We were lucky to work with illustrator Laura Bifano to create the cover of the June issue of Print. With her unique style, she captured the core of the issue and the theme of “Innovation” with one central idea: a caveman re-inventing the wheel, as Bifano explains. We asked her to tell us more about her process, what inspires her and this project in particular — and she shares some images of another illustration piece. As Bifano explains her feeling about the cover as a whole, “I think the little Caveman dude turned out pretty well!” We couldn’t agree more.
“The Innovation Issue cover plays with the idea of the future merging with the past. Jason Tselentis’ story on how interactive designers are using the ’80s for inspiration shows the cyclical nature of creative innovation and we used that as a starting point,” Slagle says. “HOW’s art director Adam Ladd directed me to illustrator Laura Bifano’s pixel paintings and her work fit the concept perfectly.”
How long did it take you to create this piece? Did you use anything to inspire this piece or was it more the conversations between you and our art director? The art director, Ronson Slagle, was really great to work with. He gave me a loose direction to work from and then put his trust in me to make something great. I was given the prompt to incorporate elements from my “Menagerie” series of Voxel animal paintings, so it was really cool to get the chance to create a piece that was a blend of my gallery and illustration work.
The theme of the issue was “Innovation,” so I spent a lot of time thumb-nailing and exploring different directions. I drew everything from a voxel monkey hanging out in a tree, to a voxelated Frankenstein’s monster. In the end we settled on a simple, but more easily readable concept: A Caveman re-inventing the wheel.The sketch phase took about a week, and the final painting took two-weeks to complete. I worked on it in the evenings after coming home from my day-job as a storyboard artist.
One of Bifano’s initial sketches – Frankenstein and his monster concept
Can you describe the elements of the cover and the images? How did you land on this concept? The cover shows a stout little caveman carving a massive pixelated stone wheel. I landed on the concept very early on in the sketch-phase, but still wanted to explore some more avenues. Often your first ideas are the best, but I like to exhaust as many directions as possible before coming back around.
Our art director Slagle explains: “Laura took our basic idea and ran with it. She invented a detailed environment that went beyond what I could have expected. Eventually, we were able to shape things into this smart cover that gets to the point in a clever and direct way.”
What was your process in developing an idea for the cover and the cover itself? The process for creating the cover wasn’t atypical of my usual process. I usually start with a day or so of frantic sketching, and then I pick the sketches that have the most potential, scan them into Photoshop, and refine them to a point where I can show them to the art director for feedback. After revisions, I refine the sketch and use a light-box to transfer it with on to a piece of watercolor paper for painting.
Sketch of the Innovation Issue
Another sketch of the Innovation Issue
What medium did you use to create the cover? The cover was a blend of gouache and chalk pastel. I love working in gouache because it reproduces so easily. It dries with a matte finish, so you never end up with weird specular hi-lights when you scan the piece. It can be a bit tricky though, there’s clay mixed in with the pigment, so light colors tend to dry darker and dark colors lighter. I need to be mindful when mixing my palette to avoid my values can falling in to the mid-range, so I always mix a shade or two darker/lighter than I think I need.
Bifano’s original illustration for the cover
Who were you listening to while working on this piece? I was listening to a lot of Washed Out and St. Lucia. Podcast are great for keeping focus too. Your Dreams My Nightmares, The Moth, The Nerdist and Savage Love are all great listens while working.
A lot of your work as an almost ephemeral, dreamy quality. Can you tell us a bit about your work as a whole? What inspires you? This sounds pretty corny, but I get really inspired by long walks and nature. I could be looking at a pattern in some tree bark, or a closeup look at some moss on a log and suddenly get an idea for a painting. A lot of my stuff is inspired by folklore and past experiences as well.
More About Laura BifanoEducated at the Alberta College of Art and Design, Laura Bifano now works as a feature storyboard artist in Vancouver, BC. Laura has exhibited in numerous gallery shows at Thinkspace, Spoke, Gallery 1988, Nucleus, and the Los Angeles Municipal gallery. Some of her past clients include Cricket Magazine, The Washington Post, The Village Voice and Parks Canada. You can see more of her work at her portfolio site, her Tumblr page or her INPRNT store.