Days 45 and 46 – Three-Banded Armadillo – Ink and Digital Colour

From the same issue of National Geographic I was looking at a few days ago I found a great picture of a Three-Banded Armadillo.  They are such unusual creatures and I always think they look really cool.   So  sketched this one…

My Sketch Above with Nattional Geographic Reference Photo below.

Then I inked the picture with watersoluble ink and added some greyscale tone using water…


Then I scanned it in and coloured it digitally…


I think he’s a pretty cool looking little dude!

Days 43 and 44 – Waves of Ink

I have always loved the now famous painting by Katsushika Hokusai of ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’. 

It has that quality I love in paintings where it feels like it can speak to my heart things which words can’t say.

So when I came across a lovely ink training exercise by a YouTube artist I really like which reminded me of this painting I thought I’d give it a go.

The YouTube artist is a chap called Alphonso Dunn.  He’s not only a good artist but he’s a really natural teacher.  I really like his videos.  Here’s the video I watched…

Here’s my sketch…



I decided to go for a fish as my subject rather than a boat and I varied the height and form of my waves a bit more to try to balance the composition and give it a good shape.  It took me some time to get to the final composition  as I worked on all of these things.

Then, the nest day, I inked it using my usual Staedtler liner pens (0.05 to 0.8).  I really took my time and enjoyed it.


I thought about adding pencil shading or greyscale tone digitally but, for this picture, I think the ink stands well on it’s own and adding to it ruins some of the simplicity of the style.  I’m really pleased with the results of this – thanks for a great lesson Alphonso!

Day 42 – A Chinese Tea Farm in Ink and Water

I love reading the National Geographic Magazine.  It’s like being able to travel and see loads of interesting things without leaving the comfort of home.  I was tidying out a bookshelf when I came across a really old issue from 2010 about Mount St Helens:



In it was an article called ‘The Forgotten Road’ about an old trade route in southern China where they used to trade horses and tea.  There was a beautiful photo of a tea farmer in southern Yunnan province drying his tea.  In the background was, what I think was, his home.  It was obscured by the drying tables for the tea and was at an angle but I could see enough to use it as the basis for a sketch.

I tried something new with this sketch.  I used the reference photo for some of the colours and a number of the details but I drew the man’s home from straight on and in the photo is was at an angle.  I made up what I couldn’t see and added other elements which weren’t there at all.  Since the builing he was living in looked really old I drew a person who might have been there a few hundred years ago in my picture.

I inked the sketch again with the Kuretake water soluble pen and then again used a brush and water to draw the ink out to make a grey scale wash.

Here’s the finished ink drawing…



I felt I had better control of the ink the second time around but I still found it to be brillliant fun!

Once I’d scanned it in I began to colour it in Manga Studio.  I started using the colours I could see but quickly added a whole raft of colours which weren’t there.  I used the three cell shading technique I’ve been working on lately but blended the shades afterwards so that the colours worked well with the ink style.  Here’s the final picture…


I like this one much more than the boat picture I did yesterday.  It has better tonal range and the light is coming strongly from one side which, for me,  helps add to the drama of the moment.

The method I used to paint this digitally could very easily be adapted to traditional watercolours.  I might think about doing that in the future if I’m feeling courageous.  🙂

Day 41 – Cruising in Norfolk with Ink and Water

Next summer I’m planning to go on holiday with my son and two friends from church.  We’re thinking of hiring a boat on the Norfolk Broads.  The boat hire brochure came through the post and I was flicking through it one evening and then decided to draw a very small cruiser / day boat.

I’d been watching a YouTube demonstation of how to use water soluble ink in a slightly different way.  I was interested in this because the Kuretake pen I bought is water soluble.

Here’ the video by a chap called Peter Sheeler

So I quickly sketched out my boat, inked it and then began to spread the ink around.  I don’t have a waterpen so I used half a cup of water and a small flat brush which worked really well.  As Anakin Skywalker says in ‘The Revenge of the Sith’ – “Here’s where the fun begins!!!!”   🙂

It was brilliant fun – I loved it!


My notebook paper is quite thick but was only just thick enough to take this kind of work and it did get a bit bumpy in the end but there are no holes and I think I can still use the other side of the paper.

Here’s the final ink drawing…




(Once I’d scanned the picture into my PC I also had a very quick go at colouring it.  Because of the style of the watery inks I used the watercolour brush set in Manga Studio 5.  It worked OK  but it doesn’t have that quality I want in my artwork where it has the power to resonate inside me.  It doesn’t ‘speak’.   Here it is…


Days 38 to 40 – Love and Hate

Over the last three days I’ve been working on using the new style I’ve developed in a manga drawing.  I was looking through Mark Crilley’s Manga books…

manga books crilley

…and decided to draw some human poses.  Because they were on consecutive pages in the book I decided to do the kissing and fighting drawings and use them in an overall digital image of Love and Hate.  Here’s the ink line work with pencil shading…


I must stress that this is not original work, I am following Mark Crilley’s tutorial for these two images.  I added the chinese characters and gave it my own twist in the inking but it is Crilley’s design.

