Red-Eared Terrapin – Watercolour

After my monkey adventure yesterday I wanted to stay with the theme of animals.  This time I chose a Red-Eared Terrapin.  (I think they’re called ‘turtles’ or ‘sliders’ in the US.)  They are beautiful animals with green and very light green stripes.  At first I tried to paint this little guy exactly as he is but once i started on the shell I got caught up with the lovely patterns.

Here is my reference image from my big animal book:

terrapinreference_WEBAnd here is the painting:

Terrapin_FIN_WEB - Copy

Little Monkey Watercolour

So today I managed to fit a quick watercolour painting in.  I chose to draw a monkey.  I looked up some likely looking primates in my big animal book and chose this little chap:

monkeyreference_WEBI wanted to do a head and shoulders portrait so I changed around the way he is sitting.  I had inteded to take photos as I went along but I got so immersed in painting him that I completely forgot until it was done.  So here he is:


Charcoal Animals

I really enjoyed making charcoal drawings from the charcoal I got from the burnt chair.  After working on some portraits of people  (see yesterday’s blog) I did some animal pictures:

Elephant_FINI have always loved elephants and I really enjoyed the way the charcoal spread out easily and made lovely shapes with a smooth change in density of the pigment.  Looking back more critically I can see that

  1. The offside tusk should stick out more for proper perpective.
  2. I also think I would darken the dark areas a little more to give the image a better tonal range (which I think just means having really dark areas to really light areas and all of those inbetween.)
  3. I would also change the amount of the elephant which I drew to include the whole of the trunk as I think this would make a better picture.

This is a picture of a bird of prey which I drew for a friend (and gave to her).  My friend is really into bird watching and showed me a buzzard which lived in the woods near out houses.  I can’t remember which species this bird is.

Eagle_FINI like this picture, but looking back I would look more closely at my reference to check I had good propertions for the birds head and body.  In this drawing it looks to me like the head is a little big but since I can’t find the reference image I used I can’t tell for sure.

Finally I drew a picture of a frog:

Frog_FINThe only thing I would change here is to look more carefully at the frog’s mouth – it just looks a bit too smiley!

Charcoal and the Burnt Chair

Sometimes, in the places I walk my dog, people abandon things. I find it hard to understand why people would leave there rubbish in such beautiful places – but they do.  Usually it’s just litter but once there was an old wooden chair.  Some children had set fire to it and it had burned quite badly.  Below is my dog Bonnie in the meadow where I found the chair.

DogwalkAnyway, I went to look at it and found that a bit of the leg was easy to break off and left dark charcoal marks on my hands.  So I put it in a dog waste bag and brought it home.  I broke it into pieces and began to draw with it.  It worked really well and was completely free.

Here are a few of pictures I drew with it:

This is a picture of an asian woman from a book.

AsianWoman And this is a picture of a young Tibetan boy.

YoungTibetanAnd this is a picture of an older man meditating:

old man meditating_FIN_WEBAll of these were done with the charcoal from the chair.

Soft Pastels – Tree of Life

After some more messing about with pastels I wanted to have a go at drawing a proper picture. One of the ways I love to relax in the summer is to sit under a big tree with a good book.  So I took this image as my starting point for this picture.  I also like being at the top of hills. As a child in the summer holidays I used to go hill walking in North Wales (and sometimes in the Lake District and the Peak District).  We used to stay on a farm in Snowdonia, quite high up in the hills and go walking from there. Here are some photo’s of the region generally from the World of Travel Website Snowdonia Snowdonia-National-Park (Please note these beautiful pictures are not my own photos.) When I was there it rained from time to time and was nearly always cloudy but it was beautiful nevertheless and I loved the quiet, the sound and smell of sheep and the crunching sound of my walking boots on the rocky, gravelly surface of the tracks we hiked along.  The higher we got the quieter and simpler the world became until it was just ground and cloud with the sound of the sheep from further down in the valley and the wind in the background.  I love places like that – I feel like I can breathe and be myself and I don’t have to fight and work really hard to try to fit in.  So I wanted my picture was going to include a hill too. But then as I looked at the brighly coloured soft pastels I had I realised that I wanted this image to be really brightly coloured and that didn’t fit very well with the dark browns and yellows and greens of Snowdonia.  It was then that I thought of making it more like a fantasy world, or a world from legend, or from the deep past. I still kept the hill and the tree ideas but changed how they would look. So this is what I came up with: treeoflife_WEBThe final picture ended up very different from my favourite oak tree which I sit under when I’m out with my dog and different from the Welsh hills but, for me at least, I still feel that sense of space and calm I get from those two places. I called it the tree of life because it feels like heaven.

