Art Process: Pickle!

I just finished our local Spring Retreat and I’m all jazzed up with creative energy.  I have a long list of things I want to work on, but I thought I’d start here with another blog post about my art process.

I’m reminded of an old movie I fell in love with when I was much younger called “The Glass Slipper” with Leslie Caron as the Cinderella of the film and a wacky fairy godmother who might’ve just been a crazy lady.  It was left up in the air.  That crazy fairy godmother said “pickle” was her favorite word because she just liked the way it sounded.  Pickle.  You can hear it now, can’t you?  The way the word rolls around your mouth.  And if you’re a wordsmith, you probably can’t stop saying it.

But I digress.  What does that have to do with anything?  Nothing, other than the subject of one of my latest pieces.  You see, I love t-shirts.  Always have, always will.  So when I found out I could design them for my RedBubble shop?  Yes!  It was on!  And I fully admit that they are a work in progress.  I keep learning as I go about the different formatting that might be needed for each image to be optimally printed on a t-shirt, etc.

The way I usually get an idea is most likely from a conversation with my hubby.  Either he or I will say something funny and I’ll say: “That’s a t-shirt!”  Then I think about the best picture for the phrase.  That’s what started the process for today’s shirt.  My hubby said something about being a big “dill” and I laughed and decided to design it.

First, I sketched a pickle.  I originally thought I’d put him in suspenders, but then as I was sketching, the idea of pants on a pickle didn’t sit well with me.  And for some reason I didn’t want to have a plain pickle.  As I was sketching, he suddenly had glasses and they alone seemed to suit him just right.


He’s blue because my favorite sketching tool is a blue col-erase colored pencil.  I discovered early on in my art pursuits that this helps free me up creatively.  I don’t know why, it just does.

Once I got a pickle I liked, I decided to photocopy multiple sizes of him to see what size I wanted on a t-shirt physically.  How big did this pickle need to be?


I decided to go with the biggest version and then I cheated.  Well, not really, but … this is where I reveal a magic trick I learned somewhere many years ago.  I can’t remember who I learned this from, but I figure it’s time to pay it forward.

I decided for this particular pickle, I wanted to watercolor paint him.  SO I traced him onto watercolor paper.  How?  That’s the secret.  I used Saral graphite transfer paper.  The graphite is erasable!  I’m told this is an old-school trick, but the stuff is still for sale on amazon (just make sure you get the “graphite” kind).  If you look closely at this copy below, you’ll see the pencil marks (mechanical pencil on copy paper so I can see what I traced over).

3-pencil line

I had watercolor paper at bottom, the transfer paper in the middle, and this copy on the top (which I traced).  Then I inked over the lines to perfect them once more (water proof ink which won’t bleed or smear under watercolor paint–or water).  I prefer to ink before I paint so I know where my boundaries are.  Even if I paint over them.

4-transfer paper

Then I give it a day or two to let the ink dry.  This is important.  If I erase too early, it smudges the ink all over my watercolor paper.  It’s a texture thing, I think, or absorbency.  One of the two.

After a day or two of sitting, I erase all the graphite lines still hanging out (and smudges from where I might’ve rested my hand on the paper), staple it to a gator board and use masking tape to tape down the edges of the watercolor paper.  Then I paint away with my watercolors, letting each layer dry, etc.

Then when the paint is dry and I feel it’s done, I scan it into my computer.  I clean up all the paint mistakes in PhotoShop and work on formatting text for the t-shirt design.  And voila!


I have a pickle t-shirt design for sale in my RedBubble shop (for kids or adults).  From a watercolor painting to a t-shirt.  Who knew?

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