Kelogsloops Watercolour Tutorials

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I’ve been using watercolours in my work for some time now. I don’t remember ever being formally taught how to paint with them but have always enjoyed experimenting and using them in my own way to capture what I see. However, a recent project called for lots of watercolour work and I realised I was keen to learn more about the medium and how to use it ‘properly’.

For some reason I’d convinced myself that I wouldn’t be able to find the ‘right’ sort of watercolour tutorial for me, so had almost given up before trying. I wanted something that would show the paints being used in a more illustrative and unusual way. Then, one YouTube search for ‘watercolour illustration tutorial’ later, I discovered Kelogsloops videos


Apart from being a crazily talented Illustrator, Kelogsloops aka Hieu Nguyen is a brilliant teacher. I started by watching his 6 minute introduction to watercolour and picked up several ideas and set-up techniques that had never occurred to me before! I then went on to watch one of his process videos (for his illustration below) and his techniques for ‘Wet on Dry’ painting (shown above). He teaches at a steady pace, carefully explaining what he is doing and why, with lots of useful summaries and tips.

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It’s been humbling to watch these and remember that there is always more to learn and explore with any medium. Taking the time to look around for the right tutorial or ask for help and recommendations when you need them is really worth doing. And finally, that there isn’t really a ‘proper’ way to paint with watercolours – anything goes!

All artwork and videos created by Kelogsloops and used here without the artist’s permission.

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3 Illustration Portfolio Tips

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As I’ve had a few emails from new illustrators with questions about my Owlstation portfolio, I thought it might be helpful to write a blogpost to share some tips and advice for creating your first website. Firstly a disclaimer *I am not an illustration portfolio expert!* however I do enjoy a creative and fulfilling freelance career and I’m very happy to share with you what I have learned (and am still learning) as I grow.

I’ll keep these short and stick to 3 portfolio tips for now. If you have any further questions on these or would like me to elaborate, please feel free to leave a comment! Finally to note that this advice assumes you’ve already made some initial steps on your path as an illustrator, perhaps by taking a course or lessons online and want to keep things moving…

1. You Need a Portfolio!

If you’re looking to pursue a career in illustration, you’ll need to get your work out there. Most clients will expect you to have a portfolio website that shows off a selection of your best work. When starting out, and even later on – think quality over quantity.

Select a handful of relevant projects that you’re proud of, for each of these select a few, strong images that best show off the work you did. Make sure they are high resolution, not blurry or pixellated in any way. Nowadays I like to include one or two process images as well – a scan of early sketches or high quality photograph of relevant sketchbook pages can give a client insight into your process. But these should come after the final images, a dessert after the main meal!

Include some information about the project/illustration; perhaps what you did, the goal, how you achieved it. But keep this short and use simple language, no need to be poetic or flowery here. A spelling and grammar check afterwards and you’re ready to publish.

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Carbonmade’s Website Design Tools

2. Choose a Good Template

My very first website looked hideous. I didn’t know much about website tools and picked a very clunky, free service. It was difficult to use and the ugly template made it look like a website for a bank designed when the internet was first born.

Luckily, I followed my instinct that there had to be a better way and moved on. The template I have now is very clean and simple. A white background, a home page with evenly spaced images, my logo at the top and a neat menu button. I have four main pages – a home page showing my projects, about page, contact page and a page link to this very blog. Tapping a project thumbnail on the home page opens a new page where your project images can be viewed. Navigation is simple.

Having poured over many illustrator’s websites, most have a very similar approach. I like to think of it like a gallery in the real world – white walls, space for artwork to breathe, minimal text, no nonsense!

3. Find a Good Service

Unless you’re going to build and code your website yourself, you’ll need to find a portfolio/website service that works well for you and fits into your price range. As this is the shop front to you career as an illustrator, it’s worth investing a little money and time into making your portfolio the best it can be.

I use Carbonmade which has served me very well over the years. It has a selection of cleanly designed, ready to go templates (called themes). It’s very user friendly and quite affordable. I use the ‘Whoo’ option which is approx £9 ($12) a month. I hear very good things about Squarespace and know they offer loads of different templates that also include blog or news pages and shop features, which could be very useful as you expand your practice and start selling work.

I use Behance for my digital freelance portfolio (I keep my digital and hand drawn portfolios separate, but that’s a whole other blogpost right there!). It’s free and pretty easy to use. I understand it’s fairly well respected and is a great platform for sharing work too. Ultimately, you’ll need to do a bit of research and find what works best for you, but hopefully these suggestions will help you get started.

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Behance

There’s lots more I could say about how having a portfolio is a constant task, that it always needs checking, updating, trimming and cultivating…that looking at other illustrators websites is very helpful when creating your own and so on… but I’ll leave it here for now.

Good luck! If you’ve found this helpful do pop back as I’ll be sharing more of my illustration learnings in the future.

Owl Cat

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A rare sighting of an Owl Cat. Part owl – part cat, it dwells in trees, curls up in the sun and stares regally down at lesser species…I’ve been enjoying experimenting with Indian Ink in my sketchbook lately! You can get a variety of shades from mixing the ink with water. Using a range of brushes can create very different textures too.

Tove Jansson & the Creative Process

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As a long time fan of Tove Jansson’s illustrations, seeing the exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery before it closed was a big treat. Though the Moomins took centre stage, there was an excellent variety of her work on display.

Watercolours and drawings from Tove’s illustrated versions of Alice in Wonderland and The Hobbit. Large oil-painted self portraits and abstracts. Also a selection of her political cartoons and magazine covers, some of which were created during the Second World War. There was even a series of models, like this one of Snufkin (below) that I took the opportunity to sketch!

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However, what I enjoyed most about this exhibition was the touch of insight it gave me into Tove’s creative process. Evidence of pencil lines not quite rubbed out underneath delicate ink work. Some barely perceptible tippex-like corrections on typography. Roughs and layout sketches shown next to final versions. I noticed that a few of the watercolours had sections which appear to have been carefully cut out, perhaps by scalpel, and removed or replaced with a new layer of card fixed precisely in place over the top.

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It was very heartening to see these little human touches and imagine that even my illustration heroes made/make changes and tweaks to improve their work. That things don’t always come out perfectly first time and that there are many different ways to create. It’s all part of the process and one that we don’t always get to see – especially in today’s slick, Photoshop world.

I love it when illustrators share what goes on behind the scenes and how they make their work. I’ll be sure to share more of my creative process this year too!

The above Tove Jansson Illustration from Alice In Wonderland is used here without permission via Pinterest. 

Glen Baxter

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I’m currently enjoying Glen Baxter’s Blizzards of Tweed, a fabulous collection of whimsy and nonsense!

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I was lucky enough to receive my copy as part of a work-place Secret Santa (a rare occurrence when freelancing!). It must be the best one I’ve ever received and I felt pretty guilty for giving a standard chocolates and sweeties combo when I unwrapped it.

Baxter’s wonderfully ridiculous humour and embracing of the absurd aside – it really is a beauty to behold. The first part of the book is made up of elegant line drawings, then towards the middle he uses layers of coloured pencil to great effect.

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I find it can be difficult to do this well as sometimes the colours can turn muddy or the texture refuses to build up evenly, but he’s clearly mastered this.

I love that at first glance, any one of his sketches feels like it could be a legitimate illustration from a classic children’s book and it’s not until you look more closely that you can spot the oddities and weirdness of his storytelling. Lots of owls to enjoy too!