Making the Case for Eye Candy

By Leslie Peterson

Mike (no last name, just Mike) calls his illustration and design work "eye candy." You may think of that as a dismissive term, but it would be a mistake to dismiss Mike. This self-taught creative has been delighting clients for 12 years. 

Create: Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Mike: I live and work in Prague, Czech Republic, but since I also love traveling—in fact, it's my second passion after design—I often work away from home, anywhere from Hong Kong to the tiny streets of Verona.

I'm a classic autodidact: Almost everything I know I learned on my own. I’ve never been good in a traditional type of education where you sit in big classes and study in large groups. Mainly e-learning or private lessons work for me. I'm completely self-taught in some areas, such as photography.

Create: What Adobe software do you use?

Mike: I mostly work in Adobe Photoshop but also spend a fair bit of time in Adobe Lightroom, which I believe is the best software for photo editing. And I use Adobe Illustrator for vector drawings, of course.

Create: Which of your pieces are you most proud of? Why?

Mike: I am especially proud of the pieces that take multiple skills to create, where technical perfection is as important as conveying unique spirit and atmosphere. One example is my Outlaws deck of cards.

I pay special attention to character illustrations lately. Alive and storytelling, these characters really hold me hostage; I often spend days working on them.

Create: We love the elaborate photos of your work. How do you stage them?

Mike: I always start with the general atmosphere. The piece itself goes next and then all the tools that I used to create it. Once I have this bare minimum, the creativity steps in. The background elements should reinforce and help to reveal the story: how the piece was made, what context it exists in. This determines everything—colors, instruments, and accessories.

I try to create something new each time, to see the process from a different angle since the pieces will be placed next to each other in my portfolio and it’s very important that they look different.

Create: You create a lot of pieces in the steampunk style. What appeals to you about it?

Mike: I think steampunk is unique in this sense: it’s not as cold as the mainstream, high-tech future we often envision (e.g., robots and skyscrapers) because it allows us to create a lot of interpretations of the things from the real world around us. I also love the slight nostalgia about the past. I think most designers have those, “What if...?” wonderings, which is where creative juices really kick in.

Create: How do you stay creative?

Mike: I love to look around. Pinterest, Behance, Dribble, offline exhibitions and events, traveling – there's inspiration everywhere. I also like diversity in work: It’s easy to get bored without daily challenges.

Create: How has your style evolved?

Mike: Practice doesn't only make perfect, it also makes beautiful. I didn't work hard on forming my own special style, it's the approach to creative work that I've been improving over time. The process of creating a perfect piece from a beginning to an end means everything to me. The way I collect inspiration and materials, analyze other works, the way of generating ideas themselves—all these components evolve constantly thus changing the end result.

Create: What's next for you?

Mike: There is a lot of new stuff going on in photography, illustration and design. I’m planning to devote more time to learning new technologies. Follow me on Behance and Dribble to for regular updates.

March 8, 2016