My Inktober 2017 Adventure

I want to tell you about making my Inktober project "My One and Only Planet", while it's still fresh in my memory. 

As a child, I spent a lot of time in the countryside, digging up worms in the garden and running wild in the woods. I could see with my own eyes how greedy people can corrode a beautiful landscape and how slowly alien materials decay in a natural habitat. Some time ago, I started reading more articles about environmental problems faced by people with different economic backgrounds and living in different parts of the world.  As I read and looked at the pictures, I felt more and more helpless. I realized that I was only a tiny person, one of eight billion, who couldn't possibly change the course of unfolding environmental disaster. Then I began to look for ways to reduce my own negative impact on the world around me. Soon I had a set of new, less wasteful habits, but I still felt completely helpless. That's when I had an idea about Inktober. It was clear to me, of course, that my pictures would not break the habits of millions of people, but on the other hand, in my experience, I felt that many people, especially city dwellers, do not realize that their daily routine might harm the planet and contribute to global warming.

Fragment from "Microplastic" illustration for Inktober, 2017

Fragment from "Microplastic" illustration for Inktober, 2017

I started working on "My One and Only Planet" in July. I knew that in order to complete it I had to use my own prompts, because there's no better motivation than doing something for yourself. I also knew that I wanted to make a series about climate change, but just telling everyone about doom and gloom didn't seem very appealing to me. I needed to come up with a charming character, personal prompts and limited palette or color accent (I was bored to death last year after using only black ink).

So, at first, I began rounding up topics about climate change and narrowing them down to fun prompts. I realized that my theme would only resonate with people if I told them about tiny things anyone could change or do in their everyday life.


Then I started working on my character, as you can see at first it was a cat, but then I thought that the Internet is over-saturated with cats as it is and decided to go with a fox. After I had my character and prompts I started working on my thumbnails, because thinking and coming up with ideas are actually the hardest and most time-consuming part of Inktober. I swapped and reordered some prompts at this stage.

When October arrived and I started drawing actual Inktober pieces, I ticked them off in a little table to keep track. (I think I shamelessly stole this progress tracking system from Vera Brosgol, author of "Leave me Alone!", and it proved amazingly effective. Thank you, Vera!).


Some ideas and sketches changed along the way, but having thumbnails on the ready has helped me tremendously.

"My One And Only Planet" was conceived as a visual project to be shown on Instagram. It had a specific grid layout. You can see all of my Inktober illustrations in order from #01 to #31 with cover on my Instagram page here.

How I make my custom original watercolor nursery artwork

I'm a young woman, and at this stage of my life I'm surrounded by other young people who also happen to be parents to adorable little babies. New babies pop up all around me like mushrooms. Just last year my friend had triplets… Can you imagine?

There came a day when a part of my brain responsible for coming up with gift ideas couldn't keep up with such a rapid baby supply to satisfy their new baby gift demand. I was stuck and didn't want to repeat myself. So, I figured that I could as well paint a little nursery keepsake. Each gift would be unique and I wouldn't have to spend sleepless nights thinking of great (but not over-the-top great) and memorable (but not too much out-of-the-box) gift ideas for my friends. This is how I came up with an idea of a watercolor initial artwork that could be customized to each baby's unique personality and each family's unique story, memorabilia and favorite things.

Here are two examples of custom watercolor initials that I did.

Here are two examples of custom watercolor initials that I did.

I start working on a new initial painting after talking with parents about things they would like to see in the picture. For some families it is important to reflect their baby's personality (this is especially popular as a 1st birthday gift) - an adventurer? a girl's girl? an explorer? Others like immortalizing certain family memorabilia such as a grandma's brooch or baby's favorite stuffed animal.

I start out with a rough draft to loosely sketch out basic ideas. Then I show my sketch to a baby's parents to make sure we're on the same page. We decide on the size of artwork, its color scheme and framing.

After my sketch is approved, I refine my lineart and transfer it to watercolor paper. I do not sketch on watercolor paper, because drawing and erasing messes with its texture.

After my sketch is transferred, I block out the initial with masking fluid and start painting. After watercolor is done, I refine details with colored pencils and scan my work for future use in my portfolio.

Usually completing these steps takes up two to three days.

To view my nursery art gallery, click here.

My palette

I am often asked about palettes and paints that I use.  Here is my current setup.

For outdoor sketching i mostly use my Mijello palette. It is light and airtight, which is very convenient for carrying it around in a small purse. It has 18 wells, which I filled with the following pigments (from left to right): 

  • Aureolin,
  • New Gamboge,
  • Yellow Ochre,
  • Quinacridone Burnt Orange,
  • Cadmium Red Light,
  • Pyrrol Scarlet,
  • Alizarin Crimson,
  • Quinacridone Rose,
  • Burnt Sienna,
  • Cobalt Teal Blue,
  • Cobalt blue,
  • Cerulean Blue,
  • Ultramarine Blue,
  • Phthalo Blue,
  • Permanent Sap Green,
  • Hooker's green.

I also added Raw Sienna and Raw Umber recently.

Basically you only need 6 colors (3 pairs of cool and warm primary colors - yellows, reds and blues). As you can see I use paints from different manufacturers. I find that all of those paints are superb in terms of quality, so sometimes when buying a refill I just go for a cheaper alternative among these brands. One thing that I should note is that in my palette I have Cerulean Blue from Van Gogh, which I mainly use to paint skies - and it's the brightest Cerulean Blue you would ever find,  but this particular paint is a little bit different in shade from Cerulean Blues that you would normally use for mixing (e.g. skin tones).

18-well Mijello Fusion Airtight/Leakproof Palette

18-well Mijello Fusion Airtight/Leakproof Palette

In my studio I use a huge palette with wide wells. I love to work with big brushes and big generous washes, and that's the best palette i could find for this purpose. 

Sterling Edwards 14-well huge mixing palette with lid

Sterling Edwards 14-well huge mixing palette with lid

My most frequently used brushes are Sterling Edwards blending brush 1.5", Sterling Edwards 1" flat, Da Vinci squirrel mop 1, Trekkel Golden Taklon 4. 

I hope this helps.