Spent a chunk of this rainy Sunday afternoon to sketch in a cafe - I’m trying my best to fill up entire sketchbook pages and it’s such a fun challenge!

Behind-the-Scenes: The Stages of a House Portrait Illustration

Whenever I see an illustration I like, I’m always really curious how it got put together. It kind of feels like that thing where someone tells you their job and they’ll often use words like “coordinator” and “liase” and “outreach” and “development” and “capital” and you’re like, ah, yes, sure, but … what do you do??? At your desk??? When you sit down on a Monday morning? (I, uh, don’t understand a lot of jobs. I’ll be honest.)

Anywho, I wonder if anyone feels the equivalent of that when I’m like “I finished this illustration!” because I sure as heck do when I see other illustrators post their pieces. So! I figured I’d show you a little step-by-step of how it all gets put together.


I’ve been wanting to illustrate this particular house for a little while now. I think it’s on Gladstone just south of Dundas, but as you can see, there’s snow on the ground in this picture, and it’s currently April, so I took this picture quite a while ago and my memory only goes back about three hours — so we’ll never really know where this is.

But I love it and how cute and colourful it is! I had to illustrate it!

I start off by first sketching it out. This takes forever as I’ll often finish a drawing and be like, “dang it, it’s on the whole LEFT side of the page? have I ever heard of centering something???” and I’ll have to erase and re-draw it all. But I skipped all the erasing and re-drawing pictures to impress you guys. Look! A finished sketch! That definitely only took me one try to get correct and absolutely did not take me like seven tries to get all the proportions correct, why would you even think that!

I use two different pens to ink in the illustration after - I’ll make another separate post about the particular pens I use and whatnot, but basically a nice not-too-thicc-but-not-too-thin inky boy* for the main lines, and a super thin lil guy* for the details like bricks and the boards on porches, etc.

* I didn’t go to art school, but I’m assuming those are the correct technical terms.

And then on with the painting! The way I paint is a little bit slower because I almost always let the paint dry in between layers. Watercolour is a super versatile medium - you can let different colours swirl in with each other when they’re still wet and you can create lovely gradients, or you can layer ‘em up kind of like I do and create different effects.

So basically what I’m doing here is creating kind of a lighter base-layer of paint. But you see how in the original picture, it’s a bit more shadow-y on the porch and stuff? I’ll go on top of that, and add a slightly darker layer on top of that. Is there a word for that? I dunno. Again, no art school, so… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Then I’ll go overtop the dried base-layer and add in more details, like bricks and shadows.

Then I’ll add a reaaaaally really light beige-y grey wash to add shadows to parts of the house that are ‘white’ - they’re never really white, and this little subtle bit makes a pretty big difference in making a cartoon-y illustration have a lot more depth to it.

And then, all the final bits! These last bits, like that very faint shadow on the white parts of the house, make the greatest impact, I find. If the house isn’t too busy, I dot in the shingles with a small wet brush. (The only time I won’t do it is if a house is built with panels that have lines across or anything else that would just make it too busy or scattered.) And then I paint in the windows — I start off with a blotchy blue-purple wash that’s dotted on in thick watery globs, and then I add very dark, very thin lines across to give the illusion of a window pane reflecting back.

And voila! All done.

Let me know if you dig this kind of thing and if you’d be into more of them, or if you think I am the nicest & best & funniest. Those are the only two types of comments I will accept, please and thank u (you can also comment both if u so please, I SUPPOSE).

A weekend in New York

Went to New York for a few days and I friggin LOVED it. Did you know that New York is VERY big and VERY good and that I want to move there immediately???

I also did a tiny bit of sketching, both there in NYC but also here back home at my desk. I find it really hard to sketch in public — I get embarrassed so easily and feel very self-conscious drawing in public, as if the girl from grade 5 who was mean to me is lurking in the bushes just WAITING for me to take out my sketchbook so she can jump out and say “what is THAT! u think ur an ~artist~?” but it turns out she’s not and you really can just take out your sketchbook and draw and no one friggin cares. So that was nice.

