Artist Paul Wembabazi: ‘I imagine the scene is a movie set and I have to place lights strategically to guide the story’

The beautiful light in the digital paintings of Paul Wembabazi captured our imagination when we worked with him on 100 Days. 100 Commissions. We spoke to Paul about his inspirations and how his style has developed from watching cartoons on TV as a child to creating his own concept art and inspiring others through teaching…

Tell us about yourself and how you got started as an illustrator and concept artist?

My name is Wembabazi Paul Steve, from the Pearl of Africa—Uganda. I live and work in Kampala, where I took a Bachelors Degree in Industrial and Fine Arts, majoring in illustration, advertising design and anatomy. As a child I loved cartoons and when I learnt that they didn’t magically appear on screen, but were drawn by a group of artists, my dream grew to start learning art and creating such colourful cartoon worlds.

What equipment do you use in your creative workflow?

I mainly use a Wacom Bamboo drawing tablet and a laptop. I also occasionally sketch on paper with a 2B pencil and do darker tones with a 4B. These give me good grip especially when hatching and cross-hatching.

Talk us through your workflow; how do your illustrations usually develop?

After I’ve selected an idea to take on, I start with research and mood board creation on the subject matter. The highlights of the shot/story (this could be a prop or character body type, expression etc.) will get an in-depth study. This study then enables me to come up with informed thumbnails and a few detailed sketches.

If the shot has a complex lighting set up, I start with value study and painting and then add a colour layer above to overlay the basic lighting. I’ll then add more layers to enhance the lighting and some more colours until the image creates the desired mood. If the lighting isn’t complex, I’ll block in colours onto the selected sketch and paint the tones straight on without first having to paint in a value layer. Then guided by the mood boards and a lighting reference shot, I’ll enhance the scene accordingly.

Which other illustrators/designers do you admire the most?

I like the artists Feng Zhu and Scott Robertson. Scott has got amazing neatness and accuracy with his sketches and representation of light. While Feng Zhu’s scene setups are incredible. Though I usually draw and paint in a cartoony and animation style, my design and painting approach is greatly influenced by these two artists.

What is the creative scene like in the city where you live and how has it inspired or influenced your work?

The creative scene here has mainly been bent towards the performing arts—that is music, theatre and some TV shows. However the visual arts have in recent years gained ground, and there’s a good integration of the two fields. I’m also a musician and work with a multi-talented team of artists under the name Milege Heritage Foundation, who excel in both the visual and performing fields. This has helped me integrate knowledge and ideas from the performing arts, to strengthen and inform my designs. For example, learning music scales helped me understand storyboard design, and teaching children also taught me how to break down complex objects and scenes into simplified shapes.

“…learning music scales helped me understand

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