Here in New York the leaves are beginning to change. Only a few have fallen. I am so looking forward to the bright colors and to walking through the leaves – that “swish swish” and the beautiful reds, purples, and yellows everywhere. Cleaning up the leaves I am not looking forward to!
In years past, the leaves have been a huge inspiration to me.
As you put your pen to the page to make that first mark, you never really know how things will turn out. At least I don’t know. Sure I have a vision in my head, but that doesn’t mean it will turn out that way.
Personally, I don’t really plan much, I get an idea and just dive in and see what happens. If I’m drawing in ink – which I’m doing a lot this month for InkTober – I rarely do a pencil sketch first. Unless the drawing involves a face or body, then I will do some planning in pencil to get things looking “right.”
I was really pressed for time with this “little guy in the leaves.” The inspiration photo was one of my youngest son probably 8 or 9 years ago. I used pencil first to plan things a little – because you can’t erase ink. I was pleasantly surprised with the results in such a short time.
This drawing experience was the opposite of yesterday’s! I was drawing in the car during my older son’s practice. I first focused in on a nearby car. Within a minute or two of drawing the car, it drove off! Without the car there I had a hard time finishing that part. I drew the car in front of me, but my pen started running out, probably because I was drawing upright on the steering wheel. I ended up focusing on drawing the chain link fence. Like I said, you never know what the result will be when you start drawing!
I’m really proud, and happy, that I followed through on my goal to start creating surface designs. I designed the first one in January, and decided to commit to “1 Surface Design a Month.” That goal, and the end of the month deadline, really pushed me to put in the work.
I’m always asking you, “What’s your favorite?” And I would love to hear, but I’ll also tell you my favorites.
I really liked when I started using the technique of creating the ink lines and watercolor backgrounds separately and then merging them in Photoshop. I started this with the shell pattern. I think the watercolor really adds a depth that you can’t get with Photoshop brushes. I started this technique with the shells, and continued it with the leaves – which is my favorite design in this style.
My other technique is drawing the elements in my sketchbook and adding color in Photoshop. My favorite design, using this technique, is the Toy Soldiers. They are just so cute!
Will I be continuing with surface design in 2016? Absolutely! As you know, I’ve made the Nutcracker and Toy Soldier patterns available on Spoonflower, where you can have them printed as fabric or gift wrap. It is really interesting to see the designs printed and to think about how it will be used. It makes you think about the design, and what works and doesn’t. It’s a different perspective than just seeing it flat on the computer screen.
In the new year, I’ll be adding a few of the other “12 designs” onto Spoonflower. And I plan to continue designing one new one a month!
As I added branches to my latest illustration project, I wondered, “What was I working on last year?” I asked myself the same question at the end of the Summer and the answer was interesting. When I looked back to Summer 2014, I saw the start of my watercolor and ink style. I could pinpoint that first project where I added the ink details, and something clicked. The first couple of projects from Summer 2014 looked one way, and then a change took place.
Now, when I look back to last Fall, I see that I continued to work in that style. I actually don’t see much of a difference between last Fall and this Fall. To me, the projects are almost interchangeable.
But I don’t feel stagnant. I still think I’m growing and developing, and I’m happy to have found my style. Especially, after years of wondering how to find your style!
For the most part, I like to keep my art hand drawn or painted. The exception is when I’m working on designing a repeating pattern. But sometimes, my 20 years of experience with Photoshop, comes in handy with my artwork.
I painted this tree a couple of weeks ago and thought, “It really needs a boy playing in the leaves.”
Separately in my sketchbook I created a couple of version of the boy, based on my youngest son.
I scanned both, opened them in Photoshop, and started playing around. The possibilities are endless!
I choose one boy and added a shadow so he wouldn’t seem so “floaty.” I also added some extra leaves in an area that looked weird.
I don’t normally use Photoshop with my artwork because the original goal of “my creative resolution” was to develop my drawing and painting skills. But it is nice to have the tools to use, when the need arises!
I remember, way back in elementary school, staring a project early, but never finishing it until the night before it was due. I needed the deadline to motivate me to finish.
All these years later I know the power deadlines have to motivate me. Now, I’m using this to my advantage. If I want to accomplish something I set a deadline. In my work, these soft deadlines are supported by the client waiting for the final product. In my creative life, these “made up” deadlines are supported by you. If I write on the blog, I’m going to do something, I intend to follow through on that promise. Whether anyone remembers or not!
This leaf pattern design is my October surface design. Yes, I’m a couple of days late, but I got caught up in my Halloween creations!
I’ve designed one a month this year! That’s 10 so far! I’m really proud that I set “surface design” as a goal for 2015 and have achieved it. I designed the first one in January. That’s when I committed to “a design a month.’ Setting the monthly deadline has made all the difference in pushing myself and getting it done.
Have you set deadlines for yourself? How did that work out? If you haven’t, are you considering it now? I’d love to hear!
This is one of my favorite Fall projects! Give it a try and share your results, either in the comments below or on Instagram – tag me: @eileenmckenna.
For convenient printable instructions – visit my Etsy shop.Supplies:
Leaf or photo of a leaf (for shape and inspiration)
Trace or draw leaf onto the watercolor paper
Cut out the leaf shape
Erase remaining pencil lines.
Wet one side of the leaf shape using a paintbrush and water.
Using a brush wet with yellow paint, paint the entire leaf yellow (or a light color of your choice).
With a brush, wet with orange paint, paint the edges of your leaf. The orange will bleed into the yellow – this is a good thing!
Use a thinner (and not as wet) brush and paint thin brown lines onto the leaf. (Copy the veins from your real leaf or photo.) If your leaf is still wet, the lines will bleed which creates a cool texture to the leaf.
Allow the leaf to dry, then add more thin brown lines. (The dryer the paper, the less the paint will bleed.)
When I first showed my kids my painted leaf, they thought it was a real leaf! Have fun! Can’t wait to see what you make. 🙂
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I’d love to squeeze in one more beach day, but other than that I’m ready for the hot and humid weather to end. I’m looking forward to those crisp Fall days, with blue skies and beautiful foliage all around. I’m excited about new seasonal things to inspire me – leaves, acorns, pumpkins. I’ve already started doodling and collecting them. Maybe it’s too soon, but it’s nice to have new “material” to work from! Are you ready for Fall?