Reading Bears Postcard

bears web New promo postcard illustration! Still have to draw/design the back, then I'll be ordering a big stack of these to send around.

I have a part-time job as a children's art teacher. One of the things I do at that job is create sample images for our various assignments. So basically I do a drawing that fits the prompt, aiming for roughly the level of detail/complexity my students can handle, and color it with the same materials they use. It's SUPER fun and I kinda can't believe I get paid to do it every week!

Anyway, the original drawing for this came about from one of those samples. I didn't change the composition much,(Although I changed how I drew the bear - my students kept thinking it was a hedgehog or a beaver or a hamster.. oops!) but I wanted to go with a less expected color palette than what I used initially. I fussed with it a lot and even did a host of color studies, assisted by the color tools in the Adobe Capture App. I was really trying to make the green work! But ultimately, I just had to kill it. Wasn't working for me. Modified primary palette it is!

tree color studies


cover I made a comic!

I love making comics, but I only ever make them when I have a flash-of-inspiration style idea, one that comes all at once. That's pretty rare for me. I haven't figured out a process that lets me get through "working out" an idea that's not fully formed with comics, like I have with other kinds of art. I have so much respect for those who can do that!

Anyway. Take a look.

I've also revamped & reposted my Comics page with other comics work!

Collaboration with The Furrow

nugent - the furrow Art is the best job.

I mean, it's always great. But sometimes, you get an opportunity that's just so ridiculously cool, it's hard to believe it's part of your actual job! That's what this project felt like.

The Furrow, a very cool animation studio in Kentucky, invited me to be part of their collaborative animation demo reel. They got a whole bunch of amazing illustrators to contribute pieces that were then animated by the team at The Furrow, and combined into this awesome video. How cool is that?

They took my piece and completely brought it to life- along with a host of other awesome art from other artists! Definitely go check it out.

So cool.



wintergrass Behind my parents' house in Wisconsin is a huge empty grassy space we just called "the field." My siblings and I spent a ton of our childhood wandering around in "the fields," full of tall grass and shrubs and locusts and moths and turtles and one time, an abandoned washing machine. Later, the city added (beautiful!) drainage ponds to the fields, which brought geese, ducks, and a great blue heron. It was really a sacred, special place to me.

Now I live in Virginia, and I'm learning to feel like it's home. It's different and sometimes weird - especially in winter. I'm not used to winter that's not blanketed in snow, and for a while I found it hard to see the beauty in a whole lot of drab, brown, naked trees.

However. I now live near this incredible, wonderful, breathtaking park along the Potomac. And in that park, there's a pond - an achingly familiar pond with geese and ducks and yes, a great blue heron. And it has tall tall grass, and little shrubs, and all kinds of little miracle plants that have taken on such lovely shapes.

So, this drawing turned into a tribute to those two spaces, and to finding beauty even in winter. The colors are still beautiful, really - it's just a different palette. The dead & dormant plants have a really different, delicate quality.

This piece is 18"x24", colored pencil on paper - and not (yet) photographed very well, because photographing art is hard! I'm learning.

Below is an in-progress shot & some of the photos I took in the park when I was gathering reference.

A post shared by liz nugent (@liznugentdraws) on

field ref

Sci-Fi Valentines Printables!

liz nugent sci fi valentines Happy Valentine's Day!

I had so much fun doing my silly Fantasy Valentines last year for the Sunshine Syndicate - I knew I had to do a part two this year!

I wanted to switch it up and go with some new tropes, so this year I did Silly Sci-Fi Valentines. Truth be told I'm more into science fiction than I am into fantasy, yet these were so much harder to come up with! I think it's in part because sci fi spans such a huge range of settings and subgenres, plus I didn't want to reference specific characters or settings. Ultimately, it was a great challenge- and it was a lot of fun to draw characters again.

Feel free to print 'em out and give 'em to your nerdy Valentines!

