Experimentation with Ink and Watercolor


Rescuing Winnie the Pooh

copyright 2014 Mollie Bozarth

copyright 2014 Mollie Bozarth

Here it is!  The Pooh Bear commission is officially completed and installed.  Though painted on canvas, I think of it as a small, detailed mural.  Final installation size was 22″ x 76″, designed to fit a long narrow space above the mirror in a kids’ bathroom.  Once layout sketches and color comps were approved, I transferred the layout to canvas using an opaque projector.  The client requested, “bright, kid-friendly colors, and classic style”.  When they saw the finished piece, their response was, “That’s exactly what I was picturing!”  So, mission accomplished!!

I teach a high school painting class, and brought one of the panels to school to demo for my students.  I’m always encouraging them to get to know their tools (brushes, paints, paint thinners) in order to manipulate those tools to gain desired effects in their artwork.  Know how far the bristles of a brush will extend as you pull a stroke.  Develop a sense of water to glazing medium to paint ratio…how much paint you need on your brush and how thick or thin that paint needs to be for the area you’re working.  Experiment with techniques such as dry-brush, spatter, knife painting, etc. to create different textures.  Of course I demonstrate these techniques in class on a regular basis.  But it’s more effective for the kids to see me applying what I teach in a “real-life” commissioned painting.  As I look back at some of my favorite painting teachers and professors over the years, the most memorable lessons were demos they did using their own work.  Portrait commissions, children’s book illustrations, Time magazine covers, all showed me that what I was learning in the classroom totally applied at the professional level in everyday life.

Wings as Eagles

copyright 2014 Mollie Bozarth

copyright 2014 Mollie Bozarth

This painting is the most fun illustration project I’ve worked on in a long time.  It was commissioned as a wedding gift, but I was given carte blanche to decide on content, colors, style…I took that freedom and ran with it!  Isaiah 40:31 was both inspiration and starting point.  However, I did not want to paint eagles; in fact, I wanted to stay far away from any obvious bird imagery.  As you know, I prefer to look for the story between the lines.  The key word in this verse is HOPE (or, as some translations phrase it: “wait patiently”).  Faith, hope, patience all go hand in hand.  As Paul says in Romans 8:24-25, “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”  As difficult as it can be to wait on God’s timing and provision, that patient hope is rewarded with a soaring joy…the wind-in-your face, sun-on-your-back elation of rising up with wings as eagles.  That story, that imagery, took me back to childhood.  When do we feel like we can fly? – when we’re on the swing set, doing “Superman”!  Simple, childlike hope in a mighty God; flying free because, of course, Daddy’s arms won’t let us down or drop us.

Inspiration is the easy part.  Now came the technical aspect of pulling the illustration together.  I wanted the little girl to resemble the bride (Carrie) who would be receiving this wedding gift.  Her family members helped out by sending me photos of her as a child.  Then I set up a photo shoot at a play ground with a girl I know who is similar in looks and build to Carrie at that age.  After several sketches and revisions, I was happy with the face and pose of the figure.  Design-wise I prefered to have just the head, arms, and swing…without really seeing the rest of the body or feet.  Researching photos of skydivers, I determined that this was feasible, looking at the body from that angle.  Next came lettering.  HOPE was placed first, as a focal point of the phrase.  The rest of the lettering was built around that, varying sizes, thickness, styles to emphasize certain words.  The groom is a pilot.  So, the tachometers as “E”s in Eagles are an homage to his interest in aviation.  As for color, purple and dark grey were the colors in her wedding.  I figured they would be a safe bet to work with…thankfully, I chose correctly!  Purple, as it turns out, is her favorite color; and, their spare bedroom is decorated in greys.

Joy. Sunshine. Freedom. Elation. Those were my goals with this painting!  If you get a sense of that as you look at it, then I’ve done my job as an illustrator.



