October Ink Days 12 and 13 – The Hero and the Beetle

For my hero I chose Mace Windu from Disney’s Star Wars.

In the prequal trilogy Mace always seemed solid, reliable and powerfully incorruptible as a character. He was wonderfully portrayed by the legendary Samuel L Jackson which is always a big bonus. Also I recently finished re-reading what is now a Star Wars Legends novel about Mace Windu which also influenced my choice. The book is by Matthew Stover and it’s called Shatterpoint. It is brilliant.

The most wonderful thing about the book is that it’s written from Mace’s point of view so we can hear his thoughts and follow his feelings and decisions. This is something I have always loved about books which will always put books above film as a form of media for me. The fact that you can hear people’s thoughts and internal struggles in a book is just beautiful. I really love being able to know this stuff.

On top of that, I’m hoping to get the trade paperback of the new Marvel Mace Windu – Jedi of the Republic comic soon. (A trade paperback is a softback collection of about 6 comics into a book.) It’s been out for a while but I haven’t been able to get hold of just yet. It looks amazing. Here is the beautiful cover for issue 003…

My next drawing was of an insect. I chose the amazing scarab beetle called the Hercules Beetle, (Dynastes hercules). It has this really long horn on the front of it’s head. It is so weird looking!

Here’s a photo of the beast…

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October Ink Days 10 and 11 – The Wolfman, the Hand Drill and the Sketchbook

For day 10 I drew a hand drill.  I remember using one of these as a child.  They were beautiful tools…

I really enjoyed the contrast beween the dark black metal and the silver metal in this one.

My next prompt was “Predator”.  I had initially thought of drawing a hawk but I decided a wolfman slashing at a door would be more fun!  Here he is…

This was done with my Pigma Microns, my waterbrush and some black ink and a paintbrush for the larger areas of black.

What really surprised me with this picture was the way my sketchbook, which is not designed for stopping ink bleeding from one page to another, did really well at containing all the ink so I could still use the paper on the other side of this picture without any issues.  It’s a Moleskine Sketchbook (13cm x 21 cm) which is big enough for some detail but easy to put in a handbag.

 

I have tried other sketchbooks before, especially the RENDR books which have some kind of waterproofing between the paper sides of each page to stop any bleed through at all.  However, the spine is too tight to flatten the book on these and the paper feels horrible to draw on so I only ever bought and used one.  The Moleskines will bleed through badly with alcohol or solvent based inks like copics but they do brilliantly with all of the waterbased ink I’ve tried and they are lovely to draw in.  If you don’t mind the paper bending a little you can even use watercolours in them although Moleskine do a seperate watercolour sketchbook of the same size which is ideal for this kind of art.  I use these regularly as well.

I’m not one to buy branded items at all normally.  I’m not really interested in the name of the company who makes a thing, I just care what it is actually like and how well it does.  At the moment I’m sticking with Moleskine simply because I think they’re good at what they do.

 

October Ink Days 8 and 9 – Reptile and Vehicle

My ink drawing for Day 8 of Inktober is of a Green Iguana. They are vegetarian lizards with high intelligence and a beautiful form and colour. It was a bit of a challenge to refrain from colouring this ink drawing. Several times I reached for my watercolour box to put in “Just a little green wash” which would have spiralled out of control to a full painting. But I’m glad I kept just the inks in the end because I am so enchanted with colour that I don’t always see the beauty of a creature’s form if it has a vibrant colour.

I suspect that this might happen to lots of artists; sometimes a specific colour, in the sky, or a leaf, or a car paint job, will just stop me dead. It’s like the colour reaches through my eyes and grabs that deeply hidden bit of the brain which fills a person with wonder. It is partly this arresting quality of some colours in certain light and surroundings which captivates me with some artists.

My other artistic love is of light, of reflections and refractions and the way light dances under trees in a breeze. Again, when I see these things I feel captivated by it and full of joy. I have watched them for hours. I think that’s why I like fishing, it’s a good excuse to stare at the reflections on the water for a whole day!

In space, the way light moves is laid bare, simpler because of the lack of other objects around whatever you’re looking at and the lack of atmosphere. So frequently shadows have no reflected light in them at all and the light has a different quality. When I drew my Day 9 ink drawing I considered drawing Apollo 11 like that with pure blacks and whites and no reflected light in the shadows but it was already going to be a very complex shape and I couldn’t find any reference for what the spacecraft would really have looked like in those conditions. So I used normal earth light on it. If I manage to get hold of some gold ink I might add the gold bits of the spacecraft. I think they would make a good addition to the drawing. Here it is…

This was drawn across a two page spread in my sketchbook, so you might notice a slight gap in the drawing at the very centre where I went from one page to another.

October Ink 5, 6 and 7 – Water, Mammal, Tree

The next three October Ink drawings I did were of a splash of water, a mouse and a bonsai tree.

