I remember a time back in elementary school when my art teacher asked us to raise our hand if we enjoyed making things. Well….my hand is still up! I’m Tina Folks and I grew up on Long Island, New York and I am a full-time creative. At a very young age, I remember wanting to write and illustrate children’s books. I loved spending hours in my room, especially Saturday mornings, drawing cartoons and writing short stories for school.
I also had a dollhouse that my grandfather built for me which was complete with painted rooms and a bit of furniture. Ed Sahlin was a gifted carpenter. My grandmother Eva Sahlin, taught me to sew and crochet. From found materials around the house, I loved sewing curtains, and making miniature food and small props to fill my dollhouse with. These early experiences were the foundations for my life-long endeavors and joy in art making.
As I reached high school, however, that inner critic took over and I thought I couldn’t draw…. realistically that is. Drawing started to feel “too serious” in classes like figure drawing which left me feeling very intimidated to this day! In college though, once my hands touched clay, I was hooked and for the next 28 years that’s where my creative focus continued until 2017.
About 3 years ago though, I was ready for a change. Clay-work had become too demanding and required too much space, and my joy working with it had started to wane. I had the urge to start drawing again but I didn’t know where to begin. It had been so long! One day, I discovered the book Art Before Breakfast by Danny Gregory and the cover alone caused me to buy it! As I spent time reading it, something shifted. Gregory described how drawing could become a daily habit in your life no matter how busy you were. One suggestion he made was to draw your breakfast every day and that got me started.
Slowly but surely, with a basic #2 pencil I started to regain confidence with my line sense. Besides getting better at “seeing” as I drew each morning, I started to think about the ritual of making breakfast each morning; brewing Irish tea in the same green pot, and toasting English muffins topped with homemade jam. Drawing grounded me and got me thinking about the poignant narrative of food and how it defines us personally and culturally.
As I continued to work, I began combining my written reflections and illustrations as posts on Instagram. In the Fall of 2017, my good friend Sandra Novick took notice and invited me to become a contributor to her new blog called thehummingbirdpost, which features lifestyle content as well as the work of emerging writers and visual artists. With this new, exciting destination for my work, I was very motivated to keep drawing, finding joy and enthusiasm sketching subjects from everyday life that were relatable for people.
I love using metaphors to create strong narratives in my sketches. Many times, words will come to me first and the subjects or images will then follow. Sewing notions for example, have this double meaning to their descriptive terms. To me, “old notions” and “old patterns” refer to old ways of thinking, slower times and the nostalgia of childhood.
Seasonal foods and holiday indulgences are also a fun source of inspiration for me, as well as depicting our associations with them. Some foods are iconic. When we think of Memorial Day Weekend, for example, we’re ready to celebrate the advent of summer and throw a barbeque! Around Thanksgiving, we make preparations by shopping and making traditional favorites like pumpkin and sweet potato pies, stuffing, turkey etc. And Irish or not, we all love that green food in March…just because.
Sometimes when I don’t know what to sketch, I’ll draw what I ate that day from memory. Once in a while, I’ve grabbed a takeout menu and drawn the foods that are described, by using my #2 pencil and a gray Tombow Marker or I’ll finish the sketch at home with watercolors.
In 2019, after doing editorial work for the blog for almost 2 years, I wanted to try to illustrate recipes. The work of Koosje Koene was a big inspiration to me, the way the food seemed to be flying around the page so playfully. I wanted to convey that same whimsy in my work. Depicting familiar recipes as a “show don’t tell” exercise proved to be an exciting challenge and an idea I will continue to return to.
When I first returned to sketching, I joined my local Sketch Group in Patchogue Long Island where I learned a lot about materials from those members who shared their knowledge. Many people were working in permanent ink pens, pencil and watercolors applied with a pen brush which I adapted to right away. I loved the immediacy of watercolor.
My technique is low-tech and I use the Sakura Koi Pocket Field Sketch Box Watercolor set that holds a collapsible pen brush inside which makes it portable. I work in a sketchbook format and use both brown and white papers. Canson mixed media sketchbooks and smaller ARTEZA 3.5 x 5.5 are my preferred substrates.
For brown papers, I like Strathmore mixed media books or Stillman & Birn Nova series books. The brown paper provides a nice “toasty warmth” to my color pallet, especially when drawing food. For simple pencil sketches, I still like my #2 pencil and a gray Tombow Marker for shading. I find that keeping my materials to a minimum gives me more control and builds my confidence.Recommended1 recommendationPublished in