“DGAF/Catharsis” is my 130th illustration and a part of the series “Mementos”. This illustration is also the final part of a hidden message spanning three different illustrations. I chose to make a case study of this illustration because it has a very special meaning to me: it helped me to crush my problems with anxiety.

The concept

The concept of this illustration is quite profound and spiritual. It consists of three integral parts which should be discussed individually.

The figure

The figure depicts the good, optimistic and enlightened mind. It is completely white and radiant because it has no face: it is something beyond the physical. The figure is the protagonist of this illustration. It flies and wields gigantic objects because it has no physical limitations. The figure restores harmony in the mind through destruction of the Cubes.

The Hammer

The trusty weapon of the figure is the Hammer. The Hammer is incredibly strong and can crush any Cube. Unlike the figure, it is representative of something physical: acceptance and action. When the figure rests and the hammer remains unused, the Cubes expand their grip over an unsuspecting mind.

The Cube

There is actually many Cubes with different sizes, shapes and colors. The one depicted in the illustration is the Cube of Anxiety. Through its presence and distorted energy it dims the once harmonious parts of the mind. The Cubes are the villains of the mind: they enter through the gaps of insecurity. They are cube-shaped because cubes, like their symbolisms, are rigid and sharp-edged, though they can easily be stacked together to build walls.

The Process


The composition for this illustration was settled on quite early, but some other parts like posture and texture took some more time.

My approach to an illustration is to always create a main character first, and then to create the rest of the illustration around it. In the case of DGAF/Catharsis there is the two main characters of the figure and the Cube.

By creating the character first you don’t run into the issue that the styles of the illustration get mixed up, or that the focus of the illustration goes to the wrong part. I had this happen a lot as a beginner. Almost every time an illustration ended up not being used it was because of this issue.

The time to create this illustration was about four hours. I spent the most time on applying textures and getting the position of the hammer right.

Swinging a hammer

It took me a lot of time to get the angle and hold of the hammer right. Since the illustration is not animated it is important to choose an angle that clearly shows that the hammer is going to be swung. Putting the hammer too far backward doesn’t clearly show the future movement as it is a passive stance. That’s why I settled on putting the hammer just above the shoulder to make it clear that the movement just started. To further indicate the movement I added the light trail behind the figure and hammer.

The hidden message

The previous two illustrations were called “When You Realize” and “All Eyes”. Together with “DGAF” they form a hidden message. This adds another completely new perspective: you become liberated (“Catharsis”) when you finally realize that most people don’t care about what is going on in your head until you directly tell or show them.


The beauty of and problems with hidden details

You may notice in the third and final versions of the illustration that the Cube has one eye above, and one below the fog. This was done on purpose: the Cube seems threatening, but at the same time is hindering itself. These kind of details are often missed by people until I explain them. That is actually a common issue with my illustrations: it doesn’t matter if an idea is clever: if the first impression doesn’t convince, people will not be interested in the meaning, even though it is well-intended.

That’s why it is important to always put visual appeal first, and deeper concept second. This does not mean you shouldn’t have concepts: it is a matter of priority. You should first convince people to pay attention to your work, and then you can let them think of your intended message.

Tapping into the negative

Before this illustration I got too much inspiration for concepts from negative situations and emotions. This illustration therefore was a change in mindset: I decided it was time to focus on what I want to be instead of what I want to change in myself.

That is why I decided to focus the next series “Chile 21” on my most important realizations and changes during my exchange semester in Chile. Think of awareness for the influence of the internet and accepting unchangeable imperfections.


Author mpeerlings

More posts by mpeerlings

Leave a Reply

Recent Posts

Recent Projects