Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Witch's Companion

A little piece for Colour Collective's 'Pantone 292 C' prompt. It seemed like a good colour for a ribbon, perhaps around a cat's neck... and I'd been playing around with witches in my sketches so it sort of evolved from there:

Anyway, I need to practice cats. We've always had a dog, so I'm naturally more familiar with pooches than pusses - but that is no excuse!

I think this is my most popular Colour Collective to date, which makes me very happy. =) I'd quite like to do more with this little feline. I like to do chapter-book style illustration, I've always liked some nice linework. 

Here's another piece I did in the same vein for Colour Collective a few weeks later. The prompt this time was 'Vert Réséda:

Here are some more witchy sketches:

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. The Colour Collective took 2-3 hours. Not quite sure how long the sketches took - quicker than the CC, anyway. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Pups on Purple Pillows

A quick piece for Colour Collective's 'Byzantium Purple' prompt. Naturally the colour really made me want to draw over-the-top Byzantium era costumes, but I stuck with something simpler!

This only took about three hours, and it definitely shows - but I do like that dachshund. ^.^

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2

Friday, August 4, 2017


When the 20th Anniversary of Harry Potter rolled around, I had to draw something to mark it. I've never been the biggest fan of the books (I liked the earlier ones best) but they were a big part of my childhood even so. If I'd had time I would have liked to have drawn all three main characters, but as it was I had to pick one, and Hermione won because she has the best hair. Sometimes illustrator choices are extremely shallow...

Here's the original sketch, which I posted first. I coloured it up the next day because I felt like doing some colouring. 

Adobe Photoshop CC2017 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. A couple of hours in total. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Stealth Mode

I was short on time for Colour Collective's 'Fiery Coral' prompt, so I needed something quick and easy. On the day before I'd uploaded one of my Myrna series to Instagram as a Throwback Thursday post, and people seemed to like it, so I went with a Myrna theme for Colour Collective too. 

It was such a bright, cheerful colour, it made me think of smoked salmon and watermelon, so here is Myrna in stealth mode, seeing if she can steal some lunch.

In reality she's more likely to steal your serviette - she's addicted to tissues - but that had already been a subject in one of my Christmas Myrna illustrations last year. =P It's quite common, however, to see Myrna's head just rising over the edge of a table, to see if there's anything good there. Our previous dog was about half as tall, long and heavy, so it's a bit of a shock to have a dog that can so easily reach the table! (we've had Myrna 4 years now, but that doesn't outweigh the complaisance of 17.5 years with a tiny terrier!)

Adobe Photoshop CC2017 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. 1.5 to 2 hours

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Little Explorer

I just don't have time to do anything big and fancy for Colour Collective, so when their 'Khaki' prompt rolled around I decided to slap a bit of colour on this little explorer:

I didn't spend very long on it, and it shows, but it's better than nothing! =) 

Here's the original blog post for the black and white version of this illustration. 

Adobe Photoshop CC2017 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. About two hours for the colouring - rather longer for the original illustration though!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Something Gothic

For Colour Collective's 'Licorice' prompt, I decided to go a bit gothic. And I didn't want to spend too much time with linework, as I'd been doing very detailed linework of landscape scenes for a year 4 geography program all week, and I'd had it with linework and grasses. =P 

So this is almost entirely done with the lasso tool and a big textured brush (Kyle T Webster's Gouache a Go Go). I just added a tiny bit of linework at the end, to make sure things stood out enough. It was cathartic. 

I was inspired, oddly enough, by a photograph in the national geographic of someone surrounded by red bouquets of incense sticks. I realise I moved about as far away from that as possible. =P 

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. About 2.5 hours.

Cheese Thief

Still super-busy, so I'm still stuck with only the quickest of sketches for Colour Collective. This was for the 'Ceylon Yellow' prompt, and was originally, in my head, rather bigger. But my imagination draws quicker than I do, so most of it was jettisoned. Such is life...

The original plan was to have three mice, pushing and pulling a big jar of mustard on a little trolley made of found objects. As you can see... we now have one mouse, no mustard, and no trolley. But we do have cheese. 

About a to 1.5 hours on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2, using Adobe Photoshop CC2017

Sunday, July 2, 2017


I had to think of the quickest thing I could for Colour Collective's 'Iris Blue' prompt, because I have so much work on - I didn't want to miss Colour Collective, but I also couldn't spare more than an hour. 

So here we have it. Baby owlet with the moon, very sketchy:

Photoshop CC2017 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. About an hour.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Little Mermaid's Transformation

Here's a portfolio piece I did recently, as part of a small series of Little Mermaid illustrations I've been doing on and off. Currently two of them are finished. 

