Art, illustration, Influences, marker and ink illustration, materials, motivation, New work

Getting Back In the Groove – An Illustration Starts to Take Shape

I recently finished a big custom project for a client and am now getting back to working on projects for my shop at Etsy. Β Getting “into the flow” was actually a challenge for me today. Β It seemed like I spent as much time erasing as I did drawing!

eraser stress

However, this evening I started to see progress…

preliminary rendered girl with big dog illustration

Although I need to redo elements of this drawing tomorrow, I’m glad to be getting back on track! Β Stay tuned…


  1. This looks pretty cool, Joana!

    Are you still working on jewelry design? I remember I was looking for jewelry drawings some time ago, and that’s how I actually stumbled upon your blog and Etsy shop. I really liked your drawings and started following πŸ™‚

    I remember reading in one of your posts at that time that you were planning to pursue your career in NY related to jewelry design. Did that work out for you or did you switch to something else?

    Best wishes,

    • Hi Natella,

      I’ll be posting the redone version later this afternoon…just am catching up on my correspondence first.

      Regarding my jewelry designing…hmm, it’s sort of a long story. The short version is that when I moved to NYC, I learned that I wouldn’t be able to bring most of my essential jewelry-making equipment with me (gas tanks – needed for soldering – are illegal in residential apartments.) Along with that frustration was a growing frustration with the business in general. I loved designing jewelry but found that most clients didn’t want to pay for a piece of paper (a design); they were only interested in the finished product, the jewelry itself. Since I didn’t have a huge amount of capital for hiring jewelers to make my own collection, I took a long hard look at what I liked about what I was doing and what I needed to improve upon. Hence my transition to more fashion-based whimsical illustrations. This way I’m still doing what I love – drawing/painting on paper – but my artwork has value in and of itself without having to be made into something else.

      These days, when I’m not creating illustrations and cards for my shop or doing custom illustrations for others, I also freelance as a musician.

      What do you do? And where are you based?

      πŸ™‚ Joana

      • Oh, so sad to hear about the equipment that you couldn’t bring with you! But, I see any change is for our good at the end! Your fashion illustrations are just as amazing!

        There is a saying here that ‘A talented person is talented in everything’ πŸ™‚

        You also freelance as a musician? That’s amazing! What is the genre of the music?

        I still hope that your dream with jewellery designing still comes true one day! It would be awesome to see the jewellery that you designed in a high-end designer store!

        I’m also into all kinds of art πŸ™‚ I love drawing, photography, playing piano and occasionally blogging about it all. I also find being an entrepreneur and creating new businesses and building something not just to make a profit, but to create an experience and touch other people’s lives in a positive way, is also a form of art. So, now I also work on my own start-ups and provide business consultancy for others. Oh, and I’m based in Baku, Azerbaijan.

        Have a beautiful day!

        • Hi Natella,

          Thanks so much for both of your comments! I’m so delighted that I have a kindred spirit in Azerbaijan. I’ve never been there (although I was born in Portugal, the farthest East I’ve traveled is Austria) but I see from looking at a map now that it would be unusual to get snow on that latitude.

          My training is in classical music. I have a Bachelor and Master’s of Music Degree in violin performance. However, after working professionally in the field for a few years, I ended up switching to the viola. I played viola for 10 years as a member of the Milwaukee Symphony, but gave up that job when we moved to New York City. (It was also in Milwaukee that I started jewelry designing and worked as a Design Associate for a Custom Jeweler.) These days when I freelance in New York City it’s always as a violist, though I do teach the violin to little kids, too.

          Because I am so passionate the arts, I think that’s why I’m drawn to other creative people, and why I feel like it’s important to encourage other people to find ways to express their creativity. It sounds like you are passionate about this, too! Another blogger who I follow and admire a great deal is Chris Guillebeau. His site “The Art of NonConformity”×5/ is all about helping people to live unconventional lives doing what they love to do. He’s an interesting writer and I read his blog regularly. I also admire that a big portion of his focus is in giving back (to the community, to charities, and to his affiliates – business partners.)

          Now I must start getting ready for an afternoon performance I have to play at the ballet. I’m looking forward very much to having a day off tomorrow…

          By the way, I’ll be sending out a newsletter soon to my Joana Miranda Studio Newsletter email list with a link to a recent custom illustration website project I did. I’d love to include you on this email mailing, too. If you’d like to subscribe to receive the newsletter, you can do so here (and get a discount coupon, too!) (My newsletter mailings have been quite infrequent, but my goal for the future is to do one every two months…wish me luck!)

