Quick Charcoal Portraits

Having found my charcoals the other day I thought I would make some quick portraits. The first one I did in ten minutes. It’s of a boxer. I called it Fearless

Next I tried a 15 minute portrait of a very happy young woman. Her big smile seemed infectious. I called this one Beautiful

My next sketch was another 10 minute sketch of a really goofy, off-duty British cop, which I called Goofy

My last sketch was of a beautiful, older Indian lady who seemed to have this beautiful light in her eyes. I took more time with this one (20 minutes). I called the portrait Light

Of all of them I prefer the portrait of the older Indian lady. Which is you favourite?

Emperor Penguins in Watercolour

This week I painted a family of Emperor Penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) in Watercolour. I wanted each adult to reflect the two imperatives of penguin parents whilst bringing up a baby – to protect the chick and to feed themseves (and the chick). So I drew one looking down at the penguin and the other looking off towards the sea ready to take their turn to fish.

Here is my very basic sketch (apologies I drew this very lightly and it is a bit hard to see)…

And here is the basic drawing I made from my sketch…

My next task was to plan my colours. I did this by pulling my sketch into my android tablet, marking off some basic flat areas, putting in some colour and then playing around with the colour until I was happy. Here’s an animated gif (if I’ve done this correctly) of the process I went through to plan my colour…

Once I was decided on my colour choices I was just a quick and happy painting session away from a finished picture. It took a while for me to get to it though since I was unwell for a few days again.

I did have a lot of fun using some dry brush techniques to make my baby penguin suitably fluffy. I also used a light yellow ocre/grey to add some shadows which “pushed” the baby into his parent’s feathers so the viewer gets the feeling of him being loved and cared for by his mum and dad.

Here’s my finished watercolour…

Mixed Media – Vintage Diving Helmet

I had a go at mixing Ink and Charcoal in the same drawing this week. It was really good fun. I really enjoyed the way I could add textures with the charcoal that I could never achieve with ink.

I began sketching in pencil, then added an ink outline and then added some deep shadows in ink too, like this…

Once I had my ink drawing I began to add shadow using a charcoal pencil and some charcoal sticks, like this…

Above was my first work through with the charcoal. I could see I needed to go darker in places and that I needed also to smooth things out with some blending stumps and tissues.

Once I’d completed the charcoal work I photographed the picture and brought it into Photoshop. I added a black background and then adjusted my levels. I did quite a bit of adjustment to get it to look right with the black background and to get rid of some reflection from my black ink brush pen which sadly has a shiny finish.

Here is the final image…

I like the textures and the strong contrast. It also made me smile to have things around the wrong way, with the water and fish inside the helmet and us humans looking in from the outside! While I was reviewing the image I thought it might make a big difference if I added some halftone reflections on the glass in the front window. So I quickly opened up Photoshop again and added them in post production!

Once everything was complete I also had a quick play with adding some digital colour…

I think it turned out OK, but I prefer the black and white image.

Which one do you prefer?


Line and Wash – Badger Cub

This week’s painting was done using the line and wash technique. It was of a cute little badger cub, transfixed by a bumble bee! Being a true Hufflepuff, I love badgers! They’re a very grounded animal. I just love their dirt snuffling ways!

I’m afraid I had a difficult week with my health, so this was quite a quick little sketch. I began in pencil then added some ink outlines and then inked all of his fur, like this…

Once the inks were completed I washed over my picture with watercolours to add a little more depth. Here’s the final painting…

Heavy Seas Off Brixham – Digital Painting

This week’s painting is a digital drawing of a small fishing boat caught in a very heavy sea. I decided that the boat would be from Brixham because my first new friend at University when I was 18 was a young man from that part of the country. He was reading Computer Sciences and I was was reading Natural Sciences. To this day I can’t read the name “Brixham” without hearing it in his accent! ๐Ÿ˜Š

Here are some process images I made as I drew the boat…

Once I had my boat drawn I moved it to a jaunty angle…

…then added some big waves behind her…

Next I added big waves in front of her…

To finish it off I added some sea foam coming of the bow, a rather stoic Brixham fisherman in the wheelhouse and some threatening looking skies…

To get it ready for publicaiton I ported the image into Photoshop, made some final changes to the levels and added a border. Here is the final picture…

Looking at this image, I wonder what it would turn out like if I were to play around rather wildly with some ink, then draw on a small fishingboat and then add more ink on top? It could be a disaster (for the carpet around my dining table, as well as for the drawing)! Or it could be quite interesting. Do I have the courage to try it?



