Pavneet Sembhi

In a world of lines and squiggles

Creativity

The Wall

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This blog post is a little delayed but I wanted to share with you the story of how The Wall was created. You may already know the story of how I stumbled across my full pagers accidentally - I wrote a blog post about it here - they have now become an important part of my artistic journey.  The Wall is ultimately  just one of my full pagers on steroids! 

So first to how the idea came about. Having just finished a new full pager I was thinking to myself how can I create something that really challenges me and I had been inspired by one of my favourite artists Tarajosu who creates these incredible wall murals all over the world. We both have similar styles of artwork so I could visualise how it might turn out and it gave me the confidence to actually go for it. 

My initial plan was to create a piece of art in the centre of the wall rather than a full pager and in fact I didn't intend on it being symmetrical either. But on the 2 hour drive up to my house in the midlands I somehow convinced myself the only option was to go BIG or go home - I love symmetry and I love my full pagers so it was a no brainer really. And so I embarked on this crazy journey....

Wall 1.png

The first big hurdle was to figure out how to create symmetry on such a large scale. Usually I draw pencil gridlines on the page, I use a protractor to draw straight lines spanning out from the centre of the page to the edges and then a compass to draw circular concentric lines. So I needed to find a way to do this on a larger scale - first I cut out a large 40cm cardboard circle and made my own large protractor, then I made 20 centremetre pencil marks along all sides of the wall and found the centre of the wall. I placed my homemade protractor in the centre of the wall, from here I marked out every 5 degrees and then drew a line from the centre through this mark. 

Then came the real creativity, I tied a piece of string to a pencil and made a loop on the other side to create my own large compass! I placed my finger in the loop in the centre of the wall (and used my husband when it got to the largest circles) kept the string taut and then draw the circle - I am pretty sure that explanation made no sense so you can read this article which includes photos. I just needed to adjust the length of the string to get varying concentric circles. To finish I made straight line grids by joining the 20cm marks along the edges with the corresponding 20cm mark on the parallel wall. These lines were FAR from perfect and there were massive differences between the two sides but it gave me a guide to work with so I could keep it as symmetrical as possible. 

I didn't plan the concept or shapes out before I started, above you can see how the drawing started out, pretty much the way all my full pagers usually start. I used the Pentel permenant marker N850 for the lines and a Sharpie Magnum for filling any large black areas. As I was going along I started to get a feel for where the drawing was going and where I wanted to take it. I sort of had this idea of something that was growing and coming out of the wall with weird winding tentacle like shapes and little portals into another world. 

Wall 2.png

After building up the centre and deciding on the sort of pattern work I wanted to use my task was to lay down the main bulk of linework. By planning out the linework first and adding bits to the edges I could create depth and layers - a full pager doesn't have the same effect if you work the whole way from the centre to the outer edges. I had anticipated that the struggle would be filling a whole wall with patterns but actually the tricky part was practically working on such a large piece and keeping it symmetrical. To maintain the symmetry in any drawing I work on it bit by bit on both sides so on such a large scale it involved going up and down the step ladder a LOT of times.

Wall 3.png

The detailing and shading is where the real hard work began, if you think shading on paper is hard then try it on a wall. Admittedly at points when my arm was hurting and it was 2am I did feel like skipping the shading part just so I could speed the process up but I knew it just wouldn't be the same without it - and I'm glad I persevered because it's the shading that really brings this drawing to life. I used normal black sharpies for the shading - they were best when they were a little worn down. Thank god for my trusty podcasts who kept me company during those late nights when my arm was about to fall off! In the photo above when I had filled in the whole of the bottom half of the wall I finally felt that my vision was being realised. 

Wall 4 Edited.png

As is always the case its the final push that is the hardest part, I always seem to get this massive resistance near the end but it's the most satisfying hurdle to overcome. By this point I had accepted it simply would not be perfectly symmetrical, I had 'messed' up so many times but I guess the beauty with this sort of thing is that seeing it as a whole you don't really notice those imperfections (note to self: must not be such a perfectionist!). Being only 5 ft 2 meant that even on the step ladder I had to stretch up to reach the upper corners and top edge, making the whole process generally tougher - I had to do less thinking and more drawing! 

