Beauty illustration – Perfecting the smokey eye

Graphite Pencil and digital art illustration of Matilda

Last week I completed my graphite illustration of Matilda.  You can read about it here.  This week it’s time to put my Photoshop skills to the test and see if I can perfect that old classic – the smokey eye.


It’s pretty rare for me personally to go to the trouble of putting ANY makeup on these days, let alone taking half an hour to master a smokey eye look.  Now days it’s no makeup or my Homer Simpson makeup gun is set to whore.  Seriously I am that clueless about makeup!


Fortunately, Emmi and the girls at Maya Organic Beauty Therapy know what they are doing and wrote me a step by step guide smokey eye tutorial.  With my guide in hand it was time to tackle Photoshop.

Into the Wormhole

Now I am only slightly more adept at Photoshop than I am at makeup application.  I have had Adobe Photoshop and a Wacom tablet and pen for about seven years but everything I’ve learnt has been through trial and error.  My skills are pretty basic but, to be honest, I have no desire to become a digital artist anyway.

I do occasionally watch a YouTube Photoshop tutorial but I either get bamboozled by the tech speak or, having the attention span of a gnat, tune out after about five minutes.  I have recently discovered Draw with Jazza who keeps it simple and to around 20 minutes per tutorial (I am yet to get past the 10 minute mark but that’s my issue not his! – New Years Resolution = learn to focus).

Photoshop is a wormhole.   I step in at 9am and then few moments later I am disturbed by a dull headache from being hunched over staring at a computer screen (without my glasses on), only to discover that it’s now 4pm!.  I sit back and look at what I’ve achieved and then….


….and here we are back where I started at 9am but for the addition of some blue eyes.


The ability to remove all trace of what you’ve done is kind of what’s good and bad about Photoshop.  It is brilliant that if you mess something up, it’s not quite right or for whatever reason you don’t like it… voila…  you can just hit delete and in seconds remove all trace that it was ever there.  You can’t really do that with traditional art works.  Yeah you can erase it or paint over it but you can only do this so many times.  At some point you have to call time, there has to be an end, a finish point.  The paper won’t take any more erasing or any more layering of pencil.  Any more paint and things will just turn muddy brown.  There is a point where it is as good as its going to get and you have to stop.   With Photoshop…


And so panned out my first three days of trying to ‘makeup ‘ Matilda.  I’d work all day long only to get to 4pm to discover that I didn’t like it any more and in a moment of frustration delete everything.

Finally I gave myself an ultimatum.  This was it.  Last day.  Wherever I get to today that is it.  Let go of my perfectionist tendencies and call it finished.

web-final.jpgStep by Step

When I was a child I always wanted to be a graphic artist (and a vet, and a pilot, and an architect, and… you get the picture) but my parents “encouraged” me to study sciences, go university and get a “real” job.  I ended up as a police officer?!?.  I am not quite sure that was what my parents had planned!

Anyway I digress… I wanted to be a graphic artist.  I love designing layouts.  I can’t explain it but something fascinates me about layouts. I am a layout nerd.  Hence I came up with several different, increasingly complex versions for my final step by step tutorial.  And when I say complex I mean complex, there were arrows, connecting lines, different fonts, close-ups, colours, shapes …

In the end the most simple version seemed to be the most effective.





Graphite Pencil and digital art illustration of MatildaI also have to say in retrospect, while it was not my intention, this has ended up a very similar layout to Kimberley McCone’s beauty illustration I mentioned in last week’s blog post.  I guess it must have stuck in my head.  So I herby gratefully and respectfully acknowledge the inspiration Kimberley’s works has given me and the amazing-ness of her talent!

This project was really just for my practice anyway and I have no intention of using it in any commercial sense.  (But hey if any makeup artists out there do want a collaboration, you know where to find me!)

Photo Credits 1/

New Year: New Goals -Time to get some perspective!

Last year I achieved some pretty serious personal goals and a couple of artistic ones.  I started my blog, embarked on a couple of collaborations ,which will hopefully come to fruition later this year, and generally committed a lot more time to my art.

