Back in the March, I wasn't getting as much commissions as I would like. The danger of that is to not produce any art and lose touch with my craft. And so as recommended by artist illustrators that I follow and advised by my diet of podcasts, I embarked on a self initiated project - a monthly challenge like one I did back in 2017 for Inktober. Except this time, I didn't feel the need to stick to a timeline and get 1 out every other day, nor did I feel inclined to complete all 30. It was simply a way of keeping my skills from turning all rusty.
Establishing theme and rules
Since I've been drawing pet portraits and characters, I wanted to try something different and less familiar. Thus, I decided on the theme of "Houses". Then I decided I should establish some rules for myself to make it easier to draw because I don’t have to constantly wonder what to draw next.
My rules were pretty straightforward. One house structure per illustration, minimal background, has to fit snugly into A6. The works are going to be in series of 5 and worked on in batches. Each series had a micro- theme namely TEA/COFFEE POTS, SHELLS and MUSHROOMS.
Before drawing on the final A6 pieces, I did rough sketches to get a sense of the 5 in a series so that they’d look somewhat cohesive in the end. To do that I had a look through the interwebs for charming reference photos. Mentally, I thinking about who’s living in this house, what is the house built on, how many windows, what props can I add to make the illustration work etc.
So this thought process became easier and free-er after the first series. By the time I was working on the 2nd series (micro-theme : Shells ) I was more decisive on the look and function of the house. I had a sea-urchin house where an astronomer lives with his telescope on the roof, and an egg shelled restaurant, and a spiny seashell operating as a laundry house. The search for reference photos expanded into museums and books where I had a glimpse of a wonderful collection of shells and mushrooms. (I never knew how sea urchin shells looked like until I saw the real thing at Lee Kong Chian Museum!)
Materials used :
Kuretake brush pen
Van Gogh Watercolour
Sakura Pigma Micron pen 03
Canson Watercolour paper 300 gsm
I usually sketch in pencil, ink the piece and then add on the watercolours. The inking bit is my favourite part. You can check out some inking time-lapses on my Instagram Highlights.
So there you have it. This simple illustration project stopped at 15 pieces but I learnt so so much. While drafting the houses, I tend to think deeper about the story behind each house. and that provided some sort of guide in the way the houses are presented. I also (re) learnt to how to draw inspiration from live observations rather than just scrolling through Pinterest / Instagram. It took only an afternoon at a natural history museum to churn out drafts for both the shell and mushroom pieces. It goes to show that there are still ways I can optimise / speedup my workflow just by tweaking the way I get things done.
Eventually, paid work and events got in the way and I had to press pause indefinitely on this little project. Around June/ July period, I had a few events lined up so I decided to turn the Little Odd Houses into prints. You can now get them at my bigcartel! Every little bit from that shop goes to helping me pay rent and allows me to continue doing what I do :)
I do hope you found this post helpful and not too boring a read. Sharing experiences is effective re-learning for me, and whether you are the person sharing or the person on the receiving end of someone else's experience, the benefit is mutual. Should you have any questions on my works or process, feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me an email!