Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Butterfly

By the time Colour Collective rolled round with the gorgeous 'Kings Blue Light' for the 30th September, I had very little time to create anything. It was a week full of appointments and outings and tradesmen and guests - not to mention I had work to do at the same time! But I didn't want to sit Colour Collective out - I've never missed one! - so I threw this together:

I just worked up a bedtime sketch I had done earlier in the week. We'd been watching Granada Austen adaptations from the early 1970s, and they have such spectacular hairstyles that I was inspired to sketch ridiculous hair myself. Such subjects are excellent when you just want to wind down before heading to bed: 

For Colour Collective I added a bit more body to one of the sketches, sketched in a bit of a balcony, and slapped on some quick colour. The whole thing took maybe two hours in Adobe Photoshop CC2015 on my Wacom Cintiq Companion 2.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Heading Home

I'd been trying to create more detailed Colour Collective illustrations while I didn't have too much work to do, but once my to-do list started to fill again, CC had to take a back seat. For the September 23 colour ('Orange') I went quick and sketchy, with a minimal background, but still had enough time to be ambitious enough to include two characters:

I featured the orange colour everywhere - there were so many opportunities to use it here! All in all, I quite like this piece for what it is - a quick illustration literally full of mistakes. But it's definitely something that can be filed away and maybe updated one day, as I like the concept. 

Adobe Photoshop CC2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. About 4.5 hours. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016


Here's another recently-completed pet portrait, this time of Dez the staffy, who has unfortunately shuffled off this mortal coil. 

Here's my process, told mainly through photos taken with my phone and shared to my Instagram Story:

The commissioner had seen my Miss Bear portrait, and wanted a similar floral background. As Dez is such a black dog, I didn't think it would be sensible to have a black and white floral behind him, so we decided on green. I started off my sketching everything out in Photoshop. I didn't have a lot of photos to work from, but I combined several to get the best possible pose and expression. I sent this sketch to the commissioner to get her approval to move on before I started inking:

And then traced it onto Moleskine watercolour paper using Copic Multiliners. It was at this point that I added his tail. You couldn't see it in the photo I was using for his body pose, but I came to the conclusion that it looked a bit weird without any tail visible at all:

Once everything was inked, I started off by painting in the background in several shades of green watercolour:

And then at last it was time to paint Dez himself. It can be a bit unnerving, being stared at by a dog who's nose and eyes are not filled in!

It takes quite a few passes with the black Ecoline to get a really solidly black dog. There are about three layers of Ecoline, plus coloured pencil, all over Dez:


I added gilding as with Miss Bear, which really helped to warm everything up:

I sent a photo of the finished portrait to the commissioner, who expressed concerns that Dez wasn't black enough (the pitfalls of working from smartphone photography, you're never quite sure how realistic the colours are, and I'd erred more on the brindle side. However, that's what progress shots are for, no harm done)

So before she came and picked it up, I went over him again with black coloured pencil, and pushed the blacks as hard as I could without losing all sense of his shiny fur and the underlying muscles that a staffy has. I sent her another photo to check that she was happy once I'd done that:

Copic Multiliners, Winsor and Newton watercolours, Prismacolour pencils, Copic White and Cosmic Shimmer gilding flakes on Moleskine watercolour paper. 8 hours in total.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Miss Bear

Here's another recently-completed pet-portrait - this time of a cat! I don't do many cats, my pet portraits tend to be a long line of dogs.

Miss Bear is a beautiful siamese. I was given a few photos to choose from, and chose a pose where she was sitting up straight and proud, as befits a siamese cat:

The background went through a couple of iterations. Apparently she likes to sit by the fire, and so the commissioner (who was commissioning a present for the friend than owns (or is that 'is owned by'?) Miss Bear) originally wanted her sitting on a hearth in front of a roaring fire.
Fire is pretty revolting to paint, so I wasn't exactly looking forward to that, but I was fully prepared to give her a cosy fire... and then I learned that the recipient is red-green colourblind. I did a bit of checking to find out exactly how red-green colourblind people see the world, and found that red appears, basically, yellow. This didn't bode well for painting a fire, where I would be exclusively using red, orange and yellow. I just didn't feel confident that I could paint a convincing fire that would work for a colourblind person, so I contacted the commissioner and suggested a different option - a black and white floral background inspired by the designs of William Morris - lots of nice contrast that would work well for a colourblind person, with a bit of gilding added in to catch the light and liven everything up. Siamese cats are so graphic themselves that I thought the background would work well. The commissioner liked that idea, so I went with that.

Here I'll collate some of the progress snaps I shared on Instagram, and my Instagram Story, as I worked:

I did the draft in Photoshop, on my Cintiq Companion 2 - it just made it much easier to work out the pattern, and repeat areas, without constantly worrying that I was filling in the wrong thing or drawing lines in the wrong place:

I printed out my digital draft and used my lightbox to trace it onto Moleskine Watercolour paper using Copic Multiliners:

Eventually I had everything inked:

I filled in the background with black Ecoline, while Miss Bear herself was painted in Winsor and Newton watercolours with details added in Prismacolour pencil:

The final stage was to add some gilding. I used Cosmic Shimmer Gilding Flakes in Autumn Leaves. This photo shows just how shiny the gilding flakes are:

Here's a video I took to show how I applied the gilding:

Finally, I created 15 greeting cards using the painting. They were too small to use this gilding technique, so I went over all the gilded areas with different coloured metallic gel pens - not as shiny, but better than nothing. 

