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The Joy of Discovery

By Jenny Carless

Whether it’s finding new tools, seeking out new inspiration, trying innovative techinques, or taking on challenging assignments, graphic artist Ahmet Iltas is a true creative explorer.

Landscapes and nature scenes feature prominently in Iltas’s portfolio. 

Iltas remembers beginning to draw when he was about 11 years old, but he pursued the craft more actively when he started studying at a fine arts high school in Istanbul—which led him to working in digital media when he got to university. Iltas went on to graduate from the fine arts faculty and cartoon animation department of Anadolu University in Eskişehir, Turkey.

As a university student, Iltas experimented with many types and styles of art, but digital media quickly grabbed his attention.  

“When I first used the magic graphic tablet, I felt like Christopher Columbus—it was like discovering a whole new world!” he says.

Even though graphic design is his job—his way of paying the bills—he thinks of it much more as a hobby. “It always excites me to create something new and fresh,” he says.

Iltas makes some of his work—such as this charming illustration—available as an Adobe Stock premium contributor.

MANY INFLUENCES

Both cubism and minimalism had an influence on Iltas’s early work.

“But over the past few years, I think I’ve moved away from these concepts a little bit,” he says. “Today, clients mostly like my more detailed, textured, illuminated artworks—although of course, it depends on what each client wants.”

Projects such as White Collar Employee (images from this series are shown below) and Vesikalik, with their simple brush strokes and limited color palettes, are examples of where the minimalist influence still appears in Iltas’s work. In contrast, a more detailed, textured style is evident in work such as Lonely Whale and a recent project for Turkish Airlines.

Images from the series White Collar Employee. 

Nature and landscapes are frequent subjects for Iltas—from trees and rocks to mountainsides and underwater scenes. The atmosphere is sometimes dark and moody, such as in the illustration Living Natural (shown here), or bold and bright, such as in Mixed Tape. This interest comes from having grown up in the small German town of Bad-Krozingen and being close to nature, according to Iltas.

An illustration titled Living Natural. 

He also likes to play with light and create dream-like atmospheres in his work. “These seem to be some of the aspects of my style that capture people’s attention the most,” he says.

THE ARTISTIC JOURNEY

When creating an illustration, Iltas begins with simple, sharp shapes before beginning to develop the forms. “So the journey begins,” he says. “Then come the colors, details, textures, and light.”

Iltas relies solely on Adobe Photoshop CC for his designs. “There’s no alternative,” he says. “It’s pure magic!” The Lasso tool is his favorite—his “baby.”

“I always recommend that designers start painting with the Lasso tool,” he says. “It helps you see your composition quickly and correctly—and it can save you a lot of time.”

For Iltas, random sketching is the best way to develop ideas.

“I used to do this on paper, but now I do almost all of my sketches on digital media,” he says. “As with so many things, technology has changed everything.”

While his areas of focus and expertise are illustration and design, Iltas loves seeing his illustrations turned into animations, so he enjoys collaborating on projects with animators. “It’s very satisfying to see the movement!” he says.

Iltas also acts as art director on collaborative projects.

In this short animation that Iltas worked on, made for a Turkish bank, the vivid colors and dark atmospheres helped create an energetic and fun mood.

“Art direction involves creating style frames, color keys, and atmospheres,” he explains. “Once a client approves these, then we move forward as a team guided by those overall concepts.”

LONELY WHALE

In Lonely Whale, Iltas tells the story of the loneliest whale on earth, using a dream-like atmosphere with fuzzy and fantastic landscapes.

“Whales normally hear sound at a frequency of between 12 and 25 hertz, but this lonely whale is at about the 52 hertz level, because he is alone,” Iltas says. “Other whales couldn’t hear the sound at this high frequency, so they never responded. Yes, it’s a sad story.”

An illustration from a series created for Turkish Airlines. 

This project is important to Iltas because he used it to experiment with different styles—while providing an opportunity to develop his painting skills.

“My favorite frame is the image with the whale’s shadow near the boat,” he explains (image shown below). “It’s so simple, yet it explains everything: nobody is watching the whale, no one is paying it any attention.”

An illustration from the series Lonely Whale. 

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

Another favorite endeavor was an animation developed for International Women’s Day.

“This was an animation for all women around the world,” he says. “It was a client assignment; the concept was to show women’s power in business and working life.”

The project had a very demanding timeline.

This animation created for International Women’s Day is a favorite recent project.

“We had to create the whole film in about ten days, because the client decided quite late to do a project for International Women’s Day that year,” Iltas explains. “So one of the things I remember most is getting only four hours of sleep per night in order to make the deadline! Still, I’m happy with the result: I’m proud to have produced a film on such an important topic—and I’m pleased with its style, too.”

ALWAYS IMPROVING

For Iltas, one of the best things about his chosen profession is that every new project challenges him to improve.

“Clients are always asking for something new and different—and I have to deliver that,” he says. “It pushes my creativity and imagination; I’m always striving to improve.”

He would love to create a video game and an animated feature film—and hopes to have the opportunity to work on these kinds of projects in the future.

In the meantime, Iltas looks forward to continuing his illustration and design work, and he’s thinking seriously about creating his own animation studio.

See more of Ahmet Iltas’s work on Behance, his website, and Adobe Stock.