For the studio’s team of artists, creativity isn’t just a mindset. It’s a way of life. “The longer you do this kind of work, the more it becomes organic. Your hands, mind, and imagination become more connected. The process gets faster, but it's still challenging,” says Keith Zulawnik, Lead Artist at FableVision Studios.
Collaborating with clients often starts with several mood boards, where the art team pulls similar images with a similar visual “feel” from various sources like magazines, movies, and pop culture to create a visual world. The client is usually presented with a few options of mood boards and invited to share their opinions.
And in case you’re wondering, sometimes there are pieces of mood boards that don't resonate —but that's all part of the process. “You instantly know if clients are, for instance, allergic to the color yellow,” Keith says, jokingly.
It’s a lot of decision making, and every visual detail is considered, as well as the message the client is trying to convey. “If your client is a yoga studio, for example, you might try to have the lines in the artwork appear still and peaceful and avoid harsh angles," Keith explains. "If you’re working for a company that sells jogging shoes, on the other hand, you might have a lot of dynamic angles and movement in the images.” It’s these subtle visual cues that communicate a story to all of us, often without us even noticing it.
Once the “mood” of the piece is chosen, these images become a kind of visual palette to inspire the original art that follows. Now it’s time to make the characters. To tackle the details of fleshing out an entirely new world, an artist has to be fluent in a number of styles and use a number of tools. When creating art, there’s a broad range of character styles to pull from, anything from simple shapes to fully-formed people and animals.
To “illustrate” all the creative ingenuity and expertise that lies behind the canvas, here’s a sample image and process video by Keith .
“As an artist, the most important thing is to start with the heart of the piece. The story comes first, and all the other tricks and techniques serve to help convey the story," Keith says.
"The heart of this piece was this moment, where the astronaut is stealing the egg. Once I knew that, I began to use visual cues to help this story unfold. One of the techniques you learn that catches people’s eyes is circles. So for this drawing I was trying to call people’s attention to the astronaut’s face by prominently showing the circular helmet. Also, there’s a contrast of colors, from very light to very dark, which is another thing that really catches people’s eyes,” Keith shares. “I tried to have the viewer’s eye follow the story of the picture, first to the astronaut’s face, then following his sight line up to the monster’s face, then around to the other monsters, and then back up to the egg, so you finally understand the whole scene.”