Animal Character Illustration

Another challenge set by Lisa Bardot’s Character camp was to create unique animal characters.

Here a few that I came up with.

Mr Bear was always a complete gentleman.
Meet Captain Douglas, a most courageous spitfire flying duck.
Mr and Mr Mouse were this years pearly king and queen of the gutter.

Character Camp Illustrations

One of the great things about sharing and learning with other creatives in online communities is you discover new stuff. Whilst taking a SkillShare class I encountered Bardot Brushes. Beautifully designed Procreate brushes, very reasonably priced, created by illustrator Lisa Bardot.

https://bardotbrush.com/

Along with a great selection of brushes Lisa’s site has some amazing resources, including tutorials, prompts and motivational information to encourage daily art-making practices.

Whilst I already draw every day, I’m often in a quandary about what to create and sometimes struggle with using my imagination. So Lisa’s kind of encouragement and inspiration is just what I could do with now and then.

Character Camp is a selection of illustration classes on creating unique characters. I decided to follow along and create my own character.

Max is an 11 year old skater boy who loves rock music and card tricks.

Before creating the character Lisa’s process begins with drawing the character’s clothing and accessories. This is a brilliant technique, it really helped me form a solid visual look and identify his personality traits. And is a great reference when you go on to draw your character in different scenes.

The camp class then challenged you to stage your character with different emotional expressions.

Scared
Angry
Sad

I learnt loads of new tips and tricks following along with all the Character Camp tutorials and would highly recommend them to anyone who wants to improve their illustrated characters.

Shelter Dogs Prints

I am a patron of an animal rescue centre based on the Greek island of Crete. Takis Shelter was founded 4 years ago by a local DJ Theoklitos Proestakis. Using his own funds he created a safe refuge for stray and abandoned animals.

The work he and his volunteers do is truly amazing. I was inspired to offer more help than just my monthly donation, so asked if they’d like any artwork created free of charge.

They have been considering selling merchandise to generate more income. Taking care of nearly 200 animals is very costly. Without patron donations they would struggle to stay open.

Here are a couple of designs I’ve created.

My Nuts…!

I’m still getting to grips with Procreate, so when ever I’m not doing client work I try and learn something new by taking part in Skillshare classes.

The latest was ‘Illustrating in Procreate: Draw a fox!’ by Mel Armstrong.

Mel walks the viewer through her digital painting process for creating a stylised fox character in Procreate.

Having recently drawn some foxes for another project I improvised on the subject matter. I like to regularly walk around the local in-a-city nature reserve and last autumn stopped to watch a pair of squabbling squirrels. They seemed to be arguing over a pile of fallen acorns. The comical exchange had me giggling to myself most of the day. And was the inspiration behind this cheeky little character.

I’m new to using so much texture so this class took me somewhat out of my comfort zone. However, it was enormous fun experimenting with the different brushes and I learned some great new tips and tricks for using the program too. All in all a fab class and a lovely introduction to using texture. 

Dressing-Up

I really enjoy drawing characters and wanted to have a go using Procreate. Inspired by cool fancy dress outfits I sketched out my idea first.

Then outlined it, making sure each line was connected to the last so I could use the fill-colour feature in Procreate.

Here is the final piece. I use flat blocks of colour inside the line work and added shaded detail on a new layer at the end. Finishing it off with a contrasting background to really make them pop.

Portrait Illustration

In an attempt to learn Procreate I’ve been taking a few SkillShare classes. As a visual thinker I find watching another artist’s process more informative than just a how-to-use guide.

‘Illustrating Expressive Portraits in Procreate’ by Maia Faddoul

The class project asks you to chose someone you find inspiring to paint a digital portrait of.

Vivienne Westwood is someone I’ve always admired. Not only for her amazing fashion designs but her risk-taking. She is not afraid to say what she thinks or use her position to speak out against injustice. 

Her style is so bold and expressive. Very daring and avant-garde, with appreciative nods to historical fashion that I find fascinating.

The first task was to create an inspirational mood board.

And then sketch out our portrait to be used later as a guide for painting.

This is my final piece. I used the Procreate calligraphy chalk brush in varying sizes to paint. Inspired by Westwood’s use of bold shape and line, I went for a funky asymmetric background in a dark colour to create a bold contrast to her bright orange hair.

Stylised Animals

I wanted to try drawing animals in a more stylised way. I have a tendency to draw as I see, yet a desire to create something more relaxed and abstract.

My first choice of animal was a Fox. A little while ago I rescued one that had been hit by a car. It was wandering aimlessly in and out of the traffic and I was worried it would either get hit again or cause an accident. Placing him in the passenger seat of my car wrapped in my sweatshirt I drove him back to my home. Where the RSPCA collected him and he thankfully made a full recovery. I’m presuming it was a male fox of course. I didn’t get that up close and personal with it. 

