In 2016, I was busy working for Tillamook Dairy Company. I had a few other small jobs scattered here and there, but my work has been very sparse since then.

There was an exception, though. I had a steady stream of illustrations over the next four years for 1800 Margarita Mixes. Each label illustration had to be consistent and fit in with the bottle design and flavor banner. My client requested that all of the elements be rendered to completion so they could be placed on separate layers. I would scan my painting and reassemble everything with shadows for the final illustration.

Because of a non-disclosure agreement, I am only sharing flavors that are currently in stores. I have illustrated other ones that aren’t yet available.

A closer look.


I recently saw my label at the market while waiting in line. Such a thrill!

On this blog, I have discussed how I combine traditional and digital techniques with this post: #47 LAYERS IN MY LIFE – PART 1

My technique continues to evolve. I would describe it as a three-step process:

1. The first step is where I digitally manipulate my reference into a desired composition. This involves a combination of photographs and sometimes even former illustrations of mine. When working with an art director, I often send many layout choices and subsequent revisions. Once a final layout is chosen/approved, I create two important prints: The first has high detail for reference. Glossy paper usually works best for this. The second print is on Arches watercolor paper. The design is lightened so that it’s very pale in order for me to paint over it. This usually requires a fair amount of digital tweaking. Gone are the days when I used to trace everything and transfer it to my watercolor paper.

2. I stretch the watercolor paper and staple it to a drafting board. Once the paper is taut, I apply frisket over the entire area to maintain clean edges. I deftly cut out every element. I begin painting the darkest areas first. My medium is watercolor dyes. Detail is added with colored pencil afterwards.

3. When my painting is finished, I scan and improve it digitally. The background becomes totally white and all the edges are cleaned up. I adjust the contrast and saturation of different areas. If the objects are painted separately, they are reassembled with shadows added on separate layers.

My materials are as follows:

Epson Stylus Photo R800 Printer

Arches Watercolor Paper 140 lb. hot press (cut into 8 ½ x 11 sheets)

Dr. Ph. Martin’s Concentrated Watercolors

Dr. Ph. Martin’s Pen-white

Prismacolor pencils

Grafix Extra Tack Frisket Film, Matte

Winsor & Newton series 7 100% Kolinsky Sable BrushIllustrating fruit has been a favorite subject of mine. For over two decades, I didn’t paint any new paintings for my own purposes. But 2020 became the year where that changed.

During the pandemic isolation, I slowly began to realize that I missed painting. After having an elective surgery, I felt a burst of creative energy for illustrating again. I began by designing compositions based on older photos of job reference. On my next post, I will show how I progressed to actually photographing fruits and vegetables on my dining room table.

After avoiding venturing into stores for many months, I eventually decided to go to my neighborhood art supply store. It was such a nostalgic experience.

I used to buy art materials from this store when I was a young girl. My mother and father would take me and I would be enchanted by all the assortments of paints, pencils and markers.

When I was studying art in college, I enrolled in a beginning watercolor class. One time I was sick and I asked my father to pick up supplies for me. He inadvertently bought the wrong watercolor paper.

I was expecting textured cold-press paper and he had purchased smooth hot-press, which I’d never worked with before. That error was the beginning of harnessing my technique. Working on hot-press paper allowed me to discover control and detail. Without that experimentation, I might never have fallen in love with watercolors!

On the day that I recently went shopping – I was transported to my childhood. It was an especially touching moment when I chatted with the guy who decades earlier used to repair my airbrushes – he was now the store owner! His name was Chris Hauser. He was incredibly helpful as I went down my list. I paid a large sum for a new sable brush and looked forward to painting with it as soon as I came home.

That store is named Carter Sexton and it has been in its current location for over 70 years. I am grateful they are still in business. I pray Carter Sexton will survive the pandemic and continue to inspire artists like me.


About Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!
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  1. Judy says:

    Reblogged this on myjourneysinsight and commented:

    In some ways, 2020 has been a fruitful year for me painting-wise. More to come . . .


  2. Sharon Fisch says:

    I just love your work and the detailed explanation. Genius.


    • Judy says:

      Aw, Sharon – thank you so much! It has been very therapeutic for me to create these paintings. Once again, it surprised me that my energy shifted back to art again. I know I am very blessed to have this focus. It means a lot to me that you appreciated my detailed explanation. I wondered if it would be interesting for people to know about! ps. My printer is pretty old. Not sure what I’ll do when it quits. Even finding the ink cartridges can be challenging.


  3. artbyjta says:

    Did you introduce this to me about 8 years ago?

    Your process has really evolved


    On Mon, Sep 7, 2020, 1:46 AM ILLUSTRATING MY LIFE wrote:

    > Judy posted: “In 2016, I was busy working for Tillamook Dairy Company. I > had a few other small jobs scattered here and there, but my work has been > very sparse since then. There was an exception, though. I had a steady > stream of illustrations over the next four years” >

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Judy, I loved reading this!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. K E Garland says:

    Judy, no matter how many of these you share, I’m always impressed (and show my husband) and we both view in awe of the artistic detail!

    On a separate note, I love stories of connection, so hearing about the independently-owned store is fascinating. I hope he survives these times, as well ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy says:

      Thank you so much, Katherin! Your comment honors me and I am especially heartened to know you appreciated my anecdotal story about the art supply store. I shared it with them and they featured my post on their Facebook Page, which was was sweet!
      I actually divided up my images, because I have another 15 or so paintings that weren’t part of that post. I’m painting two right now and wondering where this is all going.
      Your encouragement is so helpful for me and so nice that Dwight got to see the details, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ann Coleman says:

    Wow! Those are impressive!

    Liked by 1 person

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