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.


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