I am currently reading James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. It’s about growing skills and making changes in life a small step at a time. James Clear doesn’t believe in setting goals as much as building a new identity. James tells about a person who lost weight by thinking “what would healthy people do” every time he had to make a decision about eating, sleeping, and exercising.
Out of a Creative Rut by Asking What Would Illustrators Do
Since last fall, I have been practicing “what would illustrators do.” I have wanted to make art that is less abstract and more joyful and rememorize the things I learned when studying design several years ago.
When building the latest classes Animal Inkdom and Magical Inkdom, I have wanted to include more small projects than before so that you can quickly grab a pen and draw more regularly. James Clear advises building habits by combining them with our current ones. When we do something like having a cup of tea in the evening, we can also grab a pen and doodle a bit. It’s not much, but when it’s repeated regularly, the results will come.
To me, drawing small collage pieces has brought back the joy of drawing. I haven’t always had the time to do a lot, but I have made it a regular practice because “that’s what illustrators do.”
Drawings are Like Pets – Treating Them Gently
I have also developed gentle self-talk by thinking of these animals as my pets. That way, I don’t try to control the outcome too much or negatively judge a single piece. They are my pets, and I love and care about them because “that’s what animal lovers do.”
During the next couple of months, I am doing more “what illustrators do” when I am making images for a book. I will share more pics about this commission later.
Practicing illustration has also brought new perspectives to my fine art projects and what I want to create in general. So, I highly recommend practicing “what illustrators do” – especially if you are in a creative rut or have a too strong inner critic.
This fantasy art piece is a hand-made collage called “Zebra Madonna”. It’s made mostly with Copic markers, some elements have been colored with colored pencils. It’s hand-drawn from start to finish, mostly for my class Animal Inkdom where I show easy ways to draw and color wonderful wildlife animals like flying butterflies and running zebras.
Time Flies When You Are Having Fun
It often happens to me that I am going to draw just something small, but then end up making a bigger project. Jane Austen has a novel called “Sense and Sensibility”, but my inner conversation is not very romantic.
Sensibility says: “I have an idea.” Sense says: “Don’t!” Sensibility says: “I want to do it. Now.” Sense says: “It’s 2 AM, no way! Go to sleep and wait for tomorrow.”
What was I drawing in the middle of the night? A small drawing of a girl with a zebra. The girl is a bit like zebra herself, and the zebra looks almost like a unicorn without a horn.
I started with a black and white drawing, but because coloring is fun too, I couldn’t resist. Time flew, and I was having fun.
For Animal Inkdom, I drew a lot of collage pieces as samples, and then many in the videos. So I have two boxes, big and small, that have all kinds of fantasy creatures. It felt like the zebra of the small drawing started calling his fellows, and these three came out!
Even if my zebra madonna was framed and all, I wanted to make a new image where the other zebras could join her. I cut a big piece of Bristol paper, approximately 14 x 20 inches. This is when I went to sleep! It was apparent that I would need quite a lot of energy to fill it with markers and doodles.
Next morning, I woke up determined to continue the project. I wanted to “paint” with markers – use several layers so that they would blend. I also wanted to draw with a very thin pen, Copic multiliner 0.03, so that most of the background would have subtle patterns. At this point, I wasn’t so sure if these were good ideas. Drawing took a long time, and markers weren’t so quick either.
I was also hesitating to use the zebras. Of all the animals that I had drawn for Animal Inkdom, they were my favorites. I reminded myself that because I had developed an easy way to make them, I could draw more at any time!
Before starting to ill the background, I had marked the places for the elements with a dashed line. Still, there was quite a lot to color. Here you can see how uneven the coloring is when there’s just one thin layer. I needed more layers!
It’s typical that at some point my Sense is starting to say: “This wasn’t a very good idea.” I am at the rock bottom trying to figure out how the project could be finished quickly because it doesn’t seem so fun anymore.
New Inspiration for Fantasy Art
My way to cope with what I call “the ugly phase” is to focus on a small area and start listening to an audiobook or a podcast. I also get inspired by colors, mostly by … black! It makes other colors shine, and my collection of black pens is growing steadily. I find it difficult to express any fantasy without black!
Fantasy art can be just fantasy and play, but I usually have a deeper thought in my mind. Despite the happy colors and fantasy feel, the message that I have in mind often has dark tones. Here zebras symbolize things in our past that have been difficult first, but after accepting them, they have become our strength.
Fantasy Art – Zebra Madonna in Detail
Here’s the finished piece again.
And because it has a lot of details, here are some pictures of them.
The butterflies are also from my class Animal Inkdom. I think they fit perfectly to the color scheme. I also added the third butterfly on the background. It’s just a careless drawing but it adds depth because it looks to be further away than the two colorful collage elements.
