Thoughts and Process: Drawing a Holiday Mood

A portrait of a woman is drinking hot chocolate in a patterned mug. She is wearing a black sweater and has holiday floral decorations by the bottom right corner.

For my first write up, I really wanted to get out my thoughts on this illustration I completed on 12/18/2020. In full value, it’s simply an illustration of my OC (original character) surrounded by some nice holiday flora, drinking a hot chocolate in a black blanket. I’ve been wanting to talk more extensively about my illustrations and process for a while, mainly because I find posting art on social media can be a bit restrictive! In making this, I’m hoping to help other aspiring artists, friends, and those just curious, to possibly aid their own process and ways they handle their projects. This piece I call in my head Holly. I normally only professionally title my pieces based off the dates they were finished on, but I occasionally find a random thing in my head that I call them instead, more on that later. Anyways, Holly originally started as a doodle when I was reading a magazine at home, wishing I could just snuggle up in a nice blanket with a hot chocolate while it snowed. There was just one problem, besides the lack of snow that day…I didn’t feel like making hot chocolate! I normally like making it when my partner wants something warm to drink, even though I do like it on my own. I guess that day I was just lazy! But I had just enough energy to wrap up my OC in a toasty blanket and give her a drink. OCs really can be a flexible type of wish fulfillment for others, can’t they?

A picture of a sketch of a woman drinking hot chocolate, with holiday decorations

If you’ve seen the final product at the top of this page, you may notice this sketch above has different proportions! This is because what I like to do with my sketches is to make them, then wait a day before making lineart or coloring, so I can better see any issues with anatomy. After scanning the sketch, I edit any proportions with Medibang, my choice of art software, on a separate layer until I’m satisfied. Once I sat on this drawing for a day, I noticed things like the character’s hair not being shaped the way I’d like it to be, and some of the fingers on her right hand being too long. This practice I’ve found is absolutely vital to my process! Otherwise, there would be a lot more obvious mistakes to my work.

Next was the actual lineart. My lines are probably thicker than what people normally use, but I have my brush tool on Medibang at a width of 5 pixels. One thing about my work that may not be apparent at first glance, is that I find it very valuable to use the same brush for everything. I use the same brush tool for lineart, shading, and lighting. I’m only switching when I need some flat coloring, like I used on the plants or the splatter effects. I believe using the same brush for at least 90% of your art piece helps define a true style and atmosphere to your work, and creates a strong sense of cohesion. This can be a pretty easy way to make sure everything in your composition actually looks like it’s existing in your composition’s universe. It’s true that if you wanted to make a piece more realistic versus stylistic, it might be better to use more than one brush. However, I enjoy having a sense of style to my illustrations and have been embracing this one brush rule for months! Yes, this is a fairly new practice for me…

A lineart drawing of a woman drinking hot chocolate, with holiday decorations against a gray backdrop

Real quickly, I wanted to talk about this character in the illustration: Kya, my OC. She is probably the most prominent character I have in my portfolio currently, as most of my pieces center around the way I’d like to dress her and what environments I’d like her to be in. Kya is an African American Bahamian woman, designed to explore the Great Guana Cay to find a sense of wonder in her story. She is the human version of her true form: the embodiment of planet Earth, wondering what’s left for her in this life now that she’s been all through space. After I finished writing her script and realizing how her story would conclude, I can’t help but just want to draw her living a happy comfy life. I hope that doesn’t make it sound like she gets a bad ending or anything! On a related note, I have a problem where I’ll try to draw my characters either upset or serious, and somehow in the final sketch they turn out happy. I find this to be a funnier problem that I have.

While I was in love with the sketch and lineart done so far, I knew with my other commissions and story work that I wouldn’t be able to responsibly spend too much time on this piece. So I decided a nice texture and flat coloring of the floral and blanket would leave me satisfied. A part of me believes that while perfectionism can be a curse in artwork, that personal satisfaction should always strive to be achieved, unless it starts to hinder you too much. When it comes to color choices, the Christmasy colors should make sense given the theme of the illustration, but you may ask: why the gray? I found that a simply white background would be overwhelming and dominate the drawing. I got the idea to use Kya’s skin tone color and dull it to a gray of the same color value. This allows the mug design, snowflake earring, and splatter to stand out more, as well as the holiday decorations to be pleasingly vibrant, all while the full piece is still easy on the eyes. Once I put the white paint splatters on the canvas, I was ready to call this piece done.

A close up of the drawn and flat colored holiday decorations against a gray backdrop

Now why don’t I properly title my pieces and illustrations? Honestly, it’s because of my more cringe-inducing habits when I made art as a teenager! I would constantly title my work based off of song lyrics I heard, when in reality the song or lyrics itself barely had anything, if at all, to do with what I made. After a while, it became too hard to title my work based off my music tastes, especially when I dabbled in music not in my native language that I simply didn’t understand at the time. Once I got back into the swing of semi-regularly uploading art, I was just happy enough dating them. It’s also a good reminder to get my butt into gear if I haven’t made anything in a while, and that dated title is the first thing I see on my most recent piece!

In the end, I believe I accomplished most everything I wanted to do with this doodle. I definitely feel satisfied looking at it, and I believe I conveyed the mood of the drawing well. It’s interesting how just a random, small wish for a certain type of holiday aesthetic, can make me go from a sketch, to an illustration, and to now writing about it! I could see myself trying to redraw this concept in the future, but I imagine it’d be a year off at the earliest. After all, this was an illustration made because I was feeling so enamored with the holiday season! As much as I can loathe the holidays and the woes they can bring, the decorations and warmth are simply concepts I can’t fight off on how much I love them. Hopefully 2021’s holidays are calmer and filled with less anxiety.

If you read this far, thank you very much for listening to me ramble on about this drawing of mine. I hope to make future blog posts more helpful, insightful, and detailed as I continue, and will try to upload twice a month! Maybe with current drawings, maybe with old, though I can’t promise I’ll talk on them all! We’ll see how much I have to say. Thank you very much for reading, and I wish you the best, ‘til we meet again.

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