“The colors are so majestic and tasty, I just want to eat it!”

Freelance artist Gillian spills the artistic secrets to her saturated art

Listen to the episode here.

Today we have the ball of sunshine that is Gillian Galang, a Filipina freelancer who shares many insider tips on how to improve your art, including many (many!) references to her favourite artists, as well as tutorials and book recommendations!

Please introduce yourself!

Hello, My name is Gillian and I’m a freelance artist for backgrounds and illustration! I’m from the Philippines, a 22 year old girl and I live by the mountains. I love hiking, playing games, reading mangas, and watching movies. I graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts major in Advertising. I was an art director at an advertising agency back then but I decided to pursue my dream job which it to have a break in the animation industry, so I resigned and took the plunge to become a freelance artist for the meantime while I build my portfolio for it :D

I followed your art because of how bold your art is! I notice that, particularly in your landscapes, your brushstrokes are very visible in your work. How did you develop your style to get where it is now?

I think I applied my painting and drawing habits back in college. I love to do different kinds of shading techniques like hatching and cross hatching in my traditional painting assignments or artworks back then and began to modify it out through the years. I also gain it from studying master paintings. My friends recommended me to study some master paintings since it helps me to study their techniques and color choices. So, I really recommend this to anyone who wants to improve their art 😊 Do Master studies, observe their use of brush strokes, shapes, and color. I have to admit that It’s actually hard studying them at first but it’s really fun to do it! You can also pick a subject in the master painting of your choice and try to copy it from big shapes to small shapes.

You have a very colourful style. Your colours are super saturated and kind of have a magical tint to real life! What defines your colour palettes and how do you choose them, especially if you are referencing from real life? (as I really struggle to imagine vivid colour palettes from real-life references)

I appreciate saturated colors a lot since it describes my energy as a person. My friends would describe me as a loud, youthful, and sunshine person. I think most of my inspirations for the magical tint and colors are from my favorite artists like Laura Price, Marco Bucci, Arex Cho, Chichi Romero, Nathan Fowkes, Zac Retz, Angela Sung, Armand Serrano, Brittney Lee, Hue Teo, Tommy Kim, James Gurney, John Singer Sargent, Edgar Payne, Gustav Klimt, Mary Blair, Eyvind Earle, and Joaquin Sorolla, Fernando Amorsolo. Going back to what I mentioned about master studies, I try to also observe my favorite artists’ works and try to think about their decisions like how did they draw this? Why did they choose this color? Why did they draw it in this type of shape? Like I observe how Angela Sung uses her colors and learned from one of her tutorials that she does it with the color optical technique, Tommy Kim’s gouache painting brushstrokes are so good, they are done so simple by him but I just love how he did the forms of subjects to turn them into a landscape painting, Arex Cho’s use of lighting is just magical and phenomenal and so on to more of my observations. I think what I can suggest about it is you pick what you like from artists that you admire and incorporate and modify it in your work.

I also read books about color and light and I super recommend James Gurney’s book for it titled Color and Light. It’s like a color bible to me and its super helpful in gaining insights about coloring and painting from real life references. I also would like to recommend Nathan Fowkes book titled How to paint landscapes quickly and beautifully in watercolor and gouache.I love the way he uses colors a lot so I decided to learn from his book and try to improve my palette from there.

And I also take photos. It helps to also just put filters on them, find the colors that you want and just admire it like there are times that I fangirl at photographer’s photos because the colors are so majestic and tasty, I just want to eat it for the sake of my color system HAHAHA

And most important is to study color theory and the color wheel! This is really important and a really fun skill to gain because you’ll start to become confident with your colors.

Can you take us through the process of creating a final illustration, from concept to finished piece?

I have two processes for it. It depends on what I’m going to do so I’ll share both.

For studies or digital plein airs, I do some color blocking first by drawing the big shapes of the subjects to establish its form in the painting. After that I began to do smaller and smaller shapes for the details but I don’t usually zoom in much so I couldn’t focus on a small portion of the painting but to see it as a whole. By doing this, I usually paint from back to front, it’s also how I do with traditional paintings and drawings.

For conceptual pieces:

It takes me more time since I want to make it amazing. I do some sketches first to compose what I want to do; I usually use the golden ratio for this but would love to explore more composition techniques in the future. Then I made a moodboard with references collected from pinterest, google or photos captured by me and then from there I start to do some color block and paint from back to front :D

I learned this technique from Marco Bucci, you should check out his youtube because I learned how to do my shape language and observational skills from his videos :D

Who do you go to for inspiration? And more importantly, how do you use that inspiration in your work?