Lily Pond

lilypads Puttering around with more plants and landscapes! Although there's still fall inspiration all around me, I thought it would be good to try something different. I thought back to an afternoon I spent wandering around Caroll Creek in Frederick, Maryland - they've filled the waterway with all these beautiful and alien-looking aquatic plants.

I found that without a specific photo as reference, I went in a more stylized/whimsical direction. It was fun, but very different from my last piece, which was really about capturing a specific scene and moment.


Fog, Fall, and Trees

fog-color2 Another in my landscape vignette series. This one is inspired by a particularly foggy morning on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was so foggy, when we stopped at overlooks we couldn't see the ground at all! It was like a dream.

Here's a photo I took that morning and used as reference/inspiration:



Also, as usual, brushes and textures from Alex Dukal & Kyle T Webster!

Skyline Drive Vignette

blue-ridge-in-fall It's been a very busy few months (spent 5 months on a colossal illustration gig, got married, you know) but things have finally settled down for a bit. I'm so happy to be turning my head back towards personal work for a little while- I've been itching to get back to those little landscape vignettes I'd been doing!

Part of the recent busy-ness was heading off on a honeymoon with my new husband. We drove through the Blue Ridge Mountains, on Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was beyond beautiful and incredibly inspiring! The above illustration is just the first of what I'm sure will be many drawings that come from that experience.

I put a few photos from our travels on my instagram, but the one below in particular shows what I was drawing from for this little vignette. I believe that pop of red is coming from a shrub called sumac (like the spice!), which we saw blazing fiery red all along Skyline Drive.

More beautiful times on Skyline Drive today 🏔️

A photo posted by liz nugent (@liznugentdraws) on

Broken Age Tribute

Liz Nugent - Broken Age Art Submission A little drawing of the Space Weaver / Bossa Nostra crew as a tribute to one of my favorite-ever games in terms of art direction, Broken Age! The whole game is one giant "oh man I wish I was this genius" fest for me.

I made this as a submission to the Gallery Nucleus Broken Age Tribute Show, which I found out about 3 days before the deadline! I didn't get in, but I'm still glad I went for it- the Doublefine game studio has been a core influence on my art since I encountered Psychonauts back in high school, so it was really fun to spend some time paying homage to the great art in their games. I look forward to seeing all the great art in the show!

Fun with Landscapes

I have remained very much in Nature Mode the past few weeks. I'm finding so much joy in being outside that I'm spending all my personal art time paying tribute to it. It helped that I took a road trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains right at the peak of spring - absolutely stunning! Here is a collection of the art I've been making lately, both digital and from my sketchbook: (Prints available)


desert lilacs cherry tree savethedates


Troubleshooting an Illustration

tumblr_n8ivyu3m851rk0xnwo1_r1_1280 We've all had it- you're knee deep in an illustration, deadline's coming up, and it is just not working. It's too late to scrap the whole thing, but you dread going into the studio. The piece just doesn't feel right.

What do you do?

At this point, I've hit this wall enough times that I've developed a bit of a routine to deal with it. I'd like to share my steps for troubleshooting an illustration that just isn't quite right. They're presented roughly in the order that I use them, but that's definitely dictated by my working method and artistic priorities. It could be completely different for you!

Tip 1: Check Colors

I'm a nut for color- working with color to find interesting combinations is my favorite part of any illustration. If I don't like a piece, odds are I'm not into the colors. If I feel stuck, I'll grab the hue slider and pull it around until something clicks. I might do it on one or two elements, or (temporarily!!) flatten the image and play with the whole thing. Eventually something will spark and give me a new thing to try.

Tip 2: Check Values

Because I really love color, I often neglect the importance of value - that is, light/dark - in my illustrations. If the space feels confusing or the hierarchy of elements isn't right, values are often the culprit. I check this by adding a black layer to the top of my document and setting its blending mode to "color," effectively making my image black and white. Then I can see where I need more value contrast and go in to lighten or darken certain elements. I do this with the filter still on, then turn that layer off and adjust anything that might have gotten blown out or turned a weird color.

