Earlier this month, I taught an illustration workshop at La Galeria Roja in Seville, Spain and it was a dream. A dream! Spain was beautiful, old, inspiring, and lovely, but I have to be honest...the thing that made the whole experience unforgettable was the students. I hit the freaking student jackpot. I was also joined by my pal, Meera Lee Patel to assist the class, and our lovely translator, Carmen who is also a rockstar person and incredible artist.
Before the workshop, I emailed a survey to see where the students were in their level of experience with illustration, materials, and publishing. The range was wide, some of the students just stepping into illustration. Others had worked in the industry for years, all while simultaneously managing families and the like. (Which is a workshop I’ll need to take someday). To compensate for the range of experience, I created a workshop which would give the students a basic foundation of narrative illustration while also introducing a material component, which was working with gouache and colored pencil.
The assignment was to create an interior illustration from a book. I chose to do the demo based on Roald Dahl’s The Witches. After beginning the class with a presentation on the evolution of my work over the last ten years, we warmed up with a drawing exercise and then launched into the project. I outlined scene selection, character development, page layout and design, and color palettes.
The second day started with a gouache and colored pencil demonstration, where I painted six of the same objects in black and white, showcasing how many different variations the materials can produce together. Afterwards, I had the students do the same to familiarize themselves with the materials. I then launched into a painting demo where I spent two hours attempting to complete a painting (yikes!). I was also challenged to drawing cotton candy (challenge accepted!) and thanks to Marieke and Julie and their candy finger trick, I did just that. (Then I think Meera spent the next hour just painting cotton candy! Ha) Where’s my photo of the cotton candy drawing when I need it?
Students then spent the second half of the class planning and sketching their own artwork for the assignment. I have to say, the varied and creative approaches were incredible to see. Each student not only had a sense of their own style and direction, but each also had a goal in mind . They all left their comfort zones to create something new for the class, and we all know how scary it is to create something out of your usual realm. The third and final day was a full workday, where students painted their illustrations. I walked around giving feedback and it was so rewarding to see the students pushing themselves, eager for direction and suggestions. The last hour of the class we all shared our work and I was able to give each student feedback on their process and final.
GUYS. Their work! We had so many unique styles and directions and perspectives. Every artist had their voice just shine. It was a highlight of my career for sure. I really can’t thank the gallery enough, or the students who attended, or my friend Meera for all her hard work, or Carmen, for translating the magic. Dream dream dream.
After Seville, we took the train to Barcelona and stayed with one of my long time favorite illustrators, Julia Sarda, who graciously gave us a place to stay. Julia is a fiercely talented, hard working and passionate person. I’m so inspired by her work. Meera and I spent our days wandering in and out of bookstores, eating amazing food (we ate at Flax & Kale like three thousand times) and went to the Picasso Museum, which ignited my artist heart. I also walked into the cutest children’s store, kmfamily, in Barcelona, and the gal there knew me and my work which just sent me over the moon!! She said her stepdaughter and her practice drawing with my art and I melted.
We met Julia’s studio mates, who are a warm and talented bunch and were so inviting when we came to visit their studio. I also met a longtime favorite paper artist and illustrator, Mar (LAST NAME). She is a stunning and compassionate human and I’m so glad we met. We also got to hang out with our new pal, Marieke who now lives in Barcelona and met up with us each day. We saw the ocean and drew together on a park bench by Sagrada Familia. It was tough to say goodbye to such a magical place, so I’ll just say see you later.
Scroll down for a boatload of photos!
Also: A note on travel anxiety.
“Fear knows who I want to be and what keeps me from being that person.” - Meera Lee Patel
I couldn’t figure out how best to integrate this into the post, but I feel it’s worth sharing because I’m all about airing the lowlights with the highs. Traveling has long been one of my biggest desires, though it’s always been coupled with paralyzing fear. When the trip to Spain was planned, I stayed awake at night foreseeing my own untimely death by the worst case scenarios. When the plane ticket was actually booked, I thought I was going to faint, I was dizzy with anxiety. I got lucky as I had a good friend to travel with, and Meera and I made it to every bus, train and plane we needed. I found that I’m actually not terrible with directions or traveling and that the worst case scenario doesn’t usually happen. A couple of days after returning from our trip, I boarded another plane to Japan, and I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Osaka and guess what! I’m not dead! And I’m sleeping at night! The biggest takeaway of all of this is honestly my compassion and my trust for myself. I’m kinder to myself and I allow myself things I need to make traveling easy, like getting to the airport seven hours early. (I wish I was kidding). Anyway! Just wanted to be honest about being a human and if you’re out there and you’re scared to make a jump...just close your eyes and make it. Xo, Becca