Watercolour from Paris and First Steps Back into Acrylic

So I’m back to work this week. This is my favourite term of the year. It’s cool and steady with less in the way of ‘special days’ so we can get on with the learning. I’m going to try this year to balance my work and rest time so I have time to post every week. This week I’ve got a couple of paintings I did whilst in Paris in the summer and some thoughts on starting again with acrylics…

Paris

I painted a few pictures while I was over there in various places. They were all watercolour with occasional use of gouache white. Here are the first two. I was always pushed for time with these pictures so I tried to get down at least the main shapes and colours before people moved.

The first painting was while waiting to board the Eurostar at St Pancras International in London. I was feeling a little stressed at this point having been given a pat down search by Customs (because my heart implant makes the machine go off – I was carrying my pacemaker card but they decided to search me all over rather than look at the bloody thing!) So painting was a great way to calm down again. Here’s the picture I came up with…

My second painting was on day 2 when we visited Notre Dame…

There were actually armed police and droves of tourists all over the square in front of the cathedral so I moved a little to side for my painting. I picked out this beautifully dressed woman in red for my forground and the side buildings of the cathedral as my main subject. There were actually some cars parked behind the bushes just behind the railings but I missed them out too. I have always much preferred the quiet alleys next to cathedrals to the buildings themselves. They seem more friendly somehow.

Acrylics

I have been having a play with some acrylics for the first time in ages this week. My favourite jeans and top attest to this – I forgot how messy I am when painting! It doesn’t matter that much with watercolours but permanently marks clothes with acrylics! Rather than use the ones I already have which are over 10 years old I bought a small new set of good quality paints from Winsor & Newton. I also got some acrylic media to go with them. I have always used a retardent for blending because the paint dries so quickly! But I also wanted to see what effect a flow improver and gloss and matt mediums have. I’ve not got any painting finished from these explorations yet. I did some basic exercises and then began working on a small blue monster and doing different parts of his body with different methods so I can see the difference. The additional media do help a little to make the stuff less sticky but it’s still been very very different from using watercolours.

My feeling is that I’m struggling a bit because, having spent so long on watercolour in the last few years, I’m trying to use acrylics like watercolour and that just won’t work. So my plan going forward is to paint with acrylics in a totally different way – just strike out on a new path! There’s probably some special technique name that I would know if I’d ever been near an art school but I’m going to call it “just blobbing the paint on”. I’m not going to try to make gradients by thinning the paint with medium and moving it about, which I do all the time with watercolour, I’m going to make my gradients with different shades and colours and different painting strokes. I’m also going to blend a lot less than with watercolour.

Advertisements

Mopani Wood and New Directions

Mopani Wood

For my last Inktober picture I played around with ink. I used some water brush pens and 2 types of black ink. I began by wetting an area of my sketchbook and then dropping the ink into the wet area just as you would when using a wet in wet technique for watercolour. I got myself a lovely ink-run…

I let it dry and then began to feel out shapes in the random way the ink was lying. At first I just added some strong shadows…

I wanted to keep some of the ink I laid down in place and move some of it with a water brush later so I put down Pigma Micron ink (which is VERY permanent and great to use even under a heavy water wash). Then I used another pen which has soluble ink and put some of that on top. Then I went in with my water brush and moved the ink around again. Once that had dried I added some details with the Pigma Microns. Here’s how it looked after that…

Mostly I was taking my cues from the patterns made when the ink ran and moved in the water. At first these patterns reminded me of smoke and fire and I thought that my ink drawing would end up being of a fire. But as I continued to work at it – just letting it draw itself – it began to remind me of this beautiful wood which is used often in the aquarium trade. The wood is called Mopani Wood and has these beautiful light sections with this lovely dark brown grain in places. Here are a couple of pictures…

It’s great for fish which like acidic water as it leeches tannins into the tank. Fish which wouldn’t spawn in my hard water area will spawn with Mopani wood in their tank. Some aquarists don’t like the way it yellows the water but I think it depends on what you want. If you want your tank clear and uncoloured, then no, it’s not a great choice. But if you want happy, comfortable fish in natural conditions then it can be great.

