Visual Development and Character Design artist, Erika Blazeivic, expounds on the need for every artist to include exploration as an essential part of their fundamental process.
Erika Blazeivic is a 22-year-old British Visual Development and Character Design artist living in Spain. She specializes in Feature films and enjoys doing background, prop and costume design. A graduate of Universidad de La Laguna.
Erika Blazeivic: So, it all came to fruition right around the time I started University. I had just enrolled in Tourism at a University in Tenerife, so I was new to the language; the culture, and the place. I purchased an Ipad to make notes on but, as I was having a hard time adjusting to the language barrier and just in general not having any interest in the courses themselves, I found myself doodling more often on drawing apps. Right around when COVID hit was when I started to get better and learn every single day – since then, I haven’t stopped! I haven’t got a formal background in art. I’d taken a Graphics Course back in Highschool but didn’t learn much.
My art journey skyrocketed when I figured out in what direction to focus my energy. I was always a huge fan of the work of Disney legends like Aaron Blaise, Jin Kim, and Cory Loftis – just awesome, expressive artists who I wanted to pick the brains of and so I did! Building off of their influence, I started developing my own thing once I hit that comfort zone of, “Yeah, I think I can do this myself.” From then on, I kept at my craft with courses, daily practicing (whilst still being in class), and started to get some freelance jobs here and there.
It wasn’t until the end of 2021 that I started to get larger opportunities, though. With Lightbox Expo being online, it opened doors. I started to get noticed more and joined Laetro, too! I further started attending more Online Conventions, branching out into not just the animation world but also illustration (I even got hired by my University!). In 2022 I got my first “official” studio job with Moonbow in Portugal and I’m hoping to be able to work full-time as an artist when I graduate this year, either as a freelancer for studios or in-house.
What was your project with Google in particular? Please take us through it from brief to result.
Erika Blazeivic: They needed a quick turnaround for a celebration poster in their typical, in-house style. So, within a couple of hours, I had to gather my references of typical styles; sketch up some options, and wait for feedback. Luckily, minimal changes needed to be made and I was rushed off to quickly render everything out just in time for the handout. That’s how intense it was.
Please tell us about your character design works – what’s your process and style?
Erika Blazeivic: My character design usually starts with a feeling. I like to map out a brief about the character with research or notes and figure out what could work as a first impression. I do it a lot until I find something that sticks. Sometimes that means going on Tiktok and drawing caricatures of people I see – perhaps, someone could inspire a face.
Further, I figure out how their clothing shapes a person; their expression; their posture, and their mood – everything from top to bottom. Then I throw out that first idea. I never hand in my first pass because I get too attached to it. I use it as a base for every other subsequent design and hand in a batch to the director/client. From there, with notes, I go on refining the work until I come to a happy finished piece ready for hand-off down the pipeline!
Do you prefer a simplistic approach or a rather complex one as your range of work seems to feature both?
Erika: Sometimes making something look simple is just a testament to a lot of complex overthinking followed by simplifying it down. I also think it depends on the brief at hand – sometimes clients approach me with so many ideas, not knowing how to get to a core idea, so I take it and simplify it down. Other times, clients have something underdeveloped and I try to flesh it out. So, a lot of times, it’s picking what works best for a situation. In my time, I like to ham it up and go as complex as humanly possible since I have no time constraints.
What do your Visual Development projects involve? Kindly elaborate on a project as an example.
Erika: It can vary from project to project, which is why I love the profession so much. On a mental level, for me, it requires determination and a lot of problem-solving at its core. I don’t know how to draw everything and anything on a whim without research. So, doing that; studying and creating forms is my job 90% of the time. That very same problem-solving is what also makes it fun – reading-up books for a certain topic; figuring out clothing and textures, colors and lighting. It’s like I’m everything and everyone all at once.
For example, a current project I am working on requires me to create environments in the American midwest, a place I have never been to before. That meant reading up on typical cultures and mapping-out towns and textures, using Google Maps and traveling around. Getting a realistic feel and playing off of that, essentially. Stylizing it. Only then do I start exploring what I’m drawing. I put a lot of care into what I make because I want it to feel as authentic as possible. I do that because I love what I do.
On a physical level, I have many tools, both digital and traditional to aid my work but I find myself always coming back to my Ipad as a primary tool for drawing. A lot of people prefer big screens to work on, and rightfully so. I find it makes me feel intimidated as working on a large scale takes away my constriction. It’s something that helps me create recognizable shapes in little to no space. The bigger my screen, the more I get hung up on the small details and forget the “bigger” picture, I suppose.
What kind of work do you personally like or prefer to take up?
Erika Blazeivic: I like anything creative – anything that challenges me to think in a different way or that can change a brand and evolve them. That goes for animation, too, making characters feel real or different while exploring how to make them unique. Creating a vision; exploring different paths, finding one that fits, and molding it around the brief, I love it all.
It’s purely coincidence, as of recently, but pretty much all of my projects so far this year have been animal designs involving different styles depending on the brief. It’s so fun to see how I’ve crafted the same forms but in entirely different ways for each work. I love that creative aspect, taking something I know and flipping it on itself.
What kind of projects are you specifically looking for, going forward?
Erika Blazeivic: I’m looking for anything and everything! Though my long-term goal is to work in feature films and revel in every aspect of it, I love being a creative person inside and out. If I can give some insight or chip away at anything, I’m happy. Being at Laetro expanded my horizons, working for companies outside of the animation world and scope. I’m pretty much open to doing everything and dipping my toe in anything that comes my way; give it my best and aim for satisfaction from my internal feelings and even from the client. The adrenaline I get when a client says they like something is honestly the best.
How does living in Spain inspire and influence your work?
Erika Blazeivic: Something essential to an artist is exploring. Having experiences of all kinds and branching out is important. I think moving abroad helped a lot with my confidence – if I can branch out and learn a new language; integrate myself into an entirely new culture and thrive, nothing’s going to stop me from accomplishing anything I set my mind to.
What advice would you give to those just starting in the field?
Erika Blazeivic: Growth isn’t linear; neither is a success. There can be times when nothing is going on and then you get a small job; then again radio silence and another thing comes up after another. Especially, if you’re just starting. Then, nothing again for a while – whether it’s for job-hunting; improving in your craft, or otherwise. Everything accumulates. I wouldn’t say I’m successful yet, at all.
Meanwhile, the countless number of ghosted E-mails; rejected applications, and interviews that never made it to fruition weren’t for nothing, even if I was deflated at the moment. My goal was always to get my name out there solidly, exclaiming that I am here and ready to work and improve and be what you need me to be. I still keep in contact with many people who have rejected me, without harboring a feeling of being deflated. At the end of the day, it is absolutely nothing personal. There will be a time and a place when it’s right – until then, the best thing you can do is trust in your ability.