Attelabus nitens – ink on paper

This drawing was a quick ink sketch I made when I got a new pen. The pen is designed for drawing Manga, but rather than being a dip pen, it’s actually a cartridge pen. Here’s what the nib looks like…

I’ve always thought this would be a good idea. Unfortunately it doesn’t hold a zebra G nib, which would have been perfect, but it does look pretty good.

I found a really cool looking weevil in my Collins Complete Guide to British Insects book…

I though this little dude looked awesome. So I made a sketch…

Unfortunately I went off the page a little bit with his rear right foot!

Then I began to draw with the new pen. I was able to make some great textures and create really small lines too. I did have some trouble keeping the ink flowing and had to dip the pen in water from time to time to help draw the ink out. I wonder if I need to put a flame to the nib to burn off the coating they sometimes have? So for places where I needed jet black ink I used my trusty Microns but most of the rest was all with this manga pen. (I did put in a shadow with pencils.)

Because I’d gone off the page, when I framed the photo of my drawing I added some extra space to deliberately make the weevil look like he was just about to crawl across the paper. I liked this effect. I think I will work more in future on placement and framing. Anyway here’s the final sketch…

This was a good little project to test out my pen but the image was too small for the kind of detail I would like on a picture like this (the weevil is only about 7-8cm long in my drawing). I think I will try to find a way to get the ink to flow properly and then have another go with this pen on a bigger sheet of paper.

Dandelion – traditional Ink and Digital Colour

This week I drew a dandelion with it’s seeds taking flight. I began with a sketch…

…and then switched to drawing in bed. (My pain is not great at the moment.) It’s always a bit dodgy to do this. I already have one sheet and duvet cover with permanent ink stains! But keeping busy really helps so I did it anyway.

Here’s how my ink drawing turned out…

This drawing was inspired by the many dandelions in a bit of scrubland I can see from my front window. There used to be a hedge there but the local council pulled it out. It’s quite interesting how different plants take root in the new space. Biologically this process is called ecological succession.

Now I happened watch the dandelions release their seeds during the golden hour when the sun was setting one evening and it felt like fairy dust rising in some kind of magical realm, like I could see a gateway to some deeper time and place. I wanted to convey something of that singular experience in my picture. Sadly, looking at the ink drawing I made – it seemed flat and dull to me, more like a very basic scientific illustration than a witness to a wonder.

Initially I just turned the page in my sketchbook and moved on to something else. But then later on I wondered what I could do with some digital colour. I very much wanted to find an illustrative way to communicate something the sense of magic and connectedness I felt when I saw those dandelions in the sunset. So instead of pulling the drawing into Autodesk Sketchbook, I uploaded it to the PC and fired up Clip Studio Paint. This software has been developed for exactly this kind of illustration and has some excellent brushes built in. I’ve dabbled with the previous version of the software (when it was called Manga Studio) but this was my first time trying to use the new software in earnest.

Here is how it went. I opened up my inks in the program…

Before I really got properly started I had a lot of fun just playing around with a huge range of brushes and getting a feel for the way the software works. Eventually I found some ways of painting that I really liked so I laid down some colour. I wanted to imply out-of-focus plants and grass in the background around my subject so I was quite free with the painting. Once I had my main colours I used a blending brush to soften some of the edges and then added a bit more here and there to get a good range of tones. Here’s how that turned out…

I also added some airbrushed white behind the seed heads to make them stand out.

After that I began work on the dandelion itself – adding some blue-ish shading to the seed heads and browns and greens to the place where the stem terminates and the seeds are joined. I also painted the stems and the grass.

Then I painted the dandelion leaves and added some highlights to the stems. My last job was to add some very light airbrushed white behind the seeds dancing through the air to give the viewer the sense of the breeze carrying them – you can see this in the completed image below…

I’m still not sure what I think about this one. I like the background but I’m still not sure if it captures the moment I was aiming for.

The Space Dodo – Ink

This week I had a go at drawing without any reference. It really began as a doodle of a dodo, who became a space dodo when I put him in an astronaut’s headgear and then landed on the Moon when I drew in his background. He’s quite sad because there aren’t any more dodos left so he doesn’t want to go back home.

