Hey, y’all! 

My name is Grai Swan, and I’m a hobby artist who specializes in ink and watercolor paintings with a little digital work thrown in.  I lost my inspiration to create for several years, but thanks to encouragement from my fantastic artsy partner, it’s been coming back.  My aim is to produce whimsical paintings with realistic detail, and you’ll find a lot of nature influence present through my gallery.

To start my blog off, I thought I’d walk you through the progress shots of my most recent painting. (Hint: It’s the one in the featured image at the beginning of this post!)

Initial sketch

As a return to painting, I really wanted to use a somewhat familiar subject, so the newly designed avian representations of my partner and myself it was. Swan – my partner’s bird – is a mix of mute swan and crane. Vulture – my bird – is a mix of Old and New World species with some secretary bird influence. This was sketched out freehand with a mechanical pencil on coldpress watercolor paper, which I had taped the edges of some time ago. (This was a mistake on my part! The tape didn’t want to come off nicely later. Don’t leave your paper taped for more than a couple of years! 😉 )

Adding in elements

For the other components in the picture, I definitely wanted some plants present, so I went with red maple leaves, daffodils, and daylilies. All of these are found around our farm! A field cricket and honey bee – also frequently seen residents here – further bring some of the farm life to this painting.


Once I had everything in place with pencil, I went back with my micron pens to outline and detail each element. I’m still experimenting with my inking style, but this one has been working out fairly well. Microns have always been able to stand up to my – sometimes rather heavy! – watercolor washes, so that’s why I continued with this particular brand.

Background and first layer of shading

After laying down a soft, dappled background, I took one of the background colors – the violet – and used it for my first layer of shading for all the other elements in the painting. I did this in the hopes of creating a cohesive feel and mood. I started to have some doubts about how well my work would turn out at this point!

Adding color

Working from the top down, I went back with the variety of other hues I wanted to incorporate. I used the Master’s Touch brand watercolors, which I developed some mixed feelings on through this long process. I’ll definitely be experimenting with them more in the future, but at least I can say the color is gorgeous!

Fully colored

After several hours – I’m a very slow artist – of dedicated painting, I finally got the last layers of watercolor down. Overall, I was pretty thrilled; it’s been years since I actually finished a traditional piece of art.

Adding details

Some of the lineart had become rather dull, so I re-outlined all the major sections of each element. I also added some color detail with water-based brush markers from Arteza.

Almost done

Lightly splattered some white acrylic paint on top and continued to fix small sections that caught my eye.

Finished and framed!

Remember how I mentioned the tape? So, while I eventually got it all removed, it did leave behind a sticky residue that refused to come off with the few techniques I was willing to try. However, some Sharpee marker and an appropriately sized frame hid that horrible residue!

The featured image is the scanned version of this painting, which is 7.5″ x 10″. I tweeked the colors to be as close to the real life version as possible, seeing as the photographs kept dulling them.

Thank you so very much for checking out my page and my first post! I will continue to upload my work here and offer you a more in depth look than I can give through social media.

– Grai Swan


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