Monday, December 5, 2011

Art for the Holidays

One of the joys of Christmas for me is all of the wonderful scents that come with the season. The crackling of burning wood in the fireplace. The fresh green needles of a Christmas tree. The warm fragrance of burning candles. And last - but certainly not least -  freshly baked desserts smack out of the oven, which was my inspiration for this Holiday picture. Did I mention that baking homemade apple pies is my newest feat? And what are homemade goodies without the big- eyed pleading looks of sweet-toothed children (& their pets)?!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Illustration Friday: STRIPES

I love incorporating patterns into my illustrations! Polka dots, stripes, and plaids have been sort of a trademark of my work. A few years ago I wrote and illustrated a children's picture book, and went pretty wild on the wardrobe patterns of the characters. When I sent it proudly to an agent friend of mine to critique she pointed out to me that because of all these details it was too busy, and therefore difficult to focus on. After looking at it with fresh eyes I saw what she was talking about. I ended up ditching some of the characters, and toning down the dress. Here are the before and after illustrations. . . as you can see, I took out some, but gave the main character his stripes! There's something about those lines that I just can't resist....


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

SCARY: Illustration Friday

I didn't have the time to do more than a line pencil drawing for the assigned word this week, so this is it. The idea popped into my mind after helping my daughter, Katy, to decorate her house this Halloween. She has some very scary animated witches and ghosts - topped off by the towering Grim Reaper, and she put them ALL around. I was surprised when I witnessed her 15 month old baby girl giggle when she got close to any of them! .... versus my grandsons, who ran screaming for shelter when they were her age! "I don't want Delaney to be afraid of them, so I make it like they're funny when they do their scary thing." she explained..... and it worked! So, the idea of drawing a tough little fairy princess standing up to the howling ghost sort of captured that scenario for me.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Illustration Friday: SCATTERED

Remember when you were a kid, and the smart alec at the family picnic spit watermelon seeds at you? I do. And there they stuck .... scattered in little heaps of black!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Illustration Friday: CONTRAPTION

For the past 20 years one of my businesses has been designing Daylight Savings Reminder Cards to sell to the hotel industry. This is one of them. . . thought it fit for the word "contraption".

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I'd Rather Be Painting

I know one thing, this poor body of mine needs to get some exercise! I've been sitting like a hen on her nest at this computer screen for days on end, maneuvering all the intricate bells and whistles involved in updating my illustration website. Just when I'd think I had it down pat I'd see a glitch! .... and if I didn't see it, then my master critic, Cindy D., whose judgment I call on every time I need another eye, would find it! It's DONE .... and here it is. If anyone sees a flaw don't tell me - cuz I'M done! I can't wait to get back in front of the canvas. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Illustration Friday: FEROCIOUS

This is an illustration from a picture book that I wrote and illustrated, Pickles & the Poof. Poof is the "ferocious monster" that terrifies everyone .... and makes a hero out of Pickles. What no one realizes until the end is that the "monster" is not so ferocious, after all.

"Peering out through the trees was a monstrous thing,
slowly starting to fly without one single wing!"

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Little Glitter to Make the Wall Art POP!

It's not easy to see the glitter on this small photo, 
but hopefully you get the picture.
 Click on the image to zoom in more.

Once I finished my grandbaby Laney's painting, Say, Say My Playmate, I strategically added glitter here and there to it. WOW!! What a difference it made! To avoid it looking tacky, I was careful not to overdue it, so I just filled in a few select apples, part of the buggy wheels, and a spot on some of the characters' shoes or hair decor. It doesn't show up in this photo nearly as dramatically as it looks in person, but take my word for it it's eye-catching, and sparkles even with just a tidbit of light on in the room.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Illustration Friday: MESMERIZING

This was done originally as a chapter illustration for a book called The Wicked Truth About Love.... the Tangles of Desire. The art direction was to show the dinner guest mesmerized over the chef's girlfriend as the chef delights in the attention his trophy girl is getting. In this case, it's all about the desire to have what other's want. Lots of fun to illustrate!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Illustration Friday: BOUNDARIES

What's more confidential than your innermost private thoughts? When I saw the word BOUNDARIES the first image I had was of a diary. 

