Sketching from the Imagination: Iris Compiet

All images are part of my book Faeries of the Faultlines, © Iris Compiet, 2017

All images are part of my book Faeries of the Faultlines, © Iris Compiet, 2017

Mythical Beasts artist Iris Compiet talks about why she loves sketching, her favorite artists, tools and her Kickstarter project Faeries of the Faultlines...

Im an independent artist, working for international clients. I enjoy working on many different projects, at the core of all of these is always the emphasis on storytelling, an example of this is my own world called Faeries of the Faultlines.

For my book Faeries of the Faultlines I will just sketch whatever faerie pops in my mind, these bird fae are fun to create and Im looking for ways to mix the right amount of bird features into the design
© Iris Compiet, Faeries of the

As a kid I knew I wanted to be an artist, the one book I frequently took home from the library was Faeries by Alan Lee and Brian Froud. I copied all the drawings from that book as best I could when I was seven years old. This was what I wanted to do, draw! I devoured fairytale books illustrated by Rackham, I craved stories about ghosts, vampires and all kinds of creatures that are hidden. It fueled my imagination. I started to draw the characters from those stories, I think that was the first time I started to illustrate anything.

"its a sketch, its not meant to be perfect, its meant to catch an idea"

Sketching was the one thing I have done since early childhood. And I still sketch, a lot! It is the starting point for everything. It is a way to note my stories; a simple sketch can hold an entire story in itself. Those simple lines are able to take me onto a journey into a different world. Theres power in simple lines. Sometimes sketches are so much more interesting than the finished piece thats created based upon the sketch. Thats because its very difficult to retain the looseness of the sketch, the honesty thats in there when you try to recreate it. For this reason Ive recently started to sketch directly on my final stretched canvas, to try and keep that emotion thats in the sketch.

Not only do I sketch with pencils I also enjoy working with watercolors and see what will happen, often the pigments and water will give you a little texture gift to work with
© Iris Compiet, Faeries of the

I love looking through sketchbooks of artists; its a glimpse into their thinking, their world without any of the polishing. It is raw and a wild ride. Sketches dont have to be perfect, perfect is boring, I like it when its rough and raw, theres emotion in those lines. I have stopped apologizing for how my sketches look, I used to apologize when people asked if they could look through my sketchbooks, that there were things wrong, anatomy off and so on. And I no longer do that, its a sketch, its not meant to be perfect, its meant to catch an idea. Its like a breadcrumb left by Hansel and Gretel to find my way back to that idea.


Inspiration is all around me, its everywhere! I love nature; its full of ideas for creatures. You can go to a forest and return with a world in your head, its all right there, if you only know how to look. Go to the zoo and right there, there are dragons!

But, of course, Im inspired by other artists as well. From the Masters like Rembrandt and Bosch to contemporary artists whose sketches push me to grow. Ian McCaig, Terryl Whitlatch, Larry MacDougall, Patricia MacDougall, Tiffany Turrill, Brynn Metheney, Allen Williams, Omar Rayyan, Chris Berens, John Howe, Alan Lee, Brian Froud, Rackham, Dulac just to name a couple.

A typical example of how I like to work when Im working on a bigger piece. Ill do rough thumbnails to work out the composition and I will focus on some areas that are important to see how theyll look, figuring out poses and such
© Iris Compiet, Faeries of the

I discover new artists that I find inspiring on a daily basis, I love to see how they deal with things, how they create their worlds. Its both humbling and a push to do better next time myself.


I love trying out new materials. I cant walk into a shop and not return home without buying something to try. I have only recently started using oils, I love to sit down and work with those. Yes even sketch with them, although it still takes me a long time to sketch with those so my preferred sketching materials are my trusted pencils.

I have many brands but my current favorites are Prismacolor Col-erase pencils, Tuscan Red, Black and Indigo Blue. The Palomino Blackwing pencils are nice as well but my main weapons of choice are my mechanical pencils, this is because theyre easy to take along when I travel: no need to sharpen them. The brand I use is GraphGear1000 from Pentel. I have several filled with leads ranging from 0.3mm to 0.9mm, the leads are anywhere from HB to 2B.

For this creature that lives in the Faultlines, a Willow Witch Im doing studies of the tree itself as well as finding the right face, just the right mix between human and tree. The movement in the tree is important as well so I spend a lot of time trying different poses
© Iris Compiet, Faeries of the

Sometimes Ill add watercolor to the sketch, just to see how it works. As for paper, Im in love with the Strathmore Visual Journals; I buy the multi-media ones in bulk. Its a spiral bound sketchbook and it can take a beating.


I try to sketch daily, sometimes using a prompt like #mermay #junefae or #smaugust to help me focus on one subject. I rarely have a fixed story in mind, sketching is first and foremost fun and exploration for me if Im sketching for myself. Of course when I sketch for a client things are different and I will have to keep a close eye on the brief Ive been given.

More poses and trying out some composition, how will it work in an environment? How much environment does the image need to tell its story?
© Iris Compiet, Faeries of the

But when its personal I will just let my pencil wander across the page, it becomes kind of a conversation on the paper. One sketch will lead to another and Im asking questions, the drawing is the answer. The mark making is often a generator of ideas, because I rarely set out to draw with a purpose other than to create a dragon for instance its always interesting to see what pops up.

I try to remain loose when sketching, I dont want to tie myself down, its just generating ideas. Sometimes I like to lay down some random marks and work from there and other times I will want to draw some faces I will just draw some different basic shapes and go from there.

Some color sketches, done with watercolor to see how I can get the texture to work and simulate the bark of the tree. Also a study for color, too much brown? Too little green? Figuring things out in sketches
© Iris Compiet, Faeries of the

Related links

You can still pre-order Iris's book "Faeries of the Faultlines" until end of January
Read Iriss chapter on the fearsome Jackalope in "Mythical Beasts"
Follow Irs on Instagram
Iriss Patreon
Iris's Facebook

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