The Monster Under The Bed

This week I continued working on drawing perspective. Lately I’d been drawing rooms from the point of view of an observer facing the wall, and this time I wanted the observer to be looking at the angle of the room. It meant switching from one-point to two-point perspective, which I’m so glad I finally did, because it opens up so many new possibilities.

Since the monster under the bed only comes out at night, I also had to start thinking about light and shadows, something that’s on my creative to-do list. Spontaneously I’m drawn to bright colors and in my head this bedroom was full of bright painted furniture, colorful patterns on the bed linen, the wallpaper and the pictures on the wall.

But by moonlight? A black, gray and blue palette only? Tricky!

Here is some food for thought from my helpful twitter friends:

  • Debra sent me this article about painting night scenes.
  • Kristin recommended: “err on the light side, you can always go darker. Using a color opposite on the color wheel is a good way to darken hues.” (which I really need to explore, since I tend to always use black when I need to darken a color).

Conclusion: I definitely want to learn more about color theory. Do you have any tips or resources to recommend?

PS: Plenty of inspiring other interpretations of “heroic” over at Illustration Friday.



Swirling Wind

Blame it on the lack of light and stormy weather, my camera has been sitting in a drawer for some time. I’m looking forward to start snapping pictures of the neighborhood soon.

For now, here is what I made for this week’s illustration friday challenge. The theme was “swirl”.

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.

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Candlelight And A Cup Of Coffee

Candlelight and a cup of coffee || Cut paper collage, watercolor and gouache || bymarion

Not as carefully finished as I would have wanted, but still in time to post for this week’s Illustration Friday: the theme was “Shelter”, so I felt I could not skip it.

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Love, Emma and the h-index

I love you more than your h-index || watercolor lettering || bymarion
After some failed attempts to come up with a satisfying greeting card design with watercolor calligraphy, I decided to give it up and go for a cut paper design instead.

Cards have been made and mailed and now I am back to my watercolor lettering experiments. I ditched the calligraphy nibs and switched to good old brushes and extra nice watercolor paper. I’m hoping to produce a couple of these “I love you more than your h-index” paintings to add to my shop in time for Valentine’s day.

I’m quite happy with the result so far, though it’s a very, very long, tedious process. I’m always wondering to what extent my using the wrong tools makes things take way more time than they should. But at least while I’m at it, I’m listening to an audiobook version of Jane Austen’s Emma, and laughing quite a lot. This makes for a good contrast with the actual h-index thing, the stupidity of which is more prone to making me want to cry!

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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.

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Big Eyes And Scanning Struggles

Einstein writing on the blackboard || Watercolor || bymarion

I could say that I’m sharing my desk with Einstein himself this week, nothing more, nothing less. But let’s just say that I made my own version of the famous portrait of Einstein writing on the blackboard. Although he’s plain flat watercolor instead of a relief cut-paper collage, he is officially joining my collection of big-eyed characters.

Einstein writing on the blackboard || pencil sketch || bymarion

As you can see, I changed the text a little. Ahem! But that’s because this painting was made to illustrate the first edition of the Outside The Lab newsletter, in which I chat about a political text called Why Socialism that Einstein wrote in 1949. You can read more about this here, if you’re interested.

einstein writing on the blackboard || infographic || bymarion

And here’s my final infographic, with a little shadow added digitally. The reason I made a flat painting instead of a relief collage was mainly to facilitate the scanning process.

Still, since I didn’t use high quality watercolor paper, it wrinkled when it dried. I had to flatten it to be able to scan in properly: I put the painting right side down on my ironing board, added a slightly wet towel on top and ironed it briefly, which did the job.

The scanning step is still a bit of a challenge for me, though, when it comes to color rendering, or dealing with the grain of the paper for example. Does anyone out there have any advice?

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Triangles And Winter Woods

geometric spruce sketch triangles bymarion

We’re still waiting for the first snow around here. I’m longing for walks in the quiet, white winter woods.

Meanwhile I’m experimenting with triangles, trying to find the best way to arrange them into a geometric version of a spruce. The first one looks like it’s flying, don’t you think?

geometric spruce sketch bymarion

I like it better this way, I think.

winter woods sketch bymarion

This is the idea I have in mind for my whole winter woods thing.

geometric spruce sketch gray bymarion

Trying to decide what to darken and what to keep white. There’s supposed to be snow on the branches!

geometric spruce sketch colors bymarion

I’m using my watercolor pencils for this one. I like it that they enable me to combine the transparency of watercolors and the texture of pencil drawings.

winter woods sketch color bymarion

That’s the progress so far. Now I’m working on some little fellows similar to these ones.





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Sketches And Color Tests

illustration // color test // bymarion

Cynthia’s Christmas in July post inspired me to try and come up with a greeting card design, too. Since summer seems to be over already here in the North of Sweden, this is perfect timing!

illustration // sketch // bymarion

The idea of a waiting line in front of a mailbox came to me randomly in the middle of the night. The next morning, I started with a quick and dirty sketch. I’m still using up the leftover student notebooks I bought to make lab journals when I was a physics postdoc. It’s not particularly good drawing paper, but the lines turn out to be quite handy.

illustration // sketch // bymarion illustration // sketch // bymarion illustration // sketch // bymarion

Then I practiced a little and made cleaner sketches of all the characters. I decided to stick to very simple shapes, so I could just focus on the characters’ attitudes – otherwise it would be too difficult for me to draw without a model.


Finally I was ready to make a clean sketch of my whole layout. That’s the point where I have to force myself to draw ONE line, which I find to be a very good exercise. Before going any further, I scanned my finished sketch. Backup, backup, backup: this is a precious habit that I have kept from working in a lab and processing data!

illustration // color test // bymarion

So, at that point I could just print my sketch and try different things with colors and inking. The inking turned out really ugly, and this color version was too cheesy compared to what I had in mind: it wanted to make my card more modern-looking…

illustration // color test // bymarion

… so I stuck to pencil lines and tried more minimalist coloring…

illustration // color test // bymarion

… and then even more minimalist. This was getting closer to something I liked. My partner suggested trying to give the image a little rougher, sketchy look, and I thought it was a good idea.

illustration // color test // bymarion

So I dropped my beloved watercolors and turned to my (also beloved) color pencils.
Here I am now. What do you think? What should I try next?

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