GUEST DOODLEWASH: I Hate(d) Watercolour (a journey)

#Doodlewash - Watercolor comic by Damian Willcox, dorkboy comics - hokusai wave - #WorldWatercolorGroup

Hello my name is Damian Willcox (follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and visit my website!) and I’m from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. My job is software design (UX), and my unrelenting curse that refuses to release me from its icy talons of unending creation and torment is comics and art.

#Doodlewash - Watercolor comic by Damian Willcox, dorkboy comics - bipolar bear - #WorldWatercolorGroupdamian vs drawing

I started drawing in the back of my schoolbooks around grade 5, and never really figured out how to stop. Later on, I decided not go to art college, but instead, go to a college RIGHT NEXT to an art college. 

Two Related Points of Interest :

  1. I never thought I wanted art to be a job. (still true…i think)
  2. Side benefit of getting cheap art supplies across campus at the adjacent art school proved to be a wonderful thing.

damian vs painting

In college, I knew nothing about painting – so I bought  a bunch of acrylic paints and forced myself to figure it out. I really enjoyed acrylics and especially liked the fact that mistakes could be painted over and tried again – this was easier than the ink drawings that I was also doing, and not like the transparent drawing inks I was using around this time either (watercolour-like, but permanent as they contained shellac and could not be reworked, etc). 

damian vs comics

#Doodlewash - Watercolor comic by Damian Willcox, dorkboy comics - zilla is homesick - #WorldWatercolorGroupPerhaps more notably, it was around this time that I began making comics – barring the “RoboBill” series I made in grade 8 involving the lead character of RoboBill who was a combination of Robocop and Saturday Night Live’s Mr. Bill character (all issues are nowhere to be found and likely lost in a move back then).

I began a series called “dorkboy” in college and have kept making and self publishing my comics in print and web for a bit more than 20 years (yikes….pauses….questions life choices…continues writing this article).

The majority of this time was focused on pen and ink, technical pens, linework and lettering and not too much colour.

#Doodlewash - Watercolor comic by Damian Willcox, dorkboy comics - lunch in the city - #WorldWatercolorGroupI had more or less stopped painting  for many years to focus on comic work which prompted encouraging comments from family members such as “whatever happened to those nice paintings you used to do?” and from coworkers “I knew you did cartoons, but I didn’t know you were an artist” upon seeing my old acrylic paintings….and herein lied the problem with my first foray into painting: I never combined my cartoon/comic work with painting.

damian vs watercolour (a love story)

About 5 years ago, I decided to do something I hate – learn watercolours. I had only seen fruit bowls and flowers depicted with watercolours, and so really didn’t know how to fit them into my art world. They seemed difficult because, well… they are difficult.

#Doodlewash - Watercolor comic by Damian Willcox, dorkboy comics - Godzilla vs the Friendly Octopus - #WorldWatercolorGroup

At the same time, following the age old adage of ‘Misery loves company’ I also decided to do something else that I hated – learning the traditional cartoonists tool: inking with a brush.

#Doodlewash - Watercolor comic by Damian Willcox, dorkboy comics - little tokyo - #WorldWatercolorGroupIt was an unholy union of self inflicted pen? pain? as I attempted to learn to control the feather touch unwieldy line weights of a brush pen for my inked line work while at the same time combining watercolours into my artwork without mudding everything into oblivion. 

Fast forward a few years and I LOVE brush inking and watercolour – it is by far my preferred tool and medium at this point.  Of course, this combination of watercolour and ink is less welcomed by watercolour purist communities, so I was really happy to discover Charlie’s “World Watercolour Group” recently that welcomes all watercolour users!  

#Doodlewash - Watercolor comic by Damian Willcox, dorkboy comics - water wings on godzilla - #WorldWatercolorGroup

With my newfound combination of tools, I continued making comics, but also began some outdoor sketching/urban sketching which was a nice counterbalance to my cartoon work and I believe helped strengthen aspects of it.

#Doodlewash - Watercolor comic by Damian Willcox, dorkboy comics - Kensington - #WorldWatercolorGroup

damian vs process

#Doodlewash - Watercolor comic by Damian Willcox, dorkboy comics - winter approaches - #WorldWatercolorGroupMy approach to my work varies…I either use VERY light and loose pencil to layout an idea or no pencil at all as I like my ink lines to not be “traced” over pencil, but have their own spontaneity. I often will ink first (Kaimei or Kuretake brush pen fuelled with waterproof Platinum Carbon ink cartridges –  or use technical pens or fountain pens with waterproof ink for simple linework/lettering), and then watercolour over top.  I have tried several brands, but primarily use Holbein and will sometimes use a few Daniel Smith colours. 

For outdoor sketching I sometimes mix it up – watercolour first, ink later, or ink first and watercolour later. For my cartoons and comics I always ink first.

damian vs inspiration

I guess my main inspiration is usually comedy – I like to start with an idea that feels funny or clever, or might inspire a bit of emotion in people….or at the very least if it does in me, then I want to bring it into existence. Inspiration can come from anywhere so I tend to carry notebooks and scribble down ideas on post-its, or capture them on my phone, etc and turn them into cartoons, comics and so on as soon as possible.