Pooh Trad web

Pooh Cont web























I’m not stuck…Pooh Bear is! Above are two color comps I finished today for a client. She likes the traditional style; her husband wants something more contemporary. So, we’ll see whether I’m moving in the right direction! Color comps (compositions) in the illustration world are small studies showing how the final painting could look.  As illustrators, we may have one image in our head of what to create…while the art director, editor, or client is imagining something rather different.  So, preliminary sketches, layouts, and comps enable communication to occur.  The process can be time-consuming, but is just as important as the product.  In the long run it saves time. And it should prevent you having to redo the entire finished painting/illustration.

These comps are merely a segment of a much larger layout.  Perhaps I’ll post a photo of the finished illustration later on.

Phil 4:13

copyright 2014 Mollie Bozarth

copyright 2014 Mollie Bozarth

I’ve found that the “famous” verses people tend to memorize are usually surrounded by other verses (full of rich truth) that aren’t as well-known. Read in context, these favorite/famous verses gain even deeper meaning. For example, Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future'”. Less well-known is verse 13: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Spoken to a people in exile, these verses are a reminder 1. that God has good plans, which aren’t always obvious when we look at our surroundings, and 2. to understand and trust those plans we must seek Him with all our heart. Or, another favorite, Micah 6:8 says, “What does the LORD require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” This passage hits me square between the eyes when I go back to verse 3, where God asks, “My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me.” So often I create my own mental and spiritual burdens…worrying unduly, overworking myself, spreading time and energy thinly, then coming to God grumpily exhausted. How has He burdened me? He hasn’t! What does he actually require of me? – to act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with Him.

That being said, when I was asked to paint Philippians 4:13 for a friend, I couldn’t leave out the verse before it. Verse 12 states: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every circumstance.” Then comes the well-known verse 13: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” What did Paul learn in his good times and bad years…his times of shipwreck, prison, flogging, AND times of fellowship, joy, material wealth? He learned that the secret of being content is relying on Christ. He gives us the strength we need to face any and every circumstance.

I knew I wanted to do this piece in a square format. I started by measuring out my background and designing the lettering to space evenly, to create a box of text from the words in verse 12. Then I took a separate square sheet and planned out verse 13, starting with my focal point words: “Christ” and “Strength”, and designing the rest of the script around them. I traced the background text onto watercolor paper and painted in a pale hue. Watercolors are translucent, so any color I used in the background would affect the foreground colors laid over it. With the background complete and dry, I lightly traced the foreground text. Colors for the foreground needed to stay basically analogous (red-violet, blue-violet, blue-green, yellow-green). Even in this range, I had to be careful because red-violet and yellow-green are complements…which means that if one mixes with the other it turns brown. But I know the rules and tools of color, so for the most part I could play and have fun at this point in the painting!

As a side note, by the time I finished this painting, I was thoroughly exhausted. The truth of the verse was lived out in that I had to rely on Christ’s strength even to complete this piece by the deadline!

Face to Face

copyright 2014 Mollie Bozarth

copyright 2014 Mollie Bozarth

Above is a segment of this week’s Pick Your Portion artwork. The illustration is based on verses from 2 John, talking about our basic human need for fellowship…as well as our need as Christians to fellowship with other believers.

Artistically, I went to my favorite medium: ink with watercolor. This was a fast study, with no time for revisions. However, before I sat down at my art table, I laid out the design in my imagination, pacing basic sizes, space, lettering, before putting ink to page. I knew that I wanted a hand-written look to the lettering. I knew that “Face to Face” would be the focal point, and that the letters of each word would morph into details of the face/hair. I wanted to keep the faces simplified to a few lines…ink (not watercolor) would be the star of the show. In other words, I kept the watercolor washes basic so that they wouldn’t draw attention away from the ink line. In the written explanation on the PYP site, I talk about mentoring and accountability. So, I emphasized (slightly) the age difference of the two women chatting. For I feel we each have a lot to give younger generations, as well as a lot to learn from friends who are farther down the road of life/faith than we are. To see the full illustration, check out: http://pickyourportion.com/blog/ .


