Meet Blake Kathryn, art-director-turned-digital-artist. She dove into the world of 3D design when she discovered the Cinema 4D program on Behance and hasn’t looked back since.
Her work often features isolated body parts or a hodgepodge of recognizable objects that have been given an edgy new look and wonderfully bizarre color scheme. While Kathryn does do client work, she balances it with pieces that illustrate the magical utopia of her imagination, in which inspiration flows from her home state of Florida, Lisa Frank and a serious sketchbook habit, to name a few. Read on to learn how she developed her delightful “disoriented appeal” style of art.
Above: Kathryn uses her work to put a new spin on familiar objects.
Kathryn’s work often features an isolated body part, such as a hand or lips.
First off, how did you fall into the world of 3D/digital art?
Hello! I was a graphic designer and vector-styled illustrator about two years out of school when I fell into the dimensional side of design. I had recently left my art director career path to pursue more hands-on design, where I was getting to draw icons and vector illustrations full-time.
What I thought would be a dream situation ended up leaving me more creatively frustrated and feeling that my flat aesthetic wasn’t quite “my own.” There just seemed to be an untapped part of me that was screaming to spice it up and I didn’t know how to satisfy that wrenching feeling. Lo’ and behold the universe’s timing—I found the program Cinema 4D through tags on Behance while digging up inspiration for a work-related project. At this time I also heard of the “100 Day Project,” that was about to kick off its second year. I decided a deadline-style project was exactly what I needed to commit to learning a daunting program and being forced to share it socially meant backing out wasn’t an option.
Fast forward 100 (ok more like 103) days later and I had a decent mastery of the program with a habit of making daily. By continuing to practice and share daily my skill set was eventually up to snuff to attract client work. The rest of the story is still very much in progress.
You often isolate body parts, especially lips and hands. Why is that?
To me at least, hands and lips are the most sensual segments of the body. They’re so integral to body language and overall human expression. Dissected from the body they can completely re-define an intention or draw focus to it, which keeps me coming back to explore those elements further. I’m also a chronic nail biter, so it’s a bit of habit-therapy to craft well manicured hands.
Kathryn often pulls inspiration from Lisa Frank and her many, many sketchbooks.
What motivates you to create a GIF versus a still image?
From an engagement standpoint people tend to prefer and react to motion more than their still counterpart.
From a personal standpoint, I find animating a piece creates a situation people can engage with on their own terms, vs. me defining an experience. Having viewers’ share and tell their own emotions or recap a moment with a piece is a pastel pink cherry on top.
Your subject matter is pretty broad, from burgers to phones growing roses. Where do you get your ideas?
Always sketchbooks! What’s put down on pen and paper exceeds straight-to-digital designs regularly. I try to carry a pen with me everywhere I go, so if an idea strikes on the go, I can quickly slap it on a receipt. This practice also allows me to backlog phrases or puns I enjoy that fall flat with my current aesthetic, leaving room to bring these archived concepts out for future pieces. It’s amazing to realize how many things you’ve forgotten when flipping through old sketches.
Kathryn has created her own style of art, which she calls, “disoriented appeal.”
A lot of your work is disorienting or distorted in some way. What messages or emotions are you trying to evoke?
Growing up in the surreal state of Florida (literally we have a huge surrealist museum), surrounded by kitschy art, creativity was always around. That being said, I’m strongly averse to kitsch anything and minimalism/pop art strung my heartstrings the second I learned of the movements. Combine those influences with futuristic-utopia-vibes from my childhood love for anime and the aesthetic recipe for disoriented appeal naturally created itself.
Mood-wise, I enjoy creating pieces that evoke a positive or aspirational tone to them. There’s enough daily negativity and I’d like to add visual pep to someone’s day.
How does something go from an idea to a finished piece?
It varies, usually depending on if the piece is personal or client focused.
Personally I’m terribly impatient, when an idea pops up I try to immediately ink up a doctor’s signature-esque sketch and then take a swift, digital dive until the piece is finessed. Having a rougher vision usually leads to fun challenges or new technical discoveries.
When I’m creating client work, it’s the opposite. I’ll divide my time between carefully crafted mood boards, sketches and notes—avoiding a digital dip until the vision is clear, which is almost always more time efficient.
Florida’s surrealist museum has also had an influence on Kathryn’s work.
Very important: How do you come up with your incredible color palettes?
First off, thank you! I’ve always been drawn to highly saturated tones and metallics in real life photoshoots, as well as general growing up preferences (Lisa Frank, gel pens, etc). When learning the CGI-side of life, I really fell in love with creating brightly lit settings and metallics with softer pastels seemed to create the sweetest recipe for an easy on the eyes experience.
What are you doing when you’re not creating surreal futuristic digital art?
My favorite pastime is walking around the city. I’m fortunate to live in a walkable neighborhood, West Hollywood, so I get off the screen to grab a bite, brew or sight as often as I can. Hobby-wise I on and off beer brew and am looking to take an urban gardening class soon, to upgrade the irl green thumb skills.
The artist is currently adding After Effects and digital painting to her repertoire.
How do you see your work evolving? Are there any new techniques you’d like to learn or programs to master?
Always, that’s the best part of this industry—the second you’re comfortable with your tech the possibilities expand infinitely.
Currently I’m putting more focus into mastering elements of After Effects, as well as understanding compositing methods further. Once I need to switch up that learning curve, I’m seeking to get better at digital painting via Photoshop to add a fresh stylistic edge to my renders.
Photos © Blake Kathryn