Cello Illustration



I just finished a new illustration for the portfolio! It’s a stand-alone image done in pen and ink.

Left: Thumbnail sketch. Middle: Pencil sketch. Right: Tonal study

I started with a thumbnail sketch, and then created a crude clay model for lighting studies. I created the full size pencil sketch on my final watercolor paper and began inking the lines. I realized before inking the whole thing that I should try a few tonal studies, so I scanned in the sketch, and printed it out on watercolor paper at about 8×10″ (with waterproof printer ink). This made good practice for the final piece before applying the ink washes.

Final size: 10.5″x13″.



  1. Saw a link via Fred Koehler, and glad I followed it! This is a very neat illustration.
    I am curious as I am a photographer, and even though I have a degree in Art, I have never thought of an illustrater making a clay model to study shadows… Makes Sense, just a new thought for me. I mean, photographers often shoot “tests” to learn how light, or lighting equipment handles light.
    Do you make models often?
    Thanks, and keep up the good work,
    Gil Williams

    • Thank you Gil! I heard David Wiesner speak back in 2009 at the SCBWI Summer conference, and he showed slides of his process. He makes a lot of model studies, and also photographs little toys and figurines. It inspired me to spend more time on prep for my illustrations. I have only made models a few times, usually when the lighting or the perspective is really difficult. I find it to be extremely helpful when I do though. Like your “tests” with photography, I think it goes to show that, with almost all art forms, the more prep and studies we can do for a piece the better it will turn out.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts here!

  2. This is lovely, Eliza. I like that his cello is so humble and home-made, and as for the attic setting – there’s a real story in there. I can see that your final result has the ring of truth because you did those tests (the light falling on the floor and the shadows, rather than the more corny ‘beam of light’ often used). As I read your notes about the process, I wondered: how long did all that take you? As a beginner illustrator myself, I sometimes worry that I take far too long to turn out my work. Yet I know, as you said above, that good work takes time!

    • Thanks for this comment Gay. Funny you mention the ‘beam of light’; when I first envisioned the drawing it had the beam of light in there. In my tests, I realized quickly that it wouldn’t look as grounded in realism, as well as make too much of a direct line between the window and boy. It’s nice that you appreciated that. Re: time – some drawings take me 1-2 days, others take a week or so. A lot of that time is just ‘looking’. I do my best work when I have plenty of time to create, stand back, create, stand back. In that process, I often find ways to make the image better than I originally imagined. That, or I’ll realize it’s not as wonderful as it is in my head, and I have to give it another go. My aesthetic certainly isn’t the “swish of the brush” type, but there’s a place for every style and range of finish and detail.

  3. Wonderful!!

  4. I love this cello illustration. Love it. Congrats on your SCBWI cover.I’m a client of Jen’s as well!

  5. This is incredible. I really, really like this picture. Brilliant stuff!

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