Line and Wash – Badger Cub

This week’s painting was done using the line and wash technique. It was of a cute little badger cub, transfixed by a bumble bee! Being a true Hufflepuff, I love badgers! They’re a very grounded animal. I just love their dirt snuffling ways!

I’m afraid I had a difficult week with my health, so this was quite a quick little sketch. I began in pencil then added some ink outlines and then inked all of his fur, like this…

Once the inks were completed I washed over my picture with watercolours to add a little more depth. Here’s the final painting…

Heavy Seas Off Brixham – Digital Painting

This week’s painting is a digital drawing of a small fishing boat caught in a very heavy sea. I decided that the boat would be from Brixham because my first new friend at University when I was 18 was a young man from that part of the country. He was reading Computer Sciences and I was was reading Natural Sciences. To this day I can’t read the name “Brixham” without hearing it in his accent! ๐Ÿ˜Š

Here are some process images I made as I drew the boat…

Once I had my boat drawn I moved it to a jaunty angle…

…then added some big waves behind her…

Next I added big waves in front of her…

To finish it off I added some sea foam coming of the bow, a rather stoic Brixham fisherman in the wheelhouse and some threatening looking skies…

To get it ready for publicaiton I ported the image into Photoshop, made some final changes to the levels and added a border. Here is the final picture…

Looking at this image, I wonder what it would turn out like if I were to play around rather wildly with some ink, then draw on a small fishingboat and then add more ink on top? It could be a disaster (for the carpet around my dining table, as well as for the drawing)! Or it could be quite interesting. Do I have the courage to try it?



Line and Wash Shoebill

This week I painted a picture of a really odd-looking bird. It’s called a Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex), because, unsurprisingly, it’s bill looks a bit like a shoe. I think it looks more like a clog. I wonder if Clogbeak will catch on? ๐Ÿ˜Š

I used the Line and Wash method of painting for this picture. Basically it is a mixture of an inked line drawing painted over with watercolours. (Although I have seen people paint watercolour pictures and then add the ink lines later which is interesting.)

Here is a beautiful photograph of one of these birds. I absolutely love the feather definition the photographer has picked up on the back of the bird. The photo is by Hans Hillewaert.

ยฉ Hans Hillewaert Licenced under CC BY-SA 3.0

Here are some process photos of the drawing process…

Inks Part 1
Inks Part 2

Here is my ink drawing…

Once my ink drawing was complete I then set about painting. I began with a pale yellow wash over the background area. While the wash was still wet I dropped into it some Cadmium yellow deep (which is a gorgeous colour). I also played around with removing some of the colour in places with a paper towel so I could have a nice textured background.

Next I painted all of the bird apart from his eyes and bill with a very light Paynes Grey with a little French Ultramarine to make it a little more blue. I gradually built up my depth of colour and depth of tone in the darker areas.

Once that was done I painted his eyes and then his amazing clog-like bill. I finished off using some titanium white with a really small rigger brush to put in some highlighted feathers and some eye-shine.

Here is my final painting…

I think they’re really funny birds. As well as having a significant bite, they also clatter their beak when greeting a friend and bow and shake their head to show affection!

Here’s a YouTube video which shows a female Shoebill clattering her beak and greeting her favourite keeper with bows and head shakes. It’s a lovely video! (The clattering starts at about 1 minute 20 seconds and the bowing and head shaking happens shortly afterwards.)

Disgustingly, they also defecate on their own legs to cool down when they’re too hot. I don’t know if I would ever be hot enough to do that! They are also, very sadly, classed as a vulnerable as a species with only 5000 to 8000 left in the wild. This is partly due to the black market for their bodies (despite them being a protected species on CITES) and partly due to habitat destruction in their central African home due to farming and burning of the land.

A Hermit Crab in Watercolour

Over the last couple of weeks I have painted a cheerful little guy called Dardanus lagopodes, or the Hairy Red Hermit Crab. I used Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolours on A3 Arches Hot Pressed Paper.

Here are my process photos…

And here is the final image…

I think he looks like a Geoffrey!

Octopus Dream #5 – The Bubble Fountain

This is the last in my series of “Octopus Dreams” posts.

One of the things I love about octopuses is their curiosity and playfullness. I saw a video online of an octopus playing in a bubble stream in his tank. It was wonderful! Unfortunately it looks like the video has been taken down so I can’t show it to you. Instead here’s a video from a different channel, Octolab TV which is quite similar where an octopus is playing in the output from a water pump. I love the way he gets surprised by the feel of it but keeps going back because he’s interested. I think he’s having fun!

In my painting this week I wanted to capture an octopus playing in some bubbles.

I started off with a drawing…

Then I painted the background with a basic blue/green/yellow wash in watercolour. When it was half dry I added salt to the damp paint. The salt sucked up any remaining fluid which removed some of the paint in a patchy sort of way. I used this effect to give the impression of smaller bubbles which were further away behind my lovely curious octopus.

Next I began to draw in my main octopus shape using Prismacolor pencils. I used three colours – a dark blue/green, a low saturation mid-green and a pale yellow/green (which looked yellow because of the green around it!)…

Once I had the basic shape I then used a bright yellow and a white to push the lighter surfaces and a black Prismacolor, along with a 4B Mars lumagraph pencil to deepen the darker areas. I blended these in with a blending stump and then went on to add my bubbles. Once this was finished I photographed my finished art and adjusted my levels in Photoshop.

Here is the finished picture…

Next week – some new adventures!!!


Praying with pictures…

Art as Prayer

I find that two of the strongest effects of painting and drawing on me as an artist are:

  • that I find myself becoming calm and meditative as I draw or paint.
  • that I find in myself a growing intimacy with, and understanding of, my subject.

