Illustrating a cityscape

I’m working on the illustrations for a new book (more details soon! It hasn’t been officially announced yet…), and really enjoying this one of a character (and her cat) living in a high rise building. I loved imagining the view out the window, and drawing the skyscrapers and a little rooftop garden! I enjoy urban sketching, which is done on location, and got started with it in Chicago– though this illustration is not of specific buildings, I definitely think that it was influenced by the time I spent urban sketching in Chicago!

Painting, noticing, and curiosity

I moved back to my home state of Florida last year, and it’s been a joy to rediscover the natural landscape that I grew up in. I really love the parks in our area, and I’m hoping to do more outdoor painting in them this year!

Yesterday, I went to Lettuce Lake Park, and brought my paints along. The park has a boardwalk with lots of views of the Hillsborough river, tons of birds (especially in winter), and huge cypress trees. I found a sunny spot on a bench, and painted the river and trees. The colors are interesting in the winter– a lot of the trees are brown with no leaves/dead leaves, and others have bright green leaves (spring growth already? Need to learn more about this!) After I finished painting, I noticed so much more about the colors, values, and shapes around me, and felt really curious about the plants and animals I had seen. Stopping to paint made me notice more, and noticing made me curious. This is one of my favorite things about painting!

4×6 watercolor at Lettuce Lake Park
Watercolor setup on the go – loving this 4×6 watercolor block

Starting small

We were able to spend the weekend at the beach as a family, and I brought my watercolors with me. I flipped through my sketchbook when I was packing my art supplies and noticed that I had several unfinished paintings from the past few weeks. In each case, I had sketched out a complex scene on location, and had not finished it before it was time to go home! Each sketch was a lovely start, but I get overly ambitious with making detailed sketches, and I really wanted to finish my beach paintings. So, I took some small scraps of really nice watercolor paper that I had trimmed to do some 11″x22″ illustration spreads, cut them into little rectangles, and taped them in my sketch book. They were so small that I had to choose a simple composition, and I couldn’t get lost in the details.

In this case, I wanted to focus on the amazing colors of the water and the sky, and the fuzzy looking vegetation on the horizon. It seemed too simple as I started to paint, and I was afraid they would be boring! I’m really happy with how it turned out, though– I love the texture of the watercolor with those beachy blues!

I like how making a small painting forces me to simplify my plan. And maybe I’ll work up to a slightly larger painting next time– maybe 6″x6″?!

Are you ready?

I remember when Paul and I were first starting to work on Audacious Ignatius (four years ago now!). I was enrolled in a drawing class and was learning a lot. My work was getting better as I learned and practiced and I thought– let’s wait. I’m not ready to make this book yet. I’ll be a better artist next year, and the book will be better! I’m so glad I kept working! I could have waited, but I learned so much from working on Audacious Ignatius. I grow from taking classes, I grow from practicing, and I grow from throwing myself into the project that’s in front of me right now, even if I don’t feel quite ready.

Portrait of Paul and me, for the author and illustrator bios of Sorin Starts a School

This week, as we put the finishing touches on our second book together, Sorin Starts a School, our designer suggested I draw portraits to accompany our author and illustrator bios in the book. It was a fun challenge! Glad to be tackling another project together, and glad we didn’t wait to begin!

Snowy rooftops

Snowy Rooftops, watercolor on hot press paper

It’s so snowy out there! Looking out my window at the white sky and white rooftops this afternoon, I wondered if I could show the edge of the rooftops using only the tree branches between them. I was nervous as I was erasing my pencil lines, wondering if you would be able to distinguish the edges of the roofs, but I think it worked! The snow makes everything feel a little more calm and peaceful outside, and this painting also has some of that calm for me. 

I painted this for the Chicago Urban Sketchers theme of Negative Space, which is the art term for the “empty” space between objects. Staring out my window at the snow, I noticed that the white was like a blank canvas of empty space, with just bits of trees and houses to define the landscape.

A milestone

Wow, this has been a work in progress! When I first sketched out a storyboard for Sorin Starts a School, I knew I wanted to have a big panorama towards the end to zoom out and give the feeling of wrapping up the story, but I didn’t think through how long it would take to do this! It is definitely the most complex illustration I’ve ever attempted, and I learned so much from making it. (Be sure to imagine some inspiring words that Paul wrote up there at the top of the page!)

This is a watercolor painting, with lots of tiny details added digitally, using the Procreate app.