Monday, November 16, 2015

Drawings of Knitting Coloring Book

Hello! Its been waaaaay too long, gosh. Time flies when you're slaving away on something, doesn't it?
I've been working on something I'm pretty excited about. 
I finally finished, and here it is:

My new Drawings of Knitting coloring book!

I did all the drawings, and created the book using Amazon's CreateSpace self-publishing tool.
This has been a LOT of work, but also a lot of fun. But a lot of work. 

Its a "Sampler" because the 20 drawings are of a little bit of everything: plaid, paisley, a quilt, some food, Fair Isle patterns, a sweater, and other things. (I'd like to do a series, with each book having a separate theme. Eventually.)

I've been drawing knitting in different ways for a while now, and have made cards, fabric, all kinds of buyable things on Zazzle, original drawings, etc. Some were done realistically with colored pencils, some were more stylized and digital. I had a vague idea about making a cohesive sort of collection or licensable 'program' out of "drawings of knitting", but left that simmering on a back burner while I went off to work on other things.

Then, recently, when the whole 'adult coloring book' thing became so huge and that Secret Garden lady sold millions of copies of hers, I thought well hey! As an illustrator, I should do one too, and OMG I KNOW I'LL DO ONE OF DRAWINGS OF KNITTING NO ONE'S DONE THAT! 

So long story short, I did it. My first challenge was to figure out how to interpret knitting as a drawing that could be colored. I had a plain page of knitting, but then what? Should I do it like a 'color by number'? But putting little tiny numbers in each stitch would have looked weird. Then I came up with the idea of doing a pattern with greys, which could be colored over. Like so:

So that worked OK. But then my brain took off and I started to get some ideas about drawing other things to look like they were made of knitting. My head exploded a little when I realized all the possibilities. And then I started to work on some of them.

I thought I'd share a little about how I did these drawings, in case you're interested.

It all starts with some doodles with a pencil and paper. 

These are the basic building blocks of drawing knit and purl stitches. If you knit, you'll recognize these. If not, I'll explain. The knit stitches (on the left) are what your basic knitted things look like - sweaters, socks, hats, etc. The reverse side of this stitch (or, the inside of those sweaters, socks and hats) probably looks like the drawing on the right. Those are purl stitches. Most of all knitting, even all the really fancy stuff, is done with some combination or variation of these two stitches. You can twist them and overlap them and reverse them and do all sorts of crazy things, which is why knitting is so fun. 

But I digress.

Here is one of the drawings from the book. Its called "Fancy Paisley".

Below is my rough pencil-on-paper drawing of the idea. I wanted to make a nice balance of knit and purl stitches, and have it still look like paisley. I'm not sure you could actually knit this (well, someone could - not sure I'm that good), but the fun of doing this with pencil and paper is that I can 'cheat', if you will, and add in stitches, or half stitches, where you normally wouldn't put them if you were really knitting with yarn and needles. I can also change the scale willy nilly, and have some crazy things going on.

After I get enough of the idea down on paper, I scan it into the computer. The one below is how it looks after I've redrawn it with my pen stylus and my Wacom tablet, using Photoshop. Its exactly like drawing it by hand with pen and ink on paper, only I'm using a 'computer pen' and drawing on a tablet, and the 'ink' is digital. So when I say its all hand drawn, it really is hand drawn. Its not some computer program where I push a button and "make knitting". I sit there for hours and hours and hours until my hand gets cramped and my eyes start to blur, drawing and erasing and re-drawing until I get it the way I want it.

THEN. As if that wasn't enough. I re-trace the whole thing to clean it up and make the final copy. The re-tracing goes a little faster, but its still one stitch at a time.

Here are some enlarged little bits of each one so you can get an idea of how the drawing changes from one stage to the next.

These are some other pieces from the book:

"Under the Microscope"

"Slice of Pie"
(The piece before this in the book is of the whole pie. 
I know - how weird! but kind of cool, right?)

This one is  "Tartan Plaid".

Here's a step-by-step of another one - "Autumn Leaves and Pumpkins"

Again, it starts with a sketch. I did this one on the computer, saving me a step of having to scan a pencil drawing.

I did the leaves like this, separate, so I could repeat them in the drawing. That's where the computer comes in handy. Yes, they're all hand drawn, but I was able to take each one and copy it, then flip it or turn it upside down or something to make an interesting picture.

