Tag Archives: LEARNING

8 Lessons I Learnt From Keeping A Travel Sketchbook

Hi everyone!

I just came back from a trip to Austria where I went to visit some friends of mine. It was a great holiday and one of the things that I am super happy about is that I kept a travel sketchbook!

A lot of the time when I travel I take a sketchbook and some pens and pencils with me and I end up not drawing at all.

However, just before I went on holidays I got inspired by the fantastic Christine Nishiyama (also check her Skillshare classes, they’re great!) who had just completed a road trip and had kept a travel sketchbook which she shared on Instagram. Her illustrations were so simple, beautiful and fun at the same time that they made me want to give it a go.

So I decided that I too would draw my adventures!… And the thought totally terrified me!

I mean, there is so much great stuff on Instagram and the likes that I felt very pressured to produce something that looked awesome, even though the whole point of going away for a few days was to relax and have fun.

And then I remembered how Christine’s account of her road trip and experience of drawing in her travel sketchbook made it sound approachable and laid back.

I wasn’t too sure how and where to start but I decided to be brave, forget about the idea of making something perfect and I gave travel sketching a go – my way! And I learnt a lot in the process!

Here are 8 lessons I learnt from this experience:

  1. Drawing when you are away is not like drawing at home: some of the materials I brought with me were different from what I normally use which means that I had to adapt my drawing a little.
  2. Sketching the illustrations in pencil first made it feel too ‘controlled’. I was spending way too long trying to get things perfect so after 30 minutes of not being happy with my drawings on day 1 I erased everything and went ‘freehand’.
  3. Going straight into painting without sketching my illustrations first forced me to think differently about what I was painting/drawing, loosen up and not ‘care so much’ (it brought back memories from the last Inktober challenge!).
  4. I gave up on perfection… and it felt good! At first I was really disappointed with some of my illustrations that looked inferior to what I normally draw at home. As soon as I reminded myself that it was okay for things not to look exactly like my photos, I started to enjoy myself a lot more and funnily enough the illustrations got better!
  5. Drawing complicated stuff (like people kayaking) freehand when you are hungover is very difficult. Actually drawing anything when you are hungover is more difficult!
  6. Wait for the ink to dry! I really should have remembered this one since I work a lot with Indian ink. Except that since I used an artist brush pen instead of my usual brush and bottle of ink I didn’t quite think it through which resulted in small smudges here and there – lesson learnt!
  7. I added some text to my pages but I didn’t have a particular plan when I started writing. Like the rest, I decided not to overthink it and I just wrote whatever came to my mind. I might not win the Pulitzer Prize for it but it worked just fine for me.
  8. As the days passed and I started to let go some interesting things started to happen. I became more confident and it was reflected in every aspect of what I drew (use of space, colour, subject matter, etc.). Sure, it was maybe not the illustration project of the year, but it was mine, and I owned it!

In hindsight there’s a bunch of stuff that I would now do differently.

But you know what? It actually doesn’t matter so much. Yes, there were a few bumps but there were some really cool things too!

As imperfect as they are, not only do those illustrations tell the story of what I did during this trip but they also show how I grew in just 6 days and that, in itself, is amazing!

And I am so proud that I committed to drawing every day and that in addition to the photos I took I also have illustrations of my holiday!


Editorial illustration practice and the lessons I learnt

Every now and then I like to make some time to learn new skills, get better at the ones I already have, and to challenge myself.

If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen that my challenge of the month is Inktober. Not long before that, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and to practise editorial illustration as this is something that I would love to do more of in the future.

Luckily I found Ed J Brown’s class on Skillshare which enabled me to ‘fake’ the conditions of a commission and set a strict deadline to my practice.

I picked the article about US economic growth as I felt that starting with an article that was a bit dry might help to make other articles after that easier in comparison. And this was challenging indeed!


After reading the article a few times and highlighting the key points I started taking a few notes and doodling, which was quickly followed by some rough sketches (I drew 14 in total but am only showing my top 5 favourites)..

Notes and initial doodles


Top 5 favourite sketches



Sometimes it’s a good idea to sleep on what you’ve drawn and to look at it with fresh eyes the next day. In the case of my editrial illustration practice, I felt that I wasn’t quite there yet and sketched 8 new images. I ended up choosing the sketch below.



After facing several problems with my illustration and trying different colour palettes while trying to maintain my usual style I had to come to the conclusion that it was just not working and that if this had been a real assignment, I would have failed miserably .

Below some of my unfinished attempts:




I decided to give myself another chance, because who likes failure? So I cheated and allowed myself to work on a few different concepts knowing that if this had been a real assignment my Art Director would have probably not been very happy with me, or he/she wouldn’t have allowed it altogether.

Besides my clear composition and planning problems, I think that my main issue was that I ‘cared’ a bit too much (read: I was taking it all a bit too seriously).

Fortunately, Ed was an absolute star and as well as giving me some constructive feedback, he gave me some words of encouragement that made me more determined than ever to finish that mock assignment and more importantly, to have fun while doing it.

So I simply followed Ed’s advice to not care so much. And it worked!

I started with a red background because I liked the contrast with the black and white illustration…


But while I had chosen colours that I liked, I had forgotten an important detail: the article was about growth and red wasn’t quite the right colour to convey the positive message of the article. Ed’s feedback confirmed my own thoughts. So I tried a green and a blue version instead.


And ended up choosing the blue one.





Past the disappointment resulting from my failure to finish on time and to finish the illustration that I had initially selected, I was really glad that this was practice and not a paid assignment. And I was glad that I got to learn so much in the process.

