Twas the Night Before Christmas and … Zebra?

I finally got a chance to knuckle down and get my zebra piece finished tonight! I figured it was perhaps the only way I could distract myself from the mountain of cheese and crackers sitting in the kitchen.

I will confess I’m not 100% happy without the outcome. I think the background was, in retrospect, pretty poorly planned out in terms of the overall colour scheme. But hey, it was an experience and I’m learning to be a bit more confident with my strokes and to work outside of my usual ‘blocks’ of colour. The background itself I’m quite happy with, just think I should have perhaps used more mint green.
sweetrat153Backgrounds have been rather absent throughout the process (why yes, yes I do watch the Apprentice and yes I am now thinking in Mark’s accent), and it definitely adds a little more to the overall piece. Just need some fine tuning is all!

So, here he is, the Zebro!

As ever, gouache and ink were my medium of choice 🙂

Hey There Zebro

As all the Christmas commissions have been sent of ready to meet their new owners I’ve spent this weekend working on a gift for the other half, and a personal piece that I’ve been itching to do for a while now. The gift, I’m afraid, I’ll have to refrain from showing you until after Christmas Day as he may stumble across it here (if you’re reading, go away, go play your games, shoo shoo!), although I’m both apprehensive and excited to reveal that when the time is right! Not what I’d usually do, not even close, but it was a lot of fun anyway. The personal piece, however, I can reveal to you in all it’s pixellated, poorly lit phone pic glory! But everyone loves a good WIP photo, right?

I know rainbow zebra’s is hardly a daring step of creativity, but the idea sat in my head, refusing to stop gnawing away at my brain cells until I submitted myself to it. And so, I begin the Zebro. Unfortunately I’m suffering a case of THE CLAW in my right hand from all the frantic detail work done on the other half’s gift, so poor Zebro will have to wait until tomorrow for me to do any more work on him. But I have some pretty snazzy thoughts for the colour scheme, and looking forward to revealing them!

Materials here are my good old magical squishy gouache tubes, and Langton hot pressed watercolour paper, which is definitely one of my favourites.

Why I Love Promarkers

When you think markers you are probably put in mind of those old Berol felt tips you had at school, those red and blue horrors that would start the year as a shiny new set no one could wait to get their hands on, and by the end of the first art session would be found snapped under chairs, their lids having mysteriously vanished into the Void.

Honestly, just seeing them without their lids sets my teeth on edge, and I find myself irrationally angry at whoever happens to be sitting next to me.

But, in fact, felt tips can be a wonderful and delightfully simple medium to work with! In my two years of *sob* periodic unemployment after university I tried my hand at comics. Not writting them, you see, but illustrating them. I told myself that I could easily finish a 100 page graphic novel, no problem, yet partway through I realised that, actually, comics really were not for me. I get bored of doing the same thing for two long, and included in that was drawing the same character over and over and over. On the plus side, however, I invested in a decent set of fine line blacks as well as a couple of choice Letraset Promarkers. I was in love! A product that needed no water, left no mess, and that I could get really creative with. Sweet Rattery Illustrations itself started purely with Promarkers, and it became sort of the trademark of my work. Before long I began to appreciate just how versatile these markers were, working well alongside gouache paint, easy to blend with one another, and with a layering quality that allowed me to create the sort of depth that I wouldn’t have imagined you could achieve with felt tips.

I suppose the huge benefit of Promarkers is that there is no fuss. Before long you will find yourself with an entire drawer dedicated to these pens, which I’m pretty sure eventually start breeding and nesting in various places in your house, and with that drawer open, a pad in hand, you can scribble and blend to your hearts content. They are perhaps the most addictive of mediums … I have found myself buying several colours that I’m all but certain I’ll never use just because I don’t have them yet, and many a dull evening has been brightened by ordering them by hue. Truthfully, they are fun. Going crazy with a brush can be every bit as enjoyable, but there’s something … childish about them. It brings me back to my days as a child, scribbling away with the few coloured pencils I’d managed to salvage from under the sofa, imagining to myself that I was some big shot artist working for Disney. Characters come to life before you as you layer on the impossibly perfect skin tones (seriously, the days of colouring people in pink because it’s all you have are over!), and I now find it very difficult to do a pencil sketch without grabbing one of my colours, grabbing my right wrist with my left hand, trying to fight back the urge to just add ‘a liiittle bit of colour here’.

The only issue I have found, personally, with Promarkers is that they do tend to run out quickly. Despite the impracticalities, I adore working on Bristol Board, and it very quickly sucks the life out of my pens. But the smoothness of the finish is just too good to sacrifice for the sake of saving a few pounds. They are the stable of my portraits, and still the most popular of the products I offer.