          I hope you have a great week! Joana

          • Likewise, Joana! I’m so glad that I came across your blog and ‘met’ you, at least virtually πŸ™‚ One of the reasons I started blogging was to find like minded people and build a community who share similar interests with me, so I’m really glad you pointed our another interesting blog and I will happily take the time to check it out πŸ™‚ And I love the idea of giving back! This is something I always try to do in my own business!

            Thank you for sharing your story about your background! It is really interesting! One thing I got out of it – is to never be afraid to change the path and try something new! Obviously, you did succeed in all of the things you tried!

            I’d love to be included in your newsletter! At times it is difficult to keep up with the work, blog and interaction with readers / customers – I can totally relate! But, I’m wishing you lots of luck and I’m sure that you will achieve your goal!

            Hope you had an amazing performance yesterday and having a great day off today!


            • Hi Natella,

              Sorry for the delay in getting back to you! I’ve been doing a lot of work with revamping my listings on my Etsy shop, and time has gotten away from me.

              I read once that pilots pilot planes in a zig-zag pattern narrowing and adjusting the zig-zags until they are on course for the landing. Whether or not this is true, I think my own career trajectory has been like that. I’m sure I’ll have many more zig-zags along the way (provided I live long enough!) but I feel these days that I’m zeroing in more successfully on where I want to be headed.

              The hardest part for me with trying to make a living as a creative person is that I don’t always feel comfortable telling people about my work unless I’ve received outside validation. Of course, that can be a dangerous cycle – if you don’t tell people about your work, they won’t see it or know about it! Do you ever struggle with this issue?

              With all best wishes, Joana

              • Hi Joana!

                I do understand you πŸ™‚ I like to take couple of days off the internet every now and then, so I may not be as fast in my replies as I wish either.

                Yes, I heard that about pilots too! That’s a really great metaphor to life, experience and career! In the beginning we try different things, long for new experiences. Then we see if we really like it, if this is ‘our thing’ and adjust our goals and direction. Did you find the need for additional education or self-taught learning in between the ‘zig-zags’?

                I do understand your feeling about telling people about your work! I have exact same challenge! In ideal world, artists would do what they do best – create! And then they would hire agents or managers, who will handle selling and promoting their work. Hopefully, we will all get to that stage, when we can hire required personnel and delegate these tasks to them, but for now it is one man show for me. And in order to make that show entertaining, I have to learn so much about blogging, social media, SEO and much more. It is especially difficult when you’re just getting started, when there’s no audience and you feel like you’re on the stage, but there’s no one out there to listen to you, except for few friends or relatives. But I like to think of it as only a period, that every artist, blogger or entrepreneur has to go through. Also, part of me being uncomfortable to tell people about my work, was that I constantly look at great artists, who already succeeded in the field and when I compare my work to them, I feel like I’m nowhere near a match to them. But then I remind myself that they also were beginners and their work probably wasn’t as amazing as it is now. How do you handle this challenge?

                Warm wishes,

                • Hi Natella,

                  Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply! I’d love to see your work. Do you have a website?

                  I think part of the problem with the internet/social media is that since information is so readily available and immediate, it’s easy to fall prey to the hype. As you say, everyone has to start from the same place (being an amateur) and getting good takes hours of hard work, dedication, luck and talent. (I used to think that talent should come first in that list, but I think prodigy talent – like what Mozart had – is very, very rare.) Most people don’t post photos of their failures, and the news generally pays attention only when there is a story (i.e. local girl steps in at the last minute for ailing performer and stuns the crowd.)

                  In any case, one of the aims behind my blog is to be transparent about my own creative process (including the struggles) and in so doing to hopefully encourage others to move forward on their own creative paths.

                  With regards to learning, I believe in learning from everyone. Although I had years of lessons and conservatory training as a violinist, since getting out of school my other endeavors have been mainly self-taught. I made the switch to viola and eventually won a full-time job with a major symphony orchestra having taken basically 2 viola lessons. (Of course, I was able to apply all of the technique and good training I had been taught as a violinist.) My official jewelry training was likewise fairly brief and mostly consisted of a week-long design course, and several one-on-one sessions at the bench with a master jeweler. But I followed that up with hours of my own practice at the bench and at the drafting table. Even less official has been my illustration training, but again I’m drawing on things I learned from the one-week jewelry design course, and on many fine books and tutorials I’ve found online. Every time I sit down to create a new illustration I learn something new – about proportions, or shading, or what to leave out, etc. That’s what makes it so fun!

