Fancy Enough Swan Illustration

From Ink Drawing To Screen Print Poster / And How To Not Get Beaten Up By A Large Bird

The Fancy Enough Swan print is my studio’s first ever retail art for sale! This screen printed poster originated from Inktober, a month long ink art challenge with daily prompts. I try to participate each year as ink is one of the main mediums I use. This piece came to life from the prompt “Fancy”. The word immediately made me think of a mute swan that my spouse, Mark, and I had encountered while canoeing on the Huron River.

To Be On Water

Midway through 2020, my Dad offered me an old canoe. It hadn’t been used in over a decade and even though I had no clue of how I was going to store it at an apartment, I took up the offer! I’ve lived near the Huron River almost my entire life in two different cities, give or take a few years that I lived near the River Rouge. I feel a calling to be near these waterways to feel at peace. It seemed like a great way to get more time with my old river friend. Plus, I figured that we’d be as socially distanced as you possibly can be during the COVID-19 pandemic!

This was in late autumn. There were many fantastic beings on the river: egrets, herons, wood ducks, lilies, cat tails and swans. Each time we launched from the same location, and each time we were lucky to encounter a mute swan family at a safe distance. There were typically seven of them (que Seven Swans by Sufjan Stevens). The cygnets were about fully grown. They seemed to be vying for a pecking order, annoying each other by knocking siblings off a log where they preened their new feathers.

The River’s Protector

While many people are disgusted by swans, let alone the invasive mute swan, I hold deep respect for them. The aggression that most people complain about (“they’re mean! nasty!”) is only their natural defense to protect their family or themselves from fairly unpredictable humans. You can’t blame them!

One evening while in the canoe, we had rounded a bend in an offshoot of the river. I noticed something floating from around the curve where our visibility was a big white mute swan and a gray teenage cygnet. They were minding their bird business. As I turned to tell Mark in the back that we should turn around to give them space, I noticed an even bigger male mute swan behind us. He was flooffed up to the max to make himself larger, and charging full speed towards us. The only word I could get out was “Go! Go!”, much to Mark’s confusion. Ultimately, we escaped and everyone was happy. And thus, my muse.

The Artistic Process

Acrylic ink sketch of the Fancy Enough Swan design in blues, teals and neon orange.
Black ink line drawing of the mute swan on watercolor paper.
Using charcoal to get textured lines on a light box, covering the swan design with another piece of watercolor paper, charcoal in the top right.

The original Inktober sketch was created in colored acrylic inks, including my favorite neon orange seen in the brush lettering. The piece had a great response, and I enjoyed the concept, so I decided to create a final ink drawing with hopes that one day I would create posters with it.

Using black ink, my favorite synthetic brushes and watercolor paper made from recycled cotton, I illustrated the image. The tooth of the paper brought in an extra texture to the line work. I drafted out the letter forms by hand without a reference font, and was happy with how they came out. I decided I wanted some texture in the water and used a light box and charcoal for those areas on a different sheet. I scanned the two together to create the final image. From there, I mocked up a few colorways for a two-color screen print. My supporters provided me with great feedback! While the response to the colorways was pretty evenly split, I decided on burnt orange and burgundy as the color scheme. These active warm colors evoked a sense of urgency. Plus, I loved how the “wine colored” water was an ode to how water was described before the word blue was used in human history.