My grandfather was an amateur sculptor, doing mostly reliefs (in wood and marble) and created replicas of artworks that he liked. I distinctly remember admiring his M.C Escher relief replicas (Waterfall, Ouroboros, Moebius Strip II, Dream) and a marble sculpture replica of Laocoon and His Sons that was on display in my grandparents' living room. Some of those images stuck in my head and I feel a connection to those artworks on a deeper level. Not sure these qualify as creative memories but it did shape a lot of my taste and the sort of mysterious imagery I'm attracted to. I think what led me to illustration beyond the just the desire to create, is the desire to leave something of yourself in the work you create. In that sense I think illustration is closer to art than design, because an illustration represents not only the client or the text it serves but also acts as a portrait of the illustrator behind it.
I didn't have big plans for after graduation, but I was hoping I could make a living as a freelance designer and illustrator. I stuck to that plan for about six months before realizing that though the work I was getting in illustration kept me moving forward creatively, they weren't enough to make a living, and the work I was getting in design was just enough to make a living, but I wasn't going anywhere creatively with them. Since then I work part-time in a small design studio where I have the opportunity to be more creative and to learn from others more experienced and knowledgeable than me. Now I can make a living and have some free time to focus on my Illustration career.
I illustrate in a variety of styles but I can say there are some values that resonate through all of them. I always try to incorporate motion and tension into my compositions and I am interested in rich and almost psychedelic color schemes. Work that I feel best represent me, that I most enjoyed working on and am most proud of their result are ones where I could relate to the work by tapping in to some personal emotions and incorporating them in the process. For me, it's usually feelings of mystery, fantasy or surrealism that I find I can relate to easily, but sometimes it can be something else, like a certain kind of humor. Every time you can find an emotional link to your work, you are on the way to producing satisfying results, both for you and your clients.
I always start with pencil and paper, draw a few thumbnails and write notes by hand, If a more detailed draft is needed I will sometimes scan and enlarge to real size and solve the details using a light table. Then I will use a scan of the detailed draft as a guide to make a color digital draft, refining more details and solving the color scheme. This is a process that sometimes goes very smoothly and quickly and sometimes can be very tedious and frustrating as new problems arise and stuff that I thought I solved in the pencil draft appears to be more difficult than I thought. When I've reached a draft that I'm satisfied with I will print it at double the real size and make the final lines using a light table, then I scan those at high resolution and color them digitally. To make the process of coloring easier I usually draw the lines on different pieces of paper to separate different layers in advance. When I'm aiming for a more crisp feel I will use pens to make the lines, and when I want a warmer rougher feel I will use pencils, sometimes I also draw the shades or highlights in pencil to create unique textures.
I think that using a healthy mixture of traditional and digital techniques lets me keep some of the unique and personal expression of traditional techniques while enjoying the editing and compositing features of the digital process.
If you feel like you can or need to "give back" it means that you have taken more than you deserve. If all of us would look at the bigger picture and see where we contribute (both actively and passively) to inequality in the first place there will be less need to "fix" what's broken by giving back. I'm sorry for speaking so generally, but really just try to see the bigger picture. That's all.