                  I do wish sometimes that a mentor/angel would appear to give me his/her blessing and then connect me with all the right people so that the right doors would magically open. But I realize that’s a fantasy. The reality is that no one will care about our art/work more than we do, and they won’t be able to “sell” it any better than we can. At least, that’s what I try and remind myself when I’m feeling scared about marketing my work. I’ve also realized that I have to be much more patient. It takes time to build the right audience, but it’s worth it in the end because you end up with an audience of friends and supporters who are not only committed to following your work but who also care about you and your well-being.

                  And being connected in meaningful ways to those around us and to the community in which we work and live is pretty much what it’s all about in the end, right?

                  Anyway, I hope you are having a happy weekend, and I look forward to hearing from you when you have time again.

                  With all best wishes, Joana

                  On Fri, Feb 7, 2014 at 4:30 AM, JOANA MIRANDA STUDIO wrote:


                  • Hi Joana,

                    I’m working on building a website to display my work and hope to start selling the prints online through it someday. For the time being, I use One Happy Blog’s Facebook page to post my work. I’d love to know your thoughts / comments πŸ™‚ Here’s the link –

                    I agree with you that internet may not show real life struggles and bad work and that applies not only to artists, but to any field. It’s kind of like models showing off their professionally shot images with make-up and Photoshop and we think they look like that every day. However, I do believe that we all have exactly same potential and resources as Mozart or Steve Jobs and can be creative geniuses just like them. I have been studying the biographies of a lot of successful people and most of them faced a lot of opposition and negativity towards their inventions / art / ideas, but that wasn’t important because They believed in their work. Every piece of art tells a story and there’s always someone somewhere who will be interested in that story. I think that doing what I love + believing in myself will finally get me to the place when there’s someone holding the door for me or I might find and open that door myself πŸ™‚

                    I had so many magical serendipities and synchronicities in my life that I just had to believe. But It wasn’t always like this. For a very long time, I thought of life as a struggle or a battle. And even if I won and got whatever I was fighting for, I would feel so exhausted and unhappy that I didn’t even enjoy my win.

                    I then went on my journey in pursuit of happiness and self-discovery. It was tough in the beginning. I changed workplaces and couldn’t find a place I would enjoy, I lost a lot of people along the way. A lot of times I felt like I’m a failure and I wanted to give up. But something bigger than me (maybe that was my angel / God / creative source πŸ™‚ always helped me to get up. It took a lot of reading and self-work, but then one day everything started working out. When I have an idea I somehow attract the right people to give me advice or help me somehow. It is interesting that a lot of times these are just random people I have conversation with, not someone I thought that could help, and then suddenly they know someone or elsehow I get the information I was looking for. I also found much easier to control my mood swings. Anytime I have a negative thought or when I don’t feel confident about myself, I just switch to something I love doing and I’m trying to enjoy every minute of life not rushing anywhere. This is my definition of happy life πŸ™‚

                    Thank you for telling me so much about your learning experience! It is so valuable! I see now that I can continue to learn from online materials and having proper education is not mandatory when you try something new. The reason why I was asking is that I had a teenage dream to go to an art school. That was kind of a dream place where I didn’t have to select one major and could learn about all kinds of art like drawing, playing piano, singing, dancing, theater and everything else. I don’t even know if that kind of place exists πŸ™‚ I mean I know there are colleges like that, but I think they all require you to select one major. During my teenage years my parents weren’t really happy about my plans to have a career in art, so my Bachelor’s is in Economics and I kind of gave up on the art school dream until recently. Going to an art school would mean that I have to relocate to another country as schools here are not that good. I think I will continue learning online for now and will look at opportunities outside once I finish my projects here in Azerbaijan.

                    You are so right about building the right audience and connecting with the community! My thoughts exactly! It shouldn’t be just about numbers, it’s about quality and the level of communication.

                    Hope you also had a great weekend and wishing you productive and happy week ahead πŸ™‚

                    Best wishes,

                    • Hi Natella,

                      I finally had a chance to check out your artwork on your FB page. I’m very impressed with the range, and in particular with the watercolors, although the oil (acrylic?) of the lilies is also lovely. I’m curious – it seems like a lot of the watercolors/pencil sketches and oils were done in 2010 and that you’ve posted less work in the past few years. Do you prefer one medium over another? What types of things are you working on these days?

                      I used to use gouache for my jewelry renderings and then started out using watercolors for my illustrations. These days I really prefer the vibrancy of the Copic Sketch markers (together with ink) for the illustrations. I think markers really fit my neat and orderly aesthetic. It’s nice not to have to wash out palettes and paint brushes! The trick, of course, is to keep my strokes free, which isn’t always easy.

                      I’m sorry to be so brief, but I must now get back to the drawing board!

