Spider in Watercolour


I have had an acute fear of spiders for as long as I can remember.  I really love all types of creatures in the world, but spiders have always just freaked me out at level below my conscious mind.  It’s like an involuntary reaction which I can’t stop.


I’ve only been bitten by a spider once and it was in adulthood long after I’d already developed the phobia.  It was a false widow bite (I found the spider that did it when it fell out of my trouser leg and got it identified.)  At first it was just two little bite marks which stung like a bee sting.  Then my leg swelled a little around the bite, making a swollen patch about 10cm across, like a huge nettle sting.  At that point I took some antihistamine and over the next day or so it all calmed down and went back to normal.


In the last few weeks, to try to reduce this phobia, I’ve been looking at Spider videos on You-Tube.  The fear hasn’t gone away but I am now more aware of which kinds of spider bother me.  It’s really only the black or dark brown ones which are medium to large, like the giant house spiders and false widows, tube web spiders and whatever other medium to large black or dark brown little eight-legged nightmares come into people’s houses.

What I did find from watching these videos is that I don’t mind  tarantulas that much and I really like jumping spiders.  So much so that I found one on my car while it was parked in the staff carpark at school the other day and was able to catch it and look at it before it jumped off to go about it’s business!

So I decided to draw a jumping spider.  I began with a sketch which I did in bed one evening.  (I draw most of my sketches in bed.  I need to go to bed early every evening because of the pain I have.  Once there though, I find keeping busy the best way to manage the pain until the pain meds kick in, hence the drawing.  Apart from the eagle and the siphonophore most of the drawing’s I’ve published have been done in bed.)



Next I added a basic wash to give my spider some base colour.



Then, with a small brush I began to add detail first as patches of colour here and there and then later in the form of tiny little hairs.



As I worked from front to back on the legs I used weaker colours and shades so that the spider would have some depth.  Here’s the final image…

I think I’ll call him ‘Spike’.


Portuguese Man-of-War Watercolour Painting


The Portuguese Man-of-War is an intersting creature.  As well as being a really unusual and interesting shape, and highly venomous, it’s also not a single multicellular organism according to the biology books I’ve been reading – it’s actually a colony of polyps, known as a siphonophore.  The ployps live together and each do specialised functions just like individual cells in a multicellular organism but it is a colony not a single creature.  It kind of bridges the gap between multicellular organisms and single-celled organisms.  How cool is that?

I began with a pencil sketch, then went on to an ink drawing and then added colour with W&N watercolours.


Here’s the final painting.



This week I had fun painting an octopus.  I also took photos at various stages as I worked on the piece.

I began with the basic shapes.

Then I worked this into an outline drawing.

Next I added some details.

Then I pencilled in some shading.

The next day I began to add watercolour washes.


Then I worked on the details colour-wise.  I chose not to paint this little guy with realistic colours but to use blues against oranges and purples against yellows.

Finally I completed the painting, adding the final details and shadows.


Octopuses have always fascinated me.  I love the way they move and hunt and hide.  They are supposed to have strong reasoning intelligence.  I really enjoy keeping fish but I would love to make a habitat for a small octopus.  It would have to be really large and would involve developing a salt water reef.  That seems pretty hard and very expensive so that dream will have to wait for another time.  They are beautiful though.



The Eagle, the Endoscopy and the Exit

The day I made this drawing of an eagle’s head I had had an endoscopy. The doctor gave me some strong sedation before the procedure, which was very effective. Afterwards I went home to my parents house and relaxed while waiting for my son to come home from college and for the sedation to wear off. As I waited I did a few sketches and some inking. I was very relaxed. One of the sketches was this eagle

The following weekend I found some time to paint him…

Over the past few weeks I’ve been finding more time and energy to paint as I’ve left (exited) my church.

I found going there increasingly stressful. Playing the piano was part of it but more than that I had trouble managing my relationships and being together with so many people at once. I found I was beginning to dread it. There was too much noise and it was too busy and I was expected to have too much communication with people for my autistic mind to manage. Every time I got things wrong I became more stressed about interacting. It was like a finger puzzle, the harder I tried to make things right the worse things got until I couldn’t do it anymore.

Initially I was going to have a temporary break but I kept getting nightmares about going back so now I have decided to make this change permanent. The relief is incredible. I feel like I can breath again. I am also very sad though, because there were so many really good people there and I miss them. I guess with the autism it was always going to be a difficult place for me. The fact is I can’t manage it.

Zebra – in ink and watercolour


This week I drew and painted a zebra.  Again I used a lot of photographic references for the final design.

This is my method.

  • I began by laying out the animal’s shape in a basic form.  Generally when I start to sketch I use single lines for the limbs and polygons for the body and head shapes.  While playing around with this I also take relative measurements using my pencil to get the proportions correct.
  • Once I’ve got the basic shapes and distances down lightly I begin to draw more accurate forms using the polygons as a map to keep my picture accurate.
  • Then I do a bit of a clean up of the polygon and leg lines and any rough areas of my drawing with an eraser and make any adjustments I need.
  • Next I begin to ink the drawing.  I found it useful this time to ink some basic parts of the animal with the finest ink pen I have, a 0.05 Micron.  Then I started to ink the stripes with a thicker pen.  This was SO therapeutic!