I wasn’t really intending this drawing to be more than a doodle so I didn’t take any process photos until I had my dodo already drawn (above). I drew him in the normal way though – using simple shapes at first and then more and more detail and texture.

I liked drawing the craters the most in this drawing. They were interesting and relaxing to draw. While I drew I was listening to the audiobook of “The Rivers of London” by Ben Aaronovitch. It’s funny how my dodo picture is now connected in my mind to the story in Ben’s book, even though they are not connected except by happenstance.

Finally I added a very light ink wash (made from water with the tiniest bit of ink in it). This helped separate my subject from his background. I think it would have been OK without but I preferred the wash. Here’s the finished drawing…

An Experimental Portrait – Kenobi

After seeing the beginning of Disney’s Kenobi series I wanted to make a portrait of my hero. However, I am still feeling really unwell so I had a try at using pastels since they are really quick.

My plan was to draw with the pastels in the same way I would paint a digital or traditional oil portrait. I began with a map which is less of a sketch and more or a plan for highlights and shadows

Then I blocked in my base colours using my map…

(Poor Obi-Wan – he looks like a Sith Lord with a hangover at this stage!)

I used references of Obi-Wan from the Attack of the Clones film on my tablet. The thing I found most difficult was that I didn’t have the colours or shades I needed. So I grabbed a piece of scrap paper and broke up various bits of pastels onto the paper so that I could mix them like paints. It was quite difficult and messy but it did work. I struggled with it though. I think I just didn’t know the pastel colours as well as I do my paints and couldn’t always guess exactly what I needed to get the exact hue I was looking for.

Here’s my workspace, so you can see this process in action…

I completed the blocking in. Then reworked a lot of the colour. Then I used pastel pencils to finished the drawing off.

Here are the pastels and pencils I used on this project

Finally, I got it finished. It took longer than I expected (about an hour and a half) and my pain got quite severe by the end. While this didn’t turn out as the portrait of my dreams I will show it to you anyway…

Autistic Animal Familiar – pen and ink

This week I drew what my own autistic animal familiar might be like. I began my drawing with some basic shapes…

Then I built on my basic shapes to make a pencil sketch…

Once this was done I set to work on my ink drawing. This was all done in bed since my pain has been ferocious recently. (I am trying to follow advice and listen to my body more and take better care of it but it has yet to show any results.) I prefer drawing at a table but “needs must when the devil vomits into your kettle” (Blackadder).

Here’s the finished ink drawing…

My thinking with this drawing and autism was…

  • I made him basic shape a scawney little cat – just the sort of cat I would be. Cat’s always seem to me to be naturally autistic. It gives me a very strong sense of affinity with them. My cat Leia and I are like two peas in a Star Wars loving pod. (Yes, she loves Star Wars too because people call her name sometimes and call her a princess, but mainly because I give her treats so she will watch it with me. Lol)
  • I gave him big big eyes, ears and whiskers to convey his heightened sensitivity and the way we take in all the information not just selective bits.
  • The broken collar represents how so many clothes, clothing labels, jewellery etc. are intensly irritating and also how we don’t always fit so well into society.
  • My creature’s tail is curved up into a golden spiral which is based on the golden ratio (which is approximately 1 to 1.61803398875). This indicates how cool patterns are for many autistic people, me included.
  • I also gave my cat slightly sad comic eyes to show how it can be difficult sometimes to be autistic, especially when we have communication and social problems.

I’m going to call my autistic animal familiar “Joe“.

😊

Fire Salamander Inks and “The ugly stage”

This week’s drawing began as a doodle of some water currents. I then decided to redraw them and add a fire salamander larva (which looks a lot like an Axolotl).

Here are some process photos…

“The Ugly Stage”

The photo above captures really well how most of my artworks go through a horrible “ugly stage”. This is the point at which I start to think I am kidding myself about being an artist and I should just give it up and watch Netflix instead! As it happens with this particular drawing I was tired and asthmatic while drawing the above. I had pneumonia. My Ventolin had given me an essential tremor in my hands and for some inexplicable reason I had persevered with the inking anyway. Thankfully I stopped before I completely ruined the picture.

