Mandy Jurgens is an American freelance illustrator specializing in portraits and characters renditions. Her colourful portrait images look awesome in the ArtStation Pro Lava theme, designed to show off vertical images and incorporate vibrant color schemes.
Check out Mandy’s ArtStation-powered portfolio website.
In this interview, she shares her painting tips, how she finds inspiration when she’s stuck and discusses some of her favorite pieces.
Tell us about one of your favorite pieces.
This is one of my favorite pieces. Usually I look back fondly on paintings that came together easily, but this one is an exception. It didn’t come together easily at all! I wanted it to retain a looser look because I thought that over-rendering and smoothing would ruin the peaceful feeling. I ended up trying out a lot of new things as well as scrapping and redoing areas entirely where my brush economy was just not cutting it. It ended up being the best kind of struggle – the one that teaches you a lot.
How did you begin your career as an artist?
Most of my early work was private commissions from people that found my work online. One of the first commissions I did was a present from a husband to his wife – her mother had recently passed and he wanted to cheer her up as well as create a fond memory. The task was to paint the family of four (husband, wife, and their two daughters) playing happily, while the grandmother smiles down on them from heaven. I’m not a religious person, but that one really touched me and left a lasting impression. That sort of thing is the reason I wanted to become an artist in the first place – to create things that touch people, make their days a little brighter.
I still do commissions now, though more frequently I contract with game companies.
What kind of studies or practices do you recommend for those trying to improve their painting skills?
I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all here, but there are a few things that are universally important. For one, draftsmanship. Your ability to draw will improve your ability to paint. I recently took a few months to just improve my drawing skills – on paper, from both life and photos. The lack of an undo button was important! It has made a tremendous difference in both my speed and accuracy in setting up a painting, and I’d recommend this type of ‘going back to basics’ for anyone struggling with their sketching or proportion confidence.
As far as painting itself goes, I think going beyond basic color theory and understanding how light and color actually work is a big thing. Painting from life is a huge help here as photographs don’t tell the whole story. Most of the time, photos will wash out either the highlights or the shadows and you lose a lot of information. But if you understand what light does, you can fill in that lack of data yourself. Painting from life is great, but you can improve your knowledge of light and color anytime, by just really looking at and understanding what you’re seeing.
If you’re stuck on a subway commute, rather than spend the time on your phone, analyze the way light and shadow falls on people. How does the local color change? Where are the hard cast shadows and softer form shadows? What things reflect light and how do they reflect it? If you make this a habit, your understanding will grow a lot and inform the decisions you make in painting. Other than that, draw and paint a lot. Analyze your strengths and weaknesses and push yourself to improve your weaknesses. One at a time is fine – it’s a marathon after all, not a sprint.
Where do you go to find inspiration?
When I get stuck, I usually do one of 3 things:
- I seek out artists I look up to and try to analyze their work and decision making. Sometimes all you can do is to study their finished work, but in this day and age a lot of people create books, tutorials, and/or timelapses that you can purchase for relatively cheap. I will often look to see if an artist I love has online tutorials to see what I can learn.
- I look at reference material and see if anything resonates with me. Pinterest, Huaban and Reddit are all good sources.
- If those don’t get me out of a slump, I force myself to draw some quicker studies – maybe I’ll sit in a coffee shop and draw some people. Anything will do, though I like to use these times to study things I have a hard time summoning up motivation for. It’s somewhat equivalent to self-enforced homework.
See more of Mandy’s work on her portfolio website. To learn more about ArtStation Pro websites, click here.