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Interview with Bree Leman

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Bree Leman, presently based in Florida, is a fashion and glamour illustrator. In this interview she talks about how she started her career as an advertising graphic designer and evolved herself into developing her own illustrative fashion vector style.

Today she is a successful freelance designer working with some top advertising companies around the globe and currently completing projects with seventeen magazine, Avon and Beijo fashion bags. Read on to learn more about this talented artist. She kindly shares with us her experiences, dream projects, and some great tips on design and illustration.

Q Hi Bree, how are you today? Tell us a little about yourself, where do you come from? What's a typical workday for you?

I'm doing great, thank you. Well, for starters, I was born in New Jersey in 1978, and my artistic journey began at the Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where I earned my Bachelors of Fine Arts in Illustration & Graphic Design. After graduation, I moved to the sunny beaches of Florida, with my husband Dylan, to escape the cold winters of the Northeast.

My typical workday always starts with coffee, and then I turn on the iMac, my iTunes, and get to work.

Q How did you get your start in the creative industry? Did you have any formal education in this field or are you self-taught? What was your first experience when you started working professionally? Do you freelance full time?

My start in the creative industry was first developed at the High School level and refined at the Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After graduating I started training myself in Adobe Illustrator after hours while working as an advertising graphic designer at a local newspaper company. This is where I developed my illustrative/fashion vector style. Luckily my style took off and it became my full time job.

Q Looking at your illustrations, I feel Vectors and Fashion make such a beautiful combination! What made you decide that you want to draw fashion illustrations only? How did this style evolve and what are the things that you strive for when creating your illustrations? What made you choose vector art as a medium to express your creativity?

Thank you very much for the compliment on my work! My style is constantly evolving. I keep trying to use the basic principles that my college taught me, such as the use of white space and body proportions as the base for my illustrations. I try to draw from my imagination, and oh, if only I could draw what I see in my head then I would be thrilled, but it never comes out like I see it. :-)

The choice of vector as my medium is easy because I love the effects and varied color palette you can get from Adobe Illustrator. I also love that you can keep going in Illustrator (e.g. deleting / erasing) until your work is how you want it, unlike working with oil on canvas or with chalks, which were some of the first mediums I learned to design in.

Q Your vector illustrations have a beautiful color palette with soft gradients and watercolor-ish touch. What is your technique for creating these pieces? Can you walk us through your typical process from start to finish? What is your favourite Adobe Illustrator tool or effect?

Thank you. In using Adobe Illustrator I love that I can create my own color palette. When designing a picture I sketch it out first and use it as a foundation to start my vector image. Yes, one of my favorite techniques is to use Gradients to make things pop and look round with volume. And for the watercolor-ish look, I use transparency and gradient meshes. Overall, my favorite Illustrator effect is definitely Transparency, because with it you can create the perfect pair of sunglasses, sheer clothing, or watercolor effect! Below are a few Adobe Illustrator tips:

  1. Save your picture in multiple stages until you finish the picture in its entirety, because you may want to go back to something that you deleted along the way of developing your vector image.
  2. Gradient Meshes make things really pop and it gives a full dimension to an image.
  3. Illustrator is a great way to make textile design for clothing. So after you make your design you need to know how to set it up for print.
  4. You can create your own set of brushes that can help with line weight, hair, and jewellery. Here is a great link to this.

Q Who is your artistic role model? Are there any particular artists or websites that you get inspiration from? Your illustrations reminds me of the works of a talented designer Sophie Griotto, have you ever seen her works?

Some of my artistic role models are Illustrators who have a true passion for lovely line work and beautiful splashes of color. Some of those artists are: Manuel Rebollo, Leyendecker, Bec Winnel, Arturo Elena, and Robert McGinnis to name a few.

In considering myself a Parisian at heart, I draw my design inspiration from my travels, particularly Europe, where I enjoy studying urban culture, contemporary fashion, and architecture. As a Fashion Illustrator I have had the pleasure of working with some of the top advertising companies around the globe doing what I love.

With regards to your question about Sophie Griotto, thank you, I will take that as a compliment. I've definitely seen her work before. She has a very beautiful and distinct watercolor style that makes her pictures very soft and edgy, definitely cool and visually appealing.

Q Do you have a favorite piece you have created? And if you do, why is it your favorite?

My favorite piece would have to be my woman in the red couture dress or the African American women with the rainbow lollipop. I think they're both playful pieces.

Q What are you working on currently, any interesting or exciting project? Is there any dream project you would like to work on? What would it be?

This month I am finishing up projects for Seventeen Magazine, Avon (London), Beijo Fashion Handbags, and my monthly job with Metro Creative Graphics. I consider the team at Metro Creative Graphics (NYC) as an extension of my family. They gave me my first big break 8 years ago and I'm still creating Vectors for them to this day.

As for my Dream Project, it would have to be to create an illustration that made its way onto a billboard in Times Square, New York City or on a TV commercial.

Q Apart from art and illustration what other things do you enjoy? How do you recharge your creative batteries?

In my free time I enjoy spending time with my family and two little Yorkies. I also try to recharge my creative batteries by taking vacations to inspiring places.

Q Thanks for the interview! What message or advice would you like to give to aspiring artists and illustrators?

You're very welcome, and in closing, my advice to all the aspiring artists and illustrators out there is to never stop trying to improve your skill set and that you must learn to become adaptable to the ever changing marketplace. I'm always trying to improve and refine my work by learning new things in Adobe Illustrator.

I'm constantly finding new tools and/or learning new techniques to improve my work. I also recommend studying fashion (in general) and use photography from your travels to help inspire you. And finally, learn to take constructive criticism without taking personal offense. These are just a few tips I learned through my experiences that have helped me become a successful freelance artist.

Thank you again for this wonderful opportunity.

Bree Leman on Web

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