Line and Wash Shoebill

This week I painted a picture of a really odd-looking bird. It’s called a Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex), because, unsurprisingly, it’s bill looks a bit like a shoe. I think it looks more like a clog. I wonder if Clogbeak will catch on? ๐Ÿ˜Š

I used the Line and Wash method of painting for this picture. Basically it is a mixture of an inked line drawing painted over with watercolours. (Although I have seen people paint watercolour pictures and then add the ink lines later which is interesting.)

Here is a beautiful photograph of one of these birds. I absolutely love the feather definition the photographer has picked up on the back of the bird. The photo is by Hans Hillewaert.

ยฉ Hans Hillewaert Licenced under CC BY-SA 3.0

Here are some process photos of the drawing process…

Inks Part 1
Inks Part 2

Here is my ink drawing…

Once my ink drawing was complete I then set about painting. I began with a pale yellow wash over the background area. While the wash was still wet I dropped into it some Cadmium yellow deep (which is a gorgeous colour). I also played around with removing some of the colour in places with a paper towel so I could have a nice textured background.

Next I painted all of the bird apart from his eyes and bill with a very light Paynes Grey with a little French Ultramarine to make it a little more blue. I gradually built up my depth of colour and depth of tone in the darker areas.

Once that was done I painted his eyes and then his amazing clog-like bill. I finished off using some titanium white with a really small rigger brush to put in some highlighted feathers and some eye-shine.

Here is my final painting…

I think they’re really funny birds. As well as having a significant bite, they also clatter their beak when greeting a friend and bow and shake their head to show affection!

Here’s a YouTube video which shows a female Shoebill clattering her beak and greeting her favourite keeper with bows and head shakes. It’s a lovely video! (The clattering starts at about 1 minute 20 seconds and the bowing and head shaking happens shortly afterwards.)

Disgustingly, they also defecate on their own legs to cool down when they’re too hot. I don’t know if I would ever be hot enough to do that! They are also, very sadly, classed as a vulnerable as a species with only 5000 to 8000 left in the wild. This is partly due to the black market for their bodies (despite them being a protected species on CITES) and partly due to habitat destruction in their central African home due to farming and burning of the land.

A Hermit Crab in Watercolour

Over the last couple of weeks I have painted a cheerful little guy called Dardanus lagopodes, or the Hairy Red Hermit Crab. I used Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolours on A3 Arches Hot Pressed Paper.

Here are my process photos…

And here is the final image…

I think he looks like a Geoffrey!

Octopus Dream #5 – The Bubble Fountain

This is the last in my series of “Octopus Dreams” posts.

One of the things I love about octopuses is their curiosity and playfullness. I saw a video online of an octopus playing in a bubble stream in his tank. It was wonderful! Unfortunately it looks like the video has been taken down so I can’t show it to you. Instead here’s a video from a different channel, Octolab TV which is quite similar where an octopus is playing in the output from a water pump. I love the way he gets surprised by the feel of it but keeps going back because he’s interested. I think he’s having fun!

In my painting this week I wanted to capture an octopus playing in some bubbles.

I started off with a drawing…

Then I painted the background with a basic blue/green/yellow wash in watercolour. When it was half dry I added salt to the damp paint. The salt sucked up any remaining fluid which removed some of the paint in a patchy sort of way. I used this effect to give the impression of smaller bubbles which were further away behind my lovely curious octopus.

Next I began to draw in my main octopus shape using Prismacolor pencils. I used three colours – a dark blue/green, a low saturation mid-green and a pale yellow/green (which looked yellow because of the green around it!)…

Once I had the basic shape I then used a bright yellow and a white to push the lighter surfaces and a black Prismacolor, along with a 4B Mars lumagraph pencil to deepen the darker areas. I blended these in with a blending stump and then went on to add my bubbles. Once this was finished I photographed my finished art and adjusted my levels in Photoshop.

Here is the finished picture…

Next week – some new adventures!!!


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.ย  I send my warmest wishes and condolances to those who lost family to this horrible disease, in India and anywhere else.