Completing the Largest Commission I’ve Done Yet

Recently, I have completed the largest commission I’ve taken on in my career so far. I don’t mean in the physical sense, but rather, in terms of scope and deadline. It was challenging but I learned a lot from the experience.

I was contacted through Instagram by a woman who was looking to have 5 portraits painted as Christmas gifts. She briefly outlined what she was looking for and once the final details were worked out I was able to give her a quote. She commissioned to paint her lovely and talented dance instructors.

This meant 5 full-figure, 8×10″ portraits complete with fairly detailed backgrounds. I was a little nervous about some of the backgrounds as they aren’t exactly my strong point. I mentioned this to her and she said she’d like me to try anyhow, and we’re both pleased with the results. I’m glad I decided to take on the challenging backgrounds and I feel I definitely improved from working on them.

Time Management:

I needed to have them finished and ready to ship by the end of September, so I had roughly 30 days to complete them all. I do currently work a full-time day job, so it was a bit of a challenge as I’d have to let layers dry for a while before I could continue on each one. Each day after work, I would set aside 2 hours to focus on these commissions. I ended up working on two-three different portraits at a time whilst layers on other ones were drying. This method worked out pretty well and I was able to get them shipped a few days early.

Client Communication:

For large projects like this, I realized it’s super important to keep the client updated on your progress rather than simply accepting the commission, getting paid, and then disappearing for weeks until finished. I sent the sketches in groups of two and three until they were all accepted and I could begin painting. From there on, I messaged the client once a week with the progress I’ve made on each portrait to make sure they were looking alright. This was a good balance as there were no surprises on either end, and I was able to correct any mistakes before it was too late.

Painting Scenery:

I have very little experience painting scenery. My style relies heavily on brushstrokes and the textures and colors that come from layering those various shapes. I was worried that having all the extra texture of the background would take away from the instructors as the main subjects. Before starting the backgrounds, I did some mini thumbnail tests in my sketchbook to figure out the best way to approach them. I’m glad I did that, because I was able to find a nice balance between all the detail and texture without distracting from the rest of the portrait. I definitely still have some work to do in terms of improvement here, but I made a good start with this project, and more importantly, the client and her dance instructors are very happy with their portraits!

Illustrating with Alcohol Markers

In need of a fresh update on my portfolio, I’ve been trying out new materials and techniques while illustrating. I’ve fallen pretty deep into a comfort zone that consists of mainly animals, people and the occasional flowers/food. I want to branch out a bit more and get comfortable applying my style to other subjects. I also want to unify my style a bit more so it can still look cohesive and recognizable across various materials/subjects.

This week I’ve been trying out Copic markers. My style heavily relies on the texture and shapes of brushstrokes, so alcohol markers are quite a challenge for me. I’m finding that I’m going to need to develop a slightly more distinguished shape language for the sketching of subjects to make a non-paint piece still look like my style.

Here are a few of the better illustrations I’ve done with markers. They still look far-removed from the rest of my work.

On the note of expanding subjects…I’m still a bit overwhelmed. There are so many things I’d like to try that I don’t know where to start. For the time being I’ve just taken to illustrating objects around me, but I would like to organize a bit more structure around them. If you have any advice about choosing a subject for a self-initiated project and sticking with it, please let me know! I’d really appreciate it!

Painting a Bat Skull with Gouache

Recently completed this painting of a vampire bat’s skull with gouache. I managed to film the process and condense the footage into a neat little time lapse. My video editing skills are still pretty rusty, but I’m getting a little bit faster at it.

Original gouache painting of a bat skull with flowers

Toned paper shows off gouache so well!

The paper I used is the Canson Mi-Teintes toned drawing paper. I have to say, this is my absolute favorite paper for gouache. The colors are gorgeous (which is great because I personally don’t like using gouache on white paper) and it hold up surprisingly well, considering how thin the paper is. Of course it still warps a bit, as any thin paper with a ton of water on it does, but never as much as I expect. It definitely helps to tape it down while painting, and to press it for a while after it’s dry.

I did not add any other materials to this illustration, but I have found in the past that even after layering gouache, the texture still shows up nicely and can handle a fair amount of colored pencil on top. I highly recommend this paper if you’d like to try a toned paper.

Here’s the time lapse I made if you’d like to check it out!

I had sketched the skull a bit too small and, naturally, didn’t realize until I started painting. I considered trimming the paper down to 9×9″, but then I thought I’d try adding a pattern down the side instead. I kind of like the effect it has, but I made sure to leave enough space to trim the painting to a neat square if desired.

The original as well as square prints are now available in my Etsy shop!

Lots of Commissions After a Slow June

Business was painfully slow in June, but luckily picked up for the month of July. Mostly painted pet portraits (my favorite!), but I did get some fun new inquiries as well. My favorite commission this month, was painting an animal in a glass bottle with a detailed background.

I love designing unique bottles for the animals I paint in them, but it’s something I hadn’t done in a while. The client was super lovely to work with. She asked for a fairly detailed swamp-like setting, which I was a bit nervous about at first as I don’t often paint detailed scenes. It turned out to be a fun challenge, though, and we were pleased with the result.

Process of painting a watercolor, bottled salamander in a swamp

Painting stages

Another unique commission I’m currently working on, is painting a snowy evergreen scene for a local client. Lots of backgrounds this month so it’s been good practice. Got clearance yesterday to go ahead and start painting the sketch, so I’ll be sure to post some progress shots later.

Between working and waiting for approval of various stages of paintings, I’ve just been working on filling in some gaps in my portfolio. I’d like to continue painting animals, but I’d really like to paint more food and just general…non-animal things as well. Admittedly, it’s been more difficult than I thought to adapt my style to other subjects. Hopefully some pieces will actually be making the cut soon. Always a work in progress~

As always, thanks for reading and I hope you have a lovely week! 🙂

Learning to Draw Animals

This year, one of my biggest goals was to learn how to draw animals and become comfortable with painting them. I was never good at drawing animals. They always turned out looking broken and creepy with backwards legs, due to a gross misunderstanding of anatomy. That, or just very stiff and awkward like a product of picture day in middle school.

Now they are currently my favorite subjects to draw and paint. Pet portraits and animal-themed nursery art are also what I’m commissioned for the most. It’s really interesting to reflect back on that.

A tip if you want to learn to draw animals. Really pay attention to the fundamental shapes that make up the body and the flow of them. You will see similarities in the anatomy repeat between different animals and those fundamentals will help you learn to draw any animal way faster. (Though, to be fair, this advice could probably be applied to drawing literally anything)

Remember, basic shapes are good. Basic shapes are your friends.

Also, Practice makes perfect…or vast improvements at the very least~

(On a side-note, I feel super weird not including any fun pictures or anything. Until the holidays are over, though, I’m not going to have a whole lot of time to put into my blog 😦 I’ll update and beautify when and where I can, however!)