chromacon 2015 in review

As I mentioned in my last post, a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend Chromacon indie arts festival, and the associated Chromaconnect creative industry summit (as a result of winning tickets through Design Assembly blog), that was held at Aotea Centre, Auckland. I had been looking forward to the event for weeks, and it turned out being even better than I had imagined.


The talks from illustration and animation industry pros (such as J.A.W Cooper and Paul Tobin from WETA Workshop) were so inspiring and I took loads of notes and came away feeling more motivated about the industry. I thought I would use this post to distill down the major ideas and take-aways I got from the day. Throughout the day I was able to attend talks by the amazing J.A.W Cooper, Wenna, Laura Dubuk (Weta Workshop), Paul Tobin (also Weta) and Jacky Ke Jiang– which all approached different topics and were fascinating to listen to.

After the event, I jotted down some major themes or takeaways I got from the day, and thought they might be useful to other people who are aspiring illustrators!

Continue reading “chromacon 2015 in review”


2014- a year in review

well, its the end of another year! 2014 was the first year where I decided to really try to focus on illustration- I did the scientific illustration course, created a stop-motion animation that was science based, and developed a portfolio-which I submitted to a publisher. In the last month I also did my first market (selling cards and prints that I printed myself- a learning curve as well). Its been busy but I feel like the busier it got, the easier it was to create work and I feel like I started to definitely get into a stride of creating art consistently and regularly in the last few months of this year- something I have previously struggled with.

I also discovered a technique that I really like for doing picture book-style illustrations, and am excited to play around with that some more in 2015.



I saw this around tumblr in the past week and thought it would be a fun thing to do- you can find the original template here, and make one for yourself!

Continue reading “2014- a year in review”

illustration book finds- october edition

Its been a little while since I’ve done a second-hand book finds post (the last one was in March)- and I’ve found quite a few lovely illustrated books over the last couple of months so I thought it was time for another round-up post.

I found all of these books at my local $1 book sale, which is run to raise money for the Lion Foundation. It is a treasure trove for people who love books- especially old ones 😉 Most of the books mentioned below are full of wildlife illustration, but I also find lots of art instructional books (too many to post about now!).

Here are my favourite finds of late….

Town Birds in New Zealand by Raymond Wilson, 1980





Continue reading “illustration book finds- october edition”

OCTOBER illustrated book of the month: Primates of the World by Jean-Jacques Petter and Francois Desbordes

This month I wanted to highlight a beautifully illustrated identification guide to primates. Primates of the World: an illustrated guide by Jean-Jacques Petter and Francois Desbordes was published on 2010 in French, but has just been translated and published by Princeton University Press last year.


The primate illustrations in this guide, by french wildlife artist Francois Desbordes, are absolutely phenomenal- and I recommend checking out this book for them alone. There are 72 realistically rendered watercolour plates, as well as a number of looser watercolour sketches in the introductory section entitles ‘Fascinating Primates’- including a very colourful evolutionary tree diagram.

Primates of the World by Jean-Jacques Petter and Francois Desbordes, pg59
RING-TAILED and BROWN LEMURS from Primates of the World by Jean-Jacques Petter and Francois Desbordes, pg59
Primates of the World by Jean-Jacques Petter and Francois Desbordes, pg11
Primates of the World by Jean-Jacques Petter and Francois Desbordes, pg11

I have read other reviews that say some of the scientific information is slightly out of date now (that’s how fast species phenology can change) but it is a comprehensive guide of the major primate species of the world, sorted by continent.

Primates of the World by Jean-Jacques Petter and Francois Desbordes, pg105
TARSIERS from Primates of the World by Jean-Jacques Petter and Francois Desbordes, pg105

What I really liked about Mr Desbordes illustrations is that they not only show the animals morphology but also give some clue to the postures and behaviour of the different species. I couldn’t find much information about the illustrator however it appears he has illustrated a number of books about wildlife in French.

Primates of the World by Jean-Jacques Petter and Francois Desbordes, pg177
GORILLAS from Primates of the World by Jean-Jacques Petter and Francois Desbordes, pg177

I highly recommend taking a look at this book- its a masterpiece.



blog update: you may have noticed a new link in the right-side bar- best of drawing escape. I’ve  made a collection of the most popular posts from the drawing escape archives- you can check them out here!

