Saturday, 27 August 2016

2015 Storybook Work

I had the ultimate good fortune in 2015 to be commissioned by the wonderful Darcy Nybo for several projects. Two of those were children’s stories she had written. The first was Emma Jean Finds a Friend. After browsing some of my illustrations Darcy hit upon a wonderful idea that would incorporate them into a lovely little fantasy tale. There were gaps of course so she commissioned me to create the extra drawings required. 

The sweetest part of this is that she chose two ACEO illustrations I had created of my sister-in-law’s daughter Liv to be the main character of Emma Jean! ^_^ Thus little Liv is now famous and all because her mother commissioned me to illustrate her holding the slugs that she loves so much.

The story itself is cute too, as I am sure the below images will display. The illustrations shown are without the text since Darcy added that later. I would say more about the content and surprising ending but I don’t want to give away spoilers!

Emma Jean Finds a Friend


In the Clearing

Cat Stretch

That Tickles!

Light at the End of the Caverns

Be my Friend

If you are interested in seeing more, Emma Jean has a facebook page here:

You can also purchase a copy (physical or ebook, free on kindle unlimited) from Amazon here:

The second book we worked on together was illustrated entirely from scratch. The story is told from the point of view of a cat and dog named Sam and Gina, who just so happen to be pets Darcy herself owned as a child. Again I won’t reveal what happens but it is a cheeky little tale.

I have only included a selection of the images I created for this just to give you an overview and as read, so as not to spoil the story. I found this project quite challenging since the characters were not my own. It took quite a bit of back and forth design altering to get to a point where we were both satisfied with the look. After some nifty editing by Darcy I think the final came out wonderfully.
Again the images shown as those prior to the text being added since Darcy took control of the typography.

Bark Swat Crunch

Sam and Gina


A Well Earned Nap

Something Afoot

What’s That?

If you are interested in seeing more; Bark Swat has a facebook page here:  

You can also purchase a copy (physical or ebook - free on Kindle unlimited) from Amazon here: 

I have not had the pleasure of working on another storybook yet (in 2016) but I am hopeful I will get to try this again. As always I hope you enjoyed this blog entry and see you again next time. :)

Saturday, 13 August 2016

2015 Illustrations

Now I did an awful lot of illustrating in 2015 including two short storybooks and over thirty-one ink drawings for the Inktober challenge – wow!

However, this post isn’t about any of those drawings. Nope these are the other seven illustrations I created in 2015, which included three commissions. I really was having a lucky year for commissions!

I’ll start off with the largest of the set that wasn’t a commission. The below raven was a self-set challenge to draw an entirely black bird with its wings in perspective. I’ll admit I struggled with placing the initial sketch and it took some time to get my head around the skewed proportions. All in all, I think I was happy with the outcome. That said if I were to try a similar feat again I think I will incorporate more colours to blend a black rather than sticking to the true black pencils and pens I have in my sets.

 The Raven - Letter approx. 11 x 8.5”
Waterman ink wash, Micron ink, Prismacolour pencils and Sakura white gel pen on Bristol vellum card.

Speaking of black and white subjects the below rose was a nice little book cover commission for a novel titled Dark Moments written by Emma Brown and published by Darcy Nybo. Obviously the version I am showing here is the one without the typography added.

 Dark Moments - book cover commission – 9 x 6”
Watercolour markers and Prismacolour pencils on Bristol vellum card.
Pure black background added digitally.

The author was very clear about wanting a white rose with water droplets on a pure black background. I worked from a reference photo to create the sketch and shaded it using watercolour markers. Since the markers could never create a pure black background and the version sold was to be a digital copy, I then took the image into Photoshop to create the solid backdrop as required. I am not a great fan of drawing realistic flowers and don’t consider the subject one of my fortes, especially not roses! Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the end result turned out.

Now this below commission is one that I found very difficult to complete.

 Chloe – commission Letter approx. 11 x 8.5”
Waterman ink, Micron ink, Prismacolour pencils and Sakura white gel pen on Bristol vellum card.

It came about because a couple saw my previous illustration of Cat in a Sunbeam hanging in the local gallery. They asked if it would be possible for me to create a similar portrait of their daughter’s cat Chloe. Well of course I just couldn’t say no! Thankfully I had some paper with a similar ink wash. (That ink is one I just cannot find a good replacement for so I guess I won’t be making many more with that wonderful shade of brown for a backdrop.) I had quite a long time to complete the piece but decided to work on it solidly every day for a week and build it up section at a time. Trust me, mottled fur that goes in several directions is a good way to go cross-eyed and lose your place in a drawing! Still it was an excellent challenge since cats are a favourite subject of mine and I knew this was going to be a birthday gift for the owner.

