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…

Octopus Dreams #2 – The first half of a larger line and wash painting

This week’s art is the first half of a two part artwork featuring a Larger Pacific Striped Octopus outside her den. She’s sitting in a position which allows her to begin to explore and hunt but, with two of her arms still fixed to the back of her den, she can also withdraw to safety at a moment’s notice.

I began this ink drawing on A3 hot-pressed watercolour paper with some sketching…

Once I was reasonably happy with the basic drawing I began to go over it with ink. When doing this I tried to make the pen strokes clean and consistent, but I also made slight changes to the design as I went. Since this is an A3 drawing the inking took my quite a few hours but was incredibly relaxing…

I got to to this stage (above) and then stopped for the evening thinking I had probably finished inking. However, when I looked at the picture again the next day I felt that some full black shadows around the bottom of my octopus and around the rocks on the sea floor might help balance the composition. So I popped those in and made some other small changes to the density of my linework in various places to make my final ink drawing…

Although my inks are finished my picture is not yet complete. I want to keep the picture in black and white, but add some greyscale tone to it. Previously, with other pictures, I have done this digitally and I’ve tried doing it with mars lumograph pencils and with markers, but I want to try something different with this one.

I am really looking for an authentic way to tone ink drawings. While I can get really lovely results painting tones in digitally, it always leaves me feeling slightly unsatisfied because the final picture comes out of the printer and not directly from my hands. It’s almost as if the printer steals some of the joy of making the art – or perhaps I’m more traditional that I thought!

So, next week I’m going to tone this picture with black watercolour. I want to use the same techniques I used to paint an ant in watercolour (Link to Ant Painting Here). This time, however, the painting will go over the top of an ink drawing. I did think about doing this with charcoal, but after some experimentation on scrap paper I decided against that!

Octopus Dreams #1 – A small gouache painting

This last week has very much been an Octopus Week for me. 🙂

It began when I watched My Octopus Teacher on Netflix. At first I thought it was going to be a natural history program, but after about 25 minutes it was clear it was more of a memoir. It’s about a professional film-maker who became really burnt out in his life. Then he attempted to find his way back to himself, his work and his family through a friendship he made with a wild octopus. It was actually quite wonderful – I really enjoyed it.

Then, once I was in the mood for Octopuses, I came across a fellow blogger’s excellent book review of Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus. Again, I thought the book would be more of a natural history tome but again it was really a memoir and this was all to the good as it was also a very enjoyable read!

So I have decided to create two or three octopus pictures over the next few weeks.

Simple Gouache Painting

This week I worked on a simple octopus painting in gouache. It’s a painting of the famous and deadly Blue-ringed Octopus. The animal itself is gorgeous looking, but carries enough venom to kill 26 adults despite being really quite small!

One night when I couldn’t sleep I scribbled down the idea for this picture on an envelope…

Then I made a clearer drawing on a piece of cardboard I reclaimed from the packaging which comes when you buy books online.

Next I painted the background but forgot how very opaque gouache can be so I lost my initial drawing!

I redrew it quickly in pencil and then got my paints out.

I painted the local colour of the octopus first…

…and then put in some basic shading to indicate the three dimensional shape of the animal and it’s basic colour pattern.

Once that was done I went to town of the details of the rings and the richer darker tones of the octopus right next to it’s rings. Finally I added some white to give the octopus a shine. Here is finished painting…


My aims with this painting were to try to show the dimensionality of the animal’s legs. I wanted to use a colour scheme which included the bright blue the animal shows in it’s rings when it feels threatened. Finally I wanted the octopus to look like it was floating free in space with his legs all out around him.

The idea I had of putting in the shine was something I was in “two minds” about. An object which is underwater doesn’t show this effect since it is created by the thin film of water on the object when surrounded by air. However as humans, frequently we visually “read” this effect as indicating wetness. In the end I decided to put communication of the slimy, wet, feeling of an octopus above the physics of underwater reflection.

Next week – I’ll be starting a large octopus ink drawing which will probably take a couple of weeks to complete. (I think it’s pretty appropriate to draw and octopus in ink!!!) 🙂

Dan Droid and Autism – A Digital Art Design

This week I worked on a simple greyscale digital art design of an android. I called him Dan because if you say Dan Droid it sounds close to Android (which I thought was funny) and also he reminds me of Asimov’s Daneel Olivaw who was my favourite robot as a child. (I think I also rather unconsciously modelled his human looks on a Euphonium player I knew at school called Daniel.)

I began with a simple sketch. One of the things I’ve been working on recently is how to better use my drawing tablet to get nice tapered lines. I really tried to work on that here. It meant drawing faster and having more faith in my hands to do the right thing without the constant supervision of my brain. Here’s the sketch…

Next I planned out a basic elecronic look for the part of his face which is showing his internal structure. I looked at reference for the muscles and bones of the face for this so that I could mimic real human anatomical structures with electronic equivalents. So the group’s of wires you can see, for instance, model muscle groups in the face.)

