Sunday, August 21, 2011


Whether I am creating an illustration for the page of a book, or---as in this case---the art for a pin-on button, I follow the same steps.  I begin with what we call a template, or a mechanical---essentially a same-size diagram or pattern, showing the size and shape into which the finished art must fit.
For the button, the template was round, and 2 3/4 inches in diameter.
I next began making sketches in pencil on a transparent, vellum-type tracing paper.  The transparency allows me to easily lay a new piece of paper over a sketch and trace the parts I want to keep, while changing the parts I don't like.  It also allows me to combine different sketched elements at a later stage.  My first little seated figure was this human child.
I next tried several doggy figures.  This button will be for children, and the doggy figure won out over the human figure without much resistance on my part.
I next made a rough sketch for the placement of the text for the button on a separate piece of transparent paper.
By laying the two separate transparent sketches over each other, it was easy to position them in relation to each other as I wanted, and to create a third, combined sketch for the text and image.
I transferred this sketch with pencil to the watercolor paper I had chosen for the final art, and then executed the black lines and text with india ink right on top of the pencil transfer.  (Notice that I tweaked the relative positions of text-cum-figure yet again.)
I let the ink drawing dry overnight, as I always do, to make sure the india ink (which contains shellac) will be thoroughly hard and dry before applying any water media over it.  The next day, I erased the pencil lines.  
I then scanned the ink drawing, and printed out several copies on cheap paper.  I used these copies to experiment with the button's color scheme.  After several trials I arrived at an arrangement that I liked.
Before working on the final art, I always experiment with my chosen media combos on a piece of the same paper I'm using for the final.  This is to make sure that my combos are completely compatible with each other.  I had thought I would use markers for some of the color, to get some good bright saturation, but...oops!  Although the markers had worked fine in my color experiments made on print-outs of the drawing, they caused the india ink line of the final art to "run", creating small rivulets of grayish wash.  Since I had experimented on scrap paper---NOT on the finished ink drawing!---there was no problem.  I made a quick trip to the art supply store, then came back to my studio to experiment with the various markers and colored inks I had picked up.  
The Chartpak yellow worked fine.  It did not affect the black ink line, and it gave me the nice bright color I wanted for the background.  Because I had ironed out all the kinks in my color sketches, the remaing color work on the final art fell easily into place. 
And what will the button be used for?  A teacher-friend of mine runs a summer reading program for her school here in the Phoenix area.  Each year she plans a special celebratory event at the beginning of school for all the children who have participated in the program.  This year she invited me to help with the celebration, and I happily agreed.  I will give a short presentation to the children; they will each get a pin-on button with the picture I created; and they will finish with an ice-cream party.  A lovely way to end a summer of reading!


  1. Forwarding this link to Hannah. I love it when you share your experience...

  2. What an excellent post this is. You take us through the process so thoughtfully and patiently. You make it sound so easy! But for those of us lacking artistic skills we have the joy of following along step-by-step with quiet admiration.

  3. Love seeing the process. Wendy, how do you transfer the sketch to the watercolor paper? ("I transferred this sketch with pencil to the watercolor paper.")