How to improve your drawings by tracing

I am definitely one of many who believe that anyone can improve their art at some level. Especially if one’s putting in lots of effort while enjoying the actual process instead of the result. Doing it the same way as when we learned to write in elementary school, repeating until the lines come effortlessly. 

I just love tricks and methods that makes sketching more fun and effective, and that helps you to really analyze things instead of brute forcing them. Some artists say that drawing is actually more about thinking, I totally agree. That feeling when leveling up is priceless.

Here’s my number one tip on how you can improve your drawings:

By tracing.

-” WHAT DID SHE JUST SAY?!”  You may think for yourself. Isn’t that cheating? Or art theft?

Yes and no.

If you trace and copy a photo or piece of art and then claim it as your own, then you will be in trouble. Torches will be burning and pitch forks will fly. Our art career might get short, and one will risk whimpering in shame after getting exposed.

But!

If you imitate to learn, trace photos, or others art to learn how shapes, proportions and anatomy works – then I would say that it’s totally fine. Just don’t forget to ask the owner for permission if you intend to show your studies.

Everyone has learned from somewhere else, just look at the video series “Everything is a Remix”. You’ll get what I mean.

Here’s how you can improve your drawings by tracing

This is how I do it. You can use this method with pretty much anything.

Let me demonstrate using photos of our beloved odd balls Zimba and Rosso.

cat photo reference

Step 1. Gather the images you’d like to base your studies on. I picked these two.

 

cats tracing line art

Step 2. Add a new layer with low opacity on top of the images in Photoshop, fill it with a light color. Then create a third layer and draw your outlines. Keep it simple.

cay sketches

Step 3. Hide all layers except the one with your outlines.

pencil sketch practice cats

Let the practicing begin! I started with some pencil studies.

pencil sketch practice cats

Keep mimic and explore the shapes, and study how the relate to each other. How’s the distance between the eyes and nose? What size are the ears? And so on.

cat sketches character design

The more you study the actual subject, the better.

cat character design

Eventually, once you’ve gotten the hang of things, you can start to push the SHAPEs around and come up with some really interesting character designs. All based on your recently gained knowledge.

You can apply this method both digitally or analogously

tracing art drawing tips storyboard

I use Photoshop to prepare my references. However, when I was younger, before the Photoshop era, I traced on overhead plastic….

tracing art drawing tips

And attached them to a window. That works well too ;)

Hope you found this useful. It’s a quite common method, but I thought that I should recommend it too. I trace all the time when trying to figure out a new or strange subject. It’s a true time saver!

 

Monthly recap: February + March and thoughts about procrastination

February and March. They just swooshed by. I’ve barely had any freelance work, so I’ve been mostly doing mindless doodles on my spare time. Quite nice though, I like having slower months from time to time, where I put myself first.

watercolors cats persian cornish rex bunny

nathan fowkes watercolor study

Still soldiering on with my watercolors these two months as well, and I think I’m slowly moving forward. Learning a lot so far, I’ve figured out that tube paints and white gouache are my friends. Nothing ecxiting to show yet though, I need to save my failed attempts for a future post ;)

acrylic inks fox painting

I also found some acrylic inks after one of my visits to the art supply store, which I’ve been playing around with. I’m hooked now. They kinda behave like watercolors, but become waterproof. Interesting…… I can do a comparison later on!

winter stockholm judarskogen deer

Stockholm has been FREEZING lately. We haven’t had this much snow in years. I know many Swedes over here have been fed up with it. But not me. I’ve welcomed it with open arms. Climate anxious much?

And then there were lots of snow leopards in February. Here are a bunch of sketches I made to study these gourgeous beasts.

snow leopard sketches digital art photoshop

I mean, seriously. How cute are they? Holding their own tails and acting all cute. Snow kittens!

What about my action Points?

Well, I did go on a field trp in February. But I definitely failed March, and got sick instead. Oh well, I’ll go twice next month! I haven’t done any serious writing either… Shame on me.

However, I DID publish my first video on Youtube in ages. It still counts even though I did it last minute, hehe:

Yeah, that’s pretty much it for now!

April will be about some freelancing, I need to focus on that book that’s meant to get finished later in May. Then I’ll try to kickstart my Youtube channel for real.

And work on my own story.

Seriously….

How come it’s so much harder to finish our own Projects? I get writer’s block Before I even start, even though I know how my story will start and end. Ghah.

Really, this is one of my greatest stuggles to be honest. I already use a Bullet Journal to manage tasks to get things done, loving it. But I think making a schedule for everything would good too. Time management for the win!

