Posts Tagged ‘watercolour’

spotted: Quentin Blake in Cambridge

June 16, 2013

Quentin Blake is most definitely one of my alltime favourite illustrators. As a child I devoured all Roald Dahl’s books. I feel this is not only Dahl’s merit. Blake’s drawings are essential to Roald Dahl’s colourful stories. I truly admire how he is able to grasp a character with only a few strokes.

trunchbull3p page6_blog_entry194-matilda2

A few years back I watched a documentary about him. I wish I hadn’t… It ruined the magic in a way. (If you’re a big Quentin Blake fan too and you don’t want to risk ruining the magic then don’t watch the video below and stop reading.)

I’d always loved the spontaneousness of his drawings, little did I know … Blake says to do ‘a freewheeling sort of drawing that looks as though it is done on the spur of the moment. However even a single drawing needs a certain amount of preparation and planning’. I have to admit his lightbox technique is really genius, and actually I often use a similar technique. In a way, I’m also glad he shared his working method. In my magic fairytale-version of reality I assumed that this genius drew his drawings with his eyes closed. Now I’ve learned that also a genius has to put time and effort into his illustrations for them to excel, which is a comfort to a hobbyist like me.


Anyway, I was in Cambridge in April and I couldn’t believe my luck. There was an exhibition titled ‘Drawn by Hand’ that looked at individual works he had produced in the past decade: book illustrations, etchings, lithographs, drawings and works done for hospitals in various and contrasting media. The work was accompanied by a display of pens, brochures, inks, watercolours, quills and other materials from the artists studio. Nele accompanied me, and I don’t know about her, but I had a field day.




Spotted: patience pays – Will Freeborn

September 23, 2012

It’s always interesting to have a look into an artist’s gear box, sketchbooks and work process. Will Freeborn lets us do all of these things, therefore he’s my next topic in this ‘spotted’ section. Will Freeborn is a designer and illustrator living and working in Gourock, Scotland.

Pop up book self portrait

Step by step

Here’s how he describes his work process on an illustration he was commissioned to do for The Touch Agency of the Fountain Bar.

“I thought I’d try a short process post as this recent illustration took a few stages to complete. I went and visited the Fountain bar in Edinburgh, the Touch Agency were looking for a few interior views that would give a picture of the atmosphere and design of the renovation. I did quite a few rough sketches and this is one of the ones they chose. I really wanted to show the full size and variety of the bar. Its done in an A3 moleskine sketchbook with faber castell artist pens.”

“This is the second stage where I’m just doing a rough layout. This time I wanted to do a more accurate watercolour, sometimes if you work directly with pencil onto the paper and you make a few mistakes using a rubber can quickly destroy the tooth of the surface. Instead I started with just basic paper where I’m not too concerned about how it looks just getting the measurements correct. I totally misjudged the height of the bar here and made it far too short, I changed it in next stage. Although I’m using a ruler for quite alot of the lines I’m just using my judgement on distances so its not too analytical.”

“From here I’ve used a large sheet of hot pressed Fabriano Artistico paper. The image is transferred using a lightbox, I use the image underneath just as a guide and don’t really try to slavishly copy what is underneath. Here I can start to define the individual elements such as the bar staff, and all the bottles. Rather than use a pen for the whole image I ink in the area I want the viewer to focus on. The roof and the front of the bar is lightly penciled in.”

“And now for the painting to begin. With the variety of colours that will be on all the bottles I wanted to have quite a cool simple colour scheme of blue/grey v the warmth of the bar in browns. Its simple to start block in the big colours and start adding some depth. Its always good to start big as I’ve been told before start with a shovel finish with a needle.”

I was slightly torn between roughly painting in the bottles suggesting them but opted to define them more. It was more work in the long term but I felt as the job was for a bar such details and care could be important. There was not real shortcut just question of painting them one by one. Though each bottle was quite easy to define with simple blocks of colour and I got into a rhythm.”

The Fountain Bar, Edinburgh

“Once everything was painted, I spent some time checking how it all worked together adding washes of colour where necessary. That’s it, now just to scan the final piece ready for the artwork to be added.”

Published: August 12, 2012,


I really like his style, it seems rather spontaneously painted and yet the paintings have an intricate level of detail to them. If you’re wondering how he manages to this on the spur-of-the-moment (like I did), check his equipment below.

Majestic Laundrette

Vinyl hunters

Gear box

I like Will Freeborn’s colouring. He uses a traditional technique and yet he manages to make it look different. Maybe it’s his choice of colours that make his drawings so appealing.
His favourite colours are burnt umber, yellow ochre, sap green, paynes grey, cerulean blue, cobalt blue, ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow, cadmium red and alizarin crimson.