when inspiration strikes like lightning

Have you ever been listening to a particular type of music for ages only to find out that it’s a very niche genre that actually has a name?

Ever since the Baz Luhrmann version of The Great Gatsby (and probably before this too, but I can’t quite remember) I’ve been jamming to something called electro swing. Only I didn’t know it was called electro swing.

Designed by Jess Couture in Procreate with a set of neon brushes.

Designed by Jess Couture in Procreate with a set of neon brushes.

One day while I was working on something I had a live stream going in the background. A French man was cooking while listening to great music. When someone asked him about it he said something about “electro swing”.

I had an instant image in my mind of a vintage poster, with a swing dancing robot woman and a neon sign like the one above.

A page from Jess Couture’s sketchbook.

A page from Jess Couture’s sketchbook.

I started looking up 1920s style reference photos and sketching out poses to try to match the design in my head. I also almost immediately looked on Creative Market for a set of brushes that I could use to make a neon sign. The ones I found were incredibly affordable and came with detailed instructions on how to get the best results with them.

I played with the idea of having two dancing characters vs a single character, and then I moved to Procreate to start trying to flesh out the sketches.

The beginnings of a robot flapper character by Jess Couture

The beginnings of a robot flapper character by Jess Couture

But I didn’t end up going anywhere with this idea because I got stuck. I’m hung up on how to incorporate a more realistic neon sign with super cartoonish characters. I don’t normally go for realism, but those neon sign brushes are SO cool and I really want to incorporate them into the poster, but then I need to up my realism game for the dancing robot(s) and that terrifies me, because I know it will be a huge challenge for me and honestly I don’t think I can do my idea justice.

I still think of this poster from time to time even though I stopped actively working on this weeks ago. I think that means I have to work on it…

If you’re curious about electro swing, here’s a great playlist!

chill + chatty sketchbook sessions - ep 001

Regular sketchbook practice is how artists learn and develop, and I’m guilty of treating my sketchbooks like places to collect my finished work rather than a place to play and experiment, or a place to practice the fundamentals.

It’s time to change that, because I know that it’s the only way I’m going to grow as an artist.

Enter the first episode of chill + chatty sketchbook sessions, where I get on camera with my sketchbook and a cup of coffee and catch up with you.

The first episode, like any new endeavour, wasn’t perfect. But by the end of if I knew what I wanted it to be going forward.

And I did learn some things about my art process, and picked up some new techniques that I want to continue to work into my future pieces.

One big takeaway for me was that I need to stop expecting that my piece will look amazing with the first layer of paint. I need to be ok with the ugly beginning and work it out with more layers until it becomes closer to what I imagined when I started.

Check out the first episode! Grab yourself a snack because it’s a long one, and why not sketch along with me while you’re at it?