Notes on drawing Summer Cat

"Black and white illustration of a happy black cat laying on its back with one front paw stretched out as if it's waving surrounded by wild strawberry plants"

The alt text is pretty uncomplicated, as is the illustration. It is a black and white drawing of a cat, with the most important features created in simple ink strokes. The cat looks happy and content. Maybe it has just been frolicking in this field of wild strawberries before throwing itself on the field tummy up, as cats sometimes do.

While any artist wishes their art speaks for itself and one image tells worth 1000 words, sometimes it is good to try and verbalise your own creations. For one it helps with creating description for those who cannot see the image. It may be very good for SEO and other marketing. Plus it is an interesting insight in your process and thinking. Notes to self, notes to everyone else.

I hesitate to talk too much about my art. I'm a strong believer of letting everyone experiencing the art form their own opinions and views of it. For me art gets more interesting when people start bringing their own experiences, ideas and ideals in it.

From an artist point of view it's challenging when they feel and perceive other things the artist initially meant. Often to a point where it becomes the absolute truth of the piece for them and even others. Just look at all those weird wild theories people have about songs or movies. And yet, even when the theory is absolutely off, it is still intriguing.

But perhaps artist telling their point of view doesn't have to override all those other feelings and opinions and theories. Maybe it can become one new layer in the experience.

This is why I decided to start publishing these notes about my art and illustrations. And for the first work I chose a drawing I made earlier this year, drawing that at the time is featured on the starting page of my site.

Summer Cat - Black and white illustration of a happy black cat laying on its back with one front paw stretched out as if it's waving surrounded by wild strawberries by Mervi Emilia Eskelinen

I wanted to draw a cat. That was the basic reason behind this illustration coming into being. I had an idea of creating a tattoo like design. Simple and effective. Something that would look great on my forearm, if I would decide to get a tattoo. It would be an illustration of a cat laying on its back.

I looked at multiple photos of cats on their backs to get into the feeling of it. I had a basic image in my head, which featured the idea the cat would be laying outside, surrounded by flowers and leaves and other such stuff.

For the project I used Procreate, my iPad Mini and Apple Pencil 1. A basic set which works.

As a starting point I had an A4, 300 dpi. I knew I would at this point end up mainly using it as a web image, but in case there would be a print situation (or hey, that tattoo) somewhere in the future, I wanted to create the drawing in high enough quality.

Per usual, I started with a basic sketch. For this I chose one of the sketching brushes that come with Procreate. I like Peppermint and HB Pencil for this. At this point I only sketched the cat itself, I wasn't yet sure about the flowers and stuff around it.

Pencil sketch of a happy black cat laying on its back with one front paw stretched out as if it's waving by Mervi Emilia Eskelinen

The idea was to illustrate a very relaxed and content cat. With its tail curled and one paw stretched out as if it was waving to you. Kind of like those Japanese good luck cats, maneki-neko. The cat's eyes should be closed, as it's the sign of a comfortable and trusting cat.

I drew the cat vertical, as if I was creating a tattoo for my forearm. On the starting page you can see the cat horizontal as it works there better that way. This was by design, to make it work from any direction and in any angle. Now I knew I would like to use it on my new and improved site.

After sketching the cat I took Technical Pen of the default inking brushes. As a matter of a fact, I had previously taken a copy of said pen and adjusted it a little. Made it a bit less sensitive to my shaky hands and made the other end tapered too. Something like that.

Pencil sketch of a happy black cat laying on its back with one front paw stretched out as if it's waving by Mervi Emilia Eskelinen

After having drawn the cat as this sort of line drawing I felt it was missing something. After mulling over it I decided to try and make the cat black instead of just black line drawing. I traced the cat's shape again, this time with a simple custom calligraphy brush I had created from the default Monoline brush.

This brush is also created to override my shaky hands, so it's very smooth and flowy. After tracing the cat with this brush I filled the tracing with black and inverted the colour of the previous line drawing. I also took eraser and carefully erased some of the excess black around the cat. This created the black cat with white inked details.

Pencil sketch of a happy black cat laying on its back with one front paw stretched out as if it's waving by Mervi Emilia Eskelinen

Okay, yes. It's cute as is, but my original idea of adding flowers and stuffs needs to be tested. I started including simple wild strawberry plants. Leaves, flowers and strawberries. This was a familiar subject for me, for example I had created similar style plants in an illustration called Wild Herbs & Berries (also sometimes known as Meadow).

Originally I was thinking of including multiple different wild plants and flowers. A bit more details. But I held back, since the cat drawing itself felt quite minimalistic. I might test this later on.

Afterwards I rotated the illustration horizontal, in a slight angle for my site. I also added white background to the strawberry plants to make them stand out better from my site's grey background.

Screenshot of the top part of starting page/front page of new featuring the Summer Cat illustration horizontal

This cat illustration was lovely to create with very few issues. It wasn't a struggle as some images are, I had a clear image of what I wanted to draw and executing this image was pretty easy. Drawing cats is something I've done since I was a kid and it has never felt especially difficult for me.

Drawing and doodling cats is a nice exercise for beginners too, as cat anatomy is pretty forgiving. Cats in real life get in strange positions and sometimes appear almost liquid. Which makes them difficult to get completely wrong. My illustration Cats & Catnip is a good example of this.

So, what have you been drawing?

Mervi Eskelinen

Hello, I'm Mervi!

An artist, nerd and business sorcerer, dedicated to make world more beautiful and strange with art, illustrations and logos + to help you figure your sustainable business out.

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