Exercise 22

Tools and Materials

  • Omn Mar Win
  • James Yang
  • Ana Victoria Calderón
  • Paula McGloin
  • Alvaro Tapia Hidal
  • Jan Bowman

Comparing these artists:

All artists use mixed media.  They create thumbnails of their work to get ideas for composition and layout.  In the case of Ohn Mar Win and Ana Victoria, they tend to use watercolour first to create the base layer and then a pencil or pen over the paint to structure the form.

Alvaro seems to do something similar and then manipulates the shape to suit the image.  Paula seems to sketch and doodle a lot before picking an image to go with, scanning it in and tracing over it digitally.

Jan states that she draws straight on to her ipad for her drawings.  Her background is in architecture and it shows in her drawings.  She does have a number of sketches on her website however, that shows her using a warm coloured paper for sketching with chalks and coloured pencils.  A white pen or pencil is used for contrast and it has a lovely cooling effect while bringing your attention right into that spot.

James works from thumbnails scanned in, a very similar process to Paula.  He draws up very rough ideas for a brief in 12 small boxes and then traces over the ones he feels will be best to use to meet the brief.  In his trace drawing he puts in more detail, but it is still a thumbnail of the artwork.  This artwork is then scanned in and a small description is given to each of the images picked.  He then sends these off to the client and they reply as to which they prefer to go with along with any changes they want to make.  This image, scanned in, now becomes a background on which he traces over and layers up.  The process is used in conjunction with an ipad so it’s easier to draw.

All artists seem to use a combination of a number of tools and materials.  The most common seems to be a sketch, watercolour and then digital finish.  When they use the digital form they still put their own style on it and ensure that in no way is their natural form and style diminished by the use of digital.

Ohn Mar creates many forms in a very small sketchbook but then develops an idea from that.  She often uses the images drawn or painted from the book scanned into Photoshop or Illustrator, and then continues to experiment with opacity and colour of the image to help achieve the image she wants.

This combination of using paint and digital form really appeals to me.  It means that you can control your image on the page and ensure that the form and style that is unique to you is achieved through pen, pencil or paint.  It feels more natural to go this way.  The manipulation of the image is also great because it is your image and you retain that energy achieved in the analogue format.  Adding colour or texture to it in digital form is a lovely way to enhance it.

Although I find myself drawn to Jan’s images simply because of their brightness, I have tried digital sketching before and find that the pen to pad option has too much of a lag in it and feels unnatural to me.  I have no problem with layering and textures, but straight up drawing on the tablet doesn’t work for me.  I haven’t tried using an iPad so can only wait to fully give judgement on that once I’ve given it a shot.

For this exercise, and simply because it feels like it would challenge me greatly, I’d like to try out Alvaro Tapia Hidals style.  He seems to have a strong style and to try and echo that would mean pushing myself outside the comfort zone of getting a finished piece done.  I’d like to see what can be done with watercolour and pencil but in an off side layered way.

There were a number of other artists researched for this exercise.  It was really hard to pin down a few to do comparisons with.  However one thing in common with nearly all researched was the mix of traditional and digital form.  Only one artist, Eddie Del Rio, used digital throughout.  His work involved creating 3d models and was labour intensive, but the results speak for themselves. 

Of the others researched, Gizem Vural was very different to what I would normally appreciate.  She had a great take on approaching comics which led me to research her illustrations further.  Dena Cooper was more realistic with her work while Maria Hask had the stamp of a graphic designer and Courtney White was appealing because of how different she was.  I’ve given a brief overview on each.

Other artists that were researched:

Gizem Vural – www.gizemvural.net

Her process is sketchbook first, scan sketches and digitally alter image.  She has a number of graphic influences as she layers planes and backdrops.  It all comes from her imagination rather than still life drawing or life drawings.  She also seems to use a lot of pastel, acrylics and pencils.  She studied graphic design and then switched to drawing when she moved home.