This is the scene where the Little Mermaid drinks the Sea Witch's potion, and grows legs. You can see the jar the potion was in floating away, after she drops it in the sea. 

I really wanted to have this image with the mermaid half in and half out of the sea - we can see the two worlds here, with the waterline as a barrier between them, as this part of the story is really about the Little Mermaid leaving one world and entering another. 

Here's a progress animation:

Adobe Photoshop CC2017 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. 15-18 hours. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Ocean Views

Still busy, so to save time on my Colour Collective I revisited one of my Mermay sketches and turned it into something colourful. The prompt was 'Apple Green'

I didn't want to go with the obvious connotations of 'apple green', so I chose to use it as greenery. I looked up scenery in Vietnam, and used that as my base, as my mermaid has a conical hat and it makes sense to put her in the right region. Plus, if I was a mermaid, I think this would be good scenery to be sitting around! 

Here's the original sketch:

I flipped the image around for CC, as I decided I liked it when I flipped it to check that everything looked okay. 

I did this pretty quickly, in about three or so hours, including the initial sketch. Lots of use of the dry gritty gouache brush in Photoshop, and not being too bothered about the fine details.

Adobe Photoshop CC2017 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Illustrator Tips: Preparing your digital canvas

I often jump into conversations on twitter to help people asking for advice with illustration, so I thought I should start a little blog series dealing with some of the things I often see asked, or that I think might be useful.

So here goes:

#1. Preparing your digital canvas

When designing for print, it's important to know what specifications you are working to before you start. I can't stress this enough - a lot of clients won't automatically provide you with all the relevant information, and possibly won't see the necessity, but believe me, you'll save a lot of stress by getting this information out of them at the start. Ask! Keep asking! Explain to them that if you have to spend ages reworking pieces that end up the wrong size, it will increase their costs. 

For example, here is the cover for Feral Fergus. I had to create the cover long before starting on the book itself, for promotion purposes, and when I did (back in September) the book was to be printed in A4. But this changed to 8x10". No big deal in this case, but just look at all that white space down the sides of the cover on the left. I had to carefully paint in this area back in as seamlessly as I could, and think how difficult this could be if you have a really detailed background and a composition that won't stand for the alteration anyway! You can't avoid all such incidences, but it's best to at least attempt to make sure it doesn't happen.

Continue reading below the cut:

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Sea Witch

Here's a piece I redid for my children's illustration portfolio.

It was originally a realistic digital painting done way back in 2011. It was mainly to prove to myself that I could create something dark and scary, as with almost everything we were supposed to do at uni. I'm not really a dark and scary person, so I always struggled with that a bit, and wanted to see if I could create something scary off my own bat, a couple of years after I left uni. 

Here's the original. There's no place in my portfolio for anything like this now, so I took the concept and turned it into a children's illustration. I quite like redoing old pieces, if I think the concept is strong enough. It lets me see how much I've progressed, and also gives me a chance to fix all those little things that end up bothering me after I've finished a piece. 

Of course, turning it into a children's illustration meant that I no longer had to make it super-scary, which is much more my cup of tea. =P 

Here's a progress animation:

What do you think? Which version do you prefer?

Adobe Photoshop CC2016 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. About 12-15 hours, I think.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


Here's a sort-of-new piece for my portfolio. It's a redo of a piece I did back in 2015 - essentially the same piece, but it's been entirely redrawn so it can stay in my portfolio without bringing down the tone.

It's intended as a book cover, so as I do a lot of work for self-publishers, I added text. This is a roll-over view option on my website. I know conventional wisdom is not to put text on book cover design, because illustrators are not graphic designers... but I do actually have a degree in graphic design. Anyway, self-publishers need to be able to see that I can add text without turning everything into a dog's breakfast.

If I was printing this, I can see spot varnish on the text, maybe even a foil.... but I'm not printing it, so you'll just have to use your imagination.
This has my name on it because it's my story. I've even written some of it!

Find out lots more about this illustration below the cut:

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Meaningful Conversation

Baker Miller Pink for Colour Collective! This pink was developed through studies to reduce stress and aggravation - a fascinating history for a colour, and it was really quite a shame that I'd had a really good day and was in really good mood anyway while working on this. What a waste! =P 

It being MerMay on social media, whenever I hadn't had a topic in mind for my bedtime sketches I'd been doing mermaids. The idea is actually to post a mermaid a day, but I don't have time for that. However, mermaids are nice and girly and all the work I am doing at the moment really isn't, so they're great for a bit of a wind-down in the evenings! This piece was based on this very very quick sketch I did earlier in the week:

I'd just finished off the book dummy for Sioban Timmer's Feral Fergus, which is a fabulous book, but very much gross-boy-themed. So it was fun to just go all-out super girly with this. Pink! And more pink! And Mermaids! And pearls! 

