The laughing nun

This is an illustration I’ve completed for a Dutch magazine illustrating the connection between religion and emotional well being. As I quite often do, I’ve linked detailed pencil work (and watercolour) with a block of colour for punch and drama. This time, I’ve added the block colour with acrylic but I often will add it afterwards digitally.

While I love intricate work, with the need to keep costs down as I am paid by the hour, I need to have an illustrative style that is appealing to art directors on tight deadlines!

My portrait process

Mixed media portrait of Debbie Harry, lead sinder of Blondie
Mixed media portrait of Debbie Harry, lead singer of Blondie

When painting or drawing, I have always been attracted to portraits. Oh yes, I really do love illustrating all sorts of things, and go into a bit of a panic if I come across something I haven’t drawn before (ever drawn a bush baby, anyone? Me neither) but human faces are a favourite. As humans, we all rely on complex social interaction and our faces and expressions play a key part of that. I also enjoy portraiture because it’s so incredibly difficult. Get the petal on a tulip wrong and no one is going to notice, even the other tulips. But draw a feature on a face incorrectly and instantly, it isn’t the person you intended. Even with other animals I feel there is more room for error. I’ve painted loads of birds in my lifetime and one of the reasons I enjoy them as a subject is their cold twitchy appearance. I really do sense their faces have a robotic quality. Maybe because it’s hard to smile when you have a beak. However, even with other more expressive animals like dogs and horses (I have drawn oodles of those too!), there still is something not as challenging.

I’ve probably drawn over a thousand faces in my time, and because of the variety of our fantastic species and the ability to express ourselves visually, it’s always guaranteed to be interesting.