Friday, 28 November 2014

learn: Watercolour in-process, with Nicky Johnston

I am often asked to explain the steps I take to get from an initial idea to the final completion of an illustration. So, I decided to take progress photos from my most recent illustration, Week 45: LEAVES.

STEP 1 - Idea
A lot of my ideas begin on scraps of paper, backs of envelopes or sticky notes.

STEP 1 - A very quick initial sketch

 STEP 2 - Refining the sketch

I like to refine my sketches in my sketchbook so I always have them for any future reference. When I visit schools, I also like to show children my rough sketches, to demonstrate that not everything I do is a work of art!

Here is the refined sketch of the bear in the leaves.

STEP 2 - Refining my sketch
STEP 3 - Masking Fluid
STEP 3 - Masking Fluid. I have tried many brands, and this is the only one I use.
I lightly traced my final sketch onto water colour paper (300gsm). I wanted to have a brightly coloured  background for this piece, so I decided to use Masking Fluid to make the painting process of the background quicker.

Masking fluid is prone to wrecking your brushes so for this reason I have an old brush that I always use. Thanks to some helpful advice from members of the Challenge, I now lather soap into the brush before using the masking fluid which helps protect the bristles and makes it easier to wash out when finished.

Masking fluid creates a barrier over areas on the paper that you DON'T want watercolour paint to touch. I applied Masking Fluid to the areas I wanted to keep clear of the background colour.

STEP 3 - Masking Fluid
STEP 4 - Background

Once the masking fluid was completely dry, I mixed my background colours. I mixed two tones of blue/green making sure I made enough paint to cover the large area.

This is the part where I work the quickest, adding water to the brush to create lighter/darker areas. Because I only used masking fluid around the edge of the bear, I had to pay attention to where my brush went, making sure I didnt paint anywhere except on the background area.

STEP 4 - Background.
Once the background was completely dry, I lifted the masking fluid from the paper*.

*With dried masking fluid that peels off, I roll it into a ball and keep it. I use this to help lift the dried Masking Fluid from paper. It sticks to it and helps roll it off reducing the chance of ripping the paper.

STEP 5 - Bear

STEP 5 - Bear
Once the masking fluid was removed, I began painting in the bear. I mixed a couple of shades of brown, using additional water to thin out the colour while painting (making it lighter).

STEP 6 - Leaves

STEP 6 - Leaves
Again, with a range of orange/brown tones, I painted the blank area with leaves.

STEP 7 - Pencil Outline

STEP 7 - Pencil Outline of leaves
To outline the leaves I used a chocolate brown pencil.

STEP 8 - Pencil outline of bear

STEP 8 -  Pencil outline of bear
To finish the illustration I used a sharp black pencil to outline the bear, giving him a fun, playful expression.

To see more of Nicky's work:


Author/Illustrator Facebook Page

Happy Hero Facebook Page

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

leonie's picks - week 47: NEW YORK

I’m definitely in a New York state of mind after viewing all the amazing artwork on the Challenge wall this week. This is quite ironic as I actually don’t like New York. Yes, I can hear all the horrified gasps! I've visited New York, but it didn't ring my bells, unlike the all inspiring, mind blowing contributions from our members for this week's New York theme!

So with my new mindset, it was fun to choose the picks from all the iconic illustrations. I personally rose to the challenge of drawing something from a city I didn't love and I created one piece of work, which for once, I was 100% happy with (this doesn't happen often for me). I hope you forgive me, but I included it as well as a tribute to my different view of New York inspired by your artwork. Thank you all for changing my mind!

So … start spreading the news, I could easily be leaving today, I want to be part of it … I give you New York, New York!

- Leonie

Diane McWhirter

Anne L-y So
Akemi Ito
Clare Johnson
Damien Thomasz

Detta Teerink

Gwynne McGinley

Hayley Atkinson

Lynn Tait - Jack (4)

Janet Murphy

Jess Racklyeft

Kerry Daley

Kylie Box

Lisa-Marie Kerr

Liz Anelli

Margaret Dewar

Melissa Tan

Michele Kempees-Lewis

Natalie Daniel

Nicky Johnston

Penny Fisher

Rebecca Webb

Sally Fawcett

Skye Roberston

Sonya Oyston

Sophie Pittaway

Steve Spargo

Tania McCartney

Tiffany Treganza

Vanessa Pritchard
Leonie Cheetham

Monday, 24 November 2014

testimonials #1 - how the Challenge has impacted my life

Having already received many private messages from people sharing their gratitude for this fabulous community, when I asked the members how the Challenge had impacted their lives, I knew I would receive a few emails with some kind words.

What I didn't anticipate was the emotional outpouring of deep life-changing moments that people have all experienced in one way or another.

To give these heartfelt, honest and beautiful words justice, I decided to create 'image quotes' using illustrations created throughout the year. I think they demonstrate the pure joy experienced by those who have enjoyed the weekly challenges.

I want to say a  personal 'THANK YOU' to the Challenge Founder, Tania McCartney, who has taken the initiative to commit to producing artwork on a weekly basis that in turn has created this wonderful, supportive and talented community.

Due to the overwhelming response, we will publish these image quotes each week until the end of the year.

x Nicky