Next up the below illustration is an unusual commission that I rather revered.

 The Mask – commission 6 x 4”
Waterman ink, Micron ink, Prismacolour pencils and Sakura white gel pen on Bristol vellum card.

This is a portrait of a good online friend of mine who asked if I could recreate his photograph. It’s not often I get asked to draw people even though I quite enjoy it and of course I really loved the focal point of the mask. We agreed on a price and size ahead of time as one should and I was away! I really enjoyed playing with textures for the background of this and walked him through every evolution of the illustration to ensure he was happy with the progress. Once the drawing was complete I popped it in the mail (and crossed my fingers that it made it to the US!!). He was so excited to receive it and very pleased with the final product– hooray! :D

On an entirely different note … the below is a requested image from my beloved husband. He had been asking for the longest time if I would make a portrait of one of his feline characters so I decided I would surprise him with a full illustration just like those I had previously made for my sister blog of Black Wednesday Isle. Well you knew there had to be at least one story related sketch in here!

 Eyl’Yti – character portrait - Letter approx. 11 x 8.5”
Watercolour markers and Prismacolour pencils on cartridge paper.

This fellow’s name is Eyl’Yti (pronounced eye-lit-eye). I didn’t go so far as to make a fictional interview with him since I am no longer making portraits for the other blog but my hubby was happy with my rendition of his character none-the-less.

This next one below is one of those little scrat sketches that I thought was really interesting and I’m certain no else did!

Unyielding – 5x4”
Parker, Indian and Micron ink plus gold acrylic paint on Bristol vellum card.

Beginning as a leftover sheet from the Inktober challenge I got really into the idea of time as a concept. The little figurines being examples of how we perceive, use or misuse our time. I like questioning if we are reaching, escaping, waiting, holding on to, letting go of or simply just watching our time pass us by. Yeah I can see why this concept was a weird one lol. I still really like it as a personal piece but that might be because I love pocket watches more than anything else!

Now I know it isn’t xmas right now at the time of posting but since this was one of the last illustrations I created in 2015 it made sense to end this blog post with it.

 Season’s Greetings – 4 x 5”
Waterman ink, Micron ink, Prismacolour pencils and Sakura white gel pen on Bristol vellum card.

It’s just a fun little sketch that I wanted to make as an alternative to all my previous ‘grumpy’ Sharlene over the holidays sketches, oh and yes to add in our adopted cat Pudding too. So a very happy season’s greetings from the 2015 cartoon version of me and the cat! ^_^

Saturday, 6 August 2016

2015 Paintings

So 2015 turned into quite a mixed bag of work once again, including some very interesting projects I had not previously attempted. I didn’t make a great deal of paintings this year but then my focus was drawn in several directions. Still those I did create are shown below.

Starting off with acrylic paintings I decided I would try my hand at painting boxes and creating some tiny little magnets out of foam. The idea was to stretch the usage of my paint, test out those lovely iridescent colours and generally see if I could paint/create objects as well as my standard canvas and cradle boards.


The above butterfly box was a reconditioned item and has a push lid as opposed to a clasp like the below snail box. I’ll admit I struggled with the surface of the butterfly box and both pieces ended up taking an awful long longer than I anticipated when I started!

The below three foam blocks were much faster to create but very fiddly as they are much smaller than I am used to painting. The foam was an interesting and unusual surface to work into and surprisingly more solid and forgiving than I thought it would be. I also got in a bit of a pickle with the superglue when trying to affix magnets to the reverse, especially on the first one because I had magnetic strip that came in a roll and thus did not want to be laid flat… oh and just glue in general, never let me loose with superglue lol!

Night Sails (left) 1.75 x 2.5" and Moonlight (right) 1.75 x 2.5"

Posy - 2.5 x 1.75"

The only other acrylic project I did this year was part of a neat little show called Inter-generational Art. The idea of this was to bring together the young an old to work on a singular piece between them. Naturally I was interested in collaborating so Petrina offered up one of her charcoal sketches.
Her sketch immediately gave me an idea but I was running a little short on time for the deadline and wasn't used to working on something so large!

So here's a picture of me hard at work: 

I'm pretty sure this was the day before the deadline and as you can see I haven't even started lol!