 


What are your best tips on being more effective?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New painting of a cuddly fox

How is it possible to feel this productive and lazy at the same time? I’ve got so much I was planning to do during this weekend, yet I end up here painting a cuddly fox. But, damn it was so much fun painting it. I’ve been in the zone for hours and managed to color this one all in one sitting. Again. One can’t fight the urges, you just gotta hold on as long and enjoy it while it lasts ;)

Painting light and shadows is so much fun, I remember how excited I became when things slowly started to click and I actually understood better how light works. Still not perfect of course, but better than 10 years ago ;)

cuddly fox sketch

Here’s the initial sketch I finished yesterday before coloring. Guess I was thinkng a lot of Zimba while working on it. Maybe he was a cuddly fox in a past life.

Oh right, I remembered to record the process of this one! Just need to find a nice video editing software for PC. Any suggestions? :) Is After Effects and Premier still the thing?

 

Hope you had a wonderful weekend. Talk to you soon.

 

Never lose great ideas again – Gather all your best sketches in one place

Allright, I’m gonna show you something awesome.

Do you also have a bunch of old sketchbooks piling up on your shelves, that you’ve abandoned once you finished them? You had lots of great ideas, but then forgotten about them after a while, or can’t even remember which sketchbook you drew them in?

sketchbooks persian cat

I had a bit of an epiphany while watching one of Claire Wendling’s presentations at THU. She’s one of my idols by the way, damn she’s skilled :D

Something clicked while I was watching her flipping through her amazing sketchbook…..

Why yes, of course! How have I not thought about it before?

How many of us have lots and lots of great , forgotten sketches and scribbles? I got a bunch of them over here.

organize your sketches

Made myself a nice cup of coffee, sat down with a pair of scissors and tape, and began cutting out all my favorite sketches from the past years. Attached them to blank sheets of papers and carefully slid them into plastic pockets that went into a large folder.

It took all day. My back was aching, and my hand shaking from hunger. I couldn’t allow myself to take a break until I finished my archive, this was way too exciting to get interrupted from!

All your best sketches in one place

After I finished collecting, I finally had my very own sketch archive filled with hand picked ideas and scribbles. Personal favorites that might come in handy one day. Sorted by category so I’ll always find them or keep adding new sketches. Like a spinoff from Bullet Journaling.

Seriously.

Am I the only one who feels all giggly and excited over this? I’m all hyped, I just wanna carry this folder everywhere I go, like a teddy bear.

(Haha, no Zimba, I was joking. You are always my number one ;D)

Here are some extra benefits:

  • This can help preventing future art blocks, as you can always use your archive as inspiration
  • Your best sketches will remain protected in the plastic pockets
  • You can save those first scribbles for your masterplan, perfect to show off when you’re writing your future biography as a success story ;)
  • You’ll have a nice overview on what you should practice more in terms of sketching. It’s a fun challenge to make your archive as diverse as possible.
  • Decluttered shelves. Why saving all the old sketchbooks filled with drawings you don’t even like or need? After saving the best ones, you can get rid of all the books that only take up unnecessary space. The minimalist in me wants to burst out into singing by this fact alone :)

rhino pencil sketch noukah

These silly rhinos for instance. I drew them back in 2012, and have completely forgotten about them. Now I can easily find them again, and might as well use them for future projects someday.

Seriously though. I highly recommend this. Sure, it does take some time and effort, but it’s soooo worth it trust me. Isn’t it ironic how a pretty organized artist like myself, could forget organizing  the most important thing in our works? Our personal blue prints. The soul of creativity – the sketches.

Grab the scissors and start cutting, amigos!


 

You are welcome ;)

January recap: Watercolor hype, frost and a cute and cozy school

Why hello there, it’s me again. Almost end of February already? Really? What’s going on?  

It’s time for the first monthly recap to check on how I am doing wth my goals for the year. January has been really fun, consisting of lazy and snowy days(haven’t have this much snow in Stockholm in years, yay!), some freelance work, losing myself in watercolors.

So how did I do with the goals so far? Let’s have a look:

snow leopard watercolors noukah

Traditional painting

I’ve been really busy with my brushes and paint these past weeks. There’s something about watercolors that gets me so enchanted that I forget about time and space when watching the wet colors mix on the paper. After struggling a lot, practicing and sweating, I managed to finish my first watercolor painting in January. The one with two lynxes chasing each other.

I’ve got another one in progress already, which is the one you can see above :) Yay! We’re making progress!

frost

Getting out in nature

I can proudly cross this one off my list as well. Visited a beautiful nature preserve here in Stockholm during one of the coldest days here so far. So worth it.

