I’m Erin O’Leary Brown (also known as E.O.Brown, follow me on Instagram, Pinterest or check out my website!). I live in upstate New York with my husband and our two children. I’ve loved making art ever since I was a little kid, and I’ve made it part of my life in different ways. I studied illustration at Syracuse University, and have worked doing illustration, art commissions, and teaching high school art. I also discovered ceramic sculpture while working on my masters in education. When life became busier with other obligations, making artwork was pushed lower on my priority list, and I began to realize how much it mattered.
I needed to find at least a little time to draw to keep my sanity! So I downsized my sketchbook to a tiny pocket size (which was easy because I’ve always worked very small), and took opportunities to draw whenever I could find them. Drawing scattered toys on the floor while holding a sleeping toddler in my lap or sketching unsuspecting classmates while sitting through a three hour class on educational research… anything to get in some drawing time. Sketching was a great way to find balance in my life, and keep my art going when I couldn’t focus on it full-time.
Drawing in a sketchbook has always been my favorite way to work. When I’m filling the pages of a sketchbook, it’s something just for me and that’s very liberating. It’s a place to discover things, practice without pressure, and record ideas and experiences. Keeping a sketchbook has also helped bring more life and spontaneity to my illustrations and paintings. I think my work suffers when there are too many layers of planning, sketches, and revisions, so I try to approach all my work as if it is just a sketchbook page, whether it stays in a book or hangs on a wall.
My process of working varies. Sometimes I like to work directly in pen to force myself to commit to all the marks I make, other times I lay out the largest, general shapes in pencil and then do an ink drawing over that rough plan. (Occasionally I work in pencil or black colored pencil, but I usually prefer ink.) After that, I add color with washes of watercolor and sometimes gouache. I find it helpful to work both from life and from photos. I love the experience and challenge of drawing from life, and I think it is important in developing observational skills.
I like photos for the convenience and access to different subject matter. I choose subject matter that catches my attention with interesting shapes or color combinations. Some of my favorite things to draw are animals, people, various objects (especially from nature), and food (I just love the colors and shapes found in food!) I really enjoy drawing people from history…scientists, composers, authors…they always seem to have interesting faces. In the end, as long as I’m drawing something, I’m pretty happy regardless of the subject!
When it comes to materials, I have to admit to having a pen addiction. (My biggest problem is finding a case big enough to put them in that is still portable!) I like the line quality of a lot of scrapbooking pens (the ones with finer pen on one side and a thicker brush/marker on the other…the Zig Memory Pen, Marvy/Uchida LePlume pen etc). Other pens I like to use are Pigma Microns, Faber-Castell PITT artist pens, the Pentel Brush pen (beautiful range of mark making!), Rapidograph (or Rapidosketch) pens for a nice consistent line, and my favorite ballpoints are Parker pens.
For my paint, I have a Winsor & Newton watercolor palette that I took all the half pans out of and filled with my own choices of tube paint. I have specific colors (from varying companies) that I’ve used for years, but basically I use a couple reds, yellows, and blues (each in a warm and cool shade), a viridian green, and lately I’ve been using a yellow ochre color more. I don’t use black–I like the effect of mixing my own. I use both sable and sythetic brushes (particularly Da Vinci Kolinsky brushes and Escoda Prado synthetic brushes…sizes 1, 3, and 6 cover most of my needs).
I also love the Niji Waterbrushes for their portability and different effects you can get with them. It’s so wonderful someone invented those! I haven’t found a hardbound sketchbook with a paper and size that I’m completely happy with, so I take old books that I like, remove the pages, and use the old covers to bind my own sketchbooks. I keep one sketchbook with smoother paper (currently using Canson XL Mix Media paper) and one with a cold press watercolor paper (Fabriano Artistico 90 lb). For art that is not in my sketchbook, I usually prefer Fabriano Artistico Extra White 140 lb cold press watercolor paper. I find the watercolors are vivid on it, and the surface is not too rough for line work.
I feel very lucky to have a passion for drawing and painting. No matter how I fit it into my life, art is something that always adds quality to my life experiences. And of all the art I’ve made, I know I’ll look back and open up my sketchbooks and they will still be my favorite work, full of exploration, experimentation, and memories.