Shadow Chen works from her studio in Shanghai, China, which she says is a bit messy but is full of many postcards and art prints that keep her artistic energy flowing. She keeps her favorite floral scent next to her cactus plants, so you can imagine that she derives inspiration from opposites. Along with creating packaging, identity, and websites, Chen also works in product design, paints traditionally, and creates graphics for fashion design.
First and most importantly, I work by feel. When doing a certain piece of art, I get inspired by emotions, like when you hear music you want to sing along or dance. When the feeling comes I just have to draw and paint. Second, I need to be alone, in a space only for myself. I believe that being alone is something special for every art lover. Last but not at least, music influences me. I love magical, powerful, trippy soundscapes.
Most of the time I start my work with sketches, and after that I spend some time thinking about what direction I will go with finalizing or digitalizing and coloring the artwork. Then I am ready.
"Concert Undersea" started with a totally spontaneous sketch. I did this sketch by drawing on my mood, using colored pencils of red and green. The sketch expressed my passion and yearning and I loved it a lot, so I decided to digitalize it for this project.
I first imported the sketch into Adobe® Illustrator® and set up my artboard to be the same size as the placed sketch.
I next began to create all the different types of objects in the sketch. I got to use a lot of different tools to make the variety of creatures that are in my undersea world.
I wanted a number of my objects to look like they were created using the traditional watercolors that I use in my paintings. I found that now I can do this using the Bristle Brush in Illustrator CS5.
I first created a curvy shape and filled it with a watery blue-green linear gradient. I then selected Draw Inside to get an instant mask. I set up Bristle Brush parameters, choosing the Flat Fan shape along with the Flat Fan bristle characteristics.
I brushed along the shape, adding a few different strokes. I placed another small object on top of the first one with its own gradient and transparency.
I then created a symbol out of this object so I could put multiple instances of it wherever I wanted.
Making one of my bubble objects is simple with the use of the new variable-width stroke feature. I started with an outline stroke, and used the new Width tool to vary the width of the outline around the shape. I added two circles on top, which are just little blobby shapes that I like to sprinkle around in my artwork.
I duplicated the big bubble to use as a separate fill object, pasting it in back and filling it with red.
Applying a gradient mesh with the Mesh tool allowed me to really control the location of shine and shading. I altered the transparency of the gradients to let the red color on the back object show through to create the rounded volume look.
I drew a white transparent ellipse for a highlight and created a series of various bubbles in the same way. Finally, I made symbols out of my favorites, so I could quickly use them in other areas of the artwork.
The rope, or worm-like elements, are made using a blend. I started by creating the two shapes that are the ends of the rope segment. I then drew a curve to guide the shape, or give it a spine, and used the Blend tool to create the intermediate objects. I played with Blend options to get just what I wanted.
If the result is not natural and realistic, I will expand the blend and edit each part.
Making more ropes is even faster. I copy and paste a blended object, alter the steps using the Blend options, and change the shape of the spine curve.
Once I finished creating most of my objects and completed details, like the gradients in the petals of the central flower, I was ready to refine the artwork and add the finishing touches.
After evaluating the overall composition, I worked more with the colors and improved how all of the little elements work together.
I next deleted my sketch layer and started making the colors stronger, adding depth and new detail to make the artwork more exciting. I finished if off with a rich, bright blue background that fades toward the surface of the water, giving the whole piece additional depth.