Then I coloured them using three level cell shading – a mid colour and a light and darker shade of each mid colour I was using.

Here are the foregrounds finished…



Then finally, I added a background.  (In fact I drew two backgrounds and my son chose this one.)  Because the background was quite dark I punched up the Chinese characters with a drop shadow but in white to make them stand out.


I am feeling really comfortable with this approach to manga art now, at least in terms of the foreground -ink and pencil with three cell digital colouring over the top.

I once saw a Japanese animated film (Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker) which used 3 cell or even 2 cell shading for the foreground and then a more painterly style for the background.  I totally loved it.  I am wondering about trying that approach for backgrounds myself?

Day 37 – Autism, illness, love and faith.

Being unwell has some odd effects on me.  I’ve been told that some of this is probably due to the autism, some is just the way my particular body and mind work and some is common to most people.

I’m normally a calm and quite happy person and well able to keep my head in difficult, even threatening, circumstances.  This is why I did well working with children who had emotional and behaviour problems when I first qualified as a teacher.  However when I get sick I become less able to manage as well as I normally do emotionally.  This tends to come out in the evenings when I’m tired.  I find myself getting tearful for reasons I can’t understand.  Because of the autism, I sometimes don’t notice other symptoms for a long while so the first sign on me getting ill is my emotions.  Then when I take my temperature and check myself over I find I’m feverish and unwell.

Once I realise what’s going on and start to take care of the illness I get medical help and proper bed-rest.  Then although I still feel horrible physically, emotionally I begin to feel better.  As soon as the fever begins to break I start to sleep a lot.  After a few days of that, when the illness goes, even though in this case I’m still left with a cough, it’s like waking up on a sunny morning after a night of heavy rain – everything is fresh and clean and quiet in my mind and I feel closer to God than usual.

It was in this state of mind that I drew the following in my sketchbook…



The symbol on the left is from a Catholic group called the Jesus Caritas Fraternity, although it is my own design of their idea.  I’m not Catholic myself (I’m Baptist) but I have a dear friend of many years, another teacher, who is.  She’s a musician too and we’ve played in catholic and protestant churches all over our home town.  Anyway the Caritas people concentrate on bringing the love of God to people who are abandoned and marginalised in a quiet, lowly way.  They don’t push conversion, instead they love people and care for them unconditionally believing that when people feel the love of God for themselves, then conversion becomes natural.  This is how it was for me.  Having read some books related to all of this by a chap called Carlo Caretto I came to see this symbol as meaning the love of God in Jesus and it became really very personal for me.

Many years later I ended up getting a tattoo of this symbol with the Japanese character Dao 道, which means road, path, way.  The design I did for this was…


It’s on my foot as a reminder to always walk in the path of the love of God – like a prayer which is always with me.  🙂

Anyway the picture on the right, of the shepherd and sheep kind of expresses a bit, that feeling I was trying to convey when I previously tried to draw some more religious art a month of so ago and ended up giving up.  It shows, for me I think, the love and safety and wholeness I feel so much from my faith.  (The shepherd is supposed to be Jesus and I’m the sheep.)

Here’s the final image…


Days 32 to 34 – Sketchbooks and portraits

Since I started drawing regularly on a small sketchbook which is more the size of a notebook (13cm x 21cm) I’ve found it much easier to draw than before.
My Notebook


I don’t really know why.  In my big sketchbook (I have an A3 and an A4 so they’re not really that big) I worry about wasting paper and I get the feeling that everything has got to be good.  Both of these things make it more difficult to draw freely which is what I’m trying to do.  In my new little notebook style sketchbook it’s so much better.  I can always find something I want to draw and I’m much more able to take risks and try new things.

In this portrait I was really aiming for a loose feel to the linework and to just get a feel for my subject visually.  This is a lady who sometimes comes to our church and has a remarkable face.  She looks so calm and regal and I really want to make a painting of her one day.  She has given me permission, but I’m still at the sketching stage.

Here’s the sketch – it’s done in pencil with some fineline ink outlines.


Once I’d scanned my drawing into the PC I also had a go at adding some colour using the cell shading technique I used before.




PS:  Apologies about the handwriting on the top of this portrait.  I still have this blooming chest infection so I’m taking a lot of Ventolin which gives me hands the shakes.  I can manage to draw with some difficulty when this happens but my handwriting is terrible.

Days 29 to 31 – Animal Managery

I sketched out some animals in my notebook and used their shapes to kind of fit close together (ish).  Here is my line work:


Then I shaded them with pencil..



I really liked this effect – with an ink outline and the shading in pencil.

For ages now I’ve been looking for a way to illustrate in a comic style which I like and am happy with.  I’ve been playing around with different styles for years now.  However,   I just spent a few hours colouring the above  ‘Animal Managery’ drawing .  I did this in Photoshop and used a cell shading style with a mid, light and dark version of each local colour.  I did it straight over the top of the pencil and ink drawing – setting the drawing layer to multiply.

Here’s the result…


I think I’ve stumbled onto a style which I finally really like.  I’m going to follow up on this!  🙂