I've kept journals since I was 10 years old. I don't want to give away my age, but if I stacked them they'd probably go through the ceiling. They've been my venting outlet, my problem solver, my goal setter, and most of all, my place to reminisce. One day when I was a teenager I saw an entry - not in MY handwriting! Someone .... you know who you are... stepped out of their boundaries.... BIG time! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Toad, a Teddy, and a Turtle - Wall Art for Baby's Nursery

Teddy + Toad + Turtle = Tenderness. This was the feeling I was going for a while back when I originally created these characters for an infant bedding company. Scanning actual fabrics into my computer program for the colors was my medium of choice at that time, instead of my usual tools of paints or markers w/colored pencils. This was great for a quilt, but not enough pop for a wall print. So, after my recent decision to focus on creating children's wall art I decided to include these --- but they needed to be recreated. Last week it was back to the drawing table where I went back to using my standard markers & colored pencils and finishing them off with digitally created backgrounds. They're now ready for reproduction... each one to be printed on a 12"x12" canvas, or all three printed side by side on one wide narrow canvas. 

Now, it's back to the easel where my farm animal scene has been put on hold :o).

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A New Beginning on a Blank Canvas

I'm on a roll of producing wall art for babies' rooms and loving it! I've been invited by an online gallery to submit some of my work for them to sell, but I originally created and scanned the artwork at too small a resolution for frameable prints, so I need to recreate some of them. This time I'm going from using my usual medium of pen & ink, markers and colored pencils to painting with acrylics. This will be only my second attempt at working with acrylics on canvas (see blog The Writings on the Wall Art to see the first), so I was a bit nervous to start. Once I began it felt great, and, like getting back on a bicycle that hasn't been ridden in awhile, the ride so far has been going very smoothly :o). 
As before, I first traced the large colored printout seen above (which is very pixelated) onto the canvas using graphite paper. The printout is taped onto my art table light for my referral as I paint.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


This weeks' word on ILLUSTRATION FRIDAY is MYSTERY. 
I figure what's more curious than a cat?! - and since they have 9 lives one would make a perfect main character for a mystery scene. Nine chances to solve the mystery until BANG!!.... it's over.

Friday, August 26, 2011


This week's word to illustrate is DISGUISE. I just happen to have that topic already covered inside a picture book that I created a few years ago entitled, "Who's in the Room With Molly Muldoon?" ...... a Flip n Giggle™ book of colors & counting.
... FOUR rabbits in PURPLE disguise

Sunday, August 21, 2011


My big canvas had a brief home on the wall next to Laney's crib — but more work was left to do — the writing of the verse. Once I had my hands on it I zeroed in on details that I either wanted to change or add to the canvas. Although my daughter, Laney's mom, was getting impatient to have her picture back, she decided it was worth the wait... and we ended up agreeing, after I delicately painted the entire verse of Say, say my playmate in place, that it didn't do the painting justice — distracting and way too busy. So we settled on the main line along the top, and added a personal verse that she says to Laney every day: me and you, you and me — that makes us a we. Love it! All that's left to do is fill in a few of the apples with glue and red glitter. A touch of pizazz to make the painting pop for Laney-loo's wall.

Then it was off to the printer's, where a life size scan was done so that it can be sold in a variety of sizes as a Giclee. What a fantastic job they did!! A small proof was printed out on canvas from that scan and it looks identical to the original!! It's so exciting to find a partner whose work you can rely on! On the drive home I stopped at Aaron Bros. and bought another canvas. Stay tuned .... I'm on a "wall art" roll!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Is a Picture Really Worth 1,000 Words?

I just got turned on to ... what fun!! The motive is for illustrators to create a picture from a word that's given by a member of that group every Friday. This week's word is "Imperfect".

