The Grupps


The Grupps are a bunch of repulsive aliens from my unpublished junior fiction novel, Sam the Incredible. The Grupps are from Planet Snorg in the Rot-10 Galaxy, so wretched and greedy they sold their own mothers for glue (which they eat by the truckloads).

Drawing the Grupps is as fun as writing about them. I basically think of whatever my two older boys would find both disgusting and funny and run with it (baby Joshua is probably a bit young for fart jokes!). For the character designs I looked at lots of images of aliens and monsters, and eventually came up with something a little bit bug-like, with plenty of warts, pimples, scabs, some spikes, knobbly knees and hairy ears. To draw each Grupp I start with a potato shape for the body, then another for the snout, tapering it at the end for the nose. Then I add the skinny legs and arms, the crooked teeth, and other details like eyes, ears and scabby bits.

These characters were hand drawn, then painted digitally with my Wacom Intuos graphics tablet. For this illustration I chose to stick to black and white/grayscale, partly to expand the styles in my portfolio (publishers like to see a mix of colour, black and white, and line drawings), and also because if the book is ever picked up by a publisher, there's a good chance the illustrations will be printed in grayscale anyway - colour printing is VERY EXPENSIVE. So it was important to show that I could capture the right look of the Grupps using only line, shape, a little bit of tone, and texture.

The Grupps
Illustrations

Shell


Shell is a character from my unpublished junior fiction book, MerTales. The idea for MerTales has been brewing in the back of my mind for a decade, after a stunning snorkeling trip I went on in Cambodia. I have long been a fan of mermaids - thanks Disney! - and what started out as an idea for a children's toy has become an epic tale of mermaid superheroes. I think it would work especially well as an animated TV series (ahem, are you listening, Netflix?).

Shell is probably the main character of the story, although she doesn't come into the series until the third book. She is based on one of my best friends, and out of the four main mermaid characters, her design is probably my favourite. The characters are only 10 years old, so I didn't want to make them too 'shapely', and I really didn't want them to be too skinny. Lastly, they needed to be easily recreated as a toy product, just in case I ever do take them down that road, so I have made the eyes large and the other details relatively minimal.

This illustration of Shell was hand drawn, then scanned into Photoshop and digitally painted using a hard crayon-style brush for blocking in the base colours as well as detailing, and a rough pastel-style brush for some texture. The MerTales illustrations are my second attempt at illustrating characters without using outlines.

Shell
Illustrations

Red


This is a quick character design for a picture book about a girl with red hair, hand-drawn and scanned into Photoshop, then painted digitally. I had a lot of fun painting the hair, keeping the brush strokes messy and loose. Normally my style is a lot neater, which I'm learning is not necessarily a good thing - drawing 'tightly' is a learned habit from my animation days, where the lines had to be neat with consistent thickness, and had to 'close up' (i.e. join together with no gaps) to make the colouring process quicker. In illustration I've found that technique makes my work a little stilted and wooden. These days I'm opting for a looser, sketchier style that tries to capture movement in one pose, rather than 'making' the movement through animation. It's not easy, and something I will continue to practice. For some great examples of using line to create movement, take a look at the work of illustrator Ann James - she is utterly brilliant.

The pencil outlines for this work were also not painted over in Photoshop (unlike Super Nova), but just strengthened and coloured using some Photoshop magic. I think it makes for a rougher but more appealing effect.

Red
Illustrations, Picture Books

Dive!


I've been a little obsessed with mermaids lately, playing around with three different story ideas (two picture books and a junior fiction series). This is an early character design of one of my mermaid characters, Princess Pearl, hand drawn and then digitally painted in Photoshop with pastel-type brushes. This is one of the first illustrations I've done where I haven't used outlines to define edges. Not using outlines was a bit of a brain twist for me, but you end up with a more 3-dimensional effect. Hopefully I'll get better with practice!

Favourite aspects of this illustration are the colours - the blue, pink and yellow seems to work really nicely - the 'stretched' bubbles that add an element of movement, and the light blue highlighting on Pearl's tail, hair and coral crown. I remember reading something in a book by artist Tim Hildebrandt about highlights and shadows under different conditions. Under warm light (such as the sun, a fire, candlelight etc), highlights are warm - think yellow and orange, while shadows are cool - think blue, purple and green. When the source of light is cool - such as moonlight, or light dispersed through water - the opposite applies; highlights are cool colours, and shadows are warm colours. Thanks Tim!

Dive!
Illustrations

Harry’s Bedroom


Harry is the oldest brother in Super Nova, written by Krys Saclier and published by Ford Street Publishing (2019). He's mad about science, and currently looking for his chemistry set, which has mysteriously gone missing ...

This image was hand drawn, then scanned into Photoshop and coloured using a Wacom Intuos graphics tablet. A LOT of work went into the perspective of this picture. I opted to keep the palette simple as the artwork is quite detailed.

Harry’s Bedroom
Illustrations, Picture Books

Little Sister


This is Nova, the little sister from the picture book Super Nova, written by Krys Saclier and published by Ford Street Publishing (2019).