I started with some sketchbook drawings. Using different photo references I drew several poses. Simplifying the fox anatomy into basic shapes, then creating a silhouette outline of its main characteristics. Then I used photoshop to digitally paint each one, arranging them into a repeat pattern using the Textile Designer feature.

I was pleased with the results and had a go at a few more woodland animals.

#ourplanetweek

Our Planet Week was created by a group of amazing artists on Instagram to help raise awareness for our world’s ecological crisis.

Prompt 1: Flora and Fauna

If we carry on the way we are….. exhibits will be all we have left.

I chose to characterise the flora and fauna of the Mediterranean in this illustration, having spent many happy times there.

The bell jar represents not only the potential future of our wildlife, but the frailty of its existence beneath the strain we thoughtlessly bestow upon it.

The number twelve symbolises zero hour on the doomsday clock. We are currently on a second away.

#letsmakeartforfun

I enjoyed the Instagram folktale week so much I thought I’d join another illustration challenge. Visual storytelling has really captured my imagination.

‘Lets make art for fun’ was set by children’s book illustrator Claire Powell. One wacky prompt each Friday in January.

Cattywampus – 19th Century slang for an imaginary fierce wild animal.

I pictured victorian children running away for a terrifying hairy beast.

Bumbershoot – 1920’s word for an umbrella.

I imagined a stylish 20’s socialite taking her fashionable Boston Terrier out for a nighttime tinkle on the sidewalk.

Lollygagger – An 1860’s Americanism for spending time idly.

I imagined Victorian sisters leisurely chatting in the drawing room.

Folktale Week

Folktale Week is an Instagram illustration challenge, created by a group of renowned professional illustrators to encourage artists from all around the world to share stories and explore visual storytelling. There is a prompt each day for a week, to interpret however you wish. 

The prompts were issued a week prior to the challenge start. However, Last-Minute-Lucy here only decided to join on the first share-on-Instagram day. So no time to prep. 

Prompt – Home

Not wanting to waste time trying to figure out a concept (it was already midday on the first day of the challenge), I started with an interpretation of a traditional folktale. Little Red Riding Hood.

Prompt – Secret

For this prompt I decided to illustrate a scene from one of my favourite books as a child. ‘Knock Three Times’ by Marion St John Webb. The story’s main characters follow a magical pumpkin pincushion through a door in an ancient oak tree to a secret land.

Prompt – Path

A recurring childhood dream of being trapped in a tall tower inspired this artwork. I thought it was time to change the image in my mind’s eye to something less ominous.

Prompt – Darkness

For this piece I wanted to create a contrast between the calm fisherman and the rough sea. The quote is a line from the book ‘Moby Dick’ by Herman Melville.

Prompt – Smoke

I enjoy reading and adore quotes. Which is were I took my motivation for this creation. In particular, a couple of quotes by Australian author Nikki Rowe. ‘There’s only one place I want to go and it’s all the places I’ve never been’. And ‘She was born to be free, let her run wild in her own way and you will never lose her’.

Prompt: Key

I took a slightly different approach to this prompt, not so literal. And thought about the word ‘key’ in terms of the key to our planet’s future. Motivated by the young people who have join the global environmental movement Extinction Rebellion. Our future belongs to the curious!

Prompt – Crown

Bohemian snow queen was the inspiration for this winter scene. I imaged all the forest animals awaiting her arrival.

Still Playing with Dolls

The eclectic display of nicknacks that adorns my mother’s home are a never ending source of art inspiration. A striking variety of objet d’art from around the world, that helped implant the seed of curiosity deep within me from an early age. I would often wonder in delight at where and who they were from, imagining myself collecting such treasures when I was older. 

The little wooden Kokeshi doll, that sits on the windowsill, caught my eye recently. A beautifully handmade gift from a Japanese cousin my mother has had since the seventies. 

These traditional Japanese dolls date back as far as the 19th century. Made from the seasoned wood of the Mizuki tree. Crafted with a carpenter’s plane, on a potter’s wheel, then delicately hand painted and dipped in wax for a high sheen finish.

I thought their simple yet bold colours and shapes would make some nice wall art.

I’ve been playing around with Photoshop’s beta version of Textile designer. Creating repeats is now so much easier. No more placement calculations or starting a design from the corners. The instant previewer means you can see the repeat in real time, at any scale. I’m totally hooked and can’t resist trying everything in pattern form.

Words and Pictures

I took a painting Skillshare class over the weekend. Needed a break from the screen. – Illustrated Words & Monograms: Paint and Print Techniques (for Wall Art and Greetings Cards), by Illustrator Claire Picard.

