How Sandra Dieckmann's iPad helps her create beautiful illustrations

The illustrator reveals how she creates wonderful artworks of the natural world for the likes of Lily Cole – and how her iPad helps her creative process.


Illustrator Sandra Dieckmann enjoys observing the world, creating creatures and anything else that involves creative play. Her work mainly revolves around nature and wildlife, drifting, dreams and the things that touch her personally.

As part of a new collaboration with UK retailer Argos, illustration blogger Inkygoodness has talked to Sandra about her creative process and how using a range of drawing and organisational apps on the Apple iPad has inspired a fresh approach to her practice.

Read on to hear Sandra's approaches to creativity, productivity, working on location and why she gets so much out of using her iPad creatively.

Sandra on productivity

Being a nocturnal creature, I find that I am most productive later in the day, and usually start after midday in the studio and work till after midnight," says Sandra. "As my studio is so close to my home, I can be very flexible and work between the two spaces, sketching ideas at home then going to the studio to scan and finish the images.

I also think the city enhances my longing for space and nature extremely. With my work based mainly on wildlife and animals, I find that London provides me with a sort of 'negative inspiration' to look outside the city and discover nature, but being so busy, this isn't always possible.


Sandra on creativity

Ideas just come at the weirdest of times and I have to jot them down as they happen so I use whatever is around me. Any piece of paper, my phone, my ipad or the back of my hand! Ideas for me can come from various different places and are often dependent on whether I am working for a client or self-initiated work. 

I often find ideas come into my head during sleep or drifting in free time periods! I have quite surreal dream-scapes which I think is seen in some of my work. Commissioned work can have a rather different outcome as the clients may have a set idea about the outcome.

I like the fact that the iPad is easily carried around and I can compile all my ideas in one place.  My loose pieces of paper often get crumbled and lost so it was refreshing to find out that apps like SketchBookX and Sketches make it really easy to save quick sketches. I also use my camera a lot to catch images of colours and light that catch my eye or plainly to remind me of a certain place and idea I had there.


Sandra on working on location

The iPad tablet is good for a number of reasons, such as being able to look at images in a lot more detail than on a smartphone. This is great if I need to reply quickly to an email but can't get to a desktop.

I can take breaks from the studio and work in the park or a cafe and still remain immediately responsive to communications.  With such a large screen compared to a phone, I find it much easier to organise my thoughts and easily move between email and my calendar.


Sandra on social media

Social media has been a massive part of the growth of my business and the resulting successes. I have been able to reach a large global audience using mainly Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr as well as the network of Etsy.  

Sharing photos and insights and processes comes quite naturally to me and I don't plan it too much or schedule anything. I think Facebook has had the biggest impact and generated the most traffic for me. 

If I'm working on something new for example I will often take a snapshot and stick it on Instagram. It's a very immediate way of sharing visual information and you don't need to be too precious about it. 

I also write and collate a monthly newsletter using Mailchimp which I email out to an ever expanding mailing list. 


Sandra on working with Sky Rainforest Rescue, the WWF and Lily Cole

Earlier this year Sandra was approached by the creative team at agency Sapient Nitro to collaborate with Sky Rainforest Rescue partnered with the World Wildlife Fund on a campaign lead by model and campaigner Lily Cole. 

The project aimed to promote sustainability in the Amazon region as well as promote Lily Cole’s first footwear range for the sustainable trainer brand Veja which makes use of Amazonian rubber on the soles of the shoes.

"I was hired as the main illustrator on the SKY Rainforest Rescue campaign", recalls Sandra. "It was a great and interesting project to work on. The project was aimed at raising awareness of how much the rainforest ' the lungs of our world' need protecting and with it over 1 billion trees in Brazil. I jumped at the chance of being involved and was invited to illustrate a beautiful rubber tree and all the endangered creatures that call the Amazon region their home.

"The brief was to create a large artwork piece that would be split onto tiles on their dedicated Instagram site. The illustration was uploaded bit by bit as an Instagram installation. The full illustration was three Instagram tiles in width and over 60 tiles high and in real life stands well over 1.8m."


"The images were to be created and revealed over the course of a month. This was quite a logistical challenge and involved a large amount of contact with the main creative team - very different way to my usual practice of shutting myself off with minimal distractions!

I was sent a map of outlining what each tile should contain, and then was able to overlay a grid in Photoshop and assemble the image using drawings that I had made and then scanned onto the computer. I mainly worked in pencil and paper on all the sketches of the animals and tree; that way we were able to discuss and make changes before the colouring stage.

Colour was then added on Photoshop and the images sent to Sapient Nitro for final sign-off, and then every few days we would upload a few tiles to instagram and enjoy the audience engagement.

All-in-all I think I drew it around 20 days with little time out. It was a really crazy time full of instant coffee, long late nights and tight deadlines, happiness and tears."


"It was a mammoth project in every respect and also enormously important. We all really put our back into the project. Videos, animations, interviews and many collaborators were involved with creating interactive tiles and making the tree what it is today.

It was great to meet Lily Cole and the creative team and get really stuck in – the main challenge was handling daily revisions and changes to the drawings, which caused a few delays, but overall the project was a great success – the final illustration stands over 6ft tall. We use it as a height chart to measure visitors to the studio!"


My Tablet And Me

This story is part of a series of editorials published on Inkygoodness.com called My Tablet and Me. These are essential reading for illustrators and creatives looking for tips on how to improve their productivity.

Follow Inkygoodness on Twitter to hear about each editorial as they’re published, and keep track of the action with their hashtag #MyTabletandMe

A mini-documentary to accompany the project is currently being filmed with Nottingham production company Dimension 2 and is set for early 2015 release.

Sandra Dieckmann used the following tablet: iPad with Retina Display Wi-Fi 16GB White – £279 – available at Argos here.