Discover Digital Illustrator Syd Weiler’s Fascination with Time

By Libby Nicholaou

One of many modern creatives who never pick up pen and paper, Syd Weiler—recently named one of Adobe’s four 2016–2017 Creative Residents—prefers to work digitally for a wide range of reasons. She calls herself an “illustr-animator,” and her digital approach to creating is helping to lay the groundwork for a new visual language. 

Weiler says, “Digital tools are better for my workflow for more reasons than I can count.” Plus, working digitally is just faster: “I can do three times the work in the time I’d spend struggling with supplies. Watercolor is beautiful, but for many projects, I don’t have the time to wait for layers to dry,” she adds. And Weiler has embraced the digital age in more ways than one, sometimes even live-streaming her process on Twitch so people can ask her questions and watch her work unfold. 

An illustration from Syd Weiler’s The Log Book series.


While Weiler spent some time as a designer for forthcoming interactive mystery-adventure game Jenny LeClue, she learned much of what she knows while at college. There, one of her professors encouraged her to “find her own visual language.” The assignment was to create with only that intent in mind. Weiler says, “I think that was the first time anyone had me sit down and make work for me, not for something like a character design or an editorial piece. I made art about things I liked.”  

For Weiler, it was less about finding her style and more about figuring out how she works best, getting comfortable with it, and building on that foundation. She adds, “I think it’s something all creatives struggle with. But finding a style simply means discovering a way to make images that feels natural to you. It’s not a set-in-stone thing. It should evolve, and the discovery process should be fun.”

Illustrations from Syd Weiler’s The Log Book series.


Despite her preference for working digitally, using her Microsoft Surface and Adobe Creative Cloud tools, Weiler finds much of her inspiration in nature and her environment. “I’ve started a folder of digital scribbles of sunlight on cracked, weedy sidewalks and overgrown bushes,” she says. “I have another collection of all tree stumps and logs. The mundane is truly magical.”

Weiler’s works always seems to toy with light and time. Her college thesis, Before & After, is a series of illustrations depicting places in two states of being. She explains, “These pieces present the concept of change over time in a symmetrical, visual format, with each set focusing on a pair of moments.” Weiler originally proposed the project so she could invent environments and play with light’s influence on color.

She explains her fascination with changing places and passing time: “A few years ago, I was painting a lot of plein air landscapes. I’d start painting one day and become frustrated when conditions were different the next. Adapting to a changing environment was hard. Eventually, I realized, if things stayed the same all the time, we’d live in a very boring world. I’m fascinated by change because of the possibilities it presents.”

Illustrations from Syd Weiler’s Before & After series    

Having been selected for Adobe’s 2016–2017 Creative Residency, Weiler looks forward to expanding on her Before & After series. “The pieces up until now have been made up,” she says. “But I’ll be focusing on real places during the Residency and hopefully finding some fascinating stories to depict.”

Weiler will also produce a zine-like book and an animated gallery of her Before & After illustr-animations in order to turn her project into various offline experiences. She plans to share her technique and processes, including more on why she prefers working digitally, with the creative community throughout the Creative Residency. 

Meet Creative Resident Syd Weiler and learn more about her work, in our video.

The Adobe Creative Residency empowers talented individuals to spend a year focusing on a passion project, while sharing their experiences and processes with the creative community. Visit our Creative Residency page for updates on Syd Weiler’s work and to learn about the other 2016–2017 Residents.

May 12, 2016

Images: courtesy of Syd Weiler

Photo of Syd Weiler: Jacob Berrier

Video: Michelle Mahoney