Here is what I got out of the exercise:

  • Plan my illustrations more carefully in the future: take the final dimensions of the illustration and the title placement into account earlier in the process.
  • Keep calm: I didn’t mention this and it probably ties in with the first lesson I learnt, but I was overexcited when I started working on this personal project. This probably resulted in me rushing things a little (at least at the beginning).
  • Pick colours that reflect the message of the article.
  • … But don’t overthink it.
  • And have fun!

I really enjoyed Ed’s class and strongly recommend it if you too want to practise editorial illustration in near-real assignment conditions.


Does that make me crazy?

I have to say that I love sketching, drawing and painting. I love pens and pencils and paint and paper. But sometimes (often) I still have to learn some new tricks. Today it was digital only (no pen or pencil allowed).

“Why?” did I ask myself.

“Because you need to practise digital!” I replied.

Does that make me crazy?



Heinz Beanz

I had a bit of fun trying something new last weekend, as you can see.

Celebrating the legacy of 2012

A few weeks ago, my graphic design tutor asked us to design a new stamp celebrating the legacy of the year 2012 for the Royal Mail.
Below is my preparatory work together with my final proposition (that I am soon to re-work on based on the feedback that I received in class; pictures of the improved version will be uploaded when it is ready).
I first started working on the Mayan calendar since as we all know, it ends the 21st of December 2012. 
However, I soon rejected the idea because: 1) the end of the world, even if it is to be taken in the sense of ‘the end of an era/of the world as we know it’, is a bit dark for a stamp; and 2) this idea was out of brief as it wasn’t about the legacy of 2012.

Brainstorming further, I came up with a second idea. For me, 2012 has been a year that has seen many weddings. Below you can see a very stylised bride (on the right) and groom (on the left). Tiny problem however: the shapes of the bride and groom (or rather groom and bride here) looked more like a ’10’ than a ’12’. This version was also too personal for a stamp for the Royal Mail.

Back to brainstorming.
So what was the year 2012 about in the UK?
To me, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee was definitely a major event this year. And so were the Olympics. 
I started gathering some references for these events (see final moodboard below).
From these pictures I first designed a version of the stamp for the Diamond Jubilee:


The fourth concept on the top row was my favourite. I had even added a subtle ’12’ in grey. But the more I thought about it the more I realised that the ’12’ was maybe too subtle. Plus this concept was basically saying ‘diamond’ twice: through the diamond shape and through the diamond-like background.
2012 wasn’t just about the Diamond Jubilee! We had the Olympics too!
As a result I started working on the Olympics logo, mixing it with my newly designed diamond background.
The first concept on the bottom row was my favourite (it still is) and is the version that I chose to develop and polish.


Below is the ‘polished’ version that I showed as my final version in class (unfortunately the colours are not showing very well on here). 

For some reason I struggled rendering the concept I liked on a bigger scale. As you can see I added most of the number 2, which was more subtle in the conceptual version; and this is one of the things I want to re-work on. 

Obviously, when my new version is ready, you’ll be the first to know.

I hope you enjoyed this post!

Interactive Booklet

Last week I got fairly busy with the creation of an interactive booklet for my course, which explains why I haven’t been posting anything for a week (sorry!).
Finding ‘THE’ idea got trickier than I thought but I was eventually saved by Mika and his Grace Kelly. Below you can see the lyrics of the chorus of the song together with my initial sketches and pictures of the booklet prototype that I developed:

I could be brown, I could be blue
I could be violet sky
I could be hurtful, I could be purple
I could be anything you like
Gotta be green, gotta be mean
Gotta be everything more
Why don’t you like me?
Why don’t you like me?
Why don’t you walk out the door!
Mika, (2007) Grace Kelly, United Kingdom: Island
Initial sketches before the development phase.
And here is the prototype! It still needs to be improved (I will work on that as soon as I can) but it should give you a good idea of how it works:















This is what it looks like unfolded.

When I re-work on it, I’m planning on adding the lyrics of the whole song behind the unfolded sheet. The front cover is also going to change for something that is more consistent with the general style of the booklet.

Overall it was a really cool activity and I had a lot of fun working on it. Something to definitely try again!

Book Covers

Our task for last week was to choose a book title and by using typography and colour only, to offer the reader an impression of the content – or put differently, to give the reader the opportunity to judge the book by its cover.
I chose Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, and below you can follow the evolution of my book cover:
Although I really like the style of this cover, it is maybe a bit dark for Alice in Wonderland. Maybe for a Halloween/horror version?

The colours on this cover are more ‘appropriate’ and relate more to Alice. You can recognise the blue dress, the white apron and the black shoes. I really liked this version but unfortunately, the rings in the background that I placed there to create contrast between the background and the title really looked like the rabbit hole. Although my intention wasn’t to create an illustration (we were not allowed to use imagery) the rings were associated so strongly with the rabbit hole that they had become an illustration despite themselves, and as a consequence my work had been made… out of brief.
Goodbye rings! On this new version, the title is enlarged and the word ‘wonderland’ extends beyond the edges of the cover on both sides to convey the concept of growth, which is one of the major themes in the book.
Another similar version where ‘Alice’ has been enlarged… a bit too much to my taste. It was worth trying to see, but I prefer the previous version.
Finally, here is another version where the title, at the bottom of the cover, suggests Alice falling in the rabbit hole.
I developed many more versions than what I am showing here and what I actually found tricky was to know when to stop; when a version is good enough. But it was great fun and overall I really enjoyed this activity! I found the experimentation side of things very interesting and I liked seeing the transformation of the cover. It is amazing how sometimes, what looks like a tiny change can convey a completely different feel or different ideas!