The first thing that came to my mind is my weekly routine of cutting a bouquet of flowers from my garden to bring a little warmth to my kitchen counter. So pretty... so perfectly arranged in its vase, within viewing range of where I make my morning cup of coffee. I'm selective of the flowers that I pick.... brown spots are not allowed. If there's a hint of wilting it won't make the cut. They must be perfect.

Then, invariably, one morning I glance over to find a flower in the bunch that's given in to old age. Limp. Brown. Crinkled leaves. Defeated. . . imperfect. The cycle of life goes on.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

More whimsy. This time for the grown-up!

The last couple of months have been filled with art assignments - back to back to back!! This assignment was given to me by a dear friend's daughter, Rochelle Bussi Battista, whom I've known and loved since she was waist high. I used to make funny pictures for her mother (always of one of her family members going through some kind of drama) who would take them and have them framed immediately to hang in her guest bathroom. My very private art gallery! (chuckle) That was never my intention, but I guess I can assume she was my biggest fan. Bless her heart - they weren't that good!

This picture was done in graphite pencil, markers, and colored pencils. I actually gave myself a quick lesson on techniques of using colored pencils right in midstream by going quickly through a book that I've had on the shelf for probably 15 years and had never thoroughly read, Exploring Colored Pencil. It's an excellent resource by artist, Sandra McFall Angelo! I've been working in this medium for all of my freelancing life without the book - and there I was, as if cramming for a test, midway through the picture.... better late than never.

This picture was done as a gift for Rochelle's father-in-law's 70th birthday. She and I had lots of laughs brainstorming over what the content should be. She also emailed pictures of him along with photos of some of his memorabilia. The idea was to put things that are of the utmost importance to him - or that clearly are part of his personality in the picture. So that's what I did. She emailed me an organized list to go by - she was a great person to work with!
Vito was not happy turning the big 70, so I thought a smashed birthday cake would be an appropriate image for relaying that message.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


It was Laney's 1st birthday yesterday, and I've been working feverishly on getting her 30"x40" painting completed for the big day! From my original ambitious attempt to have it finished by her first Christmas, I kept stretching the date due to a truckload of interruptions. 

This past week I was determined to get it done, no matter what, and TA-DA ... it's now up on her wall — not that she even notices it — but someday she will, and hopefully she'll feel all the love that was put into it with her in mind.

Next come the lyrics that will be painted on it ASAP to make it complete:
 Say, say my playmate, come out and play with me
We'll have some lemonade beneath my apple tree
We'll ride my rainbow and dress our dollies 3
and we'll be best of friends
just you and me! 
Delaney East Harris and Susan East Masten Drawbaugh, aka "Mammy"

© 2011 Susan Drawbaugh, all rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


April and May were tough months for me... I lost one of my best friends and was constantly torn between being there for her while she was ill (500 miles away), working on illustration deadlines, and getting prepared for a family trip to Michigan that had been planned months ago. Creativity is an over-the-top challenge when the mind is filled with anxiety! I was in a constant whirlwind of plane flights, emotions, decisions, and reflections - until today

Today I made up my mind to be at peace, let the answering machine pick up, and get lost in my favorite corner, paintbrush in hand, surrounded by some Jack Johnson, Etta Jones, and Chris Botti. My daughter, Katy, reminded me that Laney's first birthday is July 9th. "You'll have that painting done for the baby's birthday... right, Mom??" 

WOW... how time FLIES!! ... but I'm excited because now I have a goal for the finish.

I worked on the rainbow. I'm very much into bright colors these days, and had to choose whether to go with that for the rainbow or to go with more subdued tones. As you can see, subdued was overruled by loud. I decided the rainbow needed to draw the rest of the picture in with its similar colors.

Tomorrow... and the next day.... and the next, more painting time. Before long it'll be up on Laney's wall, and I'll be missing my paintbrush peace time!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Off the Saddle Again!