Gradually I added more detail and reinforced my darks and lights using a mixture of fixed and water soluble inks. Here’s the last interation when the drawing was nearly finished…

And here is the final Mopani Wood drawing – all from an ink-run!

New Directions

Looking ahead, my next artistic adventure is going to be in acrylics. I began all of my adult artwork about 16 years ago with acrylics where I painted 3D geometric abstracts…

Now, having worked through a variety of mediums and art courses over the years, I want to go back to acrylic and see what I can paint now. It’ll be fun!

October Ink – Ice, Music and Intimacy

This is the last but one post for the whole Inktober thing. At first I quite enjoyed drawing everyday but as things got busier at school and my health became more problematic it got harder and I had to slow down. I also felt that the discipline of drawing based on a word was good and irritating at the same time. It was good because my imagination and creativity had to follow as yet untrodden paths which helped me come up with some pictures I would not otherwise have drawn. It was irritating because art is one of my deepest pleasures and to follow some arbitrary words wasn’t always where my heart wanted to go. I think the best thing to have come out of it from my point of view was a chance to really work hard in one medium – pen and ink. The worst thing was the self-imposed pressure to get stuff done, especially as I was finishing all of this off in the October half term holiday so I didn’t have to work on it at all during the most demanding half term of the school year.

So these pictures were of a shell…

…a Cornet…

And the pattern of frost you can sometimes see on car windscreens in the early morning as you go off to work…

I really enjoyed drawing the ice although I couldn’t get close to the perfection of the actual frost you can sometimes see. Nature is a grand master when it comes to painting. I also really enjoyed drawing the Cornet.

At a teenager I played the Cornet and Trumpet in various brass bands, wind bands and orchestras as well as a Trad Jazz band. It was a privilege to play those parts as I often got the tune or main theme. It was a bit scary too though because you can’t hide a mistake if you’re playing a trumpet or cornet. The thing I liked most about that was becoming fully part of one another as we all played together.

There is a closeness in playing with a group of other musicians which is very intimate. Like other forms of intimacy it seems to bind together those who take part in it. You get to feel a sense of the inside of another person when you play music together. It’s like you can feel their heart singing inside the music right next to your own. Autism frequently makes me feel adrift from other people and they sometimes seem like little black boxes where all I can know is their input and output patterns, but with music I can see where otherwise I am blind. It’s a real joy.

October Ink – Aliens, Autism and Christmas

 

Feeling Alien at Christmas

My subject for this week is Alien.  I’m quite fond of aliens.  Being autistic, I end up feeling like an alien from time to time just from being so different.  I think I feel this quite a lot in the run up to Christmas.  Everyone else seems to be enjoying it and looking forward to it but I dread the whole thing.

I feel loads of anxiety about finding presents which my family and friends will like and about giving presents of the right kind to the right people.  It always seems like an impossible task and unless someone tells me something they want I am really at a loss as to how to go about it.  Then there are all the parties and events going on at work and at home.  I really really dislike parties so I don’t go to any except the class party at school (which is part of my work and is fairly well organised and controlled).  Then there’s the Pantomime.  Every year our whole school  goes to the pantomime.  It’s really difficult – too loud, with audience participation.  I’d rather poke my eyes out with a sharp stick.  Luckily this year, thanks to an excellent head teacher, I’ve been able to be the member of staff who stays on the school site for children who, for one reason or another, are not able to, or dont’ want to go.  That is brilliant!

I think I would like Christmas more if people didn’t give presents and made less fuss about the whole thing.  Once we hit November all the shops start filling up with Christmas stuff – trying to sell us all sorts of rubbish to give to someone else.  Then there’s all the decorations making everything look even more busy, not to mention the demented Christmas music – it literally does my head in.

By the time this post goes out (I’m writing it in October half term) we will have finished our class Christmas Performance at work.  Of it all, I don’t mind this part of the holiday season; the children learn so much from working together, and having a goal, and being brave in front of an audience.  They grow up immensely through this one activity.  It’s beautiful to watch that happen and help it along.

