Tons of things inspire me! I love make believe and playful whimsy. I’m drawn to certain aesthetics and I’m influenced by personal experiences. In terms of aesthetics I love the look of paper theatres and antique stage sets. I love the way both of these play with 2 dimensional images to create a 3 dimensional world. Paper theatres inspired me to play with layering elements of my prints and original drawings, to create my shadowbox pieces.
I also love the playfulness of trompe l’oeil and the elaborate detail and border treatments that are found in some old fairy tales. Since becoming a parent I’ve read about a million children’s books to my kids (ok maybe not that many but it certainly feels like it!) and I think the countless books I’ve read to them have inspired me to attach stories or playful poems to my images. Now it is very rare that I create art that isn’t accompanied by a story and one day, I would absolutely love to illustrate children’s books!
Ideas usually strike me out of the blue and I will get pencil to paper as soon as I can to do quick sketches and notes. If I am working on a commission with specific guidelines I really enjoy reading up on the subject matter; I find learning about what I am drawing helps me get excited about the process and shapes my final piece. Once my initial sketch is fine-tuned and transferred to watercolour paper or illustration board it’s time for my favourite part; the inking and/or colouring.
My pieces are quite detailed so this is the part of my process that takes me the longest. If I am working in pencil crayon I often do a preliminary wash in gouache and then render it in coloured pencil and finally I’ll add some highlights and fine details in gouache or acrylic. Once the final piece is complete it’s time for Photoshop. It’s very important to me that my giclee print looks exactly like my original, so I will spend a great deal of time colour-correcting to get the print just right. If I am creating a shadowbox piece the next step is the cutting, layering and final positioning of the layers within the frame.
I really enjoy creating all three but if I had to choose a favourite I would probably say shadow boxes. I like to manipulate my prints and alter their appearance and backgrounds. I have also done a number of shadow box commissions in which I layered original drawings, not prints, and I think I like working on these the best. I find the challenge of thinking and drawing in multiple layers to create one cohesive final piece a lot of fun!
Can you tell me how you came up with your company name?
My father is a classic car collector and owned an auto shop when I was a kid. I spent a lot of time at his business and was always surrounded by cars and grease and tools. Today, I feel a sense of nostalgia when I walk by a garage and smell fiber glass and exhaust. When I was young, my dad taught me how to drive and the first cars I learned on were classics that had manual transmissions, most with a column shift (which is also known as “three on the tree”). I always loved that expression, so when I was trying to come up with a company name it kept coming to mind.
A little play on words tied my past and present together perfectly; from driving old cars and spending my youth with my dad in his auto shop to singing “rock-a-bye baby, on the treetop” to my own children, whose rooms are now filled with Three on the Treetop art!
Check out the other items available from Lillian in her ThreeontheTreetop Etsy Shop! You can also find her on Facebook and www.lillianmckinnon.com
Interviewed by Marlene of IntrinzicDesign March 24, 2015.