Squid in Watercolour

I had a go at painting a squid this week. Here’s how it went…

Basic structure in pencil
More details added
Completed drawing

I tend to use the same basic approach to painting as I do drawing, which is to draw/paint the bigger shapes first and the successively add small shapes. Below I’ve put on the basic overall wash and then add a few more detailed washes to add some darker pigment for shadows and darker skin colouration.

First wash of watercolour

Gradually I built up the washes until I was content with the final picture…

Joy and Sorrow

In the last week or so I’ve been trying to draw images which are more symbolic, rather than representational. Of the various things I sketched I picked these two since they are opposites in my mind.

Joy

The first, the octopus, for me symbolises joy. I love octopuses. They are such ingenious, unusual animals. I feel my heart get lighter every time I see one!

I wanted to make an octopus design for the folder of some work I’m doing to try to get well. I began with an idea in my mind but, unlike an octopus, I struggled coordinating all 8 arms! So I played around with it a bit…

Then I made a quick sketch…

Finally I reworked this sketch into a proper ink drawing…

I tried to really simplify what is a very complex animal into a basic form which would still be recognisable. This isn’t something I’m good at. I think I could simplify this design even more and people would still pick up that it’s an octopus, but it is as far as I went for this particular adventure.

Sorrow

I have 2 chronic pain conditions. This picture symbolises what one of those feels like…

While it’s not a pleasant image, it does capture the type of sharp burning pain which myself and other people with neurological pain can experience.

Reflections

With this exercise, I found it harder than I thought I would to think up visually symbolic ways of showing feelings. I think my brain is very practical and realistic – rather than imaginative. Perhaps more practice will help.

Egbert

I want to finish with some footage from the Dodo Kids Channel on YouTube. It is of a beautiful little octopus called Egbert. The video was definitely made for children, but I love it anyway – it just makes me smile!!! 😊

Generations

My wonderful son has now graduated from University.  He got a very well deserved first!  Before he even got his results though, he also got himself a really good job. 

He had a chance at the job about week after he handed in his dissertation.  He had been planning a good rest and some chilling out on the beach after working so hard, but he said the job was too good an opportunity to pass up and went for it anyway even though he was really bone tired.  I think that took real fortitude. 

I couldn’t be more proud of him, and yet the thing that I admire in him the most is that, through all of these things, he remains a thoroughly decent, loving, courageous man who would do anything to help those around him.  I know I’m biased, but I think he’s the best son in the world.

I made this small painting sketch a few weeks before he graduated, but I was thinking how strong and independent he had become and, since my health was (and is) quite poor, how hollowed out and broken I am feeling.

I am trying really hard to get myself sorted out but it’s just really difficult.  I feel like a house of cards which will fall if any one card is wobbled a bit.  This week, after trying a bit too hard to clear my chest using some exercises from the chest physio, I think I must have irritated my throat.  Anyway I had a laryngospasm in the night, where my vocal chords closed and I couldn’t breathe.  In fighting to breathe I hurt my vocal chords which turned into an infection which then gave me bronchitis.  Then the coughing made my pain worse and the pain and the fever made my mental health worse!

I am quite lucky though, drawing and painting is still a very calming, soulful activity for me and it continues to be a refuge.

So I began this sketch with a pencil drawing…

Normally when I draw for painting I just get the main shape outlines done and then fill in the rest with the paint, but in this one I tried putting in a full tonal drawing and then painting over that.

Here is the finished painting…

I think having the tonal drawing underneath the paint was mostly quite helpful.  It pushed my darks darker.  It also gave me the feeling of the shape I was painting much more fully.  The only real negative was that my colour was affected by the darker pencil tones.  In places they  muddied things a bit.  So I lifted off some of that paint with my trusty kitchen towel (always a life-saver) and repainted those places.

