Lots of illustrators’ sites have a few pieces labelled ‘personal project’ and I suppose everything I have ever done has been that. I mean, we all choose what to write, what to draw, what to paint – until someone commissions us to do it for a price, that is!

Well, while waiting for that lucky break, I decided to do a set of images in the same style. Just because. I suppose I had in mind that I wanted to pitch an article to a particular magazine. I still intend doing so, and they won’t want my images because they’re not in their house style. But it did set me off thinking how I might illustrate such an article if the style choice were mine. And this is the result.


I drew in HB on cartridge paper in my sketch book, scanned in the images, locked the unused pixels and painted the lines whichever colour I wanted, and then added some colouring and some photo-image backgrounds blended in. Do they look like a set? I gave them all a light source and something coming out of the frame, plus the frame in a frame as if watching. And the hand-drawn look, of course.

I chose air, water and fire as my topics: taking one’s children out to a dark place to inspect the stars; investigating how quickly a hot drink cools (I decided against adding a graph into the image but you would record the results over time); and cooking dampers on a campfire in the garden (not on a modern barbecue!) for which they had gathered the twigs and wood to do so. These are not things many urban kids do these days.

I read on a website that it was possible to use a gouache and Indian ink technique to  imitate a woodblock printing, complete with stray dots of black on it and rough edges! You can find the post here on Elfwood. You paint thick gouache on watercolour paper, let it dry, cover it with Indian ink (evenly, I discovered), and when dry rinse it thoroughly and the gouche lifts off the ink (mostly, leaving the famous dotty effect), and embeds itself in anything you left plain paper.

Needing a good distraction from cleaning the house or fathoming how to use Instagram on my desktop (have found that using Gramblr is the solution), I spent time over four days making four images – the pre-image (which I won’t show you) was a disaster, as I mistakenly used soluble ink. I then dug out the real stuff and had more success.


However, it is time consuming, if fun, and I need to get some editing done this week too. I was disappointed, also, not to get the really bright afterimage that the author of the Elfwood post did. Might be my limited selection of 3 cool and 3 warm of each of the primary colours. Mixing greens and oranges, for instance, led to one or the other ingredient rinsing off faster than the other, thus changing green to yellowy green pretty fast, and orange to a pale shadow of itself. Sad really.

I do like the vignetted edges I introduced, though, and I consider the time well spent🙂

I have now also set myself up at eleanorpatrickillustrator on Instagram.

I spent yesterday upgrading (ruining?) my illustration portfolio site. I think it works now. At one point it had no home page and now it probably has two of every page, but if I delete one, the other goes too. Since I first started with WordPress, they have upped their offerings, complexity, usefulness and instructions so much that I find it hard to manage my way through to do what I want.

I had two aims in mind:

  1. Limit what was on the site so that art directors could immediately find relevant, good stuff.
  2. Make the landing page be the portfolio itself. In other words ‘About’ could be less obvious at first.

You know how they say, with editing your novel, ‘kill your darlings’? Well, I’ve removed my fine art and my sketches and my photo artistry images. I’ll decide what to do with those later. They are not going to aid my illustration aims, so they had to go. Focus, focus!

What is left is a portfolio of editorial illustration and a portfolio of children’s illustration. I shall regularly add new work and remove older stuff. There’s a lot of competition out there and I need to make it easier to be seen, and to develop my style in each discipline to be recognisable. Hopefully desirable too.

The two portfolios that now remain sit side by side (by some miracle at midnight!) and my next aim is to make the images within them sit in a block too. I have no idea how, but it can be done, they say.

If you want to look and offer feedback, that would be great. If you understand how the Qua theme works, even better. I’m all ears🙂 You can find me at eleanorpatrickillustration.com.

Here is my latest biro girl with background. Exam results came out last week.

certificate girl

I spent a long time doing biro sketches of children last year. I still love using a scribbly biro and have been tempted to ditch heavier ink outlines and revert to type!

Anyway, I just painted this little toddler tennis star and was wondering about a background for him. I decided to sketch the flowers in his garden in biro (ball point, if you call it that), and then simply locked the unused pixels on the flower layer and brushed various colours over the linework to make a background without it being intrusive.

