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Oct 1, 2023

International Lion's Day Sketchbook painting (2023) Farah Shah

Happy October all!

As I have been offline in September, I haven't had time to prepare for this months blog post. But, I shall continue on with some sketchbook talk as that is what I use most days.

See last month's post - Why do Sketchbooks matter? for an insight into sketchbooks and my journey so far.

I normally reserve my process posts for my Patreon page, but as a little treat I thought I would share some behind-the-scenes of this lion sketchbook painting in honour of International Lion's Day 2023.

This way of working is not necessarily how I work every time as it all depends on the topic and what I want to achieve from the final image. But I do hope it gives you an insight into how one may work in a sketchbook.


Where do you start when you are faced with a blank page? That dreaded fear of what to draw thought?

I was in luck as I didn't have to think about it too much, as I knew the final image was going to be a lion.

Stillman and Birn Gamma sketchbook*

Before I get any colour on to the page, I always sketch out the topic first with a Non-photo Blue Pencil*. I have only started using this pencil from the beginning of this year and I absolutely love it! It is a game changer for me. I find I can work very loosely with it and paint right on top without any line showing through. I have actually ditched my graphite HB pencil for this - well nearly. I still keep a graphite pencil for super quick thumbnail sketches.

I find it is very important to spend time to sketch out the topic as you want to achieve the right composition and especially in this case - the right shape of the lion. One can draw a lion in many ways, but I just wanted to capture a lion directly looking at the viewer. For me, it is always about the eyes!

Once the page has been mapped out, I like to use a combination of Tombow Pens*, Ecoline Brush Pens*, Acrylic Marker Pens* and Posca Pens* to get some colour onto the page. Phew that is a lot of material.

You may ask why so many pens? Well, it is down to the colours and texture of each pen. Each brand does not have all the colours - so you have to cross brand to get the colour you need.

As the background and lion are natural colours - I have picked some earthy tones to put down first and then I can add more colours accordingly.


Next, I grab my Watercolour Brushes, Watercolour Tin Palette, Gouache paints and Gansai Tambi paints and put many layers of colour down. Here, I am just blocking out the colours and figuring out the light source. Always keep in mind, where your light and dark places are on the page. This is important as you want to make sure the page is conveying the correct light. In this instance, the light source is from the front - so it is not too much of a problem as I can add the dark places later and work around it.

This is the part where many artists including myself will call it the "ugly stage". It looks like a total car crash mess and has no direction of where the overall painting is going. But, as we say trust the process and just go with the flow.

Did you notice, I used a Dark Blue colour for the mane? This adds contrast and interest to the page instead of using a brown colour. Yellow = Blue. In depth colour talk will be discussed in future blog posts or and Patreon.


It may look like there hasn't been much change on this page to the previous image, but I do start to define the areas with Tombow Pens* and add some colour back onto the page. I have used white gouache to add some highlights across the page including the beautiful mane.

As you continue to put marks down on the page, you gain more confidence and start to find the flow of the page.

You will notice that as I have added more definition to the lion - it too has started to take shape even without his eyes being on the page.


This is a turning point as I determine where the light values are before I can add the final texture.

I have used a Blue Watersoluable Caran D'Ache Neocolor 2* for the shadow areas and the water behind the lion.

It maybe seem odd putting down a light blue for a shadow - but it will act as a under glow coat for when I add in the final shadow colour.


Final image.

The painting is finished off with using a handful of coloured pencils including Caran D'Ache Luminance Pencils*, Derwent drawing pencils* and Derwent Procolour Pencils*.

Adding texture has to be one of my favourite parts - I would say it is the same with many other artists? You can create so much depth, texture and tonal values with just one pencil. And as you can see from the details, the lion has truly come alive and looking directly at you!

Adding the eyes at the end is very important as this defines the character or animals personality. It can also change the whole look of the page!

Lastly, as I am coming to the end of this post - I will leave you with a simple quote:

"A Pencil and a dream can take you anywhere" - Joyce Meyer.

This is why I CAN always rely on traditional media, especially a pencil!

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If you want to see more of my processes, I have a Patreon page** where you can follow my creative journey and in depth material usage. It is currently paused until Early 2024, but you can catch up with me via my Instagram stories.

I hope you enjoyed this post and thank you so much for reading this one! It means a lot to me!

Feel free to share your thoughts. I would love to hear them!

Wishing you a warm and magical October and I hope it is full of all things spooky!

Speak soon!

Farah x

*Any products mentioned have not been endorsed or sponsored.

** Patreon is paused until early 2024.


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