Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 27, 2020

Illustrator Saturday – DION MBD

Dion MBD, because Dionisius Mehaga Bangun Djayasaputra is way too long to remember, is an Indonesian illustrator/designer who is based in Brooklyn, NY. He works on ranges of projects such as editorial, publishing, and TV commercials. Dion received his Illustration BFA from Ringling College of Art Design in Florida where he grew his fascinations with clouds. Occasionally you can find him cloud-watching at one of the parks in Brooklyn. He enjoys YA, graphic novels, and picture books as they remind him of his childhood. He often gravitates towards stories that are tender with themes such as coming-of-age, grief, romance, and others that are close to our daily lives.

BELOW IS DION DISCUSSING HIS PROCESS WITH The Half-Orphan’s Handbook by Joan F. Smith coming out in April 2021 by MacMillian

Book Cover Top View Mockup by Anthony Boyd Graphics

 

Before the illustration was made, I worked on several ideas based on the art direction’s guidelines. Although usually I prefer to read the entire novel beforehand, we were short on time and so I based on the idea on excerpts of the story. My art director, Carolyn bull also provided me with my previous works that fit well as references. The main thing that I had been told was that despite the heavy subject matter, we should keep the tone hopeful. I came up with these sketches and we decided to develop the last one.

After finalizing the sketch, we quickly moved on to the final. I began by drawing outlines of the darker, harsher objects like trees in the distant, foreground grass, etc. I did this using MUJI pen size 0.38 on a print paper. I like the smooth texture of the paper as it did not interfere with my pen’s tip. I then scanned it at 600 dpi to color in Procreate.

When I first learned about colors, I used gouache and oil. Thus, I begin by adding ground color just like how I would when I use the traditional media. In this case, the ground color is the sunset color gradient. I used some of my photos on my personal Instagram as references. I think it is important to be observant of our surroundings as we never know when a little beautiful thing will come handy for client projects.

I then added other things that are more tonal on top of this ground color. Objects like the ground, and the clouds. I know that these are going to be the secondary layer in my piece as the main piece will be created on top of this vibrant sky color.

I was also a big fan of cut paper and collage. In this step, I imagined the cumulonimbus clouds to be a big piece of paper that I cut and slap on top of the sky.

I then painted the cumulus humilis clouds on top of this layer, to add depth to the sky.

Once that was done, I switched back my mindset into oil-painting mode. I painted the grass, the foreground, and added the lights from the cabins.

Here I went back and added a few trees in the background by redrawing them on another sheet of print paper and scan them separately. I blend them into the image by changing the layer’s mode into ‘multiply’.

The reason why I painted the cumulonimbus cloud as if it is a piece of cut paper is because I wanted to cut out the main character’s silhouette out. I thought this cutout shape is ideal in representing the idea of hope and healing. The dark clouds that block the sun is removed to uncover the bright setting sun in the background.

Here is when I transferred the file onto Photoshop as I needed the layer style options. I added drop shadow that makes the silhouette feels more dimensional and cut-paper-like.

Lastly, Carolyn Bull added the typography on top of the illustration. I thought the hand-lettered title fits really well with the mood of the image. It is always a special feeling when typography is incorporated to the finished cover illustration.

Interview with Dion MBD

How long have you been illustrating?

One of the first things I remember of being a 3 year old was me drawing on a piece of scrap paper on a church bench when my parents were having a mass. However, I only felt confident calling my drawings illustrations during my sophomore year in college in 2016. Most of my drawings before that felt like journal entries. Somehow, they felt too personal to call an illustration.

What and when was the first piece of art you created for money?

This is actually funny. The first fanart I made for money was when I was in the 4th grade. It was common for grade schoolers in Indonesia to help their parents sell small things for extra pocket money. We were all so into Ragnarok Online, a Korean mmorpg. So I decided to charge 50 cents for my classmates’ portrait in the online game style.