                      Ciao – Joana

                      On Mon, Feb 10, 2014 at 10:33 AM, JOANA MIRANDA STUDIO wrote:


                    • Hi Joana!

                      Thank you for taking the time to look thru my works! I know you’re very busy with your own work! Oil is probably my favorite media, but it’s also most expensive and takes up space (I prefer large canvases). You’re right I have posted much less oil works lately, but the truth is I have bunch of them piled up in my room waiting for me to get inspired again to finish them and also few finished ones that need to be photographed. I want to get them professionally photographed with proper lighting and angle table because oil paintings photographs tend to look a lot different and colors get distorted when you don’t photograph them properly. With sketches and watercolors I usually use my iphone camera. It takes pretty good pictures and you won’t see much difference between the original work and the photo. Do you have this problem with your illustrations? I heard a lot of artists suggesting getting a good scanner for illustrations. What do you prefer?

                      I also like to experiment with other media. My drawing drawer is also full of acrylic, watercolors, watercolor pencils, regular pencils, acrylic for stained glass, markers and different kinds of pastels.

                      I like the markers too (I tried Promarkers). I’d love to try Copic markers. I heard good feedback from artists / illustrators. The only disadvantage that I found in markers is the difficulty in mixing colors, but maybe I need to try glossy paper vs. matte, that might solve the problem. What kind of paper do you prefer?

                      Do you like art stores in NY? We have one good store here, but they sell mostly Russian brands, which are actually really good for oils and watercolors, but if I want something different I have to order online or my friends / relatives buy something for me when they go on a trip to Europe or other countries.

                      Have a great weekend!

                      Warm wishes,

                    • Hi Natella,

                      Thanks for the email! I, too, have quite a collection of art supplies, although these days I am basically sticking to the markers. Today I’m headed to one of the good art stores in the city to get some Copic Ink refills. The beauty of Copic markers is that they can be refilled, and, I’ve since learned, you can also use the refill ink as a wash for backgrounds. Backgrounds are sort of my nemesis and I’d like to get better at creating more of an atmosphere for my illustrations.

                      Since I use markers, I like to use bleed-proof marker paper with a smooth surface. I’m use Borden & Riley #125 Marker Sketch paper. It’s 45 lb, is bright white with a semi-translucent quality, and it has a neutral pH. It’s also relatively cheap, and because the paper is thin, it makes for less bulk when I store the originals.

                      Blending the marker colors isn’t super easy, but it does help to have the colorless blender marker. The Borden & Riley paper I use is also more conducive for blending than other papers I’ve tried. I think part of the blending process also depends on how you lay down the colors…I’m still learning, but there are lots of interesting YouTube videos on the topic which can be helpful.

                      Kudos to you for working in oils! I’ve never tried oils, but I admire good oil paintings! I look forward to seeing more of your oils when you have a chance to post them.

                      I do have a scanner (Epson 835 Artisan scanner/printer/fax), and it does a beautiful job of scanning. It isn’t a large scanner, but because I’m working in the 9×12 paper size, I can scan what I’m creating without a problem. Photographing paper IS hard, so I’m very glad I have the scanner…one less thing to worry about.

                      Now I’m off to the art store…too bad you can’t come with me!

                      With all best wishes, Joana

                      On Sat, Feb 15, 2014 at 5:31 AM, JOANA MIRANDA STUDIO wrote:


                    • Hi Joana!

                      So good to hear from you!

                      I know what brand of markers I’m ordering now πŸ™‚ It’s a great thing that Copic markers can be refilled!

                      Thank you so much for sharing information about the paper you’re using and the scanner! This is so useful! I now don’t have to waster effort and money to try out all the different kinds of paper out there and there are so many!

                      A good scanner is the next investment for me together with professional camera and angle table… and a studio! haha πŸ™‚ Dreaming is the first stage of creating, right? I don’t know about you, but I feel something special about this year! I wish that all our dreams manifest within this year for both of us! And who knows maybe we’ll be celebrating our success by going to a good art store in New York soon!

                      Ok, I’m going to work hard on my goals now! πŸ™‚

                      Warm wishes,

                    • Hi Natella,

                      If you do invest in the Copic markers, I’d first spend a little time looking at “how to” videos on YouTube. I love working with the markers, but there is a learning curve (and I’m still learning!) I’m going to be putting up a post shortly about some of the things I’ve learned recently about my markers, so stay tuned!

                      In the meantime, pardon the brevity of this reply. I’ve got precious little free time today and have to use it wisely.

                      Ciao – Joana

                      On Tue, Feb 18, 2014 at 5:50 AM, JOANA MIRANDA STUDIO wrote:


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