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Ian Trajlov’s Deep Sea Illustrations

By Jenny Carless

For graphic designer Ian Trajlov, artistic growth is all about exploration, play, and experimentation. And these notions are at the core of his Djúpur Sjór (“Deep Sea”) illustrations, a series of elegant, fanciful underwater creatures.

However, Trajlov didn’t set out to populate an underwater world.

“The entire project—created using Adobe Illustrator CC—was built on plenty of random choices of movement and action,” he says. “By moving anchor points on the artboard, one shape reminded me of a shrimp—and the rest is history.”

The project was inspired by exploring other artists’ work on Behance. In particular, Maria Grønlund’s work attracted Trajlov, and he discovered her Cosmos tutorial. Unsatisfied with his efforts to create something similar, however, he selected the shape he’d made and deleted it.

illustration by Ian Trajilov, from his
illustration by Ian Trajilov, from his
illustration by Ian Trajilov, from his

“But the Direct Selection tool was on, so only one part of that shape disappeared,” he explains. “That left me with a few points and a shape made of many lines on the artboard; then, by moving just one point, the entire object took on a whole new form.”

That set Trajlov off on what would become the Djúpur Sjór series—illustrations that are created using only the Blend tool and the Distort and Transform effects.

“I had a few shapes to begin with, but I didn’t know what to do with them,” he says. “Every time I opened the project, I started rearranging and adding more points and getting different shapes. I multiplied and transformed them, making dozens of different forms…. The process is such that a slight movement of one point can change or destroy an entire form. One by one, I began to build an entire collection of various creatures from the deep sea.” 

illustration by Ian Trajlov, from his
illustration by Ian Trajlov, from his
illustration by Ian Trajlov, from his

This project marked Trajlov’s first time using the Blend tool. “But once I figured it out, I couldn’t stop playing with it,” he says.

His other favorite Illustrator tools include Live Corners and Pathfinder.

“Live Corners is an amazing upgrade; it makes reshaping so much easier,” he notes. “I'm using Pathfinder a lot, too; it’s a great help when creating illustrations or logos based on geometric shapes.”

Experimentation has been at the heart of Trajlov’s evolution as an artist. In this brief tutorial video, he demonstrates the process by which he creates the sea creatures in the Djúpur Sjór series.

Trajlov began as a self-taught artist but came to realize that graphic design constantly evolves and requires lifelong learning. Currently, he is a graphic design student with just one year left until graduation. He also works as a junior designer at the advertising company Fullhouse Ogilvy.

“I’ve just started playing with different illustration styles and other forms of graphic design,” he says. “At first, I was really into logos. I love that certain way of thinking from making sketches to the final result.”

He has also developed a series of illustrations showing book covers based on the same geometric shape—setting himself the challenge of using the same shape to portray one recognizable detail from each book.

Looking ahead, Trajlov is eager to improve his illustration skills and to explore design for packaging and labeling.

an illustration from Ian Trajlov's
an illustration from Ian Trajlov's
an illustration from Ian Trajlov's

“I love the little details in packaging that make the product more interesting and appealing,” he says. “And there is a challenge to creating in such a limited space.”

No matter what the project, Trajlov will continue to do what he advises everyone to try: “Explore, sketch, and play. Play a lot!”

Clearly, it works for him.

For more of Trajlov’s work, check out his Behance profile.