Tip 3: Check Composition/Anatomy

If the composition seems a little off, and particularly if a character isn't reading quite right, I flip the canvas horizontally. Be careful - don't do this unless you are READY to see all your mistakes! It will reveal many more things to fix than you want to see! This is where I'll realize a character is leaning or has a lopsided face, and I rotate/tweak/adjust as needed.

Tip 4: Check Scale

If a composition is still reading as dull to me, I take a look at scale. I'll take elements and make them waaaay bigger, or waaay smaller - MUCH more than makes sense to me. Sometimes I pull back a bit from that, other times I realize that exaggeration is exactly where I need it.

Tip 5: Show a Friend!

This is where the Circle of Trust comes in. I have a very close group of artist friends who I know can help me out of artistic jams when I need it. I'll show them and see what they think the thorny spot may be. Sometimes they think the issue is what I think it is - and sometimes they point out something else completely that ends up being the key. I've had friends completely save illustrations for me with suggestions I absolutely never would have thought up! Sometimes, the conversation sparks a third idea that completely turns the piece around, too. You can never underestimate the value of another trusted set of eyes.

Tip 6: Walk Away

When I'm really and truly stuck, I need to just take a break for a while. If possible I'll set it down for a day or two. Otherwise, a long walk, cooking some lunch, hanging out with my dog- anything to get out of my studio and thinking about something else for a while. Often, I come back with a fresh perspective on what to tweak.

Tip 7: Just Keep Going

It's hard to love a work in progress! There's a period in nearly every piece where I start to wonder if I'm any good at illustration at all, and the only way through is to just keep going. We all experience this! It'll look better when it's done, I promise. It'll be fine. You got this.

Tip 8: Fix it, Already!

If none of the above have worked.. odds are I know what the problem is, and have been in denial. There's probably an element in the illustration that just isn't drawn well. The anatomy is bad, or the expression is bland, or I didn't do enough research, or I didn't give it enough personality, or any number of things. Sooner or later, I just have to look up some reference, dig in, and redraw the damn thing. And yes- it DOES usually take me 7 steps to hit this point! Even when I've seen it sitting there all along.

I can say that without fail, after I've executed all these steps, I've always wound up with an illustration that I'm satisfied with. I'm not going to pretend I've absolutely adored everything that's ever left my desk, but I've never submitted something that I legitimately thought was a bad solution. The last thing to keep in mind is that when art is your job, you aren't going to be in love with everything you do. Clients will ask for things you don't agree with, the subject matter may not tickle you, or you might just have a bad day. It doesn't have to be The Best Thing You've Made Ever to be The Best You Can Do This Time.

And seriously. It'll be fine.

Note: Shoutout to the weekly #kidlitart chat for being the inspiration for this blog post. This originated as a series of tweets I shared during our "art triumphs/techniques" chat. Also, big thanks to Rubin Pingk for encouraging me to collect them together into a blog post!

How Sketchbooks Bear Fruit

pencil trees web A lot of the personal practice of an illustrator involves playing around in a sketchbook, unsure of where it will lead. You plant your little seeds, and you have no idea which ones will grow.

Then, sometimes, you get to harvest! That's what this illustration feels like for me, it's a harvesting of a bunch of little ideas that have been germinating in my sketchbooks. It's impossible to trace back all of the roots, but here are a few:

First of all- until pretty recently I was not at all a fan of colored pencils. I found them tedious, I thought the soft, grainy texture made most drawings look amateurish or like schoolwork, and I resented not being able to have any color I wanted. However, as I've been trying to incorporate more color into my sketchbook, I've found colored pencils to be a really good way to do that. They require no prep, I enjoy how easy it is to craft an interested limited color palette, and I discovered I LOVED the textures I can create with firm pressure and rough, scribbly lines. This lead to a few of my favorite sketchbook spreads:

colored pencil ex

Next, subject matter. Would you believe I used to hate drawing backgrounds? That's really evolved over the past few years, too. I've had to draw plants and forests for various projects, and I've discovered that creating environments is now incredibly relaxing- meditative, even. I've built up a sort of lexicon of plant shapes (which I'm always trying to add to) and I get to pull from it whenever I get to draw something like this.