Using a variety of methods, the brief was to illustrate words and letters with paint and liquid mask practises.

In the first task I used liquid mask to block out the word “j’adore”, then painted a mixed watercolour wash over the top. Adding hand painted hearts once the wash was dry. Finishing off with a small splatter of paint made with a toothbrush.

Filling the page with colour was a lot of fun. Although I did struggle with what to layer on top of the background and didn’t really take any risks. On my next attempt, I will experiment more. I lack somewhat in confidence when it comes to watercolour washes and was so pleased with how this turned out, I didn’t want to ruin it by overpainting.

I need to get over my fear of florals, so decided to use this assignment as practice. I resisted the temptation to view flower photo references and started by just painting flower shapes. Then I added detail with a black Micron fine liner.  

I wasn’t as happy with the results of this piece. I didn’t spend enough time thinking about what flower shapes would work well inside the letters or how they should be placed. It is very rudimental, to say the least. I will try again with just one big letter. Think I tried to run before I could walk with painting a whole word. The curse of being dyslexic…. my brain runs away with an idea that my physical self has no experience with and can’t keep up. 

Feel the fear and do it anyway….. Is how I felt doing this class project. Abstract, although a style I like, is something I’ve never tried before and I usually avoid florals. Especially loose expressive designs. I’ve kept my distance from such designs on account of not knowing where to start.

Claire’s class was the perfect introduction. And although my results are a little haphazard and very rough, (don’t think I’ve ever drawn so many flowers on one page), I’m totally inspired.

Portfolio Club

Illustration Prompt – Folk Costumes

This month’s Portfolio Club prompt has had me fondly walking down memory lane. Handmade folk costumes were a speciality of my French grandmother. Creating outfits for local folk groups was a favourite pastime of hers. And she enjoyed dressing me up in her creations. 

When I was young my grandparents lived in the mountain village of Pierre-Châtel. Five minutes walk from their farmhouse was the most beautiful blue lake. My brother and I would spend hours playing in the cool water during the long school summer holidays. As our mother was a teacher, we were fortunate enough to visit every year. 

Today when I hear the sound of crickets singing, I am momentarily transported back to that lakeside. I distinctly remember the fresh sensation of the cold mountain water on my sundrenched skin as I swam. And the tickle of warmth from the long grass on my back as I lay in the sunshine drying off. I can even recall the dappled light from the tree lined walk down to the waters edge. And how we would skip with glee along that dusty road towards our treasured destination. Such happy days, I have been very privileged. A big thank you to my mother, who made our childhood endlessly adventurous by preserving her French roots.

I used these photos, that were taken in 1977, as inspiration for my illustration. I had a friend who’s grandparents lived opposite mine and we often dressed up in my nana’s homemade costumes.

Video Killed the Radio Star

The one thing I do every single day is listen to music. It brings me so much joy. Tapping my foot, singing or dancing along elevates my disposition instantly. It also helps my concentration and keeps me in the moment. Often inspiring the recall of a fond memory or pleasant moment in time, and particular melodies remind me of people I’ve met or cared for. I couldn’t live without it, I am a massive music fan. 

The radio has played a huge part in my musical history and was the inspiration behind this print design. As a teenager I would listen enthusiastically to the chart show every Sunday for two hours. Shutting myself alone in the bedroom recording my favourites on cassette tape, which I would then play over and over again, until the following Sunday. It used to drive my little brother crazy. He was a jazz fan and detested popular music. 

Today I have more of a penchant for variety and my musical tastes venture way beyond chart hits, but the radio is still the perfect receptacle for discovering new music. And a great source of recollection. If only I could remember all the names of all the songs I’ve ever heard. 

Accompanying repeat surface pattern

Moth Balls

Last week autumn was on its way, this week the sunshine is back. Wanting something cooler to wear I reached for an old favourite from the back of my wardrobe. A lightweight cotton dress that is comfy to wear and easy to style up with accessories. To my horror it was full of tiny moth holes. 

This illustrated print design and accompanying repeat pattern was inspired by my discovery. Whilst researching a natural moth repellent online, I got distracted by the pretty moth pictures. Totally seduced by their phenomenal beauty, I just had to draw them.   

Using a fine black liner I drew the moths on paper first. Then working with Illustrator’s ‘image trace’ tool, I created vectors from the scanned-in drawings. And finally I added colour using the ‘live paint’ tool.

Moth half drop repeat pattern

Easy-Peasy Mac and Cheesy

macaroni cheese step by step illustrated recipe

As the nights draw in and the temperature drops I yearn for warm hearty filling food. Gone are the salad leaves, new potatoes and couscous. Making way for pasta, rice, mash and pastry. My tiny, dark galley kitchen seems to shrink in the autumn and winter months. So one or two pot meals that can be prepared and then left to cook, unwatched and unattended are favourable. Here is one of the Adams family classics. 

