Koi Carp – Watercolour

This week I finally made it back to work!!!  I also worked on finishing a watercolour painting of a Koi Carp which I began before I was ill.  I have a really strong fascination with fish.  They just amaze and delight me.  And I think Koi are some of the most beautiful.

I used to keep fish and would like to do so again when my health is up to doing the tank maintenance properly.

Here are some of the tanks I’ve had in the past…


30 Gallon Angel Fish Aquarium


small tank inside

5 Gallon Betta Aquarium



15 Gallon Tiger Barb Planted Tank with DIY CO2.


Anyway, bakc to painting.  I had this idea for a Koi picture and I sketched it out on the PC using photoshop and my wacom drawing tablet.  I filled in some quick colours and moved things around until I had a good plan of how I wanted the picture.

Here’s the plan…



Then I got out a lovely big A3 sheet of cold pressed watercolour paper and started to sketch…



Here are some painting process photos…

I covered the fish and the flowers with masking fluid and then painted a varigated green background and added some sharp dark shadows.


I painted my rocks.  Above is the first layer – it took three to get the texture and colours I wanted.



After that I added in my foliage.  This also took several layers.

Then I cleaned off the masking fluid and began painting the fish!!!!!   Yay!!!



…But no…  My original plan was to paint the Koi in a traditional loose wet in wet watercolour style and to contrast this with a sharp tight background.  My idea was that the wet in wet technique would help the fish look below the water.  However, the masking fluid didn’t cover the paper as well as I’d hoped so I had some background colour steaks and some shadow colour streaks right across the white area where I want to paint my fish.    It was a real pain.

So I had a bit of a think and then went to plan B.  I painted several coats of white gouache over the marked paper and then used more of a gouache technique to paint the fish.  It gave it a different feel, where the Koi is surfacing temporarily, but I think I’ve ended up with something that works well enough.

Here’s the final painting…





Fever Dreams and Drawings

So while I’ve been unwell I was awake at night a lot of the time with a high fever and asthma.  When I’m feeling like that, especially if the asthma is bad I have to keep calm.  If I get fearful it gets worse.  Now my number one calming activity is drawing!  So I occasionally made a middle of the night drawing while trying to cope with all of this stuff.  A lot of the time I couldn’t draw because the steroids make my hands shake, but when I could control it I had a go.

I also watched a lot of fishing videos on youtube from bed with my android tablet and this led to some fish and fishing drawings.

Here’s a fiesty little Perch…


[Ink on sketchbook paper (plus I used a waterbrush to make some greyscale tones).]

And here’s fisherman who’s about to get the bite of his life from a gigantic sailfin catfish…


[pencil on sketchbook paper]


While I was working through this illness I kept having this recurring dream that I was trapped inside a gasmask which was full of pond water and bubbled everytime I breathed.  I guess it was just my mind’s way of dealing with illness.  This is the picture I drew of that…




[pencil on sketchbook paper]


Another night I had a go at sketching a hood – always difficult to do well and essential for any artist who is a Jedi fan…



[pencil on sketchbook paper]


I also drew a bee.  I’ve had half a bee and my background hexagons in my sketchbook for 6 months or so and  I thought it was time to finish her off…



[Ink on sketchbook paper]

Lastly I made an ink drawing of my favourite tropical fish Betta spendens – the siamese fighting fish – and a more technical sketch of a ecosystem in a lightbulb which I saw on YouTube…






My plan for my blog now is to paint a full-size proper painting every week to two weeks here now rather than continuing to sketch lots of tiny stuff like this.  I want to see how all of this sketching and ink practice has changed my overall painting skills.

I began one bigger painting just before I got sick, it’s of a koi carp, but it’s been taped to my drawing board and resting on the piano stool for so long now it’s beginning to put down roots!  As soon as I’m fit enough I’ll paint it.  Can’t wait!

Still Unwell…



I’m still struggling with this chest infection.  At least half term is coming up next week which should give me a chance to get better without letting anyone down at school.

Doctors are still checking every orafice…



(PS:  Both images in today’s entry are not my own.  The Calvin and Hobbes cartoon is by the wonderful Bill Watterson and the cat is a an internet meme.)

Field and Forest

Here are a couple of older paintings I did a few years ago.