veg retro

For our latest Sunshine Syndicate assignment, we're working on patterns themed around "green" with a certain color scheme. I really wanted to do something nature-inspired, because at the time I was starving for some springtime! I grabbed colored pencils because they're an easy way to iterate with certain colors, and I started doodling in my sketchbook. I liked the way the sketchy drawn trees looked next to the more filled in ones, and I thought I'd try filling a whole page with them.

yellow green trees


Not only did I really like the results, I realized I had a lot of fun plotting the page out as I worked, figuring out where it needed an extra element or a different color. It was just.. fun! And relaxing. So, I wanted to do more. I also have a big empty wall in my kitchen, so I thought.. why not go big?

And that's when I grabbed the big 18"x24" pad of paper, basically untouched since college. And also when I laid down on the rug and started coloring like a little kiddo!

A photo posted by liz nugent (@liznugentdraws) on

Now, this process of pulling from things discovered in the sketchbook is happening all the time. This is just an example where that growth is fairly easy to see. Hopefully it inspires you to dig into your sketchbook with some new materials- you never know what will come next!

Valentines Printables: Fantasy Valentines

vday blog valentines pdf

Happy Valentines Day!

The Sunshine Syndicate did a fun Valentines printable project, and I knew I had to do some silly printable (and nerdy) Valentines! I love puns, plus I've been eyeing my buddy Marisa's adorable annual pop-culture Valentines for years. It was great to give it a try myself!

Another really fun challenge for this was that we all used the same color palette. Rachel Place picked the colors, and they are so outside my typical wheelhouse, yet I totally fell in love with the combo as I was working and finding how to make it my own. Great learning experience!

So feel free to print these puppies out and give them to your Valentines!

Music To Die Alone in Space To

dying in space It's really nice once in a while to get to do something totally out of your norm. Stretch out those art-brain-muscles in a new direction!

This is - of all things - an album cover commissioned by DJ (and twitter-friend) Bill Boulden. He ran a super interesting Kickstarter for his new album, Music To Die Alone In Space To. The album is being re-recorded for each backer, and they have a number of customization options, including album art.

As soon as I got the brief - a tiny, unimportant astronaut, drifting in space near a nebula - I knew I wanted to use a different process than my usual. I've now drawn space for two different picture books and I definitely didn't want to repeat myself.

I knew from previous experiments with my inks and watercolors that I could probably get a good spacey base, and I thought that would differentiate the piece not only from my previous versions of space, but also from the 6 other covers Bill already had. So I spent an afternoon listening to his music and messing about at my drafting table:


And here's the end result, scanned but undoctored:

space raw bh

While I was happy with how that turned out overall, I can definitely say there was some "this looks COMPLETELY different from how it was wet" frustration. I spent some time pushing the values by painting over areas in photoshop and using a few other sundry tricks. Eventually I got to something like this:

space values

Ok, but not super spacey. No stars. I had originally planned to mask them off after my first light wash (you can see a few there), but I forgot to do them before pouring out my inks for the other washes, and I didn't want the ink to dry while I messed around with masking fluid trying to make it work. (Masking fluid and I don't get along very well yet..)

I tried playing with and making a few brushes in photoshop, but nothing really seemed right. What I was really trying to emulate was the paint-spatter effect from using a stiff brush... so finally I figured I'd just go do that. But, I needed to be able to manipulate those stars as well, so rather than spatter white onto my painting, I spattered ink onto some tracing paper laid over the painting:


And with some minor manipulation, that got me the spacey feel I was looking for.

starfield bg

Then, I had to add the astronaut. This is where I had a mini identity crisis. The original art description was for a tiny astronaut in the center of the image. I drew a few astronauts on paper (hoping to keep the traditional materials vibe throughout the piece) and comped them in, but it just wasn't doing it for me.


