Mandala in Ink

This week’s drawing is a “Healing Mandala” design. I drew it during a difficult couple of weeks in November when my mental health was very poor and my pain was very bad. I was in bed for half of the first week and all of the second week so that’s where I drew most of it. It really did help me through.

Healing mandalas usually have a focus to help the individual looking at them to reduce their stress, heal emotionally and reflect deeply. I focused my mandala on nature. Traditionally mandalas are geometric designs. I found putting together strong geometric shapes and patterns with natural elements like leaves, flowers and pollen was a very calming combination. It also helped me to draw out the wholeness I feel when I am within a very natural environment.

Oddly I began this whole healing journey with trigonometry! I used my trig and a pair of compasses to draw out a six-sided plan for the mandala…

It began looking like a range of overlapping circles. Circles are important in mandalas since they represent wholeness, unity, harmony, kinship and health. Then I adjusted the circles into large roundish leaf shapes. I worked on the centre first and then from the outside in gradually building up my nature motifs. The idea was to make a large lotus flower shape and then to have natural designs on each petal.

Here is the final design…

What kinds of things would you put into your picture if you drew your own healing mandala?

Brahmin Moth Caterpillar – line and wash

I discovered some amazing creatures on one of Reddit’s biological forums the other day. They were the weirdest caterpillars I’ve ever seen. I decided to draw one in ink and then paint it with watercolour. It proved to be a really wonderful subject. I was thoroughly immersed in the drawing. Here is the first photo I remembered to take. I had completed the Caterpillar in pencils and inked quite a lot of it…

I wasn’t really sure how I intended to ink the leaves on my picture so I tried a few methods out on some scrap paper…

I chose one and then continued working my way through the rest of the drawing with my pen. Here’s the completed ink drawing…

Next I painted a big colourwash over the whole picture and, once that was dry, I added small colour washes for the details. Here’s the final picture…

Ink Adventure 3 – a Crow and some trees

In my final week of experimentation with ink I played around with splattering ink and dropping ink to paint some trees and a crow.

For the trees I painted a big wet blob on the paper with clean water. I let it sink in and then I painted it again to make sure it was really wet. Then I dropped quite a few drops of ink into the little pool that I had made. I then did the same thing again for each additional tree. I tried really hard not to disturb the ink/water mixture. Eventually I put the painting high up on top of my printer where Leia (my cat) couldn’t get to it and left it to dry naturally. This took all day! I did get some excellent patterns in the ink.

Once it was dry I painted on the tree trunks and the ground. Here’s the final picture…

The last painting I did was of a crow. I drew all of the crow except his wings in ink pen (Pigma microns and a thin, flexible tipped cartridge pen). Then I dropped a big pool of ink and blew it across the page. It really took some courage to do that since in one breath I might have ruined the whole painting! Then, when the first wing was dry I put another smaller blob of ink on the paper and blew it again for the second wing. Finally I went back into the drawing and tried to join up the wings and body more smoothly. Here’s the last picture…

I quite like this one. I do love crows generally and the ink splatter makes this crow look particularly scruffy! It reminds me of a one legged crow I met many years ago in a municipal garden next to a shopping centre. I was eating bread pudding and this intensely scruffy one legged crow hopped next to me for 200 yards. He was quite clearly begging for some bread pudding. I gave in and shared my food with him. He was extra friendly.

Ink Adventure 2 – Dropping the ink

Continuing with my series of ink paintings, this week I have a painting of a wave and a painting of a snail for you. For both of these pictures I used the technique of dropping permanent ink onto very wet paper. When I did this the ink spread out across the watery surface and after a few seconds partially dried. Then the dried sections floated around like an ice-flow in Antarctica with bits breaking off and other bits holding together. It was fascinating. I tried to think of ways to use the texture which this technique lent to the ink.

First I thought about using it to represent turbulent water under a wave. I painted it in and then added some smoother water on top.

It kind of worked but I didn’t think the technique came through strongly enough to really show what it can do. So I had another go. This time I used it to paint a cobbled pathway which my snail was slithering along. This was much more effective. You can really see the sections of ink. Here’s the second painting…

Ink Adventure 1 – Freedom vs Control

As we head into the new year I’ve got a series of images I painted at around the same time. I want to show you two at a time over three weeks. While doing this I was trying to explore more adventurous ways of painting with ink.

I began with two paintings which are complete contrasts. The first is an ink painting of a sweet pea flower done using my regular watercolour technique but using ink rather than watercolour as my medium. I have a strong natural preference for precise, high control methods as I paint and this is the kind of painting I often make. I find it incredibly relaxing to paint like this..

However, I think I might develop more as an artist if I can learn to let the ink speak for itself a little more, letting go of control to some extent as I paint.

