Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Illustration: The Littlest Elephant

Another assignment from class!

We had to design a page with vignettes, which was kind of challenging - but I like how it turned out!
(c) Katia Engell
Blue pen and Soft Pastel

For all of you who follow me on instagram you probably saw how many little elephants I drew to try and get this character down. There were elephants EVERY WHERE, elephant overload! Except I love them so it's ok.


Monday, June 10, 2013

I Made Something: Recycled Paper

My current job is an office job. We have cubicles and meetings and access cards and photo IDs and all of that official stuff. It's actually not as stifling and dry as it sounds - but I have been very bothered by one aspect in particular. There is an absolutely INSANE amount of paper waste in the office. To the point where I'll get a packet of 10 pages of dispersed text stapled together for one meeting. Then three days later, when we get the updated version, another 10 pages of dispersed text. Do we actually do anything with it? No. We look at it during the meeting and make comments.

So yea. It drives me nuts. So I had this rad idea to try and feel better about it all... making my own recycled paper!

Here is a very brief explanation of how I did it. I do not recommend following this advice solely, as I have yet to perfect the technique. But this is a very basic run-through if you just want to do it as a fun hands-on activity on a nice day!

Start by ripping up your selection of papers you'd like to recycle. Avoid any materials that are waxy or coated, or any paper that has ink on it (I ripped around all the text that had been printed). Put it in a blender with some warm water. I filled the blender halfway with paper first, then filled most of the way with warm water. I also put in some mint leaves, because I thought that mint-smelling paper would be totally awesome. It didn't end up smelling of mint, but that's ok. It still added some super cool texture.

Blend it until it looks like one of those bizarre new health smoothies. The consistency should be about that of oatmeal (except, I read that online. I sort of just eyeballed it.).

I used 3 blender fulls of 'pulp' or paper juice, as I called it, then dumped it into a tub. I then added warm water to the tub until it was a bit more than halfway full. I took the operation outside because it does tend to get messy. You're also supposed to add some liquid starch to it if you want to write on the paper - it's supposed to keep the pen ink from bleeding. I only had corn starch. So I tried that. I have yet to test out writing on it though.

You're supposed to use a frame with window-screen type material over it, but I used a screen I had gotten from a screen-printing kit I never used. You slip it into your really lovely looking paper juice mix and shake it side to side until the pulp looks evenly distributed. Then you slowly lift it out as flat as possible. This is definitely the hardest part, and I still don't understand how the paper pulp works yet. But that's ok, I still got some decent results.

Allow the paper to drip water back into the tub as much as possible, then flip it paper side down onto a cloth laid atop a cookie pan. From the backside of the screen, press out as much water as possible with a sponge. I also had trouble here, as my paper did not come off the screen as I pulled it off like the internet said it would. So I got a handy dandy hair dryer, dried it more, and then slipped a few fingers under the edge, and sort of guided the paper onto the cloth. This resulted in a lot of rips and accidents. But I was too impatient. Oh well.

 My final result was still totally exciting even if it was far form perfect! I love the natural, rough, textural quality of it. I'm so so so excited to experiment more with paper making and to really perfect my technique ;)! It's a very therapeutic experience in many ways. Much like any activity working with your hands and creating can be!

Have any of you guys tried making paper before? How did your process differ from this one? I'm really curious about the different ways to make recycled paper! It's so much fun and so rewarding to see all the paper that got wasted turned into something new and beautiful!


Friday, June 7, 2013

Illustration: Ellie Bean Book Spread

I'm taking a Book Illustration summer course until the end of June.
It's been a really open-ended course in that we are free to go our own direction and write our own pieces, so long as we follow some of the 'rules' of book design, things like layout-types and being mindful of the 'gutter' which is where the two pages meet in a spread. This particular assignment was to design two 2 page spreads.

I had a lot of fun with this assignment and wrote a little snippet of a story for it!

(c) Katia Engell
Acrylic & Soft pastels on Masonite

I'm loving the idea of writing and illustration children's books right now, it's actually what I first went into illustration hoping to do...


Thursday, June 6, 2013


Now that I have, finally, started updating this blog semi-regularly again, I noticed that the banner I had previously had somehow for some reason stopped showing up... instead of stressing and trying to figure out what went wrong with the image host or the html or css or whatnot, I decided to take it as an opportune time to revamp. I've been wanting to do so for a while any way so last night after about 5 different headers I finally settled on one I thought was simple enough but still 'me', and here we are! What do you guys think? Isn't my little snail fellow so cute, I whipped him up last night on illustrator of all programs!

(Previous layout!)

I don't think the visual appearance of my blog is all that's going to change around here. I have grown, and changed, and I feel the need to reflect that in my blog, as opposed to keeping up whatever it was I did before just for the sake of consistency and keeping the audience I had gained prior. Though to be honest I think I've already lost a good portion of my readers due to my lack of posting already so - here's to starting semi-fresh?

I feel like a broken record when I say I've grown a bit sick of fashion blogging. For myself anyway, I feel focusing on material things like clothes in a blog was making me buy in excess and want more more more more more and more. I need to learn to live with less (if only for the sake of working with limited closet space!) and to be happy with that. I have also begun trying to live a 'cleaner' life. It's a tough process when you're used to popping into the nearest forever 21 (there's one literally a 2 minute walk from my new job... that and Toronto's biggest shopping mall... ahh!) and buying cheap clothes that were probably manufactured in awful conditions.

