Making of… Red’s Wolf

I thought it might be interesting to show how my illustrations come together, from idea, to sketch, to completed piece.

I was trying to think of a good name for what I might call this post; breakdown of a painting (sounds like the painting had a breakdown), the anatomy of a painting (sounded too serious), break art down (sounded too deconstructive), so for now its “how it happened”. I’m open to what the process of making a piece of art could be called without just saying “the process”, that’s boring.

For me ideas come in many ways, I like to say my process is pretty unstructured and I work by muse. Yup, that simple. I tend to be inspired, let the idea sit in my head and let my imagination do it’s work, painting and creating the image in my head. Once its cooked in my imagination long enough I try throwing a sketch out. Sometimes the first sketch isn’t always the one I want, but sometimes it comes out exactly how it needs to be. For this one I researched wolves and really practiced until I felt like I had a good shape, I hope I’m close enough ;)

Reds Wolf Sketch One

I rough sketch the idea, then make a more refined sketch over the top. My idea for “Red’s Wolf” was to keep the image looking a little unfinished, and storybook-like. I wanted to keep the color palette very minimal and to even keep some things unpainted, and just sketched – like a lot of the trees, or even the simplicity of the moon in the finished product.

To start, I transfer the sketch image onto a piece of watercolor paper. But before I paint the background and around Red and the Wolf, I use masking fluid to keep the wolf, Red, and anything else I want free of paint. Masking fluid is this stinky, sticky, amazing stuff that ruins your brushes but is super fun to peel off the paper when it’s dry! It really does have more of a purpose, but the peeling off part really is the best.


Below is an image I used as a “teaser” on my instagram, it shows the treeline without any ink, just watercolor. (And some of my preliminary sketches in the background.)
Red's Wolf - pre-ink

One of the things I found most difficult in this illustration was darkening and shading the wolf. Working with ink can be scary, there are no undo’s… at all. Once the ink hits the paper that’s how it is. I thought at first I could just paint him with watercolor or even gouache for the look I wanted.


It wasn’t dark enough. He needed to be dark as a night with no stars. He needed to be as dark as I could get him, and that meant ink.

I started out with shading him with graphite to see where I needed his highlights to be, because, like I said, there was no going back once the ink hit the paper. Reverse light/dark is a new thing for me, I haven’t really done much of it before this piece. It seems simple enough, but for me, it wasn’t! (I’m getting practice, once you see my Snow White you’ll see!)

Reds Wolf Sketch 2

What was really the deciding factor for me was when I painted Red’s red cape (I wish I had an image of what it looked like, but I made the decision so fast I didn’t take a photo). Once her cape was painted the wolf was washed out, and I’m glad it worked out that way. Sometimes you just have to let the painting become what it’s meant to become =)

Reds Wolf - almost thereWhen Red’s cape was red and the wolf was black it really started becoming what I had wanted. I almost left the painting at the stage you see above – sketchy trees, blank moon, no dark puddle thing in front of her. I let it sit for a few days while I thought about it.

I decided to paint the trees, and this is what it looked like in the end..
Reds Wolf - ta da!


Scans just never do it justice. The india black ink has this “ink shimmer” I say, that just adds so much. I guess that’s what makes originals better than a print. Don’t be sad, I have a print too, the original was a gift to a good friend of mine.

I hope you enjoyed your little stroll through the creation of “Red’s Wolf”, if there’s something you would like to know more about, or any ideas for me to show you, please let me know! Comment here, facebook, or drop me a note on etsy.

What’s your favorite fairytale?

Keep imagining!



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