Behind the Scenes

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).

I love how messy and fun these colour testing strips turn out! Right now I use them as thank you notes to slip into orders, but I kind of would like to turn them into something else at some point…

Perfect, quiet, happy studio mornings.

My favourite part of the day is eating breakfast at the little dining nook in my kitchen and looking through the little cut-out in the wall into my studio and planning all the things I’m going to do that day. My least favourite part of the day is getting off of the chair at the dining nook because anyone who’s been to my apartment will know that the dining nook and the chairs were built and left by the previous tenants who happened to be, like, SEVEN FEET TALL and so the chairs are VERY hard to clamber on and off of. But, uh, I digress. Mornings. They’re nice. I like ‘em.

Well, it’s Christmas market season now, and while these boxes all normally live out in the garage (yes, I am VERY LUCKY to live in an apartment that’s got some storage space for me to cram all my market stuff into), they’re getting a little action by staying out in the hallway for the next few weeks instead as it’s just too much to cart them back and forth from the garage to the house.

Anyway - this is all to say that this is what my hallway’s gonna look like for the next, like, five weeks.

Just working away on this little blue guy this afternoon!

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.

Another graphic novel update - slow burning, but chuggin’ along.

I’ve written more about this in detail here, but I’ve decided to write a graphic novel about my relationship with eating food and body image. This is an idea that has been swimming in my mind for years and years now, and I have the feeling it’s going to be a project that takes me a long time to finish - not only is writing a book, uh, hard? but also writing one about something that’s kind of a difficult subject makes it even harder… but to be honest, I think it will be really worth it.

Please bear with me as these updates will most likely be a bit sparse at first, but I hope to have it done sometime soon.