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 started…

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! 🙂

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…

(Charcoal)
(Watercolour)

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…