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Interview with Liz Lorini - AKA Miss Kika

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Read Time: 10 min

Liz Lorini, aka Miss Kika, is a San Francisco based illustrator and graphic artist. She has been drawing fashion girls since she was a little, which she says was a major influence to kick start her career in art and graphic design. Bagged with her degree she started freelancing and in her spare time and also started doing a series of illustrations she titled "Miss Kika" after her deceased pet kitty. Her style is girly art, filled with color and glitter. "Drawing candy girls all day is a dream come true," she says! So lets have a chat with this young talented artist.

1. Hi Liz, welcome to Vectortuts+! Give us a little background bio of yourself, tell us where you're from.

Hello! My Name is Liz Lorini and I am a full-time freelance illustrator out of San Francisco, CA. In 2006 I graduated Ringling School of Art and Design with a BFA in Illustration.

2. When did you first realized that you wanted to be a digital artist and illustrator? Did you take any formal training in this field or are you self taught?

I always liked flat and crisp colors, so one day when I was taking a break from drawing I fired up MS paint and gave it a go! After doing art with that for a few weeks and sifting around the internet, I found that a lot of people talked about this amazing art software called Adobe Photoshop and I set up to get a copy. I must have been about 14 at the time, and the current version I bought was 5.5! I still loved to draw and paint, but eventually Photoshop became my main medium and I would draw on it just about every night from middle to high school.

At 16 I discovered tablets and added that to my desk, chugging along with work and reading tutorials or buying photoshop books to learn techniques. I did that till I entered art college, when I had to stop because digital classes are not really an option at Ringling till your 3rd year... and even then it's pretty much a crash course in all the softwares for only half a semester.

During that quick intro class I fell in love with Adobe Illustrator's clean lines, it was something I spent a lot of time and effort to produce with my other mediums.. so Illustrator seemed like the ideal software for me to master. After a brief class for it, I pretty much sat down myself and did assignment after assignment in Vector. It was really hard at first, because vector is a very unique medium, but over time I have learned to control it the way I want. Long story short, I feel I was about 90% self taught - with minor pointers with tools.

3. Your illustrations have a strong presence of fashionable girls filled with color and patterns, how did this style evolve? How would you describe your style and what are the things that you strive for when creating your illustrations?

When I create my work I want it to be simple to take in, yet filled with detail and movement so it does not bore you. The style has evolved over the years into a mash of everything I enjoy rolled into one expression. I studied high school in Japan and spend summers in Korea, so I feel that my work had started to soak up a bit of Asian design aesthetic (I really enjoy packaging art in Asia)! I have been told it also reflects my love for 1970's art and 1980's cartoons... so I'm glad people can spot that!

4. What is your workflow for creating a typical image, how long does it take? Can you describe your workspace?

Normally, I start with a very sloppy sketch or tablet sketch; it's almost chicken scratch and really just meant to be an idea/concept, as opposed to a line art or exact guideline to follow in vector. I then take the idea into Adobe Illustrator with my tablet and begin to draw the base shapes, usually very sloppy and always with the freehand tool. I almost never use the pen tool, everything I draw is with the freehand pencil tool.

Once I get my base shapes blocked in, I layer (push forward/backward) them a bit (hair on top, clothing shape in the middle, legs on the bottom) and I begin to refine the shapes bit by bit... kind of like I'm molding something from that draft blob. A piece can take me a night to a week, and it all depends on the details really. Since I freelance for a living, I can work pretty fast from practice though. Average seems to be about two days on and off though.

My workspace is a dual monitor PC with my printers, pink TV, pink tower, inspiration wall filled with art and scraps of things I like, my urban vinyl toy collection, and my pink bookshelf filled with art books - my office is a very happy cute place to inspire me! My clubhouse of sorts I guess!