A selection of old boys enjoying some Bakewell.
A selection of old boys enjoying some Bakewell.
The range of colours available make it very easy to replicate real life colours of subjects.
The range of colours available make it very easy to replicate real life colours of subjects.
One of the best things about the Promarkers is the ability to layer a colour upon itself to create degrees of shading upon the subject.
One of the best things about the Promarkers is the ability to layer a colour upon itself to create degrees of shading upon the subject.
But equally, you can use a range of different colours on a subject, which creates an almost abstract result that I'm very keen on.
But equally, you can use a range of different colours on a subject, which creates an almost abstract result that I’m very keen on.

I get the feeling that Promarkers are one of the products that, the more you use them, the more you continue to learn about them. I suppose that much in itself is true about all other mediums, but the range of different techniques and results you can get from a simple felt tip is insanely satisfying.

My First Lesson: Gouache is Not Goulash

When I first set off the University we were given a list of books and products that we would apparently find very useful throughout the course. There was the usual, books we’d never in a million years read, pens and pencils, a couple stacks of paper, but one of the items on there was something that, in my lower class upbringing, meant nothing to me. A Introduction Set of Designer Gouache. I’d heard of Goulash, but I wasn’t sure that was quite what they meant. So, totally bemused as to what I would find, I set off the nearing art store to find this goo-ash stuff.

Turns out, it was a type of opaque watercolour. I’ve used watercolour and acrylic before, of course, but this was like heaven in a tiny squidgy pot. I loved the stuff! It had the strength of acrylic with the spread of watercolour, and better even than both, and ever since it’s been my paint of choice.

However, once uni was over and those two years of mind numbing boredom passed and inspiration hit once more, I found myself addicted to Letraset Promarkers, and they were so wonderful to use with my little pet illustrations, and gouache sadly got rather forgotten. It sat in it’s little box, it’s colourful squishy magic unused and unloved for the best part of three years, until I came across it again one day whilst clearing out ‘that’ cupboard.

Whilst I only seem to have one intact brush remaining, and have yet braved Hobbycraft to get another set, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the freedom that working with paint gives over working with ink. And gouache, in particular, is such a fantastic medium to use. As it is water based, I don’t have to worry about any wasted paint and can reactivate the palette whenever I fancy, which makes it convenient as well as pretty. When using it throughout my degree it was used, alongside Chinese Ink, to paint very delicate and detailed jewellery design proposals and illustrations, so it’s very freeing to be able to work a little bit larger. I’ve still got a lot of practicing ahead, but I’m enjoying the journey.
Below are a few example of some of the pieces that I’ve been working on the past two months. Personally I think there’s a little bit of a theme going on here, but I’ll let you all be the judge of that.

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The first piece – rainbow rat with slight wash.

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One of my first attempts to illustrate a ferret in a good year or more, turns out they work quite well in … rainbow.

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Perhaps betraying another key interest and care of mine, you either know what I’m talking about or you don’t here 😉 But everyone loves a pretty cow. In rainbow.

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By this point I had grown more familiar with the process and the paints, and starting to feel a lot more comfortable with the strength I could work at. In rainbow, of course.

There are quite a few other pieces that I’ve worked on since, and it’s an idea that I wish to continue with and grow upon in the coming year. Gouache really is wonderful paint to work with, and if you’re a fan of watercolours and/or acrylic then I very much recommend giving it a go.

The Artwork and Musings of Holly Wells

Perhaps it took a little longer than it ought to have done, but finally I have myself one of these fancy online mind dumps where I can share, well, my artwork and my musings.

So, let’s start of with a little introduction. My name is Holly Wells, living in Kent UK and born in 1990. Technically I think I have to class myself as an adult now. Two years ago I started a small hobby-type business, drawing ink pet portraits on commission, bringing in a little money here and there to help support my other hobby of keeping fancy rats. Sweet Rattery Illustrations (as it was then known) started out from a couple of drawings I did of a friend’s group of ratties. I got a few requests in, and before long I was taking in weekly commissions for rat portraits. Over the course of the first year, I was able to charge a small fee for the drawings, but it was into the latter half of the second year that things really started to take off. I am now working part-time admin for another company, and part-time artist for Sweet Rattery Illustrations, and hope that at some point in the coming year I can finally quit the day job and start doing the artist bit full time.

As wonderful as Facebook has been for getting the business off the ground, for sharing my work and keeping in touch with clients, I wanted to create a little place on the internet where I could, not only share my work, but share my overall appreciation of art in general, with a few stories of my ratties slotted in here and there. I could perhaps also add that I write quite a bit of Fan Fiction, having found myself utterly hooked in that madness earlier this year, but I think maybe I need to work up a little courage and familiarity here first before I share that 😉

So, hello and welcome! The Sweet Gang (AKA The Rat Hoard) and I are pleased to see you here.

Holly x