OIAF 2019 Screening & The Body Electric Exhibit

OIAF 2019 Screening & The Body Electric Exhibit by Karolina Szablewska

OIAF 2019 Animation Screening I have some exciting news! Ever since the start of the U m a m i Animation YouTube channel, I’d be getting more involved in doing something I said I’d “never do” – animating. I worked on some portions of the script & some of the human faces in this animation … Read more

One Week 100 People 2019

one week 100 people day 2 sketching people outdoors

One Week 100 People is an art challenge where, over the span of a 5 day work week (or 7 as a normal week), sketchers draw 100 people – roughly 20 per day. I first learned about this challenge from a local sketcher friend, please have a look at his work and blog! 🙂 I … Read more

Watercolors from Nova Scotia – Trip #1

rock at prospect nova scotia watercolor painting

One of the funny tricks my mind plays is confusing thinking through doing something versus actually doing it. Well, I swore I posted all my urban sketches and en plein air paintings, but I guess I didn’t! 

Lets start with a few from October, 2017. Around that time of year, I went to visit some family and Nova Scotia and took my painting supplies with me. I’ll likely do this from now on, since visiting Nova Scotia and not painting might as well be a crime…what a beautiful piece of Canada.

peggy's cove nova scotia watercolor painting by karolina szablewska en plein air painting
9″x12″. Watercolour on 140lbs watercolour rag paper. The ragged coastlines of Nova Scotia, featuring a prominent rock painted entirely on-location. The painting aims to be accurate while being loose and gestural. ~2017 | PRINTS | BUY THE ORIGINAL

This is one of my favourite spots to revisit every year, and so I will leave it vague as to where it is. Only locals really know how to get there, and I think it should stay that way instead of being trampled by selfie-taking tourists. Not that there isn’t an abundance of landscape at any stop in the road, should you choose to paint yourself. Just this place in particular…is special. This painting was completed entirely on location in about 2-3 hours.

peggy's cove nova scotia watercolor painting by karolina szablewska en plein air painting

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Inktober – Favourites & Further Thoughts

Inktober - Favourites & Further Thoughts by Karolina Szablewska

The past couple years, I’ve done the Inktober art challenge. The first time I tried it was in 2016. Legitimately, my art practice was kind of non-existant in the fall and so it was a good motivator. It’s fun to think about how much life changes from one autumn to the next.

I never got around to making a blog post dedicated to what I did, so I’m going to make on this year as I decided not to do the challenge. Usually, when artists do Inktober, it’s to be more productive and create art daily. For me, that’s less of a problem…I feel like I make enough art now. So my other motivator was to play with inks, but I’ve been using oils more this year than usual and want to stick to working on my series. It was definitely fulfilling to see that I can indeed organize myself and get pretty far, especially if some ink drawings were taking most of the afternoon to pull off and I didn’t always feel on top of the world like it’s common not to during the change of seasons.

One issue I’ve had with the art challenge was the prompts. The first year, I didn’t use any prompts. The second year, I used the official prompts and found them somewhat repetitive. If I were to do a challenge such as creating for 30 consecutive days again, I would probably plan exactly what I’m going to do. One of my ideas was to do figure drawing, then use the base as a pose to design a character on top of. Another idea is to plan a comic book I can draw in 30 days.

The biggest benefit from the art challenge was forcing an idea to happen. I think I genuinely came up with some unique ideas I would have otherwise not have created at all had I not done the challenge. I would not have experimented with inks and learned new techniques and tricks.

A few of my favourites Inktober sketches:

yellow pepper cross section drawing
9″x5.5″. Ink on bristol paper. PRINTS

This pepper you may have seen before. My favourites I scanned immediately. Apparently it makes a great wall tapestry because some people bought one on Society6 (have a look).

inktober teeming nova scotia watercolour sketch
5″x5″ watercolor and ink sketch on 140lb watercolor paper. Inktober Prompt for 2017 – Teeming, as in teeming with trees in the wilderness of Nova Scotia.

