Dahlia Broul was born in Manhattan in 1983. As the daughter of 2 New York City yellow taxi drivers, she spent most of her childhood drawing in the passenger seat. Watching the city pass by, she recalled, “Everything was about color and light”.
At a young age, with the strong encouragement of her mother, she studied at the Museum School. Museums such as the American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Museum and the New York Historical Society were frequented on a weekly basis. This led to a deep appreciation for art history and the methods of old masters. Dahlia has cited a wide range of influences including classic artists as Pierre Bonnard and John Singer Sargent, to such contemporary illustrators as Leo and Diane Dillon and Gregory Manchess. She attended Art and Design High School and later went on to study fine arts before graduating with a BFA in illustration from the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Dahlia has finished writing and illustrating an unpublished children’s book about her unconventional childhood. A young girl spends the day driving around New York in her mother’s taxicab but imagines a whole other world. A place where waterfalls cascade over buildings and taxicabs turn into submarines that ride on the backs of whale sharks.
In addition to painting, she currently teaches an art curriculum at the Brearley School, the 92nd Street Y, the Chapin School as well as the Manhattan New School P.S. 290. She can be found drawing pastel portraits at Spring Street Studio every week. “Drawing and painting are the backbone to what I do, but connecting with the reader on an emotional level is most important”.
Did you go to school for art and or illustration?
Yes, my schooling in fine art goes as far back as middle school. I then attended Art and Design High School. Afterwards I took classes at The Art Students League, SVA and Pratt, studied fine art for two years, and later earned my BFA in Illustration from the Fashion Institute of Technology.
I notice that you have the same little girl in a lot of illustrations. Are they all part of a book dummy?
Yes, these images are from a book I wrote myself. The little girl rides around in her mother’s taxi cab. As they travel around New York City and stop at various places the girl uses her imagination to make her days more interesting. She sometimes takes her mothers words literally and the illustrations depict her abstract interpretations alongside the palpable.
Do you use Photoshop or another software to clean up or paint your pictures?
Yes, sometimes. Usually it’s to clean up the photograph of the work, but sometimes I put in boarders or add extra shadows and highlights.
How long have you been illustrating?
What was the first job you got paid to do?
I created three paintings for a group show that sold on the opening night. It was very thrilling.
Do you always use the same technique and materials?
My medium is oil paint but my “canvas” can vary from gessoed watercolor paper, illustration board, canvas or MDF board (which is a type of particle board).
Has your style developed or change?
I don’t think my style has changed as much as I think it’s matured. I try to paint fairly realistically but not photo-realistically. My hope is to show the form and keep some brushstrokes visible.
Do you have a graphic tablet?
Yes, I have a Wacom Intous 3.
Here is a video that Dahlia made to show process:
Here is more detail on Dahlia’s Process:
Blocking in flat color. Sometimes I get carried away with one area and forget to keep my hand moving around the whole painting. Here you can see I was focusing on the water.
Adding highlights and shadows.
Working on her face.
Finished Painting. I cleaned up the boarder in Photoshop and masked out the water so it sits on a perfectly white background.
Reference Photos: Finding the reference. It’s important to use images that are as close as possible to the final gestures.
Beginning Layout: I draw different parts of the picture on tracing paper so that I can move things around easily. It’s also good to look at your characters on the back of the tracing paper so you can see the mirrored view. If there are any weird anatomical or proportion issues they will be more noticeable.
I take blue transfer paper to copy the image onto a sheet of arches, hot pressed, 90lb, paper.
Beginning Sketch: Now I draw in all the detail and determine my light source.
Finished Preliminary Drawing.
Final Piece: After the drawing has been transferred (using a light projector) onto the final gessoed surface I put on a “ground”. This is a pigment that tints the surface (I use burnt sienna or burnt umber). I paint the first layer very opaquely, adding all the areas of mid-tone, shadow and highlights. The next couple of layers are refining expressions and other details.
I like your black and whites. Are they the final art or are they illustrations you plan to add color?
They are preliminary drawings but I completed them in a very finished way.
Here are some very nice black and whites by Dahlia.
On your blog you mention pastels, but it doesn’t look like you used pastels for your color illustrations.
So far I’ve utilized pastels for portraiture and drawing from life. I have not done any finished illustrations in pastel but it is something I want to explore.
Do you have any desire to write a picture book and illustrate it?
Yes! I am working very hard towards that goal.
Do you have a artist rep.?
No, but I’m open to the idea.
Do you have a daily illustrating routine?
I don’t have a set routine, but I usually spend 8+ hours a day. Each day involves a myriad of tasks that can range from gathering reference and sketching to preparing the surface that I’m going to work on and painting. The sketch stage takes the longest for me. I like to say that the drawn sketch is the strength of the illustration while the painting is the heart.
Where do you create your art?
I have designated a portion of my apartment as my studio where I do all my work.
What steps do you take to get your talent noticed?
I’ve done cold calling and portfolio drop offs. I also send out my postcard and packages of 8″x10″ prints of my work. Recently I have been going to SCBWI intensives, like the winter conference and some regional workshops and showing my work that way.
You can see more of Dahlia’s work by visiting her website: www.dahliabroul.com
I suspect we will be seeing a lot more of Dahlia in the Children’s Book Industry.