The Beautiful Pangolin

This week’s art is a drawing I started a while ago and finally finished. It is of a Pangolin. I think these guys are such awesome animals. They can roll up like armadillos and climb like monkeys; they can spray like skunks , dig like badgers and have tongues like anteaters! How great is that?! I don’t think I would mind being a Pangolin. It must be brilliant.

I began with basic shapes which I eventually worked into a sketch…

Then I began the process of inking. My goodness there were so many scales!!! Still, it was very meditative to draw them. I tried to do some in bed one afternoon when I was feeling a bit rough, however a certain Princess Leia was having none of it. Clearly it was kitty playtime, not art time as I had thought – silly me…

I’m so lucky to get such good feline help with my drawing LOL!

Here’s a closer picture of the beginning of my ink process…

After playing with kitty and working in short bursts on more of the drawing I finally got the basic black inks of the pangolin done. Then I sketched out a fallen tree for her to be walking along…

I inked the tree…

…and then added both white gouache and black watercolour to add highlights and shadows respectively. Finally it was finished! Here it is…

Direct Ink – Quick Sketches

Over the last couple of months I have done less art since I’ve been struggling with my health. This week I have a small group of quick sketches drawn fast, in ink, with no pencils. I was doing all of this while watching Netflix and YouTube in bed one evening.

For my midtone I used a brush pen loaded with water darkened by a tiny drop of ink. It was good except that I couldn’t easily paint a gradient. I played around with it until I found a way to do it by smudging off some of the ink with a combination of my fingers and some kitchen towel.

At first I was quite nervous using ink without any basic pencil shapes to indicate structure. It felt like I was trying to put up a building with no structural support – I thought the whole thing might collapse in on itself. I began by drawing a young Obi-Wan Kenobi (since I was very familiar with Ewan McGregor’s face from watching the ABSOLUTELY AWESOME Kenobi series on Disney + three times over!) This is him as a Padawan though, looking all eager and ready to take on some battle droids…

Next I drew a woman in bed from a Netflix series I was watching…

She looked all cosy and comfy and I really wanted to capture that feeling. This was easier that drawing Kenobi despite the more difficult subject. I think a lot of my difficulty with drawing young Obi-Wan was just my nervousness of drawing directly in ink. The second time was definitely better.

My last drawing was of a seal – by this time I was a bit more confident and it was a dead easy subject. So here he is looking all happy on his rock…

I think he’s thinking “This is such a cool rock. All the lady seals are going to love me now!”

Results of this exercise

I think this was a really good exercise. It stretched me a little without being stressful and was really great for confidence building. I found it better to draw in a rough way so that it felt like I was sketching in pencil even though I was using ink. It was good to see what I could come up with like this because normally my sketches get erased once I have my ink outline done.

I was reading about an artist on the internet who draws daily directly in ink making portraits on public transport. I think this would be a great exercise, but I’m not sure I’d have the courage. Drawing outside gives me a much greater sense of inspiration from what I see but people are always very curious about what I’m doing which is tricky.

I have some mental health difficulties going on at the moment as well as ongoing sinus, ear and chest infections, so going outside is pretty difficult. I’ll have to think about it.

Trinity Portrait – ink, pencils and digital colour

I spent a lot of time in bed at the beginning of this week and played around with portraits in my small sketchbook. I drew a few quick sketches of various people from Netflix and YouTube. I was working on finding out which parts of a portrait I need to measure (as a proportion of my pencil) and which bits I can just do by eye . This is a portrait based on Carrie-Ann Moss who I always remember playing Trinity in the film The Matrix although I redid her hair to make it longer than she had then.

Above are the very basic marks I made when I began. You can see where I am making some measurements.