And here is that interesting picture. It was fun putting this one together. I liked making the 'vine' on the one pumpkin look like a piece of yarn.

And re-drawn and all cleaned up, and with a border.

Each piece has a title on the facing page, like this:

I put blank pages in between the art pages to protect against 'bleed', in case markers or other wet media are used to color with. I already know the paper that CreateSpace uses for their books is not as thick as what you would ideally use for a coloring book, but its OK. What's great about doing the book this way is that its a 'print on demand' book, meaning each one gets printed every time someone orders one. If I had these done at a regular printer, I'd have an inventory of already-printed books piled up in my studio. This way is a much better way to get started!

For every drawing you see in the book, there are others that were left unfinished on the cutting room floor, so to speak. Ideas that were cool, but need a little more work to make "work" as a coloring book page. Lots of super complicated Celtic knot designs, some florals, other weird food ideas, etc. Hopefully they will see the light of day in future books!

But for now, I'm just really happy to have this first book DONE, and actually published. Of course I'm obsessing over everything I think needs improvement for the next one(s), and am worrying over what kind of reviews the book will get (assuming people will actually buy it in the first place, let alone leave a review!). I'm hoping that in the sea of adult coloring books out there now, my little effort will find an audience. It might be a very specific and narrow audience, but I think that there are people with my same love of knitted things that will find it entertaining.

Things are turning to Winter here a bit, finally, with some rain and wind and the heater going. Hope its warm and toasty wherever you are. Don't forget to bundle up when you go online to buy my book! (sorry, had to get one more plug in there). 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Fall and stuff

OK, so its finally Fall. Yay! And it actually rained today. Double Yay!!! 

I've been super busy working on this secret project that I'm tired of keeping a secret but have to for a little bit more until I'm finally really done. I thought I'd be done by Oct. 1st, but it looks like I need a couple more weeks. When I'm finally finished you'll be sick of seeing it and hearing about it. But for now, I'm still staying mum.

The drawing of autumn above was a fun little diversion. I wanted it to look like yarn, and did it all digital, start to finish. I've done these yarn drawings before with colored pencils, but what happens is they're hard to clean up after they're scanned because of all the little 'hairs'. Its too hard to try and erase out the paper texture when you have to go around all those fine little bits. So I had a go at it with my digital colored pencil. 

Then I did this one. Its a little softer, and fuzzier. 

I work in layers in Photoshop with my special colored pencil texture brush, building up the color just as I would if I were using 'real' colored pencils. It takes a bit of fiddling to get the setting just right - opacity, scale, hardness, etc., but in the end it gets there.

Here's the top layer with just the fuzzy bits. Fun, huh?

I've also been doing some knitting, taking custom orders. It feels like knitting weather finally, and I enjoy sitting with my cats and working on a piece with a cup of fresh hot coffee. 

The stores are all bursting with pumpkin flavored everything, and its a little overwhelming. I did find a nice pumpkin ginger spice cake at Trader Joe's which is lovely, but I shy away from most of the stuff like pumpkin lattes and potato chips and beer (OK, I don't know about those last two, but I'm sure someone, somewhere has done them). I'm looking forward to a really good pumpkin pie before the season is over. Then we're on to mince meat! But that's another story.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Strokes of Genius

I'm so excited that my Fried Egg on Sourdough Toast drawing has been selected to be in the Strokes of Genius 8: Exploring Textures book!

You can see the list of all the winners to be included in the book, here.

The Strokes of Genius books are compilations of contemporary drawings, with a theme. They are competitions sponsored by The Artist's Network, and the books are published by North Light Books. I've always drooled over the winning pieces, and this year I decided to enter. The book comes out in 2016, and you know I will be blogging and tweeting it all over the place when it does!

So this kind of marks a 'year of entering stuff'. I decided to enter some of my colored pencil drawings in a few shows, just to see what would happen. I did a rough tally of how it worked out financially, and have to say I'm fairly pleased. I entered 3 pieces in 4 shows (some were entered in more than one). The pieces were accepted into all the shows but one (an online show). Two won $$ awards. So after tallying up all the entry fees and framing costs, I just about broke even, thanks to the awards. The only cost that put me over the top was shipping to the CPSA show in Atlanta, and the cost of the shipping box. So all in all, considering I was doing this in in a rather casual way (not entering in every single 'important' show there is, and only showing 3 pieces), I feel pretty happy with the results!

