From Chorlton To The City: Illustration techniques

Since January of this year I’ve been working on a little exhibition of my work called: From Chorlton To The City.  The exhibition is at The World Peace Cafe, The Kadampa Meditation Centre, Chorlton.  The preview is on Friday 4 th May 5-8 pm.  In this second part of a two-part discussion about the work (you can read the first part here), I’ll explain the illustration techniques I’ve used.  There are 3 different types of images in the exhibition: Colour-first sketches; Ink-first maps and Collages. Each approach requires specific techniques.

Creation of my sketches

There are 13 colour first sketches in the exhibition.  I have created them on location using a colour first technique.  As an urban sketcher and reportage illustrator, it’s important for me to record things actually on location, not from photographs.  This is because I am trying to capture the energy of the place, that sense of place and occasion.  The use of watercolour before the linework also enables me to produce a more vibrant drawing.  It prevents on overly precious approach to the line work.  That said, a quality of line is critical.  In putting down the colour, I am trying to capture the key shapes or patterns but I am not necessarily getting them in exactly the right position.

The idea of the colour first illustration technique is to capture the scene, in a spontaneous way.  It usually looks quite abstract, even child-like and that is the point!   I always do the pen work with a fountain pen and waterproof ink.  Consideration is given to ensure that depth in the drawing is created.  This is achieved by variation of line weight and detail.  My sketches are finished with handwritten titles.  I use a modified form of italic writing.  As a child I was taught italic writing with a dip pen at school.  I have then adapted that in various ways to create the font.

colour first process

Sedge Lynn by Liz Ackerley

 Creation of the compilation maps

There are 2 compilation maps in the exhibition, one represents the bus route from Cholton to Manchester and the other represents the tram from Chorlton to Manchester.  For these compilations I have used acrylic inks rather than watercolour to achieve the vibrancy I was after.  The colours represent either the bus or tram colours. The linework is used to capture views/architecture of the journey to or through the city.

iz ackerley ink maps process

Liz Ackerley ink Maps process

 Creation of my collages

There are 5 collages in the exhibition.  My background in landscape architecture encourages my fascination with materiality and texture.  I am therefore keen to convey this in my visual work and create a sense of touch and texture through collage.  I use different papers, paint and inks to achieve the feel and texture I want.   In addition, given my interest in lettering and words, the use of newsprint and other written materials enables me to incorporate a narrative into my work.  I use materials that are relevant to the collage in question, including tickets, leaflets, brochures, books etc.  I am trying to achieve a sense of place in my collages, similarly to my sketches.   Although I am also aiming to create more abstract textural elements within the overall image.

My process starts with sketches on location followed by compositional sketches to test out the best composition.  I then use the papers to create relatively abstract shapes and patterns. Working with a limited colour palette of acrylic inks and acrylic paint enables me to produce a more impactful visual that allows the textures to sing.  I then use ink and palette knives and dip pens to create the familiar line work. Often I go back and forth, adding more paper and colour as I go.  It is a non-linear and organic approach that balances with my somewhat overly analytical brain!!  I am using a mix of techniques to create the effects, some of which are based on my sketching.  Others are new approaches for me.  e.g the use of  textural papers, inks and paints, are development areas.

Liz Ackerley collage process

I’m really looking foreword to the exhibition and hope you will be able to make it to the preview on 4thMay or sometime between May and July to view the exhibition.  All art work is original and is available for sale.


4 thoughts on “From Chorlton To The City: Illustration techniques

  1. It’s really interesting to see how you put the watercolour down first before adding the lines, it looks so random but then ‘suddenly’ makes sense! I’ll have to give it a go…..

    1. Thanks Sarah, yes do give it a go. I think you would really enjoy it. The main thing, as you have already observed, is to keep the watercolour loose and abstract. The lines then pull it all together.

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