by Inigo del Castillo in New Art on Tuesday 4 March 2014

Brian Lai, a young artist from Malaysia, wowed us last year with his Inverted Art. We got the chance to talk to him about this mysterious style of his, and discovered – amongst other things – that he even has a tutorial video. Read on to find out how it all started. [read our original post about Lai here]

How did you discover this technique of inverting images to look like a film negative?
When I was around 13, one of my friends took a photo of his signature (sign on white paper). Then, she inverted the colour (The signature became white and the paper became black). I didn’t discover this method at the time, but I was amazed by this technique.

After seven years, I was sent to The One Academy Penang, Malaysia (College) and studied drawing/digital animation. Last August, I remember the inverted effect that my friend did, and the idea came suddenly. I asked myself: ‘What if I put this effect to my drawings?’ This is how I discovered this kind of drawing technique.

How long does it usually take you to illustrate the inverted portraits?
It actually depends on the reference that I want to draw. For example, the Wolverine Poster took me around three or four days; The Dark Knight took me a month. Usually inverted portraits take a shorter time to finish because you don’t need to draw the black space that much, all you need to draw are the highlights. But if you want it to be more detailed, it might take longer time than the normal drawings.

Can you take us through the process of creating inverted art?
I’ve uploaded a process video to Youtube.

First, I have to find a lot of pictures to design the reference by using Photoshop (We call it composition).

Second, I have to prepare two references, which are the normal one and the inverted version.

Third, start drawing. To catch the proportion, normally I’ll use the normal version. The inverted reference will be used when I’m checking the toning. (When I draw inverted, the tone might be not accurate enough, that’s why I need an inverted reference to check it.) Sometimes, I don’t even need to check the tone when I’m lucky to get the tone correctly.

As an art student, what was the reaction of your classmates and professors when your artworks became famous online?
They are very happy for me, especially some of my professors. My classmates even asked to take a picture with me.

How does it feel to have gained so much recognition at this early stage in your career?
Of course, I was very happy at the time. Sometime though, people do forget me. The internet has a lot of news, especially on Facebook. They will pay attention to me just few days, perhaps months. Yes, they liked my artworks. But that’s short. I’m not saying that everybody will forget me. But maybe some of them. But it’s ok, I’m not ready to be next Picasso or Dali because I’m not yet at that level. I just hope, Invert Art will last forever. That’s enough for me.

You seem to like superheroes as your subjects. Who’s your favourite superhero to illustrate and who are you planning to do next?
Yeah, I like superheroes. My favourite one is Wolverine. I don’t have a plan for the next artwork yet because currently I’m doing my final assignment/project. But every semestral break, I plan to do something about Invert Art.

Brian will be selling some of his inverted art very soon, follow him on his Facebook account for more news and updates.