I started a 'new year' of entering by entering this year's UArt Open show with my BLT piece, but it didn't get accepted. Last year I had two pieces in their show, and won an award! So you just never know. I know people who've entered a piece in CPSA and not been accepted, then enter the same piece the next year and win an award. So this entering shows thing is not for the feint of heart. It can really bruise your ego to not 'get in', let alone not win anything. Then there's the money part. You really have to be serious about this 'fine art' thing to do it properly and be successful. You also have to be very organized about what you're entering, and keep track of which pieces will need to be shipped to where if they get accepted, and how long they'll be 'tied up' in that show, which will make them unavailable for another show, etc. 

I haven't decided yet if I will pursue this whole 'show' thing more, or not. Right now I'm super immersed (obsessed) with a project that I'm excited about, and its taking up ALL of my time. But I'm having fun, and can't wait until I can share it! Hopefully in about a month? If all goes well.

Its Labor Day here today. I will be 'laboring', although I think the point is that we take a day off. I'm happy though to be working on something I love, so it doesn't really feel like work. Maybe I'll take a day off from housework in honor of the day - guilt-free! 

Monday, August 24, 2015

More cookie drawings

Cookies are fun to draw! Especially if they're good ones, because you get to eat them afterwards.

These were all kind of experiments, or 'practice' drawings. 

This first one is a 'stamped' design with chocolate on one side, some kind of creme filling, then a vanilla version of the stamped design on the reverse. I drew this on Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper, which is really textured, and sort of worked against me. But I wrangled it and got it under control and made it do what I wanted. The cookie is very dark, with the even darker impressions where its stamped. Doing a drawing where all the values are in the last 25% or so of the grey scale is rather challenging. I did resort to using some black, but mostly used dark browns, with a little greyed lavender on top to raise some highlights. This is small - about 4 inches square. But is still larger than the actual cookie!

This one is chocolate with peanut chunks. Not as dark a chocolate as the one above - more like a milk chocolate. This is drawn about actual size, and is also ACEO size - 2.5" x 3.5". This was done on Stonehenge paper.

This one is molasses with creme filling. Its very soft and squishy (the cookie, that is). Its the same paper size and materials as the last drawing, but the cookie is drawn much smaller than in real life. 

When I go grocery shopping I'm always on the lookout for fun little things like this to draw. I'll have a basket with organic greens, artisan bread, sushi, and then something like these cheap little trashy cookies. 

I'm working on something cool that I hope I can share soon. If you don't see me here for a while, its because I'm immersed in my secret project, drawing drawing . . .

Sunday, August 02, 2015


15" x 15" 
Prismacolor colored pencils on Stonehenge paper

BLT stands for Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato. I honestly don't know if that's just an American, or English-speaking thing, or if it translates to other languages or cultures. Here, you just go into a restaurant and order a "BLT" and you might be asked what kind of bread you want it on, and maybe "toasted?", but otherwise they know what you're ordering. 

Some places have fancied-up versions with avocado, which to me makes it something else altogether. A proper BLT should be on white toast, with mayo. 

I had fun putting together the reference for this! I fried up some bacon, sliced some nice 'off the vine' tomatoes, rinsed some leaves of head lettuce, toasted up some plain white bread, and cracked open a jar of Best Foods mayonnaise. (It HAS to be Best Foods. )

The other fun thing was shopping for the frilly toothpicks. I am now the proud owner of a box of 1,000 of them, since that's the only way they come, apparently. So I am well stocked for a lifetime of BLT making! 

This was the first work-in-progress scan I did. The toast was the most challenging part of the drawing. Lots of nooks and crannies.

And then the next, with the toast done, the toothpicks in, and the bacon and tomatoes partway there.

And then I didn't do any more work in progress shots. I wanted to just get it done, so I glued myself to the chair and didn't feel like getting up to scan.

I purposely did this drawing a little looser in style than my previous 'architectural food' pieces. It still has a formal layout, with the top, and section views. But I combined the "side" and "section" views by doing the individual quarters this way, and also let the sandwich itself be a little sloppy - the way they are in real life.

And then I thought it would be fun to show one of them eaten, with just the toothpick left.

So there you have it. I have prints in the shop.
Are you craving one now? :~)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


How time flies. I thought I'd be back here sooner, but I think there's some sort of time warp thing that happens when its really hot. Like, everything slows down and days go by and you don't even know what you've been doing. It all kind of melts together, and next thing you know its been weeks since you've updated your blog.

