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.

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. 

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.

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.

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

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. 

Flaming Hearts

The Sacred heart is a symbol of devotion in Roman Catholic religion, representing the divine love of Jesus for mankind. It symbology is very popular in Mexico.  Artisans craft ornate trinkets from wood and metal, decorating them in colourful folk art and religious iconography. 

Inspired by their bright and bold colours, my interpretation of these delightful little treasures is a reminder to always follow my own heart. 

Floral Fever

Watercolours…forgive me, it’s been 3 weeks since my last session. Actually finding the time to execute a daily art practice of traditional mediums is not as simple as I first imagined. Partly because once I start, I don’t want to stop. 

Yesterday’s intention of painting for only one hour, quickly morphed into the whole day. Chores were neglected, work postponed and the world outside my studio was completely disregarded.

Inspired by a friend’s beautiful country garden, which I visited at the weekend for an engagement celebration, I thought I would try florals. Not a subject I would usually choose, in fact I have kind of avoided drawing flowers. Not entirely sure why, considering how much pleasure I derived from yesterday’s undertakings. 

I will have to suffer the consequences of such self indulgence today of corse, but it was worth it. I feel strangely refreshed and energised, ready for whatever the day entails. 

Lets Dress Up

Taking my cat illustrations a step further, I though it would be fun to dress them up and accessorise them depending on their behaviour.  

Hapless Harry spends hours sitting by the pond in his owners garden, just staring at the fish. His little head bobs round and round as he watches them circling the small raised water feature. Quite happy just observing, never attempting to snag its occupants.

Hapless Harry

Irritable Issac’s owner is a French Canadian musician, who enjoys a daily bike ride. He waves goodbye to the bad tempered cat as he cycles off down the street each morning. I often wonder if it is his absence that makes Issac so moody, or does the cat just long for a ride in the basket of his owners vintage bike. 

Irritable Issac

Pretty Pepper adores lying on the warm bonnets of recently run neighbourhood cars. Favouring those that have been freshly parked, leisurely swapping from one to the next, up and down the road all day. 

Pretty Pepper

Audacious Audrey spends all day following the sun around my garden. And she doesn’t even live here.

Audacious Audrey 

Neighbourhood Cats

I have been off the creative grid for a couple of weeks whilst my French cousin has been in the UK. We have had a lovely time visiting local landmarks and attractions and spending time with family. 

Feeling rather uninspired I decided to take a Skillshare class. Most of my spare time has been spent playing around with watercolours lately and I wanted to try something new digitally.  

Illustration in Photoshop: ‘Professional work from your sketches’, by licensed artist and illustrator Anne Bollman was my lesson of choice. Ann asks the class to draw their pet using various photoshop practises.

Until this class I have been using the photoshop pen tool to redraw the solid shapes in my illustrations, following the lines of my scanned sketches as a guide. However I have always been a little unsatisfied with the results. Preferring a more hand drawn look instead, but unable to recreate it. 

Ann demonstrates a technique of drawing shapes with a brush tool, then selecting outside your line with the magic wand, inverting the selection and then adding a solid colour fill. Producing a hand drawn shape. And the results feel much more like how one would draw on paper. 

My cat Boo

One evening last winter there was a terrible storm. Hail and sleet battered the window frames and howling winds tore down the garden fence. My son and I were curled up on the sofa under thick blankets watching a movie, when we heard a meow at the front door. Our cat Bruce had gone missing 3 years previous and for a split second, we both thought he was back. 

What met us at the door was actually a sopping wet, bedraggled black and white kitty. And she has been here ever since. Her name is Boo, on account of her surprise arrival. 

Having enjoyed using this new approach so much I couldn’t stop at just one moggy. So I would like to introduce you to my neighbourhood cats. Over the years we have given them all nick names, depicting their individual character traits. 

Purple Passion

The next logical step in my watercolour analysis was to mix red with blue. Starting with crimson red.

Now…. I of course knew mixing red with blue produced purple, but I was surprised at how many different tints and shades were possible. I started to see the colour in a whole new light. 

Although purple has regal and spiritual connotations in our society and its history, it is a colour I have always associated with old age. Growing up in the 70s and 80s, purple rinse hair was popular with the older generation. Hospitals, doctors surgeries and care homes were painted lilac. And lavender scented products were a favourite gift to grandparents. 

The almost fossilised purple and white VW camper van that sat in the drive of my fathers house didn’t do much to elevate my impressions of this interesting hue either. That ridiculously old vehicle broke down more than it ran and didn’t go above 50 miles an hour. 

Today I am seeing purple as if for the first time, with a fresh new perspective. 

Crimson and ultramarine blue
Crimson red and phthalo blue
Crimson red and french ultramarine blue
Crimson red and cerulean blue

Put on Red Shoes and Dance the Blues

The colour red has quite a history, dating as far back as neolithic times. The prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux, southwestern France, are full of it. The Aztec’s of Mexico were the first to produce vibrant red fabric dye. The Romans associated it with courage and adorned their gladiators in it. Charles the Great, the medieval emperor of Western Europe in the Middle Ages, painted his palace red as a visible symbol of his authority. And ancient Chinese philosophers believed it could elevate confidence, vivacity and luck. 

I wanted to compare the three watercolour reds I have. First up was vermilion red.

Vermilion red
Crimson red
Brilliant red

Mix and Match

My foliage paint colour journey continues with an exploration of phthalo blue mixed with yellow ochre.

I am finding this new path of investigation rather soothing and could quite happily play all evening. Often getting lost in the gentle swish of the brush and tranquil swirl of the water, forgetting the concept of time completely. Before I know it, the clock has struck twelve and I’m about to risk looking like a middle aged, over ripe pumpkin tomorrow. Time for bed! 

Phthalo Blue + Yellow Ochre

Lemon yellow and phthalo blue this time. I tried a different brush, thicker more rounded than the fine tipped water brush I’ve been using. Not sure I like it.

Phthalo blue + Lemon Yellow

And to finish a mix of medium yellow and phthalo blue. I used some metallic watercolour brush pens to add the detail. A recent gift from my sons. If only the tip were a little finer. 

Phthalo Blue + Medium Yellow

Seeing them side by side, my minds eye is already using the different shades for future illustrations.