artists who self-suggest, I ask only that you try to be honest and critical in judging the creative value of your own work. Don't self-suggest for a DD because you think it's something nice to have or because you want more watchers and people to check out your profile. There are many different ways to get noticed on DeviantArt and it will involve lots of activity and effort on your part over time. Self-suggest because you believe you have a work that merits being seen in this showcase. 

  • There's no need to pack a note with multiple thumbs from a gallery. I always look at the artist's entire portfolio before I make a selection, and that is even so when artists self-suggest a particular work. It's not because I take my kicks in disregarding someone's preference, but because there might be another piece that is more suited to community-wide exposure and highlights the artist's skills more effectively. 

  • Look around and be discerning: Sometimes I'll visit a gallery after receiving a suggestion and realise that the artist has a much stronger Anthro piece or Fan Art piece, for example, and yet the suggester has sent in a work in the primary Digital Art category that is uninspiring. Being attentive to an artist's gallery and niche categories is very important and can help to make your suggestions more successful. 

  • I do value suggestions: Speaking from personal experience, I know it takes time and consideration to suggest DDs, especially if you're a serious suggester and do it regularly, which means active searching is involved too. As a CV, I still suggest DDs, and many times those pieces aren't selected. There is no magic formula to any of this; no perfect guarantee that something you like and believe in will be featured. But I hope you find it reassuring that I examine each suggestion carefully, and that I am always seeking to better represent the wonderful diversity of styles and skill-sets that comprise the Digital Art community. I can only do that with your continued support. xx


I've started a new art blog to highlight many of the works and artists I feature at DA and find in other art communities. Eventually I hope to open it up for submissions, and offer artists a new outlet for having their works seen. Make sure to check it out and click follow ;)

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FrancescaPoliti Featured By Owner 14 hours ago   Digital Artist
thank You for the request :) :hug:
SheerHeart Featured By Owner 4 days ago
Thank you for the request! :)
Venice0221 Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2016  Student Digital Artist
Thank you for the add! Really appreciate it! :D (Big Grin)
Twinkle-space Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2016   Digital Artist
Thank you for the request :)
memod Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2016  Professional
Thanks for the plug :D =]

zero-scarecrow13 Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2016  Professional General Artist
thanks for request my artwork [ INNOCENCE ]  :)
sasha-fantom Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2016
Thanks for the request!
TCHALart Featured By Owner May 14, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
[TCHAL] Mantra Mountain by TCHALart  The Rock Door by TCHALart  Zen Landscape by TCHALart  Tree Of Life by TCHALart  [Tchal] My 1st Print by TCHALart  
CatStudio7 Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Um, I joined here as a member but I can't submit art here, only suggesting I wonder, does that have a reason? ^^; Or am I missing something?
DocDesign Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks for the acceptance! Looking foward to seeing everyones work!
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