What inspired you to attend Illustration BFA from Ringling College of Art Design in Florida and what did you study?

The first formal art class I took was in my high school in Singapore. There, I began to seriously consider art as a career path but I did not know the different visual-art-related jobs. So, I thought, I love animations, and animators must get paid, right? When I researched about animation courses, Ringling came as one of the top and after long considerations, I took my chances to come to the US and studied there. After one semester, I found myself really enjoying the foundation drawing classes. One of my teachers, James Martin, he asked me, “Do you like drawing?”, and I said, “Yes! A lot!”. Then he said, “Then why are you in the computer animation major?”. The next day I switched to the Illustration major.

Did you take any children’s illustrating courses?

Yes, I took a children’s storybook class with Tom Casmer. I developed my first children’s book manuscript, dummy, and sent it to Penguin Randomhouse to review. It did not really get anything but it was one of my favorite projects I have worked on so far.

Do you feel school helped you develop your style?

Yes, but in a very unexpected way. Growing up, I read a lot of mangas and watched countless episodes of animes. This really shows in my art style that I was somehow very ashamed of. During the first 2 years of my college I really tried to mask it, assuming different visual languages based on artists that my instructors share in class. Only in my Junior year did one of my teacher push me to stay true to what I like. People say my works look like anime that is heavily influenced by western aesthetics. I am not mad at all with that descriptions. I think that summarizes where I get my references throughout the years.

Was Illest of Ill – Elements done for an exhibition of your art at the Ringling School of Art and Design?

So, Illest of Ill is a student run organization that holds annual juried shows. People were invited to submit their designs and the most popular ones get to be produced as the official merchandise that would be sold to fundraise during the opening night. The money then goes back to the club to fund next year’s exhibition.

The piece of art titled Ringling College – Beyond. The one with the boy holding the hand of the girl in his painting one that you illustrated for an art exhibit at the college?

Yes, well, I tried. The illustration department opened a call for a poster design for the senior show exhibition. I wanted to join but I also wanted to reflect back on what I have worked throughout the 4 years and why I was working really hard. In the end, the illustration became a little too personal and quoting the instructors, it is “too sophisticated”. I guess it is because it resonates very strongly with me but to others it is a little vague and open. On the brighter side, this piece went a little viral online and it opened doors to the first few jobs I got after college. It is still my favorite piece in my portfolio.

Levine Querido – The Boys in the Back Row: This looks like a movie poster. Was this something you did for a school project?

This was actually for Arthur Levine’s new publication house Levine Querido. I was really honored to work on the book that is part of their first release. Arthur found out about me through one of his interns that followed me on Instagram. The story was so tenderly written that made me feel warm after reading the manuscript. I really enjoyed the assignment.

Did the school help you find work when you graduated?

Yes! I think one of the biggest perk of going to Ringling is their career services. They bring in a lot of recruiters and one of them was Psyop, a production house based in LA and NYC. I interned with them in 2018 and was offered to come back after graduating. I took the offer so that I could move to NYC and began my freelance career.

On top of what the school officially offered to help us career-wise, our class was particularly close with the class of 2017. After they graduated, many of them started working in the editorial and publishing fields. We stayed connected and it really helped us to navigate our way right after we left school.

What type of work did you do when you started your career?

I was juggling between a production type of work and book cover assignments. With Psyop, I often created concept sketches and background paintings for their commercial projects. On the side, I would be working on some book cover projects. I often get young-adult books with coming-of-age stories. I figured my metaphorically-driven imagery fits well in telling stories that are emotional and sometimes sensitive.

It looks like you illustrated Lucy Rose: Shiver Album Cover. How did you get this job?

I am so happy that you think this was done for a job. When I was still a student, I made sure to make my pieces look like they were created for actual jobs, the kinds that I would like to do in real life. These pieces became integral in my portfolio building as they really captures the kind of works that I want to do and even now, they attract clients that I really enjoy working with.

