Off the Page: Gillian Berry

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Ever wondered about the artists drawing those fantastic pieces of fanart you reblog on Tumblr or favorite on deviantArt? Here’s your chance to get behind the scenes with these artists who bring your favorite characters alive.

This week’s interview features Gillian Berry, a 22-year-old English major, young adult book blogger, and Los Angeles native who spends all day reading YA books, writing about YA books, or drawing YA books. Sometimes she even sleeps on YA books. Her art features Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park and Fangirl, Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, and Marissa Meyer’s Cress, the third book in her Lunar Chronicles series.

  • Cath & Levi snuggle from Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl

What is it about the authors’ writing that inspired your art?
I like to draw fan art for the characters I can really see. It’s tricky, because there are some books I adore wholeheartedly, but somehow I don’t have a totally sharp image of the characters in my head. This is no fault of the author, usually, but of my brain. The characters in Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Rainbow Rowell’s books, and so many more—I see them. Something about the way the characters write them make them visually vivid for me.

I also like draw the characters I’m completely obsessed with. I can’t NOT draw them, basically!

Are there any other influences you used (besides the book) included in your art?
I’m not sure. I’m a diehard Disney animation fangirl, so I suppose I’ve always liked and tried to emulate that style of character drawing. I prefer to draw people and their expressions and action. The thing I like best about drawing fan art is that the visuals are entirely your own. They’re inspired by words, which are not (surprise!) pictures. I get to make the pictures, and that’s cool to me.

What was your favorite reaction you’ve received?
It really warms my heart when the authors themselves like my art, but I’ve gotten some amazing fan reactions that actually made me a bit misty. Honestly, every single time I get a comment or like or reblog, it floors me. And when my friends, who had no clue I could draw, saw my Tumblr and were like, “GILLIAN.” That’s amazing.

What’s your process? What type of medium/art programs do you use or prefer?
A lot of my sketches start on paper with pencil, but some don’t. Then I scan them onto my computer and color and clean them with ArtRage Studio, which is kind of a poor man’s Photoshop, but I love it. For that, I use a Wacom Bamboo tablet, which is the best purchase I’ve ever made in my life. Like I said, sometimes I start sketching them right in the program with the pencil tool, but I definitely prefer to start on paper.

Do you have any tools you like to work with?
The wonderful thing about digital art is you get to play with ALL THE TOOLS! You can fiddle with the opacity of the ink, the softness of the pencil, how smooth you want the lines, how long you want the taper to be. Every day is like a new discovery. “OMG, I had no idea you could do THAT!” And my world is blown.

How do you know when you’ve completed your piece or decide when to share it online?
When I cannot bear to stare at it for one second longer. Joking (kinda). For some reason, my brain always decides a piece is done before it’s actually done. So if I get that “Yay, it’s finished!” feeling, I know I’ve probably got to go one step further and darken the shadows or add some highlights, and that makes all the difference.

What piece is the one you’re most proud of doing?
I’m pretty proud of all my pieces, actually. I’m usually most proud of whichever one I’ve just finished. I think I’m most proud of the Blue/Gansey art I did for The Dream Thieves, since it was a finalist in a fan art contest the author, Maggie Stiefvater, did. I’m also very proud of the one I did for Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen, because that was the first time I’d ever used that coloring technique.

Are there any themes or surprises you’ve noticed come up in your work?
I really like to draw people kissing. I’m not that surprised about it, though.

Do you have anything fun that you’re working on or would like to do someday?
I’m doing a bunch of YA Valentines right now that I’m excited about, highlighting a few of my favorite YA couples. I started with this Eleanor and Park one and then Ron and Hermione.

What kind of advice or insight would you give to other artists?
Draw all the time.

Draw truly heinous, out-of-proportion things that you never show to anyone. Or show them to people and gain courage (and learn to live with that sliver of shame over your own work that all creative people have). If you want to branch into digital stuff, experiment like crazy and discover new tools. Use tutorials.

Draw the stuff you love, whether that’s bookish couples or puppies or whatever. Look at the art that other super talented people are making, become completely intimidated, and then let that inspire you, not put you off. Have confidence in your own style, even if you’re jealous of the style of others (I certainly am).

What encouraged you to share your fanart?
I’d actually taken a bit of a drawing break since going to college, and I really wanted to get back to it. I was getting itchy fingers and doodling all over very important things. I drew the banner for my blog, and I had so much fun doing it, it got me back into drawing daily.

Be sure to visit Berry’s Tumblr and book blog for more of her artwork.

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About Author

Natasha M. Heck

Natasha believes cats and words are the shiniest things in the ‘verse. She has touched Stonehenge, climbed the Glastonbury Tor, walked the Philosopher’s Path, and kissed her true love on the Eiffel Tower. She’s a fangirl, Jedi Knight, and Gryffindor whose love of unicorns led her to live in the land of geekdom and sunshine. She has an English degree emphasis in Creative Writing, and is using it to follow her dreams.

3 Comments

  1. This is an amazing interview. I love Gillian and her art AND her blog. So proud of all of this!!

    (I also like that this interview focuses on ART instead of WRITING. Like, writing tips are great and definitely necessary for future published authors, but seeing more from the artistic end is fantastic. A lot of people do create fanart or design blogs and insight into that in interview form is so very interesting to me.)