Here are some other (super-quick and messy) sketches I did on the Mermaid theme during may:

More below the cut:

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Pirate Stall

'Are you looking to buy.... or looking for trouble?'

Here's a black and white piece I did for my Middle Grade portfolio a little while back. I'd been mucking about with pirates for my nightly sketching, and came up with this little character, who I rather liked. I had fun filling her stall with lots of different wares, and at the suggestion of a friend, I gave her a pet ferret to guard the money. People should think twice about stealing from her now!

As you can see, I'm still working on being sketchier with my final pieces and not getting too hung up on tiny details. What are your thoughts on this?

Here she is all coloured up. It was always intended as a black and white illustration, but I was curious to see how she'd look in colour, so when Colour Collective came up with 'Wenge' as their prompt last week I took that as a sign that I should slap on some colour and see what happened. Wenge is a rather dark, dull wood, so I kept everything looking a bit murky and just slightly sinister. I don't think this girl is necessarily selling wares she came by honestly....

Which do you prefer? Colour or black and white?

Here's a progress animation:

As you can see, this started out as just a character sketch. I don't do fully detailed scenes for my nightly sketching, if I did I'd never get to bed!

Here are some other pirate sketches I did about the same time. I started off with this one, referenced from a photo of someone in the Weekend Magazine. He wasn't a pirate, I just thought he had an interesting weathered face that would be a good fit for one:

I then did this quick little pirate girl:

And finally this character. I see him as the brother of my pirate girl above. They steal stuff to sell on - but to do that you need to know a real jewel from a bad one! 

I did muck about with adding him into the pirate stall scene, but as I hadn't originally planned to have him in there, he really didn't fit so well, so I didn't keep him. 

I used his sister in a recent Colour Collective, which I threw together far too quickly. See? I flipped the image part way through and forgot to fix her eyepatch. 

Adobe Photoshop CC2017 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. Not entirely sure how long it took me, probably around five to eight hours, with another two on top for colouring. I used Kyle T Webster's Photoshop brushes. I'm pretty sure this was done entirely with the Perfect Pencil and Fat Fun Spongy brushes.

Monday, May 29, 2017

On the Lookout for Plunder

(Not thunder)

This little piece was for Colour Collective's 'Mountbatten Pink' prompt. It wasn't really speaking to me and I couldn't think of anything to do for it, and then I was walking the dog and there was Mountbatten Pink in the sky. I thought that would look pretty nice over the ocean, and from there it was a small leap to 'pirates'. This is a little pirate character I've been playing around with lately (although while I was quickly sketching this out I flipped the image and forgot to switch her eyepatch around. Oops!) She doesn't have a name, any ideas?

This started out a bit more expansive, it got more and more ruthlessly cropped as I realised I had less and less time. =P 

Adobe Photoshop CC2017 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. A couple of hours, not very long.

Sunday, May 28, 2017


When Colour Collective's 'Lemon Chiffon' prompt rolled around, I'd just finished the audiobook of Neil Gaiman's Stardust, so that seemed an apt topic for a pale yellow:

I had fun working on this. I've been doing lots of different projects - illustrations for science workbooks, precise drawings for a chiropractor, and a gross-out picture book aimed at boys - so it was nice to just go super-girly with sparkles and pretty dresses. 

For your amusement, here's a sketch I did of Yvaine in Stardust earlier in the week. It was done extremely quickly in the few minutes before bed, her head is too big and stuff, but you know, we can't have every sketch turn out perfectly (do any of them?). She looks pretty unimpressed at being so out of proportion. Sorry Yvaine....

Adobe Photoshop CC2017 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. Two to three hours (and 15 or so minutes for that sketch)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Drum Major

Another very quick little piece for Colour Collective, this time for the 'lava' red prompt. If I'd had more time I would have liked to have several mice in a little marching band, but as it was, I only had time for the drummer. 

Here's the original sketch, which I did earlier in the week:

Adobe Photoshop CC2017 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. About an hour, I think.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Sweet Dreams

I've been very busy lately, but I try to snatch a little time for quick sketches before bed. And I try to snatch just a little extra time for Colour Collective. The result is a bunch of very sketchy Colour Collectives, but at least I get something done!