Did you do the animation of the fan turning for a website for the album?

I did it mostly for my website, as I know a lot of musicians start to utilize gifs for their digital album releases.

Did you take animation classes in college?

I did not but I constantly bothered my friends who were in the Motion Design course to teach me the basics of After Effects.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

I think this is a slow progression to a decision making. I always liked children’s books as I grew up ‘reading’ them. I hated reading so I loved when the books have a lot of visuals. Even after college, I still questioned my ability in creating children’s book pieces. Partly because I feel that my storytelling may be a little confusing for young readers. But through works and practices, it just slowly starts to feel like it would not be too daunting to tackle books for younger audiences. Part of it is remembering that as a kid, I did not care what the authors or illustrators tried to say through their works. I connected with their works individually, making my own interpretations. I need to start trusting my viewers more!

Did you do any interior art for Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan or just the cover?

It was just the cover.

When I looked inside the book it on Amazon it says Scholastic, but when you scroll down to see the details, it say Chicken House. Is that a new imprint of Scholastic?

I think Scholastic bought Chicken House in 2005. Asha was originally published by Chicken House in the UK and then Scholastic brought it to the US and have a different cover for the US version.

Chad W. Beckerman was the Art Director for this book. Is this how you met your agent Chad working on this project?

Actually, the Art Director for Asha and The Spirit Bird was Elizabeth Parisi. Chad was my art director for The Boys in the Back Row. That was how we met and I am glad that we both could work on the cover together!

Is The Half Orphan’s Handbook a book scheduled to be published by MacMillan?

Yes! It is scheduled to be published in April 2021. I usually read the entire manuscript of the books I work on, even though it is only a cover assignment. However, I could only read the excerpt for this one because of the tight deadline. Just from the excerpt, it really touched me and I cannot wait to read the full story.

Have you done any illustrations for other books?

I did the cover for Prairie Lotus by the Newbery Medalist, Linda Sue Park. Then, I was really happy when she brought me to work on the redesign of the cover for A Single Shard, the book that was awarded the medal. There are other really excited covers and picture book that are just completed or almost done, but I want to wait for the official announcements to reveal the exciting news!

Have you done any illustrating for children’s Magazines? If so, who?

I did a series for Cricket Magazine. It was a story called The Human Map by Pamela Love. It was a very clever story about aliens and their journey in returning artifacts that humans left behind.


Do you have a studio in your house?

My room is my studio. I usually enjoy working next to my bed as I take short breaks to just lay down, relax my back, and just shut down for a few minutes. I also like to customize my own space, that’s why I build my own furniture usually.

Have you ever tried illustrating a wordless picture book?

Yes, the manuscript I did for the children’s book class in Ringling was wordless. I actually really enjoyed it, perhaps more than working with words. I think wordless picture books really allow viewers to experience a deeper emotional engagement. Less is always more.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate more picture books?

I do! Maybe not just picture books, I want to start developing some graphic novel ideas.

Do you work full time as an illustrator?

Yes, I do.

Is working with a self-published author to illustrate their book something you would consider?

I have been working with a few self-published author. I really enjoy it because the projects usually allows me more creative freedom and I can be a little more experimental with my approach.

I know you will have many successes looming in your future, but what do you think is your biggest success so far?

Thank you! To be honest, my biggest success is not really tied with any particular work. I decided to stop working with Psyop and went fully freelance 6 months after graduating. It was really nerve-wrecking, especially when work was a little slow at first. However, I think learning how to keep my work-anxiety at bay was a triumph on its own way.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I love pen and ink, graphite, charcoal, and Chinese-ink washes. I then scan them and piece everything together digitally. The ipad is really a life-saver. When I first started, I could work on my freelance work in the subway on the way to my studio job.

Has that changed over time?

Yes, I used to only work in pen and ink because I was not confident with my coloring skills. But now, the traditional media has become ‘component-makers’ and the digital media became the ‘composer’ for me.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

I used to use Wacom Bamboo. It was really nice as it was cheap, and light. I then used Cintiq in college as it was provided. Now, my go to is the ipad because it feels more intuitive to draw while the other tablets feel more comfortable for painting.

What materials and/or tools do you use to create your work?

I usually start with Arches Hot Press paper, then I sketch using hb mechanical pencils and reinforce the lines using the same pencil. I like when the hard led leave a strong indent onto the surface of the paper as when I apply my ink wash, they get trapped in the valley. I scan my works and usually I would add textures that I created beforehand using watercolor, colored pencils, crayons, charcoals, etc. The final art is almost always colored and tied in digitally in Procreate or Photoshop.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I try to use the project time as practice time as well. I set technical goals on new projects like “For this new cover, I want to make sure that my human proportions are more accurate.” At this point of my career I do not want to turn down too many assignments but I also want to ensure that I practice on my skills. So, this system has been working quite well for me.

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

I usually do not take pictures for specific projects. I always take random pictures everyday of objects, lighting, people that I find interesting. Then, when I begin a project, I look back into this photo library to find components that can fit my ideas. I used to take specific photo just for a specific project, but sometimes it felt like the image lost the “Dion” aspect as the building blocks were exclusively created for that specific project. I think it is important to carry the project and not be led by the project. However, I always do contextual research as this is something I cannot fake. If a project is about a time period I am not familiar with, I cannot just wing the imagery that I make.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

I definitely think so! Chad actually put it nicely during one of our conversations. Instagram shows people’s talent and their website proves their drive. Information sharing is very fluid nowadays that you never know who sees your image and offer you your next dream job.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

Being an illustrator is kind of a stepping stone for me. My long term goal is that I want to start an art educational institution in Indonesia. I know that I have to learn so much more, that is why I try to take as many projects as I can to get to learn from the art directors and designers I collaborate with.

What are you working on now?

This is crazy time right now. I am working on 6 book covers and a few smaller book and editorial jobs. But I am most exciting about a graphic novel idea I am developing about the ‘new normal’ and I have just started an online basic drawing class in Indonesia.

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

Yes, I do. Print paper is actually the best for creating graphite/ink line work for you to scan. The paper is so smooth that the lines always look very clean. Then, you can scan different paper textures to mix and match with your line work. This way, you have the liberty of showing rough textures without fighting the paper when you do the inking.

I also usually work digitally first, then traditionally, then digitally again. A lot of people begin working traditionally but I find it really hard for me. I am an over thinker, and I like to plan my image by centimeters. Working digitally first lets me fix compositions, scales, etc, before I trace the drawings traditionally to get the tactile energy that cannot be replicated digitally.

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

Be yourself! If you are the type to work 18 hours a day, do it if you feel happy and it does not jeopardize your health. If you are the type to make banger images by only working 2 hours a week, don’t let others say you are not working hard enough. Staying true to your own process will lead you to your personal destination.

Thank you, Dion for letting me interview you and sharing your expertise with us.Please let me know your future successes so I can share it with everyone.

To see more of Dion’s work, you can visit him at:

Website: https://www.dionmbd.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dionmbd/?hl=en

Artist Agency: http://www.catugeau.com/dion-mbd

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. that’s so interesting to see how it all comes together. he is a brilliant artist!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fabulous interview! Dion MBD is immensely talented and his images are inspiring. I appreciated hearing his process, too. What an accomplished, charming and humble young illustrator! Thanks.

    Like

  3. I am absolutely blown away by Dion’s artistic visions and interpretations! SO full of emotion and very beautifully unique and powerful! Thank you for introducing us!

    Like

  4. Great stuff, Dion! I love that you want to start art classes in Indonesia! Congrats.

    Like

  5. Fascinating style! Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  6. Great interview– Awesome work, Dion!

    Like

  7. What amazing work! Thanks, Kathy, for highlighting Dion’s process and his incredible work!

    Like


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