Sunday, March 18, 2012


The ROUND ROBIN books are based on an add-on word game, where each two-word combination becomes the basis for an illustration.
Here is an example of a word association I got in ROUND ROBIN 2, and a step by step of how I created the corresponding image.

Mixed Media on Wood Panel
by Daniela Strijleva

The association created by these two words was somewhat obvious, planting an immediate image of the microscopic insect world into my mind. I had to get those plain associations out of my system right away. Humming birds, spiders, bees, and the like were the first things in my mind and the first crossed off the list. Then came the thought of engines and roads. I thought of a road map, then a subway map. A train station perhaps. Train engines and train tracks. And then I remembered a model train set I had as a kid where you built your own rail tracks. There it was, the inception of the idea.

On to the planning: research (because I'm a firm believer in it) and color roughs. I knew I wanted a vibrant, graphic look. But I had no idea how to organize it yet. I looked at a lot of model trains.
Research is one of my favorite parts of any project, because it not only serves to inform me on the topic at hand, but it also informs my artistic decisions.
I usually begin by searching for the obvious references but I always end up being surprised along the way. Invariably some unexpected piece of information will present itself to me, and my job is to recognize its potential and be open to embrace it.
In this case, I didn't know how to compose the painting. I knew I wanted a flat perspective-less look, but I still couldn't help myself but to draw angles and receding shapes. Just a habit, muscle memory. Annoying in this case.
Until, while searching for model trains, I noticed that their box sets and the majority of the display cases organized the cars in long horizontal rows, one above the other. It was exactly what I was looking for! No perspective, no recession with distance, just flat rows of train cars stacked on top of each other.

So now I had an idea of the composition. But I was still nowhere near having designed anything. I looked at more reference of specific train car styles and picked those I liked. I wanted a wide variety: engines, high speed passenger cars, freight cars, commuter cars, etc.

Next were color roughs and the final painting! I wanted to keep the palette vibrant, pure, almost primary. These stacked train cars were almost like a toy collection, where you want to have one of each color. So I wanted to stay close to that idea. This pure palette seemed to lend itself well to collage, so I got some origami papers which ended up driving the overall color scheme too.
And there you have it, HUMMING + WEB!


  1. Gorgeous. Thanks for sharing your process, Dani!

  2. Thanks for this Dani, really insightful! (beautiful piece too) I'm curious how much time you spend in research vs. roughs, vs final painting.

  3. I am so in love with artist's process, this was a great treat to see what went into the piece, love the origami paper and how it was used. When you choose wood as the canvas is there reason or just an innate sense that it is right?

  4. Thanks Bill, my pleasure!

    Matt, great to hear from you!!! It depends, because some pieces require more research than others, but in general I would say I spend most of the time doing thumbnails and color roughs. I really suck at going into a painting cold turkey. I HAVE to have a solid plan of attack.

    Sarah, I wanted to use wood panel for at least one of the paintings. I ended up using it in 3, but here I also thought it would be nice to feature the texture. There's something nice about flat, bold colors and wood - they combine well, like in children's toys.


  5. I love this piece and the process is the cherry on top. I also love the choice of origami paper. I try to use origami paper when I want something to really pop because you just can't find paper that bright.