Working with Pastels

For Christmas a couple of years ago I got some new pastels:


I really enjoyed using them.  I sometimes think that more messy something is to use, the more fun it is.  😀  Previously I’d used oil pastels but never soft pastels like this.  So to begin by playing around with them, and ended up making an abstract picture:


Salt, Watercolour, Frost and Fractals

So first off for the summer holidays  is a technique I read about which uses salt on a watercolour painting.  It’s really interesting because the salt draws the pigment into itself and so leaves these beautiful frost-like patterns on the paper. Basically you do a background wash in a range of colours – I chose Cadmium Red, Burnt umber and Cadmium Yellow.   Then while the paint is still wet and just becoming less shiney you put some salt onto it.  Apparently you can use table salt or rock salt for different effects.  I only had table salt so I used that.  Then you leave it to dry and then rub off the salt.  After that you can then incorporate the beautiful pattern it leaves behind into your painting.  The pattern on the one I did looked like a cross between frost and a fractal called the Julia Set. This is how my painting ended up: saltwatercolour1_FIN_WEBIt’s only a small picture but I really like the effect and the colours.

Fractals have always interested me.  They are basically a set of complex numbers which can be represented as a pattern.  The most famous is the Mandelbrot set which looks like this: m1 m2 m5 m4 m3 m6I think thay are incredibly beautiful and really they are just a set of numbers!  I love it too that these patterns relate strongly to nature and natural physical effects, like frost and lichen growth and anywhere really where natural patterns form. The Julia set is also a set of numbers and also makes beautiful patterns: j1 j2ng j3The thing that’s most amazing (from my point of view) with these sets is that if you zoom in an dhave a closer look you can see more and more patterns.  Theoretically you could go on getting deeper into the pattern indefinitely.  It’s amazing.

School Holidays

My fabulous son has now broken up from school for the summer holidays.  As we’ll be doing lots of holiday things together this will leave less time for my blog so over the holidays I’m going to do a mixture of three things:

  1. Reviewing work not previously shown on ‘Adventures in Art’ – I think this is helpful for me as I gain new skills and get more experience because I can look back at what I was doing and see how far I’ve come.  It also gives me a chance to look at my work more critically, picking out what’s good and what’s bad about each piece which is a learning experience in itself.  Finally I’m hoping I will get an idea of what kind of artist I am becoming.  One of the big blindspots I have from autism is not being able to see myself very clearly.  I can give specifics easily but if someone asked me to generalise about myself I couldn’t do it.
  2. Continuing to work on new ideas and techniques – painting and drawing helps me to relax.  I get enormous enjoyment from this sort of activity so while I will have less time I don’t want to stop altogether.
  3. Work on my 365 day Sketching project – this is where I am trying to sketch every day.  Recently I’ve found it really hard because I got sick and had to stop and then, after that I had a lot of catching up to do with housework and other things.  When I go away on holiday (to Devon this year!!!) I am hoping to do a Sketch Diary where I tell the story of my   trip in pictures.


Watercolour Woman

I saw a number of great YouTube video’s on how to paint watercolour portraits.  I particularly liked the ones with a more modern take.  There were several who used unusual colours and used the water to provide a background to just a woman’s face.  One of the best, to my mind, was this one:

I wanted to see if I could make my own picture like this.  So I began by sketching out a face.  I find it quite difficult to draw without a reference – especially faces – they are so hard to do – they always go wrong unless I draw from a picture.  When I’m using a reference I can then kind of just draw each part and it comes out as a face.

For reference today I used a pictutre from drawing tutorial book.  It’s probably the best ‘How to Draw’ book I’ve got…

drawingbookWhen I was first studying drawing I worked through lots of this book – it was brilliant.  So here is the face I used as a reference (to some extent):

reference face(The picture above is from Giovanni Civardi’s ‘Complete Guide to Drawing’ and is not my work – it is an image I used for reference from Civardi’s book.)

So I sketched the face lightly:

sketchfaceAnd then began painting:

paintstartUntil I finally made this picture:

faceFIN_WEBMy favourite part of this is the way the lips turned out.  If I did it again I would shorted her nose and make her face a little wider.  It was kind of fun!