Receipt artist goes digital - The Friendly Alien transitions in the face of COVID-19
Imagine seeing your favourite childhood cartoon brought back to life. Your soul sister being represented in vibrant colour. Locations and situations that you know splashed with creative interpretation. That’s the dynamic and versatile artistic style of Romain Lewis.
Going by the art name, The Friendly Alien, Lewis is no stranger to the creative world. This talent emerged on the art scene as a celebrated receipt artist. These days, he can be seen transferring his imagination to digital art. His transition was initiated from dabbling with the new art form while still immersing himself in ink drawing. “I would complete a drawing on paper and then scan it and overlay colour mainly on the background. I was very curious to see what the process would be like if it were entirely digital,” he told Living.
The switch was further accelerated and facilitated by the COVID-19 restrictions, “Art is my therapy, and it made sense to try to learn a new skill that helps with my mental health.” Additionally, he enjoyed offering his work on a much larger scale, specifically as huge pieces on walls.
Even though he has a greater appreciation for this artistic style, he has admittedly stayed true to his roots, conceptualising all his work from pencil and paper. That way, he exercises more comfort and control in the brainstorming process. “Once I do the rough drawing, I then redraw on the tablet and refine it. I use Procreate, an easy and very powerful app. I’ve barely scratched its capabilities, which I’m happy about. I love the challenge,” he said, with a laugh.
Learning colour is by far the largest hurdle. Coming from almost exclusively black ink on paper, he watched hours of colour theory videos, experimenting almost daily with hues and shading, “I practise almost every day, no different than when I was doing receipt art.” Bright and straightforward drawings were upgraded to lighter, more complex pieces, and he injected his love of stylised concepts and more dynamism into his work.
The progress report saw an advancement in new techniques, work precision, time management, and conquered deadlines, “This year has been rough, but when I’m locked into my tablet shading for hours, I feel very calm, happy, and optimistic. I wanted to stretch my artistic legs after leaving that side of me dormant for so many years. I feel like I know myself a bit more now, and I’ve grown as an individual. Art is amazing and so endless in its possibilities. It is important to me because it adds magic to this life,” he said.
Confessing that the digital form is convenient and easy to do in his downtime just about everywhere, his favourite piece is a little astronaut running away from an explosion. Lewis shared: “It’s a very simple drawing, but it stands as a representation that this is actually doable. I have it printed and on a wall at home. It’s a constant motivation for me.”
More recently, he has drawn a 3D mash-up of his beloved cartoon characters in real Jamaican locations. From Archie and Veronica walking in Liguanea to Fred Flintstone and family on the beach.
Customer favourites include ‘Silence is Gold’, a piece oriented around success and minding your business, and ‘The Virtuous Woman’, which features a black woman with a prominent afro, a piercing gaze, and a grey-scale skin tone, adorned in many pieces of gold jewellery. “Persons love the variety and elements of storytelling. I try to evoke emotion from each piece, and I think people look forward to seeing that,” he said.
With hopes of building his portfolio, he is taking a thematic approach to his work and is finishing up a series of four images centred around black Afrocentric women. Outside of projects, he would like to host a series of exhibitions and become a speaker on art advocacy, post COVID-19, of course. “Jamaican artists can do more than just the traditional cultural pieces. I think we’d have more Jamaicans getting into fine art if they saw that it’s not just about painting,” he argued.
Pour yourself into your work and try not to worry about how it’ll be received, Lewis advises aspiring artists. He also encourages artists to learn marketing and take viewers on an adventure. Don’t try to ponder people too much, he says, noting that they simply want to see the artist’s ideas.
“Talent alone won’t take you to the heights you want to reach. Unless you are drawing only for you and keeping your work private, learn marketing. Art is emotionally driven. A dot on paper with its story told properly can go farther than the best painting,” he pointed out.