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. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Midnight Chase

Here's my Colour Collective piece for the prompt 'Venetian Red'. I've been trying to practice more backgrounds (You'd be amazed how much work I do that requires no background at all, so whenever I get hit with one it's a bit of a shock!) ... I got a bit carried away. I wanted to use the red in a less obvious way, especially as I have a habit of including red in illustrations anyway, but I still thought it would be fun to draw some of the red buildings in Venice.

I was trying to focus more on atmosphere and energy than strict perspective accuracy. And old cities are pretty wonky anyway, which I took as a good sign. Perspective and I have never been friends, and I swear our relationship got much worse after the perspective drawing unit at university.... It's definitely something I'm working on, however.

Here's an animated gif showing my process. As you can see, to start with there was more than one man on the bridge, but I jettisoned the second man, who was really surplus to requirements, and definitely surplus to my time constraints. Sorry, second man. 

I used a lot of adjustment layers to reduce the saturation/add blue tones/increase the contrast of the edges of the scene, to really make the red the focus. I didn't want to lose the thief however, so I kept some warm tones on her and used the composition to lead the eye towards her as much as possible. 

Overall, I like this piece. There are a lot of things that could be better, but it's certainly got good atmosphere and a good story behind it, and I think I might possibly clean it up further for use in my portfolio. What do you think? Anything that really needs work?

This took me somewhere in the 6-9 hour range in Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Portrait Card

Here's a commissioned one-off watercolour portrait card that I completed last month. I was given a photo of the girl in question jumping in front of a fountain somewhere in Europe to use as a base. The client wanted enough of the background remaining for the original location to recognisable to the recipient, so I left in the fountain and added a few trees. I also enlarged the girl quite a lot from the original photo, to make her the focus of the card.

It was a difficult format to work from, to fit in a jumping girl and the fountain in the space of a standard ratio greeting card. I would have preferred a longer format so I could have more space below her, but I didn't have an envelope that size. If this was an illustration I would have done things a bit differently, but for a portrait from a specific photo, I kept everything as close to the original as possible. I altered all the colours from the winter photo - from blacks and khakis to more pastel colours - to work with the birthday theme and added some spatters and metallic paint to give the whole thing more fun and energy, along with flicking out the hair and jacket and other artistic-license tweaks. =)   

Four hours using Copic Multiliners, Winsor and Newton watercolours and metallic gold Ecoline on Moleskine watercolour paper.  

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Upstream Lies Adventure

Last week the Colour Collective prompt was 'Warm Grey V' and I wanted to do something with an animal. I discounted elephants because I had already used them for several Colour Collective prompts, and was still trying to settle on another grey animal when the final episode of Brian Cox's Forces of Nature appeared on television - with some segments shot in Iceland, with lots of grey rocks and bright grasses. So I changed my ideas completely, and decided to create a piece more focused on the background than the character:

I'm still working on putting texture into my illustrations, so this was an excellent exercise. I had a lot of fun with all the rock surfaces and grasses, and it was very meditative to work on - which was especially handy as my business email was down from Monday to Thursday night and I was a bit stressed, especially after trying to deal with tech support. It's always good to have something peaceful to work on under such circumstances!

For my character I decided on a mouse, because I always enjoy drawing them. He's got a packed lunch tied to his staff, because I also enjoy drawing berries. =) His cloak is a nice splash of colour in the overwhelmingly green and grey illustration, I think. 

About 5 hours in Photoshop CC 2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. I googled a lot of references, but none of them were used directly, just to inform my drawing, especially when it came to the flowers and grasses.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Rains are Coming

Belatedly, here is my Colour Collective from two weeks ago. I've had a bit of a hectic week, but the main occurance preventing my posting earlier was spending a lot of time with tech support after our service provider broke my business email. All that is sorted now, and I'm back in a more normal routine. =) 

The set colour was 'thistle', a bright pale purple. Obvious connotations were fairies and the like, but I tried to steer away from the obvious. I was watching Brian Cox's Forces of Nature, and the episode featured some Maasai. The women were so beautiful, and one of them was wearing a purple baby sling, so I went from there. I also used the set colour in the sky, to create a suitably dramatic impending storm. I liked the contrast of the purple sky against the yellow grasses. 

I'm trying to get more texture into my illustrations, so for this I played around with a lot of Kyle Webster's bristly brushes that I haven't used all that much. Colour Collective is a good space for experimentation.

About 5 hours in Photoshop CC 2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2.


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