The compositions all felt weirdly unbalanced due to nebula I'd drawn in the upper right. The astronauts felt too cute, but when I tried to draw them more realistically they just felt stiff and not me. And all of them seemed way too similar to the cool album art Bill already had. I tried a few other things - all failures - and wound up just letting it sit for a few days. That was something I learned to do in art school - we all had a few pieces finished at the last minute with WEIRD decisions end up on the crit wall, not nearly as good as they could have been. Always try to finish your art a few days before it's due, so you can sit on a bit and make changes if you need to!

After thinking about this for a few days, I decided I should try to tackle the visual issues by thinking about the composition, rather than the rendering of the astronaut. If your composition is solid, the rest will follow. So how could I communicate that the astronaut is unimportant without making it tiny? Well, so I'd have to make it big - and probably cropped. I realized if I cropped it in a really strange, awkward way, that would probably help it feel like an unimportant element. I drew a few thumbnails (something I should have done in the first place!!!), got an astronaut I liked, and sketched it in.

After flatting (with white- I was originally going to go with a typical very bright/white astronaut) I thought I was on the right track but I didn't really know how to color it. I messed around with a more stylized, flat version of the coloring, but there was a weird stylistic contrast. I kept thinking to myself, "ok, but how would I solve this problem?" Finally, I hit on adjusting the contrast of the whole piece by making the astronaut lit from behind and hence very black- almost disappearing into space. And I'd achieve that with a more painterly approach to the light, something that used to pretty much define my work. It was fun to go back to that way of thinking, and I'm really proud of how it turned out:

dying in space


To sum up a blog post that's gotten much, much longer than I intended.. my takeaway from this is that it's really good to tackle something unexpected from time to time. I'm also really interested to keep trying to bridge that gap between traditional and digital work. I find I get quite bored of my artwork when I use the same workflow for too long - so hopefully this route will help introduce more experimentation and play into that process.

And go check out Music To Die Alone In Space To!

Tried & True Techniques for Surviving a Feeling

zinesI made my first zine! And it's now available in my shop. It's a little book about feelings and how to deal with them. A little bit serious, a little bit silly, and very honest.

This project was really the culmination of a lot of factors. I'd been wanting to make a longer-form personal project for a while, but I also wanted to make sure it was something I could definitely finish. My experience at SPX last year got me really interested in zines, and eventually I figured it would be cool (and a good motivator) to try and have one ready for SPX this year. (Which I managed!)

I was also spending a lot of time working in my sketchbook, due to taking a daily doodle pledge in a workshop my friend Zara gave. During that, I realized that despite the fact that my work tends to be very tightly finished/colorful, I was really drawn to the simplicity and honesty of my straight-to-ink sketchbook drawings. I liked that they felt so personal, but also the messiness gave me more chances to be funny, too. Eventually that work developed into a series of drawings that I then pushed further into this little tiny book.

I really enjoyed getting to step away from my usual children's-oriented stuff and try something a little bit different (although hopefully it still feels like me!). It's also incredibly satisfying to have a little stack of physical booklets to look at and know that I put them together completely myself, from start to finish. Really, really looking forward to making more!


Cardinal Stickers

cardinal4 cardinal5cardinal2 cardinal3cardinal6cardinal1

Another sticker pack for imo! I have so much fun making work for them, I feel so lucky to have them as a client.

They gave me pretty free reign to pitch a pack, and so I decided to go with one of my favorite birds: cardinals. (Who doesn't love them?) I was inspired by the fact that you can always tell when a pair of cardinals is nearby by the gentle "peep" they make to keep track of each other. Listen for it next time you spot one - odds are their partner is around somewhere, peeping back.

For this pack, apart from the usual goals of clear emotional expressions and appealing animations, I also tried to experiment with a color scheme outside of my norm. I'm trying to incorporate more neutrals and unexpected color combinations in my work, and that's been very rewarding so far.

