Internet (And Frugal Art Supplies)

No gnomes this time! When I saw the theme for this week on illustration friday, it was an abstract network that came to my mind.

Here is what I made it with:

  • A piece of cardboard from a post package as a “canvas”
  • Envelopes that once contained tax returns, a letter from my grandma and whatnot
  • Colorful bits from selected pages of catalogues, tracts, museum brochures and recycling instructions. (I keep these organized by colors in a box that’s moved with me in three different places. Crazy ?) I chose only mat papers so that I wouldn’t get any reflections when taking a picture with the flash.
  • Homemade wheatpaste.  It has the perfect drying time for this kind of work and it’s super efficient.
  • Tools: scissors, a scalpel knife and self healing cutting mat. Oh, and washers as circle-drawing guides!

collage making desk




This week’s theme for illustration friday is “sound”. I thought about music and waves, and used random paper scraps I’ve saved over the years. Here is to keeping old envelopes, Christmas party announcements, newspaper subscription forms and old tea catalogues!

After a lot of paper cutting, I am longing for a long walk. But there’s a serious snowstorm outside,that’s been going on for two days and nights now. So instead there will be books, good food and cups of turmeric milk .

collage making process || by marion


Status update: a star still shining at the kitchen window, fresh snow and freezing cold. Oh, and just some extra fairy lights.

While it’s pretty hard for me to be optimistic when it comes the political side of things for 2017, I feel determined not to fall into apathy and despair. And since I know I feel best when I’m being creative, I’ve made a little list of creative resolutions for myself.

Drawing along with Eileen in December was really fulfilling. Now committing to posting a finished drawing every day would not be realistic for me. However I think that every week might work, so I’ll try to follow the illustration friday prompts. This week’s topic is “talk”.


In my mind these gnomes were always intended to be made with cut paper collage, so here’s the first one (with messy glue stains, un-erased pencil lines and all!)

I’m really looking forward to seeing what you create this year. I’m learning so much from all of you. Thanks for being around, and happy new year!




Birch Forest Spring

Birch Forest Spring || Watercolor and cut paper collage || by marion

One of the things I love most about living in Scandinavia is the strong contrast between seasons. But even from week to week, nature keeps changing drastically. When I started thinking about making a spring version of my birch forest, the things that came to my mind were these little flowers and tender green birch leaves. In reality, they come several weeks apart (and perhaps not exactly in the same spots); but what’s the point of making art if you can’t play with the rules of nature?

spring flowers

As for the fall version, I painted the foreground birches, birds, flowers and leaves on a separate piece of paper before cutting them and gluing them onto the background.

Cut paper pieces || spring flowers || by marion

Cotton paper is wonderful to paint on. I enjoyed playing with successive layers of paint and letting the transparency of watercolors do its magic.

The making of the birch forest ||cut paper and watercolor || by marion

This time I tried adding some extra leaves on the forest floor. I’m not sure it adds any interest though. I also prefer the way the shadows of the trees look on the fall version.

I think I’ll make the summer version next. Winter will require a bit more research: there’s a lot of white to think about!

But this week I’m taking a little break from birds and trees to work on some greeting cards designs. What about you? I hope you have a great week!


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Another Birch Forest

Birch Forest Spring || Watercolor and cut paper collage in progress || by marion

Autumn is in the air already. Berry picking and wall painting are on hold. Back to my watercolors and glue I’m making the most of rainy days: the spring version of my birch forest is almost done! I have glued all the trees and flowers, and now I’m working on some bird sketches.

How is your week coming along ?


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Birch Forest Song: the final painting

Birch Forest Song || Watercolor and cut paper collage || by marion

And here is the final piece!

When I showed the preliminary drawing to the friend who commissioned the piece, she said that she liked the new composition, but that she would prefer it without the leaves on the forest floor. Instead, she suggested using little touches of color to represent the carpet of leaves.

I was happy to do so. I also decided to add some yellow foliage in the background, since the top part looked too empty.

I painted the black and white birches, the leaves and the bird on separate pieces of paper before cutting them and gluing them onto the background.

And finally, I painted some drop shadows which were a great improvement since they really added some depth.