After that I added my darkest shadows. I really do love the way solid blacks look in comic art. At this point I gave him black hair to balance the image tonally, even though my Euphonium friend had blond hair.

Then I added 2 levels of greyscale tone using a cell-shading approach.

Finally to finish off the image I surrounded him with a background reminicent of electronic circuit diagrams. I though he looked really great amongst all of that.

So here is the final image…

Reviewing the art

Looking at this drawing, I like the way he’s walking across the frame but turning to look the viewer in the eye. I think it engages the viewer a bit more and also reveals his inner nature. I also like the simple cell-shading style although that’s really just a matter of personal taste.

If I wanted to add more I think I would render the background into 3D and make some parts of it look like matte metal and some parts look like chrome. I could then drop a shadow behind him onto the background to really make him stand out.

Reflections on Androids and Autism

In terms of the meaning of the art, I personally think people draw their own meanings from things like this. For me, this is all about what it feels like when I suddenly make a mistake and reveal my autistic nature. It’s very much like I have suddenly turned my head and now they can see what I really am. The electronic background he seems to carry with him is like the label of autism which other people then see.

There are some folks who think autistic people shouldn’t be compared to robots, but personally I think it’s a good metaphor. In order to do the normal social things that neurotypical people find automatic I have to set up a whole raft of decision-making flowcharts in my head, remember them in detail and follow them. This feels like having to build and maintain external circuitry to my regular self in order to hold simple conversations. The huge extra work of managing this circuitry is one of the things that makes socialising so draining.

For a long while I have felt ashamed of being this way, sort of deficient. However now, through counselling, I am beginning to believe that being my own self might be OK (with the same caveat as everyone else in the world, which is that a person acts decently).

I follow Terry Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax on this one. She says. .

It’s not my place to tell ‘em what to believe, if they act decent.’

A Short Digital Light Exercise

This week’s art is a digital lighting exercise. The aim was to try to find a way to show light reflecting off a wet surface in a really simple way. I gave myself 30 minutes for this exercise and no reference materials just to see what I could come up with from imagination alone.

I decided to draw a city scene at night in the rain. Here’s the sketch I began with…

Once I had my basic drawing mapped out I painted in the colour from the back of the scene to the front. Like this…

Once I had all of my colour in I pulled the image into Photoshop. Then I added some rain in blues and yellows and reworked my tonal values to produce my final image…

The drawing and painting did take half an hour and then I spent another 10 minutes or so playing about in Photoshop after that.

I was pleased with the way the light shone through the material of the lady’s umbrella and the relative brightness of the street lamps. I would have like to do something more for the headlights of the car but without reference I could’t work out how that would look. At the time I gave myself an excuse that the lights were nearly head-on and dipped for in-town driving so I didn’t have to do much, but thinking about it now, just putting some light in front of teh car ont eh road would have helped.


May the 4th be with you!

Happy Star Wars Day everyone!!!!

On this wonderful May 4th I wanted to share some Star Wars Fan Art. I’ve got some Star Wars universe species sketches, some digital Star Wars Rebels portraits, three pencil drawings and a watercolour painting of our beloved Yoda!

star wars Species Sketches

Star Wars Rebels portraits

Pencil portraits of obi-wan kenobi

My favourite character in all of Star Wars!!! 🙂

Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan
Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan

geonosian warrior pencil drawing

Yoda in watercolour

I drew or painted all of the art in this post, however, because it’s fan art, please note that the intellectual property belongs to Lucas Film.

Gaia – ink and pencil drawing

Recently I watched the Disney film “Moana“. It was wonderful – the ocean, sailing and a beautiful island earth-mother goddess – what a fabulous combination!

The ocean (Image Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios)
Sailing (Image Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios)
Island earth-mother goddess (Image Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios)

Inspired by this, and by Earth Day, I made a drawing of the Greek Goddess Gaia. I began with a simple design drawn digitally on my tablet. I gave her features which were similar to Te Fiti (the goddess in the film), but then added foliage from more of a central and northern european location.

I then redrew this in more detail on A3 paper…

I debated whether to keep this as a pencil image or work on it in ink. I chose ink in the end. I love the permanence of it and the way it makes me concentrate to get each line as I want it.

Next I began to ink in my details…

I used my Pigma Micron pens for this 0.3 and 0.05. Once all of the ink detail was done I then wanted to add some tone. I played around digitally with the idea of a watercolour wash in regular expected colours and then in a more green dominated palette…

But somehow these coloured options seemed to lose something I wanted in the feeling of the picture. So I tried again with greyscale only…

Now this I liked much more. So I worked on the image with pencils and blending stumps to fill in some tone in her face and body. I was planning to put a darker wash over the whole picture but once the body was done the picture seemed to be where I wanted it so I left it as it was.

Here’s the final image…

I hope you all had a super Earth Day!