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Staying Creative with Doron

This week we catch up with the latest addition to our artist roster, Doron Yablonka. Doron is a young and impressive creative force in the Graphic Design scene, we chat artistic backgrounds, Photoshop philosophies and why he loves The Terminator. Check out the full interview below.

Cheers for catching up with us! Great to have finally released the collaboration. Would you mind telling us a bit more about yourself?

Hey, I’m Doron. I’m a graphic designer native to Miami, FL and I work mostly in the streetwear and clothing industry designing t-shirts and beyond for brands in the US and all over the world. I’ve also dabbled wikth commisions in the music industry, doing work for rappers such as Lil Tjay, $NOT, and Lil Durk. My introduction into the clothing scene began after I started a non-profit clothing line, ASIG Apparel, for the late Mac Miller right after he passed; the intent was to donate all profits to the Amy Winehouse foundation to prevent drug misuse among young adults. Through this I found passion in the creation of garments and graphics, and this snowballed into doing freelance work for other brands through which I eventually built a decent following on social media. I now own my own clothing brand as well as sell design tools and mock-ups to designers just like me who could use a helping hand.

What got you into the arts?

I’ve had a passion for the arts as early as middle school, but I really got into the creative scene during high school. I went to a fairly prestigious arts and design high school over in downtown Miami for about 2 years where I studied fine arts and industrial design. At first I was happy to be there – I learned a great deal of the fundamentals of art: effective compositions, color theory, etc. Though I always loved and appreciated fine arts, my heart still laid in graphic design. And funny enough, by the second year I was there I grew an intense disliking towards anything creatively involved due to the pressure and rigor of a heavily art focused curriculum. I switched schools to go to collegiate high school where the curriculum was instead greatly centered on academics and STEM subjects. Quite the stark contrast between schools, but I ended up having a much better time at the second school because it gave me the freedom and creative legroom to do art on my own and not have to worry about a grade or creating something I wasn’t interested in creating. This is where I really picked up on graphic design. I started off doing the infamous poster-a-day, and though it’s sort of notorious in the design community for its implied coerciveness to pump and dump designs without putting in much effort, it helped me learn the ins and outs of design, composition, and the mysterious workings of Photoshop. That combined with my background in fine arts principles gave me a huge leg up in the design community and I progressed at a pretty quick rate.

You describe yourself as a 'one man studio', whats that been like?

To be completely fair, I only picked up on the ‘doronstudio’ alias because I was looking through domain suggestions that had to do with my name and art. One of the options was ‘doron.studio’ and I just kind of rolled with it. But I definitely take on the ‘one man studio’ descriptor. I’m one of those people that’s very specific about what I want and how I want it done. I always followed the ‘if you want something done right, do it yourself’ motto. And I still go by that to this day. Though collaborating with others is a super fun and enlightening experience, nothing beats throwing down on a project completely under your own creative supervision. Stemming from my ardent need to do things entirely on my own, I’ve spread my wings across a solid number of creative domains. My trade of choice of course is merchandise design, but I have experience in fine arts, industrial design, working in 3D programs, print media, and so on. The great thing about that is you can use your knowledge in one area and combine it or map it to another area, and it all works very synergistically. And aside from that I am constantly devoted to making myself omnipresent and competitively esteemed in whatever I do. Currently I freelance for a lot of names in underground streetwear, I run an educational design YouTube channel, a clothing brand, and manage a digital asset and clothing mockup shop. That’s why I entertain the title of ‘one man studio’. The darker side of that though is, of course, that I do everything on my own. That puts a heavy burden on my conscience - it gets obscenely difficult to keep track of every door I have a foot in, and often times it leads to periods of burnout and high stress.

Your work seems to include a lot of political and social commentary, is there anything that's influenced this?

Yes! That’s actually how I found my standing in the online design community. I’ve always been very politically charged, and I’ll attribute that to my mother who always made sure I spoke my mind. It’s nearly impossible for me to ignore what’s going on in the world, not only because I am affected by it, but because I have just always been ingrained with a high need for cognition. I began my design journey around the time of a very hyper-political landscape (the election of Donald Trump in 2016), so I translated a lot of my passion and thoughts on that into satirical designs. I’ve always seen art to be a sign of the times, and historically it’s often been a vehicle for spreading different philosophies and social commentary. Design gave me a platform for political catharsis. It’s tough to put it in words but it just felt extremely right.

