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Take a sneak peek inside Loish's sketchbook

Better known by her professional name Loish, Dutch artist Lois Van Baarle barely needs an introduction. But if you've managed to stay in the dark about this superstar illustrator's talents, here's a bit of background. Loish has been drawing her whole life, but currently creates concept art and character designs for clients such as LEGO, Guerrilla Games and Amazon. Both of her books – the recent The Sketchbook of Loish (opens in new tab), and 2016’s The Art of Loish (opens in new tab), have been hugely successful, following incredibly well-supported Kickstarter campaigns. 

Here, we take a peek inside Loish's sketchbooks. Read on for a sneak look at her works in progress, and the stories behind them.

If this inspires you to get your own sketchbook out, take a look at our tips for getting started with ink drawing (opens in new tab), or our roundup of helpful pencil drawing techniques (opens in new tab)

Click the icon in the top left of each image to enlarge it

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One of the common features found in Loish's work is her stylised depiction of hair. "One of my favourite things to draw is hair," she says. "It enables me to create flowing shapes and lines that lead the eye around the drawing." In this ink drawing, the flowing locks are mimicked in the ripples of water.

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"My drawings usually don’t convey complex stories or worlds, but instead focus on capturing a certain mood or emotional state,” says the artist. She was inspired to create the sketch on the right at the beginning of autumn, when the cold weather started to set in and people were getting their scarves and coats out.

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This piece was created during Inktober, and is based on the prompt 'precious'. "I thought about magpies and the myth that they like to steal shiny objects," Loish explains.

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Loish drew these sketches using references. “I’m not only practising faces and expressions here, but also how I can translate the reference material into my own art style,” she says. 

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Above is another drawing from an Inktober challenge. “Inking is a challenge for me, but one thing I really enjoy about it is using negative space (opens in new tab) to give more definition to the shapes and forms,” says Loish.

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"Sometimes when I finish drawing one face, I want to draw another, and then another until a cluster of characters takes shape," says Loish. Sharpen your own skills with our guide to how to draw a face.

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Loish's figures are instantly recognisable as her work. "I love to stylise the shapes in my drawing and see if I can exaggerate or push it beyond what I would normally draw," she says. 

She also likes to contrast different drawing styles. "I like to experiment with ways to balance more highly detailed areas with rougher, more simple areas.” In the drawing on the left, the figure's messy bun is detailed, whereas the jumper has been sketched a lot more loosely.

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“When I do anatomy studies, I usually try to focus on the overall shape and gesture, rather than getting all of the details right,” says Loish. Hands are notoriously tricky to get right – for some tips, take a look at our guide to how to draw hands (opens in new tab)

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While Loish is known for her dreamy depictions of women, her sketchbook is packed with all kinds of creatures – including these studies of dogs and cats. "I love using a sketchbook to practise and bring new things into my visual memory," she says. 

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This particular pencil and ink drawing was inspired by a trip to Canada. “Ever since I saw a burnt forest on vacation in Canada, I’ve been drawn to the imagery of a forest that’s damaged but regenerating.” The piece blends the figure's hair into the trees, and uses a stark colour palette to create impact.

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These rugged figures were created for the Inktober prompt 'angular'. "The first thing that came to mind was bearded men, so that’s what I went with," she smiles.

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Like many artists, Loish uses her sketchbook to explore new themes and let her creative mind wander. "I usually doodle whatever comes to mind, and as a result the sketchbook pages can sometimes become a random mix of styles and ideas," she explains.

An edited version of this article was originally published in ImagineFX (opens in new tab), the world's best-selling magazine for digital artists. Subscribe here (opens in new tab).

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ImagineFX is the No.1 selling digital art magazine for fantasy and sci-fi enthusiasts! Featuring digital and traditional drawing skills, game design, manga and film art each issue is crammed with training and inspiration from leading artists in their fields. Whether it's learning from comic art's Adam Hughes, fantasy art's John Howe, or digital painting's Loish, ImagineFX has you covered. ImagineFX has been inspiring artists for 15 years!