This year (apart from cracking the elusive 1000 followers on Instagram).  I want to do more collaborations and commissions.  I suppose it is a bit about moving my art from “hobby” status in to something more like a “job”.

Secretly I have always had this unfulfilled desire to be a commercial artist.  To have people contact me with fabulous projects that just cater perfectly to my style of illustrating.  Calls from Gucci or Alexander McQueen to head to Europe and illustrate their latest runway collection from my front row seat next to one of those Kardashian people.  Or perhaps Vogue magazine want me to illustrate the top five breakout models of the 21st Century.  Hey, Beyoncé wants a family portrait?  Sure just let me check my calendar (or should that be get your people to contact me people Bey).

I know, I live in a fantasy world.  I suspect the reality of commercial illustration is a hell of a lot different to a fully paid trip to Milan, where I bash out a couple of illustrations, have cocktails with Karl and Anna and then head home, first class of course.  No doubt it’s a hard slog, some crappy, boring, ordinary jobs and not a lot of money!

I have, in the past, been requested to do a couple of small projects and I find the reality of having to draw something that somebody else wants you to draw a little frustrating!  I wanna draw what I wanna draw not what you want me to draw! (No, I don’t want to draw your baby!… unless of course it’s dressed in Dolce and Gabbana … then maybe I’ll think about it.  Oh Blue Ivy, Rumi and Sir can wear whatever they want Bey)  Truth be told I would probably be a pretty sucky commercial artist but I can still dream from time to time!

So I figured if Gucci ain’t coming to me I’m going to Gucci.  Well kind of…  I’m making my own “dream” projects.

“Yeah I’ll be king when dogs get wings
Can I help it if I still dream time to time”

– It’s Good to Be King – Tom Petty

The Beauty Pitch

I have been a bit keen to try my hand at some makeup illustrations.   You know a bit like MAC makeup have but something slightly more sophisticated or “arty” than just a one-dimensional template.

I think lots of creatives get inspired by other creatives but it is important to give credit where credit is due!.  For this project I am totally inspired by the work of New Zealand artist, Kimberley McCone, (top left and Sandra Suy (bottom left   (I think the images on the right are also Sandra Suy’s but they are not referenced on Pinterest).

So I pitched my concept to my lovely beautician, Emmi, who owns and runs Maya Organic Beauty Therapy.  She was totally onboard, although I sensed a bit of trepidation at the thought of posing makeup free.  Fortunately one of her staff, Matilda, happily volunteered (or had her arm twisted… I’m not entirely sure what went down!).  When I received Matilda’s makeup free selfie I was absolutely gobsmacked at what a natural beauty this girl is!  And I feel a bit sheepish adding makeup to her already gorgeous face!

Catching the light

I have to confess that this is my second attempt at drawing Matilda.  The first one I messed up and managed to make Matilda look a bit… strange!  It seems so obvious now where I went wrong but at the time I couldn’t figure out what the problem was and persevered with it far longer than I should have.  Clearly her left eye is like a centimeter higher than her right and a bit smaller, giving her a very “wonky” eyed look!


Once I’d accepted that I would have start all over again I was determined to fix those eyes up.  I felt like it was more than just the height difference that had messed me up.

Matilda had taken a selfie with her mobile phone for me to use as a reference photograph and I had a feeling that maybe this was the source of my problems.  I did a bit of research to try to figure out what was going wrong and hopefully rectify things.

First off ‘the closer a camera is to your face, the larger your nose looks, the smaller your ears look and the more slope is applied to your forehead’  Secondly, if the camera is close to your face (i.e. arms length) and you look directly down the lens you may end up looking cross-eyed!

Finally, catch lights are the reflection of the light source on the surface of the eyes.  Catch lights can be different shapes, sizes and brightness depending on the light source itself.  There can be one in each eye or multiples, but they should be the same in each eye.  The most natural look is a round catch light.

The conventional position of catch lights is at 10 or 2 o’clock.  Allegedly the earliest portrait painters found that the most pleasing balance resulted when either of those positions was used.  Catch lights below 9 or 3 o’clock can look unnatural.  No catch lights at all will make the portrait a bit dead eyed.

