Lionfish, Ink and Digital Colour

I have been planning a new watercolour this week.  It’s of a lionfish.  I started out making a sketch and then developing it in ink as a sort of practice run.

Here’s the lionfish practice…


Also this week I’ve been playing with some digital colour using some other ink drawings in my sketchbook…

Original ink…

And with digital colour…


Original ink…

Digital colour…

(Ink and colours are my own work but ‘Old Stony Face’ as a character belongs to Rebellion and the brilliant people at 2000AD.)

Original ink…

Digital colour…


Original ink…

Digital colour…


Original ink…(inspired by George Todorovski’s YouTube Video)

Digital colour…


Original ink…

Digital colour…(this one’s for Dave from Davezart)


And last but not least – Gotham City’s moody Bat – 10 min quick ink sketch…

And in digital colour…

(Batman Inks and Colour are my own, by the character belongs to DC Comics)


I miss good Whiskey.  I don’t drink now because of the medication I’m on and mostly it’s fine.  But I do miss good whiskey.  There is something beautiful about sitting up late with really close friends and gently drinking a really good Irish whiskey together.

Here’s a sketch I drew this week celebrating that fine drink…



And here’s the watercolour I painted of the same subject…



The way light reflects and refracts and moves around our world completely fascinates me.  With this in mind, I have been studying how to draw light flowing through liquid and reflecting off liquid and glass recently.  At first I thought there might be a trick to it, to make it look real.  But as I learned more and more I found that, in the end, it just came down to painting exactly what you see, no matter how weird it seems to your brain.  This is what I did with this glass of whiskey, I just painted every shape, every tone and every colour.  Once I looked at it like that it was such a relaxing thing to do – it was fabulous fun!

As I look at the picture now I imagine that the whiskey there came from a bottle like this…

[Image from Web]
A beautiful drink from the wonderful Bushmill Distillery in County Antrim, and introduced to me by my good friend Peter at University.

Cheers Pete!

Oil Painting – past and future

When I first tried to paint I was in digs at University.  Fortunately I was staying with a potter who was, herself, very creative and allowed me to paint in my room there.  (In fact my bedroom was over the kiln which kept me lovely and warm on those cold Cambridge nights.)


I actually started painting with oils.  I knew nothing about any kind of painting at all except what my mother had taught me.  She had studied art as a young woman and, before I left for University, she gave her oil paints and brushes to me.  She showed me how to clean them and then let me get on with it.

That’s one of the brilliant things about my mum.  She has this gift for letting those she is teaching have a go at things and work things out for themselves freely.  She pushed us to think for ourselves.  Professionally she was a superb teacher (now retired).  She gave me this sense that I could do anything if I put my mind to it and worked hard at it.

So I didn’t think anything of using my Saturday afternoons at University to try to paint a picture of the Crucifiction with oils the first time I ever really tried them.

The picture itself wasn’t massively successful – I should have concentrated more on my anatomy as I’m sure I gave poor Jesus too many ribs!  Anyhow, this is the only photo I have now of that picture…


Along with a close up of some of the detail…


I do remember really enjoying painting with oils and them being incredibly smelly to have in my bedroom!


Today I saw a brilliant video on YouTube on how to use oils.  The artist was using a medium called Liquin (made by Winsor and Newton I think) which dries quite fast but still gives hours of wet time for blending and moving the paint around.

Here’s the video.  It’s by Lachri

When I started art again as an adult I painted in Acrylics, which was fun but very fast drying.

Even using copious amounts of retarder to extend the wet time of the paint, I still found it dried too quickly for me.  I was forever racing the drying time.

What I really love about using paint as a medium generally is the ability to blend the tone and colour to get exactly what I want.  With copic markers and pencils, colour and tone choices are necessarily limited.  The Acrylics were technically able to get there but I never found there was enough time to play with it.  Watching Lachri blending in her video (above) makes it look like blending is more relaxed in oils, maybe because the paint stays wet for much longer. I think it would be brilliant to try oils again and find out what it’s like as I can’t remember the details of using them in my youth.

Also, I really loved the way she painted a tonal picture at the start and then glazed over with colour – what an amazing way to do it!  I totally love that!

So I’m thinking about getting a small set of oils and having a go.  I’m going to have to research which materials to use, especially with respect to drying times and odour.  But it might be fun!


Smooth Green Snake in Prismacolor

This week I worked on a small picture of a snake in my sketchbook.

I saw this great video on YouTube by MiltonCor of him drawing a brilliant realistic snake with Prismacolor pencils.

Here’s the You Tube Video…

I thought it was fabulous so I had to have a go.  I’ve not worked seriously with Prismacolor alone before although I have used them in conjunction with watercolour in the past.


I began by downloading probably about twenty Smooth Green Snake photos so I could have a good idea of what I wanted to draw.  I used different bits of different photos for my reference.  That way I could have my snake in exactly the pose I wanted.

I made a sketch and then just began trying to draw it with the Prismacolor pencils.


It was much harder work than painting because you have to press so hard to get the colour to transfer but the quality of the colour was excellent.  They really are great pencils!


Once I completed the snake I filled in the black background with black ink and a brush and then added extra highlights with a white gel pen and extra detail to the eye.

Here’s the finished picture…

I think it’s recognisably a snake and I like the colours but it’s not as realistic as I was aiming for and the shiny bits don’t work as well as I’d wanted either.  I will have to watch Milton more closely!  Still, it was great fun for such a small image and I learned a ton of things about how to use pencils effectively.




“I am Batman”

This week I wanted to draw / paint in greyscale – more of a tonal study.  I thought the Dark Knight (Batman) would make the perfect subject.

For this picture I used a variety of painting and drawing tools. ..

  • Pencil HB, 2B, 4B
  • Ink pens – W&N Brush Markers, Copic Multiliner 0.5
  • Ink and a brush
  • Charcoal powder and a tissue

I began with a sketch:


Then I began filling it in…

I used the brush markers and brush painted ink as a basic tonal layer and then used the pencils to create a smoother gradient on top.


I made up my own moulding of his headgear (which was brilliant fun!)

I kind of cheated a bit with Batman’s chin.  I’ve never painted the Dark Knight before but I’d had a go at Judge Dredd a few times so I used my version of Dredd’s chin!!!



Once my main subject was completed I sketched in my background.


I used similar techniques to draw my buildings in the middle background but kept the tonal range of them narrower and lighter to create distance and force Batman forward in the picture.

Then to make the sky I masked off the lighter area I wanted for the projected bat signal and then used a charcoal technique.


Instead of drawing with a charcoal stick or a charcoal pencil I scraped a stick repeatedly over a tissue to get some charoal dust on it and then used it to make a moody cloudy grey sky.


Finally I painted the bat signal in black and added some shading to the circle and it was done…


NB:  The picture is my own work but Batman as a character is the property of DC comics.

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.)