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Interview: Bella Grace Shares the Creative Process Behind Her Amazing Posters (Exclusive)

If you follow any of Disney’s main social media accounts then you’ve probably seen the amazing artwork by Bella Grace.

A graduate of the University of Creative Arts, where she studied Digital Film and Screen Arts, Bella is a professional digital illustrator and graphic designer. Since joining the Poster Posse, a creative agency whose clients includes The Walt Disney Company, Bella has designed more than 40 alternative posters.

Among her posters are tribute posters and official artwork commissioned by Netflix, HBO, Universal Studios, and the Zavvi Gallery.

Bella was kind enough to allow me to showcase some of her work on The Disinsider as well as connect with me for an interview via E-mail.

When Did You Discover You Had a Talent for Drawing and How Did You Nurture It?

Being creative has always been a part of my life whilst growing up. I was never really good or interested in the more academic subjects and felt most comfortable when spending time in my school’s art studio.

The challenge was working out which direction to take, so I allowed myself to try different disciplines, and gradually, I paved my way from traditional painting, photography, filmmaking, graphic design to illustration.

Trying everything over the course of my life has really shaped my creative growth and actually benefited me in having several transferable skills to accommodate my current work.

Spending time is the best way to nurture any passion which comes easily when you enjoy it so much. 

Can You Explain What the Poster Posse is and How/When You Joined?

The Poster Posse is a creative agency of over 50 artists and illustrators from around the world creating official digital artwork for marketing campaigns and key art for clients such as Disney, Marvel, Universal, Netflix, Lucasfilm and many more. With passion being the forefront of the agency, they also create art for fun by creating a series of tribute Passion Projects.

I have followed the Poster Posse since I started creating alternative posters for my portfolio as I knew to get anywhere with this new venture would be to create sample work. I made tribute posters whenever I was available and shared them online to build my profile and join the online community of fellow artists.

I was first approached by Don and Rebecca to contribute to one of their Passion Projects as a guest to create a tribute piece for Netflix’s Annihilation. After it was received so well they invited me back to contribute to a second one for Iron Giant’s 50th Anniversary and then shortly after I had a call to ask me to join the Posse team.

I can still remember the ecstatic feeling after the video call, knowing this was the start of making something I love to do in my spare time into a career. 

When Designing the Posters, How Do You Decide on the Image You Want to Create and What Characters to Include (if any)?

One of the main factors I try to always bring to any artwork is purpose in the concept. Without purpose, the piece is lacking communication to the viewer and therefore loses interest quickly. The goal is ‘wow that’s a really smart and interesting way of representing that film I like’.

With the concept at the forefront of the composition, I would illustrate it with characters or scenes within that to showcase the movie. Every poster is an opportunity to put your own spin, or voice on something you really love.

When designing posters I really try to research as much as possible. Finding the core of the movie by looking at what is most memorable, meaningful and what scenes we connect with as an audience. 

How Many Drafts Do You Go Through Before Deciding on the Final Design?

I always try to make a minimum of two to four designs to choose from even if I think one is stronger than the others as sometimes you can be pleasantly surprised, or have a backup idea for any reason you may need to go back to the drawing board.

Sometimes, I add things as I go if it feels right so it’s not always a must to have it exactly like the original draft. Settling for one draft also doesn’t creatively push you to think of other ideas and you could miss out on a really cool concept.

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How Long Does One Poster Take to Create From Start to Finish?

Somewhere between four and ten days, less being for the more minimalistic designs and more days for the heavily detailed pieces. I like to spend a good day researching the movie, concepts and drawing thumbnail ideas before drafting two strong ideas. Then the bulk of the illustration is to create the polished version, and allowing time for careful colour consideration, tweaking, logo and title placements.

There is always either one or two work in progress rounds for clients to review the progress and make any comments before handing in the final designs. If more time is typically taken on executing the idea at the beginning stages then less time is spent on any final requests or changes so the first impression is always important to demonstrate the direction you are taking. 

You Frequently Work with Disney and Other Studios, Do They Have a Say in What You Draw?

There is a lot of creative freedom when it comes to alternative art, so they do let you come up with your proposed designs, so long as it follows certain criteria they are looking for.

This applies more to the studios that are using your artwork to promote an upcoming movie as part of their campaign. They will generally send a small brief of the tone they are looking for and anything they want to avoid, which can be really useful when, sometimes, all there is to work from is the trailer!

For the screenprint releases with galleries on previous movies, there is even more freedom as it is more a case of coming up with a really cool take on that title and then running it through for approval. 

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I saw on the Poster Posse Website That You Listen to Film Soundtracks When You Draw, What Are Your Favourites?

I do love to listen to movie soundtracks as it really helps me get into the zone for the movie that I am illustrating.

Some of my favourites are Guardians of the Galaxy, Interstellar, Stranger Things, Inception, Moana and The Dark Knight.

Recently I really enjoyed the cover of Nirvana [Smells Like Teen Spirit] in Black Widow by Malia J. 

What Software Do you use to Create Your Posters?

I currently use Adobe Photoshop, with a Wacom Cintiq.

Recently I upgraded my setup as previously I was using a Wacom Intuos Pro tablet but always found it a struggle to look up at the screen whilst drawing below. So now I can draw much more naturally, which has also made my workflow much more efficient. 

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Do You Have Any Tips for Aspiring Artists?

Let things take time and make quality not quantity. Try not to feel pushed to produce work faster than the demands of social media’s algorithms.

There is such a demand to constantly create content to boost your portfolio online and it’s a tough balance, but ultimately stay true to your work and the reason why you do what you do.

It’s ok to have other artists influence your work for growth and development but ultimately the goal is to find your own style and recognition. I would also recommend becoming a part of the artist community you are involved with by supporting one another, together is better!

A like is temporary but your work online is permanent, so make sure every piece is your best.

For more on Bella’s art, you can check out her official website which includes a store where you purchase posters and enamel pins.

You can also follow Bella on Twitter and Instagram below.

And for more information and artwork from Bella and her colleagues, head over to Poster Posse.

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