Daniel Liévano is the Professional winner of the Science & Technology Category. Here he gives his insights into the making of his award-winning project.
This single illustration piece comes from a broader project that I happily became part of. The Lancet is a traditional and prestigious medical journal that, apart from being known for publishing rigorous top notched studies, also use metaphorical illustrations as their magazine covers. Every year, each of The Lancet departments, invites artists and agents to imagine the next year’s first issue cover, the artists whose illustration gets most of the votes from their editorial team gets to illustrate all the 12 issues of the coming year. I was selected to make the 12 covers of the Lancet Neurology.
This cover in particular was created for the April’s 2019 issue of The Lancet Neurology. Elena Becker-Barroso, its editor, asked me to imagine a positive toned illustrated cover to promote awareness of cerebrovascular disease. The issue’s central study focused on China, where stroke is the first cause of death. My goal int this cover was to associate one of China’s’ popular flower, a peony coated in the country’s flag colors, with the fragility and anatomic beauty of the human brain.
Research was fun. Many times, when you have something in your head and start looking for more information to corroborate your idea, the results you get makes you change your direction. That happened here a bit. Flowers are universally symbolic, anyone can relate beauty to all variety of them. I began looking if China had a national flower which it did. But portraying them (peonies) exactly as they are made me think that it was too specific. So in order to make sure that a final result more related to the concept of “china”, was achieved, I chose to change the flower colors into China’s flag colors. This device doesn’t automatically ensures the piece will read as I supposed too, I was aware of that, but I was sure, on the other hand, that “fragility”, “beauty” and “human” could also be felt in my piece, much more broader concepts that gives both mystery and a positive tone to the final piece.
My final result is digital. I use photography and scanned papers to generate some slight textures. Traditional pencils to sketch.
I’m not sure if this counts as a traditional conceptual process but for every project there is this brainstorming device I personally crafted. In my sketch book I write words, and from each simple word i derivate more words according to their connotations. At the end there is a river of words and connections that will ultimately help me to find a conceptual image that is made from the relationship of words.
Not particularly in this case. But I can talk about obstacles in other assignments. Most of them are related to the lack of ideas. When that happens, as I mentioned in my web bio, I take a walk. Walks are precious. They naturally force you to become part of the environment, that puts you out of your head a bit, and thus triggers you more relaxation. That is my best suggestion.
The whole Lancet year project was incredible. This journal, as renown as it is, will make sure the chosen artist represents their name accordingly, so this means it’s not just a wonderful artistic project for the artist in terms of imagination or creativity, but the seriousness of the topics and what it means to be the front page of such magazine. The editorial field is fugacious, you make a cover and that’s it, that month passed, and the year did also, and now the world forgets you instantly, information is more than ever transitory. But that is not the right insight. The right insight for me is to see this as adventures you make, and that you will not forget.
I am always distracted. I am always in my head, for good or for bad. At the time I was probably wondering about my graphic novel that I was making it at that time. What am I doing, will people like this stuff? I enjoy being a distracted person, although that was not the case when I was in high school, for obvious reasons. Sometimes I just stare at something in my room, or the place I’m in, as if that thing has the answer to everything, the glass of juice in front of me. Hey Daniel, what are you thinking, dude? Oh, nothing, nothing…
Fortunately, The Lancet team prepares almost all its content a year in advance, so their deadlines are pretty extended in nowadays terms (I had about two weeks to present sketches and finals for each cover). I usually present three distinct concepts in the sketch phase. They look somehow like tidy roughs. Sometimes with color, sometimes not. But the end result differs a lot, the devils is in the details.
I guess not! I just won the category award! I’m kidding, but sincerely in this case, still no. This piece was one of my favorites for this project.
Don’t pay attention to the number of likes or followers.
My next thing is writing and drawing, doing graphic novels. My debut is just happening as I am writing this words. I think it’s going to be pretty awesome.
I pretty much don’t have something that specific, I’ve had the chance to be working with pretty big names this year and I am more than amazed with that. My dream is to keep my dream alive always. Be joyful, and grateful.
Favourite thing to draw
I am fond of drawing abstract things. Like happiness. If happiness had a geometric shape, what would it be?
My studio is my apartment with a nicely illuminated desk with a tablet, iMac, a bendable toy for modelling human bodies and a drawing desk nearby. Also: an amateur bookshelf, my messy and scattered-over-all-of-my-place unfinished sketchbooks, the notes application in my phone and off course: the parks nearby my home when I take a walk.
Being a winner in the Science & Technology category from the World Illustrations Awards was a total surprise. I was not expecting it. The news came to me today as I am writing this, and I said to myself, read this twice because it’s not normal in my life.
Then it came real. 2020 its an internationally weird year, no need to explain. But personally it has brought many professional encouragements. I take them with honor and humility, because just like that is the way it keeps me genuinely amazed if I have the chance to receive more natural achievements. Many thanks to the jurors, to each of the department teams of the AOI, that make this happen each year. Thanks you all.