The making of

The making of

See how Francien works

Francien not only works for books and magazines, but also receives requests to make drawings of people’s cats. The drawing is usually meant as a birthday or anniversary present, or as a memorial after a beloved cat has departed.
It will take Francien approximately two weeks to create one of her trade mark pencil drawings. She will add and erase up to fifteen different layers of colour and draw over a hundred thousand fine cat hairs, to create a perfect image.
From sketch. First, Francien will ask the client to send several photographs of their cat or cats, taken from different angles. After a thorough observation of the photos, she will sketch a basic outline of the drawing and decide on the composition. She will then use a graphite pencil to make a real size sketch. (The sketch below of tabby cat Lola and black and white cat Igor is 15 by 20 inches.) This sketch is the first layer of the actual drawing. Next, Francien will trace all the lines with dark brown water colour pencil, after which the drawing will look like this.

The drawing now consists of two layers, a graphite pencil sketch and a water colour drawing. As you can see, Francien has so far only captured the darker and lighter parts of the drawing. It does not have colour or detail yet, or emotion.
Next, Francien will erase the graphite pencil sketch. She uses an eraser to gently brush over the drawing, removing the graphite but leaving the watercolour pencil lines intact. This has to be done very precisely, because any traces of graphite will cause smudges in the next phase of the process, when she applies water colour paint to the drawing. After the graphite sketch is erased, the drawing looks like this.

Francien will now apply a thin layer of water colour paint, which will wash out the colour pencil lines and create beautiful soft lines. After this layer has dried, she will apply the first layer of colour pencil. Francien is right handed, so she starts drawing in the upper left corner, working downwards to the down right corner to avoid smudging. For the same reason, she will leave the darker parts for last.

Francien continues with the water colour pencils. The first layer of pencil is dark brown, applied very thinly. The next layer is pink, to match the shadow underneath Igor’s chin. Upon that comes ochre, to add warmth. Francien also uses grey in the shadowy parts, to add coolness. To blend the colours together, Francien applies a layer of white colour pencil. The drawing of Igor’s head now looks like this.

The eyes. The eyes are always the most important part of a portrait. Eyes have to shine, talk to you, and look into your soul from the paper. It takes many years of practise for any artist to be able to accomplish this, and Francien is a true expert in this area. She uses over eight different colours of pencil for both cats’ eyes and it takes her a minimum of two hours to finish one set of eyes. This is how the eyes of Lola and Igor look after Francien has detailed them.

Now that she has finished working on the eyes, Francien will focus on the hair of the cats. Drawing a cat’s hairy coat generally takes her 1-2 days, and she will use about 8 different layers of colour. In this drawing, Lola’s tabby coat still needs some more colour. Francien will apply a layer of dark brown and ochre, followed by partial layers of pink, grey and pale blue. After that, she will apply a layer of lighter brown, and because Lola has some redness in her coat, she will also add red brown and yellow. With white and cream coloured pencils she will blend the colours together, and finish with a last layer of black. Francien does not simply draws the form of the hair, but actually draws each individual hair, hundreds and thousands of them, to create a photo like image. See below for a detail of Lola’s coat.

Detail of Lola’s coat.
Finishing up. It is now time to finish the drawing. Francien will clean the paper well to avoid smudging. After that, she will spray a layer of fixative over the drawing. The very last thing she will add are the whiskers, using a white paint and a very thin brush. This is truly the finishing touch of the drawing.

In this particular case, the client preferred a drawing with no background colour, but everything is possible. Lola and Igor’s drawing is ready to be collected by the client, and Francien will soon start a new one!

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