Saturday 14 January 2017

Cass Art's 'Be Inspired' Challenge

It's no secret that I love to switch things up and work with a variety of media in my illustrations. You'll probably most often see my digital illustration work, as that's usually what I work with for commissioned illustration, but you'll also find me using a lot of ink and watercolour behind the scenes.

Sometimes I think it's really a case of getting away from the computer and completely throwing yourself into the physical aspects of painting. Often when you're running a business, you inevitably end up spending a lot of time staring at screens, and so I like to give myself (and particularly my eyes!) a bit of a break and get a bit messy with some paint. It's relaxing, it's fun, and more than anything I find with traditional painting (and the lack of the ol' Ctrl + Z)  there's a lot more chance for mistakes to lead you to new ideas.

Cass Art invited me to take part in their 'Be Inspired' challenge, where I would be sharing what inspires me and my illustration work. They sent over some new materials for me to have a play with: a gorgeous set of Winsor & Newton watercolours, Cass Art brushes and watercolour paper, and a pot of beautifully blue ecoline liquid watercolour (all of which, as I mentioned earlier, are perfect for a media experimenter like me!).

You'll almost always find a sketchbook in my bag, and to be honest I feel a bit lost without one as I never know when an idea will suddenly spark! I particularly love sketching when I'm travelling to new places, as I find it perfect for capturing memories and atmosphere in a way that photos can't always do. 

I recently popped over to York for the weekend, and continued my series of #EmmelineOnLocation travel sketches by spending some time drawing the people of York from a lovely little Tudor pub right in the heart of the city. I love using drawings like these to feed into my inspiration for characters and stories later in my work. So you'll see in this post that a lot of my experiments with these watercolours are character-based, and so much of my work is given depth by my experiences and adventures in real life (the character below looks suspiciously a lot like Andrew).

So for these illustrations, I've been using this gorgeous Winsor & Newton Professional Water Colour paint set, Ecoline liquid watercolour in shade 578, and Cass Art's sable watercolour brush set and 300gsm non-textured watercolour paper. 

The paints are lovely to use, they're creamy to mix but there's a lot of control with translucently when you're layering on the page. The colours are bright, and there's a really good selection of shades in the set (but with space for extra colours that you can snap in) - it can be a little tricky to remember which shade is which when the covers are off them (as they're much darker in solid state), so I might make a bit of a cheat sheet of colours to stick to the space in the middle. The Ecoline watercolour looks very similar to ink (which I'm used to using), but with the added benefit of a little more flexibility with blending - the colour is incredibly vibrant, and it's definitely something I'll enjoy using for linework or sky washes. The brushes are reliable, with a useful variety of sizes - I particularly appreciated the really thin brushes for detailed linework on character's faces.

I really love using the Cass Art watercolour paper, the textured version has long been a staple of my traditional illustration work as I always found it was the best quality I could find for its price. With watercolour paper, you can sometimes struggle to find sets that are weighty enough to feel professional, or pages that absorb paint well rather than feel like they're coated in some kind of plastic! Both the textured and smooth versions absorb paint beautifully, and feel really high quality at a yummy 300gsm. All I wish is that I had a never-ending supply so I wouldn't feel as bad about hammering through so many pages in a creative whirlwind!

A huge thanks to Cass Art for inviting me to be part of their challenge. It's been a great opportunity to let loose a little and get back to the play side of my career. I often find that in taking a break from the businessy side of work can spark such fresh and brilliant ideas - and in the end that's what moves you! I've loved this project, and the work that I've created within it - so expect a lot more watercolour paintings from me!

Note - As part of the BeInspired project Cass Art provided all their artists with a sample art pack for free, but as with all my features I don't leave anything out! You can always expect an honest review.

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