I’m planning to do a smaller field trip again probably this weekend or next week. I still got some time to decide upon where to go next :)

Speaking in front of a large audience

This year will be the one when I become better at public speaking. I can feel it. I know, I’ve said this before, but Imagine how cool it would be to become really good at capturing your audience. Standing casually on a stage and say things that matter. Yes, I want that.

I had the great opportunity to keep practicing, as I got asked to be a guest teacher for two days at a boarding school that teaches animation. I arrived to a snowy town in south Sweden, and the school looked like this cozy little village consisting of red houses.  I was teaching character design, and had an awesome time. Once again – thanks for having me!

Writing and illustrating my own story

Hm, frankly I didn’t have time to focus on this goal at all in January. I still got time though, as I set an action point to finish an outline, synopsis and rough text for my story by the end of February. Will probably aim to finish that horse story. I do have most of the rough story already, so I might manage to finish all of it on time. I’ll try!

Active blog

Well yes. I would say that I’ve been more active on this blog and social media than ever. By being productive of course ;) I’ve posted on average, one blog post per week which I think is a pretty nice level.

But Youtube…? Heh. I do have videos in the backlog, and I know I said that the next video should be done by the end of February. We will se about that. Maybe I can do it, if I put myself together and really priotirised it.

All in all, I think I did pretty ok during January. Managed to keep focus and finish tasks in a humane pace.

February and March in particular, will be more about public speaking and story telling. I can’t wait to finish my stories, it must be so cool to have something that’s made all by yourself.


How was your January?

New speed painting based on my photos

I’m still living in that magical wonderland from last week in the snowy woods.  Who knew that a little frost, sunshine and minus degrees could do so much good. Been looking at the photos I took and long to go back. Hope we can have snow at least one more time before spring arrives. It’s all melted away already.

I remember walking past a section where some tree logs have fallen to the ground. That beautiful scene sparked my imagination and I heard my self thinking “Wow, that is so beautiful! That would be a perfect spot for the lynx and fox I want to paint. They could balance on those logs and play, having the sun shining from the side.”

Then I scribbled down this a couple of days later

lynx and fox sketch by NoukahThough it suited well for a speedpainting. Since I’ve been doing a lot of line art lately, and struggling with my watercolors, it felt good to push some pixels around in my beloved Photoshop. The finished painting took me a couple of hours, did everything except the sketch in one sitting.

Time to eat something, and make a nice cup of tea. By the way, I’m so glad I’ve finally found my favorite tea again. Rosehip and hibiscus. There was one in the stores back in the days called “Morning Time” that I loved to drink as a kid. I’m an old lady trapped in a young persons body,  how normal is it to long home from school just so I could sit and drink tea as a 12 year old? :D

Then is suddenly disappeared from the shelves. Oh, the irony. Through out the years, I never managed to find that combo again. All I knew was that it contained rosehips. It was not until a couple of years ago, when a friend pointed out that the Hibiscus gives tea that beautiful red color. That gave me the best clue ever, as the tea I remembered was unusually red and sweet. So now I know, and luckily, I can find it again in regular grocery stores!

Happy ending.

Tomorrow will be a very fun and exciting day. I’ll tell you more later :)

Looking for inspiration during the coldest day of the year

Last Sunday was magical. I was predicting pretty cold weather, and have been eagerly checking my weather app over and over again so that I won’t miss the best opportunity for a field trip.

And I hit the jackpot, baby.

The air was crisp, the sun was shining and Stockholm looked like a winter postcard. Insanely Beautiful! This was exactly what I’ve been waiting for, as I need some photo references for some new upcoming paintings.

Enough said. I packed the camera, found the warmest clothes I could find and headed out in the foggy morning.

I haven’t quite used the camera outdoors yet, so I was thrilled to see how suitable it is for photographing nature. Well, it wasn’t too shabby I must say, I just need to practice more so that we click better (mjehehe, saw what I did there?).

noukah nature

You know I mentioned that one of my goals for 2018 was to get out to see nature more often? I’m not meant to visit a nature reserve at least once a month, and this time I chose to visit  one in Ängbyplan, in Stockholm. I’ve been here twice before(Thank you Sabina, for showing me!) but have only seen the forest during summertime. Now I’ve sene the Narnia version as well ;)

I walked along the path around the big frozen lake, and explored some of the paths that led into the actual forest for a couple of hours, until my body said “Nope” and my shoulders started to ache. Dam, one can really tell that I’m not 20 anymore… I really need to get back to the gym to lift heavy things.