5. Where does the name Miss Kika come from?

When I started doing gallery work I wanted to name the girl I was drawing. This is because people seem to respond and remember things that are named. My first pet cat was named "Kika" and was alive as long as I was, one of those pets you grow up with. When I went to Japan for high school I decided I wanted to come home and pursue art in college, but while I was away the cat passed away from old age. When I had to think of a name, I thought it would be a sweet tribute to use hers, since she passed away when I discovered my calling and it stuck. I think it's cute and easy to remember ;)

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

My favorite piece changes all the time, but currently I love my new piece that I created for my solo show this Feb at Pink Ghost. It's called "Sweet Rococo" and is an illustration of three 17th century girls with a pop twist in a room filled with cakes. I spent about a week alone on the details, and hand painted the frame to match; it was quite a labor of love! Haha!

7. Tell us a bit about gallery works that you do. How is it different from retail works? Is there any new show(s) or project(s) coming up?

My gallery work is the work that everyone is familiar with, the white girls with the pop art qualities. My freelance client work is a range of things from youth illustrations of cheerleaders to girls with handbags - still very girly I guess.

I have a slew of new projects and shows coming out, everyone can check misskika.com for the full event listings and news. Most notable are some more shows for the art book "Pink attitude" at Compound gallery in Portland (if you like girly low brow art it's a great book of artists, pink-attitude.net and I will be in another new book by underscore press by the end of this year. The title is still to be announced.

Aside from the books, I will be in the "Confections" show this April at the aftermodern café in CA, my solo show at Pink Ghost in FL (pinkghost.net) , and I just signed on to work with the new urban gallery CTRT in Seoul, Korea which is very exciting since my boyfriend is from Seoul and we go there often! Lots of exciting things to look forward to this year.

8. What made you choose vector art as a means to express your creativity? Would you like to share with us any of your favorite Illustrator: tools, tips, or techniques?

I guess it's the same that I said above! I chose it because it gave me clean lines a lot faster than any other software. Now I have also grown to love how clean it prints and how easy its edits are, as that really comes in hand with picky clients.

9. Aside from your personal work as Miss Kika, you are also freelancing full-time. How easy or difficult was it to find a niche market for your illustrations. What do you do to promote your works, any specific marketing strategy?

I think that my niche was a very easy find, you just have to think hard about who exactly you are trying to appeal to really. At this time, my personal work brings in enough eyes that I have not had to actively seek out clients for freelance in some time, but I do have some dream clients I want to work with and will most likely mail them a promo postcard or gift pack of merch soon. I found that aside from promoting your work online through blogs and portfolio sites, it never hurts to network your brains out! So promo, promo, promo, and network!

10. Who is your artistic role model? Are there any particular artists that you get inspiration from?

When I was a student I found great inspiration from Marguerite Sauvage and Yumiko Kayukawa. My first illustration teacher showed me Marguerite's work when I was a 2nd year student, and at that time I was very stuck about what to do with myself and my goals. I felt very lost. Both her and Yumiko drew beautiful and fun girls for a living and hung in shows and everything; I was amazed people could do that! Those girls are what made me have the courage to keep drawing my ladies, because I knew then that there was a market for it and people did care about that work.

Actually, I am in the "Pink Attitude" artbook with Marguerite now, so its been an amazing circle to be published with one of your heros. My 3rd and 4th year of college I was also very lucky to have a teacher who allowed me to work in whatever medium and style I felt worked, so it allowed me to keep on researching other fashion illustrators like Neryl Walker or Miki Amano and find my own voice.

Nowadays, I float around and buy art books or hold on to random adds that I enjoy, but I try not to dig too deep into other artwork because I don't want to feel influenced. The longer I work the less freaked out I feel about getting influenced though, I think its something many people may fear when they first start out.

11. Apart from your own unique style, do you also explore and experiment with other different style of vector illustrations?

I have tried out more simplified styles, but I just love details too much!

12. Liz, thanks for the interview. Any final thoughts or words of advice for aspiring digital artists and illustrators?

My main advice would be to keep on working and keep on trying new things with the software and your art! You never know what will totally click with you and work to your advantage to make you a better illustrator. Also, don't let anyone tell you that your work is of a lesser value just because it's digital!

Liz Lorini on Web:

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