Still I did start and finish and we mounted the art just in time for acceptance into the show :)
Here's a better picture of Petrina and I with the finished piece:

Next up are the few oil paintings in made in 2015. Allure, Clouds and The Bonfire are all the same size since I got gifted some wooden slats to work on. Of course then as with any arty gift I just had to test them out and see what could be done.


Allure - 3 x 7" Oil on wooden panel

The above was the most successful of the three in my opinion but then it is also the most detailed and orientates around my favourite subject of tigers.

Clouds - 3 x 7" Oil on wooden panel 

Clouds was an experiment to see if I could work in a different palette, specifically in pastels and paler colours to my beloved dark blacks and vibrant greens. I think by the end I couldn’t decide if the landscape shown were dark clouds or impressionistic mountains but I achieved my goal at least.

The Bonfire - 7 x 3" Oil on wooden panel

This was an experiment in speed and layering. I wanted the dark background to remain fairly thin to show the wood grain and the flames to be quite thick and sticker. It’s a simple piece no doubt but sometimes simple is best.

Up next, well I went back into my love of fantasy and decided to create another dragon eye. This time I went for a blue palette instead of red and some unusual scale shapes around the eye. For a cool toned piece, I think it is quite interesting.

Serous Eye - 6 x 6" Oil on cradle board

This next piece was created and displayed in a show at the local gallery. An unusual entry perhaps both in size, style and subject but I had a clear cut vision for this piece. My aim was to move from cold tones to warm ones as you travel down the painting with the staircase leading your eye downward into the light of the study. I was told it was well-received at the show so hooray! ^_^

The Study 13 x 5.75

(And we won’t mention that yes that’s an elf character at the desk, so yes, this another story-related painting … shhh…!! xD)


An entirely different painting project that occurred in 2015 was the opportunity to paint a square of the planned local mural. An odd one for me, trying to paint one square of random colours that would eventually make up the whole picture using a type of paint I was unfamiliar with onto a metal sheet.

 This one had me scratching my head quite a bit since I found the given paint and surface very difficult to use. I did complete my square in good time for the final which as you can see from the below photograph was quite a varied piece. So wonderful to know that I was able to join in and be part of a large scale collaboration that now stands proudly in Lake Country :)

Mural - One 12 x 12" square

Photograph of complete mural.


Last but by no means least I was commissioned to create not one but two digital book covers this year! :D

Always ready for a challenge I worked very hard on these pieces and it took quite a bit of learning new techniques to get them working as the authors wanted. I designed custom brushes and palettes that would be invaluable for future projects that is if my laptop hadn’t decided to have massive hard drive failure at the beginning of October. Argh >.<

The good news is that I didn’t lose any of my work -phew!- Only the settings I had created for my software were pushed back to default since I had to reinstall everything. Glad to say that my laptop was fixed quite quickly and didn’t interfere with any deadlines, unless you count putting up examples of work for Inktober every day – that took a bit of playing catch up!

Obviously both of the below images are missing their written content. Neither of the books have been published yet.

The Year of Us – book cover commission

My first rendition of the leaves in this piece wasn’t very good at all but I quickly learnt that making custom brushes wasn’t difficult and gave a much better effect. Praise be to my Intuous tablet too for having a good amount of pressure sensitivity.

The Lost Server – book cover commission

This cover was the bigger project of the two. While the background came together quite quickly, the characters took a great deal more work. Refining what the characters should look like took a great deal of back and forth questions between the author and myself, eye colour, hair colour, clothing and even attitude of the characters were discussed. Then came the clincher; the floating castle.

This is part of the story I enjoy re-telling as an example of just how much clarity is required when you ask someone to design something for you. Now we had been communicating well and I had carefully taken down all the details for the characters but for whatever reason I didn’t ask enough questions about the ‘floating castle.’ (top left of the painting)

My brain just simply said ‘yep OK I know what that looks like,’ and off I went to sketch it up. I am glad that my first scribble for it was literally a scribble and was based off of a Myazaki style castle (though looked more like a dalek as the client joked – oh dear, lol), so next I thought they wanted an English castle…nope wrong again, we’re talking a Chinese style temple here! 

Finally, I asked for a reference photo of the building, which is what I should have done in the first place. Live and learn on that one, and never be too embarrassed to ask your client to be more specific! Glad to say that they were very patient with me and that it all worked out well in the end ^_^

Also now whenever someone isn't specific or I forget to ask I get to call the situation, 'another dratted floating castle!' xD