The Devil’s In the Details

I don’t know about you, but detailed art has always inspired me. More often than not, I lean towards art that is devilishly complex with tons of little pieces hidden inside. Often I try to replicate this detail, but I usually fall woefully short. However you can’t always control in which ways you are influenced, and I have found unexpected benefits of analyzing the work of others.

Arthur Rackham
One of my all-time favourite illustrators is Arthur Rackham. His ability to capture tone, mood, movement, and still manage to sprinkle in an obscene amount of detail is mind-boggling to me.


Twilight of the Gods by Arthur Rackham

Immediate impression: The detail combined as well as the figures. His effortless ability to integrate detail without it becoming overwhelming proves Rackham’s mastery of illustration. He also achieves this through the figures, adding detail in perfect proportions, making nothing stand out beyond what it is supposed to.


Undine by Arthur Rackham

Unlikely gains: It’s pretty obvious that Rackham’s illustrations are “moody” to say the least. Dark and desaturated tones give off a melancholy feel, capturing the darker subtleties that are intrinsic in many fairytales. I studied Rackham’s watercolouring techniques and have used them to beef up my own paintings.

Brittney Lee
If you’re reading this, it probably means you’re in my Graphic Design course which means you are familiar with my attempt at recreating Brittney Lee’s style for one of our Illustration assignments. She mostly uses cut paper to create 3D illustrations, recently delving into fully 3-dimensional paper sculpture.


Brittney Lee

Immediate impression: Holy detail Batman! Brittney Lee manages to have one hundred thousand elements in her designs without it becoming a giant mess. Having tried my hand at this style, I wonder how she doesn’t lose pieces and then proceed to lose her mind. During my attempt, I misplaced a head* and nearly lost my own. Her use of colour gives the impression of depth and shadow, furthering the effect of the cut paper.


Brittney Lee

Unlikely gains: Simplicity. It’s easy to get lost in the detail of her artwork, but if you look closely, you’ll notice the elements themselves aren’t extremely busy. She streamlines her illustrations, occasionally painting in some details, to ensure that they all work together to create a cohesive and comprehensible image.

*Here is my attempt (based off of a still from Disney’s Hercules):


This artist is one of my ultimate favourite t-shirt designers. You may recall my talking about him in an earlier post but he manages to keep cranking out great designs. Designing shirts can be especially tricky as you need to limit the amount of colours you use, often a maximum of 5 or 6, so he frequently uses the shirt’s colour to add in another level of dimension to his designs.


Above: Day of the Dead, Day of the Dead Merc, and Day of the Dead Titain

Immediate impression: The seamless integration of detail into the the figures and their supporting elements so that the main focus remains the focus.


D. Pool by OneBlueBird

Unlikely gains: By using colour to his advantage, he cleverly repeats the same hues throughout the image in a way that doesn’t make it flat, but cuts down on how many screens it would take to print. This also helps unify the image, making sure your eye isn’t distracted by a lot of unnecessary colours.

I know there are literally thousands of artists out there who do detail in millions of ways, but here are my top three. Hopefully you can take some of the lessons I have learned to heart when creating your own artwork, and maybe even discover some of your own!

Remember, it’s never a bad idea to look to other artists for inspiration, as long as you are able to look at it critically and not directly imitate their style.

Have a favourite artist who rocks detail? Learned any valuable tidbits of wisdom you’re itching to share? Leave them in the comments!


P.S. My love for cut paper was kindled by the project I mentioned earlier, and I have continued to dabble (and hopefully improve) in it! Below are some of my recent cut paper adventures. Enjoy!


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