Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A look back at 2014

I thought I should write an epic post to reflect on the past year. It's been a busy and eventful year for me – I've had my first picture book published and completed over 268 blackline master illustrations, with my work now featuring in over 50 publications for ReadyEd. I've worked on wedding stationary and Christmas cards, and I'm currently in the draft stages for another picture book. 

I'm looking forward to an even better and more exciting year in 2015!


I started off the year with Blackline master work. A lot of publications have to be ready for the start of the school year at the end of January, so the beginning and end of the year is always a busy time for textbook illustration. However, I also managed to practice brush inking – it was definitely a month for linework!

The Glass Slipper - Ink

Blackline Master Illustrations
Copyright ReadyEd Publications - Photoshop
Blackline Master Illustrations
Copyright ReadyEd Publications - Photoshop
Blackline Master Illustrations
Copyright ReadyEd Publications - Photoshop

See the rest of the year below the cut:

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Illustration: Thank You Cards

I didn't manage to get any thank you cards out last year, and I felt really bad about it – I always send them out, but I was really busy around Christmas 2013 and couldn't find time until it was really too late, and then I was horrendously sick on my birthday for 2014 and was knocked out for over a week, and then flat out trying to catch up on missed work. Even with these excuses, I've been feeling guilty, so this year I've succeeded in doing thank you cards for Christmas, at least!

Here's the illustration I did for them. For the past six years I've been doing thank you cards featuring this girl, but I decided to depart from that theme. 

I did the sketch on Christmas Eve. I'm still really busy, and haven't taken many days off over Christmas, so I'd already done some work and just wanted to vege in front of the tv and sketch something brainless, with no plan whatsoever. I started by deciding to sketch a girl in the dress I was wearing for Christmas (although mine is navy blue with while polkadots, not red), and then just let it go wherever it wanted – and I liked it enough to turn it into my thank you cards. 

I had a lot of fun painting it, I haven't been able to find time for much painting lately, and it was fun to do something a bit messier and without having to worry about perfect linework. 
The font I used in the background is the Harman family – it has a nice variety of of font styles that all work well together, along with a nice selection of flourishes. 

I decided I wanted the cards to look shiny, so I printed off the images onto photo paper, cut them all out and mounted them on plain white cards, using a bit of double-sided foam to give a bit of height. 

And then I wrote in all the cards tonight, and that's something I can cross off my list! I'm quite pleased with how they all came together – a few wonky bits, but that's okay. =)

Sketch using a 0.7 mechanical pencil with a #B lead in a Moleskine sketchbook
Painting in Adobe Photoshop CC with a Wacom Intuos Pro 5

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Cards 2014

For my Christmas Eve post, here are the cards I designed for my family this year.

My mother always chooses the theme and style for our Christmas cards, and this year she wanted something like my Snow White pieces, which was quite a departure from last year's cards.

I originally started out a little bit more pagan and Germanic, with a couple gathering holly and ivy and bringing home a fir tree:

But then I suddenly changed my mind. I thought there was a bit too much going on in there for a small Christmas card – it's a concept probably better suited to a full-size illustration.

So I came up with three more concepts:

We chose the first and third concept. I have always done two Christmas card designs each year, and now that we get them printed at Moo I like to take advantage of the printfinity option as well. 
The first concept was inspired by the festival of Saint Lucia, with a crown of candles, and the third features carol singing and mulled wine. Originally the dogs were brown and white, but by popular demand I changed them to the same colours as my cavoodle Myrna. 

I worked on each card at about A4 size, first printing out my rough and using layout paper to draw directly on top of it with pencil:

And then transferring it directly to watercolour paper with technical pens, using a lightbox. 

Here are some of the shots I tweeted while the paintings were in progress:

And then I sent them off for printing at Moo, along with two of the other sets of cards I've designed. When they arrived I used embossing powder to emboss the circular frames with gold:

I think they came out rather nicely!

Moleskine watercolour paper with Winsor & Newton watercolours and Copic Multiliners. Embellishments added with a Perfect Medium pen and gold embossing powder (and a heat gun)

I hope you like them!

I wish everyone a very happy festive season and a fabulous year to come!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Cards: Ester & Korra

Remember these Christmas cards from last year? This year Ester the Finnish Lapphund is back, with her sister Korra. The friends I did the cards for last year were very pleased with how the cards turned out, and with how everyone was amazed at their finding cards with a dog that looked exactly like Ester (that's what I like, happy clients!) and asked me to do something similar this year.