Since the eyes had caused me so much trouble the first time round I went for the most conventional and allegedly aesthetically pleasing look; one round catch light in each eye at 2 o’clock.



Second times a charm … almost

Second time around went a bit better but I ended up doing a lot more shading and detail to the entire face than I had initially planned.   My original idea had been to keep it quite simple and just detail the eyes, mouth and perhaps a little bit of the nose but once I start I can’t stop.

I didn’t really know what to do with the hair.  I didn’t want to spend too much time on it as it as it isn’t the focus of this drawing (I’ll hit my hairdresser up when I want to do a hair portrait which will be like never).


I did this picture of Dutch model Daphne Groeneveld ages ago.  She had platinum blonde, almost white hair, styled in elaborate braids and dreadlocks.  On that occasion rather than try to draw the blonde hair, I focused on emphasising the low lights or shadows in the hair.  It gave it a more stylised effect rather than a realistic one but it was quite effective.  As Matilda has very blonde hair I thought I would try the same idea.

final-blog1.jpgIt’s all about Perspective

I am still not entirely cool with her eyes.  As my husband pointed out – ‘it’s all about perspective”.  If you compare the full face portrait with the close up, the cross-eyed look only really becomes apparent from a distance (i.e. in the full face portrait).  I guess I have learnt a valuable lesson about using selfies as a reference photograph and I will take a bit more care in the future.

Part 1 is complete and now to add the “makeup”.  My Photoshop skills are a bit limited (and my makeup application skills even more so!) so this will be a new challenge… stay tuned!


The Tools

Arches Drawing Paper 185gsm smooth A3

Tombow mono drawing pencils 

Staedtler Mars Lumograph black 6B 

My top 5 illustration of 2017

This is a bit of a self-indulgent blog post to celebrate the end of the year.  My best bits… according to… me!

I was aiming for a top ten but to be honest I could really only manage five drawings that I was sufficiently pleased with to call my top illustrations for the year.

So here they are in no particular order (okay “Stella” is my fav, but after that …)

Stella - gouache and graphite pencil illustration
“Stella” 2017
Alisha Nesvat for Mani - graphite and pencil illustration
“Alisha Nesvat for Mani” – 2017
fashion illustration of Lindsey Wixson in Chanel
“Lindsey Wixson for Chanel Fall/Winter 2013” – 2017
Fashion illustration - Eudon Choi Spring 2018
“Eudon Choi Sprint 2018” – 2017
Graphite and pencil illustration
Untitled – 2017



I am adding in one more illustration as a special mention.  This illustration of Alisha Nesvat in Rodarte Spring 2018 is a bit of a love/hate one for me.  I really like the concept, the composition, the negative space, the hands.  BUT …execution let me down with the flowers and the gold background.  If I had of got those elements right this would be my favourite illustration of the year.  Oh well I like to think either way I always learn something out of the process.

Fashion illustration Rodarte Sprint 2018
“Rodarte Spring 2018” – 2017


Merry Christmas everyone.  See you next year

Alison xxx

Myer Fashions on the Field National Winner 2017 – Crystal Kimber

If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know I have been involved in racing fashion for the last two years as a judge at my local Fashions on the Field.  To be honest I don’t know an awful lot about “racing fashion” but I know what I like and it is always great fun to be part of these events.

There are so many fabulous artists attending racing events here in Australia and live sketching the fashions.  This is such an incredible skill and I’m a bit jealous truth be told.  I am dead hopeless trying to draw anything under pressure let alone in a few minutes or even half an hour.  I don’t think I’d be able to draw anything that looked even vaguely human in a few minutes!

So I’ve taken the luxury of time (its been over a month since the Melbourne Cup!) to sketch the national winner of the Myer Fashions the Field 2017: Crystal Kimber.  Crystal is a Fashions on the Field enthusiast and designer from Melbourne.  She also has a great website where you can follow her fashion adventures:  This particular outfit that won her the National title was originally her grandmother’s skirt which was refashioned into a stunning dress.

Collage_Fotor.jpgImage credit Getty images for the VRC

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The Perfectly Pink Princess Kirsten

John Galliano Spring 2018 Runway

Lets Get Real! Really!