I also felt it was making me focus on my appearance, a lot. I have a tendency to do so, and I need to let go of that. These thoughts have been floating around in my head a lot lately.

I would like to focus more on what I'm most passionate about - art. My artistic journey, the art and artists that inspire me, my classmates/friends whose art wows me and encourages me to keep chugging and improving, just art art art. And writing! I have rekindled my love for writing and reading, and I want to share about that as well.

Anyway. Long story short - things are changing and I'm happy they are. I feel better these days, I'm growing and learning and experiencing new things which is all so wonderful for me. I'll go into more detail another time!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Garage Sale Finds

Every year on the first Saturday of June, my neighbourhood does a mega-garage sale. It's one of my favourite events of the year - I LOVE going through peoples' old goodies and finding little treasures! I also love getting rid of everything I've decided to purge. I am such a sentimental, keep-all person, and I was really hard on myself for what I got rid of this year. Anything that didn't sell - I packed up into bags and threw into the salvation army truck that parks nearby at the end of the sale every year. I still snatched up some goodies though, all for less than 20$ - TOTAL! My inner thriftster is far over the moon!

Got these hawt-mama overalls for 5$. I chatted with the people selling them and they kept saying how it brought back their memories of wearing these in the 70's!

Super beautiful, old leather-working tools - for 4$! There's something about the look of old tools that I love. And now I can make belts actually fit me!
My friend Kathryn and I went to check out the stump of my neighbour's 100 year old tree - if you look close enough, you can see it started off as 4 individual trees! So so cool.

Books with incredible illustrations & an art nouveau mint tin - 4.25$ total.
One of my favourite illustrated pages from the "Encyclopedia of Nature" I got. I really love the aesthetic of old nature/botanical illustrations. They don't quite make them this way anymore.

Ahhhh now I just can't wait until next year to sell more of my excessive amount of STUFF, and to find more wonderful little treasures!


Sunday, June 2, 2013


His are thick, hers are thin. His are curved, hers are bushy. Hers are tidy whereas his are wild! Hers are too close together – his, too far apart. Some people get theirs done and some choose to go au naturel. Some draw them on – hell, some people go that extra mile and get them tattooed on.
Eyebrows; they play a role socially (they are arguably the most elastic, expressive feature of the face), physically (they’re kind of like little eaves troughs for our eyes), and culturally, which is the aspect I’d like to talk about today. For the most part, what is considered to be an attractive eyebrow ‘type’ for women is a thin, arching, tidy brow shape. The slick, groomed look is most definitely a go-to. Now obviously there is a counter-culture of women donning thicker brows, filled in brows, darker brows, etc. To be honest – I think either is beautiful, the same way our bodies come in various shapes and sizes and are all wonderlands regardless. However, I find that no matter which way women choose to have their eyebrows, there is an overarching tendency to have total control over our eyebrows. Whether plucked thin, waxed, threaded, trimmed, filled in, brushed in the right direction, shaped, dyed to match our hair, there is an excessive amount of effort put into eyebrows. And when I say excessive, I do not say this from the standpoint of someone who is above all of that – I, like most of us, like to keep my eyebrows tidy and regularly pluck away any stray hairs that show up. That was always the extent of my eyebrow grooming though.
I was taken aback when my younger sister once pointed out that I needed an eyebrow trim – apparently my eyebrow hair grows quite long. Who would have known? I wouldn’t have, had my sister not pointed it out. She helped me trim them. The one time I tried to do it myself, I left an odd gap in the middle of my brow where the hair no long overlapped. Oops. My sister also offered me some eyebrow filler she had that was a tone or two too dark for her. Filling in my eyebrows? What a foreign concept, but I liked it. I still like it! Even though the powder is a little more red than my eyebrow colour. I wondered one day why the distal part of my eyebrows appeared thin when I looked in the mirror in my bathroom. Oh, probably because the skylight throws light down at me from above and goes right through my sparse eyebrow hairs. Right. So I should turn my face downward and out of the light to check if my eyebrows look good. The magnifying mirror is also good for checking that I have no hairs where they shouldn’t be.

So that’s me and my eyebrows now.  I have on many occasions over-plucked and have been left with awkward, misshapen, uneven brows for a week or two until everything grew back. It stressed me out, because it looked silly to have one shorter eyebrow. And I really dislike the look of drawn on brows. I would try to leave my bangs down to cover it but that’s not convenient for working out or serving food at my last job.
A week ago I was in front of the mirror checking out my eyebrows. They’ve grown long again, and they don’t like to stay straight. I wipe my finger along them subconsciously self-consciously to keep them in line. (In fact, I just did so now, as I typed that!) And then it hit me – I know where I get my crazy eyebrows from. My grandpa had crazy eyebrows. While looking at a photograph of him last summer, my uncle said “He certainly had magnificent eyebrows”. They were thick, and prominent, and they were a part of his totally awesome, handsome face. They were remarkable.

You know who else had crazy eyebrows? None other than one of my artistic idols, Frida Kahlo. She actually had a bit of a moustache too! And if you read up about her – she was one sexy woman, desired by many! There was also Albert Einstein, Groucho Marx, Spock….. So basically many people with hugely wonderful minds ALL had awesome as hell, crazy eyebrows.

I’m starting to think it’s actually kind of cool to have wild brows, and to let them be a little wild.
Besides, with so much promotion of body-love and positive body-image stuff these days, I felt that it was about time that someone stuck up for the eyebrows of this generation as well.