Final Wall.png

And here it is, the final drawing! Reflecting on it now I feel very proud of myself for finishing such a huge piece, I learnt it's a good idea to just say yes and then think later about the how bit. Don't overthink whether you can achieve something, just decide you are going to do it and then figure out the rest, I pormise it will be amazing. It may sound obvious but the best part of illustrating is that you are in complete control of what you create, in this drawing alone I sneaked in lots of little playful bits and I even let my nephews add to it! I mean it's my wall so why not right?! 

And now I get to have this crazy wall as the backdrop to my study as a reminder of what I can achieve. 

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I created these videos so you can see the details up close and get a better idea of the process involved. I personally love to see behind the scenes and how something comes together so hopefully you will enjoy it too. 

Using Prismacolour Pencils

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After Inktober I always go a little bit quiet because projects, commissions and basically my whole life gets put on hold for a month. So November is usually spent catching up and getting back into the swing of things. Now I have finally got a chance to tell you guys about how I found it and what I did differently this year. 

For those of you who have been following my work for a while you will know my pieces tend to be black and white but this year I decided to switch things up. It is SO SO SO important to keep learning and experimenting, you never really know what you are capable of until you try.

Over the years illustrators I have worked with or know of have raved about Prismacolor's pencils and so when it came to deciding which brand to use it was a bit of a no-brainer.

Having never used colouring pencils in my illustrations before I ambitiously decided half my inktober drawings would be created with a combination of my usual Pigma Microns and Prismacolor pencils. So yes this could have been a complete disaster!

I chose the basic 24 pencil set to start with just in case I discovered colouring pencils were not the right tool for me, although there are sets that include 72 and even 150 different shades! You can also get a blender which on reflection I probably should have purchased but hey you live and you learn.

The first thing I want to share with you guys is how rewarding it was to learn a whole new skill. Once you have done something for so long it becomes second nature and you just don't need to engage your brain as much. Learning how to use the pencils made the whole month more fun, exciting and challenging. In a whole month of illustrations I now know I won't be happy with every single one but the beauty of this kind of challenge is you end up surprising yourself.

I have included my two favourite pieces above - the Chameleon and the Peacock. Honestly I could never have imagined being able to bring these two creatures to life in this way, it was thoroughly enjoyable to observe their natural form and then find a way to recreate this using the colouring pencils. Now I am on a mission to keep finding new materials to bring into my illustrations, some may work and some may not but it is worth finding out.

The hardest thing to figure out was which colours to use and how to blend them. For each drawing I always used a reference photo so generally the colours derived from there - you can see my set up in the photo, this is while I was drawing the Cairns Butterfly. On little scraps of paper or in my notebook I would practice combinations that I thought could work well. You can see the scribbles for both the dragonflies, the chameleon and the peacock in the photo, it took quite a few attempts to get it right! 

I discovered a few blending techniques that really made the drawing flow better. I put down lighter layers as a base first and then brought in darker shades. To blend colours I used the white pencil to get rid of that pencil texture you usually get with colouring pencils - this can probably be achieved best with the colourless blender I mentioned earlier. I also made sure for each illustration I pre-selected the pencils to use (so I wasn't aimlessly using a million different colours) and where possible I chose a colour palette that usually included at least one light, medium and dark shade even though I was quite limited in colours e.g. it could be black, dark brown, light brown or pale pink, pale lilac and dark purple. In all honesty I was making this all up as I went along but that is the only way to learn really! There were plenty of mistakes I made along the way but it is through those mistakes that you master a skill and perfect a technique. 

Now the butterflies (and one moth) were just so fun to work on because there are ENDLESS species each with their very own pattern and form. I went with ones that had a distinctive pattern so they could easily be identified. It is always important to me to stay true to form and colour (where possible with the limited palette) so that the natural beauty is only enhanced rather than lost. The focus of the Moth was just the colours rather than the detail making this a real challenge, but I persevered and discovered that actually with some patience I can master the colouring pencils alone - my Jellyfish below was slightly less successful but I was still getting the hang of using them at this stage. 

All the comments and feedback for the colour illustrations have been amazing this year and I really really really appreciate it, thank you to you and your eyes for taking the time to look at my work, I hope it brought you some joy! You can buy some of the Inktober prints in my Shop in case you are interested.

If you are thinking of trying something new my advice would be GO FOT IT! What have you got to lose right? 