I have been really trying to push my drawing skills to create more realistic portraits.  Learning to draw freckles, pimples, wrinkles, scars, facial hair and so on has been a challenge for me but one I have really enjoyed exploring.  Although I sometimes get asked to, I’ve always avoided drawing friends, family, work colleagues etc for fear of… well… failure I suppose (What if it looks nothing like subject! What if they hate it! What if I don’t /can’t finish it!).   As a consequence I pretty much exclusively draw fashion models.  While there has been a rise in models with more ‘interesting’ faces (sans facial hair surprisingly) at the end of the day they are still models and still fit within fairly confined and traditional standards of beauty, which can get a little boring!

As well as being an artist, I own and operate a hot yoga studio on the south coast of Australia.  It’s a fairly small community which keeps my yoga business pretty modest but on the plus side I get to know all my students really well.  We’ve kind of become a little community of odds and sods that like to get hot and sweaty together.


Kirsten has been one of my students from the very beginning.  Kirsten is one of those great people who always has a smile on her face no matter what is happening in her life.  I knew she was up for anything and would be more than willing to pose for me.  She was a perfect first choice as she had no expectations and was happy to be captured “warts and all”.  There’d be no pressure from Kirsten to produce anything and whatever I did produce she would still be smiling.

“Don’t let fear or insecurity stop you from trying new things. Believe in yourself. Do what you love. And most importantly, be kind to others, even if you don’t like them” –  Stacy London

Extraordinary is the New Ordinary

I wanted to combine my love of fashion with “ordinary” non-models  The idea to put everyday people in designer fashion is not a unique one of course, everybody’s doing it (Gucci, Chromat, J Crew, Eckhaus Latta, Rebecca Minkoff – oh but not Victoria’s Secret – clearly they did not listen to a word I said last week!)

I also wanted to create ‘alter egos’ for my subjects. Or, if not alter egos, extensions of their current personas (.. extra egos? extended egos?).  Kirsten is very much a pink and purple person.  I would never describe her as “princessy” but sometimes I think if she had an excuse to be a princess for a day she would embrace it wholeheartedly!

When I saw John Galliano’s Spring 2018 collection, with its pretty pink embellished dresses, disheveled hair, drunken eyeliner and slightly askew tiaras I knew I had found my quirky, not quite perfectly pink princess.



The best intentions

What seems like a BRILLIANT idea in my head doesn’t always translate so well to paper.    It takes a certain quality to pull off a tiara made essentially of pipe cleaners and not look like a crazy cat lady.  Unfortunately as soon as I stuck the tiara on my sketch of Kirsten she looked bat-shit-crazy not super-model-chic.


I certainly have a greater appreciation of what models actually do other than act as a coat hanger with a pretty face. I had plenty of photos of Kirsten posing in a very cool and pouty modelesque way but truth be told they just didn’t represent the Kirsten I know.  Kirsten has the most amazing smile that lights up her face.  Somehow I had to “keep the Kirsten” without turning her into a caricature.  (Then again it wouldn’t be a John Galliano show if the models didn’t look just a bit crackers).

I wanted to take a little bit of liberty and create kind of what Kirsten these ladies (and hopefully gents) would look like if they were actually made up to strut the catwalk rather than just being unexpectantly ambushed before their yoga class and railroaded in to having their photo taken makeup free in gym sweats!  I wanted to find a balance between retaining the true nature of their character while adding a bit of glamour!  So glossy lips, long thick lashes, hair extensions were required.  The Galliano collection has some fantastic slightly wonky winged eyeliner looks that I also wanted to include.  The difficulty was striking a balance between the reality and fantasy.

John+Galliano-eye-makeupPhoto credits: The Impression


I must say it is a tonne of fun to be drawing someone who is smiling back at you!  It’s such a fantastic change from having a slightly surly looking chick giving you stink eye all day long.  You can’t help smiling yourself when the person you are drawing has an ear to ear grin!


