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It seems a lot of illustrators are self taught, and Adam Parata is another recent Image Science favourite who has trod this particular path.
His work combines a muted palette and vintage style with modern subjects and techniques. There's a lovely texture and hand made feeling to the works, something at times missing from modern illustrative works that can on occasion be a little too clinical and perfect. This is a result of how Adam works - favouring Photoshop and custom brushes over ProCreate & Illustrator.
Read on for more about Adam's journey, and insight into his process.
Tell us about your educational background. How and when did you decide to become an illustrator?
After high school I was working as a snowboard instructor and park ranger at Cardrona Mountain Resort but after a few years I decided to move to Dunedin and pick up an Arts degree in Philosophy and Design. Honestly at the time I wasn’t sure where I was going and for what reason but I had a rough idea of university being a place to figure that out.
As far as illustration goes I’m primarily self taught. Although I was exposed to a number of Illustrators via my design tutors (shout out to Scott Savage), but the depth of teaching in illustration was fairly shallow. In fact, they scrapped the only drawing paper they had.
After moving to Melbourne I worked in hospitality and would spend my days off messing around in the studio trying to figure out how all this works. At this time I was focused on working traditionally in oil paints and graphite. Illustration was on my radar but I had no folio, no reputation, no clients and no connections. I started to work on changing that.
It's only been in the last few years that I’ve felt a certain kind of momentum that feels like what I imagine an illustrator would feel. Rather than deciding that I wanted to be an illustrator I think I had more of an idea that I should travel that way. And here I am.
When you’re not working on commissions, what inspires you to draw when you make art for yourself?
Nature, music, current narratives in the media, history, fascinating people and podcasts, folk law and fairy tales.
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your practise as an artist?
In my early years it was definitely cartoons, comics and the artwork I would see on album covers. In the later years it’s been the impressionist and post impressionist painters, Along with a number of Japanese woodblock printers from the shin-hanga style.
Talk us through your process when creating an illustration – what are your favourite tools of the trade? Do you start with more traditional mediums before rendering in digital?
It really depends on the job but in a typical scenario it would be ideation with thumbnail sketches in my sketchbook and if I’m away from the studio drinking coffee I take photos with my iPad and continue to work in either Sketchbook Pro or Procreate. If I’m at the studio I just move straight into Photoshop. If the illustration has a lot of perspective problems to solve I will go to Illustrator and use the vector tool to set up grids etc.
I follow a ‘general to specific’ type of workflow where the general shapes and composition are settled before moving forward into rendering and texturing. It’s more efficient that way, at least for me. Once the main shapes are down I use the ‘colorize’ feature to build up a general colour scheme from here I move into rendering in more detail and then texturing. Final steps are some levels and colour balance layers.
My favourite tool is Photoshop. I’ve invested a lot of time developing a workflow and a set of custom brushes that are a lot of fun to work with. My favourite hardware is my Wacom Intuos Pro and Eizo 24 inch 4k monitor, oh, and I shouldn’t forget my Herman Miller Embody chair. Yes it’s really expensive but if you are wanting to maintain a relatively healthy body and working environment, you need good tools.
Do you have plans to sell your work as limited edition prints in the future? What is the best way for someone to go about buying a print of your work?
Yes I do, my friends and family have been pressuring me for years. I’ve been trying to figure out what work people want to see in print so if you’re interested DM my IG and let me know. I’ll start working towards getting some produced. I already know an excellent printing service ;)
I will also set up an email list on my website. If you want to leave your email there I could contact you when I have prints available.
How have you found working with Image Science?
Seamless. The print quality is great and having access to the breadth of knowledge in a local business is priceless. They also taught me a lot when I was in the monitor market that is hard to find online especially when you are fresh on the scene.
Your beautiful use of texture and the muted, limited colour palette in your work gives it a very distinctive, vintage feel. How would you describe your style? How have you developed this style over the years?
Right now I would probably say my forms are rooted in realism, although human and imperfect, with an old print texture quality and restricted colour palette.
The limited colour palette was initially a result of some of my early client work when we were working towards printing with an offset printer. It was simply cheaper to print in two spot colours. It’s also why I developed my linocut/halftone style. I had printing in mind when producing it.
I think the key thing for me in developing this textured feel over the years has been in developing custom tools and textures. I often change and tweak these brushes, and whenever I feel inspired I make new tools and explore. It's not always fruitful - but that’s ok.
Do you have any long-term goals for your illustration business?
Yes, I am excited about education and sharing. I would love to invest in setting up some educational resources for aspiring illustrators and build a productive community.
How do you develop the characters and stories you create in your work? Are there any characters with unfolding storylines that you plan on developing in the future?
I actually have another IG where I post more of the character work. The characters you see in these illustrations are usually borrowed from another narrative in these other worlds. I used to have them on the same account but it looked messy.
Sometimes I start with a character sketch and flesh out a story around it. This method is nice and loose but the lack of focus can leave you with unpredictable results. I prefer to sit down and write out some core ideas about who, what, where and why the character is. What do they eat, who are their friends etc? There are also plenty of character archetype frameworks that are useful when developing characters that coexist. From here I do front, side and 3/4 views. I’ve also learnt some 3d sculpting software ‘Zbrush’ so I can realise them in even more detail from any angle.
Yes, there are some works in development. They are not complete worlds but more an excuse to explore the character and world. I have a lot of unfinished works in these folders but I’ve been too busy to focus on them just now.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2019 (and beyond)? Do you have any exciting commissions, projects or exhibitions in the pipeline?
I’ve recently got on board with Jeremy and the team at Jacky Winter. I’m really excited about that. I’m curious to see how the bigger commercial audience responds to my work and also how my work will respond to the briefs.
I’ve also started working with some film producers who have commissioned me to illustrate numerous style frames for a VR project. Seeing your illustrations get developed into a VR pipeline is fun. Imagine stepping into a 3D version of your drawing!
- Suzanne H -
Hi Cameron. Just wanted to thank you so much for the brilliant job you have done with my prints, I am thrilled with the results. It's good to find someone I can work with to achieve the results I was looking for.