I recently spent a lovely week visiting relatives in England. I set myself the challenge of sketching every day. Mostly because it’s a fun, relaxing thing to do on holiday. But also because I’d love to illustrate my own books and I want to get better. My illustration mentor, John Fardell has been telling me to sketch every day for a long while. So finally I made the time to do it. Here’s how I got on:
DAY ZERO: SUNFLOWER
The day before I left a stylus arrived – I had my first go at sketching on my ipad with the notes app:
— Emily Dodd (@auntyemily) July 11, 2016
Then I downloaded the paper app to try that next…
DAY ONE: WOBBLY OTTER (all the pens, paintprush and pencil)
I sketched this on the train so it’s not precise. It was my first go with the paper app and only my second go at sketching on an ipad so it was all about getting used to it. I enjoyed trying the different pens and colours and seeing which ones blend and which override the one below. I love otters!
DAY TWO: SCOTTIE DOG (Dip pen and a little bit of pencil)
I’m writing a book about a worm and a scottie dog just now so that’s why I chose to draw him! I google image searched for ‘scottie dog’ and chose one I liked. He was on my phone while I sketched on the ipad. I was really pleased with the result.
DAY THREE: OSCAR (Dip pen, ball point pen, pencil, paintbrush)
I was missing my lovely cat so I thought I’d draw him. He’s all black so that was a challenge but I realised the great thing about digital drawing is, you can add lighter colours over the top of darker ones. In real life that doesn’t really work so I made the most of that, building up the dark colours first and adding the light after. It even looks like him (:
DAY FOUR: QUICK MINI (Dip pen) AND A NEPHEW (Dip pen, paintbrush)
My sister picked up an amazing new mini! I love minis and really enjoyed sketching the light on something shiny!
I also tried to sketch my nephew from a photo but it went a bit wrong and aged him by about ten years – he looks like someone else:I tried to get the mouth right so many times and eventually gave up and just did a little line! So I learnt mouths are hard and maybe I should stick to animals.
DAY FIVE: BROUGHTON FOX (Dip pen, ball point pen, pencil, paintbrush)
— Camera Stellata (@officeorpub) July 16, 2016
I thought I’d go for some colour this time, I really loved building up the colours in layers and adding texture and inking over lines. I was really pleased with this – it looks 3D and I like his face!
DAY SIX: PTARMIGAN (Dip pen, ball point pen, pencil, paintbrush)
I love rare Scottish birds – I’ve written books about a black grouse and a capercaillie. Earlier this year I had a wonderful experience sitting next to a pair of Ptarmigan up Cairngorm. Here’s a picture I took with my phone of one of them:
They have white feathers in winter and black feathers in summer and they change to half and half in spring and autumn. They’re pretty cool as birds go! Here’s the lovely photo by Ben Dolphin that I sketched from:
Such beautiful birds. A male ptarmigan on the summit of Ben Lawers yesterday afternoon. pic.twitter.com/zFyM9yebMh
— Ben Dolphin (@CountrysideBen) July 15, 2016
I also added some lettering – my writing is quite messy, I’m a bit dyslexic but I’ve been encouraged by illustrators like Oliver Jeffers who use messy letters as part of their illustrations and thought I’d have a go – I like it!
DAY SEVEN: QUICK WILLOW (Dip pen, ball point pen, paintbrush)
I had a lovely day on my Dad’s canal boat. I just had ten minutes after lunch to sketch one of the willows before we moved on along the canal (and I was needed for locks!). It’s an impression but I think it could work as a style for a background in a picture book? If you screw your eyes up it suddenly looks real so I like that about it! Here’s the canal in real life:
DAY EIGHT: NIECE (Dip pen, ball point pen, paintbrush)My final day of the trip and I’d forgotten to sketch until the plane ride home. A friend had said they thought I should try people again so I decided to give it one more go and sketched a picture of my niece in the time it took to complete the journey. The only problem is my style went a bit realistic rather than children’s illustration. It’s a bit too intense. Then I tried to make the eyes less realistic. But it’s just a bit of a weird mishmash of styles.
One of the best bits is the clothes and I just did them really quick! But one good thing is, her mouth! It looks like a real mouth so at least I improved at something. I ran out of time to finish this but it’s something I can come back to. People are hard!
I’ll keep going. The best thing was I totally loved doing it. I improved. I got excited every time I finished a sketch and I wanted to show someone – kind of like being a kid again. It’s nice to feel that. Thanks to the people who encouraged me when I sent photos and posted them on my facebook page, twitter and instagram.
Sketching made me get up earlier to sketch before the day started. I felt happy and excited. Even if I never illustrate my own books – I think I’ll make sketching part of life!
Thanks to John Fardell for all the illustration encouragement. And to Elspeth Murray for being an awesome Ipad sketcher and making Ipad sketching a thing. And to Stuart for convincing me a stylus would work on my Ipad, even though I’d tried five and even called the apple help line (who said a stylus was ‘unsupported’ on the ipad mini). Turns out you can even use sausages.