Dena Cooper – www.denacooper.com

Her style is very much based on branding and fashion designs.  Her work does cover a huge range but the style is very distinct.  She uses watercolour and Indian ink and her typography is amazing.  Her main focus seems to be realism for fashion design images and cards but she can adapt to suit.  Her colours are soft and quite feminine.

Maria Kask – www.mariakask.se

Her work background is firmly from the graphic design angle.  She works on logos, drawings, covers, typography mostly, and can focus on other projects but these seem to be her main ones. She works with watercolour, pencil and mixed media, digital, ink, vector, architectural drawings and logotypes.  I found her work so varied and very free and particularly loved her portraits.  The architectural drawings are a beautiful interpretation of space with colour instead of a sketch.

Courtney White – http://courtneymakesstuff.format.com

Courtney works with a lot of sketchbooks, pencils, images and photocopies and pastels and acrylics.  She mashes up images and focuses on monochromatic themes, found texture, vibrant colours and hand drawn lines.  Her work is so varied and different and can be completely out there and include some mad visual distortions that just compel you to look!  I found her sketchbooks really interesting.  They were very dynamic and experimental and unafraid to express anything.  I got a lot from her sketchbooks and felt that I’d like to experiment like that as an ongoing project for myself. 

Eddie Del Rio – www.eddiedelrio.com

This guys work just blew me away.  I had to include him as a completely different type of illustrator because he uses models in 3d format.  He has digital thumbnail compositions and uses Maya software to create the scene or the object, then uses lighting and cameras to take the image.  He works from the foreground to the background, lighting and then paints and adds character.  It’s an amazing mix of 3d image creation and illustration combined.

Ashley Eansor – www.ashleyeansor.com

She uses traditional and digital media and also uses lino cut blocks and acrylic painting to make pictures.  She then digitally enhances them.  Her designs are a beautiful mix of handmade and digitally altered images, but because she is mostly traditional the noise created from linocuts remains in the images.  This gives such a distinct fingerprint to the image and makes it unique.  I really like the style she goes for in her illustrations and surface designs.

Alvaro Tapia Hidalgo


His work is bold, abstract and unexpected and very contemporary.  He works in watercolour and vector drawings and manipulates them until he achieves the results he wants.  His influences are Francis Bacon and L.S. Lowry, in particular his portrait work.

His aesthetic according to himself, is based on duality.  He likes to constantly contrast things such as beauty and the grotesque, mechanical forms versus organic forms and abstract versus figurative.

He uses a basic drawing that acts as the concrete image in his work.  He focuses on the visual synthesis of it and defines forms on an obsolete software called ‘Freehand’.

My approach:

I decided to revisit the cover that I had done for ‘book cover’ exercise in Part 3.  It was a book cover for the books of Nancy Drew.  The original cover that had been done was something I had found challenging and it never felt fully realised so this was a nice opportunity to revisit it from a new perspective.

Taking the approach from Alvaro, I created a watercolour background by simply using a range of bright colours randomly splattered on paper.  I wanted to get a large area covered in a blue, purple, pink and orange colour, as I felt these would be great strong colours to have in an image.  They also felt feminine so that would suit the Nancy Drew character.

Secondly I took an image from a google search of the actress that played Nancy Drew.  Using this as a reference I created a vector image of the character.  This would be the main focus of my image.

I then created a range of shapes in similar colours to the watercolours, and these were placed to create a triangle collage for a background.  The shape was used as it represented a shape in a diamond and the title of the book was referencing diamond as a shape.

Photoshop was then used as a tool to layer all the images together and create a finished piece.  I had done up a variety of thumbnail sketches for the composition of the cover and considered placement of the text and character.

This image is probably the closest I got to the image looking like Alvaros style and I felt it represented it well. 

My final image consisted of a central composition with text above and below the main central image.  The triangle and watercolour images were adjusted in opacity to allow for them both to be seen.  A few trials and errors in layer opacity and effect along with drop shadows, eventually gave me a book cover that I felt was modern, fitting for a new version of Nancy Drew and something that reflected the approach to painting that had been observed in Alvaro’s work.