Whether others do or do not, I really love this little sketch. The colours, the texture, the simplicity, and the memory it brings back for me. This is one of those I’d love to blow up into a huge print to emphasize all those qualities. I really like that the sketch is essentially one type of line and hand movement, over and over.

inktober crab
6″x8″, ink, 2016. Drawing of crab for Inktober 2016. | PRINTS

I remember this crab well because I never quite played with colour inks before. It feels very fresh and simple, and I like that. There’s different shapes, textures, lines, colour, organic marks.

Inktober - Favourites & Further Thoughts by Karolina Szablewska
A small sketch with ink, gauche on top of a streak of acrylic paint. Inktober 2017 – Swift

This one is fun because it’s completely an experiment. I like to put old paint in a sketchbook like this and sometimes draw over it. I haven’t quite found the right medium that sits on acrylic paint, since this didn’t work so well. It was hard to control and cover with.

 Hippoglossus Hippoglossus watercolor
7″x10″ ink, watercolor on bristol paper. Comic about the confusing existence of a Halibut. Inktober 2017.

I was in Nova Scotia, so it seemed appropriate to think about fish. I was reading about halibuts since I remembered they are a type of flat fish, and the whole situation of their existence became somewhat funny.

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Colour Tests for “Torso” Painting

colour study mock-up oil painting more human than human oil series

Time for your opinion. I’ve been trying the Flemish painting technique recently, which involves using a greyscale layer to build values, then glazing colour over top. I’m working on this painting with oils.   Over the last month, I’ve collectively already spent about 14 hours on this image. I wanted to get things just right … Read more

It Takes Time to Compose an Image

sketches for lamentation of gaia oil painting sci-fi art

  This painting was a challenge from the very sketches I started with. Since it’s been a whole year since the last oil painting of this series, this is the second painting so far in a series that is loosely working itself out to be about technology, medicine, and disability. Unlike the last where I … Read more

10 Benefits to Painting Outside & Urban Sketching

guess downtown montreal watercolor drawing

As the weather is finally warming up after a 6 month-long winter, I wanted to write a short guide on how to get started doing urban sketching / en plein air painting. They are essentially the same thing, however urban sketching usually happens in…you guessed it: urban areas. Below, I talk about the benefits of … Read more

My Last Several Pieces Made on Twitch

hello twitch streamer watercolor portrait

When I started streaming, it was an experiment to see if anyone at all would show up. Just even 1 person I don’t already know as a friend, or family, or someone else. I didn’t expect anything from it. Everyone’s asking me how I can tolerate having a camera pointed in my face when I can barely tolerate giving a presentation to a room of 3? Good question, because the truth is: I don’t know. I’m not psychologist and I can’t explain it, however I talked to some other streamers about it and we concluded it’s basically an introvert party where we get to control exactly how much socializing we get and with who. Anyone can leave at any time. If I don’t like someone and they’re being awful, I just ban them. No one has to make awkward eye contact. You don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to. But I think there’s something more to it than that, because the other day I volunteered myself to go on a talk show I found filming downtown and asked questions on camera, which would otherwise have made me run and hide had streaming not been there to condition my shyness away.


It’s really helping with having an art-producing schedule; I can’t just keep putting off making art for some other seemingly important thing because I promised my viewers I’d be there so&so many times a week. It really makes me realize how much I do put off making art, when I always thought I didn’t. The span of time between two intervals when I create is a lot longer without a schedule to keep me in check. Generally, I’m not good at perceiving time… a month can go by and I won’t notice, or a day goes by and feels like it’s been weeks. So, I’m not really surprised. It’s not that I consciously procrastinate, it’s that I don’t notice how much stands in the way. My streaming computer broke for about 2 weeks and I felt pretty unhappy I couldn’t paint, and in that time span I realized that is usually how infrequently I painted. Yeah, that’s pretty bad. If I want to work on my style and have a new body of work that stands out, that can’t be happening.