 

Water is something which has always fascinated me.  I could watch ripples and splashes in water for hours, literally.  This summer we made a trip to Paris.  There were beautiful fountains and overflowing pools of water in the Trocadero Gardens (just the other side of the river from the Eiffel Tower, right next to the Pont d’Lena).  It was SO beautiful there.  Paris is a wonderful city and the people there were really helpful when I needed a wheelchair for my pain condition or help to find a taxi  – such lovely people!  The food was absolutely fabulous too!

Here are some photos of the gardens.  It was a very hot day (31 deg C) so many people were enjoying the water…

 

 

 

With repect to my October Ink drawing of water I tried to use just flat colours with no gradients to see what effect it would have.  Looking back I think it would look better if I had used some gradients in the blacks and greys.  Here’s what it might have looked like with a gradient watercolour wash over the top…

I added the colour digitally to see how much difference it made – I think it works better.

My next sketch was of a little mouse…

 

When I was at secondary school I used to keep 2 white mice in a special habitat at home.  They were lovely but they sometimes chewed their way out of their habitat (which was made of wood).  One day I remember getting ready for a hockey lesson at school when I found one of my mice in my hockey boot!  My PE teacher initially didn’t believe me when I told her what had happened, until she saw the mouse! I had to take it to the biology department so it could be looked after until the end of school.

My last drawing of a Bonsai Tree was another experiment where I was trying to use a very rigid drawing style.  Here it is…

 

It wasn’t as effective as I’d hoped.  However, if I add some digital colour, it really comes to life…

 

October Ink 3 & 4 – Dinosaurs, Cyborgs and Autism

 

My prompts for these 2 drawings were Dinosaur and Computer.  The dinosaur drawing was pretty straight-forward but the computer one revealed more about my autism than I am entirely comfortable with.

I always loved Dinosaurs, from when I was tiny.  So drawing one was a real treat.  I went for the iconic Tyrannosaurus Rex.  90% of this was done with my Pigma Microns but I did add a little grey shading with my water brush pen just to give the shadows a bit more depth.  Here’s the final drawing…

 

 

 

My next topic was “Computer”.  At first I thought about an abstract drawing based on printed circuit boards but it didn’t really excite me.  My next thought was of robots, which everyone knows, are as cool as dinosaurs.  But then I began thinking about AI and cyber augmentation of the human body and Greg Egan’s ideas of digital copies of human brains so I spent most of my day metaphorically down that amazing rabbit hole and didn’t get any drawing done.  (If anyone’s interested in Greg Egan‘s ideas about digitising human consciousness, then I would highly recommend his book Permutation City.  It’s one of my favourite books of all time.)

 

 

In the end I made a quick sketch of a half-human half-robot person.  It’s how I feel about myself really.  The cyborg is crying because people keep punishing him when he’s only doing exactly what they programmed him to do in the first place.  He is in a no-win situation.  This is exactly what it feels like to have autism from my point of view.

 

October Ink Drawings – Days 1 and 2

I’m doing my own version of Inktober this year. I decided to make up my own prompts because the official ones seemed quite confusing to my autistic brain. They were adjectives rather than nouns. I prefer nouns. So here’s my list of prompts…

Because I have a chronic pain condition I decided to let the challenge continue for as long as I need but I will, eventually, make a drawing for each day in Ocotober.

So my first 2 were River and Bird. Here are the ink drawings…

The river one made me feel really calm while I drew it, despite the fact that it was drawn in those few spare minutes before school and at lunchtime while I was at work. I think the experience I have of fishing and boating on rivers and lakes brings calmness into the picture.

Being next to a body of water has always been like going home for me. When I was a child it was Toddbrook, the small stream near where I lived. As a teenager it was the gravel pit lakes where I sailed dinghies twice a week come hell or high water. Now it’s a mixture of the Norfolk Broads and all the lakes and rivers I fish regularly.

I used my Pigma Micron pens for most of this drawing.

And then added some greyscale using a Pentel water brush pen filled with a mixture of ink and water. This is what my water brush pen looks like…

My next ink drawing was of a Raven…

As I was driving to work this week BBC Radio 4 reviewed a book about the Ravens in the Tower of London. It really caught my heart and led to this picture. The book is called “The Ravenmaster” and it’s by Christopher Skaife. It’s all about his relationships with the Tower Ravens.

I don’t know if this is an autistic thing or just a general human thing but I find communication with animals much easier than with people. Dogs would be top of my list but most animals I find easier to deal with than people. So I was very interested.

I also remember an experience in a town centre where I met the scruffiest crow in the world. He was fabulous. His feathers were a mess, he hopped on only one leg and he metaphorically fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. But he was smart and bright and interested in everything. I saw him watching me eat my slice of bread pudding. As I walked past he kind of begged, hopping comically next to me as I walked along. So I stopped and gave him a little. Not too much obviously because it was bread pudding which is pure gold on my scale of brilliant foods. Then he began to beg in earnest. He bobbed his head, hopped from side to side and generally made a huge fuss which I think indicated that he liked bread pudding as much as me. So I gave up, sat down and shared it with him.

Next week, Dinosaurs and Computers… 🙂

Dreams of Ink and Watercolour

 

 

Following on from last week’s ink sketches I painted a new picture of Neil Gaiman‘s character “Dream” (from the Vertigo Comic “The Sandman”).  I wanted to combine fairly standard comic ink drawing with the looseness of watercolour for the background and some highlights.

