My name besides pbird12
is Paula McDonald (no Ronald or Old MacDonald jokes, please!). In my head I am 20 years old and will be forever; sadly, in earth years I am a wee bit older than this.
I’m 33. I am Scottish and live with my fiancé and two beautiful children. My little boy is 2 and my little girl is 5. Do you remember when you started drawing? Did something or someone in particular inspire you to pick up your pencils?
"I always drew as a kid and loved Art class at school, but was never able to draw people - I found it very frustrating. When I left school I went to college and studied Graphic Design for 3 years, and I think it turned me against art in general - I hated it! So, I didn't draw for more than 10 years. I started drawing realism when I joined dA, so about 15 months or so ago, and now I can draw people!" Did you go to art school or take art classes/courses, or are you mainly a self-taught artist?
"I’m completely self-taught (besides your run-of-the-mill school stuff) and am still learning with every drawing." How would you describe your progress over the years? Where did you improve, and what would you still like to improve?
"Well, it's still early days, but over the last 15 months, the learning curve has been HUGE! As I said, I can now draw people and that in itself makes me more happy than I'd like to admit. I love photo-realism and I think with each drawing there is improvement and hopefully this will continue." Have you ever had your work published? If so, where and when?
"Recently I had my Sands of Time
drawing featured in Colored Pencil Magazine
- that was exciting! I was also featured on a website
. They have now asked for my work to be included in a printed publication early next year.
Both of these contacts were made through dA." "Recently I had my Sands of Time drawing featured in Colored Pencil Magazine" How do you incorporate your art in your everyday life? How much time do you spend on your artwork during an average week?
"Art is mainly my hobby; I am lucky enough to get some commissions, but for the majority of the time, drawing is my way to wind down and relax. When my noisy and very energetic children go to sleep, I grab my pencils and have some me time. On a typical week, I probably draw about 15 hours or so." Have you ever considered making art your profession (if you haven't done so already)?
"I have mixed feelings about art as my profession. I do draw portrait commissions and have been involved in some website branding, and these are great! But as a full-time job, I worry that it would take away the enjoyment I get from it, so I guess in a roundabout way, this one is a no." What are your other interests besides drawing?
"I love reading and books to the point where I have nowhere else to fit another bookcase.
Until recently, studying was a very large part of my life, but I now have my degree and have a lot of time I don't know what to do with anymore! I also enjoy making jewellery very much." Your gallery contains a truly impressive and varied collection of artwork. You seem to draw inspiration from many different sources; for example, there's fan art from movies and TV shows such as Harry Potter, True Blood, and Supernatural, but also drawings of non-celebrities (even animals) where you used reference pictures that you found on deviantART or elsewhere on the internet. What is it that makes you decide to draw these subjects? Do you have a favorite?
"Thank you very much. I'm ashamed to say that a lot of the time I draw people because they are handsome.
I feel so shallow. I like to draw pretty people or interesting-looking people; I also really like a challenge, so quite often things will be detailed. I never really have criteria for who or what I draw; it just needs to attract me and keep my attention or be a challenge. My favorite things to draw are probably people; the novelty of being able to do that has yet to wear off. I find something every other day here on dA that I want to draw." When I look at the drawings in your gallery, I can't help but feel that the majority of them have a rather 'dark' quality to them, in terms of atmosphere, theme, and/or emotion. Is there some truth in this? If so, is it a conscious process – i.e., do you purposefully select subject matter that is slightly less light-hearted – or are you just drawn to these themes, without being aware of it?
"I think that is true; I like atmospheric or emotive art and daresay that I am drawn to this type of image. It's not a conscious decision, though; it could be my inner demons at work.
" You are the co-founder of a group called Draw-Along, which has quite an interesting philosophy: each month, members are provided with a reference picture that they can then interpret in their own way, as long as the original reference is still recognizable in the final product. You have done a few Draw Along challenges yourself – can you tell us something about the creative process that you go through with these? For example, how do you make the reference picture that you’re given into something of your own?
"Our group is so important to us; we have a lot of fun over there. I always want to be able to give deep profound statements about a creative process and how I come to a conclusion about drawing something, but honestly, I tend to just get a feeling about something that could work and go with it. A lot of my ideas about things come to me during bouts of insomnia and staring at the ceiling." What are the reasons why you draw (e.g., as an outlet for your emotions; to inspire others; etc.)?
"This is really easy: it's just because I love it. I enjoy drawing and making and take pleasure simply in that. If I am lucky enough to inspire other people through that, that makes me really happy." What do you try to achieve through your art?
"To portray something in my style, to learn a new technique, and hopefully to create something people enjoy looking at." What do you do when you get stuck with a drawing you're working on? Do you take a break and try again later, or are you one of those people who just keep going?
"I would most likely take a break from it and go back to it a bit later with fresh eyes. I don't do that often, though; I prefer to finish something if I start." Are you a perfectionist when it comes to creating art?
"No, not really. I like everything to be well-drawn and well-finished, but I don't overanalyze anything; I just go with it and hope for the best. I like to think that my instincts will be right; that's not always the case, mind you.