I also have a tendency to see how far I can take a joke…and then take it WAY beyond that – because of this, I end up with self forming ‘series’ such as my collection of Egg pieces as part of World Watercolor Month, and Zilla cartoons which ended up having a sub series where I injected the Zillas into multiple classic works of art.

Another huge influence is the traditional art of Japanese wood block prints – I think this is mostly due to the fact they most closely resemble what I hope to aspire to with ink and watercolour with their brilliant colours and dark line work.

I don’t know that I will ever be a good artist, but my main focus is to keep making art, comics, etc that people can get something out of…and as soon as I finish one piece, don’t linger over it, but just move on to the next one and hopefully improve as I go.

#Doodlewash - Watercolor comic by Damian Willcox, dorkboy comics - more like seaya world - #WorldWatercolorGroup

Creating art and comics also serves as an important stress balancer I have found over the years – sometimes artwork created vs stress received is proportional and other times inversely proportional. Regardless, I can’t stop, and have no intention to. 

Thanks very much Charlie O’Shields and Doodlewash for featuring me as a guest artist – a hugely unexpected and very appreciated honour. 

Damian Willcox
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Profile photo of Charlie O'Shields (doodlewash)
Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!
36 Comments
  1. Jessica Seacrest 9 months ago

    Thrilled to see your featured Damian! I’ve been enjoying your work since WWM!

  2. Imperium Woodcraft 9 months ago

    Love your work. I still have a hard time with acrylics and oils! Keep it up!

    • dorkboycomics 9 months ago

      Thanks very much!! Yes – oil and acrylics are not easy either. 🙂
      Will do my best, thanks! 😀

  3. Laura (PA Pict) 9 months ago

    Thank you for sharing your art work and your thought processes. I think you work has a great deal of wit and charm. I like to draw with ink and then “colour in” with watercolour too so I found myself nodding along to much of what you wrote.

    • dorkboycomics 9 months ago

      Thank you!! Nice to hear from others using ink & watercolour 😀

  4. First Night Design 9 months ago

    Fabulous work. I particularly love ‘Bipolar Bear’!

    • dorkboycomics 9 months ago

      Thanks a lot!! That’s one of my favourites too! It never seemed to get as much of a reaction as others, but I like the subtlety of the joke…and was happy I managed to avoid ruining the very light scene with too much watercolour…it was a close one, haha.

  5. itzann 9 months ago

    I love the watercolored street scene!

  6. creatingincolors 9 months ago

    I love how you told your story with humor! I got a few extra chuckles about going to college next to an art college, and the “encouraging comments” from family 🙂 And I love your method of combining ink lines with watercolor. That street scene is gorgeous.

    • dorkboycomics 9 months ago

      Thank you so much! That’s very kind of you to say 🙂

  7. Susan Feniak 9 months ago

    Fabulous! I enjoyed your humour.

  8. mfearing 9 months ago

    Wonderful work!

  9. Teresa Robeson 9 months ago

    This post cracked me up! Damien has such a way with words and art. 🙂 Also, the “Damien vs. ____” and the dinosaur cartoons reminds me of Bob Shea’s very popular kids books, “Dinosaur Vs. ______.” Damien should definitely tackle writing/illustrating children’s books!

    • dorkboycomics 9 months ago

      Thanks a lot! Good suggestion – it has crossed my mind at times as something that might be fun to try 🙂

  10. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 9 months ago

    Damian, it’s been fun to read your story and discover that you challenge yourself to learn new things even when you think you don’t want to. You have a great sense of humor and your art is delightful.

    • dorkboycomics 9 months ago

      Thank you Sharon! That is incredibly nice to hear – you are too kind, thank you very much 😀

  11. SilvrMoon 9 months ago

    I love the zillas! The style of the comics is so interesting.

  12. tutleymutley 9 months ago

    I’m a newcomer and recent convert to doodlewash. Love your sense of humour and artwork.

  13. Michele May 9 months ago

    Great story! Zilla is genius! Looks like you are having lots of fun on your art journey!!! =)

  14. littraturekarima 9 months ago

    bien

  15. Love seeing Zilla in the famous paintings! Great work! 😄

    • dorkboycomics 9 months ago

      Thanks a lot! There were a few more I had considered doing, but wanted to round out the series at 12….though might need a revisit or round 2 😄

  16. dorkboycomics 9 months ago

    Reblogged this on dorkboy comics sketchbook journal and commented:
    (Mostly updating my site dorkboycomics.com, and haven’t been maintaining this one – but wanted to share Doodlewash as they kindly invited me to be a guest artist!)

  17. YesterdayAfter 9 months ago

    Congratulation Damian and very cute watercolors I love that you use famous and historical artist’s of all time paintings as background of your cute characters! 😉 well done and thanks for the smile that your art bring to the world! 🙂 Carolina

    • dorkboycomics 9 months ago

      Thank you Carolina! Really glad you enjoyed the Classic Art Zillas! That series was a lot of fun to make 😀

      • YesterdayAfter 9 months ago

        You’re welcome and I am sure was a lot of fun to make! 😉

      • YesterdayAfter 9 months ago

        I visited your website and follow you on Twitter and Instagram! btw I am part of the world watercolor group and I have been doodlewashed too 😉

  18. Ellie 9 months ago

    Brilliant! Your ‘zillas are going to keep me laughing all day. You clearly have a great sense of humor and we are lucky you are sharing it with us through your pen and paints, along with fantastic narrative.

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