Visual Storytelling is an art on its own. Several factors determine the effectiveness of the narration of an artwork, such as composition, lighting and colours. And narrating a story solely through a character is even more challenging. Brie Schmida, a visual storyteller, character designer and illustrator, reveals essential factors that aid in successful visual narration and brilliant character design.
Based in California, United States, Brie Schmida is an illustrator, visual storyteller and character designer. Her immense love for storytelling and ardent passion for art can be witnessed through her colourful, quirky and jovial artworks. Graduate from Academy of Art University in B. A Illustration, Brie is currently working as a freelance illustrator.
What inspired you to embark on this journey to become an illustrator?
Brie Schmida: I probably wouldn’t have become an illustrator if I hadn’t been in a horseback riding accident in my early teens. The resulting spinal condition took eight years to cure, and I turned to one of the only non-active things I could do, art. It kept me sane. This is such an enjoyable process that now that I am well, I never want to stop.
What are some of the highs and lows that you’ve faced as an illustrator and visual development artist?
Brie Schmida: Health issues were undoubtedly a significant hurdle. On bad days, I remember laying on the bed, trying to draw. Apart from this, I believe that I am way too hard on myself. I constantly remind myself that others are not privy to my thoughts and might not view my work with similar criticisms. One of the best moments so far has been attending my first Lightbox Expo. I had the opportunity to meet several renowned artists and even made some fast friends there. The artist community is so welcoming and supportive.
What does your daily routine look like?
Brie Schmida: I live on a farm, and so, there’s always something different going on in every season! I work for six to eight hours every day, with occasional snuggle breaks with baby goats or my cat Pickle. Since leaving pieces unfinished irks me, I sometimes spend a little longer on my work. I am not a night owl at all! Once 5 pm rolls around, I go for a walk, enjoy dinner with my family, an episode of a BBC drama and a nice book before bed. On weekends I work in the garden, visit my grandparents, and do various farm activities, namely, snuggling baby goats.
What are some of the critical factors in visual storytelling through illustrations?
Brie Schmida: Outside of critical things like composition, colour, character design, emotion and such, it is essential to have either a bit of whimsy or a bit of nostalgia in the piece. People are drawn to the artworks that they can relate to or those that capture their imagination. Visual storytelling is about creating an entire narrative that can stand on its own without a description. It is about capturing a single moment. An illustration must make the audience wonder about the character and story. Storytelling is all about the anticipation of what’s to come.
The characters that you design portray fascinating personalities and narrate a story on their own. How do you achieve this? How can one subtly portray a character’s personality through design?
Brie Schmida:A character’s personality is a complex combination of their inner thoughts and feelings. This is portrayed through the character’s expression, body language and clothes. If a character is shy, they might not adorn bright, vibrant, attention-grabbing garments. If a character is grouchy, they won’t be sketched with a warm, inviting smile. These can often be understood through keen observation of people around us. There’s a lot you can tell about a person without speaking to them at all.
How vital is a composition in a visual narrative? Could you kindly share a few techniques to improve composition?
Brie Schmida: Composition is extremely important. This is a vast field with an ocean of knowledge, and therefore, I cannot claim to be an expert since I am yet to explore all of its immense depth. However, I often emphasise the importance of ‘value to create a focal point’, ‘contrast’, ‘line of action’ and ‘use of colour’ to my students. These are a few basic techniques to improve composition. I recently learned about the W Composition used since the Renaissance, and it blew my mind! I also explored the aesthetic principles of Shape Composition, which was equally exhilarating.
What kind of story do you like the most?
Brie Schmida:I love stories which sport solid character development and storyline. Pretty visuals are only secondary. One of my recent favourite animated films that sported excellent character development, storyline and stunning visuals was Klaus. I also enjoy stories with historical elements where I can learn about a new culture or historical event. And, of course, those stories that completely surprise you with their ingenuity. Inception is probably that film for me.
What is the one thing that you really look forward to doing someday in your career?
Brie Schmida:Apart from always drawing and designing, I would really like to direct one film. Just one. I know exactly which film it will be, and I really hope that day comes. Since I began my career during the pandemic, I am also looking forward to interacting with a team in person.
According to you, what are the key features of an ideal client?
Brie Schmida: In my opinion, an ideal client can either explain clearly what they want or is willing to brainstorm with me to get there. It is difficult when the clients are vague about their preferences and get frustrated when the end product doesn’t turn out as they envision. An ideal client is someone who is excited about the project and open to suggestions. It is fun to work with a passionate person.