Friday, 12 February 2016

About The Art-Personalised Portraits! #1

As a full time illustrator, I draw a lot. What I draw changes every week, but the what I create the most, and one of my favourite things to create, is a custom portrait. When I was brainstorming about what to fill my new blog with, some of you requested I talk about my artistic process, and here we are! I've chosen a piece from last year that was a lot of fun to work on, and I'll be sharing exactly how I made it!

Last summer, I was contacted by one of my lovely customers to make a portrait of her daughter, Orla. As I knew the client was interested in retro and vintage fashion and has quite eclectic taste, I really wanted to reflect this in the portrait! As soon as I had read her requests for the piece, I knew the sort of direction i wanted to take it in!
One of my biggest influencers artistically is fashion illustrator Rene Gruau. Most popular in the 1950s and 1960s, his work is incredibly colourful and chic. I've been a fan of his for a while now, and I think his work is so beautiful and stylish.

All images belong to Rene Gruau- images found at
Gruau's work always conveys a sense of fun and energy, as does a lot of vintage fashion illustration, especially in 1960s advertising. I wanted to capture a similar aesthetic that would help portray a young and fashionable girl as well as the tastes of the customer.

Here's the initial sketch I sent-I knew she and her family were fond of nature so I wanted to fill the piece with wild flowers and leaves. I never seem to draw any flowers in particular-I quite enjoy improvising and making things up! The design was approved and I moved onto my favourite part- deciding on the colour scheme! 

I wanted to step away from the colours so commonly associated with femininity (pinks and purples) and create a colour scheme that had a nod back to retrospective art as well as gender neutrality. Many of the artists that I adore use warm colour palettes- reds, oranges and yellows that feel friendly and cosy yet vivid, and I chose to do the same. I set about finding colours that compliment each other and the piece- I've always really loved creating colour combinations and seeing what fits the illustration!

This was the range of colours I decided on! One of my favourite colour combinations is orange and green, so I chose to try a combination of different shades of this idea! I chose a black background as this makes the brighter shades really stand out. I've seen how artists such as Tim Biskup and Johnny Hannah use black backgrounds, and fancied trying it myself!
Once I had my selection of colours, I sent a 'colour plan' to the client. This is a flat plan of what colours will go there, and gives the customer an opportunity to make any changes they'd like. Initially this was a one-off for the customer but is now available to all portrait customers! 

 I created this colour plan by dropping the initial sketch into Photoshop and digitally adding the shapes over the top. While this colour scheme was a bit of a gamble, the customer enjoyed the design, and so I began the final piece! 

My process is mostly digital but occasionally I scan in or create textures to use as well, so many of them end up being mixed media pieces. I moved from traditional techniques to digital at the start of 2015, and while I have alot yet to learn, I'm finding the process much easier now! I made some tweaks to the initial drawing, and added more detail, until I came to the final image! 

Like most artists, I'm always self-critical, but I'm really pleased with how this one came out, and the customer said she was too! This piece gave me more confidence in trying new colours and hues, and was so much fun to work on! I'd like to say a big thank you to the customer for their order and continued support!

If you'd like me to make some art for you, head to my Etsy store, where I have a full range of personalised pieces! If you're looking for something not listed in my shop, simply get in touch at or via Etsy, and I'd be happy to help!

Stay wonderful!


  1. We more than love it Mel, It's absolutely perfect and I love how you considered my personality/style and infused this into this piece. The colourway and the retro feel is just 'us' - it couldn't be any more perfect! As you know, we loved it so much, we came back for seconds!! Brilliant post and so insightful into 'the process' - as with most things artistic/creative, there is so much that goes into it (than meets the eye). Cheers me lovely x

  2. Loved reading this sweetheart, always enjoy seeing other artists processes. That colour palette is gorgeous! Reminds me of Russian folk art (turns out it's called Khokhloma).

    Definitely coming to you for some custom art closer to my birthday. Planning a revamp of my bedroom and would love some of your art to take pride of place