copyright 2014 Mollie Bozarth

copyright 2014 Mollie Bozarth

I’ve recently started a new venture, as a monthly contributor to a blog called “Pick Your Portion”.  Lisa Velthouse is a writer who started the website as a daily scripture reading.  Following a format of reading through the Bible in a year, the site’s artwork or writing highlights one of four passages assigned for that day’s reading.  My first contribution goes live tomorrow (April 11th) and actually highlights a passage from Leviticus 15.  The chapter’s theme is “UnClean,” and when I first read it, I thought, “Gross! Who would want to paint this imagery!?”  But as I finished the chapter, my thoughts moved toward Lent.  In this season of looking toward the cross, we need to be reminded just how unclean we are.  The gross, filthy parts of our lives are exactly what Christ came to cleanse.  I’m reminded of Eustace in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” by C.S. Lewis.  When his greed left him in the fix of becoming a dragon (literally), he could scrape and scrape away at scales but never go deep enough to reach boy flesh.  It took Aslan’s claws to cut deeply enough to remove that dragon skin.  The cleansing was painful, but it left Eustace fresh and new.  “Wash Me” we see scrawled across dirty car windows.  We need that same plea scrawled across our hearts.

The image you see above is only part of the finished painting.  To see the completed artwork, and to read the full story behind it, check out www.pickyourportion.com .  I’m excited about this new opportunity!  It allows me to combine some of my favorite elements – text, illustration, and biblical narrative – with the regularity of a monthly deadline.  So, along with personal work and current comissions, expect to see snippets of my Pick Your Portion projects here as I attempt “Telling the [Biblical] Story Between the Lines”.

All Things New

Completed Mural Web

Coming out of one of the coldest, most frozen and snowy winters I’ve experienced in 23 years of living near Chicago, I am ready for spring.  Spring is all about NEW.  Everything that has been dead and cold begins to come to life!  New sunrises in early morning fog.  New puddles to drive through, washing old salt away.  New green appearing amongst the brown grass and brown branches.  A renewed sense of community as neighbors emerge from the winter’s shut-in and basketball games and bicycle races can be seen down the street.  Birds feel the change, releasing their joy in warbling, diving, chasing one another through treetops.   New songs filter through the rolled-down windows on an afternoon drive.  And with each awakening a new sense of hope bubbles up…you find yourself singing in the shower, humming randomly in grocery isles, walking taller…even skipping!…and breathing deeply the fresh, warm air.  Now, admittedly, there will be rainy days, chilly nights, muddy/soggy grass.  The full explosion of summer is still a ways off.  But it’s started…NEW has begun.

A couple of months ago, I completed the above mural for our church.  It’s a combination of three verses that center on that theme of NEW.  As part of the design, I wanted to emphasize the I Am, not only because this is the name God tells Moses to say when explaining Who sent him.  But I wanted to emphasize that God himself is the one who does the hard work of changing us.  The cold winters of this world harden us.  Our choices and stubborn disobedience leave us wounded, scarred, calloused.  God is the surgeon who “will remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19).  We are so dead that He basically has to start over! – New Heart (adjusting our thoughts, emotions, and the decisions we make based off of those), New Spirit (renewing our inmost being), New Creation (our nearest friends and relatives might not recognize us when He’s done…if they do, they’ll notice the change).

I work with the 8th-grade mentoring program at church, and there is a quote in our mentoring packet which says, “God loves you just the way you are; but He loves you too much to leave you as you are.”  This work of making us NEW isn’t simply a one-shot deal when we give our lives to Christ.  It’s a process…the fancy word is sanctification, which could be defined as: being made more holy, or being set apart for a special purpose.  Can God use the broken, the dirty, the messed up?  Of course! – He wouldn’t have much to work with otherwise.  However, He calls us to be holy…to be like Him.  Being too dead and broken to change ourselves, we must turn to Him.  It’s a daily thing, a yearly thing, a lifelong process of learning to live, learning to breathe, enjoying the fresh air that is a life walked next to our I Am.  It’s preparation for the full explosion to come – the explosion of Heaven where ALL things are always NEW!


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