Updated: Jan 27, 2022
I kicked off this new year with a bunch of new art. A few months ago I decided to make the shift back to digital. I had been working primarily in watercolor for about 2 years, working to build a portfolio and get my kids' lit career well and truly rolling. Although I have extensive experience working digitally, I wanted to use watercolor- along with colored pencil and ink- for a few reasons. I adore the feel of real paper and the smell of art supplies. I love browsing the racks at my favorite art store (Lenz Arts in Santa Cruz). The history of pigments fascinates me (I wrote my Art History senior thesis on it!) and, more than anything, I do not like staring at a screen all day long.
But there was a problem. Actually, a number of problems. First of all, I was not getting my work done fast enough. When I sat down to create an illustration I would seize up, totally freaked out by the prospect of putting so much time into an image and then messing up at the last minute in a way that could not be easily rescued. Post production was a nightmare. Digitizing images for my website, social and reprinting took literally 5 times longer than if I was just working digitally. Most importantly, I was not happy with the work I was creating. It felt too simple and too constrained. Not to get weird about it, but working traditionally was giving me major artistic constipation.
I hesitated to switch though. I would see the gorgeous work being put out by artists like Martina Lo and Isabella Kung- kids' lit creators who are the same age as me- and feel like if they could work traditionally so could I! That's not to mention the work of LeUyen Pham and Rebecca Green whose careers are way farther along than mine but who both work traditionally to gorgeous effect. But then I took a class called Children's Book Pro with SVSLearn. The class was led by 3 successful illustrators- Lee White, Jake Parker and Will Terry- who all work digitally with a smattering of traditional work on the side. David Hohn also popped in from time to time and he works digitally as well although I believe he also had his start in traditional mediums.
While these established artists did not encourage us to explicitly switch to digital they did set a syllabus that was very ambitious and challenging. Following the homework assignments they set, I was churning out work pertaining to kids' lit at a faster pace than ever before. The instructors also provided resources in the form of videos and pdf's and in all of these the main medium being used and talked about was digital.
After working for a few weeks traditionally I realized that I could not keep up with the pace of work- not even close!- or create work I was happy with using traditional materials. I started using digital and everything clicked into place. I worked way faster, my concept sketches were looser yet more controlled and I started getting more positive feedback from my critique group. The biggest change was that I finally started liking my work! I could easily get those dark values and deep colors without having to neurotically go into the same shape again and again, freaked out that I would overdo it. The fear just disappeared and the art started to flow.
So in the fall I set a goal for myself. By February I would have a new portfolio in place to show off my latest digital work. As of yesterday I finished the final piece that I needed to in order to have a portfolio that felt big enough and diverse enough to share. Here are my old and new portfolios together for comparison. I'm so glad to have made the shift and to be putting out work that I love at a much faster pace.
Out with the old...
My old portfolio. Everything is done in watercolor with line work either in ink or colored pencil. I love some of these pieces but they are very simple and I was not creating quickly enough.
...and in with the new.
My new portfolio. This work is all digital with some preliminary sketches done traditionally. I'm proud of it and was able to create it on a much faster timeline that my traditional work.
Thank you for reading this! I hope you enjoy my new work.