Thursday, July 26, 2007

Jason Brooks - Digital Illustration

I first discovered the amazing work of Jason Brooks in 2003 when I took a keen interest in funky house music. In particular, I enjoyed listening to and collecting Hed Kandi compilations. I was instantly attracted to the ultra-modern, ultra-stylish artwork on the covers, by illustrator Jason Brooks. Even after my taste in this music dimished, I continued to collect the albums for their exquisite and unique styling. Over the years, I have become more and more intrigued by this artwork and have looked more closely into the world of Jason Brooks and how his drawings and illustrations have evolved into one of the most recognised and imitated digital styles of today.

Jason Brooks is a London born digital/fashion illustrator. He spent much of his early life living in Brighton and showed a keen interest for drawing and painting. At 19, Brooks studied graphic design and illustration at St. Martin's School of Art. In 1992, he won the prestigious Vogue/Sotheby's Cecil Beaton Award for fashion illustration. Brooks became a Master of Arts in illustration after attending the Royal College of Art in London.

He started his early career as a fashion illustrator, drawing on the spot at the Couture Shows in Paris, gaining valuable experience of the fashion industry. Brooks increased his recognition at this time significantly by creating an identity through posters and promotional material for the notorious London club of the 90s, Pushca. Ever since, his distinctive style has been widely imitated on promotional devices such as club flyers and posters. Brooks style is nevertheless, unsurpassed and still regarded as the original in his field.

Digital illustrators were a new breed when Brooks first adopted the medium to produce glamourous illustrations of clubbers and models in the 1990s. He became a pioneer in his field and helped bring about a reform in the world of illustration. His most well known achievement started in 1999, when he was commissioned to produce the artwork for the Hed Kandi label - work that has helped gain him world wide respect and numerous offers from companies requesting his services. The image below is one that I feel epitomises eveything that Hed Kandi aspire towards - sexy, glamourous, funky, up-beat.

In 2005, after 50 illustrated covers, Hed Kandi was sold to Ministry. This change of hands saw the departure of producer, Mark Doyle, who went on to create his own label 'Fierce Angels', taking Jason Brooks with him to produce the new artwork for his compilations. This left Ministry with the task of replicating Brooks' style on the forthcoming artwork, as the style and values associated with it were firmly in place. They chose the New York based agency, Vault 49 to take over the reigns. It is instantly apparent that their attempts are inferior in comparison, however, they do seem to be improving. The two images below are examples of their designs for Hed kandi.

It is clear that they have tried to mimic Brooks in terms of subject and style, however, it is distinctly obvious that these designs are sub-standard. The illustrations are greatly lacking in contrast, which is a major contributor towards achieving Brooks' sleek and sexy style. The backgrounds are also fairly generic with a heavy use of bland colours. The key features that characterise his work, such as the smooth hair and exaggerated eyes seem to have been completely overlooked and the general body shapes of the figures are different. Jason Brooks combines various techniques during the process of producing his final image, starting with a hand rendered drawing. This free-hand appeal is a quality that cannot be replicated and is unique to Brooks' own creative hand, ensuring that his genuine designs are instantly recognisable.

Despite failing to live up to Jason Brooks expertise, Vault 49 have produced some excellent and inspirational work for plenty of other major brands, having a unique appeal of their own. Check out their online portfolio at

Aside from his artwork for the fashion and music industries, Brooks has produced a wide array of designs in other areas. His clients include L'Oreal, Mercedes Benz, Globetrotter, Saatchi & Saatchi, British Airways, Vogue, Hed Kandi, Fierce Angel, Cosmopolitan, Carlsberg, Ritz Hotels and many more. The images above and below are a few examples of his success for these brands.

I especially like the two dimensional interior drawing and the silhouette style he utilises on the bacardi shot glasses. The black figures set against the four different coloured backgrounds creates four different moods from the chilled-out blue to the warm orange. Brooks' work has inspired me to create my own two dimensional design utilising silhoutte figures that I compiled from various photos taken in Sardinia, shown below.

He also inspired me to produce this image to develop new skills and techniques using Illustrator and to add to my portfolio.


elliewebb said...

hey, the summary you made of jason brooks and his work was very intersting and useful. i have chosen to do a personal investigation into jason brooks and his work and was wondering if you knew of anywhere i could get more information about the techniques he uses to create his work and who he was influenced by? it would be really helpful thanks

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