My New Project: Art Meets Books

My New Project: Art Meets Books | Amanda Sue Howell | #fashionillustration #fantasyillustration #amandasuehowell

Last October, I realized that I was no longer happy with my blog. I had been struggling to come up with topics that were appropriately business-y enough for a virtual assistant’s blog. I was on a creative high, having just ended a 30 day challenge, of live hand lettering on Facebook. A chat with a friend made me realize that my frustration was stemming from a feeling that I was no longer writing about topics I was passionate about. I was writing about topics I thought others wanted me to write about. Boo hiss.

Almost completely overnight, I changed everything. I updated my branding, blog, colors, logo, and photos. But then it turned out no one really liked the “curmudgeon” branding. So I changed it all again, and this time I went with my name. But I still didn’t really know… what… I was going to be doing. I knew something something books…. something something art. In fact if you asked me about my blog, I probably used the words “bookly artish” to describe it, because I didn’t have anything more to share.

But meanwhile I kept exploring, playing, creating. I watercolored. I made Skillshare classes*. And I just let it percolate in the back of my head. On February 14th, when most women were bombing Facebook with photos of flowers from their man, I was having a brilliant moment.

When I was a kid, my Mom bought me paper dolls from Dover. They were of a little Chinese girl and boy, and they had historical costumes like a Manchu wedding. And they were cute, but I didn’t really do much with them. Later, my Mom got me this neon pink stencil where you could draw your own paper dolls and clothing. And I started with the stencils, but I got bored pretty quickly, and started free handing the clothing.

I’d whip out my Mom’s 1965 World Book Encyclopedia (Book C), and go through the historical fashions… pulling designs from the Elizabethan era, the 1940s, and even Ancient Egypt. Later, I began reading a series about a little girl named Mandie*, who attends a young lady’s finishing school, and the books are chock full of descriptions of clothing. Some of the most memorable passages in books for me involve clothing, and one of the primary reason I wanted to read The Selection Series* was because of the dresses on the covers.

So I started thinking about drawing clothes. And I thought about how, when I got my very first iPad (Generation 2!), I downloaded Paper, and the first thing I did, was draw a few dresses. They looked like crap, cause I didn’t know how to use my iPad for that just yet… but that’s what I gravitated towards for my first art on there.

I thought about how a few years back, I had some acrylics, and I did a painting for my office… and it was a dress. And later I painted a boot. I thought about some of my Skillshare classes I’ve signed up for… watercolor fashion, painting jewels and jewelry… and I realized I was on to something.

Then I thought about a book I’d read about drawing clothing, and the long, lean models it featured in it’s instructions. Long. Lean. Hmmmm. Models. Meh. Long… lean… slim. Hmmmm. Slim. Like elves. Like ELVES. OMG. ELVES! I ran into the kitchen and told my husband “I just had an idea and it’s either genius or crazy!” He said “the line between those is pretty blurred.. the key is to err more on the side of genius.”

So I spilled the whole thing to him… drawing fashion… on elves. And I continued to explain, that if I become known for elfin fashions, I could expand to other body types like hobbits, ogres, trolls, giants… and my daughters have put in a request for fairies.

I was already REALLY excited about this, but then when I laid down to go to sleep, I had the rest of the idea pop into my head. Instead of just drawing any ole fashions, I’d harken back to my paper doll days, and draw fashions inspired by what I’m reading.

When our tax refund came in, my husband suggested that I take the opportunity to load up on materials so I can dive into this as quickly as possible, and I did! I spent more money than I’ve ever spent on books at one time (and it was GLORIOUS!). I got books on drawing fashion, books on drawing fantasy creatures… even a book on digital drawing in Photoshop.

One thing that I’ve said repeatedly, is that a road trip is the most fun when a friend comes along for the ride. It’s the whole premise behind me sharing my 3 Focuses for the year, and in that spirit I’m sharing all the books I bought (plus I few I already had) for this particular leg of my journey. Even if you don’t want to make dresses on elves, there’s probably something in here that will interest you. And I’ll share a bit about why I chose each one and/or what I’ve used it for already. <3

*Just a reminder, all links with an asterisk are affiliate links. This doesn’t cost you any extra, it just sends me a little for my coffee and lemon bars fund.

Fantasy Fashion Illustration by Amanda Sue Howell: Fashion Books

Fashion Illustration

Fashion by DK*

We had a clothing/costume book by DK when I was a kid… we were homeschooled, and if you’re a homeschooler you’ve probably got a lot of DK books in the house. ๐Ÿ˜€ I homeschool my kids, and we’ve got a pretty decent collection too. This DK book is not your standard DK books… if you’ve ever seen them you’re familiar with the white cover, black strip across the top, etc. This book is MASSIVE. And it’s got gorgeous illustrations!

Steampunk & Cosplay Fashion Design & Illustration*

I’m hoping to learn sewing next year, and I would LOVE to add steampunk elements to my daily wardrobe. I also feel like these could be fun elements to bring into my art, since it’s pretty well established that I love steampunk. Except for the TV show Steampunk’d. Great idea, lousy execution.

Shojo Fashion Manga Art School*

Manga is another art form that features a lot of long lean kind of characters, and I really enjoy a lot of anime & manga art styles (as you’ll see further down). So I picked up this one, and it’s sequel (see below).

Shojo Fashion Manga Art School 2*

Same as above.

The Manga Fashion Bible*

Really… same reason as the Shojo Fashion school books. And yes I have two… want one? Live in the US or Canada? Send me an email!

