Design Links: Jason Chan, Karla Ortiz & Iain McCaig

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Editor’s Note: This is part 27 in Emily Potts’ inspirational series, Design Links. Every other week she features three artists whose work offers fresh, fun, and stimulating creative inspiration. Each artist picks the next link—someone who personally inspires him/her. Check out the twenty-seventh part in the series, featuring Justin Coro Kaufman, Bruno Noxizmad Gore & Wesley Burt.

Wesley Burt is inspired by…

Jason Chan

Jason is a longtime friend and constant source of inspiration and influence for me and just a really great guy overall. We work in similar fields of concept art and illustration, and we worked together in the same office side by side for many years. He brings together so many of my favorite aspects of illustration—really strong drawing, maintaining some realism but with lots of stylization, excellent composition, great movement, awesome character, lots of storytelling, and incredible light and color.


This series of book covers has always been a favorite of mine, and while I haven’t read the novels they accompany, the storytelling and imagery of each successive cover is really astonishing and iconic. I love the themes and motifs he brings through each cover individually and as a whole, and they work together so well. They also really stand out on the shelf in the bookstore, pulling people in.


This image really feels like Jason in a nutshell to me. It’s a personal piece, so it definitely has all of the aspects of drawing and painting and subject matters he likes to work with. I love the way it has a first impact read, but then has so many little details and things to examine within the image, and on a technical level, the drawing and value/color hierarchy is so great. I’m also a big fan of the mixture of realism and stylization here, and the surreal qualities going on with the different spatial elements and animals and water; his work always makes me excited to go draw and paint as well!

Jason Chan is inspired by…

Karla Ortiz

Karla’s work inspires me with its surprising amount of emotional depth. Whether it is a fine art piece or fantasy illustration, she fills her work with a sense of life. She doesn’t go for the simple surface emotions like joy, anger, or sadness, but the deeper aspects of life— longing, dread, impatience, wonder, loss— all in a gesture and a glance.


When I look at this, I see a strong woman who is reading me like an open book, and impatiently listening to my excuse as to why I am bothering her in her study. I feel her gaze, I smell the dust in the air, I hear the wooden chair creek, I feel the sun on my back coming in through the window. I am uneasy. It is easy to look at this image and forget that it is a fantasy illustration for a trading card game full of magic and monsters.


Much of Karla’s personal work features young women, birds, and bones. Her girls are ageless, dressed in robes belonging to no era. They look like they are waiting, almost as still as the bones that they carry, while birds fly by symbolizing… Life? Time? Death? Depictions of the fragility and fleetingness of life. Memento Mori “remember that you have to die”. Somehow she is able to capture the beauty of life, and death, in all of its muddy complexity.

Karla Ortiz is inspired by…

Iain McCaig

He has inspired me ever since I was a kid opening The Art of Star Wars, Episode­I the Phantom Menace, for the first time. I had never witnessed anyone imbue such beauty, story, and emotion into drawings and paintings. From a beautiful and proud heroine, to a bone-chilling nightmare, McCaig has the ability to conjure amazing characters and stories from his mind into our reality. He does so with excellent craftsmanship, eagerness, and an abundant joy that is completely unique to him.


These were some of the first images I saw from Iain, and I fell madly in love with his work. His designs, stories and ideas from this project still blow my mind to this day.

I absolutely adore Padme’s incredible array of costumes. Whenever Iain draws her, he draws her with incredible agency. This is a capable character from a distant land. By her elegance, and poise we can tell she is in a position of power, but by her softness we can tell this character is noble and tries her very best to do the right thing. The drawing of her, the construction of the costumes and gestures all are masterfully crafted to push these emotions and stories.


The same things with Darth Maul and other evil creatures from the Star Wars universe. Creatures that only exists in the worst of nightmares, and an immense contrast to the softness of Padme. The gestures, facial expressions, colors and choice of costume elements all work in unison to immediately tell you a story of these dark creatures whom one would never wish to meet.


Iain Mccaig is first and foremost a storyteller, and some of the best examples of his storytelling powers are his takes on classic fairytales. One of my favorites is Alice in Wonderland. His Alice is such a sweet girl, always happy and smiling, but behind that kind smile there is a glint of madness that has always fascinated me, and made for a very peculiar and strong take on Alice.


He depicts the Pied Piper, as a strong man with a very creepy dark side. Both a hero and a villain depending on how you treat him. Through a simple drawing Iain tells the story of a man who is capable of using his powers to clear the town of rats, but later will use the same powers to steal the children of that town.

I could talk endlessly about Iain’s work, how graceful and haunting that deadly mermaid is or how strong, feral and innocent his Mowgli is depicted. I could talk endlessly about his incredible Shadowline book, his teaching methods, or just the general wonder he is! All I can say is that I am absolutely inspired by this man. I continue to be amazed and thrilled by everything he does.

Tune in next time to see where the chain goes!

HWSM16The Summer issue of HOW—with a 3D printed cover designed by Timothy Goodman—dives deep into the ideas, inspirations and innovations behind modern-day creativity. Join us as we discover the Who’s, What’s, Where’s and How’s of creativity. Plus get ready for Summer with tons of creative portfolio ideas and exercises. Get a copy here.