I’ll be posting some more post-NYC sketches soon, but for now, here are some I’ve done so far:

Riso Printing Workshop

Last night I tried out a risograph printing workshop at Colour Code Printing. I’ve always wanted to try riso out but didn’t want to do it without knowing how it kind of works (it’s basically like if a photocopying machine and a screenprinting machine had a bébé) and so I figured a workshop was the perfect way to try it out. Because I guess I like just hurling myself into the unknown, I also decided to try printing a digital illustration despite the fact that I have never done a digital illustration before???? While I’m still not really sure what I was thinking, I’m kind of glad I did it? It’s nice to stick your hands into something you’ve never tried before!

Just working away on this little blue guy this afternoon!

If you’ve seen the storefronts I’ve drawn up until now, you can probably make a super-safe assumption that I live in the west end because, uh… everything I’ve drawn is in the west end? Over the past few months I’ve been asked where all my east end stuff is, and that’s a GOOD heckin’ question. I finally added some new east end portraits to the mix and I’m really happy with how they turned out!

Upcoming markets! Wahoo!

So my ~BiG gOaL~ of 2018 was to finally start doing tabling at markets. I’ve always found it so intimidating (“I don’t have enough stuff to sell!” “Who the heck is going to want to buy something of mine?” “Where do you buy one of those big-ass TENTS from?”*)

But I finally bit the bullet and applied to a bunch of shows and figured I’d just cross that bridge when I get there (an excellent business strategy, I’ve heard) and, well, looks like I’ll be tabling at my very first event in June at Dundas West Fest! I have gone to this street festival a lot and have found that of all the street festivals in Toronto, this one has a good selection of not just food and open patios, but also good art and craft vendors as well. I’m very nervous and very excited.

But what this also means is I’ve got to get cracking and start really focusing on producing some more work so I actually have a bunch of things to display and sell at the market.

* uh, Amazon. 2017 Nat was a dummy.

Working a little on my graphic novel this morning. I feel like I’m constantly shocked by how looooooong things take me - for example, scribbling out rough thumbnails, translating them into larger sketches, inking them in, etc. Here’s a little sneak peak of a page!

Trying out a little something new...

I’ve had gouache paints just hangin’ around my studio for the longest time. I love watching other artists use it but I’m not 100% sure on how to go about using it myself. I’m still figuring out how to use colour, so I thought I’d try scribbling with some pencil crayons overtop the dried paint - this was all truly uncharted territory for me!

Life Drawing, from ~ back in the day ~

I used to attend a lot of life drawing classes — and probably should get back into doing that! I love not only trying to draw the model and capture the energy of the pose, but also looking around at everyone else who’s drawing and see how they’ve interpreted the model’s movements and twisting limbs.

These sketches are from 2017 - waaaay back in the day!

Subway Drawings

I did a series of illustrations for the TTC Sketch the Line competition — even if they don’t end up getting accepted, these were a lot of fun to do!

When I first moved to the city, riding the subway was a JOY and a TREAT! (“You mean there’s an underground train? That’ll take me exactly I need to go? And it just zooms along and sometimes there are little brown mice in the tunnels and maybe if I’m extra lucky there’ll be a DOG on the train too?”) After a few years, as with anything, the novelty wore off and I’d feel annoyed when the subway was too full or too hot or too slow.

But every once in a while, I’ll look up and scan the people waiting on the platform and I’ll wonder if anyone, in that big crowd of people, told their partner “I love you” for the first time today? Who couldn’t find matching socks and is hoping no one will notice? Who just found out they’re going to be a parent? Who just realized they forgot their packed lunch at home? It makes me a little less annoyed with the subway and a little more aware of all the glimpses of humanity and small niceties that you can catch happening between strangers.