Your compositions seem very meticulous and thought out, do you have a particular process when starting a piece? 

You’d be surprised. I really have no set workflow or regimen I’m hellbent on following. It’s almost completely off intuition. It’s hard to even shed light on this because every time I hop into Photoshop I feel like I set the canvas color and then it’s 3 hours later and the design is complete. I get lost in the process of creating very easily. I guess I’ve just been around the arts for long enough that it feels like second nature. Having a background in fine arts as well helps me immensely. I don’t like or intend to follow grids or employ conventional compositional devices- a lot of it just happens on its own through some sort of subconscious rulebook. To me, when a composition feels right it feels right. What I do plan, however, is the content. Before I start designing, I usually have a phrase or quote in mind that I like to build off of. It very typically stems from a song or some sort of musical composition that evokes a certain atmosphere and emotion that I want to translate into the visual plane.

We've seen you also have tutorials up on YouTube, any must know tips for people new to PS/Adobe?

Of course! This is perhaps the most important piece of advice I can give for this subject matter. I’ll start off with some background and an analogy for easier understanding: I have always been very interested in mathematics because of the logical undertones it follows. And something I learned in that field of interest is to not just learn the solution to a problem, but also why and how that’s the solution. Though we’re dealing with a creative endeavor here, the workings of Photoshop and programs alike is not creative at all. It is extremely logic based, and that’s partially why I am so fascinated with learning every little thing about it. It is based entirely on mathematical concepts, coding, and logical processes. Therefore I think it is extremely important that you approach it from a logical perspective just like you would do Algebra or Calculus. Don’t just learn that the threshold adjustment makes things black and white. Learn why. The threshold adjustment turns an image into black and white because it looks at the luminosity value of every pixel on the canvas and turns it to either black or white based on the threshold value you input. Don’t just learn that the screen blending mode isolates the highlights of an image, learn why - and so on. If you want to truly expand your skillset, you have to know the “why”. If you know why a certain function works, and not just the end result of that function, you can apply that knowledge to other areas of the program and then begin to use different filters and functions synergistically because you know that they would work well together. Or you could use that knowledge to discover and experiment with unorthodox methods using a tool in a way you wouldn’t have previously thought of. 

Are there any super-nerdy/weird processes that you've used in your designs?

I absolutely love experimenting with ink transfers. I give all credits to @olivervjohnson on Instagram who taught me this. Basically you print an image onto a waxy paper so that the ink is still wet, and then you roll it onto a normal piece of paper, or maybe something textured. It creates a super interesting effect of smudged and blending ink with lots of cool looking ink bubbles and such. For a recent project I did, I would composite an edit in Photoshop of a model with dragons surrounding her, invert the image (so as to save ink, it had a black background) then do the ink transfer. I then scanned it back in and inverted again. It gave the model a scaly look along with the dragons and the whole thing looks extremely texturally cohesive. Super fun stuff. 

Any advice for staying creative?

Be a sponge throughout the day. Take in as much information, visually, audibly, etc. as you can. Consume art in other forms of media. Music, television, so on. Works wonders. 

And all time favourite film? Terminator 4: Salvation. Not the best Terminator film by far, but my absolute favorite and I will always hold it close to my heart. I just love the whole post-apocalyptic and grungy atmosphere. McGinty did a great job putting that together and though it’s not a classic Terminator film, it’s such a great film on its own. I must’ve watched it a hundred times by now. 

Finally, any artists/designers/filmmakers we should know about?

James Cameron. Many people know him as the director for Terminator 1 & 2 and Avatar, which are both great films. Well, at least Terminator is. But the man’s a genius director, writer, and artist. I’ve been extremely inspired by him and I would recommend anyone to go check out one of his interviews, or scope out his art-boards for the Terminator films. Brilliant stuff. 

Cheers Doron!