Learning by copying

I have been using pen and ink a lot more lately (and am growing to really like it), but there are still things I find difficult, especially when it comes to executing certain very precise ink ‘styles’ required for scientific illustration (loose pen and ink work is a whole ‘nother board game!!). I think that’s where copying comes in handy. Taking an image in the style you are wanting to learn, enlarging it (so the lines are approximate to the original inked size) and then taping acetate film over the photocopy and copying the original drawing is a great learning exercise. I have found that trying to get all the nuances of the line and details the same as the original illustrator did in their illustration is a huge help in learning the muscle-memory required to execute the technique (or something similar) on your own work.

Here is an illustration of a Marginella pygmaea shell from Henry Suters ‘Manual of the New Zealand Mollusca‘. The original illustration is much reduced in the published work, so that the stippling is hardly visible (and the dots tend to merge).


Continue reading “Learning by copying”

sketches from russell

I recently came back from a 5 day trip to Russell (in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand) which was a lot of fun.

the view from the main street in russell

 Here are some of the sketches I made on the trip! I was aiming to fill the whole sketchbook I made, but ended up with a sketch-a-day…

sketches of abby, and the weka that live on the campground where we stayed


the campground set in bush that is kiwi and weka habitat- the weka are very curious and like to investigate the tents and pinch food. They were also really fast and difficult to sketch!

unfinished sketch- view of the campground from the nearby mangroves




The sketchbook I used was a repurposed hard back book that had been withdrawn from the library I work at. I refilled it with my new favourite paper- Lana Dessin drawing paper (which is only $3 for a large sheet- enough to fill this book!). Its great because its 220gsm and you can also use watercolour on it easily.


I brought a small watercolour travel set, my waterbrush and other drawing supplies (pencils+pens)- all kept in a click-clack container to stop them getting water damage etc.

Next time I’ll have many more pages left to fill!

till next time,


inktober week 2

second week of Inktober is over! Here are the inky sketches I did this week- all india ink with calligraphy brush:


a forget me not flower sprig (really close up) because they are everywhere at the moment. It kinda looked better in my head…

Then I thought I’d try and expand on the little Toucan character that I sketched out a few weeks back (apparently that was actually a few months ago!!), and that ended up being what I did for the rest of the weeks sketches:


compare this, to this…


the difference a good paper makes! The first was done on cartridge paper, the second in a cheap Montmarte watercolour (190gsm) sketch book. I have found my favourite inking paper and will be doing all the rest of my inktober sketches on it.




Thats all for this week of the challenge.Are you taking part in Inktober? Have you managed to do a sketch for every day so far?


september goal review + free calendar download

I can’t believe its already September- here in New Zealand we are heading towards Spring and with a third of the year left- it felt like a time to do a review of some of the goals I am hoping to achieve this year. Its easy to get stuck in day to day routines and avoid pushing through to get things done-especially if you are working on  your own projects to develop skills and improve technique (rather than being commissioned to do work!!).


so true for so many things…. ad campaign for Frucor designed by Automatic (Dan Wright)

Anyway- as one of my major goals this year was to develop my portfolio, and lately I feel like I’ve been going a bit off track SO here are some of the things I am going to set myself to do this month:

  • Week long character challenge– sketch out a random character every day for one week. It doesn’t have to be amazing- just a sketch, but hopefully it will generate some ideas and things for other drawings. I’m aiming for 15th to 21st September– is anyone else keen to join along? See Brad Woodards character series for inspiration!
  • Sketchy sketchy sketch! Fill up my tiny sketchbook that I made (will do a post on this little sketchbook I made+ how I made it at a later date)
  • Do a digital painting of a native whale/dolphin (scientific style). I really wanted to try this out and saw this quick tutorial. It will be a good project to practice my digital painting technique so I can apply it to more scientific illustration projects
  • From ZoologicalApt
  • And the BIG ONE- complete 5 finished illustrations that I could use in my portfolio (don’t all need to be from different projects). I’m not actually sure this is achievable but I will do my best ;0

I have seen some great info online regarding generating your own projects and practice- the most recent one I found useful was Drawing Drills by Meg Hunt. I am finding it useful to set myself projects + assignments with a timeline to get things done. Hopefully I can make it to my portfolio deadline in October!!!

Until then- what are your goals to make it an amazing+productive September? Think about the goals you want to achieve by the end of the year and break them up into little chunks you can get working on now….


