LEOcrafts has been uploading illustrations to iStock since 2007. His vector style is instantly recognizable: Brightly colored, punchy, with complex lighting effects drawn in a unique hand-painted style. Let's take a minute to get to know him better!
How did you get started as an illustrator? Are you formally trained?
Yes, I studied Applied Art. I started my career as a designer in Advertising, then changed over to animation where I worked on some multinational projects. As to illustrating for microstock, a few years back finding work in India was difficult due to layoffs. Even though I wasn't affected, I did think that I should look into finding an alternate source of income to be safe. My brother vkbhat was the one who first suggested illustrating for iStock! All I knew at the time was how to draw in Photoshop so I decided to learn how to create vectors with Illustrator. After 3 or 4 years I ended up leaving my day job altogether to contribute full time to iStock!
How would you describe your personal style as an artist?
I would say that as an artist, my style is most closely related to Impressionism.
What are your artistic influences or inspirations?
When I worked as an animator, I got to create lots of nature background with magical lighting effects and colors. These have inspired my illustrations a lot!
"I ended up leaving my day job altogether to contribute full time to iStock."
What are your favorite subjects to draw?
Any form of nature! But landscapes are definitely my favourite subject.
What equipment / tools do you use for your work?
I use Adobe Illustrator for my vectors. I have the Intuos 5 large touch tablet to help me create my painterly style illustrations.
What is the most important thing you have learned as an illustrator?
The most important thing that I have learned as an illustrator is to work hard! If you have any drawing skills, you can create magical illustrations with hard work.
"Landscapes are definitely my favourite subject."
About how long does it take you to create an illustration for iStock?
It depends: If the style of the illustration is my painterly style, then it can take over 8 hours to create! But if it's a simpler illustration with less details they take me 3 to 4 hours.
Can you walk us through your typical workflow when creating a new illustration?
My workflow really depends on the style that I am working with. If I'm drawing from life, I will take my own reference photo to work off of. If I'm drawing a landscape, I will use a mix of my photography and hand drawn sketches. I also carefully plan out my color schemes as I work. Once I've decided on a subject then I will create various sized brushes and will work using my Wacom tablet. I also like to create and scan my own textures using hand made paper that I Live Trace in Illustrator. After I'm finished drawing, I then clean up my work by cropping out any unnecessary objects and shapes. It can take a long time!
How has your iStock style evolved over the years? What do you think looking back on your first uploads to the site?
My style has definitely evolved over time. I'm more professional now and it shows in the quality improvements in my portfolio. But I don't regret my early uploads, I know that I was still learning!
"The most important thing that I have learned as an illustrator is to work hard!"
What is your favorite part about having an iStock portfolio?
My favorite part is playing with new styles, creating my own textures, learning new techniques, making the most of the tools in Illustrator, and how to simplify my workflow.
Do you have any advice for new iStock contributors?
Always think about the usability of your illustration. Think about colors that will catch a client's eye, plan out your compositions carefully and keep things simple. After finishing your vector you should experiment with different colors and compositions to see if there's anything you can do to improve. Leave out anything unnecessary! Push towards developing your own unique style so that people will know you by your work, but don't get stuck in a style rut. Keep pushing yourself. Research what's out there, what is trending, and keep working hard.
How do you come up with new ideas for your iStock portfolio?
As an artist I am constantly thinking about developing my style. I feel I've done well with my own work! I was getting bored with simple gradients and flat colors in my previous works, so I started working on a new style. It wasn't at all easy to do in Illustrator because there was no way to mix colors like I can in Photoshop but I never gave up. I created new brushes and experimented with my tablet and I've been very happy with the results. Now more than 75% of my portfolio is in my own unique style. I'm very proud to consider myself an iStock trendsetter!
Who are some of your favorite iStock illustrators?
There are so many artists who's work I admire! I will start with procurator, chuwy, begur, diane555, friztin, bortonia, mxtama, o-che, Rusanovska, unizyne, VeenaMari and so on!
"Always think about the usability of your illustration."
If you were stranded on a desert island, what would you take with you?
My Wacom tablet.
Before it happens, what's the one thing you'd like to do before you die?
To become Black Diamond contributor
If you could jet off anywhere, where would it be?
I would go to the Himalayas, North India!
Is there anything else that we should know about you?
I am classical musician (Hindustani classical singer) and a good sportsman.