Meet Zellene Guanlao, a graphic designer and illustrator based out of Manila, Phillippines. Keep reading for a glimpse into Zellene’s colorful world as she reveals her unexpected sources of inspiration.
Who are you? Tell us about yourself:
Hello, I’m Zellene. I’m an illustrator and graphic designer living in Manila, Philippines. I do stuff for both print and web. Currently, I work remotely with the team at Motion Story, illustrating stories for animation.
In my free time, I enjoy working on personal projects that involve trying out new color palettes, styles, or simply trying to improve on what I already know.
Describe your style in 3 words:
I don’t think I have a specific style (yet?). My style changes from one project to another, but I do love working with colors that go well together. So I’d probably describe it as colorful, versatile, and changing.
What inspires your illustration work?
Frankly, I think I’m a boring person, so a lot of the inspiration for my personal work comes from the mundane. I like to observe my surroundings or see them through another person’s photographs, and take mental notes. For example, “Oh this plant’s placement is interesting because the light touches it nicely.”
A lot of the inspiration for my personal work comes from the mundane. I like to observe my surroundings.
Other times, inspiration comes from simpler things like the food I ate, that game I recently played, or from memories that I suddenly remember.
Take us through your illustration process
I save a ton of references online and on my desktop because it helps a lot when starting on a project. Sometimes, I start with a sketch in Adobe Photoshop, but most of the time, I jump straight into Adobe Illustrator.
With the illustration below, I used a reference photo from earthsworld.com and went straight into Illustrator to sketch the pose using the brush tool. Then I added more details while polishing the linework. After that, I filled in the shapes with solid colors including the background. I like to use Khroma and Palettte app for generating nice color schemes. Lastly, I try to figure out lighting and shadows while adding in more detail until it looks nice enough to share!
What’s the most challenging part of your job as a designer?
Right now, the most challenging part would be avoiding burnout. I’ve been there twice before and it wasn’t a very pleasant experience. But because of that, I now know what it feels like, and I know how to survive and recover.
If you think you’re on the verge of burning out, it’s important to take a step back and relax.
If you think you’re on the verge of burning out, it’s important to take a step back and relax. Talk to people, especially those you work with, and tell them what’s going on so both parties can plan accordingly. No one can be 100% all of the time.
I find that doing no-brainer activities also helps. Watching my favorite monster movies is a comfort on its own!
What would you be doing if you weren’t a designer?
A professional organizer, perhaps? I’m proud of my layering and naming skills, and I also like to put actual things in order by category. Have some boxes that need organizing? Let me apply my Tetris skills!
Advice you would give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self that it’s okay to not do everything yourself, and it’s okay to rest without feeling the guilt of being unproductive or being slow in progress.
- Favorite design tool: Adobe Illustrator
- What I listen to while I work: I listen to a lot. Rock or punk rock if I want to be in the zone as soon as possible, soft rock and pop if I want to take it easy but still have to beat the deadline. Video game music (like those from Nintendo games and Stardew Valley) to help me through long hours, and a bit of upbeat K-pop, particularly Akdong Musician, if I want to concentrate without worrying too much.
- Name a Dribbbler who inspires you: I really admire the works of Tracy J Lee and just recently discovered Aliz Buzas. I love their details, textures, and colors.