One is an acrylic painting of the ‘Forest of Dean’.  I went there in my late twenties and was really seduced by it’s beauty.


The second is a watercolour of a barn owl flying low over a field one summer evening.  It was one of the first watercolours I ever tried to paint.  This was also inspried by real life.  I once saw a barn owl flying low like this just a few feet from me in the golden evening light of Cambridgeshire.  It was more beautiful than I can say.

Here’s the picture…



Fishing, a Baby and Some Rocks…

This week I didn’t have too much time for art (still recovering from my cold) but I did manage some simple stuff.

The first was a sketch of some rocks with water running over and around them.  I found it really challenging.  I would like to paint a watercolour of this and my idea was to try to do a value sketch so I could see where the complicated light and shadows are in such a situation.

Here’s the sketch, such as it is…



Then I went on to draw a relaxing fishing scene.  I got the idea for this painting from some work I’m doing with the children in school.  We’re planning to make sillouette pictures of the Great Fire of London.  I was thinking about that and then wondered if I could make a painting using sillouettes of fishing – my favourite relaxing passtime.  (I haven’t fished since the summer but if it’s not too cold and if we’re both well, my son and I might go out this weekend.)

In terms of planning this one was easy.  I just made a sunset coloured wash – all reds and oranges and yellows and then sketched my fishing scene over the top.

Initially I was going to ink my scene onto the paper over the wash but my pens didn’t take kindly to the paint and I didn’t want to ruin them so I painted the black stuff using gouache black.  At the end I put in some highlights using yellow mixed with some gouache white.  Here are the results…


The last thing I worked on this week was a Madonna and Child sketch in my sketchbook.  I got the idea from a Christmas card which somehow escaped my post Christmas clear-out.

I drew it in pencil and then inked it using a watersoluble multiliner.  Then I used water to move some of the ink to add some tone…


I like how most of this turned out, but you can see some errors.  For instance I used the water soluble pen in the baby’s hair to give it some texture when I should have used a water resistant one so that the ink there didn’t move when I toned the hair.  Oh well, as our head teacher has on her door…

“If you want to succeed, double your failure rate!”

PS:  Just to see what it was like I also coloured this picture digitally…


I used the Manga Studio watercolour brushes to add some texture.

A cold, an undersea horse and a sketch for a friend.

This week I worked on a line and wash painting.  I did the wash first and added salt to create some white sparkles (which are created as the salt goes into solution and pushes the paint away from each salt grain.)  Then I sketched in pencil and drew in ink a sea horse.  They are such fascinating creatures.

I found it quite tricky to sketch loosely on top of my finished wash as I was aware that I couldn’t remove my sketch lines.  But it was still easier than drawing with ink straight off.

Once I’d drawn my ink seahorse I then went back to the watercolours to colour him in.  I also added some white gouache to my pallet to give me some highlights.

Here’s the final picture…



I also made a quick (5 min) ink sketch in my sketchbook of a Marvel character called Wolverine.  He’s not really my ‘cup of tea’ but a friend of mine really likes him so I’m looking at eventually making a dark, modern style painting of him for her.

This is my initial sketch…


It was drawn using just an 0.05 Multiliner (Staedtler) and then toned with my W&N greyscale brushpens.  Again(!!!) I forgot that these go through the page of my current sketchbook – so I wrecked the next page, but again they gave me a finish which I liked.

Then once scanned into my PC I added some blood to the spike things on his hands, which I now kind of regret because I did it quickly and rather badly and I’n not sure it really works at all.    🙂

What I would really like to do with this Wolverine portrait for a friend, is to work in my version of the style of an artist called Christopher Lovell.  He draws and paints low saturation  and greyscale pictures which have a dark sort of theme.  They just look fantastic.

Here’s a link to part of his Gallery…

Christopher Lovell Personal Gallery

And here are some linked pictures from his website…

By Christopher Lovell
(By Christopher Lovell)



By Christopher Lovell
(By Christopher Lovell)



By Christopher Lovell
(By Christopher Lovell)


The detail and the tonal range of his work is totally stunning.  I really love it.  Now obviously I’m not even in the same league as this guy but I would like to try to do a Wolverine portrait with minimal low saturation colour, or in greyscale with a lot of detail and tonal range.  I think Wolverine really lends himself to the style.  We’ll see how it turns out.