I’m quite happy with the result. But most importantly, this was a super interesting and fun project to work on. My friend was great at giving me constructive feedback along the process (and very patient, too!). It really helped me to improve the piece and learn tons of new skills.



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Birch Forest Song : A Painting In Progress

Birch forest song // watercolor and cut paper collage // by marion

While everything is green and blooming around me, I am working on some autumn leaves. A friend asked me if I could paint something for her, and of course I was thrilled. Thanks, friend! Her wishes were : yellow and orange.

We made a shared pinterest board to gather inspiration and after a little brainstorming, ended up with the idea of an autumn leaves pattern, a little robin, yellow, orange, brown and gray tones.

It seems that my brain transformed “autumn leaves pattern” into “birch forest”. Don’t ask me why. (It might have something to do with Sweden).

birch forest, västerbotten, sweden
So, this is the first study I made. As usual I used a combination of watercolor and cut paper collage.


The composition is too flat, and the background doesn’t have enough texture.

But since then I’ve made progress, so stay tuned!



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Winter Village

Winter Village || Watercolors, watercolor pencils and cut paper collage || bymarion
I’m hesitating between “Winter Village” or “How I maintained my sanity during an intense couple of weeks”. I guess it’s a little bit of both 😉

Inspired by this walk and this scene.

other things on my desk


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More Winter Woods

Collage Pieces: Watercolor, watercolor pencils and cut paper

After making some sketches, it was time to make a finished version of my winter woods image. I decided to make it a collage for two reasons. First, I just like working with both watercolors and cut paper. Second, collage makes it easier to work on the different layers of the image, adding and removing elements and adjusting their positions along the way.

It’s a perfect technique for me, since I don’t have the patience to do a lot of planning and sketching — although I’m working on it!

If you want to see what an awesome artist can do with this kind of technique, do have a look at Phoebe Wahl‘s fantastic work. Needless to say, I’m nowhere near that level, but bear with me!

Forest background painting: watercolors and watercolor pencils
After seeing some tutorials here and there, I tried experimenting with watercolors and salt for the sky: I used coarse salt, so I obtained a pretty rough texture. Next time I’ll try finer grains. Initially I had not drawn any trees on this background, but I added some when I realized that the whole image looked really weird without them.

Scanning collage pieces
Since I wanted to be able to adjust each layer all along, and because scanning non-flat images doesn’t work for me, I scanned everything separately and made my collage digitally in GIMP. Many of you are probably used to working with either GIMP of Photoshop, but I’m rather new at it. I hope you won’t mind me sharing very basic techniques as I’m learning them. Also, any tips?

Using a green background (or a red one for the trees) as for chroma keying made it easier to find the contours of each object using GIMP’s foreground select tool.

Draft of the digital collage

After putting each object in a different layer, I was able to make a rough draft. Of course the contours still needed a lot of work, the quick foreground extraction left some unwanted transparency on the bottom left tree and there were too many saturated pixels on the path.Re-scanning the bottom part to remove saturation

I re-scanned the bottom part of the background with different contrast settings. This way I got rid of most saturated pixels, but the colors were still not very good.

Digital collage without shadows

Here is the result after I spent some hours cleaning the contours. Thankfully, there are good podcasts to listen to! I also adjusted the colors on the path and in the ray of light. I added the character’s shadow using the “perspective shadow” tool in GIMP.

Final digital collage with shadows
Finally I added some drop shadows to give the whole thing a cut-paper-y look.
What do you think?

This was fun,  I learned a lot, and I feel motivated to practice more.

other things on my desk


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growing up


I won’t be turning 30 until early next year, but the prospect, I’m happy to say, does not sound so scary these days. Not because I’m sure to be on the right track. For to be honest, I don’t know what my future will be made of.

But that’s the whole point. This year is about changing tracks, and exploring new ways, ways to escape a pre-formated, miserable consumer’s life. Of course, uncertainty can be scary – it is, most of the time. But growing up, I finally found out, is not about trying to reduce it at any cost. It is also about learning to deal with it, learning not to let it smother your own growth.

These days, whilst waiting for more paperwork to be fixed, I’ve been sitting at my desk, cutting paper and painting. Not waiting for the perfect moment, but creating anyway. And Socrates, the character I created for our book, has been growing up. So have I.

See more of my illustrations on this page or on this pinterest board.