It actually depends on what sparks me at the moment :D There are times that I get inspiration from the games I’m playing, from the movie I’m watching, in real life experiences and discoveries, and from my favorite artists. I also take inspiration from animated film’s the art of books. I super love reading these types of books since I get to gain some insights about how they design props, backgrounds, worlds, and stuff. Whenever I find something that inspires me, I usually try to write it first before I draw so I have a plan on what I’ll do for my art. I think I gained this skill back in college because we are thought to do planning first: by making studies, thumbnail sketches and writing before jumping in to do the artwork.

But there are also times that I just don’t want to plan and just do it for the sake of self-indulgent and I think that’s the most fun I experience when making art.

I also try to sketch what inspires me and keep them in a sketchbook for future use or just for the sake of drawing for fun.

Do you use any physical art techniques — do you paint or draw, and if you do, how does this help you in your digital art?

I did a lot of traditional artworks back in college. We did clay, plaster, and resin sculpting, wood carving, impasto painting, oil painting, stamp carving, junk art, photography, animation, fashion design, package design, book illustration and so much more. What I enjoyed the most back then was ink drawings but I grew out of it and began to explore color after learning how to use them in coloring pencils, paints and stuff. Now it has been years since I last did traditional artwork so I decided to go back and practice gouache atm with some pen and sketchbook for quick sketches.

I think with the skills I’m currently developing, they help me tackle my digital works faster than before because you can’t make a lot of mistakes in traditional art or else your painting will not be that good. But I learned from Angela Sung that it takes patience, and I try to build that patience up since I really want to become a good painter. I also want to take my eyes off the screen sometimes because too much screen time just hurts. When painting in gouache for a while, I began to develop my desired brush strokes that I incorporate in my digital art. I also do plein-air paintings now, Trying to do them regularly and it’s fun to study from life and interpret the real life objects from my own colors and skills. It’s also fun to study in real life or pleinair since you get to see your subjects in real time and not in a flat way like how photos do.

You do a lot of quick sketches! For someone like me, who struggles to make something that looks reasonably finished in a short amount of time, what would you suggest when doing studies? (How to break the ice and what to focus on in order to complete the piece?)

So there was this facebook group that I joined years ago called Daily Spitpaint, they post topics everyday. So what you’re gonna do is pick a topic and draw it for 30 mins only. To do it in a quick time, You need to have a clear idea of what you want to do and start by drawing the biggest shapes then get smaller and smaller so you won’t focus on details that much. As I also mentioned earlier, you don’t need to zoom in that much so you can finish your work fast.

I also do this in studies sometimes because I want to be able to interpret and have my mind be quick about simplifying shapes, form, and color to draw a subject. I think doing this regularly will help you improve your skill in being quick in paintings. To break the ice officially, start the timer, or you can also play a series with a 30 min time or less, or make a playlist that can play music for 30 mins. I do that sometimes so I won’t be pressured with a timer but will also be accompanied with a background noise that I love and enjoy.

You also do character drawings as well as landscapes — how do you find these are different in terms of concept/style etc? Which do you prefer?

I only do character art for fun but I love painting landscapes more since I just don’t want to draw characters that much in general. I just love drawing worlds and to step on the worlds I created would be such a dream. Sometimes I do character art for the sake of fun whenever I’m stressed about doing background/landscape art. But I also have a different process when it comes to painting a character. It’s similar to how I do the backgrounds, it’s just that sometimes I do it in one layer but next I do It with a lot of layers HAHAHA. I think what I find challenging for doing characters is how I’m not that skilled enough for it fundamentally. But right now, I’m willing to do some studies for it so I can at least improve my character painting skills. At the moment I currently subscribed to Schoolism for Victoria Ying’s intro to visual development class and I want to be able to design a character for my stories and projects. To me, Background and character both have their own story to tell, their only difference is their form and how they tell their story.

What does your art mean to you and how does it affect your life?

Art means expression, imagination and the artist’s own world. You get to see how an artist interprets and sees the world through their artworks and you also get to step into their worlds by just seeing their works. So its really cool to have a lot of artists these days because you get to travel to a lot of worlds and see from their eyes.

Remember a time you were stuck in a deep creative rut — how did you break free?

I experienced this a month ago and it’s really hard because I thought I was not good enough and that my growth as an artist is stagnant. My friend suggested that I take it easy, so I took a lot more breaks than ever, doing other things beside art like laundry, cooking, watching movies, and playing lots of games. My friend also suggested that I read books so that I could learn more new techniques to apply to my art. I think just doing something different besides art will help you get out of the creative rut, you need to live so you can make art. And to not be hard on yourself so you can get that creative boost again. Just take a deep breath, do other things and be happy.

Thank you so much for this opportunity ❤



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Design. Draw. Do.

Design. Draw. Do.


Hi! I’m Noor I make videos and write daily about art, productivity and creativity (the sketching, painting kind). https://youtube.com/c/DesignDrawDo