AUGUST illustrated book of the month: A Butterfly is Patient by Dianna Hutts Ashton and Sylvia Long

This week I thought I would post a new blog post that I am hoping will become an ongoing monthly series, where I will post a review of an awesome illustrated book I have recently come across. As you may know, I work in a library whose collection is slightly tailored toward childrens’ picture books and non fiction, so there are a lot of beautifully illustrated books available for the picking! So, here is the first illustrated picture book of the month post- I hope you enjoy and are able to take a look at some of these books in person.

This month, I am came across the wonderful book A Butterfly is Patient, by Dianna Hutts Ashton, and illustrated by Sylvia Long (you can view inside the book by following this link to the publishers page).

A Butterfly Is Patient
Source: Chronicle Books

This book is a junior non-fiction title (aimed at 5-10 year olds) that serves as an introduction to butterflies; describing various facts about butterflies and their lives, under the over-arching theme of metamorphosis (relating back to “patient” in the title). Every spread displays a different facet of a butterflies life, and is started off with ‘A butterfly is …’. One of my favourites spreads is the one that accompanies “A butterfly is not a moth”; it has various butterflies in a daylight composition, along with a variety of wonderfully illustrated moths on the facing page in the night time. The spreads are beautifully illustrated and each turn of the page provides a surprise, as the illustrations and text are quite diverse and the colourful illustrations are lovely.

From A BUTTERFLY IS PATIENT by Dianna Hutts Ashton, illustrated by Sylvia Long ©2011 Used with Permission from Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco. Visit

There are quite a lot of scientific concepts also introduced which I really liked. One of my favourite parts of the book are the endpapers- the front ones have lots of different species of caterpillars, the end ones lots of butterflies, supposedly having metamorphosed through the book’s story.

From A BUTTERFLY IS PATIENT by Dianna Hutts Ashton, illustrated by Sylvia Long ©2011 Used with Permission from Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco. Visit
From A BUTTERFLY IS PATIENT by Dianna Hutts Ashton, illustrated by Sylvia Long ©2011 Used with Permission from Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco. Visit

The illustrations are what initially drew me to this book. According to Sylvia Longs’ website, she illustrates using pen and ink, overlaid with watercolour. Her illustrations in this book are amazing. They are clear, vibrant and sophisticated illustrations that are the perfect style for communicating natural history concepts to kids. I think they are the kind of illustrations that really  inspire wonder and interest in the natural world. I also loved the fact that the text is hand-lettered in a copperplate sort of style.

From A BUTTERFLY IS PATIENT by Dianna Hutts Ashton, illustrated by Sylvia Long ©2011 Used with Permission from Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco. Visit

This author-illustrator team have also collaborated on a number of other junior non fiction books in the same vein- including An Egg is Quiet and A Seed is Sleepy, and a brand new title- A Rock is Lively. I would highly highly recommend checking all of these books out- even (or especially) if you aren’t in the kids age group and are interested in natural history and illustration- they are beautifully written and illustrated and I’m hoping they create even more books to add to the series.

Let me know what you think of A Butterfly is Patient if you have read it, in the comments below.

Check out Dianna Hutts Ashtons’ website here

and Sylvia Long’s website here.

See you next time with a process post!


All images taken from A BUTTERFLY IS PATIENT by Dianna Hutts Ashton, illustrated by Sylvia Long ©2011

Used with Permission from Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco.


review: kuretake ZIG BrusH2O

I’ve been practising with watercolour a bit more over the last month or so- and so, I thought I would use that as an excuse to buy something I’ve had my eye on in the art shop for a while- a water brush. You’ve probably already heard of these wonderful contraptions, but if not, a quick refresher: Water brushes are synthetic brushes which have a hollow handle that you fill with water. The water is then dispensed through the brush by squeezing the handle, so you can control how wet the brush tip gets. As the packaging says- ‘its lightweight design permits portability and eliminates the need to carry water bottles’ – which is why they are very popular for urban/nature sketching. I have also seen them recommended in some watercolour books as a good tool for doing large areas of wash, though you probably want the largest size brush tip for that purpose.

ZIG Water Colour System BrusH20
source: Kuretake

I bought a ZIG BrusH2O (cost: $15 NZD), which is the most common brand in New Zealand, and is made by the japanese pen company, Kuretake. It’s available in four brush tip sizes, and I got the medium. I was initially going to get the detailer but then read a review that said the larger brush tip sizes have a great tip to do fine work with, so decided to go for the medium instead, so it would have more variation in line sizes.

