Friday, June 30, 2017

On experimenting: happy accidents

One of the things that I enjoy the most about creating an illustration is when something unexpected happens that helps the image look more fresh.
In this post you can find several experiments that I've found very fun and refreshing:

Washes are some of the most fun experiments! You will need to have a watercolor paper mounted so that it won’t buckle. The fun thing about washes is that there are many things out of your control and it is more of an intuitive technique. One thing that I’ve found makes things more interesting is to mix different kinds of paints, even the ones that don’t mix well. For example: watercolor with inks, airbrush and inks, acrylic and indian ink, old inks, all kinds of paints!

"I want to take vacations in your mind", personal piece. Ink, watercolor and gouache on watercolor paper.

Experiment with blue W&N Ink, green watercolor and Indian ink on watercolor paper.

Experiment created with watercolor inks on watercolor paper.

Washes for "The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra", written by Marc Tyler Nobleman. The background was created with inks, watercolor and indian ink for the edges. The characters were created with inks and gouache.

This technique is great for backgrounds or for images that have a lot of suspense in them. I would recommend to use toothbrushes or old brushes. You can also combine different kinds of inks to do washes in the areas that have more ink. Also, if you have a lot of liquid paint, you can do blow painting.

"Flower Bug" personal piece, Indian ink, watercolor, white ink and gel pen

Experiment with watercolor inks and gel pen on watercolor paper. Blow painting on the left of the wash and splattering on the right side.

Using food and organic elements
Adding salt is a fun way to create textures with watercolor. You can experiment with different kinds of salt to see different results: sea salt, table salt, Himalayan pink salt, etc.
One of my favorite materials to experiment with is adding spices when creating watercolor washes. One of my favorite is the Mexican spice ‘Tajin’ which has a lot of salt and is acid because of the lime flavor. It acts similar as the salt, except that it leaves a red tone in the texture.
Another element that I have used recently is cochineal, and mixing it with orange juice squeezed right from the fruit.
*Note that some pieces created with food may not be archival.

Experiment with acrylic (turquoise and magenta in the background), inks (purple) and spices.

Textures with monoprints and using external tools
There are many ways of creating monoprints -including using a press - the technique that I like to experiment with is using very liquid acrylic/inks or watercolor and applying it to a glossy paper, and later pressing this paper against your illustration in the place where you would like this texture to appear.

Experiment created with acrylic.

You can also use mostly flat elements such as leaves, flowers, etc.

"Garden Butterfly" created with pigments and acrylic on wood panel.

White on dark

A very fun experiment to do is to create your own scratchboard using your own rules of which color should go below and where you will scratch or add lines to create interesting negative spaces. You can read more about it in this post.

Illustration for Mandalah Mexico. Watercolor, gouache and scratchboard on watercolor paper.

Which are your favorite experiments?

Thanks for stopping by!

Ana Aranda writes/illustrates for children and creates murals. She recently illustrated "The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra", written by Marc Tyler Nobleman, Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books
You can find her work at 
these different locations:
Twitter: @anaranda2
Instagram: @Anarandaillustration

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