I had great fun illustrating Super Nova. The characters and backgrounds are all hand-drawn, then I scanned each page into my computer and used my graphics tablet (a Wacom Intuos Pro, and basically beloved like a fourth child) to digitally paint in the colour in Adobe Photoshop™. I used three brushes - a rough pastel-type brush that added lots of texture; a sketchy pencil-type brush with a slightly different texture to the pastel brush, used for shadows and to soften the edges of the pastel brush; and a hard pencil-type brush for outlining, that still created some texture (kind of like a sharp, high-quality crayon).

Working with an editor was a new experience for me, as all of my previous books have been self-published. For me it was the most valuable part of the whole process - I called it 'the start of my apprenticeship'. Nan's experience was priceless, and I learnt oodles about picture book illustration, including defining a style, capturing movement in a character's pose, correctly drawing perspective, and pushing myself to get the best result for the book.

Super Nova is available in both paperback and hardcover from Ford Street Publishing, or from your local library or bookstore.

Little Sister
Illustrations, Picture Books

The Growly Bear #1


This is the first illustration from The Growly Bear, written by my grandmother Coral O'Donnell.

The bear is drawn in watercolour pencil on hot pressed watercolour paper, while the background has been done digitally using a Wacom tablet in Photoshop.

This book is now available in paperback and hard cover in the store.

The Growly Bear #1
Animals, Illustrations

The Growly Bear #2


This is an illustration from The Growly Bear, which was written by my grandmother Coral O'Donnell. I found this work particularly sweet.

Medium is watercolour pencil on hot pressed watercolour paper. Hot pressed paper is annoyingly hard to find but it's smoother than cold pressed paper, making it easier to draw fine lines. Otherwise the pencil follows the bumps.

This book is now available in paperback and hard cover in the store.

The Growly Bear #2
Animals, Illustrations

Florence


Florence is an eight-year-old girl obsessed with science, in particular, chemistry. She comes up with all kinds of secret brews in her lab.

This character popped into my head randomly during a sketching session. After posting her on Instagram I've already had requests for a book ... so who knows, maybe one day she'll have her own story!

Medium is watercolour pencils for the character and digital art for the background. All up took two days to complete.

Florence
Illustrations

Leonard Lion


This is a character from an unpublished picture book I have written, titledĀ Clancy's Bakery. Clancy is a King Charles Cavalier dog who dreams of opening his own bakery one day.

This particular character is Leonard Lion, eating lemon meringue pie (um, YUM!). The medium is watercolour pencils. I draw the pencils on dry, then go over the image with a very small, damp brush. Took roughly 10-15 hours from concept sketches to final touches.

Leonard Lion
Animals, Illustrations

Pablo Peacock


This is a piece from an unpublished picture book I have written, titled Clancy's Bakery. Clancy is a King Charles Cavalier dog who dreams of opening his own bakery one day. Pablo Peacock is one of his customers, a fan of pavlova with berries and fresh cream.

The medium is watercolour pencils. I draw the pencils on dry, then go over the image with a very small, damp brush. There is a lot of detail in this image, particularly the feathers. I wish I kept an accurate record of how many hours this took. At a guess I would say around 20, from sketches to final touch-ups.

Pablo Peacock
Animals, Illustrations

Koala


This was a quick sketch I did for my sponsor child in Pakistan. She drew a beautiful rose for me so I decided to send her a pic of this furry little Aussie icon and included some facts about koalas too (such as how they may look cute n' cuddly, but watch those claws!).

The most difficult part of this drawing was capturing the different textures in the fur, as well as the colour - when you're drawing with a simple graphite pencil on white paper, unless you draw the full background, what's actually white (e.g. the fur at the edges of the ears) is drawn as grey. And I wasn't too happy with the stump, either, but practice is practice.

All up this drawing took about an hour.

Disclaimer: Reference material was a photo I found online, I don't own any copyright for this image.

Koala
Illustrations

Little Bird #3


Pencil on sketching pad

The third in a series of three small birds, purely for personal use. I picked this photo of a robin to work from both for the clarity of detail, and also because I wanted to incorporate some other elements and textures into the composition - namely, the twig and soft white flowers.

This image was drawn from a photo I found online. If you know the artist who took the photo, please let me know here so I can credit them.

Little Bird #3
Illustrations

Little Bird #2


Pencil on sketching pad

The second in a series of three small birds, for personal use. Sparrows remind me a lot of New Zealand, where I grew up before we moved to Australia when I was six.

I'm a tiny bit proud of the fluffy texture I kind of managed to create on his chest, although I think I still need to work on capturing the personality behind the eyes (or in this case, eye).

Little Bird #2
Animals, Illustrations

Little Bird #1


Pencil on sketching pad

The first in a series of three small birds, purely for personal use. I loved the dramatic lines of the wingspan and contrasting shadows/highlights in the original photo (included below). The contrast converted really well to black and white.

In the actual photo the right wing is even longer. I know nature didn't 'get it wrong' but to my eye it looked out of proportion so I shortened it for the drawing. Probably going to be sent to some special corner of Artist's Hell for that, but oh well.

I also don't know who took the original photo (hence why this is just a personal drawing!) but would love to be able to credit them; so if you know who took the photo below, feel free to drop me a line.

Unknown flying bird
Little Bird #1
Illustrations
© Copyright R.J. Timmis, Australia, 2019