Artistic World Collaboration

Collaborations, CreativityPavneet Sembhi2 Comments
 Artistic World

Thanks to the wonderful world of Instagram I was lucky to be part of this incredible collaboration with Dino Tomic @dinotomic, Vince Okerman @vexx_art, Jonna Lamminaho @scandy_girl, Elia Pellegrini @elia_pelle and Jonas Jödicke @jojoesart. If you don't already know about them then you are seriously missing out, they are all immensely talented and produce stunning artwork. 

The concept was to have six artists each draw a hand with a pencil in it pointing towards the world. For each of us art is our way of life and we use it to make the world a little better, art has the power to bring people together to share a feeling of community and happiness. Whether you enjoy creating yourself or prefer to admire the art of others, either way you will no doubt recognise that emotion of wonder you get when you stumble across artwork that connects with you. We were able to show how varying art can be and maybe open people's eyes to a new style.

Now I was the last person to add to the piece so I felt unusually nervous, in fact it was the most anxious I have ever felt about starting a collaboration! When you have this massive original in front of you with five pieces of mind blowing contributions, the pressure is on to NOT RUIN IT!

The process to create the final design involved first drawing the hand outline - this was not my strong point. After lots of sketching I eventually took a photo of my hand and used that as a template - I won't show you my first attempt at drawing a hand but let's just say it didn't look right at all (maybe one day I will post a picture of the hand so you can all have a laugh haha!)

Just so that I could guarantee I would be happy with the final outcome I then actually practiced mini concepts. Below you can see those practice designs - I haven't ever worked on something that required this level of dimension so it was a case of creating a concept that included my style without losing the form of the individual fingers. I played around with floral designs, dotwork and linework. At the bottom you can see the design I went with in the end - I tried to use a combination of styles so it felt like an evolution of patterns. 

The only way I could get the shading and dimension right on the hand would be to use basic linework. Below you can see the sort of pattern that is incorporated close up. As with all my pieces, I always challenge myself not to just repeat the same patterns, this makes it more fun for me and more visually interesting.  By using a sort of ribbed design that followed the form of the hand with a slight curve to each one I was able to give it more dimension. Although a lot of this detail gets lost when looking at the piece as a whole, I think it's nice that anyone looking at the original will be able to see all the tiny details.  

Next up was the shading of the hand, this was vital to get right so that you could really see the fingers in the background. You can see below the difference shading makes where the hand and wrist meet - I hadn't added any shading to the wrist at this stage and it looked very two dimensional in comparison. 

Once the hand was complete I could really get stuck into the wrist where there was more room for experimenting and no need to worry about form as much. I stuck roughly to the design from my initial concept and just tweaked a few little bit as I went along. The floral part had to flow nicely from the pattern above it so I used small leaves to transition between the two styles. You can see below that there is no harsh line where the two styles meet, instead I drew the leaves in a random-like fashion so it looked more organic and free flowing.

I tend to draw a pencil outline of any floral design first so I can get the flowers right. Then it is just a case of colouring in the black bits in between and adding the detail and shading. The beauty of the floral pattern was that I could let the design end organically with a few little leaves scattered for a nice effect.  

And here is the final design! In the end I was really happy with how it came out and it taught me a really big lesson in terms of my art: push your boundaries and see what you can achieve. As you can see from my process above it took me a long time to get to the end product so if you think something is not your "natural talent" then just keep practicing and progressing, I promise you will see big changes. 

Collaborating is my absolute favourite thing to do, adding other people into the mix challenges your practice and you end up making new friends in the process. I felt especially grateful after this collab because these are artists who I admire greatly myself, to be part of a piece with them was an absolute privilege and hopefully there will be more to come! 

The final piece got a mental reaction online from people all over the world with so many people entering the giveaway, which was a nice way for us to give something back after all the amazing support we are given. I hope you all liked it and feel free as always to leave your thoughts as a comment. Thanks for reading! 

My First Papercut

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When I first came across papercutting art I was in complete awe, the effect that can be created is so beautiful and delicate. I really love trying new crafty things so on one of my trips to Rymans I decided to pick up some bits so I could have a go myself. This is a little about my first papercutting experience, what I did, what I learnt and how you can try it out yourself. There are some great tutorials out there so I definitely advise youtubing and googling this some more if you want to give it a try. 

