Hidden Critters

About 5 months ago, I posted about a few drawings I was planning to make for my brother, James, and his wife, Rachel. Although I pretty much figured out what I wanted to do for the drawings back in October, I didn’t have a chance to work on it. I had hoped to make it a Christmas present, but with so much going on around the holidays, I realized that wasn’t going to happen. With my brother’s birthday coming up at the end of March, I decided to finally finish them up for a nice birthday surprise.

After talking with Rachel about the previous sketches I made, we zeroed in on three that they liked best. Rachel also had a fun idea to add a little “surprise” element to each drawing, which I was happy to explore.

I did some more sketching to work out the composition of each drawing, including the new added surprise elements.


Once the planning was over, I started drawing the originals with black and gray markers.

working on an ant drawing

Since I’d done so much preparation with sketches, the final drawings came together really quickly. Most of each is drawn with only black and gray marker, but each of the added surprise elements is a bright color that I added using prismacolor colored pencils.

little orange fish
The drawing that looks like overlapping river stones now has a little orange fish swimming in the stream above them.

blue ant
A blue ant now hides between layers of sediment.

bird nest
I added a branch, bird’s nest and leaves to the abstract birch forest. Initially I had planned to only color in the egg, but I couldn’t resist adding a fresh green to the leaves. Although having two colors in the drawing is a little different than the other two, I think it work for this drawing, and I also think the three drawings still work as a set.

All the drawings were done on 13″ x 13″ Canson drawing paper. I cut a few extra sheets when I was getting ready, so once the birthday drawings were done, I got to work on another large gray drawing of a pattern style I’ve been working with lately in sketchbooks and on smaller pieces of paper.

At this point it’s still not quite done. I hope it won’t take another 5 months to complete!

If you’re an artist, how do you like to work on final pieces? Do you do a lot of sketches beforehand and plan out what you are going to do, or do you start with a blank piece of paper or canvas and dive right in?

10 Replies to “Hidden Critters”

  1. I usually only do a few quick sketches, and just for the general idea of the piece-usually not a lot of specifics. But for a multi-media painting I’ll pull together the proposed elements onto a tray & keep them close while I’m painting, so that while I’m color mixing it all makes sense. If a painting has a person in it, I’ll do a lot of early sketches of that element, because I’m terrified of making a really dorky anatomy mistake.

    1. Thinking about it, the more complex a piece is, or if I’m drawing an actual object like an animal or a bird’s nest, I will make lots of sketches. If it’s more of a pattern or geometric composition, I usually dive right in!

  2. I tend to dive right in. Otherwise I’d never convince myself to do it – I’d just spend forever on the planning sketches and never finalise anything. What I find is, when I force myself to start straight away, I end up with 5-10 different possible outcomes, which I end up exploring after the initial “final” product is complete, so diving right in is a vital part of my creative process.

    1. For me I can spend forever just thinking about stuff, so if I can even start sketching out ideas, I’m on the right track. Are you familiar with Chuck Close (I know he’s pretty famous, so you probably are!)? I know he says all of his innovation comes from the work, which reminded me of your 5-10 possible outcomes. I find this happens to me too. It’s interesting how once I get working and am in the creative flow, it can easily continue and continue, as long as I don’t think too much and get in my own way!

      1. yeah, I know Chuck Close. Had to google him to remind myself but yeah. His photorealism is flawless O.O

  3. lol, oops! great job on these! I already liked the originals, so these hidden surprises are like a cherry on top! nice work as always πŸ™‚

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