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Interview with Cathy Martin aka flashparade

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In this interview we meet Cathy Martin aka flashparade, a vector artist from Canada. Her style of illustration is simple yet attractive with an appealing color scheme. Cathy talks about how she got started with vector art, her design process, ideas and inspirations. Read more about this artist who loves to create some amazing modern, sassy and cute female characters.

Q Hi Cathy, give us a little background bio of yourself; tell us where you're from. What is a typical day for you?

Well I was born in Prince Edward Island, Canada, and have lived there most of my life, though I did live in Halifax Nova Scotia for awhile. I have been married to my awesome husband for 6 years and we have a 2 year old son together who keeps me busy most of the day. I also have 3 kitties and 3 cute bunnies.

In the run of the day I can be found doing so many different things! Besides chasing my son around I have a part-time job at a craft store to feed my addiction to my many hobbies, such as scrapbooking. When I'm not immersed in one of my hobbies I'm usually sketching or working on an illustration while listening to whatever song I'm currently obsessed with, or watching my favorite cartoons over and over again. God bless DVD box sets!

Q What inspired you to become an artist? Where does your training come from? Did you have any formal education in this field or are you self-taught?

I don't really have a single moment of inspiration when I decided to pursue art, it was something that I had always done as a child, but as I got older I set my artistic nature to focus on school and studying. By the time I graduated High School art was the furthest thing from my mind, and I hadn't drawn in years.

After going to University for a year I decided I wasn't enjoying it, and after taking a year off I went back to school, but this time I went in the completely opposite direction of my studying and went into a Graphic Design program, and I immediately fell in love with it. I now have two diplomas in Graphic and Digital Media design, but besides a class in character design I have no formal illustration training. I'm pretty much self taught.

Q What fascinates you the most about vector art and illustration? What part of illustration is most fun and easy and what is most difficult?

What fascinates me the most is just the possibilities that are out there for me. My mind is always working, and I'm constantly coming up with concepts or ideas, and being able to actually get them out of my head and onto paper is unbelievable. I would say the best and definitely most fun part of illustration for me is coming up with the concepts of what I'm going to draw, though the most difficult is also the execution of those ideas. I'm always worried that my skills won't add up to what I see in my head and I won't be able to properly convey what I want.

Q What is your work flow for creating a typical image? What tools and applications do you mainly use to create your art?

My work flow is not always the same, but I usually either start out with an idea or I start pursuing art sites or images, looking for inspiration. Sometimes my inspiration comes from the music I'm listening to, or the mood I'm in. I then sketch out my idea using animation pencils. I love drawing in different colors and since the lines never fully erase I can always go back and redo something.

After I'm satisfied with it I scan in and then I use a tablet and pretty much the pen tool exclusively to line/color my piece. The majority of my time spent on a piece is in selecting a color scheme or deciding on a background, I'm always so indecisive about those two aspects of my art. Though I've been using Illustrator for years I haven't really ventured beyond the basic tools, which can sometimes be hindering, but I always figure out a method to achieve what I'm looking for.

Q Your illustrations have a pleasing and subtle color palette, could you talk about your process in coloring your art?

Coloring my art is a huge part of my process, though it's one of the most difficult parts of it as well. I go through many color choices when I am working on a picture, selecting and re-selecting colors until I'm happy with their harmony.

I tend to go for more subdued and somewhat retro colors. I'm always drawn more to artwork that has subtle colors, rather than bright or bold colors. Coming up with colors combos and palettes is something I find I tend to have a knack for. It's something that I find comes naturally, and I think my studies in Graphic Design helped me have an eye for it.

Q Looking at your work cute and pretty female characters seems to be your favorite subject to draw. Why is that?

For the most part I draw females because I find there's so much more I can do with them. I can make them beautiful, vulnerable, strong, ugly, whatever takes me. I'm a role-player and I always play a female character because I just find them more interesting then the male characters.

Most of my inspiration comes from viewing artwork with females and when I come up with a concept it almost always appears in my mind as a woman. There is a fluidity to their lines and bodies that you can't quite achieve with a male character. I also tend to draw females because I struggle drawing male characters. Since I was always drawing for myself I never bothered to really delve into drawing men, though it is something I have wanted to do, if I can ever tear myself away from drawing cute girls!

Q What five words would you use to describe your design style? What projects are you working on now?

Oh my god 5 words! I have trouble defining my style in a paragraph! Well I would have to say (in no particular order) retro, simplistic, unusual, hip, cute. I find those tend to be the words I use the most when talking about my art.

When it comes to upcoming projects I'm still in the midst of trying to really find a style that I'm satisfied with, so I'm doing a lot of sketching and experimenting. I'm currently still working on my stockings series, as well as my ugly pretty series. I have a tendency to want to draw art series as opposed to just single pieces, though it doesn't always work out that way! I have a ton of finished sketches in my sketchbooks just waiting for me to color, all I need is the time and drive. I'm also currently designing stamps for anitabestampin.com. It's a terrific little site for anyone who likes to make cards or scrapbook and wants a cute pinup or something a little different in a stamp. I absolutely love creating stamps for her, it's so much fun to come up with pinups.

Q Who is your artistic role model? Are there any particular artist(s) that you get inspiration from? Or any particular website(s)?

My list of artists I look up to is always changing and expanding and the majority of the artists that I draw inspiration from are on Deviantart. Currently my role model is Julie West, I am absolutely loving her style, but I have so many artists and friends that I love on DA. Camilla d'Errico, Beth Spencer, Jason Levesque, Jenevieve Broomall, Aleksandra Marchocka, Anneli Olander and so many more it would take up the entire page to name them all.

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

I have many other obsessions in my life hehe. For one I am an avid scrapbooker. I've been doing it for over a year and am absolutely obsessed with it. When the mood strikes me I also enjoy doing other crafts, I've always got a few different ceramics sitting around half painted. Aside from art and crafts I love geeking out whenever possible. I roleplay from time to time, and I do enjoy a good video game. It's nice every once and awhile to just numb out and get immersed in an entirely different world.

Q Thanks for the interview Cathy. Would you like to give any tips or advise to aspiring digital artists and designers?

My advice to aspiring artists out there is not to get discouraged about how much knowledge you have about programs or techniques and just go at your own pace. I myself am still learning new techniques and tricks and while sometimes I wish I knew how to do everything, not knowing makes me use my creativity to come up with my own solutions to achieve the look or style I want.

Cathy Martin on Web

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