Okay so firstly the equipment I used:

  • Paper - silly of me but I bought some black card and then found the knife wouldn't actually cut it. I actually just used normal printer paper in the end but I will be researching into the best paper to use for next time. 
  • Hobby Knife - I used the Jakar Hobby Knife 
  • Cutting Mat - I got mine from Rymans and apparently its self healing!
  • Pencil 

The next thing to do is to plan what you want to cut out - I did a mandala design that I sort of made up as I went along each layer. The key thing to remember is that the whole piece needs to stay connected - if you cut the wrong bit a chuck of the design will just completely fall through (not sure how to explain this but if you try you will understand!) And if you are doing words then it will need to be a mirror image. 

It might be better to try with a simple design first and experiment a bit rather than stress yourself out like I did. As it was my first time papercutting, I was in extreme focus mode throughout and very worried I would cut the wrong bit. I did actually cut through a few of the lines and so had to make emergency plasters out of masking tape to fix it back together!  That's why I recommend practicing a lot more before attempting something this complex. 

If you draw your design with a blunt pencil the lines are really thick and you just need to cut out the space in between the lines. So that you can see how I did this I have included a photo of how it looked from the back, you can see all the pencil lines I drew. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that it REALLY does not matter if all the bits are not completely even, as long as it achieves the overall effect. Just take a look at one layer above, you will see many of the shapes are actually wonky and sort of all over the place.

I also discovered that small curves and small round circles are SO difficult to do. This probably again comes down to practice and learning how to use the knife - I ended up having to do a lot of reshaping because I was struggling to get the curve looking curvy, if that makes sense. If you are going to include little circles or curves I would advise doing some practice runs on another piece of paper first. 

As with drawing, I prefer there to be contrasting sections so in the same way I like there to be a range of dark and light areas in my illustrations, I tried to vary the straight and curvy lines as well as the thickness in certain areas. But this is down to personal preference, its just what I like. Here's a few progress photos so you can see how it grew:

I hope you give papercutting a try and please feel free to tag and send me photos of any of your papercuts! I am by no means an expert but I hope this helps and gives you an insight into papercutting. If you want to check out some other artists who do this sort of artwork then look at the artwork of Rebecca Loechler, Mr Riu and Sarah Dennis - they are all incredibly talented.

10 Reasons to be Creative

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For as long as I can remember I have always enjoyed making things.  I think as children we all enjoy being crafty and creative, we like to explore and make and experiment. But as we get older sometimes we can get stuck in a routine and forget about that childlike wonder and curiosity.  

I'm a big believer in having a creative outlet, whether it's a musical instrument, painting, knitting, making plane models, literally anything as long as you are making something.  

Here are 10 reasons I think it's great to be creative, hopefully I can persuade you to get in touch with your creative side:  

1. Quite simply it is better than watching tv, browsing social media or being on your phone. Technology distances us from the real world and although we always feel "connected", it can also be quite a lonely place. Sometimes it is good to just uplug.

2. It gives you a moment to tune out all the other stuff going on in your life. It's basically like yoga without the physical demands.  

3. By the end of each creation you have achieved something and this makes you feel good about yourself, boosting your self esteem. This is great if you suffer from low self-confidence or self-worth. 

4. It should be fun! Keep going through different crafts and skills until you find something that makes you happy. 

5. It's particularly good if you have a job that doesn't involve being creative. You are using different parts of your brain and that's always a good thing.  It could even help with your day job and give you a new way of thinking. 

6. Art Therapy is a practice used to help people express themselves emotionally, and for me personally, drawing is like keeping a journal. Maybe not everything creative will give you this kind of benefit but most can do.

7. Creativity feeds more creativity. And you never know what ideas you might stumble across, who knows you may come up with an invention!  

8. You are developing a skill that could lead to other opportunities. Possibly even career opportunities.

9. You can meet other people who are interested in what you do and speak to like minded people. There's nothing quite like talking to people who feel as passionately about something as you do.

10. You become an even more interesting person! I'm big on self-development and it's great to find new things to do. 

And as an alternative to a creative hobby you can always make presents and gifts for friends and family. It's always good fun and the person receiving it is bound to love the effort and thought that went into it.  

Just don't be deterred if at first you are not a pro, no one is at first!