Fashion Illustration Art*

This teaches how to draw figures, as well as the clothes over them… it goes into a lot of detail about creating movement with your clothing.

The Art of Fashion Illustration*

This one is primarily inspiration… it’s kind of an industry who’s-who book, with sketches and illustrations from people who do this for a living… I mean, not on elves… just in general. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Watercolor Made Easy: Portraits*

This could have been with the painting pile, but because it’s portraits, I put it with fashion illustration, because there’s a lot of focus on creating the bodies under the clothing, and portraits will pull in some realism.

Fashion by the Kyoto Costume Institute*

This is another inspiration book like the other Fashion book. It’s not as massive a book as the DK one, but it’s nearly as thick, and still has GORGEOUS illustrations.

Contemporary Fashion Illustration Techniques (not pictured, cause it was on my desk)*

This is another one that has great information on drawing figures but it also goes into details about making good hands, eyes, lips, faces from different angles, etc.

Fantasy Fashion Illustration by Amanda Sue Howell: Fantasy Books


The Compendium of Fantasy Art Techniques*

I didn’t know a whole lot about this yet, but the title gave me a snicker… it’s subtitle is “The Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Fantasy Worlds, Mystical Characters, and the Creatures of Your Own Worst Nightmares”. That was enough to make me grab it up.

DragonArt Fantasy Characters*

This is divided up into 4 sections: things of fairy tale, things of legend, ย things that go bump in the night, and fashion central. Sounds like a great place to start, and this is another one that should be a pretty quick read.

Dreamscapes Magical Menagerie*

This looks GORGEOUS. It’s got instructions on painting elementals, koi, Pegasi, and any number of other non-humanoid creatures that might inhabit a fairy story. This is exciting to me, because I may branch out later, and meanwhile some creatures are human-animal hybrid (like centaurs) and this is handy information.

Watercolor Fairy Art*

As mentioned above, my daughters put in a special request for a line of fairies, and a friend of mine has requested a fairy tattoo design. And I LOVED fairies when I was younger…. I used to have a pretty decent collection of them all across my shelf and mantle.

Drawing Made Easy: Dragons & Fantasy*

It talks about drawing fairies, ogres, and other fantastical creations, as well as dragons. It’s a slim, quick read, and it also looked like it had excellent information on shading!

Fantasy Fashion Illustration by Amanda Sue Howell: Painting Books


Beginner’s Guide to Digital Painting in Photoshop*

There’s so much beautiful digital art out there, and I may dive into it in the future. Meanwhile, this book is TOTAL eye candy.

Pop Painting*

I was tuned into Camilla a while back, after spying one of her books at Hobby Lobby. I tucked her away as someone to research when I got home, but of course I forgot. Later I saw her name pop up at CreativeBug, and I started exploring her work. She’s a very surrealistic sort of artist, and I find her paintings fascinating.

Everyday Watercolors (already owned)*

I picked this up basically as soon as it came out. I follow Jenna on Instagram, and her paintings are SO gorgeous. She really is a stunning example of how much you can grow painting every day, because even though her paintings were gorgeous when I started following her, I’ve witnessed her growing and expanding her techniques on her Instagram stories.

Acrylic Painting for Dummies (already owned)

My Mom bought this for me, a billion years ago, before I actually had acrylics. Now I can finally dig into this and use it. Thanks Mom!

Fantasy Fashion Illustration by Amanda Sue Howell: Manga BooksMy New Project: Art Meets Books | Amanda Sue Howell | #fashionillustration #fantasyillustration #amandasuehowell


Manga for the Beginner: Chibis (already owned)*

I bought this years ago, and did a few little drawings from it… chibis are some of the cutest little things ever!

Pop Manga*

This is another book by Camilla, who did Pop Painting. And it’s got a panda bear on the cover. Do I really need anymore reasons?

Manga Art*

This had a really cute cover, and mentioned art in a wide variety of mediums. That’s all I needed. ๐Ÿ™‚

Kawaii Doodle Class*

This one is Jessica from Brown Paper Bunny’s fault. She posted about it on her Instagram, and she was doodling the cutest little kawaii tacos, coffees, popsicles… this probably isn’t anything that would wildly feature in my art, but it’s a fun aside, and it could pop up in a clothing pattern. You never know. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Manga for the Beginner: Kawaii*

I just think this is adorable… really that’s all there was too it. ๐Ÿ˜€ And I already owned the Chibi one. ๐Ÿ˜€


Okay! BLESS YOU for making it all the way through that, and now I just have one question for you… what book have you read, that had FA-BU-LOUS clothing in it?

Amanda Sue

Amanda Sue is an enabler for creatives who shun niches. Through her super-approachable classes & range of Pinterest services, she's here to remind you that you deserve to carve out the life of your dreams. Her adoring fans & customers have called her classes "fun + relaxing" & "refreshingly breezy". When she's not painting & Pinning, you can find her teaching herself to knit while she indulges her latest Netflix obsession.


  1. Omg now I want to learn how to do Kawaii doodles ?! I can’t wait to see what you create with all this inspiration surrounding you ??,!

  2. Wow! You didnโ€™t buy books, you bought a library! Iโ€™m totally on board with your daughters when it comes to fairies. Elves can be pretty cool, dragons are awesome, but fairies are the next best thing to mermaids, in my opinion. Canโ€™t wait to see what you do with all this new artsy bookishness!

  3. Wow, I wish you good luck on your new adventure! And crazy thing – I work for the company that published those Mandie books you read as a kid. I read them, too, and ended up in the marketing department of that publisher as an adult. Small world!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge