In this second part of Designing Deeks, we’ll explore more of the creative process of some of our favorite fan artists. How did they learn to do what they do? Whether self-taught or professional designers, they’re all inspired by Deeks and Densi to create art that expresses their reaction to the show, in a style that’s uniquely theirs.
Crazy Images, Doodles and A Handsome Devil
As with any creative process, fan artists enjoy expressing their creativity and sharing it with others. ecolookhere describes it by saying: “I enjoy bringing to life the crazy images in my head and making them something that others can enjoy and experience too.” lovesaroundga likes “the fact that I’m good at something and no one can tell me otherwise. Also, I really love when people tell me that my edits caused extreme feelings in them.”
thewingsofnight explains that her current creative outlet is just an extension of a long-time activity. “I’ve always been someone who liked to doodle,” she says. “When I was in school my notebooks were fifty percent notes and fifty percent random squiggles and silly faces and flowers and hearts and patterns. If I see a blank piece of paper or a chalkboard I have to write on it. I buy coloring books for my kids and end up filling half the pages myself. I’m not a good artist and I don’t create things for the final product, I create things because I enjoy the process. Photoshop is just an extension of that, I think. It’s a way for me to doodle about a subject that I enjoy (without requiring me to have the talent to create those images by hand).”
monique0429 also enjoys the process, saying, “It’s relaxing, it takes my mind off every day’s busy life. Also when life kicks you in the butt, and things don’t go as you’d like them to go, you need something to vent. Photoshopping and watching NCIS:LA are my idea of relaxing, so combining the two is even better.”
For Sweet Lu and DeeksFreak, enjoyment comes from working specifically with the material provided by Eric Christian Olsen and NCIS:LA. “I just love the creativity that’s involved,” says DeeksFreak. “It’s fun to work with imagery from the show and then see how the design evolves as I go along. I also like the challenge of executing the concept in my head. I love being able to show my appreciation for the show through a creative endeavor and designing pieces that (I hope) others appreciate as well.”
Similarly, Sweet Lu explains, “As a former graphic designer, I can’t seem to shake the urge to work with images of Deeks to create something that expresses the feelings I have for the character and for certain episodes of the show. I have always loved creating collages in Photoshop, and I still have that itch. It’s fun. ECO is a handsome devil, so that adds to the enjoyment. He is so expressive, and combining images of him and Kensi to create something unique or that expresses my own take on a scene or to tell a story gives me great satisfaction.”
Learning One Mistake at a Time
Some of these artists have worked professionally in computer graphics, while others are completely self-taught. thewingsofnight describes her training by saying, “I rocked art in elementary school! Other than that, no. I have no art training, no computer training, and am totally making this up as I go. Yay for tutorials! The Internet is a magical place where you can google what you want to know and someone will have answered it. Some stuff I just guess at and fiddle around with until I get the result I want, which means I use the worst possible way to do it, but I’m never going to need to know how to do things the ‘right way’ so I don’t worry about it.” ecolookhere, who has “a dream of studying drawing and then graphic design,” says simply, “I opened Photoshop and learned, one mistake at a time.” She hopes one day to pursue design as a career.
monique0429 says, “I just played along basically. I started out with Paint, long ago. Made some birthday cards, greeting cards and it developed from there. When a friend gave me his copy of Photoshop, because he got the new version, I looked at it and tried. Got frustrated and threw it aside. I think it was a year later when I tried it again, and I got some stuff done, and from there I watched tutuorials on youtube and I learned a great deal from those tutorials. I still do. Every edit I do I learn new tricks. So no background really. Just playing with my Photoshop and posting it on Instagram. The likes and the nice comments are very much appreciated and they are encouraging me to try and make new stuff.”
|[One of] my two favorite pieces must be the black/blue Densi pic. I saw a pic and I wanted to recreate it, and I think I’m still quite content with the result.
lovesaroundga has had similar experiences, but making edits has evolved into more than just a hobby. “I don’t really know, it just happened,” she describes. “I didn’t take any lessons in computer art, I started with playing around in PhotoFiltre, then I got Photoshop and started looking for graphic and gif tutorials on Tumblr. It was four years ago, and now I’m the main graphic designer for any school-related projects.”