Copic Multiliners, Winsor and Newton watercolours, Prismacolour pencils and Cosmic Shimmer gilding flakes on Moleskine watercolour paper. Six and a half hours in total (not counting the cards).

Saturday, September 24, 2016


Recently I've been doing quite a few pet portraits - which is fine by me, pet portraits are always fun!

Here is one of them - Benji the Boston Terrier. Isn't he gorgeous?

I do my pet portraits in mixed media, I just find that easier when I'm dealing with lots of fur, I can add extra texture easily, and, more importantly, quickly. This keeps the time I spend, and therefore the prices, down, for my clients. 

I took a lot of photos, sharing my progress on Instagram so that my client (who uses Instagram) could see my progress regularly. Some of my process shots were shared in my Instagram Story - so if you follow me on Instagram, check out my Story posts to see extra sneak peeks and progress shots that don't make it into my gallery!

Starting the inking. I'm using Copic Multiliners in 0.1 and 0.05:

This is my least-favourite part of any pet portrait. Animals look really weird without their eyes and noses shaded, and I'm always terrified that it's going to look awful and I'll have to start all over again:

That's better! Eyes and nose to start!

First pass with the watercolour. I'm using Ecoline in black for the main areas, because it's nice and black, and then using Winsor & Newton watercolours on top:

Almost finished. After I was done with the watercolour I went in with coloured pencils for a bit more texture and contrast:

And the final product! I had a slight accident right at the end - I opened my jar of Ecoline to do a touch-up, and there was a huge bubble in the top.... which popped and spattered all over my desk. I was frozen in horror for a while, as there were now black spots on my 99.9% completed pet portrait. Black spots in Ecoline, which has never even heard of 'erasing'. (I'm sure everyone who works traditionally has moments like this. If you're working digitally, I think the best parallel is accidentally pressing 'Do Not Save'. Aaaaarrrrg!!). PSA: If you're using Ecoline and it gets a bubble, rescue your work before it pops!

When I'd stopped hyperventilating, I came up with a solution. Necessity is the mother of invention, and all that. I was already planning on spattering some coloured watercolour, as in this portrait card, so I used my Copic Multiliners to add extra black spatters (somehow I don't trust myself to just fling black ecoline at a painting, even if I can do so with watercolour). The accidental spatters had somehow miraculously missed landing actually on Benji. I think the effect is none too bad, even if it isn't exactly what I originally planned. What do you think?

Can't get enough of Benji? He has his own Instagram!

Copic Multiliners, Ecoline Ink, Prismacolour pencils and Winsor & Newton watercolours on Moleskine watercolour paper. Just under A4 in size. This portrait took 4.5 hours. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Butterflies and Secret Portals

For Colour Collective's 'Sage Grey' prompt I was inspired by Scandinavian tales. Sage is an herb, of course, but it can also refer to someone who has gained wisdom, so I decided to use that meaning to direct my illustration, and created a wise troll character to blend in with the grey rocks. I do like to try different things with my Colour Collective pieces, it's such a good opportunity for experimentation!

I was also heavily inspired by Swedish golden age illustrator John Bauer, who illustrated for Bland Tomtar Och Troll (Among Gnomes and Trolls), a Swedish folklore anthology, from 1907 to 1915. He was succeeded by Gustaf Tenggren. I looked at a lot of Bauer and Tenggren's work when I did my thesis on Golden Age Illustrators, but didn't have any opportunity to be influenced by their Scandinavian aesthetic in my own work at that time, as it didn't match my thesis project, which was much more influenced by the Russian and Turkish elements of Golden Age illustration.

Image from Wikipedia
Image from Wikipedia
Here's a progress gif. I worked on it in brief snatches over the week, and in total spent about 8 hours on it, almost all as wind-downs after finishing my day's work. If I'd had more time I would have liked to have added more details, more beads and leather and the like, like the trolls in Bauer's work above.... but as it is, I'm pretty swamped with work so I kept it minimal. I had a lot of fun doing those curvaceous rocks!

And here's a detail of the faces:

Adobe Photoshop CC2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2, using Kyle Webster's brushes.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Circus Act

I've had a bit of a stressful week, lots of work to do, lots of clients to juggle... so I didn't have time to do anything elaborate for Colour Collective - no story behind the illustration, no fancy background. The colour was 'Pale Turquoise' and I decided to go as fairy floss as possible. Lots of frills, lots of sparkles, lots of girly colours. I always try to practice something with Colour Collective, however, so I decided that this time I would practice horses.

Here's a close-up of the chihuahua, because I think it's pretty cute, but the poor thing is so tiny in the full illustration, no one can really see its bug-eyed glory:

I used Jean Louis Andre Theodore Gericault's Prancing Horse as a reference for the horse. I missed the memo on horses as a small girl, I've only ridden one perhaps twice in my life - so I'm not as familiar with their anatomy as I could be! This is why I need to practice them!

Here's a progress animation:

About 4, maybe 5 hours in Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. 


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