The next day I picked my drawing time carefully to avoid problems with my breathing and things were much easier. I tidied up a lot of the errors and began the process of trying to find creative solutions to the difficulties I’d got myself into.

Here is how the drawing turned out in my book…

Here it is close up…

One of the things I was unhappy about with this picture was that I wasn’t able to fully make the salamander larva stand out from the background. Normally I would do this by making the contrast and dark black lines strongest in the subject, but I had made the water currents really dark already so that wasn’t possible. It would also have been good to have put part of one of the water currents over the top of the animal to make him appear to be floating amongst them.

I did play around with adding some digital colour to push the subject/object contrast through colour, but in the end I think I preferred the ink drawing…

Five-Horned Rhinoceros Beetle – ink

After looking at a rhinoceros beetle last week I really wanted to make a more detailed drawing of one. I chose the Five-horned Rhinoceros Beetle (Eupatorus gracilicornis).

I started as I always do with a drawing, just sketching out the big shapes. Then I began to add some details to my sketch. Here is the complete pencil drawing…

Next I put in a thin ink outline…

As they say in Star Wars…

“Here’s where the fun begins!”

Anakin, Battle of Coruscant, “Revenge of the Sith” film

My next job was all of the actual ink rendering which I really really like doing. I find it really helps with stress. Here’s how I started the head with the full black sections…

Next I had to try to work out exactly how I wanted to render the head of the animal. I thought first of using hatched lines, but I really wasn’t sure and have been caught out with this before when I’ve used them and not liked the result. So I photocopied my drawing and tried out two different ways of doing it. Here they are side by side…

I definitiely preferred the stippled effect, so I went ahead with that. (While I was at it I also sketched out some ideas for drawing various textures on other parts of the beetle. Most of these were OK and I went ahead with them in the actual drawing.

So here is the final beetle…

The Rhino and the Lady – an experiment

I started this week’s art as an experiment. I had previously come across the plant “Honesty” (Lunaria annua) which has the most beautiful seed pods. Here’s a photo by Josef F. Stuefer from Wikipedia…

Used and resized under Creative Commons Licence (Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))

I really like the way the seed pods have this dark line around them. I wanted to se if I could create that using watercolour without actually drawing the line.

To do this I wet the area of each pod with water, then added some strong paint. Then I added some water in the middle which tends to push the pigment out to the edges. This is how I thought I might be able to get the paint and water to make the line for me!

Here is how that turned out…

And here is a close look at how the paint behaved…

So the answer to my experiemental question is yes, I can get the paint and water to draw the line for me! However the line was not clear enough or clean enough for the picture I wanted to make.

After I’d had a cup of tea I decided to make an ink drawing over the top of this painting experiment.

So I inked a drawing over the top and then finished it by directly painting in some details to both the seed pods and the two creatures I put into the picture. One was the Five-horned Rhinoceros Beetle (Eupatorus gracilicornis) just taking flight and the other was a Common Seven-spot Ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata).

Here is the final illustration “The Rhino and the Lady”

I find it difficult to stray from realism, so finishing this was really encouraging, since I used the shape of the plant’s seed pods but not the colour and did the same with the two beetles (although you can bearly see it with the ladybird). This painting is one of those turning points in life, were you can feel a different way of doing things growing inside.

On the realism front though I think it would be wonderful to make a pencil drawing of the seed pods and a large line and wash painting of the Rhinoceros Beetle as it unfurls it’s wings in black and white (So the only paint I would use would be black watercolour diluted down.) Of course I could experiment here and have a go at doing ink washes. I wonder how they might compare to watercolour washes?

Giraffe – Ink

This week I worked on another ink drawing. I still have this chest infection and have started some more antibiotics. I find working with ink very relaxing so this really helped.

I made a pencil sketch…

Then I drew over my sketch with ink. I just used my Pigma Microns sizes 05, 03 and 005.

Here is the finished picture…

I really enjoy the oddness of giraffes. They have always struck me as a little bit weird. Being a bit odd myself I feel kinship with creatures like this! 😊

PS: Apologies for so many ink drawings in a row - they are a type of art I can do in bed when unwell.  Next week I am hoping to create something different!