At the other end of the spectrum are our two professional designers. Sweet Lu had “a long career as a graphic designer and illustrator.” She explains, “My husband and I ran a design studio with a staff of eight, and working on a Mac was just part of it all. Although I did do conventional illustrations, Photoshop soon became a great tool to use and I found that I loved exploring how to use it to create collages, a medium I have always loved.” DeeksFreak says, “My introduction to the Adobe programs took place at Mizzou [University of Missouri] in my Graphics of Journalism class. From that point on, I was hooked. I currently work in the prepress department at a graphics company, so I have been using the programs pretty much every day for the past 15 years. The way I use the programs for my designs is self-taught.”
Styles from Silly to Bold
As you might expect, each of these artists describes her style differently. thewingsofnight says hers is “Random, sometimes silly. Mostly face swaps, [manipulations], and simple images where I’ll take a screencap and alter the background somehow.” DeeksFreak isn’t sure what to call her style. “No idea. Eclectic, maybe?,” she says. She doesn’t think it’s changed much over time, noting that, “I think I did a lot more collage-type designs before, but I still do those from time to time. Each piece is based on whatever idea pops into my head, so I don’t know of a conscious difference between then and now. I don’t think I’m communicating something different now. Just expressing my love and appreciation of the show, characters and actors.”
|[I’m most proud of] any of my Densi pieces, really. I love this ‘ship so much and I know many others do, too. One of my favorite designs is the watercolor of the Densi scene in ‘Praesidium.’ I think it captures the sentiment of that scene pretty well.
monique0429 also thinks her work changes based on the idea at hand, saying “I don’t think I have a ‘style.’ It’s more like a melting pot, anything can trigger an edit really. When I have something in my head I need to get it out and it can be anything, movie posters, cartoon, black and white…” She says that what’s changed over time isn’t the style, but the overall quality of her work. “Only thing that has changed is the way I Photoshop,” she describes. “As I said before, I keep learning stuff and I think- or at least I hope- it shows in the edits. I hope the difference shows, the edits being better than the ones I started out with.”
Sweet Lu describes her approach by saying, “I like to have lots of layers, blending and combining photos with textures to give depth to image. I think of it as illustration, especially when I am doing one to accompany one of my short stories for wikiDeeks. I had great fun doing the one for ‘The Great Hobgoblin’, adding vintage photos and odd and creepy images and textures to illustrate the darkness of the story. I also like to add song lyrics to certain collages to express the emotion of the combination of images… I don’t think my style has changed at all [over time], although it might differ slightly in tone according to what I am illustrating. In “Welcome Back, Mr. Deeks”, it stays light and airy, while in the “Great Hobgoblin” it is dark and creepy in keeping with the story. Other than that, it has remained fairly consistent.”
lovesaroundga makes “a lot of colorful edits with meaningful quotes, but I completely suck at typography,” she says. “At the beginning I was just into making edits of Kensi and Deeks’ sweet, perfect, ideal life, and now I prefer to make edits with a deeper meaning, using quotes or lyrics from my favorite songs. There are often disagreements in the fandom, but I make edits to show how I understand the [particular] event.”
ecolookhere describes her style as “bright, bold, crisp, colorful, striking. Lots of silhouettes and shapes, ‘cause I enjoy the minimalistic style. I think my edits have gotten more complex, intricate maybe. My style hasn’t really changed though, it’s just expanded. It’s kind of a paradox, because I feel like while my edits have expanded artistically (encompassing more layers and detail and becoming stylistically more intricate), my subject focus has narrowed. Each edit is very specific in subject matter, where they used to be more generalized concepts.”
There is so much great fan art out there, on Tumblr and Instagram and here at wikiDeeks. It’s a wonderful way to relive the emotions we all experience from watching great scenes with Deeks and Densi. Of course, the NCIS:LA fan art world isn’t without its challenges. thewingsofnight has dabbled in a few other fandoms and says, “The art itself isn’t much different, except that no other character has had such a difficult head of hair. ECO’s style-by-pillow is my editing nightmare. That thing is impossible to cut around.”
You can enjoy more of these great artists’ work by following the links below:
Sweet Lu- wikiDeeks
Thanks to Allie AKA the fabulous @thewingsofnight for the title artwork.