Learning illustration from other artists - Lee Kow Fong

I was introduced to Lee Kow Fong's illustration when my wife picked up one of his books that came with a Chinese music CD, with the intention of improving my daughter's Chinese. As for me, I was attracted to his watercolour illustrations because they have feeling, colours are pleasing, and he tells whimsical stories through his pictures. Seeing how he handles his watercolour, I felt that I could improve in that department. I can do loose care-free watercolours, but his watercolours are different. They are controlled yet loose. And he uses classical watercolour techniques- wet on wet, wet on dry, etc. I love that there are still unexplored areas I can venture into and improve on. I could improve in doing more controlled watercolour illustrations.

I found one of his books at the library and here is my attempt at learning from his technique. I don't like copying every single thing about another artist's work. What's the point in that? People would only say my work looks like that artist. Instead, I try to break down the principles behind another artist's work and try to apply it to my own characters and scenes.

The main thing that stands out, is that he uses pen lines for his main characters. For objects that are secondary in importance, he uses pencil. That makes sense. Black pen lines would create more contrast. More contrast means more attraction. Pencil lines are grey and have lesser contrast but still has more contrast than none at all. So for the least important elements, there are no outlines. He also uses pencil to shade the shadows of the main characters.

I usually use my own paper from a paper supplier. So using proper watercolour paper always takes getting used to. It's more pricey and I have to get over the fear of ruining it. But I love how pigment rests on good paper. 

I did a light pencil line drawing first. Erased it lightly. Painted over with watercolours.

I still paid attention to basic principles like warm and cool colours. Do I want my picture to be more warm or more cool. I decided, more cool. (But I might have added more warm colours than I intended!)

I was observing how Kow Fong does his leaves. But I also added my own way of drawing leaves and adding texture.

Then I made sure to apply the contrast principles. Pen lines for the main characters. Pencil outlines for the elements that are secondary in importance and least important stuff gets no outlines. 

My tape kept falling off so my paint bled out the lines. I'm so used to wild, crazy quick loose that these proper neat stuff like tapes take getting used to haha! But I do like that neat border. 

This is just my first try. Many imperfections and unsure turns here and there in my paintings. Not too shabby but has lots of room for improvements. I could control my colours and amount of water I use in my brush, better. And I could improve on my neatness! Loose and I do but being neat is a skill to master! Will have to practice this more!

Mr Lee Kow Fong, if you do come across this blogpost, thank you so much for sharing your painting with the world. They are inspiring and lovely! 



Cari said…
I really like how yours turned out. Neat idea about the contrast pen/pencil/no outline. I'll have to try it. Thanks for sharing your progress pictures.
Andrew Tan said…
Thanks for the feedback. You're welcome! I've still to improve on his way of drawing :D