As a self-taught illustrator and a perpetual perfectionist, I often struggle with a touch of ‘impostor syndrome’, as I understand many creatives do, where I will undermine my achievements and dismiss my abilities. So, when it was suggested by a friend that I share my drawing process on social media etc my insides squirmed at the thought. The thought of someone spotting some part of my process that is not the ‘proper’ way of doing it or the thought of showing people how slow and laboured some of my drawing strokes can be filled me with dread.
BUT, after the thought had sat with me a while (a long while!) and I’d uprooted the seeds of doubt sprinkled in the flowerbed of my mind, I decided I would go for it anyway. A little bit at a time though – I’m still not ready for a whole drawing session recording or anything live just yet. Instead, I thought I would share a few pictures and short videos to show some of the process that went into creating this ink letter A.
I begin as a magpie. I go out and look for inspiration and research to find reference images to use to help me as I draw. I have never been able to draw the way I want from my imagination alone; I need a point of reference to refer to, to help me understand the silhouette and the proportions of the object I am trying to draw. I then add in my imagination as I go. My favourite reference images are old botanical and scientific illustrations as well as old engravings.
Frome here I will have a firm plan in my head of what I want the drawing to look like. Thus, I can create a quick sketch/sketches to plan the shape of the letter and the positioning of the different botanicals and objects that I am going to use to create the pattern.
Then I move from sketch to the full-size illustration.
Mapping out my letters is a much more mathematical affair. I split the page into measured sections to ensure I balance the letter out correctly.
I pencil in the pattern next. I draw it very lightly initially to try and balance out all the objects then I will go back over the lines to set it in stone in that position.
Disclaimer: In a bid for authenticity I haven’t edited the speed of any of my videos so you will have to put up with my sloth-like drawing speed!
Next is where the ink comes in. First I go over all the outlines in pen. I use Sigma Micron fineliner pens in archival black ink.
Then I start to add in the details. And it's lines. Lots and lots of lines from here on in!
I use the pen in a few different ways; altering pressures and angles to create a slight difference in technique and texture for the various items in the pattern.
Then comes my favourite part. Inking in all the negative space in black. There is something so enjoyable about this for me. It is basically me going back to one of my favourite activities from my childhood; colouring in! It also signals I am nearly finished.
Lastly, I carefully remove the pencil lines left behind with a rubber and putty rubber (and make lots of mess around my desk in the process!)
I will get my drawing light really up close and personal at this point and inspect the drawing closely, adding any last touches and removing any lingering pencil marks hiding out. I eventually decide it is finished. Finally.
Love this illustration? You can purchase the original ink drawing here