Decoding Daily Deviations: Cat Girl

14 min read

Deviation Actions

lovelessdevotions's avatar

Decoding Daily Deviations is the series that aims to unlock the secrets of what it took to create these magnificent artworks and motivate others to work towards similar recognition. Each week we will present an interview with one artist who has recently received a DD and have them share the details on that specific piece, relating to their creative process, techniques, and narrative inspirations. If you've ever wanted to know more about a beloved artwork and the talented skills applied to it, this is the series to keep track of!"

FEATURED ART: Cat girl by Alex-Brady-TAD
DD DATE: 2015-06-01

Cat girl by Alex-Brady-TAD

Share with readers the details of how this piece came into being. Did you have a clear story idea/inspiration from the beginning? 

The setting is an interpretation of a moment in a book called Engine Summer. It is a powerful and mysterious book, as well as being very beautiful and lyrically written. From hints in the story, it is set long after the Storm that ended our world, and the earth and the people who sparsely populate it have been changed in strange, deep ways. It is a short book, so it offers only a few hints at the history and nature of the world, but they are expertly chosen so that the book feels like a door into a wider world. 

The book provided the key elements of the scene: the girl with the level, appraising, potentially hostile gaze, the great cat, the cool light and the pool, the collapsed concrete flyover... The girl Once a Day and the narrator Rush that Speaks are born into a small settlement of people who live a little like Native American peoples, but whose biology and psychology seem to have been deeply altered. They live largely free of violent disagreement or territorial or marital dispute and have not expanded their settlement much in millenia. They have very little technology, but a complex oral history and philosophical tradition, and venerate the skill of Truth Speaking, clear communication between people. Far from being a hippy commune, they seem to simply be unlike modern humans in deep ways. The narrator describes how at the end of their childhood, Once a Day's unusual defiant independence leads her to leave their home and join the mysterious traders of Dr. Boots' List. In the second part of the novel, she has grown up and become one of the List, people who have a strange spiritual relationship with an enigmatic artefact; what appears to be a recorded mind state, and a very different approach to communication. To say more is to spoil the book somewhat, but her intelligent independent character and manner of speaking reminded me of an artist friend, Robin Doody, so the drawing equipment and eyes are hers. In the story, against Once a Day's wishes, Rush embarks on a quest to track her down and finds her on the far side of a small forest pool seated with an immense cat. She looks up ..."

“Cat girl” has strong atmospheric appeal in both the setting and the serene connection between the central figures. Please, discuss your creative process on the painting, and what you prioritised to achieve its distinctive impact. 

Reading the book is like a strange beautiful heartfelt dream. At times bright and colourful, at others cool and quiet, always imbued with a dreamy quality. The girl has received the enigmatic Letter from Dr. Boots and been changed by it, but how to hint at this? The closest thing my research turned up were paintings by William Waterhouse.

I wanted to attempt the mood of his paintings, however Waterhouse was a grand master so I wanted to do the best I could with the tools at my disposal, specifically Google search and Photoshop! I wanted to ensure a strong steady still composition locked onto her eyes early on, then tune the detail and mood along the way till it seemed closer to the impression in my mind. I used what amounts to collage to search for potential references and stick them one over another, moving and swapping bits till I had something I felt had some potential. 

Then I crudely painted it all together, starting with large details and working in to tight ones in strategic places. This part is always a treat, as you can start to correct small problems and start to vibe it. New ideas occur and can be explored. Put some tunes on, zone out and paint. All the analytical and engineering work early on leads up to this. Enjoy!"

Did you encounter any creative challenges when working on the piece? If so, how did you tackle them? Is there anything you would do differently now if you could? 

My normal science fiction art interests lie toward the spaceships and ring worlds end of the spectrum, and I have always been afraid to tackle subjects from the more humane, literary end, which I love just as much. Engine Summer feels more like Mark Twain and Ursula LeGuin than Asimov or Ted Chiang, so I was nervous I wouldn't be able to catch some of the feel. I'm not sure I succeeded but it was enjoyable to try. If I had a do over I'd like to draw and then painter the image properly without using collages so much. I think reading a book, especially one as good as Engine Summer is a very personal experience so I'd almost recommend not looking at any artwork associated with it till after reading so that it doesn’t inflect ones own impressions too much! So if you do want to read it, pretend you never saw this ok!"

What’s one piece of advice that you would share with other artists hoping to reach this standard of work in the future?

Hmm, I have loads! Please pick and choose any that seem useful. Start very rough and spend at least a day at the start just researching, sketching very rough doodles, thinking, walking, mulling, planning, you get the idea. Then another day just making simple 3D models or collages. I like to take several swings at something. 

Like a video game level, you never nail it first time, but after you've fallen down all the pitfalls and started to get into the controls, you get there. It can be frustrating but also rewarding, just take it in small pieces. 

Don't give yourself horribly hard tasks at the same time; separate design sketching from polished rendering; use whatever cheats you can like Daz, simple 3D sculpts as underlays for difficult geometry; collages; try all sorts till you can assemble something you kind of like. I think it's a bit like science, you do experiment after experiment refining your technique each time. Only when everything is looking well do i start detailing and rendering it, which is a pleasant mindless task. I don't want to be worrying about composition or perspective at that point just music and mood and colour, imagining what the highlights on the water might be doing. Take your time, make quick multiple versions exploring possible alternative approaches. And finish it, sleep then do the final details with a fresh mind. Works every time."

What does this DD feature represent or mean to you at this stage of your artistic development? What can your watchers look forward to next? 

I'm very honoured and flattered! I've been posting on DA since I was a kid so it means a lot! I hope to keep uploading Sci Fi art and maybe be less nervous about trying things outside of my comfort zone too."

Bonus question: Can you cite a memorable reaction to this piece in the comments at DA? 

I'm blown away. I'm very pleased people felt there was a Waterhouse vibe going on; I'm glad something that was a very personal piece gives people pleasure."

Thanks to Alex-Brady-TAD for kindly consenting to this interview!

Make sure to see more amazing pieces at his gallery: 

g1B by Alex-Brady-TAD Sea Horses by Alex-Brady-TAD Harkonnen ornithopter sketches by Alex-Brady-TAD 

Previous Decoding DDs:

Forest of Bunnies
The Journey
Malavestros: Muse of Madness
Jet Futura
The Northern Administration
Prisoned Singer
Don Kichote
On The Hunt
The Platform
I know a bank
Love and war
Chase, The Dreamer
Until the End of the World..
Crow Temple
Dragon's Breath

Spread some cheer by leaving a comment and/or :+fav: on works that you like!  
Want to suggest a DD? See the link to my guidelines below!


© 2016 - 2023 lovelessdevotions
Join the community to add your comment. Already a deviant? Log In