I love taking online classes. Victoria Johnson's are some of the better ones I've done. She provides succinct, useful information and then great briefs from which you can launch into new work. The classes aren't about learning techniques, but building concepts and ways of thinking.
Her Create Collections class got me thinking about leveraging all the ideas I have to create a small series. This is far more efficient than creating five unrelated illustrations. I do love working this way, because sometimes I feel this need to include all my ideas in one design! I don't want to leave anything out. A series allows you to explore as many as your ideas as you want to.
For this collection, I combined florals and something new to me - birds. It was great to take on a new challenge an fun to create some simple coordinates to fill out the mini-collection.
These designs are all available for licensing.
I joined Skillshare as a student about four years ago and I posted my first class - about combining watercolour and gouache - almost 2 years ago! Needless to say I have learned a lot since that first class.
I wanted to share a valuable tip with you about using gouache. White is magic!
When I started teaching my first class, I didn't know these tips, but wanted to share them with you. If you are keen to learn more about wonderful gouache and ways to combine it with watercolour, I hope you'll check out my class.
If you freak out about the idea of having no idea - I'm here to help you.
I don't ever find myself with a shortage of ideas. In fact, I'm so time-poor that it is the least of my worries!
First things first...
So the first thing you should do is get an 'ideas notebook'. Keep all your notes and ideas in one place so you can dip back into it - you never know when that terrible idea might evolve into something fantastic.
Now that you have a blank notebook you need to fill it with something! Here is a process I often use.
The Pick & Mix
First, I do a brainstorm/ free word association around the prompt.
For example: Flower.
I write down everything that springs to mind for 'flower'. Write it down, even if the link is tenuous.
flowers in her hair
garden in bloom
hot house flowers
flower arranging, repotting.... the list goes on and on. And it will be different for everyone.
Here's another one:
take your medicine
ocean rhymes with potion
Some of these might already be generating vivid mental images for you. Great! Draw some quick thumbnail sketches if you want.
But why, tho?
Next, I have a think about the kinds of illustrations I might want to create. What is the purpose of this illustration/painting/print/drawing? Maybe I need some more patterns in my portfolio, or something for a greeting card with lettering. I choose one of these.
Here's a quick list:
A collection of things
A how to - instructional illustration
Something seasonal, like Valentine's or Christmas
Make a Chunky Connection
The last step is to go back to my first list and see which of these talks to me and how many ideas I can 'chunk' together. Perhaps you decide to create a how-to infographic on 'how to prepare and arrange a bouquet of spring flowers'. Or maybe you create a greeting card with lettering and a lady with sunflowers in her hair. Or a repeat pattern with gardening elements inspired by repotting plants, like pots, seedlings, a trowel, and gloves. The combinations are endless!
You can see from my second list that a whole pile of these ended up in the final painting: an ocean potion in a cork stoppered bottle with moonlight and stars.
If there are any on-trend colours or trends (like crystals, flamingos, indoor plants) you can consider which of these might also fit your brief and your concept.
The birth of an idea
After I complete this brainstorm process, then I'll likely start a Pinterest board to group reference images, colour ideas, and research.
My last step is to start sketching thumbnails to develop and refine the composition of my illustration.
Not all of your ideas will be good ones and you'll probably have some good ones that you don't get to birth. But at least you won't be short of them! Keep all your planning and ideas in your notebook to refer to down the track. Sometimes a different state of mind spawns a whole new perspective.
Let me know if this process helps you! If you have another process you like to use, why not share it in the comments? Happy designing!
Hey there! It's been a while. You know how it is. Keeping all the balls in the air and trying to have a social media presence is just too much sometimes.
After having a month long break from social media, I spent the last week having a lovely time painting new illustrations for an instagram art challenge 'Mystic Sun Week'. A bunch of great artists were involved and it was a nice chance to work to a deadline on something totally different. Each day had a different prompt to spark an illustration and everyone tagged their posts with #mysticsunweek.
1. Increase in Engagement
The insta algorithm shows 'interesting' content to more viewers. Higher engagement = interesting. So the more people that are liking and commenting on your post, the more people will actually see your posts. After a long break from insta, my engagement was non-existent. So taking part in a challenge was a great way to boost this engagement. All the participants used the same hashtag, and then would follow that hashtag to explore all the new work being created. So an online challenge means an engaged, captive audience!
2. Build your Portfolio
This online challenge ticked a couple of boxes for me. I loved the theme, plus it enabled me to get back onto instagram AND create some new work for my portfolio. I'll also make prints of my favourites to stock my Etsy shop. You could even pop your new work on Society6, RedBubble or another print on demand site.
You could create unrelated illustrations, or choose a colour scheme or motif to carry through the whole week so that you have a cohesive collection at the end!
3. Beat the Procrastination
I've had the best of intentions with the 100 days project over the last couple of years, but I don't think it is actually feasible for me at the moment with 2 young kids, juggling work and a side hustle - it just doesn't even make it onto my list of to-dos most days.
However, an online challenge that lasts a week is achievable for anyone if you have a bit of lead time. We are all prone to procrastination but done is better than perfect! A week long challenge is a great kick in the pants to just bang out some work and not be too precious or torn about what you create. It is really liberating! Plus posting every day keeps you accountable - you have to meet that deadline.
4. Connect with a Creative Community
A challenge is such a fab opportunity to connect with other artists, receive feedback about your work AND discover other artists you love! If you are lucky you even generate work from someone new seeing what you create. I often had a couple of colour variations for one project and would ask my audience which they preferred. This gave me some really useful feedback and meant my whole audience could share their opinion and vote.
5. Yoga for your Brain - Stretch Yourself
Most people would argue that it is heaps easier to create artwork about what you are loving right now. But what about when a client wants something that just doesn't float your boat? If you can get excited about it, you are likely to produce much stronger work.
Online challenge prompts a usually fairly broad. For Mystic Sun Week they were: Flower, Goddess, Sun Bath, Flourish, Fruit, Animal, Festivities. It's a pretty open brief, but you still have to come up with an idea that fits. This is great practise for client work, or those commissions. It keeps you agile and make you work outside of your comfort zone.
Generating New Ideas...
âIf you freak out about the idea of having no idea - I'm here to help you.
In my next post, I'll share my process for generating loads of fresh ideas. Catch you then.
WELCOME TO MERMAiD'S COiN
Surf Artist, Hannah Katarski is based in Fremantle, Western Australia. She creates ocean-inspired art that is bohemian, retro and fun.