So I said I'd have the finished art of the mice reading the letter done, but I don't. Its been worked on and changed and added to - a lot - and will be done soon! No, really. I've had to switch over to other things. And one of them I can show is this cookie art.

These are actually all individual drawings, which I did a mash-up of for a group portrait. This is what they really look like ~

They're all Prismacolor colored pencils on paper, and are all ACEO size (2.5" x 3.5").

I've already made prints available of the group shot, but am thinking of putting some of these originals for sale as well. If I can get my brain out of slo-mo enough to get it together. Really, when its 100 degrees, I have to do more 'lie downs' and everything is so much more of an effort. And I have good A/C! But still. 

When I was a kid, before we got central air installed, we had a regular air conditioner in the up-high bathroom window. I so clearly remember going in there and turning it up full blast, then laying down on the floor in the dark with the door shut, just soaking in the freezing air coming out, for as long as I could get away with before I either froze, or someone knocked to see what was up. 

Anyways. Yeah. Cookies! Please let me know if you're interested in any one in particular, and I'll put a listing together for you in the shop. The background on the originals is a warm white with some paper texture. I've cleaned all that up for the prints and made it very white - just fyi.

Hope its cool where you are!!

Saturday, June 27, 2015


"Happy" comes in many flavors.

There is the "reading a letter and seeing photos of loved ones" happy. 

I'm doing a major edit on this illustration (which I showed you in the last post). I've added Mr. Mouse's wife, and embellished the 'story' quite a bit. He is still reading a letter, but now there are photos included. Mrs. Mouse is looking at one (no doubt of a Mouse grandchild or other special near-and-dear, and has her hand on her chest in that "My! how he's grown!" or "Look how beautiful she is!" or gesture.

There is also some stamp collector busy-ness going on there. You can see how I work here - layers of tissue, taped one on top of the other, with edits done, and re-done, and re-done, until its right. Lots of fiddling with the exact placement of things, overlaps, angles, etc., all to make it interesting and a good design. Its getting there, and hopefully I'll have finished art to show next time.

Then there's "YAY! Gay Marriage is finally legal all across the Land!" happy.

I did some creative editing on my striped candy colored pencil drawing to make it into a whole rainbow, in honor of the Gay Pride rainbow theme.

Below is the original drawing. I used Photoshop to duplicate a piece of it, then did a lot of flopping and reversing and erasing and fiddling to get it to look like two more candies balancing on top. Then I used the "replace color" thing in the Adjustments menu to make them blue and purple. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. It's still all my drawing, just with some changes made.

I've made prints available in my etsy shop, in a whole bunch of sizes. 
These are some of my print layouts, all ready to go. I do layouts of the art in different sizes, all on 8.5" x 11" paper, with trim marks. Here you see the ACEO, 5" x 7", and 4" x 6" sizes all ready to print out. 

And last but not least, there's the "My art won an award!!" happy.

An Award of Excellence!! I'm so proud of my little Berry Tart.

This drawing almost didn't get finished. I did this last Summer, and wanted to enter it in the UArt Open Exhibit. The deadline was approaching, but I came down with the weirdest mystery illness that involved a lot of vertigo (where the level in your head goes wonky and you feel like you're going to tip over). I had that on and off for weeks. I'd work on this, then have a spell and have to go lie down. I finally finished the day before the deadline to submit art to the show - but because it was so close, I couldn't mail in the entry, and instead had to drive it over to the UArt store downtown and deliver it in person. I opted to drive the slower city streets route rather than the freeway, just in case. I made it there OK, and thankfully found parking right in front. There was a bit of a queue though at the counter, and while I waited my turn I felt myself start to go . . . I had a mild panic, thinking I'd topple over, but just in time it was my turn, and I handed over my entry packet to a nice man who wished me a hearty "Good luck!". And I was out the door and into the car, where I was OK again, since I was sitting. And I made it home again, slowly.

So long story short, the art did get accepted into that show (along with my Molasses Cookie, which won an award!), then came home again, where its been sitting in a closet all nice and safe until I decided to enter it in this State Fair show. There are some other really stunning entries in the colored pencil division of the show, so I was surprised and extra happy to find out mine had won a special award.

Here is the complete list of show winners, if your'e interested. 

So that's about it for me, here. Happy Summer!