Back home to the drawing tablet

noukah drawing

The photo session Went pretty well, and I now have a bunch of nice photos to use as references. Made a collage of my favorite ones so I can use them while sketching. Currently working on a new sketch that I will record the painting demo of, to show my favorite Photoshop brushes. Stay tuned for that one.

lynx and fox sketch by noukah

Again, I’m so glad I actually Went outside instead of being stuck on the couch for Another day. I’m very easily distracted, and often lose myself in something while the hours pass. Then suddenly when I look up from my screen, it’s pitch dark outside. But not this time! Not last Sunday. Well done, Andrea.

It would be fun to bring some paint when once it’s warmer outside, so I can try some plein air painting. Never done it, and I admire those who get out and do kickass paintings on the spot. Looks so cozy :)


 Have you done plein air studies? Any tips?

My first finished watercolor painting since forever

At last. Had to fail over and over again, but here we are – 5-6 attempts later. I like it enought to call it done. Feels awesome! :D

Been grinding for weeks now, “wasting” several sheets of expensive paper. But hey, one needs to make sacrifices in order to improve, right? I’m known for starting over rather than trying to fix a painting that dowsn’t work from the beginning, so this wasn’t an exception either. Especially when it comes to watercolors. So hard! I had to start over 3 times on this piece, the previous version almost ended with a complete disaster. Zimba decided to jump up on my choulders when I was the most busyapplying the tiniest details of masking fluid. He pushed me so hard that it resultet in puddles of masking fluid allover the table and the floor. Everywhere except on the painting, thank god.

Guess who behaved like a little angel afterwards? I know he’s a cat, but I think he actually felt guilty this time ;)

Not sure if I mentioned this Before, but I’ll probably make a review of what I’ve learned so far when it comes to watercolors. Showing all the failed versions and explain why I dind’t feel that they worked. Think it could be a nice way to document stuff, and not just showing my best work all the time. Plus, I can keep going on about how benefitial it is to repeat and start over in order to improve our paintig skills. Success is definitely built by failure.

lynx watercolor by Noukah

So excited to start on other paintings now! I have a few ideas in mind already, I’ll probably continue with my lynxes for a while. nd also squeezing in some of the 100 cats I’m meant to finish. I have this idea about a tiger and a fox playing in a snowy landscape for instance. Gosh, I love sketching different animals together, and imagine how they would behave towards each other. It sparks so many new ideas for future stories and art pieces.
lynx watercolor by Noukah
Did someone say “pancakes”? I’ve fallen into a pancake season, mmm how can it be so tasty. Gotta go make some, I’m starving.

Then I’m gonna try to finish that blog header I’ve been working on whenever I got some extra time to spare. Been procrastinating for so long, mostly because I was unsure of what to draw. I mean come on, it’s not like I’m getting a tattoo :D So.. It’s going to be two foxes on a cliff in a forest – what a chock ;) You’ll see when it’s finished.

Hope you’re having an awesome weekend!

 

Did I finish drawing all the 100 cats?

Nice and calm day yesterday. I’ve spent so much time in the kitchen, surrounded by wet paint, brushes and paper. Gosh, been such a long time since I experienced this. Having the table covered in art supplies. Amazing.

I’ve just prepared a new watercolor painting. First I created a quick digital painting, the one here above, to use as reference for my traditional piece. Sketched it straight out of my head, as usual.

Wrote the other day on insta that I wanted to dedicate January to the majestic lynx. Honestly, It’s hard to believe that we have big cats here in Sweden!

If I’m happy with my ongoing watercolor paintings? Well, that’s another story. Already started over several times, and I’ll probably make many more attempts before things really click. I’m struggling a bit with gradients and washes. Not giving up though. Luckily, I’m very stubborn, so I’ll just keep pushing.

Speaking of stubborness.
Remember last year, when I talked about that I wanted to improve my cat drawings? In order to do that, I put up a goal to draw 100 cats. Repetition is key, and I was determent.

So, how did it go then?

Ehm. Well.

I’ve probably drawn around 30 perhaps? Lost counting to be honest.

Luckily(hehe) I never set a clear deadline for them all.

That’s why I brought this up again, let’s finish all the rest as promised. I’m just gonna pick up where I stopped. Plus, I can take advantage of the fact that I decided to draw lots of Lynxes this month. See what I did there? ;)

It will be a perfect thing to draw while taking short breaks during work and freelancing. I also just delivered that book cover illustration the other day, yay! 8 more illustrations to go. Can’t wait to see it published.

Hope you’ll have a great day!

