Day 15: How

Yesterday I wrote about my subjective focus within a scene, the things I like to capture, and mentioned a little of how that can influence the materials I choose and the styles I use. Today I’m gonna try to expand on that.


I really like dry media for the way it lets me easily capture the texture of objects. In this way I relate a lot to how Serio and Grill work. Over the years I’ve tried a number of ways to build that natural texture and scribble feel into my digital work. (Not really aware of why I wanted that, just that I did.)

I used to spend a fair amount of time creating digital collages, using traditionally drawn elements as texture.


It’s been a while though. When I switched to using Clip Studio Paint (away from vector-based Inkscape) I figured I could achieve a lot of those effects within the program. And I could, but I didn’t. It became more controlled, more refined and there were fewer messy bits and pieces. I’ve retained a lot of the directional strokes and texture, but it doesn’t have the same freedom or range that I have in my sketchbook, or even that I used to have in Inkscape.


A trade-off of texture for clarity is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is if it’s not really what I want, just what’s easier to do. A lesson for me: when making digital work I’d like to keep in mind that the textural quality is not something to be added on at the end, but a central element of the illustration. Perhaps I need to spend some time just learning the sorts of marks I can make. But this is all also a reason to improve my traditional illustration skills. As mentioned a while back, I struggle to render complicated scenes, especially from imagination, and I’d like to get better at that.

Light and Shadow

I really don’t like line art. I don’t like drawing an outline and colouring it in. I don’t like it when there’s a solid dark line on the lit side of a pale object. I’ve done many fully lined pictures that I love and am proud of. But it annoys me every time I do it, and I get tired and frustrated, I find line thickness to be a tedious thing to carefully control, and the result never feels quite true to me anyway.

And I’ve been thinking that maybe it’s because I really like light and shadow. I prefer to think of things in solid shapes, not in outlines. If I’m drawing an outline I want it to make sense – a light line on a lit edge, a dark line on a shadow edge. Often there’s no need for lines at all.

I think this is one reason why I really love (digital) collage and working with vectors. It gives me a method of creating pictures without lines. The AOI Posters from my first Blaugust post were a conscious attempt to recreate some of the fun of lineless collage-style digital art, and I really enjoyed that. It’s fun to start without lines and only add them where absolutely needed. (The summer courtyard in this post is a good example of that technique too.) Collage is also a good method for adding patterns because you can easily add a pattern to a single collage layer. One thing it’s not so good for is softening hard edges, but layers of pencil over the top can do that.

I’ve never been much for traditional collage because, honestly, I’m not great at using scissors or stanley knives, but maybe that’d be something else to learn.


So I’ve been talking all about dry media and the ways I do (or don’t) like to use them. Another interesting question is: what about paint? What about painterly painting with colours that blend? And honestly, I don’t know. I’m just starting to use watercolour in my sketchbook at the moment, and gouache will also be making an appearance at some stage. At present I’m using them as translucent coloured layers in conjunction with crayons or pencils, which actually do a lot of the work. It’s helping me to use outlines less in my sketchbook, which makes me happy. It also adds a depth to my colours that I really appreciate.

man jamies italy.jpg

Attempting to paint in a painterly manner without any pencils at all seems like a thing I could also enjoy. It also seems hard.

I guess digitally I do sometimes use painterly techniques. Again in the AOI poster, the smoke and fire are all painterly and that was fun. Needs must? I feel pretty chill just experimenting with this as it comes up, but without any sense of bringing it wholesale into my standard repertoire at present. Perhaps it’s just worth keeping in the back of my mind.

Summarising Thoughts

Maybe I need to figure out when and where things fall apart? When do I start relying on outlines? And how can I stop myself from doing that?

Should I experiment with making little stamps? I know that’s a thing other people do to make patterns.

People are a whole ‘nother ball game, and I’m gonna make a separate post for illustrating them. Also, I think that’s where I often fall apart and start relying on outlines and get scared of light/shadow, so… it’s definitely something to tackle!

NB: The THEA picture was one I really enjoyed making digitally, and it felt like it had some of the pencil texture I wanted, and didn’t overly rely on outlines. Unfortunately when I tried to make more complex pieces in the same sequence, I found myself relying on outlines again. I still like the follow-up pieces, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t quite the direction I really wanted to go.

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