This one was for the 'Kingfisher' prompt. I'd seen some light-up star cushions in my reference-searches around the internet, and they were just crying out to be put in an illustration, so I used them as my base and threw this together in rather less than two hours. Overall, I quite like it as a concept (although it's scarily full of mistakes)!

Adobe Photoshop CC2017 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. Under two hours in total.

Saturday, May 20, 2017


I was in a big hurry for Colour Collective's 'Coamaru' prompt, so I did a quick colour job on a sketch I did during the week. It went down well, this has the distinction of being the Colour Collective that has garnered the most likes on both Twitter and Instagram in the several years I've been taking part (good heavens, is it nearly two and a half years already?!)

Here's the original quick digital sketch. As you can see, I added more leaves.

Really very fond of this one!

Adobe Photoshop CC2017 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2.
About 1 to 2 hours, tops.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Alastair: 12-month Portrait

I keep thinking I have blogged this, and it appears I haven't, so I must rectify that! If you follow me on social media you will have seen snippets of this piece some months back; it's a piece I did for a friend's birthday in July. Her son, Alastair, was also born in July, just a week after her birthday, so it seemed like an excellent time to give her a 12-month portrait of his first 12 months of life. I was inspired by her remarking that he changed so much from day to day. I enlisted the help of her mother, who made sure I had a selection of nice photos for every month. Babies are so expressive, I had fun choosing lots of different moods! 

The painting is just under A3 in size, so each individual portrait is quite small:

I took a number of timelapse videos while I was working. All of them were shared after I had finished the painting and given it away, so that it was a complete surprise.

These last two timelapses are two parts of the same painting. The limit for a timelapse is 10 minutes, so I couldn't fit a whole painting into one. As it was, I always started with the base skin tones already down and dry - no one wants to watch a timelapse of paint drying!

Each individual portrait took in the region of 40 to 60 minutes to sketch and paint, so we're looking at somewhere in the region of 8 to 12 hours for the whole piece. I sketched each portrait out in pencil first, and then it's almost entirely watercolour, apart from a few coloured pencil touches, mainly in the background. I'm really a mixed-media girl. 
I decided to keep the focus on the face by making all of his clothes white - in reality he has a varied wardrobe, but that made everything rather messy when 12 pictures and placed side-by-side.

Winsor and Newton watercolours and series 7 brushes, with Prismacolor pencils, on Moleskine watercolour paper.

This makes a great gift for a mother in your life (or for yourself), so if you'd like to commission something similar, please contact me via my website - I'd love to discuss it with you!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

More First Easter Eggs

Easter has rolled around again, so we needed a couple more felted Easter eggs for two little girls who are celebrating their first Easter in 2017. The first one of these I made was in 2014, and I did three last year and one in 2015. I've made quite a few!

These eggs have a slightly different design from the eggs I've done previously, because the egg cups we had for them we different to the ones from other years. Spots just didn't seem to match!

Each egg has an initial on the back - J for Jemima, H for Hannah. 

Here they are together, in their egg cups. I'm really annoyed that one of them is so much smaller than the other. I only had one polystyrene egg, so I made the other one from scratch, needle felting dacron and covering it with pink roving. But I misjudged how much it would shrink when I felted in the pattern.... so while they started out the same size, the dacron egg shrunk while the polystyrene one stayed, of course, the same size. A lesson to me to pack the base shape harder to start with! I had thought that as the pattern wasn't going to cover all that much of the egg that shrinkage would be minimal, so I lazily didn't spend hours felting the shape to rock-hardness.  

Merino Wool over Polystyrene/Dacron. A couple of hours each. 

Happy Easter everyone!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Move along, no eggs here!

For Easter, Colour Collective had 'Jonquil Yellow' as its prompt. Originally I was going to go with a lamb, garlanded with flowers, and I'd got most of the way through the linework when I suddenly changed my mind and decided to go with something more Australian (not that sheep are not Australian, but they're not actually native!)

Here in Australia we have the Easter Bilby. A bilby is a rabbit-eared bandicoot, a super-cute burrowing marsupial, so an apt animal for Easter. We still have the Easter Bunny, of course, and we still have chocolate rabbits - but there are also chocolate bilbies, which help to raise awareness - the bilby is critically endangered and needs all the help it can get. 


Bilbies are not noted for their jonquil yellow fur, but they do like to burrow near acacia shrubs - which handily have yellow flowers - and I added in some yellow Easter eggs as well. Our little bilby here is doing his best to distract you from them, it's not Easter Sunday yet!

Here's the partially-completed lamb linework:

Adobe Photoshop CC2017 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. About 2.5 to 3 hours, I think. I was watching tv at the same time. ^.~


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