I have submitted this illustrated recipe to theydrawandcook.com, a site where creative people share their love of food and art through illustration.

Mushroom Magic

There are over 140,000 species of mushrooms in the world. 50,000 of them are edible, 2% of them are deadly poisonous. Unlike plants they don’t need sunlight to grow. Around 30 species actually glow in the dark. You can eat them, treat illnesses with them and even dye fabric with them.

A wondrous gift from nature that everybody can enjoy….apart from me, as I have a fungi allergy. Penicillin is out of bounds too. When I mention it, people tend to snigger in disbelief. Many of them my own friends. 

No more so, than on a weekend girls trip a few years back. We were camping by the coast, celebrating the impending nuptials of a group member, in a popular site not too far from our home town in Essex. 

I am not the biggest fan of camping. It is great in warmer climates. However, in the UK it get so cold at night you are forced to wear a hundred and one layers. Then the morning sun rises and you are so hot you are literally….‘Boil-in-a-bag’. 

Putting my adversity aside, I revelled with my fellow hens until the early hours on the first night. Serving tequila cocktails like a Mexican flare bartender, dancing round the fire pit like a tribal warrior and skinny dipping like an excitable teen. 

Unfortunately the second night was not as much fun. I was inadvertently poisoned by a Quorn burger. The camp BBQ chef had used the same grill area to cook both the meat and veggie supper. 

Not wanting to spoil the proceedings, I played down the uncontrollable vomiting and sky high temperature. Presuming the symptoms would not worsen as it was only transference and not consumption, I took myself off to bed. Ice pack and sick bucket in hand. 

Later that night as the whole campsite slept, I struggled to keep cool. In an attempt to reduce my temperature and avoid the risk of fitting, I resorted to leaving the tent. Big mistake, especially considering I was wearing only my briefs. Everything else had ben stripped earlier in a desperate bid to cool down. 

Just as I inhaled my first deep breath of crisp fresh night air, legs astride and arms outstretched, campsite security flood lit our area with their van headlamps. 

‘Night time patrols?’ I heard one chuckle to the other. ‘More like…Right time patrols’

I felt like an extra from ‘Carry on Camping’ . Not my finest moment. 

Although I can not medicate with or eat mushrooms, I can enjoy drawing them. They make a great subject, so many individual shapes, colours and markings. I found it difficult to stop. 

Mushroom Magic repeat pattern
Mushroom Magic mini collection

Beatle Mania

Beetle Mania surface print

This design was inspired by a movie my twins and I recently watched. The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise. We had enjoyed the originals together when they were kids and recalled the scarab beetles. 

Watching films together was a past time we favoured most weekends when they were children. Friday nights in particular we would have dinner on our laps in front of a movie of their choice. We visited the local DVD hire shop so regularly they knew our first names. 

It was a great way to connect with one another and encourage conversation. And meant I could sensor what they watched. Sanctioning age appropriate genre when they were young and introducing cult classics and my own favourites as they grew.

Today we still share a love of movies. 

Beetle Races hero repeat surface pattern
Dance the Beetle support repeat surface pattern
Beetle Mania mini collection

International Cat Day

If I was an animal I would be a cat. Fierce independence and zealous curiosity are traits we share. Along with playfulness and spontaneity. And although dominance and laziness (particularly when it comes to house work) are feline attributes I would rather not identify with, I regrettably do. Just wish I had the same freedom. 

Challenging myself to draw using only the blob brush tool, Illustrator was my design weapon of choice for this artwork. 

Portfolio Club

I have joined a low commitment illustration challenge group on Instagram called #PortfolioClub. On the first day of each month an assignment is posted and participants have till the end of the month to share their work using the hashtag.

Illustration Prompt – Circus 

It has been inspiring seeing all the different interpretations pop up each day on my instagram feed. 

Well… the days I have had an internet connection that is. This past month has been plagued with provider problems. No service, intermittent service and bad customer service, to mention but a few. Client work didn’t escape harm’s way either, with one of the sites I edit suffering severe technical problems. Resulting in a months worth of work having to be redone. 

All the tech dramas led to absentmindedly forgetting I had actually joined the illustration challenge. It wasn’t until the 31st, as I scrolled through my Instagram feed admiring the circus themed images, that I remembered I was supposed to be taking part. 

I knew I didn’t have enough time to create a circus scene, so took a different approach. Using the prompt as a loose theme instead of a literal one, I created some poster artwork. Sketching out my concept on paper first, then rendering it in Photoshop.