10. Exploring Art Styles
Jellyfish Picture Book Process
Time to draw! I’ve been very excited to finally start drawing jellyfish, and I began by opening up my sketchbook and drawing jellyfish species from photographs. I drew small and quickly in pencil—just sketching, not trying to create final illustrations or beautiful artworks. I was just looking at and drawing the weird bodies of jellyfish. I colored some of the drawings with colored pencils to play around with colors.
But I quickly ran into a problem—jellyfish are mostly see-through. How was I supposed to capture the transparency of jellyfish? I can figure out how to draw something shiny or slimy or glowing… but how am I supposed to draw something clear? And then the passing thought became a glaring issue when I tried to draw the very transparent Praya dubia jellyfish.
Jellyfish are made up of 95% water and 5% thin, delicate, and often clear membranes. Trying to draw a jellyfish in the ocean is like trying to draw a Ziplock bag in a bathtub.
But that thought led me to the root (and ultimately the solution) of the problem: I’m not just drawing jellyfish—I’m drawing jellyfish in the ocean.
When I started to really look at that photograph of that Praya dubia jellyfish, I realized I was thinking about it all wrong. I was focused on drawing the 5% of the jellyfish body, when I should be drawing 100% of the creature—the membranes AND the water inside.
And when something is transparent, that means you can see through it to the outer surroundings. Drawing something transparent requires showing the surroundings through and around the thing. So, I need to draw the jellyfish membranes, the water inside the membranes, and also the um… entire ocean.
And therein laid my next problem. Am I really supposed to draw/paint the ocean in every drawing and every page of my book? My immediate thought was practical and economical, “well dang, that’s gonna be a lot of ink or paint.”
And so, here’s another example of how constraints actually lead to more creativity. I don’t have oodles of money to spend on paint and ink to slather all over every piece of art I make for this book. How could I maybe do this in a cheaper, more economical use of materials? That constraint led me to a big breakthrough that I otherwise probably would not have discovered.
Let me show you how I got there.