 

Giger’s Aliens

As well as seeing the alienness inside my psyche I have also been fascinated by Giger’s Alien designs for years.  I think the fascination comes from them being both beautiful and somehow repellant at the same time.  So this week I decided to draw my own tribute to Giger.

It began as a landscape head portrait but the drawing seemed to want to extend itself into a full body.  Luckily I was using the first page of a two page spread so I could extend the picture if I didn’t mind the crease showing through the image.  I began in pencil and then inked it with a very narrow pen (0.2).  Then I added some stronger 0.8 lines to pick out the large forms within the body.  This came out as a reasonable outline drawing…

 

Then I began filling in the details and shading.  Rather than trying to ink a pencil drawing I tried to use my pens to draw directly, just as I would with a pencil.  I also added the alien’s right hand because having it hidden seemed odd.  Because the image is twice as big as the others I’ve done in my sketchbook, it took quite a while to do this but I was pleased with how it turned out…

 

October Ink – Pine Cones and Meditation

I have always loved the pattern of pinecones but have never tried to draw one before so it was a pleasure to have a go at this…

It was done using my Pigma Micron pens, a brush pen and, for the shadow, a non-permanent ink washed out with water on a brush.

My second drawing for this week was on the theme of “Meditation”.  When I’m well enough nowadays I go to the Quaker Meeting for Worship.  It is what people in the US would call unprogrammed worship.  There is no sermon, or songs or litergy.  People just sit together in silence.  If someone feels “led” they stand up and speak to the Meeting.  I still don’t know what “led” means in this context so I never speak.  It’s no loss though because the whole speaking thing is a mindfield when you have autism.  The thing that I love is the chance to be with other people in an almost intimate silence where I don’t have to think about how to connect to them or speak to them – just sitting there is enough.

In my long lost past (somehwere in the Jurassic!!) I practiced Buddhism for about 12 years.  Again this was really just sitting.  It was the Soto Zen practice as taught by Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey and a monk who travelled down to a centre in the South called Brother Raymond.  I think I got the same feeling of silent companionship from that too.  It also gave me the ability to let everything go in meditation and just be.  This is the most comfortable peaceful place I’ve ever been to.  At first it was hard, my mind just kept going when I told it to stop.  But I found I could do it if I concentrated on the weight of my body  on the floor and just noticed each thing and let it go.

So this picture of meditation, although quite abstract is about these two experiences…

 

 

The idea is that the world is all going on outside and the person meditating has just stepped of the metaphorical conveyor belt for a while and just sits there breathing.

 

At first when I made this picture it was like this…

I couldn’t darken it with my brush pen because it’s got a bit blocked up so I did it digitally…

Then I added a shadow around the person to highlight how the world just dims and quietens in meditation…

Having done all of that I’m not sure if I like the final result.  Sometimes I think the original ink drawing was better…

(With Shadows)
(Original)

October Ink – Underwater Spacecraft Warrior

By this stage in the Inktober challenge I was really flagging. I’d got really behind during term time at work and was trying to both catch up in half term and finish the whole thing in the same holiday. I found I was drawing from when I woke up to when I went to sleep! I even took my sketchbook and pens with me on the days when I was my son’s designated driver for his A’level Geography primary data collection. So while he was out at each location getting his data I would work on my drawings. Basically it became a real chore and all I could think about was finishing the blooming thing.

So, I had to set a limit to what I was doing during half term. If I couldn’t finish, I wanted to at least get enough done so that I could get all my posts prepared for the second half of the autumn term. It’s the busiest time of year in teaching with Christmas productions, the Pantomime, lots of wet play, all the normal work to do as well and lots of over-excited children! Mostly I managed that, although I did cheat on one picture which was the one inspired by the word “warrior”. I used an ink drawing I’ve done in the past.

Anyway here are the drawings…

This one is “Underwater”. It’s pretty abstract and was done using a white gel pen on top of black ink painted onto my sketchbook.

Next we have “Warrior”…

This was actually done years ago but because it fits so perfectly I used it for Inktober.

