I posted earlier this week about experimenting with watercolor for my cartoon paintings. I confess that I often feel leery of trying out new mediums and techniques. Why? Because, to be honest, going into uncharted waters (watercolors?) can often feel disorienting and frustrating. To take away some of the pressure, I decided to approach my foray into watercolor cartoon drawings as an opportunity to just spend time “playing around.” After all…

Play is the highest form of research.

Albert Einstein

Watercolor cartoon drawings look best if the ink (or pencil) lines are loose and improvised.

Using this view – scenic, huh? – from our balcony…


I drew the cartoon illustration below.


I drew the illustration freehand with a dip pen and India ink. Prior to starting the drawing I loosely mark out the positioning of the architecture and the figure with a water brush pen filled with diluted sepia ink. Moving away from creating a preliminary pencil sketch was scary, but I knew it would help to free up the overall look of the illustration.

Step Two in the process…

Was setting up my work station outside in the sun on our balcony.


(If you’re going to play, you might as well work on your tan in the process!)

Taking a page out of watercolor artist’s Teoh Yi Chie’s rule book, I even took the time to test out a primary watercolor palette on my watercolor paper. Then, while the paint dried, I called home to check up on my mom and her Siamese cat.

Hi mom!

Step Three in the process…

Was the actual painting.

Watercolor Cartoon Drawings by-Joana-Miranda, Photo by Joana Miranda

The nice thing about working from a limited primary color palette is that you’re pretty much guaranteed harmony within your color choices.

Here’s a scan of the finished watercolor cartoon illustration!

On the Upper West Side - Watercolor Cartoon Drawings by Joana Miranda

How about you? Do you make time to play? Any success stories you’d like to share?

I’d love to hear!


  1. Helen Reich says:

    Well, I’d say I need to be reminded to play. The idea for one of my best-selling lapel flowers came from a play sort of exercise. Dave Conrey did a Creative Badass (or something) challenge, with tasks every day for a month, if I’m not mistaken. I worked my way through the free version, and did almost everything. The task I’m talking about had to do with throwing caution to the winds, having fun, and not worrying about whether you can sell the thing you’re making. It eventually ended up as this https://www.etsy.com/listing/238819404/lapel-pins-mens-lapel-pin-flower-lapel?ref=shop_home_active_20&sca=1

    I really appreciated having the freedom to make something from 12 different fabrics, some of which had turned into teeny scraps. It was fun at the time, and it still is fun.

    I really like your latest cartoon, and I think the water colors look great!

    • Joana says:

      Hi Helen,
      I first heard about the concept of “scheduled playtime” from Charles Lewton Brain – a big wig in the jewelry world. I attended a metal fold forming masterclass he gave in Milwaukee and remember him telling the class that we should schedule a day each week to play at the bench. I loved the idea, but put it off since I always felt like I was under the pressure of too many deadlines. SIgh.
      Maybe it’s my advancing age, but I had an epiphany of sorts the other day…found myself realizing that if I was on my death bed tomorrow I’d probably regret not having relaxed and played more in my life.

      After I finished that watercolor cartoon today I spent some time just cartooning funny little vignette sketches with dip pen and ink. The first one was good but I felt myself getting tighter (and more down on myself) with the following 3 cartoons (all part of a series). However, when I just looked at the sketches I realized that they all have potential.

      So play time AND time away from the creative work are probably equally important!

      I like the pin you linked! It’s colorful, playful and fun. 🙂

      Sending a big hug,

  2. Sharon Miranda says:

    Hi My baby! Puck and I love your blog. This watercolor is wonderful! I am gobsmacked at how talented you are. (really!) xoxoxoxo mm

    • Joana says:

      Ooooooh, that made my day, week…no, year!!!
      xox – J

  3. Emma Montonen says:

    Hi Joana,

    Watercolours – now you’re talking, haha!
    Seriously though, lovely illustration, the colours work really well. What paper do you use, if you don’t mind me asking?

    Teoh does fantastic videos, I’ve learned so much from him.

    Hope you’re keeping well! All good here in Dublin, the students are on their holidays now, so I’m getting stuck into painting.

    Emma xxx

    • Joana says:

      Hi Emma,

      Yes, I’m dipping my toes into the water(color) now! 😉 I did that illustration in my new watercolor notebook. It’s made my Strathmore. Each page is separated by a thin sketch sheet, too, which is helpful for roughing out the compositions. These days, I’m really trying to get away from drawing my illustrations first with pencil. I love the more free look of doing the actual drawing in dip pen, but of course the results are less precise. (I do block out the general shapes with diluted Sepia ink in my water brush pen…I’m not yet good enough to abandon that crutch.) Plus, I’m drawing from my imagination, not from life. 🙂

      I’m planning to focus more of my time this month (I’m away my drafting table/equipment and our regular routines at home) on just “playing” with my illustrations. I spend so much time in the “production mindset” that I’m feeling like I need to get back in touch with just having fun creating and trying out different things with my illustrations.

      I hope you are enjoying your student-free break! I very much look forward to seeing what you put up next on your blog!
      xox – Joana

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