The Onion Lady

So how many times have you gotten the dreadful question, “What are you gonna do after graduating?” yeah, same… too much- especially when identifying as an art student. I’m unsure if it is just me insecure about my future due to all the myths surrounding artists, but I found myself constantly saying random art-related jobs to make it seem like I knew what I was going for. Since saying, “Oh yeah, I wanna create art,” wins you looks from “professional and higher esteemed” majors. But after all those random job titles I said I would be pursuing (I even once said I would be doing medical illustration- definitely not the right person for that), I finally found one that sparked a joy for me.

Thanks to the project we were assigned in illustration class, I found something I enjoyed- children’s book illustration (or any other age book illustration). Our class was tasked with either a comic book or a children’s book- the excitement was noticeable once announced. I learned a lot and used some of my prior knowledge of digital painting that I thought might be helpful for some. The techniques might be familiar to some already; if so, then perhaps this can be a blog of the thought process behind this project. Either way, I hope it will be inspirational and fun to read!

At first, I was going to do a comic book about the Grim Reaper and a lost soul. Where the protagonist was running away from it, eventually coming to accept her fate. It was a complex concept, and I wasn’t sure if I could finish it in time, but while panicking, I remembered an oral folklore that was once told to me as a kid- about an Onion.

So, I wrote about the Onion lady…

In short, It is a story about a woman who lived in a village where people passed away daily. She was present in everyone’s death; she grieved for all, no matter who. After days upon days of crying, she realizes that there is no more. None were left in the village except her. Since no one would be there to mourn for her, she puts a curse that whoever takes her life will grieve for her. Thus, we cry when we cut onions.

I wanted to keep the story short and possible to illustrate the whole. I have been working digitally on it, which was helpful with time.


This may seem like extra work, but it is helpful when you want a clear direction of values and lighting before putting color down. I used to be overwhelmed with color and figuring out what shades to use. I mean- just look at it; there are so many colors! So when I started working in black and white, I could limit myself to first think of the values and lighting. It has been a helpful framework for my work so far.

Color mode

Color mode, to me, feels similar to glazing in traditional art. The color on this layer glazes over the grayscale layer beneath, inserting the value difference all while using the same color. Working like this gives me a good idea of the rough color scheme. I do prefer working in a limited color pallet, laying first the desired color and then adding more(mostly different tints and shades) as I work.

Other Techniques I use

As noticeable, I kept my brush strokes loose and included texture. I wanted a rough and traditional feeling to the illustrations. I rendered more on the places I prefer the viewer’s attention more. This also helped create depth, especially in spread #2, where I included a tree branch with flowers. I wanted to make it seem out of focus, so I only dabbled in some colors with the flat brush.

I mainly used the round and flat brush in Procreate, along with an oil brush. I also set my smudge brush to a textured oil brush, which I relied heavily upon to give a watercolor look on some of the edges.

Have you noticed how often the line art doesn’t carry that same energy from the sketch? I had that problem every time I did line art and found it lacking. Therefore, I abandoned the line art and started painting directed on top of the sketch. As mentioned above, I first do the grayscale below-the-line art layer, then merge them afterward (I save a duplicate every time I merge my layers since I’m anxious). After I use the color mode, I then work on another layer on top where I further render the painting. I prefer to work lightly, so I don’t completely cover the layer below.

Those are a few of the ways I have been working on this project. I hope it could be helpful for someone, and if you have any tips or techniques you find useful, please do share! If you want, of course.

Thank you for reading!

/ᐠ ̥  ̮  ̥ ᐟ\ฅ

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