Traditional Illustration of a Children’s Book using HORADAM® Naturals & HORADAM® Watercolour - Marrillu

In the tutorial “Traditional illustration of a children's book with HORADAM® Naturals & HORADAM® Watercolour”, artist Marrillu shows how she illustrates a children's book with our HORADAM® Watercolour and HORADAM® Naturals. She explains which materials she uses and how she uses them to create lively and playful pictures.

Used materials:

  • HORADAM® Watercolours in tubes: Cobalt turquoise 509, Cobalt violet hue 473, Cobalt azure 483, Transparent yellow 209, Ruby red 351, Mars brown 658, Cadmium orange light 227, Sap green 530, Titanium gold ochre 659, Quinacridone magenta 369.
  • HORADAM® Naturals in tubes: Rugen chalk 110, Curcuma 250, Dragon’s blood 320, Indigofera 470, Dyer’s green 510, Celadonite 530, Yellow ochre 620, Red bolus 640, Lalvarit violet 650, Caucasus earth 680, Vine black 750.
  • HORADAM® Gouache: Titanium white 102.
  • Mmedium: Schmincke Liquid frisket / drawing gum, neutral
  • Paper: Hahnemühle, The Collection - watercolour 300/gsm - 100% cotton- 48 x 40 cm
  • Brushes: da Vinci Harbin Kolinsky in different sizes ( 0/3 - 10), da Vinci Cosmotop-spin in different sizes ( 0/3 - 2 ), Escoda Prado, Escoda Optimpo Kolinsky.
  • Other: Drawing pencil, Faber Castell "Polychromos" colored pencils, absorbent sponge, gummed tape or masking tape and water.

Step 1

When I start my creative process, I've learned that any illustration lies in thoughtful reflection and discovery. For this project, I have created a scene to showcase the versatility of Schmincke's paints, featuring whimsical characters and lively woodland creatures. Join me as I explore the artistry of bringing stories to life on the pages of a picture book. 
I chose a Hahnemühle watercolour 300/gsm paper, dimension 48 x 40 cm.
First, I sketched on regular paper. After deciding that I approved of it, I transferred the final sketch to the watercolor paper to continue the process.

Step 2

My painting process revolves around the wet-on-wet technique, which involves saturating the watercolor paper beforehand. This ensures the paper can absorb water effectively, preventing warping during painting. To prepare, I soaked the paper in water for 5-10 minutes and then placed it on a flat wooden surface to dry. I prefer using an easel resting on a table for stability. I moistened the wooden surface with a clean sponge and carefully laid the soaked paper flat, smoothing out any air pockets. Additionally, I moistened the paper's surface using a sponge. Finally, I secured the edges of the paper with gummed or masking tape.

Step 3

I started by applying a layer of Schmincke Liquid Frisket to preserve the areas I want to keep white. Using a wooden stick, old brushes, or a pen, I carefully covered some of the characters, flowers, and intricate details.

Step 4

In this step, I focused on painting the lighting and shaping the shadows. To achieve smooth transitions and depth, I used ample water in the process. For shadow formation, I relied on a combination of Horadam Natural colors, including Indigofera 470, Curcuma 250, Vine black 750, and a touch of Lalvarit violet 650 for specific areas. When it came to adding light to the illustration, I used Horadam Naturals Yellow ochre 620, Horadam watercolor Transparent yellow 209, and Cadmium orange light 227. For the sky, I blended Cobalt turquoise 509 with a hint of Cobalt azure 483 and Naturals Rugen chalk 110.