To try to kickstart myself into doing this I had a go at just playing with the ink. I made a splatter painting using a home-made straw to blow the ink in various directions. At first it felt like all semblance of artistic endeavour was gone and I was just mucking about, but gradually, as I got into it, I began to get a feel for how to blow the ink and where. I followed my gut, feeling my way into the painting. It surprised me quite a lot that I still had that same sense of direction about the painting that I get normally. I thought it would flow more somehow without any end in mind, but my heart was seeing into what I was doing and it still felt like I knew which way to go. I wondered if my mind was putting order onto chaos or if there was some kind of order there already which I was somehow picking up on.

Anyway, here is the spatter painting I made…

It was pretty good fun to make!

I wish you all a very happy new year!

Happy Christmas!

This week’s art is all about Christmas cards. I wanted to wish you all a Happy Christmas (or Happy Holidays if that’s more appropriate for you)! So I made two ink drawings; one of a Christmas star and one of a Swedish Christmas gnome.

Here are the ink drawings…

I then scanned these drawings into my computer and coloured them digitally – one with a focus on Red and the other with a focus on green.

Here are the finished cards…

I wish you all health and happiness this Yuletide season.

For my friends whom I know in person I have also ordered some Christmas card envelopes. I plan to print out these cards and seal them in envelopes of the same colour. As I write this (mid to late November) the envelopes haven’t yet been delivered but if I remember I will put a photo of the finished cards in here once they arrive.

Hope you all have a great holiday!

PS: Here are the final cards. I didn’t manage to get the green ones and had to settle for white ones instead. I’m going to put a small Christmas Cracker figurine in with each card…

Water Bottle – Realism Challenge

This week’s art is a drawing I made following Mark Crilley’s Realism Challenge

I have really enjoyed Mark’s work since I read his graphic Novel “Brody’s Ghost”…

He draws beautifully in his books. Here’s a panel from this book…

Brody’s Ghost Panel by Mark Crilley

I just love it!

In Mark’s Realism Challenge book, he takes the reader through the process of drawing one hyper-realistic picture in each chapter. I needed something to draw when attending the art club I go to so I thought I might have a go at another of his challenges. This was to make a drawing of a water bottle. I decided to do it in ink.

Here’s Mark’s final picture next to his reference…

I drew using his reference. I began laying out the basic structure of the drawing as accurately as I could…

Then I developed this into a more detailed pencil sketch…

Finally I inked the drawing. Here’s the finished study…

I really enjoyed this exercise. I love realism and I love Mark’s drawing books. So it was the perfect combination!

If you’re interested in seeing more of Mark’s work here are some links…

Mark’s Deviant Art Page

His Gallery on his own Website

Mark’s YouTube Page

Fighting Fish – Watercolour

This week’s art is a small watercolour painting of a Fighting Fish (Betta splendens). They are called fighting fish because the males are extremely territorial and will fight one another if put in close proximity. In the wild one fish will normally back down from the other and swim away. In captivity however they can’t do that and so it’s recommended never to keep two males together. Housed alone or with other peaceful tankmates they are wonderful peaceful fish. I’ve kept many betta’s over the years. They are very intelligent and learn easily if you train them with food. Mine particularly loved bloodworm.

Here’s my first betta fish called Anthony…

While I didn’t draw Anthony I think my colour choices were influenced by him. Here’s my pencil drawing…

And here is the watercolour painting…

This was only a small painting done in my sketchbook during a couple of hours at an Art Club I attend at the charity Mind.

Minoan Bull in Ink

In autumn I tend to get a strong urge to pack a backpack, put on my walking boots and head out the door. I sometimes wonder if humans have ever had a history of seasonal mass migration. I just feel the pull of it. However, since such things have not been an option for me health-wise for quite a few years now, I think I will settle for a re-read of Fellowship of the Ring by Tolkien. It gives me the same wild and mildly dangerous sense of being on a long journey which I get when I travel.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” (J.R.R Tolkien, 1954)

I’ve been looking back on previous adventures over the last few weeks. In my late 20’s I made a second trip to Crete with my partner and we spent some time learning more about the ancient Minoan culture in and around Heraklion and the Palace of Knossos. It was wonderful. We were put into a group by the museum there with a young woman who had a doctorate in Archaeology and had done her thesis on “The Place of Women in Minoan culture” (I’m not sure of the exact wording of the title). It was one of those times when you just click with someone. We were eager to learn and she was an enthusiastic and knowledgeable teacher. Seeing the Palace was fascinating in itself, but seeing it through her eyes, so to speak, was like entering an ancient wonderland. The temperature was around 40 deg C that summer but I hardly noticed it. It was such a good trip.

This week’s art is an ink drawing of a Minoan Bull with a Labrys (λάβρυς – double-bitted axe) and a Labyrinth. It’s a way of remembering that trip.

Here are the pencils with the very beginning of my inks…

I had quite a bit of trouble with the inks for this drawing. I just couldn’t get the textural feel I wanted for the bull. In the end I used a worn out ink brush to scribble in the darkest darks and then worked from there with small circular scribble-like marks. Then I added tone using graphite. I didn’t quite get it to how I had it in my mind but it did end up having the feel I wanted.