That poor Acrylic canvas that I was so happily & diligently working on previous to this blog! 
 From Blog post "... and Buggy Makes Six"
It's been sitting against my sliding closet door now for two weeks - neglected. I'm now working on an assignment from a REAL boss with a real deadline (in reference to my blog entry "The Job Interview") to do illustrations for a video the company is developing. I'm very much enjoying this work, and the art director is absolutely the VERY best to work with!! I've been fortunate to have been doing a variety of consistent work for them for the past 3 years.

The following is one of the illustrations from this project, and this is typically how I've been creating most of my illustrations for the past couple of decades. I thought it would be fun to show this work in progress for those interested.

My tools of choice have been: An easy-click mechanical pencil with a twist eraser, Pantone and Prismacolor markers, Prismacolor pencils, and Photoshop.
 Here's my routine:

I start out by sketching on tracing paper using my mechanical pencil and kneaded (aka: NEEDED) eraser.

The finished pencil drawing. 

Once I'm happy with the sketch I scan it into Photoshop and print it out. Using a light board I carefully trace the image onto a piece of good illustration paper. My paper of preference is Border & Riley 32# for it's smoothness. I'm very picky about my marker colors not feathering and the colored pencil shading not having too much tooth to it (to help with that, I go over my shading with a Prismacolor blending pencil.)

I then take the finished pencil drawing and scan it into Photoshop where I manipulate the quality... getting rid of any smudges and background pixels. Once it's clear, I print it out onto another piece of illustration paper. Now I'm ready to color.

 The finished original color drawing.

First, I use my markers. I have large sheets of illustration paper where I've made a broad color strip of ea of my marker colors and their number (which I've placed with white tape onto each marker for identification). This speeds up the process of selecting the right colors. When I'm finished with the markers, the images are brought to life by adding highlights and shadows. This is where the Prismacolored pencils come in. The shading is my favorite part of the coloring process! 

Next, I scan in the finished color piece and do the fine tuning with Photoshop CS3. If it seems appropriate, I make a "path" of each character and copy/paste the images onto a blank "canvas" in this program. This makes it easier to put in the background ... which I usually create using the fantastic tools from Photoshop.

The finished piece. 

In this particular case, the art director wanted me to focus on the girl by fading the bike in the background - which is so easy to do in P.S.

When I'm working on the final pencil drawing this electric eraser removes mistakes cleanly and with ease!

 Lots of markers to choose from!

... and Prismacolored pencils inside a spinning holder organized by color schemes. I'm BIG on convenience!

To me it's essential to have a time sheet for all of my work - and I'm dedicated to marking down the time taken for each break. (Reviewing this, I've discovered how much I need to shorten those!!)

Stay tuned, another great assignment is coming up .... and hopefully I can squeeze in more painting of the canvas - the "boss" is breathing down my neck, and my grandbaby is getting bored with the blank wall above her crib - I can tell, she's pointing to it and waaaaa-ing! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

.... And Buggy Makes Six

Little by little I'm getting the characters done. Since I'm working on a deadline (that pays) I have to put aside working on this painting for my other illustration work. A very good friend from Michigan was staying at our home over the weekend, and while she was busy "farming" on her laptop I was painting this - sitting side by side doing what we both enjoy doing in silence. Now that's the true comfort of a good friendship!

Putting colors and patterns together makes the creative process even more interesting!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Progress on the Painting

I've been working on the painting here and there, inbetween a job assignment, but this weekend I gave it my full attention from early morning until dusk. I love working on this so much that it's hard to do anything else --- except I have learned that it's very important to take breaks every so often during the day just to clear my mind. That actually takes discipline for me. 

I was gone all last week, and met a beautiful African American girl who was a nurse's aid for my good friend that I was staying with. Her skin was such a gorgeous color that I tried to remember it while doing the little girl in my painting. My first attempt at this character was ok, but it just didn't do it for me, so I repainted her and changed the face. One good thing about acrylics is, if done soon enough, it can be scraped off the canvas pretty easily leaving a clean place to repaint.

So, here it is .... characters almost completed. I can't wait to paint the high heels of the girl pushing the doll carriage! I have fashion plans for that one :o).

Enjoy! And if you have any thoughts on this I'd love to hear your comments!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I've been back to working on the big canvas this last week for the first time in a month.  Music playing, natural light coming in all around me, the smell of brightly colored paints, my soul right there inside that canvas. Left side of canvas coming right along, minus background and fine tuning - working my way towards the canvas center. I'm enjoying working with acrylics a LOT - this may just be my new favorite medium! Thinking of using PUFF paint for the ice cream cone.

A long way to go!

FROM PAINT TO PRODUCT.... once again!

It's been awhile since I've blogged. I had another split in my business priorities right in the middle of painting the big canvas, so the creative roll I was on came to an abrupt halt. I was invited to participate in the Pre-Oscar Celebrity Boom Boom Room gift bag event (by a fantastic local baby photographer, Julie Rollins) with my Stay-dry Bath Apron & Towel, and Just... "in case" Emergency I.D. baby products. . . a great opportunity for exposure! Kind of exciting to think that a celebrity might be using my own babies of invention with their babies. 200 of the products had to be in pretty package mode, and being the perfectionist freak that I am it wasn't an easy task - a FULL day of decision making at JoAnn's and Michaels picking out ties, tulle, crystals, and beads, more time printing out gift tags & insert cards that I designed - and then assembling everything. Oh..... and of course, one thing always leads to another -- fine-tuning my websites at for order taking. A MAJOR task in itself! Thank goodness for good friends and family who took much of the assembly line work load off!

The Stay-dry Bath Apron & Towel and Just..."in case" Emergency I.D. lookin' purty!

Friday, January 14, 2011


Now that the Holidays have come and gone I'm onto bigger and better things. Bigger meaning the 30"x40" canvas that I'm back to working on, and Better meaning "I hope this picture turns out better than I'm anticipating!" 

I've been on the floor doing the finishing touches to get it completely ready for the painting stage. Here's the irony: I'm documenting the process step by step, and taking on the role of "teacher"— yet I've only worked with acrylics once in my life, and it was on a very small canvas. So the "teacher" can also be called the "student". I hope I learn a lot from myself... but mostly I hope it's not learning by major mistakes! The documentary photos were taken by me, so the images aren't fabulous quality. But I think you'll get the picture. 

Here are the sequence of steps I've taken, so far:
 1) I start out by doing rough sketches — then fine tune them until they're just the look I want. Tracing paper, a kneaded eraser, and a soft lead pencil are my favorite tools for developing characters. The lines seem to flow, allowing more personality to come through, and there's no messy crumbling from the eraser. Once I'm happy with the drawings I scan each one into my Mac computer in Photoshop CS3 and create a path. I then drag them, layer by layer, onto a computer document that I make the same size as the real canvas - in this case 40"W x 30"H. Because of the layers I can move each one around, reducing, enlarging, and positioning until it's the look I want. When the picture is ready I save it as LAYERS, then I flatten the layers for the print-out and "Save As" the same name omitting the word LAYERS. This is ESSENTIAL for possible future changes!!

2) To figure out the colors I want for the painting ahead of time I use Photoshop and experiment with different colors on my monitor. I use the LAYERS document, as it enables me to easily make changes to each individual image. I then print out the finished document for my review.

 3) The black and white print-out (at the top) is the final result. This is also where I place the wording and experiment with different positionings. The bottom color print-out is the result of working and re-working with different colors in Photoshop. This is a rough draft, but it gives me all I need to see the color composition that I'll refer to while painting.

 4) Here you see the sections of 8 1/2"x11" print-outs Scotch-taped together, and then taped along the top of the canvas to create the one big overlay picture that will be used to trace over.

5) In this photo I've turned the overlay back so that the graphite paper that's taped between the canvas and the overlay sheet for tracing is visible to you.

6) This shows a closeup view of a section of the canvas where the graphite tracing has transferred onto the canvas.

 7) The finished canvas - ready for the next phase.

I was thinking of naming the next blog entry COLOR-BLIND — but that's really being hard on myself!