20 Lines A Day

A Community of Writers and Photographers



Perfume MedleyArt is my profession; music is my passion.

Art and music are two creative pursuits that define my life. I realize that I didn’t include writing. I’ll save that for another story, because writing is definitely my remedy! There are many similarities between art and music for me. The most obvious parallel would be “layers.”

Every illustration I create starts with layers. The order, selection and placement of those layers affect the outcome. Each layer befriends the layer beside it. When I painted with watercolors, colors were transparent veils that I gradually built upon.

Perfume Close up 2

I am now primarily a digital illustrator. I separate every item in the composition on my computer. Then I arrange those items to fit comfortably into the label area I’m illustrating. I use whatever reference I can find and often shoot my own photos with an inexpensive digital camera. 

Below is an example of my digital process. I was still teaching myself how to do this when I illustrated a label for the salad company, Ready Pac. My illustration was for a Caesar salad dressing label and the ingredients needed to be arranged in a specific way to fit the space.

My photo of the ingredients.

My photo of the ingredients.

My final illustration (the lemon was taken out).

My final illustration (the lemon was taken out).


With music, the ingredients are the lyrics, chords and my vocal – all of which are deeply defined by me. 

Music has layers, just as an illustration does. Clearly defined layers comprise my song’s arrangement. Arrangements are simply layers (or separate tracks) of instrumentation and include my vocal and guitar recordings. 

I love composing music and sometimes it begins with a melody. Other times, I’ll write chords or lyrics first. Putting those layers together is a beautiful process that I find completely inspiring.

Music layers are visible as colored stripes on the computer program Pro Tools. I have learned to read and edit waveforms.

Music layers are visible as colored stripes on the computer program Pro Tools. I have learned to read and edit waveforms.

With art, I strive relentlessly to please my clients and that can involve numerous revisions to an illustration. With music, I strive to please myself. There is even a similarity between those because it is a relentless task. I am very demanding of myself!

My final illustration of Marion Berries. The client was very particular about the color of this berry.

My final illustration of Marion Berries. The client was very particular about the color of this berry.


Marion Berry ideas

When I shared my illustrations with a few friends, I received a message back that left me in hysterics. It was: 

Close, but this is Marion Barry….

Marion Berry

I far prefer illustrating a pepper like this one.

I far prefer illustrating a pepper like this one.

These peppers are a lot prettier!

These peppers are a lot prettier!

“Hot Stuff”

Sometimes on illustration assignments I am required to sign confidentiality agreements. Even though I haven’t had to on my recent projects, in the interest of being discreet I won’t name the clients I’m working for.

I have learned a lot as an illustrator. I received a small assignment to create two illustrations to go on a pizza box. One was for garlic and the other chipotle. For the garlic flavor, I already had existing art that could be used.


But for the chipotle flavor I had to create new art. Rarely is that required of me, since I have such an extensive library of existing food images. So now, I am intimately acquainted with Chipotle peppers. They were a lot harder to illustrate than I thought. It was because they were incredibly ugly and no actual reference existed!

Every job of mine begins with finding reference. I contacted the art director after going to a local Latino market looking for an example of chipotle peppers. I told her that I couldn’t find any actual peppers to work from. It seemed that they only existed as a picture on a can. And inside the can, those peppers were soaked in Adobo sauce. I needed something better than that to work from.

So she emailed me a picture that I will name “Pepper Corpses.”

Pepper Corpses

I couldn’t believe it – how in world would I illustrate peppers looking like that? 

It was time for me to be truly creative. I remembered seeing dried peppers at the Latino market. I would just go back and find something “similar.” I must mention that I was also searching for reference on another assignment. I needed items of caramel, chocolate and ice cream. For a few weeks I became a supermarket sleuth! My dining room table was covered with illustration reference. 

Unfortunately, the peppers I found did not really match the shape or color. Some were very tiny, long and a bright red color. Others were longer, wider and brown in color. I altered my photos and tried to match the photo of pepper corpses above. I then shot them off to the Art Director, whom I will call AD.

First Pepper reference

AD sent me back more photo reference.

Art direction

Aha! Now I was on the right track! Once again, I went back to the Latino Market and went through all the bins of dried peppers while holding a color copy of those images above. The penny was helpful for size, but there was still nothing that matched. But I knew with Photoshop I could do wonders. 

As I was walking toward the checkout line, there was another bin. Wallah! There were peppers that really seemed close to what AD wanted. Hint: They were not Chipotle.

Chipotle reference

I began my digital work and delicately erased the background and arranged the peppers into different compositions. I sent my layout choices off to the AD.

Chipotle Comps

The AD picked B. But now, the color had changed. Brown or eggplant color was out and I was instructed to create something with a deep red. I created another layout on my computer.

Final Layout

My layout was approved! I felt like I saw peppers in my sleep by now. My eyes burned because I rubbed them by mistake while I was photographing the dried peppers. I forgot how potent those peppers were! 

The process of creating my illustration was usually simple at this point. I printed out my image onto watercolor paper and worked over it. I used a lot of colored pencil, especially on the highlight areas that were numerous and too busy.

Sometimes my illustrations feel very abstract when viewed as a close-up.

Sometimes my illustrations feel very abstract when viewed as a close-up.

I sent off the final art and it was a relief. I always looked forward to the message telling me my artwork was approved and that I could send an invoice. I held my breath. 

The AD sent me a message with a tiny revision. It wasn’t difficult with my computer to alter the artwork. But of course, I thought, “Why didn’t she see that sooner?”


I made the small change and then I received her message below: 

Judy! Client loves the work and is so thankful we talked them into illustration vs. photography. All approved!! : ) 

THANK YOU SO MUCH again for jumping on this! Shoot over your invoice and I’ll get it into accounting right away. Yippeee! 

I wrote back: 

Wow! You just made my day. :) :) :) 

After illustrating peppers, I feel like I’m hot stuff.


Chipotle Pepper Final Art

I have a lot more information about my illustration career on my blog “Illustrating My Life,” which can be found at this link: http://foodartist.wordpress.com

© 2013 by Judy Unger, http://www.myjourneysinsight.com and 20 Lines A Day. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Author: Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!

3 thoughts on “LAYERS IN MY LIFE

  1. the dancing garlic pods :) and twisted burned red chilly


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