Interview | Illustrators Romany & Ellis On Their Love For Drawing, Collaboration, & Tips For Early Illustrators

Header Image: From Knight’s Duel ©Romany & Ellis

The Black Lion Journal is humbled to introduce both Romany Wixon Gibbs and Ellis Wixon Gibbs, a sister and brother duo whose artistic talents and love for illustration show with each stroke they make. Hailing from the UK, both are illustration students working to finish their degrees. Their work has been featured on their websites, Running Wild Studio and Ellisillustration. TBL Journal is fortunate to feature their art for the first time here on The Wire’s Dream, and, in so doing, has humbly requested an interview for us to know more about how they got started, their love for illustration, and their future goals!

Romany Wixon Gibbs
Romany Wixon Gibbs

THE BLACK LION JOURNAL
How and when did you two get started in illustration? And how do you two make time to do what you love to do?

ROMANY
I’ve naturally been interested in drawing and illustration from a very young age and this has always been something of an interest throughout my years. I became more interested in illustration as an art form though when I was introduced to comics and graphic novels in my teens, which sparked an interest for me to create my own. Before my illustration course, most of my drawings usually consisted of characters or creatures I’d made up as well as animals, however, I think it is really important to sketch from life to hone your artistic and imaginative skills. Finding time for art isn’t too difficult for us as we both live in the family home, so we are constantly bouncing ideas of each other during mealtimes and we share a car journey to University. It’s also really important to draw every day and taking a sketchbook with you everywhere helps.

Ellis Wixon Gibbs
Ellis Wixon Gibbs

ELLIS
Even from a young age I have found other subjects difficult; unless it was something creative, I found it hard to become interested. I’ve always enjoyed drawing and art. After finishing my foundation (pre-degree) course, I searched for an art form that suited me and I think I found it in illustration. I think you have to be very disciplined; I ensure I find time to draw in my sketchbook at least once a day to help me improve my artwork.

THE BLACK LION JOURNAL
You both approach illustration in different and unique ways. How does collaboration work for you two? Do you have advice or suggestions for those who want to work on a collaborative project with someone whose interests or techniques are different from what she/he is used to?

ROMANY
It’s interesting as it’s something that both Ellis and I haven’t done before. We did consider before University whether we should collaborate on a story together but the idea never got off the ground. It was only recently for our course project on self-promotion that we had the idea of doing a collaborative piece together. It was quite a nice idea as it promoted both our individual works and demonstrated how we could collaborate despite our different styles. I think what made the collaboration work well for us is as siblings born just one year and a day apart, our closeness mean we intuitively know how we can help each other out in areas either of us find difficult. Having such a close bond as siblings perhaps gave us an advantage over other collaborators and helped us to work together towards a common goal. Illustration by its very nature can be an isolated profession therefore it’s important that collaborators should be like-minded and achieve a connection, otherwise it could be a really daunting experience. The experience has provided a good start for us and we know now what to expect working in a collaborative environment!

the fox and the hare, children's illustrations
Panel 1 of illustrative story “Child’s Play”

ELLIS
We knew that collaborations weren’t easy from our earlier experience. Even though we know each other well, we have identified areas where we could have done better. That’s what’s important, learning from experience and we’re glad we did the collaboration. It’s certainly easier if both collaborators have the same or similar interests; otherwise it could be more challenging. How we worked with our different styles? In the short comic, I took our styles into account and made it a part of the story. Romany did the imaginative knight duel sequences while I did the kids in reality panels. We also used different mediums to showcase even more of the differences and hopefully it has an interesting transition that makes sense for the story.

THE BLACK LION JOURNAL
Do each of you have a medium of choice–a form of illustration that you each prefer? And does this preference, if any, shape how you approach your illustration process?

Collie: black ink and pencil, dogs, drawing of dog, vet hospital
Collie: black ink and pencil from Project At Vets

ROMANY
Initially I was only using pencil before starting my illustration course, as I found other materials hard to get used to or didn’t like the outcome. I was really into watercolour but it was quite difficult to make it look great and I felt that I had a lot more to learn before I could use it effectively. When joining the course, I started using Indian ink and dip pen as well as a variety of brush pens as it complimented my way of working. For this collaboration, however, I decided to use colouring pencils as it best suited the theme I was portraying. It’s also good to use materials that suit the subject. During this project, I’ve started using ‘H’ pencils; these are great for planning where you want to draw and map things out. Unlike the ordinary ‘HB’ pencil, they’re easy to rub out no matter how many mistakes you’ve made which is great for a perfectionist like me!

ELLIS
I try to vary but pen and ink is properly my medium of choice. I mainly start with pencil drawing rough layouts before inking stuff down. Then I either use water colour, or use pro markers to give some tones. But for ‘Knights Duel’, I scanned my ink drawings onto Photoshop to add spot colour and other adjustments.

pencil and ink sketch, violin, art projects, documentary art
Original pencil & ink sketch from Documentary Project: Violin Workshop

THE BLACK LION JOURNAL
Do you each have any advice/suggestions for novice artists who would like to get started in illustration?

ROMANY
Funny you ask that as I still feel like a novice as I’m still learning about illustration as a profession! What I’d like to say about illustration is that it isn’t just all about pen, ink or other two-dimensional materials. Illustration can include almost anything, for example, earlier students on my course included taxidermy in their submission. I feel though that if you’re passionate about drawing then studying illustration is a good thing to do. I also find that to make your work stronger, research is pretty key.

ELLIS
There’s almost no limitation and that’s great for anyone who can come up with wacky ideas, just make sure you have great research behind it. Very simple advice is to just keep learning and improving your artwork. Don’t stick with one medium. You can always come back to that medium but you’ll notice improvements when you have been using different tools in your artwork. Maybe you’ll even discover your new favourite medium that you didn’t think you would use. Build great portfolios (either online or physical) that show the variety of your artwork to share with others. It’s obviously very important to keep drawing every day and experiment with different mediums. Constructive criticism from professionals is invaluable.

Ellis - DRAWING A DAY 2016 – FEBRUARY, illustration, realism, art, freelance
From “Drawing A Day 2016 – February”

THE BLACK LION JOURNAL
Where would you each like see yourself in 5 years with your art?

ROMANY
I’d like to see myself become a freelance illustrator. Possibly starting with some short comics until I feel comfortable in developing my own story. Hopefully my drawings would have developed a lot by then!

ELLIS
Earning a living doing something I love, hopefully! I hope that my University course will help me build some connections to help me get a job. Perhaps starting as an illustrator for a company and then freelancing? I have lots of other interests so who knows, I’d like to see where my creativity takes me.

• • •

The Black Lion would like to thank Romany and Ellis for allowing TBL Journal to interview them! We hope you enjoyed reading about their passion for illustration and their work as collaborative illustrators. Be sure to keep up with their projects on their blogs, Running Wild Studio and Ellisillustration.

¡PSST! ©2016 The Black Lion Journal

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