Bad Beets

logo_bad_beets_FINAL1box art

For years, I've dreamed of illustrating a board or card game. My senior project at MIAD actually was a series of illustrations for a card game I'd come up with. (I can't claim the game was any good, but I'm still reasonably happy with the art!)

A few months ago, Stone Blade Entertainment gave me the chance to make this dream come true! They asked me to illustrate their new kid's card game, Bad Beets. It's a bluffing game where you try to get rid of your awful, gross, nasty beets using every trick in the book deck. And as of TODAY, it is released into the world!!


reaction cards clean action cards celan


One of my favorite things about the project was getting to draw a diverse cast of kids. Not only was my awesome art director Ryan O'Connor on board with that plan, he was absolutely insistent that we go that route. I got to take a lot of inspiration from my art class students, too.

And my other favorite thing?

Stone Blade got a BEET COSTUME made up for Gen Con!!! Does this count as the first cosplay of a character I drew? ;) Seriously, the coolest, funniest thing.

#badbeets !! Shoutout to the dude in the background, hil wait for it larious! #gencon2015 #gencon2015 #badbeets

A photo posted by Samantha Lynn (@mrs_analoggamer) on

(Photo credit to @analoggamer, thanks for letting me share it!)

Poodle Painting

indy and river web Ever have one of those pieces where you feel so stuck and it's just not working and then all the sudden out of nowhere it's finished and you love it?

I really struggled in the mid-stages on this piece, a pet portrait commissioned by an old friend. It just wasn't coming together. I got some feedback from friends I trust, let it sit for a day, and came back to it with some fresh ideas. Kept working at it, let my failures go so I could try new things, and the result is something I'm really proud of!

Here's a little process gif showing some of my struggles:


Coral Reef

ocean-piece-done(Print Available)

About time I put together a new piece for postcards!

This is probably the most ambitious illustration I've taken on in a few years, but I have to say that that felt really good. I've been starting to feel a bit stagnant recently, and I wanted to do something new to really push myself and see where I'm at. I used this piece to try a few new things:

A much tighter sketch than is typical for me (and in pencil, too)


Value studies beforehand


Working primarily in Manga Studio for lineart/flatting




And happily, I feel that all of those new paths took me to good places. The value study especially helped immensely. I knew this idea was going to be overwhelmingly colorful and detailed - and that was part of what I wanted to do, a hugely detailed, colorful environment. I knew value was going to be the only way there could still be clarity, and I also knew as a color addict, a study was going to be the only way to get me there. I used the study and actually did a good chunk of my flatting in grayscale as well - until it got too hard to see what everything was (since I didn't do full lineart for everything.) I also checked how I was doing on value frequently once I was working on color, by switching on/off a grayscale overlay. Definitely something I'll be paying more attention to in future work.

Using Manga Studio more was a great experience, too. As far as lineart goes, I'm a convert - drawing lines in Photoshop has always been clunky and frustrating for me. Sometimes I wonder if the main reason my work went in a painterly direction for a long time was because I just hated trying to get nice lines in PS! As soon as I picked up Manga Studio (and brushes from the excellent Ray Frenden) my lines felt natural and went where I wanted them to. Drawing lines digitally suddenly became.. FUN. I was even able to use this to speed up flatting, outlining the shape and filling it in rather than painstakingly "painting" it in as I had done in photoshop.

I'm not sure about doing work 100% in Manga Studio - there are definitely a lot of production things I can accomplish faster in Photoshop, plus I'm addicted to my Kyle T Webster brushes. But, I'm enjoying the exploration and I'll see where it takes me next.


Paintings for Sale!

painting-collectionI have original water media paintings for sale!

When I'm feeling down or in a bad mood, drawing some kind of badass lady helps me feel better. I started using this impulse as an excuse to mess with traditional media, as well - doing small paintings of these badass ladies that were filling my sketchbooks. After a few months, I realized I had a whole collection of them lining the drawers of my flat file. Since they make me so happy, I thought they might make someone else happy- so they are now available to purchase!