Finally I went for a drawing of the space shuttle in a simplified Art Deco style…

This was really easy to do. The hardest thing was avoiding the temptation to add details.

Then I cleaned up the drawing and added the Art Deco style colours in Photoshop 6.0

October Ink – A Sith, a Storm Trooper and a Kraken

The next three ink drawings were of Darth Maul, a Kraken and a Lego Storm Trooper.

Here’s Darth Maul…

While drawing this I kept wishing for some red ink to give him his usual colours so when I’d got him scanned in I couldn’t resist seeing what some colour would do to his picture…

I like it! (The colour was done in Manga Studio 5, along with the background effect.)

Then we had the Kraken…

When I drew this I wanted to try to make an old fashioned styled image with simple lines. It didn’t work as well as I’d hoped but it does bring to mind the legendary John Wyndham and his story “The Kraken Awakes”. I have loved this author since I was about 12 years old and first read “The Day of the Triffids” and then straight after that, “The Chrysalids” which are my favourites.

What’s really marvelous about these stories is that, unlike some science fiction, which can become anachronistic very quickly, these stories still read really well today! In fact, I’m going to have to read them both again now. 🙂

My last ink drawing this week is of a lego StormTrooper. Here he is…

October Ink Days 16 and 18 The Scorpian, the Trilobite and Han Solo

With these two drawings I had fun using different types of ink shading – hatching with the scorpian and a mixture of hatching and dots for the trilobite.  Both were fun and gave an indication of different textures.  The dots took ages though!

With both of these drawings I used a pencil to add some greyscale shading as my brush pen is not working so well at the moment.  Unfortunately the scanner didn’t pick up the shading very well.

Here are the two pictures…

I really enjoy making these biological type illustrations.  I could do this for a living I think, although I would miss the children if I moved away from education.

Trilobites are really interesting animals which I could go on about for pages so I’m going to restrict myself to four facts…

  1. They were around for the Permian period in geological history which is from approximately 500 million years ago to approximately 250 million years ago.
  2. They could roll up into a little ball if they felt threatened, much like today’s woodlice.
  3. They died off during the huge Permian/Triassic extinction along with 96% of all marine species and 70% of all terrestrial species.  We’re not sure exactly what caused this extinction although meteor impacts, super volcanos, runaway greenhouse gases and ocean anoxia are some of the main suspects.
  4. There is a trilobite of the Genus “Han” with a specific species called “Solo”.

So there’s actually a real trilobite fossil with the formal scientific name Han solo!!!!!!! 

I love nerds!

October Ink Days 14 and 15 – The Cartoon Gadget and the Water Flea

My gadget was a little crab robot which I made up.  In my mind she’s like a little happy dog who likes to get things for people.  Here she is…

 

I think I’ll call her Lucy.  🙂

 

My next challenge was to draw something really close up.  I looked at some macro photography but nothing really grabbed me so I turned to microscopy and the strange world of plankton.  Plankton are a large number of different microscopic animals and plants (zooplankton and phytoplankton) which live in water (fresh and salty).  Here’s a photo of some…

 

(Picture from the Internet – unknown author.)

 

They form a big part of the abiding memories of my A’level Biology field trip to Pembrokeshire when I was 17.  One of the staff at the centre wore a dry suit and dived just off the coast near where you get the boat for Skomer Island to collect some plankton.  We later got to look at them and use biological keys to identify them and draw them.  It was my favourite day of the whole trip.

Other days included a visit to Skomer, which was beautiful but where I mostly remember playing a lunchtime game with my fellow students.  We each had cans of Coke and where we sat for lunch there was a large amount of rabbit droppings.  The game was to try throw a rabbit dropping into your partner’s drink and then take a sip of your own drink.  Then they did the same!  The dropping size was ideal because most of them would only just go in so it was quite hard to do.

Anyway, here’s my plankton picture.  It’s of a water flea, Daphnea pulex.

 

Here’s a photo of what Daphnia actually look like under a microscope…

(Picture from the Internet – unknown author.)