Watercolor is a medium where I really want to grow my skills this spring. It’s so versatile and much quicker than oil painting, for example. It can be easily combined with drawings and and … Well, I think if you follow this blog, you also love watercolors! Here’s some watercolor inspiration!
1) Watercolor Bookmarks – A Small and Fun Project
Who wouldn’t like to get a hand-painted bookmark? Watch the video with practical tips for watercolor painting!
2) Illustration in Watercolor – Use a Drawing as a Starting Point
If you like to draw, pick one of your sketches and use that as a starting point. My drawing from last Inktober is very detailed, but I enjoyed painting it!
Here’s my setting. I kept the sketch visible most of the time but allowed my painting to evolve too. I didn’t use any pencil to copy the drawing, I just started painting with pale colors and made adjustments layer by layer.
Here’s the finished painting. When I drew the sketch, I wanted the person to look like she’s contemplating, and wasn’t quite happy with the face. But here, I was more successful the facial features. Colors also add to the expression.
What I really liked in this project, was the lack of too many decisions at the same time. When I followed the composition and the elements of the drawing, I was able to focus more on the atmosphere.
3) Watercolor Sceneries – Play with the Level of Abstraction
Mastering watercolors is impossible without making most of the happy accidents and allowing abstract elements build the image. Try how abstract you can and want to go!
These images are from my class Watercolor Journey. The first landscape is quite realistic and representational. It’s easy to see that there are trees and the sun.
Here’s a more abstract version of the same project. Trees are not so clear anymore and the sun is more vague too, but on the other hand, it’s not as static as the previous one.
Which of the two do you like more? How far do you want to go in your paintings?
4) Intuitive Painting – Loosen Up by Starting with Three Photos
If you like to solve mysteries, here’s a project for you! Pick three photos and use one for each of the three first layers. Watch the video for more detailed tips and instructions!
I definitely did not see that there would be a fish in my piece when I started!
With watercolors, the art of seeing can be sometimes more important as the art of painting!
5) Watercolor Collage – Join my Class Animal Inkdom!
I have also used watercolors several times in my class Animal Inkdom. In Module 3 where we explore the underwater world, watercolors are a natural choice. For example, in this collage project watercolors have a central role. You will learn ways to draw fun and unique sea life animals, and make a playful underwater scene.
Come to draw and paint with us in Animal Inkdom! You will get the published lessons (including Module 3) immediately after the registration, and you can start drawing and painting right away. Sign up for Animal Inkdom here!
Last week, I published a video about drawing a paper doll. Now when you have the dolls, what’s next? Let’s take them to an art gallery, and show them all the other art that you have created! Follow me step by step to create a fun paper collage!
1) Draw Lines to Define the Space
Take a ruler and divide the paper so that it has two walls and the floor.
Start with the horizontal line and make sure that there’s enough room for the dolls to wander around the space. Then draw a vertical line approximately one third from the edge, and finally a diagonal that completes the side wall.
2) Paint The Floor and The Walls
I used watercolors to paint the background, but you can use any medium. Because you will add art on the walls and carpets on the floor, the interior can look quite plain at this point. Empty galleries usually are pretty sad-looking but that’s going to change in the next step!
To make the gallery look more 3-dimensional, I used cooler colors on the back wall.
3) Decorate by Making a Paper Collage
Now the fun can begin. Turn your painting into a paper collage! Start by picking collage pieces to decorate the gallery. Hang art on the walls and make carpets on the floor. Go to your box of hand-decorated papers and use those! If you don’t have any, you can print some or cut images from magazines. But I think this project is the best if you can hang your art on the walls, and be the star of the gallery!
I also have a class called Collageland where I show how to make and use hand-decorated papers.
The back wall is the easiest to decorate because the papers can be rectangular there. But when cutting the pieces for the side wall, and the floor, make them inclined so that they follow the perspective.
To Glue or not to Glue?
I glued all the decorations with gel medium. If you make a pile of paintings and carpets, maybe some other furniture too, you may not want to attach them permanently so that you can change them. I didn’t glue my dolls in Step 5, but you can glue everything to complete the image.
4) Add Details with Pens
You can add fringes on the carpets, shadows near the paintings and panels, and adjust colors.
I use a black thin-tipped drawing pen (Copic Multiliner) and colored pencils in this step.
Here’s how my gallery looks when it’s finished. Because I love to take a step away from reality, I made a magic mirror on the wall. I made this paper collage on one of my A3-sized sketchbooks that has watercolor paper.
5) Let the Dolls in and Play!
Now invite the dolls to the opening! My dolls got so excited that the magic mirror became activated. It opened a door for the whole wild world!
And after the opening was over, a couple of the guests decided to take an adventure through the mirror with zebras!
Drawing and Playing in Animal Inkdom
Take the paper doll with you, and come to draw and decorate animals with us in Animal Inkdom! You will get the published lessons immediately after the registration, and you can start drawing right away. Sign up for Animal Inkdom here!