Blending Blues

Once upon a time I lived the life of a kept Western housewife in the Middle East (before my brain exploded / imploded? from boredom).  I know we’re going off on a tangent but stay with me, there is a point to this.   I passed my days doing yoga, getting my nails done and occasionally attended art class.  During these art classes I met a lady who admired my graphite work and told me it was/ I was good because I didn’t do any blending.  Apparently blending was strictly forbidden in her classes and considered the domain of cheaters, slackers, lazy shits who couldn’t be bothered taking the time to apply layer upon layer of crosshatching.  Prior to this I’d never really thought an awful lot about the merits, or not, of blending.  I simply chose not to do it because… well I sucked at it!  I figure if it works for you do it; if doesn’t don’t.

Of late I have been getting increasingly frustrated with trying to render large areas of skin.   My current method is to use graphite pencils layering them in a cross hatching fashion or in a circular motion.  Circular seems to give me a better finish. Still I noticed particularly with this piece I am not getting a smooth enough finish for my likings.  I’ve played on the fringes of blending with a couple of pieces but never really committed to it.


I was not really not happy with the way Kirsten’s neck was looking. What to do?  What to do? I consulted JD Hillberry – aka “the Godfather of Graphite”.  In his book JD recommends using a 3B and F graphite pencil for the large value areas and then smoothing the strokes with a tortillon.

I bit the bullet and did it.  Now I know why I don’t like blending!  I worked so had to get graduations of tone and I feel like blending, yes it smooths everything out, but I loose those graduations.  I also feel like you loose any sense of texture from the paper. And yes I understand that ‘smoothing’ by definition probably means removing texture!  My blending just ends up looking smudgy and very uniform in tone … blah.


Before and after.  Now these photos are awful, awful, awful! I know (the Instagram goddesses are cringing – at least chuck some filters on it sweetheart).  The top is original bottom and the bottom is blended (the area between her necklace and dress).  Interestingly I can’t tell much difference in these close up photos but to the naked eye you can definitely see a difference between the two areas.


From this long shot you can see a little better the blended area in comparison to the non blended.  You can see how much darker the blended area has gotten without me adding any more graphite.

I persevered and finished off the rest of it with a H pencil and blended with the tortillon.  I was so unhappy with the finished result – it looks too dark and really rough.  I went over it  lightly with a 2H and 5H just to try to bring a bit to text back.  I think this looks pretty rubbish actually.  If anyone has any suggestions how to fix it let me hear ’em.


I’m still a bit nervous of how this is going to turn out.  I want to add colour and glitter to the tiara and dress I but I fear the more “external embellishment” I add I risk the end result looking quite “crafty”.  Nothing screams crazy nutter lady like a hot glue gun and a bedazzler. Maybe simple is better. Then again maybe the bigger the glitter bomb I throw at it the better I can distract the eye from the shitty graphite work!  (As the saying goes – you can’t polish a turd but you can roll it in glitter!)

Well I will keep you posted!  Maybe I can salvage something from this!

Girl Crush – Time For a New Victoria Secret Angel?


Dear Victoria Secret,

First off I do love your knickers.   Lets just get that out of the way.  And your runway show is a spectacular of the highest order: the music acts, the glitter, the sequins, the feathers, the crazy wings, the hair extensions … all of it!

But lately, I must confess, I have been feeling a little … well… uncomfortable about it all.  Something’s off.  Somethings missing……

4Photo credit: Elle

Things are feeling dull, repetitive, same-same-but- …. well same. I’m bored! Despite the fascinating little controversies your show manages to toss-up every year (the Native American outfit in 2012 .. whoops, the angel-wing-bitch-slap in 2014, a model with an afro 😱 in 2015,  PETA protests in 2002, no show in 2004, Gisele eating a pizza 2015! ‘unretouched’ photos in 2016 (is un-re-touched even a word… not according to my spell check.  Aren’t they just original photos?… or aren’t they just photos? … ahh my head) and then there’s Gigi with the Buddha cookie racism thing).  Ahh, so many epic moments.  I know you are trying to keep the excitement alive but ….

slapPhoto credit: Elle

…it’s just not enough.  I need more.

I think it’s time you kicked things up a notch; moved forward in to the 21st Century with the rest of us.  Recognised that we, your customers, want something more, something we can relate to.