Because of this I think that art is sometimes very similar to prayer.

Second Wave in India

In April and May I was really concerned to see how bad the second wave of Covid was for the people of India, particularly after I’d read a story on the BBC News website about a family from Ghaziabad trying to get help for their father, Annop Saxena. (Link to the story.) Following this family’s hopeless struggle to save their dad was really crushing.

I don’t really pray anymore. The nearest I get to prayer is to hold people in my heart while I think through what I can do to help them. To be honest it feels the same as prayer used to feel, but has a more practical outcome. However, because I think in pictures rather than words, drawing and painting are both really helpful here since they help me find a calm meditative state in which to think and they draw me close to the subject I am concerned for.

Digital Study of a Photograph

So I made a study of a Reuter’s picture I came across while reading about the crisis in India. Here is a link to the original photograph on the Reuters website. Here is how Reuters describe the story of this photo:

A man is consoled by his relative as he sees the body of his father, who died from complications related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), before his burial at a graveyard in New Delhi, India, April 16, 2021.

REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo

Meditation, Connection and Trying to Help

So, this study is much less about art and much more about meditation and connection and trying to help.

Here’s the painting process…

And the finished picture once my levels and hue/saturation were adjusted in Photoshop…

I am really glad that things are improving in India now and they are getting on top of it. I send my warmest wishes and condolances to those who lost family to this horrible disease, in India and anywhere else.


Octopus Dreams #4 – Designing Octopus Tattoos

Sometimes I like to try out tattoo ideas directly on my skin. I usually do this by just doodling the design in black biro. This is how this picture startedโ€ฆ

It was quite tricky to do since I chose a spot on my lower leg! I tried to brighten the eyes with some white gel pen, but as you can see, that didn’t really work. I did enjoy having an octopus on my leg for the day though! ๐Ÿ™‚

So I thought I might make a better job of this on paper or via digital drawing. I tried digital drawing first.

Digital Octopus Tattoo Design

For this first design I wanted to make something symmetrical. So I began with a couple of circles to give me some rough guides for where I wanted parts of the shape…

Next I used the symmetry tool to draw the octopus. Using this tool I only had to draw half of it and the tool put the other half in for me and kept it symmetrycal.

Once I had a basic outline I added some other small details and removed my guide circles…

Then I added some shading. I used the pen tool to put in some darker and lighter tones and then used the blend tool to blend them together. This is exactly how I would do it with oil paint…

My final job here was to add some textural marks to the design…

Here is the final digital tattoo design…

Traditional Ink Octopus Tattoo Design

Here’s the process I went through to create a traditional ink drawing for a tattoo design. I began with the basic structure…

Then drew in an outline…

Next I inked my outline…

Then added some details…

Here is what the linework looked like once I was finished. (You might be able to see that I added some greyscale shadows in pencil on the design.)

Reviewing my work

Looking at the two designs I think each one has some strengths and weaknesses:

The digital design has:

  • Interesting textures especially on the octopus’ mantle.
  • Some webbing between the octopus’ arms which gives it a nice feel.
  • An overbearing outline which seems to me to be the wrong style for the final image.
  • A symmetrical shape which can be problematic in tattoos if the skin stretches in one direction more than another.

The tradition design has:

  • A well placed sense of the animal.
  • An interesting overall shape.
  • Textures and other design elements which work well together.
  • A lack of three dimensionality.

So having looked at both designs for a couple of days I decided to draw a new version which incorporates some aspects of one drawing and some of the other. Here is my final octopus tattoo design…

You can see I’ve based it on the traditional drawing, but added webbing, shadows, three-dimensional shading and some sand cloud and bubble effects.

Which one do you prefer?

Next week I’m going to be posting a study of a beautiful but sad Reuter’s photograph which I painted digitally.

Whale Song

I thought we’d have a break from octopuses this week with a watercolour painting of a beautiful humpback whale swimming with a diver.

I used Arches hot-pressed watercolour paper this time. It’s odd but, although I really find Arches paper great to use for watercolour because it takes a wash so beautifully, I keep avoiding using it because it’s so expensive. I just feel I have to save it. Then when I do use it, I feel a sense of pressure not to waste it which isn’t overly helpful. I think this is quite a common thing though. I’m going to deal with it by just using the paper until it feels more normal.

So, I began my whale painting with a pencil sketch…

Next I did the big washes – starting from the background and working forwards…

After that I worked on the details – the diver, the whale’s eye and other features and I worked on bringing the whale shape to life with some shadows. I also added a little more pencil in places to give a little more definition to some parts of the painting.

Once the painting was finished I photographed it and then corrected the levels in Photoshop. Here’s the finished painting…

I had a “whale” of a time with this one! LOL


Octopus Dreams #3 – The second half of a larger line and wash painting

I have been experimenting for some time in my artwork, trying to find a way to tone ink drawings traditionally. This week I have toned an ink drawing of a Larger Pacific Striped Octopus with black watercolour. Initially I was thinking of either using charcoal or watercolour over my ink. It was really hard to make up my mind without trying it out, so on some scrap paper I had a quick go of both methods. Here are the results of my experiments…


I decided to go with the watercolour in the end. It took more time and was not removable like the charcoal, but I liked the level of control had with watercolour and the depth of colour I could generate.

I began with a few basic washes…

Then I added some mild shadows to the light coloured sand. To do this I put on a wash of clear water and then dropped in black watercolour at the top of each wet section and allowed it to “stretch out” naturally.

Once this was done I began the painstaking work of putting in the details. Because the original ink drawing was A3, this took quite some time, but it was very enjoyable.

Here is the final line and wash drawing…