Monday, 6 November 2017

Meet Janine Millington — Special Guest

Janine Millington


Hi everyone, I’m Janine Millington. I’m an artist, illustrator and graphic designer from Canterbury, New Zealand. I’ve recently joined the 52-Week Illustration Challenge, and I’m really looking forward to being part of this lovely on-line community.


I’ve always loved to draw. As a kid, I would draw in my room for hours — portraits, scenery, still lifes, anything would do. Even when my parents sent me to my room for punishment, I would end up sitting on my bed, drawing pictures quite happily. My brother used to get me to draw caricatures of the teachers at our school and made money selling them to his friends!

I decided I wanted to be a graphic designer and also illustrate children’s books when I grew up. I planned to study full-time and get an art degree to pursue my dreams. But teenage years are tricky for some, and I became a young mum, which meant my plans were challenged. I studied foundation art, which gave me a good, broad understanding and range of skills, but with a daughter who needed to spend a good deal of time in hospital, I found full-time study difficult. Nevertheless, I managed to study enough to become a graphic designer and began to fulfil the goals I’d set for myself.

One thing that surprised me about graphic design was how little drawing was involved in any of the work I was doing. All of a sudden, 10 years had passed and I had barely picked up a pencil to draw anything. Meanwhile, I had gotten married, had three more children, moved out of the city and started renovating an old hall as a home, and suddenly I started wondering what happened to my goal of becoming a children’s book illustrator. But I was so busy — kids, work, renovations — it was overwhelming. So I decided to set myself a challenge. I would draw a little each week. Baby steps.

This was my first drawing in 10 years.

From there, I learned and researched as much as possible about illustrating books, and I started to build a portfolio. I found that I still loved drawing mostly and never got around to painting much, largely because my 3 younger kids were still very small, and I was never able to have a decent break or space away where I could have my work safely kept away from their little hands.

I spent so much time on my drawings that I never wanted to re-create what I’d already drawn in a painting. I wished that I could just colour in my actual drawings! And then it dawned on me — I could use the programmes and equipment that I used as a designer to do this, effectively combining my skills.

I started scanning my drawings and using Photoshop to paint the colour using my Wacom tablet — very much like real painting — and I could keep my work safe from the kids! My goal was to have my portfolio ready to send away to publishers when my youngest child started school. So that's what I did.


A few months later, I received a manuscript from Scholastic and began to illustrate my very first book — A Mother’s Day Dilemma, written by Juliette MacIver. Since then, I’ve licensed my art to appear on re-usable coffee cups (CUPPACOFFEECUP brand), which are sold in stores across NZ; I’ve been featured in the New Zealand Artist Magazine demonstrating my style of illustration; I’ve been shortlisted as a finalist for the Zonta Canterbury Female Artist of the Year; I was a finalist in the Bolt of Cloth 2017 Textile Awards; and my work is currently in the Wacom Australia & New Zealand The Next Level exhibition in Auckland, Sydney, and Melbourne.

As well as selling my art prints, limited edition prints and gift cards in stores and online, and taking commission work, I also run a community art group once a week, which I love. I’m still a work in progress, and I am constantly frustrated that I don’t have more time or energy to do the things I want to do, but I know that if I keep trying, and taking baby steps towards my goals, I’ll get there.

A Mother’s Day Dilemma, Juliette MacIver and Janine Millington,
Scholastic NZ 2017

From A Mother’s Day Dilemma, Juliette MacIver and Janine Millington, Scholastic NZ 2017

From A Mother’s Day Dilemma, Juliette MacIver and Janine Millington, Scholastic NZ 2017


Although I am constantly changing and growing in my style and the techniques I use, this is generally the process I go through to create my art.

Step One: Subject matter

I often work from a combination of photographs and my imagination. I try to use a whole lot of images so the picture is more unique. My family and friends have been great for resource photos, too.  If I am unsure about a composition, I will mock up an image in Photoshop — this was helpful with illustrating my book. I’ve just started sketching straight onto my Wacom tablet, rather than onto paper, which is a lot faster.

Step 1: work in progress

Step Two: Drawing

I begin drawing in pen or pencil, using as much detail as possible. If I’m using pencil, I tend to draw lightly, working in layers of shading from light to dark, starting with 2H pencil and ranging to about a 4B pencil for the darkest areas. Although technology is amazing and I love working on the computer or my Wacom tablet, I still don’t think you can beat the feeling of drawing straight onto paper. 

Step 2: work in progress

Step Three: Scanning

I scan my artwork using the highest resolution setting then change it later so the file isn’t so large. I’m not sure if this is the most practical way of doing things, but sometimes I don’t know if I’ll want to blow the final image up really large, so I make it big just in case. 

Step 4: Painting in Photoshop 

I create a Photoshop document to the size needed, create a separate layer for the drawing and begin to colour.

Step 5: Using layers

If I’m using multiple drawings in my picture I’ll add them all on separate layers and play around with composition. Naming layers is important or they can get confusing.

Add caption

Step 6: Building up colour

I set my brushes to be pressure sensitive and quite light so that I’m building up the colour slowly. I choose my colours and start painting on a new layer. The beauty of the computer is that I can zoom in very close. It's also a pain sometimes because I end up overdoing areas that go unnoticed because they’re so tiny.

Step 6: work in progress

Step 7: Background

When I’ve done a reasonable amount of painting, I’ll start thinking about the background.This is different from painting in real life where you would normally consider it much earlier. It's fun to see how different colours can change the whole look of the picture. I’ll use a big brush to highlight certain areas.

Step 7: work in progess

Step 8: Patience!

At this stage, I’ll just be doing a combination of step 6 & 7 until I’m happy with it. I’ll save the image and then I’m done!

Finished piece!

Sparrow and Blossom


Instagram: @j9millington

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