You really do seem capable of grasping this diversity thing (black models, asian models … maybe even ageing models – I mean Adriana Lima must be like one hundred ‘model’ years old by now!) but there’s a bit more to diversity than nationality, colour or being over 30 years old.

[dih-vur-si-tee, dahy-] 

1. the state or fact of being diverse; difference; unlikeness:

diversity of opinion.
2. variety; multiformity.

3. the inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color, religion, socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, etc.:

diversity in the workplace.
4. a point of difference.

But one step at a time.  I’m not expecting to see transsexual, biracial, octogenarians  strutting their stuff down your runway any time soon (but I do live in hope).  Baby steps.

38FA328C00000578-0-image-a-51_1475300640616Photo Credit: Stefaniamodel

This is Stefanie Ferrario.  She is not a “plus sized” model (#droptheplus).  She is an Australian size 12, fit and smoking hot.  She has just the attributes your casting director John Pfeiffer looks for in his angels, “beautiful, strong, healthy and engaging”!  Plus she’s intelligent and articulate (which might also be good attributes to start adding to your casting list).

You know and I know that it’s only a matter of time before you spice things up and get with the times.  I know you can do it.  I’m not asking you to create a new range of   lingerie.  I get that takes time, money, and requires a whole other level of engineering.  I get that you can’t just turn an A cup bra design in to a G cup.  Yes bigger cups required different design techniques I get it. But last time I checked you sold up to an XL (Australian 16) in your stores yet we don’t see those ladies not the runway … just saying … seems kinda obvious.

In closing, I am sure it’s going to happen one day soon.  You are going to fully embrace this thing called reality (sorry diversity).  You’re not just going to embrace it, you’re going to smash it out of the park!  But in the meantime I thought I would give you a little inspiration to set you on your way.  Good luck xxx


But damn if she didn’t go and dye her hair pink!  OMG Victoria Secrets new PINK Spokesmodel ….


Two Hands and a Boob?!

A couple of months ago I was contacted by Lisa M to contribute to a new biannual digital magazine; “Into the nebula”.   This is an entirely female and entirely worldwide magazine featuring work from all sorts of creative people.

The basic brief from Lisa was to create something exploring one, or more, of the six senses…

Crickets chirping…

I had no idea what to do!  Panic and despair quickly set in.  My husband is always particularly helpful in such situations (sincerity? sarcasm? you be the judge).

S: What are you trying to do?

Me: It’s a drawing about the six senses… or one of the six senses.

S: Ok so… eyes, hearing, talking,…?

Me: No, I think it’s taste. Touch… umm.. physic.. something or other.

S: Touch?

Me: Yeah that’s what I was thinking to do.  A hand touching something.

S: Skin?….. A boob!

Me: Yes a Boob!  A hand on a boob.  Two hands on a boob!!

S: Two women… a man and a woman!  Oi …get your kit off!  Lets do it!

Cut to noon on a Monday I am lying naked from the waist up on the lounge room floor, one hand on my boob.  My husband is awkwardly trying to take photos with this phone with one hand whilst tastefully placing the other on my boob, all the while trying to avoid too much nipple exposure.  Observing this scene from the couch above us with absolute disdain like some furry faced and clearly displeased porn director was our dog, Dusty, (The Big D seems like a suitable porn name).  A little to the right, hand down, more energy, make it work (oh ..hang on that’s Tim Gunn – Project Runway isn’t it?…eww weird) grumbled the Big D.  You people disgust and bore me in equal measure.


The resulting photos were better than expected.  After  carefully VERY CAREFULLY sending the photos from my husband’s phone to my desktop computer, ensuring they were emailed to Alison not A___ our financial advisor who just happens to be the first name in our email directories (awkward), I then made triple sure my husband deleted every last photo from his phone.  No you cannot “save” any for a “rainy” day whatever that means.

I got to work on Photoshop – cropping. I didn’t want to include my face in this image; a) because I wasn’t keen on a naked self-portrait and b) ugh ..can not produce a flattering facial expression whilst flat on my back that doesn’t result in six chins.  So the photo was ‘tweaked’.  Okay, a lot more than tweaked.  Those are definitely not my lips.  Sensuality requires full, luscious, pouty, lips which, sadly, I do not posses.

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