Hannah Mosley paints expressive animal characters grounded in a knowledge of actual animal anatomy. She knows how to use colour to tell a story and thinks carefully about each step in the process of her illustrations to ensure that the final product suits the intended audience.

These are all excellent skills for a professional artist to have, so let’s dive into Hannah’s FREE Live Demo to gain some wisdom!

Step 1: The Line Art

To begin, I drew the line art that was provided in the demo. It’s recommended to trace it, so you will probably want to do that, but for some reason, I’ve never been very fast when tracing.

It’s quicker for me just to draw it, so that’s what I resorted to after some frustrating attempts to trace it from my computer screen. Now is a good point in the illustration to talk about the composition.

The way the rabbits lean forward creates a diagonal line, which is very good for composition, as is the way that the faces aren’t entirely centred in the oval bounding box.

Also clever is the way that the umbrella jumps out of the bounding box. The characters are looking at each other, which is a successful illustration because the interaction between characters is always more interesting than if the characters don’t interact.

Step 2: The Background

I did my background with a warmer grey than Hannah did because I had to mix my own colour, and my mix came out a bit warmer. So, instead of a snow theme, I went with a rain theme, and I omitted the snowflakes at the end.

I took advantage of how my pigments were separating in the dish and let the bluer side of the paint be the puddles, and the browner side be the sky. Build this up gradually in layers, and don’t rush it.

Allow the watercolour to flow how it wants because you’ll get the most dynamic textures that way.

Step 3: Adding Red

Now it’s time to add some contrast. It is easier to decide the colours and values we want in the foreground with the background elements out of the way. I used the same grey as the background for the rabbit fur and used a bit of the red I used on the jacket for the peachy colour in the noses and paws.

Hannah mixed more colour variants than I did, and for her illustration, that worked really well. However, I did it simpler for mine because the rabbit grey I used was essentially the same mixture I had created for the sky already.

I thought it would be smarter to limit the palette on purpose and unify the image in that case. Notice the bit of red on the umbrella, just to make it pop.

Step 4: The Scarf

I mixed some ochre into the greyish mixture to make the scarf, then added a bit of brown for the stripes. Let the first layer dry all the way before adding the stripes so that they keep their definition.

Step 5: The Rest of the Clothing

It took a lot of trial and error to mix the blue and green for the outfits here because the colours couldn’t be too saturated or drown out the rest of the picture.

The green was tough to get right. Remember that most realistic greens are a lot browner than you expect.

Step 6: Tying it All Together

This image comes alive through the coloured line art and deepened shading, made using coloured pencils. My coloured pencils were softer than those Hannah used, so it was more difficult for me to keep them sharp and keep the effect consistent.

You will want to use firm coloured pencils if you want to keep the effect precisely the same. For the red parts, I used a darker red to tie in.

Step 7: Finishing Touches

I got a little creative with the coloured pencil outlines at the end. For the baby rabbit’s clothing, I used a blue very similar to the clothing, only darker, but for the outlines of the rabbits themselves, I used dark earthy purple, and for the trousers of the big rabbit, I simply used brown.

I wanted the highest contrast thing to be the rabbits, so that’s why I used a contrasting colour to outline them. The brown worked for the green because it was a brownish-green anyway, and to use any of the green pencils I had would have made the trousers stand out more than they needed to in the overall composition of the picture.

So! There you have it, a lively and sweet composition from Hannah Mosley. In her Live Demo, she does such a great job explaining character interaction and visual storytelling that I began to rethink my own personal illustration process.

If you want to learn more about painting animals in watercolour, you can check out our other workshop recordings

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Elsa Wahlstrom is an illustrator and graphic novelist based in Minnesota. She specializes in all things cozy and calm, but adds humor where she can. When she isn’t drawing, she enjoys playing musical instruments, but you’re more likely to see her staring at some silly tree or something. 

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