" Do you ever ask someone's advice when you're working on a drawing?
"Yes, I do. I started posting works in progress of my drawings after some people had asked to see them and often I get really valuable advice there. I also ask opinions from my family - they don't draw at all, so they sometimes see things very differently to me." You do not seem afraid to experiment with new styles (e.g., mixing graphite with colored pencils), materials (e.g., ballpoint pen), and techniques (e.g., pointillism). Do you find it daunting to try out new things? What drives you to experiment?
"It can be a little nerve-wracking to try something new, but the want to be able to do it outweighs that completely. The drive probably comes from me having OCD: when I want to do something, I want to do it NOW and won't stop until I do. I'm sure it's not one of my most endearing qualities, but it is true. I also tell myself it's just paper and if it doesn't work, I can always try again." Have you ever tried your hand at digital art?
"Nooooo. After my Graphic Design fiasco, I don't have much love for anything digital at all. It's not something I will ever try; it just doesn't interest me to render art this way." What, according to you, are the main differences between working with traditional and digital media?
"This is such a difficult question because I don't have anything to compare traditional art to. But to me, digital media doesn't feel like an achievement, I guess. It's not that I don't like to look at it and appreciate it - I do - but the feeling of creation and achievement just wouldn't be there for me drawing with a tablet." Which materials do you use? Do you have a favorite art supply (e.g., a particular brand of paper or pencils)?
"I pretty much use pencils and paper; it's nice to keep it simple. I have four things that are my absolute favorite items: Mellotex paper (quite like smooth, plate-finish Bristol board), Tombow Mono 100 Pencils (Staedtler Mars Lumos come a close second), Tombow Mono Zero erasers, and Blue Tac." Is there a specific method you use to approach your art (e.g., the grid method, the free hand method)? Do you ever use different methods or do you stick to the one that works best for you?
"I do both. If I need a likeness to be as exact as possible (celebs, etc.) then I more often than not use a grid, but I prefer to draw freehand if I can." What are the parts of a drawing that you find the easiest and the hardest to do?
"I find my initial guidelines pretty difficult, just because it’s so boring. I also find the first couple of hours a struggle until I see something taking shape. I guess in terms of features, skin is the easiest. The most difficult: foreshortening of fingers - I always get this wrong.
" How would you describe your perfect working environment? For instance, do you listen to music or watch TV while you work, or do sounds distract you?
"I like to have something lighthearted on the TV (Friends
re-runs more often than not) or some music playing; nothing in particular, just noise." Where do you usually work?
"I usually work with a drawing board on my lap, but I do have a sit-down drawing board that I use. It is much easier but not as comfortable. I have a little pencil holder that folds into a pencil case and my daylight lamp too." How do you preserve your artwork (e.g., do you use a fixative, frame your drawings, etc.)?
"I always use a workable fixative on everything to stop smudging. All of my drawings are in art sleeves in a portfolio case; I don't display anything in frames." Do you edit your work on your computer before you post it?
"I crop any messy edges and adjust the brightness and contrast that have been adjusted during scanning, to match as close as possible to the original." For many deviantART members, scanning a drawing can be quite a nightmare. Scanned drawings seem to always look worse than the 'real deal', at least in the opinions of the artists themselves. How do you get your drawings scanned?
"Well, I can honestly say I suck at these things and often have to ask for some help. I just use my home scanner to get my images and most of the time they are pretty close, but I have to agree, nothing looks the way it does in real life, which is a shame." Which piece from your gallery do you think is your best work and why?
"You know, I'm actually pretty insecure about my art and find it difficult to believe I'm good at it. I do have one piece in my gallery that I think was a turning point in my skill level; it is the piece I feel most proud of. It's called Deluge
. I also feel happy with my Sands of Time
drawing; my colored pencils and I became friends during this one. "[Deluge] was a turning point in my skill level; it is the piece I feel most proud of." Who are your favorite artists, both in general and on deviantART?
"Oh, sooo many! I love Escher and Da Vinci, although neither have any influence over anything I do. On dA, there are so many people who are amazing and I can honestly say it was the artists on dA that made me pick up a pencil! I saw the site and HAD to be able to draw too. So, if I go by the first people on dA who I loved I'd say Cataclysm-X
, and akaLilith
. Do you have any tips or tricks for people who have read this interview and are now thinking, 'Oh, I want to be able to draw just as brilliantly as her!'?
"My advice is just to do it! Practice, practice, and more practice. This seems like a bit of a cop-out answer I'm sure, but it's true. Look at resources around you (websites, the great tutorials here on dA, and your own instinct) and just go for it. It's only paper! Also, I know not everyone replies on dA, but if there is someone you admire or would like to know how they did something, ask the question - most people are really kind and willing to help if they can." Is there anything else you'd like to share with us before we end the interview? Now's your chance!
"Just thank you very much for the opportunity to take part in this interview; I've really enjoyed it and hope I've not bored you too much.