To help you out- here is a handy little calendar planner I made for you to get started:
(click on the image above to download the full size image- I recommend printing on A3 so you have lots of space to write in your plans!! Make your goals achievable and tick off the things you achieve as you go)

Have a great weekend!



NZ Magpie Moth illustrations

Here is another scientific illustration project I am currently working on- illustrations of the NZ Magpie Moth for MSc student Cassandra Marks at the University of Auckland (also from the Holwell lab). I am doing a series of identification-style watercolour illustrations of the male and female moths as well as some views of the caterpillar. Here’s some pics of where I’m up to- also I made a gif of the watercolour process!

my desk at the moment
my desk at the moment




And the final- this is the female Magpie Moth:

Copyright E.Scheltema 2014- please do not copy without permission

I used Winsor and Newton Cotman watercolour paints, mixing the black for the wings from Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna, but found I had to pump up the darkness of it by using some pure black for the darkest areas.

Thanks to Cassie for letting me post these in the middle of the project!


inky doodles- from random sketch to finished drawing

I’ve been playing around with ink and brush lately- having been totally inspired by Yuko Shimizu’s illustration and her new class on Skillshare– which is just amazing. Here are a series of photos from very random squiggle that I made into a face, all the way through several iterations to a final illustration that I’m pretty happy with. Re-doing drawings until I’m happy with them is something that has only just recently occurred to me (!!!). Its very rare that I’ll be able to make something that nice first time round, so instead of just being annoyed about the first go, hopefully with practice (ie what I have done here)- I’ll get better!

Anyway- here are the various versions:

1. Random Doodle:


Not sure where it came from, just randomly came into my head after squiggling that line that makes up the profile of his head.

2. the illustration I was pretty happy with but then decided it would be cool to add some extra bits to



I wasn’t happy with the little bird sitting on the guys head- so decided to change it to a big toucan (its in the Amazonian rainforest if you couldn’t tell) sitting on a branch above his head. Also wanted to improve the background a little.

3. The one where I had this idea to also add in little eyes in the dark areas of the foliage


That wasn’t a good idea….

4. The final (ish) illustration


Of course I’m sure there are still improvements that could be made! But I’m pretty happy with it. Its the most fun as well as the least planned drawing I’ve done in a long time, so that was pretty cool. All done with India Ink and a Chinese calligraphy brush.

You may have noticed but the posting has been a bit irregular over the last couple of weeks. I will be back to more regular posting soon- I’ve been working on a few real scientific illustrations!!- and should be able to share more on the site then.

Until then I’d love to know- Do you have anything new you have learnt recently that has made drawing more fun for you?

Have a great week


forays into logo design: a process

I mentioned last time that I had been lucky enough to develop a logo for a new company that is starting up here in New Zealand. Goldfish Productions is a production company that will be producing web (as well as film and photo) content to promote undiscovered overseas festivals to New Zealanders’. The clients wanted a goldfish to be incorporated into the logo in some way. So here are some pictures of the development of the logo. I have also included some online resources that I found very useful at the end of this post.

After finding out what the client wanted, I started to come up with some different sketched logo ideas…tried to think of as many as possible!

sketches galore

sketches galore
and more

Then I further developed a few of my favourite ideas so I could send them off to the client.

a few of the logo ideas
a few of the logo ideas

The clients then decided that they liked the centre logo idea, as it had quite a hand-drawn look. I developed both a logo version with a black background and one with a transparent background.

I created the finished designs in Illustrator (vector images are best for logos with multiple uses as they are rescaleable). Here they are:

GP_rectangle_web_lowres GP_web_lowres GP_web_lowres GP_gradient_lowres

(these are low res images so as to not make this post too big! I will post the larger images on my portfolio page too).

I sent these off in a variety of file sizes and types (.psd file, .ai file, jpg low and high res, png low and high and as a pdf)- I can’t wait to see them in use!

For anyone else interested in doing some logo design, I found these resources really useful:

* Design Instruct- Create a Logo Design from start to finish

* Just Creative- The Logo Design Process from start to finish, The logo design process of top designers, and How to design a logo (this site also provides a great questionnaire to get ideas of what you should be asking your client to get a brief of what they would like).

* Spoongraphics Blog- Question Time: What should you supply with your logo designs?

Plus, something to read if you are just getting into digital illustration, like me- this is a wonderful tutorial about inking illustrations in Adobe Illustrator: from Beats Digging Ditches, the Ultimate Digital Ink and Color Tutorial for Adobe Illustrator CS5

I hope you are having a great weekend- its getting cold over here in NZ as we head into winter!