So here are a few pieces I’ve completed since I started streaming! If you don’t count me goofing around with experiments, then I think I started in November of last year. As I’m selecting these, I’m realizing I made more than I thought. Some of these I already posted about, so I will talk about the ones I haven’t. All but 2 of these are in my art store as prints. If you’d think you’d like to watch one day, you can go here.


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How Does Your Space Influence Your Creativity?

How Does Your Space Influence Your Creativity? by Karolina Szablewska

Back in the days of being a kid, I used to paint more spontaneously. I had a clearer connection to something subconscious that filled the brain with images, vivid and ready to paint. As an adult, not so much and I look for ways to reconnect with this organic process. I’m reading a fun book and I would actually like to recommend it. It’s about writing, however I think it really applies to any creative profession because the creative process generally follows a similar mental path, similar downfalls and similar anxieties. The pleasant writing feels like I am listening to the author reminisce while sitting in a sunny room on a lounge chair with tea. She has a wonderful, eloquent way of making points through prose. Her perspective is highly empathetic to the hurdles of creating meanwhile being an average person stumbling through life. The book is Still Writing by Dani Shapiro.


How Does Your Space Influence Your Creativity? by Karolina SzablewskaHow Does Your Space Influence Your Creativity? by Karolina Szablewska

I could pull so many points from her book I think are brilliant. One of the things talked about by the author is how the biggest obstacle of art is life itself. Now, that sounds pretentious, yet it really is true. If you are struggling with maintaining a practice of routinely creating art, it’s just like going to the gym, or quitting smoking, or learning a new language…you have to fit it into your life, you have to create the time for it. Otherwise, what happens is you suddenly have errands to run at the store, clean the bathroom, do laundry, pick up Timmy from his soccer game, or Sharlene wants you to go to her potluck and you got to make a side, or you’re doing a favour for George when it really has no benefit to you in the end and George is kind of a dick that never does anything in return. (Don’t worry, George is fictional and I’m okay.) What it comes down to for me as someone who has made that space in time is also making the space in my head because all the noise that life creates also takes up mental space and crowds out that intuitive energy and pictorial stream of consciousness I am trying to reconnect with.


This is probably why artist’s homes are so weird. Okay, I admit it! To be in that kind of creative, intuitive, voodoo dark energy that an artist has to connect with, you need a certain feng-shui and creamy beige walls, tans, and Live, Love, Laugh deco on the wall doesn’t cut it. Well okay, if that kind of stuff matches your artistic energy, then it makes sense for you to have it up…however, in most cases I find artist’s belongings to be typically eccentric in a way that seems to fit with what they make.


My partner and I have been fantasizing about this a lot: a great creative atmosphere for us seems to involve coloured lights (mainly red), small lights sprinkled throughout (lanterns, string lights), Persian rugs, strong colours for walls, and lots of furniture that is either wood or metal. I’m absolutely in-love with the current trend of live-edge wood tables, and I know a very sunny room is pretty important to my well-being. Here’s kind of a mood board below via various Google images:



It becomes very evident in these images what I find comfortable and inspiring is somewhat of a sunny grotto. (Fortunately because I don’t care about trends, I already live kind of  in a space like this.) This is partly why I have an extremely hard time creating in a rented artist studio, which is usually clinical with white, slightly grungy walls, dull overhead lighting, old linoleum tile, and absolutely zero character outside of the fact it’s old and gross and probably in a warehouse. Some artists have told me they find this inspiring because the space itself doesn’t suggest anything in itself…however, I disagree since their work kind of looks equally clinical, empty, and with lighting too similar to their space. When I had a studio like this in university, I would go to great effort to mentally block out this environment or waste hours trying to motivate myself, as the reality was I really didn’t like being there. It really applies to everything, doesn’t it? Even in a conventional office, I think employees would do better work if they were allowed to personalize their space, make it a place they want to be.


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