Illustration Series: Advice from my Cat to You!

Since I started this little art blog at the end of January, I've been drawing monthly illustrations of my cat Hedwig for a series I call 'Cat Advice'. Every month, there's a new motive with a couple of wise words courtesy of my cat.

Based on those cat illustrations I create both printable calendars and desktop wallpapers for my newsletter subscribers. 

I love drawing animals, but after finishing a couple of children's picture books over the last two years that featured animal characters, I rarely have a 'reason' to draw them. Like portrait drawings, they get lost among commission art and new Etsy projects.

After noticing that I couldn't for the life of me draw a cat without reference, this series seemed like the perfect idea to experiment and practice. As mentioned, I use Hedwig as a model for these drawings - but already I feel a lot more confident in my understanding of cat anatomy and poses.

Hopefully, I'll be able to draw cats without reference after a couple more months! 

Of course, the drawings aren't all that realistic. There's a hint of comic art style and abstraction. But even 'unrealistic' drawings require a basic understanding of what the real animal looks like, how a cat moves and how its face changes expressions in the eye of a human observer. 
 

Once the year is over and I've got a full dozen of these cat illustrations, I'll re-design the calendars to fit with the year 2018 and offer them as a printable set. I've always wanted to create a calendar! So I keep the motives appropriate to their month and season, with March, for example, being all about newly growing greenery, and May blossoming flowers. 

The very first drawing of this series was actually for a Christmas card. Combining a cute animal drawing with simple flowers and leaves was so much fun to draw that I wanted to continue.

And of course: My cat is the prettiest in the world, so I have to draw him more! :)

The first four illustrations are now also available as printable journaling cards on my Etsy. You can print them yourself at home (or visit a copy shop) on sturdy paper of your choice and use them for journaling, as planner inserts, note cards or greeting cards. 

There are also two stripes of washi tape with the same floral patterns.

Which cat illustration do you like best? What else would you like to see when it comes to printable or downloadable art? 

Making Of: Crystal Sticker Watercolor Illustration

Step by Step Gemstone Stickers Painting

Inspired by the #marchmeetthemaker challenge over on Instagram, which introduces a variety of handmade businesses and has me try out new ways of showing my 'behind the scenes' imagery, here comes a Making Of for my newest stickers. 

Watercolor Aquamarine Gemstone Stickers on Etsy

Watercolor Aquamarine Gemstone Printable Sticker File on Etsy

making-of-drawing-watercolor-illustration-crystal.PNG

Art Materials

For these crystal illustrations, I started by using my Winsor & Newton watercolors. Only the final layers of colors were done in my new Shinhan watercolors, which added a nice vibrancy to the more muted and stable Winsor & Newton. I'm not sure if my Winsor & Newton colors appear a bit muted because they're very old (over a decade by now) or because they're pan colors, which are sometimes less brilliant than their tube counterparts. But Shinhan's cheap set really surprised me with their strong, pure pigmentations!

The illustrations were painted on my favorite paper, the Fabriano Hot Press Watercolor paper in extra white. This paper is perfect if you want to scan the drawings later since it has nearly no visible paper texture. That makes the whole Photoshop process a lot easier! 

Drawing & Painting Process

Pencil Guidelines Drawing Tips

I started by drawing crystal forms with a very hard pencil, with minimal pressure. The point was to keep pencil lines minimal, and have as little graphite residue on the paper. Soft (2B and softer) pencil leads can leave a bit of graphite 'dust' that will get picked up by the watercolors later on and muddy them. 

To make the lines even more subtle, I patted them with a kneadable eraser. These erasers allow for pencil lines to be reduced instead of completely erased. I was left with the barest hint of guidelines: Just enough to know where I should place my paints.

Base Color Layers

Since I wanted all the gemstones to have a similar tone to them (inspired by aquamarine crystals) the first thing to do was giving them all a nearly identical base color. Mixing a pale, slightly turquoise blue and diluting it with a lot of water, I painted in all the sketched forms with a large brush. But I did leave empty white paper among the colored spaces to be later turned into shiny highlights.

Coloring, Defining Forms

When the initial watery base colors were completely dry, I went in with a smaller brush and started to define the different surfaces of each gemstone. Like with the base color, I worked on all the individual drawings simultaneously to make sure they'd fit together as a set.

Caveat: These aren't realistic paintings. Not at all. More like comic crystals. I probably should have used reference images to get a sense of realism in the way they reflect light, but I just went with what looked good. #shrug
I'll probably do a more realistic set in the future! I love painting in realistic detail, but sometimes a girl just wants to play around with color. So these are more cute and colorful, less natural.

So the coloring process was very intuitive. I did decide on a vague source of light to give a bit of a three-dimensional feel to the crystals but kept the rest playful and colorful.

I didn't mix colors but instead applied thin layers of different shades of blue on top of each other. This allows for more vibrancy!

As a last step, I used my smallest brush and the mentioned tube colors by Shinhan in Cerulean Blue and Prussian Blue to define corners, edges and reflections. Watercolor paintings tend to look soft, but the gemstone motive asked for sharp borders and cuts!

Scanning and Digital Adjustments

I scanned the finished drawings at 600 dpi at the highest color quality setting of my Epson Perfection V330 Perfection scanner. This particular scanner is great for color accuracy and catches even subtle hues, so I'd recommend it to watercolor artists especially. 

In Photoshop, I applied a mask to make sure all the white paper was, you know, actually white. This is easier to do before exposure and brightness are adjusted since all textures are still visible. While you can get quite far with 'Color Selection', I do adjust the mask with my graphic tablet and a brush to make sure no speck was overlooked, and all the edges are clean.

jewel9.PNG


Then I cranked up the brightness and adjusted white balance with Levels and Curves, and adjusted for any lost vibrancy and saturation. Since the objects were already masked, I also applied a turquoise color layer as a clipping mask on top - set to low opacity (20%) and 'multiply'. This way, the colors would look more saturated even after printing.

Once all objects are masked and on a transparent background, it's all the easier to then layout them into sticker sheets. Depending on the project, I either arrange them directly in Photoshop or use InDesign. 

Comparison of the paintings and the stickers. The stickers are a bit more saturated than the originals, and I changed their hue from Cobalt to Cerulean to fit with the Aquamarine theme.

Comparison of the paintings and the stickers. The stickers are a bit more saturated than the originals, and I changed their hue from Cobalt to Cerulean to fit with the Aquamarine theme.

Printing on Sticker Paper

I printed two versions of the gemstone illustrations to be used as stickers: One with the individual gems arranged on A6 sticker sheets and one with them spread out on an A5 format that I then cut into already pre-cut, slightly larger stickers to be sold as a set. 

Since there was some space left on the crystal sticker layout, I decided to also turn my dessert illustrations into pre-cut stickers. They're now both available on my Etsy shop. 

Since there was some space left on the crystal sticker layout, I decided to also turn my dessert illustrations into pre-cut stickers. They're now both available on my Etsy shop. 

Printable version with a color variation for my aquamarine gemstones. If you're into DIY projects and have some sticker paper at the ready, you can print these yourself, as many times as you want. Crystal stickers look best printed on glossy sticker paper imo!

Printable version with a color variation for my aquamarine gemstones. If you're into DIY projects and have some sticker paper at the ready, you can print these yourself, as many times as you want. Crystal stickers look best printed on glossy sticker paper imo!

Thank you for reading! Would you be interested in a video or in-depth step by step tutorial of my Photoshop process? Explaining digital adjustments in a short, blog-post appropriate form might be a bit lacking, especially for beginners, so I'd be happy to do a longer post on that!