What Should I Draw?

Original Photo Credit: Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

If there is one question I’ve asked more than any others, it’s been “what should I draw?” I’ve always loved to draw, but I’m (still) terrible at coming up with subject matter.

It rarely starts with a formal idea.

I usually start with an emotion. That’s only weird because I treat each drawing like a puzzle to be solved with only a few right answers. So the fact that the process is less logical and more emotional and intuitive is personally a surprise. But there you go.

Anyway, it’s usually a positive emotion. I’m most often inspired by watching a favorite movie, listening to a great song, or sitting idly in the sunshine with one of my cats.

I’ll then start to get ideas of stuff I could draw that matches the feelings of contentment, comfort, or cheer. A lot of times it looks like flowers or food. I get very snacky while I work.

If I’m feeling particularly attached to an idea and a sense of place or time, I’ll build it all together into impressions as a single-page comic. (I don’t do this often, but it’s personally some of my favorite work).

And after I start to get something that looks like an idea I could draw, I think about texture next. It sounds weird, but texture determines media — what surface I’ll draw on, and what drawing tools I’ll use.

If I want a matte surface, I head to the computer. Sometimes I’ll sketch my idea out digitally first, or I’ll draw on paper. Either way, I always ink it by hand. Always. I’m proud of this fact, even though it really doesn’t make a difference (especially if I scan it and color it digitally). But I like knowing that about my work anyway. It just feels like an extra bit of love that goes into every piece.

For digital work, I color “by hand” with a tablet. There are fancy tips and tricks for selecting large areas and filling with as single color. I know this. But I’m stubborn. It’s another TLC for moment for my work, to make sure it’s not rushed just because it’s on my computer. For me, the special perk of working digitally is that I don’t have to think too hard about my color palette before I get started. It’s very very easy to adjust as I go.

Plus, I like the process — it’s meditative to color. I sit at my computer, drawing tablet and pen in hand, trying to meticulously fill in the 200% zoomed in illustration using my trusty 9 pt. permanent marker brush in Photoshop… I am not a smart gal.

“The Night Out” (11″ x 17″ digital illustration) was largely inspired by Neil Young’s song “Harvest Moon.”

But sometimes I don’t want to be stuck in my office all afternoon. (Who does, right?!).

If I’m okay with varying degrees of texture in my work, that’s when I grab my pens and pencils.

Actually, Bristol paper and ink pen is basically smooth like butter. It’s high-contrast, allows for fine details, and is probably one of my favorite “looks.” But I don’t do it often, because…I have no idea. I should do that style of drawing more often!

“The Pine Cone” (18″ x 24″ Ink on Bristol Paper)

I also really like the combination of colored pencils on bristol paper. The paper isn’t textured, but the pencil marks are super textured, so I definitely keep that in mind when deciding to use that combination. It takes so many layers too. So many. I honestly don’t bother to keep count. But it’s a lot. These pieces are usually smaller but take the most time. It’s why I don’t have very many in my shop. I enjoy it, but it takes patience. Boo.

“The Pears” (7″ x 11″ Colored Pencils on Bristol Paper)

Probably the most textured, and newest method for me, is my watercolor illustrations. Rather than ask myself, again, “what should I draw?” I scribble fields of color across watercolor paper. Add water. Let dry. Repeat. I’ll make pages and pages of these color-field watercolors. It lets me flex my creative muscles without doing any heavy lifting.

Then, when I finally feel ready, and have something like an idea, I’ll grab one of the finished watercolors and draw on top of it with my ink pens. I really like this process, and will probably be exploring it a lot this year. (So I hope you guys like the result too!).

“The Colorful Hills” 4″ x 6″ mixed media from start to finish.

So there you have it — my creative process, in full!

It may be more than you ever wanted to know about how I work…but then again, maybe not?


If you have any questions about my process, feel free to ask in the comments!

2 thoughts on “What Should I Draw?

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