BB8 – watercolour and digital effects

 

This week I painted a favourite of mine – BB8 – the little spherical droid from the sequal triology in Star Wars.

I began with a sketch…

Then I laid in my basic colours.  After trying a watercolour light grey background I decided to go for a rich blue.  I mixed my watercolours with white gouach to give them opacity and smoothness.  Next I began working on the shadows and dirt marks on the droid.

Here’s the finished painting…

 

It was fun and I got quite close to the reference image of BB8 I was using.  However it seemed flat and lacking in life.  To try to push the image a bit I decided to play with various digital effects to see what direction I could go in with the original painting.  So I scanned it into photoshop, colour corrected it for my irritatingly bad scanner and then corrected the tones.  Once I had it looking like it does in real life I began to try various things to see how I wanted my final image to look.

The thing that worked best was to push the tonal range a bit darker and then run a filter on it (I think I used Fresco).

Here’s the final digital image…

 

I like the way it’s pushed the darker tones far beyond my reference picture and given life to my flat gouche blue background.  Next time I paint I might try to push my original traditional painting more towards this kind of finish.  It might be less accurate but it has more life.

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The Heron and the Depth Experiment

 

This week I worked on a watercolour painting of a Heron and digital painting experiment.

First the heron.  This was tricky because I wanted to try to capture the light that you get at sunset where everything seems to be touched with gold.  At the same time I wanted the coming darkness to be there in the picture too.

Here’s my attempt to capture this feeling…

 

Now for the digital experiment.  Although I don’t paint seriously with digital tools I often use the computer to try out ideas and play with new techniques I’m developing.  It frees me from the fear of wasting materials and allows me to change direction and even go back a few steps, so it’s an excellent tool for trying things out.  It’s also insanely quick.  I did the whole of this painting in about 15 minutes while I was waiting for Blizzard to update my World of Warcraft game!

I wanted to see if I could use blending in a way which would give the viewer a sense of depth of field when they see a picture.  My aim was to blend the background a lot and as we get into the foreground blend less and less until, with the main foreground subject, I use no blending at all – just direct paint.

I based this experiment on a photo I took over ten years ago when we were walking in the South Downs just north of Brighton…

 

I started by sketching out the basic colours of the picture in Manga Studio 5…

Then I blended all of that…

The blending effects in Manga Studio were excellent and felt a lot like working in oils.  I was really struck by how like real painting this was.  (I also use a graphics tablet so I am able to draw directly into my PC.  Mine is a relatively cheap Wacom Intuos)

Next I put in some of the background detail…

 

Then I began work on the foreground…

There was a lot of detail here so it took a few minutes to get this done…

I used very little blending in this closer scenery – just brushed lightly over some of it.

Finally I painted my main subject and it was done…

I used some artistic licence to change the exact configuration of the foreground plants to something which felt right to me but generally tried to be fairly true to my original photo.

I think it worked to an extent.  I also used less saturated colours as I went towards the horizon which also tends to help.

I might try a landscape oil painting soon to see how it looks with real paints!

 

“Tunisia” – a Dizzy Gillespie portrait

Last week I found a whole collection of Jazz CD’s which I thought had been lost when I moved house.  It was like running into old friends again.  So I’ve been thinking a lot about Jazz heroes in the last week.  This is a portrait I made of the wonderful Dizzy Gillespie…

(Larger version of this image below.)

I called it “Tunisia” because of the wonderful song that he did “A Night in Tunisia”.

Here’s a link to Dizzy playing that song…

My portrait is of him when he was young.  I liked the look he had then because he reminds me of my Dad who had similar glasses as a young man.  I couldn’t find a photo at the angle I wanted so I used several references and tried to capture the look I wanted.  This is one of those reference photos to give you an idea…

 

 

I began with a sketch and then painted with watercolour.  I used several layers to get the strong, dark, vibrant colours I wanted.

 

And this is the final picture…

 

 

His glasses were scary to do as they’re so visable and were crucial to the portrait too.  I sketched then lightly over the paint with pencil and then just went for it.  I’ve found with things like this that if you’re tentative it tends to go wrong anyway.  I reminds very much of when I used to go rock climbing in my youth.  Sometimes there was a big stretch to the next good hold and you have to just full-on go for it and hope your belay partner is going to catch you if you fall.  If you hesitate too much you never even get close.

Spider Monkey Watercolour

This is a painting of a spider monkey inspired by Joel Sartore’s famous photograph. I did things a bit differently with this painting, especially in the final stages. It began with a wander through a whole host of animal photographs on the web. I saw and loved Joel’s photo series of a juvenile spider monkey who had been orphaned by poachers.

I made a sketch…

Then I laid in some background colour. I wanted this quite light so that I could still pull highlights out of the picture at the end.

Then I begna to paint. Now normally I paint particular areas and try to get them looking exactly how I want but with this picture I let my painting hand wander and paint in a more free way. It meant that I didn’t reserve, as light coloured, the highlights I had wanted but I managed them instead by using some white gouach with my watercolour paints so that the lighter sections could still be added.

At first I felt that the experiement had been a mistake but I grew to like the picture more when I let go of the idea of it being exactly how I wanted it in my head.

Here’s the final painting…

I think he looks a bit like some of my students when they run out of apple pie at lunchtime!