Step 5 - 6

Step 5 marks the beginning of painting the background, where I carefully laid down a wash of clean water on the paper. This set the stage for blending the colors seamlessly. In my palette, I blended Titanium Gold Ochre 659, Cadmium Orange Light 227, and a touch of Ruby Red 351 to create a warm, inviting backdrop. To add depth and dimension, I introduced Natural hues of Red Bolus 640, mixed with a hint of Lalvarit Violet 650, particularly in the corners of the composition.
Moving on to Step 6, I tackled the greenery. Here, I mixed Sap Green 530, Cadmium Orange Light 227, and Transparent Yellow 209 to achieve a vibrant base. In this layer, I used a lot of water. I also mixed a few different greens in the Naturals by adding Celadonite 530 and Caucasus earth 680. I waited for the first layer to dry, then I added 2 more layers with less water. I finished this step with the details in the grass by dabbing with mixed paints: Dyer's green and 510 and Vine black 750 with a dry old brush. I painted strokes with the brush in places to get the effect of grass needles. This technique lends authenticity and visual appeal to the scene, bringing the landscape to life with every stroke.

Step 7

This phase focused on adding intricate details to background elements like trees and bushes. To create the green foliage of trees, I blended Sap Green 530 and Transparent Yellow 209, enhancing the depth with touches of Cobalt Azure 483 and Quinacridone Magenta 369 for shadows. For the bushes, I utilized a mix of Cobalt Turquoise 509, Celadonite 530, and Curcuma 250 to achieve versatility in color and texture. To create the look of a variety of bushes, I blended Cobalt Turquoise 509 and Cobalt Violet Hue.
The layers for trees are built using Mars Brown 658 and Cadmium Orange Light 227, with added depth from a mixture of Dragon’s Blood 320 and Titanium Gold Ochre 659. Once the paper is damp, I mixed Sap Green 530 and Dyer’s Green 510 to create the look of moss for added texture and detail. This step encouraged experimentation, allowing for the creation of multiple layers to enhance complexity and depth effortlessly.

Step 8

I removed the masking fluid from the paper. First,I  protected the paper by placing a plastic bag on my finger and gently rubbed the surface. Then, I painted the main characters.  I began with the bear, using light brown shades like Cadmium Orange Light 227 and Mars Brown 658 mixed with a touch of Caucasus Earth 680. For shadows and details, I created a darker palette with Lalvarit Violet 650 and Mars Brown 658. Next, I focused on details such as eyes, jacket, the beehive and garden cart and treated them with matching colors. Finally, I added definition lines using Mars Brown 658, Vine Black 750, and Dragon’s Blood 320.

Step 9

In this step, I created the character of the girl. I developed a skin tone by mixing these colors with plenty of water: Ruby red 351, Transparent yellow 209, Cadmium orange light 227 and little Cobalt azure 483. 
I made sure to test the paint shade before I was satisfied with the color. After I applied the first layer on her face and hands, I repeated the process by adding a bit of green to achieve a darker shade. An important note is to be quick and precise to reduce the risk of errors. The facial expression of the character itself is crucial for effectively achieving a good illustration. Finally, I added rosy cheeks with the color Ruby Red 351. Her hair is also done in several layers starting with Cadmium orange light 227 and Titanium gold ochre 659. Then three more layers were applied using a thin brush, starting with the lightest brown color until I achieved a darker hue. I used Titanium gold ochre 659, Cadmium orange light 227, Mars Brown 658 and the end Vine black 750.

Step 10

In this step, I painted all the small details such as flowers, bees, reflections in the eyes, and similar elements. Additionally, I used gouache: Titanium white 102, to highlight details.
This stage brings all the  finishing touches together. Here, I began to refine the artwork with colored pencils, particularly using Polychromos to express intricate details, lines, and textures. In this phase, it's important to let intuition guide your hand. No amount of detail is too much! In doing so, I was able to enhance the overall vibrance and saturation of the artwork, which are both crucial aspects for effective illustration.

The finished illustration

The Artist

Hello! I'm Marija, an artist and illustrator based in Europe. It's a pleasure to meet you! 
From a young age, my love for drawing and painting flourished, especially while growing up surrounded by nature in the countryside. This environment ignited my creativity, leading me to illustrate my own stories. Today, I work as a freelance illustrator known as Marrillu, specializing in children's books. My goal is to evoke emotion through my characters and settings, with a spontaneous, playful, and whimsical watercolor style. With a background in Graphic Design from University Philology and Arts, I'm dedicated to creating illustrations that resonate positively with viewers.

Instagram: @marrillu
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