  • The hardest thing about the stripes was trying to use them to help define the 3D shape of the zebra’s flanks.  Once I had that done as well as I could, I finished off the ink drawing.

  • Next I began adding watercolour paint.  Zebra that I have seen on film in the wild seem to always have a dusty look to their lower legs and under their bellies so I wanted to bring that colour into the picture.  I also wanted some background terrain colour and some greys to help define shapes and also on the zebra’s nose where he has a greyer colour.
  • I built this up in stages and then it was finished.

Here’s the final painting…



In terms of using ink and watercolour I think this is the most effective animal I’ve ever tried with this combination of media.  The ink lends itself so beautifully to the zebra’s colouring and just a small amount of additional colour really seems to work.

Atlantic Ghost Crab


Continuing with ink and watercolour this week my post is of a painting I made of an Atlantic Ghost Crab.  I used a variety of photographic references, particularly for the drawing, and for the basics of the colour, but I did use some artistic licence in painting this little fella.


Here’s the ink drawing…


And here’s the finished painting…



In painting this I discovered that I am able to paint more loosely when I have the strong clear lines of the ink drawing already there.  I used my Micro 0.5 again for the ink and my Winsor and Newton Artist’s Watercolours for the colour.

Caterpillar in ink and watercolour


I had some more fun this week with ink and watercolour.  My subject was a little lime green caterpillar.  I think there’s something magical in the way tiny little life forms like this have their own ways, life-cycles and patterns of movement.  When I saw the reference photo for this it looked to me like the little guy was praying!

I worked on this over several days as my pain has been bad again.  I started with a pencil sketch which I helpfully forgot to photograph.  Then I inked the pencils.  Rather than drawing regular width cartoon style ink lines I used my 0.5 micron pen like I would a pencil and sketched the picture in.  It was quite fun because the end of the nib is slightly flat so if I use it at an angle I can get really thin lines from a fairly heavy pen.

Here’s the ink sketch…



Then I began painting the background.  I considered using gouach to get a nice plain flat colour but decided to play around with watercolour again.  Instead of going for a flat look I used a really textured brush stroke pattern.  At first it looked kind of weak…



But as I added more layers it got more depth…



I wanted it really dark so that I could shadow my main subject without losing too much in the way of contrast.  Finally I painted the caterpillar in my usual style.  Here’s the final picture…


Watercolour and Ink


Over the weekend I saw a beautiful watercolour of a bird on Reddit posted by V4nG0ghs34r77.

I thought it was beautifully done and I really liked the way the artist had mixed ink and watercolour to great effect.

Often with “Line and Wash” paintings I find myself quite underwhelmed because they seem so often to look twee and sort of chocolate box’y which just doesn’t work for me.  I can’t stand it.  (This is just a personal taste, not because any particular style of art is better than any other.)  But V4nG0ghs34r77 used the ink in ways which gave it depth and texture and it really worked!

So I’ve been playing around with ink and watercolour this week to see what I can make.

I began with a chameleon…

(The chameleon and branch are watercolour and ink but the background was added digitally.)

And then went on to sketch a bit of an owl…


(This is all watercolour and ink – no digital stuff.)

The owl was definitely my favourite.  When I drew and painted it I was really in a place where I was just playing around, not formally painting anything.  I think this really helped because it was just a rough ink sketch with some watercolour dabbed on wherever I thought.  I didn’t use any reference except for a photo for the eyes.  In terms of colour I went with a paynes grey / ultramarine mix against a cadmium yellow / yellow ochre / burnt umber mix. Because they felt like opposites and gave a nice contrast to each other. 

This is the first time I’ve been able to really loosen up when inking and painting.  I kind of treated the whole thing like a sketch.  I am pleased with the results.


The Shape of Light on Water #5


This week I concentrated on adding watercolour to my pencil drawing of a water splash from last week.

Here’s the drawing I started with…


First I masked my absolute highlights with masking fluid.  Then I used a graded wash of phthalo blue and viridian green but I kept it really light and pulled out some colour with my brush where I wanted the light to come through.  Then I added some slightly darker washes to the shadowed areas…


I then added paynes grey and a touch of ultramarine blue to the greeny blue colour I was already using and began to push the darks darker and add to the darker shades of the pencil.  I did each bit seperately so there was time before each bit dried to pull a gradient out of the dark colours where I wanted it.  This was so much fun to do!

Finally I worked on balancing the tones and pulling the picture together as a whole.  It was mostly there already but a I did push the main sine wave form across the front of the picture a little more.

Here’s the result…



Now when my son saw it this time his comment was “Wow – that’s so looks like water now!!!”  – Result!   😀