I had my doubts at first, despite liking it, but then changed it to mono to check the tonal range of the whole piece, and it’s not bad. In a picture book, it would need some darker darks somewhere.

I’ll put both colour and mono versions here so you can see for yourself what you think of ‘coloured’ biro backgrounds of this sort! The mono version would probably work quite well for a chapter book illustrated in black and white. I think I always assumed they were done in shades of grey but recently saw some artist finals for a chapter book and they were in colour, although eventually printed in mono. I live and learn!

tennis toddler with flowers

tennis toddler with flowers 2



Having spent some time reducing (diminishing?) my children’s story to under 1,000 words from its original 1,200, I wanted to run it past my granddaughter. I pulled up the newly shortened version and suddenly realised it would make little sense, so I obviously had to immediately pull up the original.

Why would this be? Well, it has no pictures yet. And the main way to cut length is to eliminate everything that could be shown in the illustrations. This meant, for instance, that if the spider is forging a new web, you can say One… two… three… four… And have spot illustrations to show where he fixed the four strands. Without the illustrations it is both nonsense and boring. There were so many instances where I left room for the illustrator to show the story so that I wouldn’t need to tell it that I had no choice but to ditch the new version and read the old one.

I think this one hit home with her. Perhaps its best use, therefore, is in a short story volume where only a few pictures are used and it can stay in its original form. Haha. How many unknown authors get to publish an anthology of great stories?? So I will push on with the new version and send it out.

This kind of ‘this or that?’ scenario does ring a bell with illustration too. How many times have I had a good version and a ‘ruined’ improved version. Gut feeling plays a large part in creation. Perhaps sometimes we really ought to stay with the original. Unless market forces combine to prevent that. In which case… Give in?

Example. I sketched this little dancer this week. She looked cute but I ploughed on to digitalise and paint her and I’m really not too sure if she couldn’t have inspired the imagination better in her original form! What do you think?

little dancer

little dancer revised

Despite being super busy on journal work, I have actually done some personal tasks on pushing my writing out there and assembling various pots of illustration work that someone or other might see one day. There’s always hope. But no hope at all if I don’t tell anyone I’m illustrating! It’s always been like that with the writing. If I don’t send it out, how will an editor or agent know I’ve written the bestest young adult novel in the world??

So, what have I done? It amounts to this:

  • Put myself on the Association of Illustrators site with a portfolio
  • Remove my writing site from one provider to another to save some money and bring it up to date
  • Produce some more work in Adobe Illustrator (Ai)
  • Print a picture book text on one side of a postcard (well, they’re always short!) and put a sample picture spread on the back, ready to mail to a few children’s publishers
  • Print out on A4 a sample sheet of my artwork (either children’s or editorial) ready to send to art directors today.

For a week when I was also fighting a losing battle against rampant loosestrife in the garden (garden? a.k.a wilderness), that was a pretty impressive list of achievements, usually known as getting off one’s backside🙂

Here are some Ai flowers for you. They may not see the light of day anywhere else, but they’re fun to do. Composition could be improved, of course; I just like the effect of cutting down on glue! Have a look before they drop off the page…

new flowers

I was messing around with an idea about rewriting nursery rhymes (UK ones, if you’re one of my valued readers from the rest of the world – I don’t know any ‘foreign’ ones!).

The idea was that most of the original lines would be kept and others added randomly, still keeping to a rhyme scheme. Sort of filling them out a bit, if you like! Here I added a bit of background to who he was and why he was on the wall in the first place.

This is the original version:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

They couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Of course, the real person referred to in this rhyme was, I think, a dumpy, clumsy person – who could have been put back together again – so he’s usually been drawn as an egg, which couldn’t. And that probably followed from Alice through the Looking Glass, where Lewis Carroll drew him as an egg. But don’t quote me on that. It might have been political for all I know!

Here’s my version – with a quickie sketch to go with it🙂

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

without his friends, without the ball.

They said that Humpty was too small

to play with them – the wall was tall.

He fidgeted, afraid he’d fall,

and when he did, they heard him bawl.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

came rushing up in groups of ten.

They’d heard his cry and felt his pain

and thought they’d make him right as rain.

They wrote down how and what and when.

But after an hour and loads more pain, 

they couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Humpty Dumpty on wall

Humpty Dumpty alone on the very tall wall

Comments welcome!