(Hugh Jackman as Wolverine from Marvel based film series by 20th Century Fox)


PS:  I’m not starting my wolverine picture yet as I’ve got this horrible cold at the moment and it’s all I can do to get myself into work everyday and look after my son.  Hopefully it’ll ease off in a few days.



Fine Art with a Modern Feel – Beginning a New Direction

I’ve decided that, with the start of a new term, I’m going to focus on more than just sketching and inking.  After 112 days of working on this I need to branch out and do some more varied art.  So I’m bringing my sketching and inking challenge to an end.

My last sketch and ink picture is of a dog looking really fierce.  It’s quite a forceful pose and was drawn after watching a documentary on pitbull’s.  But, it does nothing for me artistically…


This was done with W&N brush markers and a copic multiliner.


I’ve been longing to work on some new exciting things in watercolour and acrylic (seperately) and I’ve also been wondering about using oils too.  I want, eventually, to work on more fine art type projects but with a modern feel to them.  During the time I was sketching and inking a strong feeling of going in this direction was growing in me.  I’m not sure what will be the final result of following this latest quest but I think it’ll be good fun.

So, in the meantime, I began my new days of freedom with a regular pencil drawing of a grasshopper.  It was a real joy to use a pencil to do more than just sketch…



After that I began to play around in my sketchbook with ideas on how to draw water realistically.  It’s something I’ve been fascinated by and will look at in more detail at a later date.

This was inspired by a YouTube timelapse drawing by ‘TutoDraw’…

Here’s my picture.  Without using reference for the new fish, I changed it to be a Siamese Fighting Fish – one of my most favourite fish in the world.  This was a mistake as I didn’t get the shapes right, especially around the eyes.  However, what I was really concentrating on was the water and I felt that at least this part of the drawing was OK, at least as a beginning…


This was drawn using PrismaColor Pencils.

Then finally I settled down to a more detailed watercolour painting.  I love drawing animals of all kinds.  So here he is – Gareth the Goldfish…


I used W&N Professional Watercolour paints on cold pressed watercolour paper.  I didn’t make any preliminary sketches here, just drew in pencil straight onto my final sheet.  It was SO MUCH FUN to paint properly in watercolour again!

It made me feel so happy that all I could think of was this scene from the movie ‘Despicable Me’…


Day 103 to 109 – Hands, hearts and music.

I began this week with an exercise on drawing hands from Mark Crlley’s Manga book…

manga books crilley


So here are my sketches…


I discovered that I really like drawing hands – they are such interesting objects with so many patterns and shapes that they can be in!

Then I gave them some shading in pencil and then added colour using a three shade cell animation style.  I worked at using a different skin tone for each hand which made it fun…


Looking at them now I can see some errors and mistakes I would like to draw better next time, but they do look more like hands than bananas so I’m OK with them generally.

Then I decided to use some of this ‘hand work’ to sketch a picture of my son playing guitar…




Drawing his real hands was much harder than drawing the hands from Mark’s book!  I had a good go at it thought and then inked my sketch and shaded it with some greyscale markers.  Once I got it scanned it, at first I played around with the music notes and added colour to them…



But, despite adding a drop shadow and trying a number of other things too I couldn’t get the contrast I wanted on them so I reverted for my final image to the scan…




The next day I was kicking back watching ‘Tattoo Fixers’ (a UK TV show about doing Tattoo Cover-ups – it’s a bit of a favourite in our place) and I saw one of them design an artificial something – I think it was a heart.  Anyway, I thought it was a great idea for a drawing so I began to make up my own artificial heart.

I began by sketching a real heart really lightly from a textbook I’ve got at home and then replaced each part with something artificial.

Here’s my final work from my sketchbook…


I used ink and pencil to create this.  I still thought it was a bit boring though so I added a background and colourised the ink/pencil drawing…


I think this has managed to make an interesting picture but I think I failed to really match the background well to my foreground image.  It just doesn’t tie in properly and loses impact because of that.  Ho hum – you can’t win them all.

Post Script:

I looked at this again today, after it was published and thought of some ways I could improve the coherance of the artificial heart picture.  I had a quick play around in photoshop and this is what I came up with.  I think it’s slightly better but I might be trying to make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear!  LOL


I used colours from the background in the foreground image and then added some filters to both to tie them in.