The 2018 goals, this time I’m gonna keep them

You know I mentioned earlier that I never really accomplished my previous goals for the year? I kinda forgot about them. Then life happened, and so on. Didn’t estimate properly, realizing how much time everything takes, especially if one has to juggle work on top of everything. Artistic chaos. Oh well. New year, new me. Right?

I’m currently sitting at the kitchen table, sipping my coffee while enjoying a few early rays of the sun. And kickstarting one of my goals for the year. Those of you who follow my insta stories, have gotten a glimpse of what I’m up to. Watercolours :D

Can’t believe that I got some of these paints and brushes when I was 12. Have kept them ever since. Time flies.

Back to 2018. This time I’m gonna make it. How? With clear action points and deadlines. It’s on.

Here are my goals and action points for 2018

Go outside, see nature

Time to get real. I’m one of those who long for open fields, forests and lakes. As a person living in a capital city of Sweden, one doesn’t have too many options other than roads and concrete nearby. Sure, we got some smaller forests and parks, which I love. But never without constantly dealing with all the noise and buzz from the traffic. So, no more excuses. This year I’m going to plan for trips to  national parks with huge forests. Pack a bag with sketchbooks, camera and sandwiches. Get out there. Smell the wet moss, hear the birds singing. I miss that peace.

↣Action point:  Write a list of nice areas nearby, and start visiting each one of them. I will aim to make one trip every month.

Write and draw my first story

I’m simply keeping this goal, as I already had it for last year. Imagine how cool it can be, to have something on the shelf that you have made all by yourself. It’s a huge dream for me. I already have ideas for a few stories, but would like begin with focusing on two of them. One shorter one that I think could suit for all ages, and the other one is based on a true story about a very angry little pony. Both of them come straight from the heart, and this year I want to make them for real.

↣Action point: Make a deadline for everything. Write an outline, synopsis plus a first draft. I want to do this by the end of February. The first draft of one of the stories should be done by summer.

Keep this blog alive

I love this blog so much. Write thoughtful posts, and reflect upon things. I also find video really exciting, and would like to hone in more on that format. This year I want to aim for posting regularly, and to make more videos. Practice standing in front of the camera, so I can get rid of that funny feeling of talking to myself :D

↣Action point:  Keep writing down ideas for new posts and topics. Have at least 5 topics ready for Youtube. Write a script, rehearse a little, turn the camera on and hit “rec”. I want the first video to be ready by the end of February.

Speak in front of a big audience

I almost made it! Last year I put down a goal for this, that I’d like to speak in front of an audience of at least 200 people. Well, I thought that I would fail this goal completely. Then I got asked to do one talk at Women in Gaming, plus hold a lecture at Future Games. Sure, the audience was much smaller, but I actually did it. Despite being super nervous at first, I had so much fun! Time to keep building my confidence, so I can become really good at speaking and own the stage one day.

↣Action point: Actively look up and attend classes in public speaking. I will keep accepting offers that involves holding lectures or talks, and do my best. This also goes hand in hand with me producing more videos for Youtube, as I will force myself to speak and become more relaxed while doing so. I will find the first classes in public speaking by the end of March.

Paint 5 traditional art pieces

Yep. Keeping this goal as well. Kinda bothers me a bit that I didn’t manage to keep at it ;) I really miss playing around with my brushes and paint. What have I been waiting for? Why haven’t I prioritized this? Ghah. Bought myself a bunch of Arches watercolour paper before christmas in 2016(!), and haven’t touched it until now. Ehehm. About time to splash some colors on those sheets!

Action point: Brute force by scribbling down 5 ideas as fast as I can. Simply prepare everything so I can start painting right away when the inspiration kicks in. The sketch phase is always the hardest for me to get past. But you know what? I already made the thumbnails for my 5 pieces the other day. I just have to keep cleaning them up, so they’re ready to get traced onto the watercolour paper :D Plus, I’ve started painting two of them. The urge was too strong. I want to have all the sketches finished and ready by the end of December.

cornish rex cuddles

Let’s do this

Ghah, I really wanna make it this time. Going through this list once more, I can feel the fire up my butt and hear myself thinking “I NEED TO GET THINGS DONE BEFORE SOMETHING UNEXPECTED HAPPENS AGAIN; AAAHH!!”. But if that would happen, well, that’s still ok.

Anyhow, I will do a follow up on this once a month to see how things are going. 12 checkpoints in a year should be doable. Right?

Time to add all this in my beloved Bullet Journal, mark the calendar. Hype!


Do you have any goals for 2018?

lynx sketch by Andrea Femerstrand