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Adobe Illustrator Master Class: An Interview with Sharon Milne

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Peachpit interviews Sharon Milne, author of Adobe Master Class: Illustrator Inspiring artwork and tutorials by established and emerging artists, about her book, what binds Illustrator artists together, and why vector illustration is so important.
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Peachpit: Who was Adobe Master Class: Illustrator Inspiring artwork and tutorials by established and emerging artists written for?

Sharon Milne: When I was putting together the artists and tutorials for the book, the key audience I was aiming to please were those who enjoy and appreciate vector art. Vector artists seem to be overlooked by those who work with Photoshop, as it's more mainstream and more known, so actually having a book with Adobe Illustrator artists is a big deal. It's something the community has been desiring for a while.

Peachpit: How did you decide which artists to feature in the book?

Sharon: It has been a hard process because there is so much talent out there that I wanted to feature! First and foremost I wanted to feature artists whose work you can appreciate regardless of the medium used. This would make it appeal to a variety of people, not just vector fans. Then I wanted to look at artists whose technical skill matched their creativity. It's my hope that regardless of your level of knowledge of Adobe Illustrator and vector art, you can appreciate the aesthetics within the book as well as the wide variety of styles possible. On a technical level, you're looking at a group of highly skilled artists who can manipulate a medium into compositions, which could leave you doubting it is actually vector... I assure you it is! I hope with just the tip of the iceberg showcased in Adobe Master Class: Illustrator, it could entice the non vector art fan into finding out more!

For the tutorials in the book, I chose artists with unique styles, who ultimately have something valuable to share. Sometimes to appreciate artwork further you need to gain this insight into an artist's process. It's not just a matter of painting strokes on a canvas; it's so much more!
Peachpit: What makes this book different from other Illustrator titles?

Sharon: There are no books out there that aim to showcase vector artists and the diversity of illustrative styles out there. Those being introduced to Adobe Illustrator, perhaps in an educational setting, may be led to believe that the program is there to create logos and technical diagrams. This book goes way beyond this and is showcasing art. There are tutorial books out there, but they tend to focus on specific tools and minor projects, not full-fledged illustrations which you could see on t-shirts, framed on walls or used in an editorial setting.
Peachpit: Are there certain techniques that these artists (or any great Illustrators) have in common?

Sharon: While technically each artist approaches their work differently, there is something which is common in most vector artists: a sense of pride. As I say, Adobe Illustrator artists live under the shadow of Adobe Photoshop when it comes to digital artwork. So a lot of artists, including myself, have such a sense of pride that they are able to create such pieces of work in vector with the restraints we have. Adobe Illustrator artists enjoy the challenge and like to push themselves as far as possible. This is especially true of artists such as Maria Goubar, Ekaterina Dedova, Samuel Sinaga, Asher Benson and myself, who are featured in the book. It's the finishing of a complex piece and being proud that the work can be resized to any size imaginable, it's a rush.
Peachpit: Where do you look for inspiration?

Sharon: I personally find inspiration in many places, but there are two sources which have a habit of ending in an illustration. The first would be my family. By family I mean my partner and our three pets--two cats and a dog. They are full of life and have wonderful characters, it's so easy to imagine situations they could be in or how they interact with everyday situations. For instance, in the book I show you how to create a vector illustration based on my hyperactive cat, Harley Quinn. It all started when I saw her chasing a fly and pawing the window to capture it. It reminded me of a certain iconic 80s movie scene of a Karate Master trying to catch a fly with chopsticks.

The second would be drag queens. The core of my personal work is portrait work--specifically women--and drag queens are exaggerations of the female form, almost like cartoon characters of dramatic women. It's that aesthetic I love and try to bring to my portrait work.
Peachpit: How have illustrations and the Illustrator community changed since you began your career?

Sharon: Over the years I've been in the vector community, it has grown a considerable amount, but the warmth the community has and the willingness to share with those who are new to vector has remained the same. As computers develop and Adobe Illustrator offers more "toys" and tools to play with, the more those who are new to the medium are curious to take part. I guess this is why the demand for more tutorials has increased! People just want to know more about how others create their work in the hope they can achieve the same. This is one of the great aspects of this book, is that you can be inspired by the artwork being showcased, but also gain insight from these artists processes.
Peachpit: What advice would you offer to newbie illustrators?

Sharon: Adobe Illustrator is more than just the Pen Tool. The Pen Tool is an iconic tool in vector art, but it's far from being the only or even most important tool in a vector artist’s arsenal. A lot of people will jump in and maybe put off due to the Pen Tool and it does take a while to become comfortable with and master, but once you do it gets a lot easier. This being said, you can always get into Adobe Illustrator without using the Pen Tool and come back to it later. Have patience and passion, and it will become like second nature. Adobe Illustrator and vector is the future, and if you're going to learn any form of digital art, using Adobe Illustrator is the route to go down.


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