How long have you been illustrating and what made you start?
Honestly? I feel like I came into this world with a pencil in my hand! When it was just me (before my siblings came along), I used to entertain myself by sitting at the dining room table with Crayola pens, pencils and paper, and just doodle away. This passion followed me through education as art class was always my happy place, and the time just flew by. My art teacher always told me I was really good, but I that I was too slow because I was always trying to get things perfect. Looking back, I think that’s probably a rather silly comment and it’s just the way I like to draw. I’m a sucker for neat, crisp lines and minimal shading – and you’ll that notice my work reflects that preference. As I got older, I heard a lot of people tell me that art wasn’t a good career path to follow (why did I listen to them?) and there was no money in it, and instead, I pursued web and digital design. Apparently, there was money to be made in computer stuff, and I figured this path still gave me a chance to express myself creatively whilst proving to everyone that I had a job. In fact, my day job is STILL a digital designer for a leading educational app, and the only reason I started exploring my love for drawing and colouring again was because I used these art forms to pull myself out of the depression that I suffered with a few years ago. Now, I love to draw in every spare moment around my day job (and more recently, my new born baby) and run a small membership called the Creative Happy Life Club. My mission is to cultivate a drama free community of colourists that enjoy my illustration style, and I draw pages for them every month to enjoy, as well as interview amazing artists in the community for them to find out more about. I just want everyone to experience the joy of self expression through art, and how therapeutic it can be for anyone suffering with physical or mental pain. Of course, it’s super fun and addictive too!
Where do you get your inspiration?
During my school days, I drew a lot of inspiration from traditional Japanese art. If you think about it, their art is typically made up of clean black lines, minimal shading and always errs on the side of 2D rather than 3D, which is exactly how I love to draw. I’m also a huge fan of tattoo flash art (I have many tattoos, including two big Japanese inspired thigh pieces), and in particular, the old school tattoo style that has strong black line work, minimal shading and colours, and isn’t realistic in the slightest (think Sailor Jerry). Can you see a theme here? I’m not afraid to admit that I am horrendous at doing anything remotely realistic looking, and I don’t enjoy drawing in that style either. I can push myself to do it but it honestly takes me out of my flow and is more effort than enjoyment. I stick to creating pieces that are simple and fun. When it comes to choosing what to draw, I like to ask my club members for their input, but on the whole, it’s as corny as following what my heart and intuition tells me to create. If I can’t flow with an idea I have, I’ll ditch it and try something else.
Where is your favourite place to illustrate?
Anywhere! Since having my baby, I rely on nap times to squeeze in doodle time and I’ve found the best way to get a good solid hour of drawing time is to walk to my local coffee shop, have him drift off in the pram, and then settle down with a cuppa and my iPad. Being a digital artist means that all I need to carry is my iPad and Apple pencil and I’ve got an entire art studio tucked away in the nappy bag haha! The white noise of the coffee shop also helps me focus, and I quite enjoy it when people ask me about my art. I feel a little bit shy talking about it, but ultimately, I feel very proud that I have a creative skill I can take anywhere with me. Another place I doodle a lot is on the sofa in the evening whilst my hubby watches TV. I am soooooo not fussed on TV, but I enjoy having the background noise whilst I draw. Also, because hubby is entertained I feel less guilty about drawing and ignoring him.
What are your illustrating/colouring material essentials?
Since switching to digital drawing and colouring, my essentials are my iPad Pro, Apple Pencil and the Procreate app. I know some colourists believe that digital is cheating, but trust me, it takes a lot of skill – it’s just a different art medium that’s all. In fact, I am going to start sharing more of my drawing and colouring process, along with tutorials, to hopefully inspire other colourists to give it a go. I still love to colour with traditional mediums, and my go to pencils will always be my trusty Prismacolors. These were the first pencils I bought and to this day are still my favourite despite investing in the entire set of Polychromos, and being gifted a set of Derwent Inktense. I’m a heavy handed colourist, and love vibrant colours, so the Primacolor pencils are right up my alley.
What’s the piece of work that you’re most proud of or enjoyed doing the most?
It’s probably the creation of my Creative Happy Life Club, and all the content that goes along with it. I’ve designed everything myself from scratch: the website, the monthly colouring and planner pages, and phone / desktop wallpapers, plus I had to jump through a lot of tech hoops to get everything working nicely! I’m really glad I pushed past the fear of nobody being interested in it (trust me, the entire time I was having a meltdown that I was investing time in something that would flop), and I’m now super proud to say my club and it’s members bring me happiness every day. Not only does the monthly colouring page design challenge me to come up with new and interesting ideas, I’m now building a little colouring family that is really supportive of my journey as an artist. In return, I hope that I am giving them inspiration to get creative every month, and take some time out to themselves to reap the benefits of colouring. Each page I’ve drawn has become my new favourite, so it’s really hard to pick one that stands out. My most recent design ‘Sailor Girl Pinup’ was really fun to draw and colour, but what fascinated me was seeing Colour With Claire emulate my digital colouring using pencils. MIND = BLOWN! She is such an asset to the colouring community.
My tips for colourists looking to try digital would be simply START. Less is more when it comes to digital colouring, so try and avoid going crazy with any special effects and focus on what you’d try to do if you were colouring with traditional mediums. There are great apps out there, including Pigment (a personal favourite, and humble brag I’m a featured artist!), Recolor and Procreate.
If you’re after a digital colouring experience that feels akin to traditional colouring, then I can’t recommend Procreate enough! Yes, it does rely on you having an iPad and Apple Pencil and going through an initial learning curve, but once that is dealt with, it’s so versatile. It feels very much like how you would draw and colour on paper. The pens, pencils and brushes that come as standard with the app are incredible. There are plenty of fancy things you can do in the app, but in all honesty, I use the basics. All the same things you’d do with traditional mediums (blending, shading, picking colours that work together, adding highlights / shadows, block colouring etc.) can be done using this app, and I’d encourage everyone to give it a go. As I mentioned before, I’m planning on sharing more of my own process with this app as I want to help other people dip their toes into the realms of digital!
One final tip, which is more general, is to remember that colouring is meant to be fun and isn’t about trying to be the next Picasso. Naturally, there are colourists out there that are going to be more or less skilled than you, and guess what? It really doesn’t matter! I think social media can make us feel like we’re stuck in a bit of a comparison trap, and we need to be reminded that colouring isn’t just about what the end result looks like, it’s more about the journey. Are you enjoying it? Do the colours excite you? Can you express your emotions on the paper? Do you feel more relaxed or at peace after a colouring session? These are more important than what you produce, and whatever you do produce is worthy of being shared with the world...whether you believe it to be ‘good enough’ or not. Spoiler alert: IT IS GOOD ENOUGH, and so are YOU.