Since last Christmas they've acquired Korra, another Finnish Lapphund, so this year the cards naturally had to feature them both. Like all puppies, they can be little terrors, so I wanted the cards to reflect that with playful images, not unrealistic images of beautifully behaved dogs. I came up with some rough concepts, and they picked this one immediately:

None of the other initial concepts really did it for them, so I came up with some more, and they settled on this one as a companion card:

I wanted to use the same style as last year, and Korra has a gorgeous sable coat, which was interesting to ink. I used Manga Studio 5 for the inking, as I like the pen tool in that for this sort of work better than the brushes in Photoshop. Then I moved the cards into Photoshop for colouring, because I like the brushes in Photoshop better for that, and organised the type in Illustrator.

Here are some details of the gorgeous dogs:

There's something very crisp about the linework in Manga Studio that I like for this type of work – I don't want it to look to over-worked, but I don't want it to look too soft, either. 

We got the cards printed at Moo.com, and they did a lovely job, as always:

Reference photos were provided, of course, and the images were tweaked after I was done, to make sure that both dogs looked as accurate as possible. 

Manga Studio 5, Photoshop CC, Illustrator CC, Wacom Intuos 5

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Watercolour: Rehana

I've been working flat-out lately, but today I sent off some work, before deadline, and since it's a Sunday, they couldn't send me any more until at least tomorrow. So, Day Off!! I was able to have fun and paint this portrait, that I had been sketching and inking bit by bit as rewards for working over the past week and a half. 

This is my lovely friend Rehana. She just got married a week ago, and I took the photograph I based this little portrait on at her mendhi night. I've given them a custom wedding portrait for their wedding present, and I'm looking forward to drawing or painting the happy couple in a more refined portrait, but for now, I've just done this little piece, purely as relaxation. I had a great time at her Mendhi (and at her wedding), and I like to do little portraits of friends, especially when they help me to remember fun times. 
Rehana was one of my portraiture subjects way back in TEE Art (10 years ago!) so I drew her a lot then. It was lovely to revisit her as a subject. 

It's not ultra-refined, which means it doesn't have as much sparkle as I would like (her entire dress was sparkly beads and sequins) and it's not a 100% perfect likeness, but I had a lot of fun doing it. I've been doing digital linework for weeks and weeks, it was lovely to splash the paint around a bit and not really worry about the results!

Here's the inked version, before I started painting:

I'm not quite sure how long it took. Probably somewhere in the 4-6 hour region, but I wasn't working steadily for a lot of that time. Generally I was watching tv at the same time. It's a fairly quick piece, anyway. 

This is in a small Moleskine watercolour sketchbook, so it's about A5. 
I did the inking with Copic Multiliner pens and most of the painting with Winsor and Newton watercolours, with details added with gouache, a sepia Pigma Micron pen and Copic Opaque White.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Card: Seals and Hummingbirds

Here's a Christmas card design for some family friends. They had a big trip to Canada and Iceland this year, and wanted their cards to reflect that. They provided me with some photos and I worked to their specifications to create this design. It was a bit of a rush, so I only did one design for them this year (we get them printed at Moo, so usually I do two designs (generally different colour-ways) to take advantage of the printfinity option). 

I used the live brushes in Photoshop, which was fun. I don't usually use them, and it was nice to work with something a little looser and less predictable. Here's a detail:

I hadn't painted ice before, so it was a bit of a learning curve, especially as I did the whole card in just over 3 hours, and didn't have time to obsess over the details (that was probably a good thing). It was a lot of fun, and I'm pleased with how it came out, especially the greenish areas near the water!

Here's a look at a printed card:

Adobe Photoshop CC
The pretty font is called Ivory

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas Cards: Snowmen

This year I put together two Christmas Cards for Burswood Health. I've done cards for them in previous years, and this year I used one previous design, and a new one.

Here's the new design. A couple of years ago I was given a cartoon featuring a snowman who needed to visit the chiropractor, and asked to come up with concepts utilising that basic idea for their Christmas cards, but the project was cancelled due to time constraints on the part of the clinic - so when I got a rush order this year I grabbed the concept I liked the best and worked it up into a full illustration. I got the request Friday afternoon, did the illustration over the weekend, and had three cards ready for Monday. The snowmen were very quick to put together, and as I was flat-out that weekend anyway, I was very glad it wasn't a complicated concept!

And here's the second card. This bauble design has been used a couple of times, but updated it to match the clinic's new branding; when I originally designed it the brand colours were maroon and a rich yellow-cream, but they've had everything redesigned and it's now purple and beige, with a new logo. While I was at it, I also updated the colours in another existing design, a parcel, so that there were three cards available for selection, maximising the chance that there would be something there they'd be happy using, since the time constraints didn't really allow for the usual process of concepts and drafts.

As it turned out, they were happy enough with the two above designs to pick them both, and we were able to get them off to the printers in good time! =) I did both of the designs in Adobe Illustrator CC, which was a good thing, as I wasn't at all sure what size they were going with, and vector artwork can be so easily resized, so there were no issues when they eventually chose A5 size. I also like the clean, commercial appearance of vector artwork for jobs like this.

Adobe illustrator CC


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