Designing the NWTC pilot series of WA National Park t-shirts

By Daniel Ang, December 2020

Whenever I start a new project I always spend some time planning and writing before I pick up a pencil. I find this stage to be crucial as it helps to provide structure for the rest of the painting, as well as narrowing the scope and vision so I am not stuck with that ‘blank canvas’ trap. In this project, the goal was to create five illustrations one set of icons that represented various landscapes across WA.

I went back and forth with John until we figured out what sort of mood and feeling we wanted from each print, and I got to work on collecting photo references. I try and use as many references as I can so I have can portray them confidently. In this project, the prints did not have to be 100% accurate to the landscapes but needed to convey a strong enough depiction that would be familiar to people.

When I can, I enjoy going out and taking my own photos. I spent a few hours walking around Perth with my camera and trying to find interesting angles to paint it from. I also went down to Stirling Range for the first time and took my own photos for references. This step isn’t necessary, but it does help in making me feel closer to the art I was creating.

As I started the first sketches, I experimented with various angles and compositions of each landscape. I thought about how best to lead the eye to my focal points, and this can be achieved in a number of ways. I personally like using leading lines and the rule of thirds so I can place certain elements (a mountain, a tree, clouds) in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Once the sketches were done, I then picked the one I liked best and did some colour exploration. Colour is extremely fun to play with because it can add so much mood and information. Strong golden colours can be used to bring the feeling of a strong sunset like in the Stirling Range piece, and the deep blues I used in Ningaloo gave me a fun opportunity to contrast them with the saturated coral reef.

It was now time to move onto the final illustrations. As most of the design work was completed, all I needed to do was enlarge it in Photoshop and detail it further. At this stage, I’m thinking about the subtle nuances and small details that can really help to push the illustrations further. I love working in a graphic style and I use the lasso tool often in Photoshop. It allows me to create strong shapes, which I can then use to ‘push’ and ‘pull’ by erasing parts out or adding more on top. I always think about how I can simplify complex details, and this becomes a fun challenge.

When the illustrations were completed, I then had to create a circular vector version so that they could be used on T-shirts or mugs. I did this by importing the illustrations into Adobe Illustrator, where I used image trace to get a vectorized version. However, this isn’t perfect and so I spent some time cleaning them up so that they were print-ready. The last stage was fairly simple and consisted of finalising some fonts and design tweaks.

I had a lot of fun during this project and I felt like I grew as an artist. It’s nice being able to work on something you love from a place you call home, and it gave me a deeper appreciation my surroundings.