So I began by adding some masking fluid in a few places to add some texture to my background.  Then I laid down an initial wash using Ultramarine, Paynes Grey and Alizeran Crimson wet into wet…

 

Once that had dried I wet the whole canvas again and added to the initial colours…(The colour is a bit darker in this photo because the paint is still wet.  Watercolour paint always dries lighter than it is when wet.)

 

 

Then I sketched in my figure and laid down some basic ink lines… (Shout out to the lovely “Peter Draws” from YouTube who talks a lot about his love of lines.  Whenever I think about lines now I find myself thinking about him and his work. It’s nice because his videos are really relaxing.)

 

 

Then I used my brush pen to add some deep shadows.  I love adding the darkest darks because it sets the tonal range for the picture in my fuzzy little art head.

 

Next I gave his hair a lot of ink texture with a 0.5 Micron pen.  This particular pen has been a bit squashed on the nib so I can get a range of widths and textures out of it.  Then I began adding some Paynes Grey to Dream’s coat…

 

 

I finished off by shading his face and neck, and colouring his hair, coat and T-shirt.  His face in the comics is always white so I used a mixture of Lamp Black and Paynes Grey to get a really neutral grey colour.  The hair was done using varying mixtures of Ultramarine and Alizeran Crimson to get a range of purples, violets and blues.

 

Here’s the final painting…

 

Ink Dreams and October Fun

October Fun

I’ve been thinking about next month and the whole Inktober thing. Now I’d quite like to do a small ink drawing everyday for a month. I think it would be fun. But I had a look at the list of prompts for this year and didn’t relate to most of them. I prefer prompts which are more definite – nouns rather than adjectives. I guess the original list is made up of adjectives to give artists more freedom but I can’t really follow it. It’s just something which makes little sense in my autistic brain. So I decided to make a list for myself.

Here it is…

If anyone wants to use this list – feel free – no rules – no stress – just enjoy doing what you want. I suspect I’ll take more than a month to do it, or skip some when I’m too busy or too tired, but I’m not going to let that stop me having a go.

Ink Dreams

Also this week, I’ve been reading Neil Gaiman‘s Sandman Comic series. It’s really excellent! He’s a wonderfully imaginative author. I really love his character “Dream”. Dream is a quiet reflective sort of guy who occasionally seems melancholy in a modern, hipster sort of way and yet at the same time is an immortal with his own realm. The comic artists who worked on this Vertigo series were Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Jill Thompson, Shawn McManus, Marc Hempel, and Michael Zulli.

I wanted to have a go at drawing this character.

I began with a basic drawing and played around with his hair colour-wise…

However this version seemed a bit generic and Dream is definitely not generic. So I did a few more sketches…

I think the top one ended up looking more like Professor Snape than Dream!!! But I liked the bottom one. I was especially pleased with the way my Pentel Brush pen was behaving as it ran out of ink. It gave me some lovely textures to use on Dream’s coat.

Then I began a different pose in pencil…

I really liked this look where Dream’s eyes are shadowed. Here’s the same image inked…

This time I used a shading technique where you hatch the shadows but also outline them. I really like the effect it made.

My portrait adventures with a Princess and a Superhero.

 

 

This week I first attempted a portrait of Carrie Fisher in her role as Princess Leia Organa in the Sequal Trilogy of Star Wars.  I wanted Leia to be older as I think Carrie got even more beautiful as she aged.  I also wanted her to look battle worn and tired after being so long in the fight.

I began with a sketch…

Then began to paint…

 

And this is the final painting…

 

In terms of how the painting went I think I struggled a bit for the exact likeness I wanted.  It’s almost as if my own knowledge of her from when she was younger overlayed what I painted.  I think studying the Loomis Head Construction Method helped a little, mostly with the shadow line which runs down the edge of the face but my best portraits have always been done using a grid method.

Here’s a pencil portrait I began using a grid which I haven’t had time to finish as I’ve been back at school this week with a new class!  The portrait is of Edward Norton from the days when he played Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk (2008) who has a very iconic look.  I begin by printing a reference image that will fit my home made grid.  This is made from an A4 paper pocket with the grid ruled on in permanent marker.  Then you can draw what’s in each box on any size paper of the same proportions.  It’s easiest to do using paper which is the same size exactly, as I’ve done here, but it’s really not much harder to do it on any size you like, so long as you set up a proportional grid on the paper on which you are drawing.

 

 

Here’s the pencil drawing up close as far as I was able to get…

 

The thing I like about the grid method as opposed to the Loomis method is that I don’t have to imagine anything.  I just draw the darks and lights, lines and shapes, as I see them and it just works.  Maybe the secret to all of these methods of drawing is really just to choose or find a method that works for you.  For me using a grid is much better as I struggle with imagination.  Whereas someone else might find the Loomis method better.  I think Loomis’ work is especially good for drawing characters without any reference.

 

 

+  Rest in Peace Carrie +