This morning, I finished an anniversary gift artwork project that I’ve been working on for about a year. I documented my progress over the last few months, and today, I’m sharing those photos and details as a sort of tutorial for you! I hope that you enjoy reading about this gift, which I believe is an awesome concept for all kinds of celebratory occasions.
The Story Behind the Anniversary Gift Artwork
Years ago, TPK started as an Etsy shop. I had a little bit of everything in that shop: calligraphy services, invitation designs, and general artwork services, to name a few. My very first client was a woman named Thaon, a photographer in Connecticut. First, she hired me to design a logo. Then, she asked me to make artwork to celebrate her anniversary with her husband, which was based on this sketchbook page.
Last year, Thaon wrote to me with kind words: “The anniversary gift artwork you made for me hangs in my hallway, and it makes me so happy to look at it every day.” She explained that her daughter was getting married in a few months, and she hoped I would be able to make something similar for her. I decided to take on the challenge, though I warned that I’d likely work at a molasses pace! In between blogging, developing video courses, and designing a new calligraphy kit, I squeezed in moments to work on the artwork. Here are the steps I took to create it:
1. Create a Procreate Draft
My style has evolved a lot since 2013, when I made Thaon’s artwork. For this art, I opted to make separate, clean squares. The idea is to celebrate the couple’s relationship using a series of illustrations. So, I drafted out squares in an 8″ x 10″ Procreate document, and I used that same program to make a few sketches.
I finished up the Procreate artwork with some photos.
2. Make a Pencil Draft
Once I had my Procreate draft, I used my light box to trace over everything in pencil. To avoid smudging, I started at the top of the page and worked my way down.
I’ve found that mechanical pencils seem to be the best for pencil drafts. The sharp tip makes for neat lines that are a bit more difficult to smudge than lines made by traditional pencils.
3. Add Waterproof Ink
I knew that this artwork would eventually be covered in watercolor, so it was important to use a reliable waterproof ink. Naturally, I turned to Ziller Soot Black. I used two other go-to drawing tools (a straight pen fitted with a Nikko G nib) to trace over my pencil draft.
The tracing was slow-going! I didn’t want to make any mistakes during this stage, so I worked at a turtle’s pace. It ended up taking a couple months’ worth of stolen moments to complete the “inking”.
Once I finished, I made absolutely certain my ink was dry. Then, I used a plastic eraser to get rid of my pencil draft lines.
4. Add Watercolor
A few days after I finished “inking” the piece, I began to add watercolor. That required patience, precision, and three different watercolor palettes.
I began with the easiest squares first: the balloons, the horse, and the map. I used a lot of the techniques outlined in Painting with Watercolors for Beginners and Painting with Watercolors for Beginners Part II.
As I worked, I had my iPhone above me, filming a timelapse video. I thought it would be really neat to see the piece come together in a couple of minutes (when in reality, it took about six hours). Here is that video:
5. Add the Finishing Touches
To finish the piece, I added Bleed Proof White ink to enhance the calligraphy and draw waves. Then, I used a black gel pen to trace around the outsides of the squares to help them “pop” a little more.
I hesitate to call this finished quite yet. Most projects like this one benefit from observation with fresh eyes the next day! I might add a little more contrast to the squares with blue backgrounds. But, for now, I feel happy with how this turned out, and glad that I got it done in time for Jess and Kay’s first anniversary in August!
If you decide to take on a project like this anniversary gift artwork, budget at least 48 total hours into your schedule for its creation. That’s about how long it took me considering the Procreate and pencil drafts, inking, and watercolor steps. It’s not a quick project, but it’s one that’s worth making if you are looking to give a truly meaningful gift that will bring the recipient joy for years to come!
Thanks very much for reading, and have a wonderful, creative weekend.