So, I have had a week or two to play with this cool little contraption, and have discovered a few things…


– Quite good variation between the thin and thick lines (and washes) are possible with the medium brush tip! So far the point on the brush has lasted really well too. Its really easy to get accurate lines with as well as quickly fill in areas of colour. I found the brush size to be similar to a No.4 brush.

– Its really good for a beginner like me- you can do graduated washes SO easily, as the water can be constantly wetting the brush tip, you don’t have to stop and pick up more water and then continue, which for the novice watercolour-ist can result in a bit of a break in flow of the colour, if too much clear water is then added, or the initial watercolour has already started drying.

Notice the difference in amount of water that is added with the waterbrush: the Winsor and Newton (regular) brush runs out of water near the end of the squiggly stroke (and is slightly more saturated), whereas the waterbrush just keeps going (sometimes adding a bit too much water in places!).

– Good for getting saturated bright colours on the paper BUT you need to make sure you mix the colours on the paper. If you mix them in a palette, you will end up with much paler colours because water is added regularly, thinning out the mixed colour. This also makes the waterbrush really good for thin coloured washes over larger areas.

– Very practical to use with tiny portable watercolour palettes (even my smallest one which has watercolour pans of about 1cm diameter). I thought it might be too big, but it works perfectly, probably because of the great brush tip point.


– Controlling the amount of water coming through the tip can be difficult, and you can see in the washes below where too much water was added with the waterbrush. However if you are using the brush for work that is a bit looser, or ideally for sketchbooks, then its no big deal and can give some nice effects.  I also think the water flow through the brush just takes some time and practice to get used to. Once you’ve got used to it,  in some ways (see above) its actually easier to use than a regular brush; I’m already getting lazy and using it at home all the time!

You can see that the waterbrush adds a lot more water than I typically add with a regular brush- it takes a little time to learn to control this water flow to get the intended result. (Don’t mind the big drop of water I accidentally spilt on the graded wash!!)

– I found it really hard to fill the handle up with a decent amount of water, using the method suggested of immersing the unscrewed end of the handle into a cup of water and squeezing it to pull in water. I only got maybe 1/2 a tsp in the handle by doing this. If you were going to take this out sketching with you, you’d definitely want more water in there. So maybe I’ll get hold of a syringe and try filling it that way. Of course, I could also be doing it the wrong way- any tips please let me know!

How to use BrusH20!
How to use BrusH2O! source: kuretake

– The brush tip does discolour (with some paints) when you use it, even after you have cleaned the tip after use, because it is a white taklon brush tip. However this is purely cosmetic and hasn’t affected the use of the brush as far as I am aware.

Overall- I’ve found it to be an awesome tool, and I can’t wait to take it out ‘into the wild’ and try out some sketching with it (once I’ve figured out how to fill it up with some more water of course). This is also a pretty flexible tool with a number of uses besides the obvious. I have seen suggestions that you can fill the barrel up with a diluted black ink to use as grey washes with black ink sketches which sounds like something I’ll have to try soon! I believe some comic artists also use them filled with ink for brush line work, instead of other ink brush pens (such as Pentel Brush Pen and the Kuretake Brush Pen).  I would recommend this handy brush, especially if you want to get into more urban/outdoor watercolour sketching.

 Here are some interesting links if you’d like to learn more about waterbrushes:

ZIG watercolour system BrusH2O on the Kuretake website

A really detailed review from Russell Stutler on waterbrushes.

If you want to see examples of the different brands and particularly sizes of brushes, check out this video by Cathy Johnson (skip to about 7.10 to see the beginning of the demos).

John Muir Laws gives details about his favourite waterbrush in this Field sketching equipment post.

Also- if want to try something different, try out this tutorial on making a water brush from commercial kids paint brushes! I have read that the inventor of the waterbrush did in fact make his from an emptied out ink filled brush pen- so its not such a bad idea to try out. Sadly I couldn’t find these in shops here to try this out.

have fun if you do decide to get one!


Please note that all reviews are entirely my own opinion- I haven’t received any compensation from the product companies that have been featured, and all products reviewed are paid for by me. Because I can’t help buying more art materials than I really need and the blog is a good excuse!!