Exercise: Identifying tools and materials

Brief Pt1:

“Find a range of illustrators who use a particular medium. You may focus on the traditional such as pencil, watercolour, paint, gouache, coloured pencils, oil or acrylic paint, coloured pencils, collage, prints or on the more obviously digital processes – including digital collage, photography, digital drawing and painting”.

For this exercise, I have chosen three current digital artists:

Matt Taylor                         Dan Mumford                        Kilian Eng

Brief Pt2:

“Catalogue the illustrators according to similarities in the way that they use tools and materials. How do they distort or exaggerate the representation of elements in their work? How do they communicate through the use of metaphor or symbols?”.

Below I have compiled several works by each artist. Each artist works digitally, with Dan Mumford solely working as a digital artist from very early on in his career.

Matt Taylor

Matt Taylor is a UK based artist/illustrator. The first thing you notice about his work is the colour palette that he uses. Taylor is very fond of using very bold, saturated colours in his work to highlight and exaggerate character detail. When looking at Taylor’s work, it is almost like he has created his own colour chart as his work is instantly recognisable, from highlighting individual elements to creating multitudes of colour for movie posters. His primary tool for producing artwork is a Cintiq tablet powered with photoshop. He has recently started using an iPad for smaller, less demanding pieces. Using layers is a huge part of the digital art, the idea of breaking an image down to say tens, if not thousands of layers, allows the artist to build and structure an image like never before.

Close up details of Matt Taylor’s work:

Dan Mumford

Dan Mumford is another UK based artist who works solely on a digital platform.  Like my previous chosen artist, Mumford works with very bold colours to create futuristic artwork.  Mumford, who started his career as a screen printer, likes to create his artwork with the same process in mind.  He mostly uses a default brush to build up the image, keeping colours to a minimum.  His illustrations nearly all have a central viewpoint with natural borders created from dark areas of the scenery.  This allows the colour to build up and draw your eye directly to the subject matter.  Working mostly on movie posters, Mumford is known for re-imagining scenes directly lifted from films.  Mumford again uses a Cintiq tablet alongside Photoshop.

Close up details of Dan Mumford’s work:

Kilian Eng

Kilian Eng is a Swedish based artist/illustrator. He is known for creating artwork with incredible detail. Throughout the majority of his work is the depiction of two worlds colliding. It is like the artist knows how small we really are, creating incredibly intricate worlds with giant structures and otherworldly beings. Kilian’s work, while breathtaking to view, provides you with a very complex narrative. There is so much to take in and so much to think about, but at the same time, while stepping back from the work, it displays a beautiful array of washed colours, distinctive of the artist.

Process images for one of Kilian’s pieces:

Brief Pt3:

“Choose one image which you most appreciate visually. In your learning log write about the way that the illustrator works. It often helps to begin by describing a picture. Ask yourself questions as you write such as: How is the image composed? How are colour, tone, and textures used to evoke a mood or convey an idea? Has the illustrator distorted the content within the imagery and how does this work for the purpose the image fulfils?”

I have chosen an image by Matt Taylor that was created for the Alzheimer Society:


In this piece, we see the artist using an explosion of colour to represent the beauty of memory and thought while choosing flowers to depict the mind blossoming to the sound of music. This is a beautifully created illustration that portrays hope and optimism for people who have Alzheimer’s. Taylor overlays his bold, colourful flowers to a monochrome background of an old lady looking at peace while listening to music. This is a very compelling image using very detailed shading and texture for the woman’s face. The flowers are also very effective, but also simple in use of contrast colours to create the detail of the petals.

Brief Pt4:

“Go back to a visual you created for an earlier exercise and now render it using the same tools and materials as your chosen artist”.

Below, is the image I created:


Below, I have rendered the image in the same style and colour as Matt Taylor. I imported six colours from the Alzheimers poster and painted them back on to my original drawing using the lighter shades for highlights and the darker for shading. As Taylor is a digital artist working in Photoshop, he tends to use default ink brushes with a pressure-sensitive stylus. This allows him to taper then ends of his strokes, ultimately creating a smoother blend of colours.

mt3 (1)

I am pleased with this piece. Like Taylor’s work, I was able to use colour in a very aggressive way to highlight and exaggerate the subject. Looking at the image again with fresh eyes a few days later, I maybe could have used one or two fewer colours, but it does pop and with previous intentions of colouring the rock, I am glad I left this untouched as it allows the subject to shine.

Brief Pt5:

“Now choose a very different artwork and repeat the process”.

For my second attempt, I have re-created a previous image but rendered with the methods and style of Kilian Eng.

Original work from a previous Exercise
Basic Linework
Linework progression
Final line art
Final Image

For my second piece, I re-created a previous exercise in thy style of Kilian Eng. Starting from scratch, I began by recreating the linework using the original piece as a reference. Once I had the basic shapes in place, I began to build up detail in the linework until I was happy enough to start adding colour. I really like this style of working. By getting a baseline of really detailed linework laid out allows you to really appreciate how much detail will appear in the final image. Instead of using brush strokes to blend colours and shade objects, Eng does all this work in his linework and then is free to play around with colours to finish the piece. I really enjoyed using his techniques of linework and stippling to create the closest rock section and then transferring over to longer strokes to create more distant textures.


I am quite happy with my two final pieces.  I feel that I replicated the chosen artists well through their chosen medium.  Along with experimenting with the digital tools of my selected artists, I was able to appreciate their different styles and techniques.  For someone (myself), who feels they have not found their particular style, knowing that there are endless ways to create elements in art and by changing techniques, tools and colour, allows you to show an entirely different and unique view to a subject.