Artful year in review: 2021

Not sure if these artful year reviews are of any interest but me. But I like having this little journal here, seeing my progress (hopefully) and some of the things I worked on in a year.

In 2021 I received my first picturebook commissions ever from Clavis Publishing. I’d always wanted to one day become a picturebook maker. The illustrating part of that dream is becoming a reality now, which is so cool! Clavis gives new illustrators a chance to have a go at picturebook making. I think that’s a brave decision, cause we newbies don’t always have all the needed skills yet. Drawing one nice picture is one thing. But I was soon to find out that drawing a whole picturebook is a completely different skill set!

Because of the book work I didn’t take any big online classes this year. And I can’t really share a lot about the books yet. But I did do some personal work next to those commissions that I can share here.

First of all, I joined a challenge on Instagram called Blooming March.

Bugzzz having tea.

Meanwhile I had switched from Photoshop to Procreate. And I love the textured brushes there! So I’m exploring how I want to use them in my work. I want my work to have that look you get when using real materials, but with the comfort of easily erasing and changing. Because working digitally can be a quicker way of working and it’s easier to make adjustments when asked by a client.

So here I tried a watercoloury or watery gouache feel:

And an attempt at hand lettering. One of the things I want to improve in!


I saw this man with broom on bike on one of my (sort of) daily walks and couldn’t resist drawing him:
Another thing I want to improve in is conceptual thinking. So I came up with an exercise that’s helping me with that. My partner gave me 3 words to use as a concept for an illustration: wheat, walking, green. But I was not allowed to use the words literally. So with these words I created a mind map. And then I chose 3 of the newly found words to create with (are you still with me?), which are cookies, backpack, envy. And this is a little drawing I created with those:

And here is some sketchbook and thumbnailing work. Some for the book commissions, but also just some folks I met on the street that I thought would make fun characters. (So beware when you meet me in the streets, you might end up in a picture book sooner or later!

I want to pick up the real paints more often. But the work for the picturebooks I’m mostly doing digitally. And I find that I don’t take much time to work in my sketchbooks. Here is a little pattern I created with elements I had painted in acrylics and gouache though:

In 2021 I did follow some (parts of) online courses and workshops. For example on Skillshare and Domestika. Mainly to learn new techniques and draw/paint-alongs. I also followed some lessons on SVS Learn about children’s book illustration, like I had intended to do.

The year 2022 will be all about the book commissions. So not sure whether there will be an artful year in review next year of personal work and/or work for online courses. Anyway, for now, wishing you a great new year!

xx Wen