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  • Writer's pictureClaudia Cárceles Román

Creating a Mona monkey Illustration

I started this illustration inspired by one of the very few mammals that can be found in the island of Grenada, West Indies.

Without any doubt, Mona monkey is the most magnificent one, with its reddish brown and shiny back fur, dark extremities contrasting with a white belly, puffy cheeks and crowned with yellow sparks.

They acrobatically descend the tree to climb on your shoulders and pick the delicious rock fig you are fearfully holding, is it then when I fell in love with them.

This was a great opportunity to try painting on a big canvas and take back my colored pencils!


Gather reference images. From the couple of island tours I had done, I collected a bunch of good pictures of the monkeys. They were great to use as reference. Here are some of them:

Create the sketch and find the right final paper. I had in mind that this time I wanted to paint on a big canvas, where I was going to include different monkeys and their environment. Call it a lack of planning or hard to find good resources, I went straight and start sketching on letter size paper and patched them together as I was progressing with the sketch.

Finding the right quality paper in the island of Grenada is challenging, the variety and quality of the paper you can find in the island is very limited, so I ended up getting a board I found at a stationery store. It measures 84x60cm and 2mm thick, with some level of texture and a yellowish tone.

Transfer the sketch. With such thick and big canvas, using a lightbox to transfer the lines was not a possible option. Therefore, I covered the back surface of the sketch with a soft graphite and trace over on the original side on top of the canvas, obtaining a 'ghost' image.

Start painting. The fun part started with the coloring of the monkeys! I was excited to do the main monkey first, putting a bunch of hours into detailing. Here some visuals of the process.

Background… the never ending background. It is the most tedious part of the drawing, layers and layers of foliage to create a dense rainforest. I used Supracolor soft Caran d'Ache pencil colors and lots of patience. Using water to spread the color as if it was watercolors allowed to speed up the process and achieve a smoother result.

Digital adjustments. Using Adobe Photoshop to fix here and there, especially the background and some elements I was not convinced about in the original painting.

And it's FINISHED!!

Which species will I illustrate next?

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