I developed this into a rough ink sketch. Although it’s really rough and doesn’t have a good likeness I really liked the way it turned out…

At this point I decided to make a better drawing in a bigger sketchbook. I used my trusty mocron pens. I particularly like using my big 0.5 pen. Through use the end has become blunted but I can get really great fine lines and textures by using it leaned over on it’s side at about 45 degrees to the paper. Below is the drawing I made copying my drawing and tweaking various bits of it to try to get more of a likeness. You can see the textural stuff I did in her hair…

Once I had the inks down I wanted to add some shading but wasn’t sure how I wanted to approach this. So I photocopied my drawing and then played around with various types of hatching and mark making to see if I could find something I liked…

I liked the bottom left bit of hatching which followed the contours of her body best, but didn’t like it enough to actually use it. In the end I decided to add shading with pencils. I shaded lightly and then used my fingers and a blending stick to smudge the tones. I also used a kneaded eraser to pull out some white areas in the line of her neck and across her nose and collar bones.

Here is the finished drawing…

Once I had photographed the drawing and pulled it into photoshop I also experimented with pushing my portrait to the right of the frame. I really liked this. I find it interesting how the space, the nothingness, around Carrie changes the feeling of the picture.

Later in the week when I was feeling a bit better I fired up Clip Studio Paint again and had a go at adding some colour. I tried to follow a similar process to the colour work I did on the Dandelion picture I did a while back. Here it is…

I think I prefer the greyscale image personally. Which do you prefer?

Attelabus nitens – ink on paper

This drawing was a quick ink sketch I made when I got a new pen. The pen is designed for drawing Manga, but rather than being a dip pen, it’s actually a cartridge pen. Here’s what the nib looks like…

I’ve always thought this would be a good idea. Unfortunately it doesn’t hold a zebra G nib, which would have been perfect, but it does look pretty good.

I found a really cool looking weevil in my Collins Complete Guide to British Insects book…

I though this little dude looked awesome. So I made a sketch…

Unfortunately I went off the page a little bit with his rear right foot!

Then I began to draw with the new pen. I was able to make some great textures and create really small lines too. I did have some trouble keeping the ink flowing and had to dip the pen in water from time to time to help draw the ink out. I wonder if I need to put a flame to the nib to burn off the coating they sometimes have? So for places where I needed jet black ink I used my trusty Microns but most of the rest was all with this manga pen. (I did put in a shadow with pencils.)

Because I’d gone off the page, when I framed the photo of my drawing I added some extra space to deliberately make the weevil look like he was just about to crawl across the paper. I liked this effect. I think I will work more in future on placement and framing. Anyway here’s the final sketch…

This was a good little project to test out my pen but the image was too small for the kind of detail I would like on a picture like this (the weevil is only about 7-8cm long in my drawing). I think I will try to find a way to get the ink to flow properly and then have another go with this pen on a bigger sheet of paper.

Autistic Animal Familiar – pen and ink

This week I drew what my own autistic animal familiar might be like. I began my drawing with some basic shapes…

Then I built on my basic shapes to make a pencil sketch…

Once this was done I set to work on my ink drawing. This was all done in bed since my pain has been ferocious recently. (I am trying to follow advice and listen to my body more and take better care of it but it has yet to show any results.) I prefer drawing at a table but “needs must when the devil vomits into your kettle” (Blackadder).

Here’s the finished ink drawing…

My thinking with this drawing and autism was…

  • I made him basic shape a scawney little cat – just the sort of cat I would be. Cat’s always seem to me to be naturally autistic. It gives me a very strong sense of affinity with them. My cat Leia and I are like two peas in a Star Wars loving pod. (Yes, she loves Star Wars too because people call her name sometimes and call her a princess, but mainly because I give her treats so she will watch it with me. Lol)
  • I gave him big big eyes, ears and whiskers to convey his heightened sensitivity and the way we take in all the information not just selective bits.
  • The broken collar represents how so many clothes, clothing labels, jewellery etc. are intensly irritating and also how we don’t always fit so well into society.
  • My creature’s tail is curved up into a golden spiral which is based on the golden ratio (which is approximately 1 to 1.61803398875). This indicates how cool patterns are for many autistic people, me included.
  • I also gave my cat slightly sad comic eyes to show how it can be difficult sometimes to be autistic, especially when we have communication and social problems.

I’m going to call my autistic animal familiar “Joe“.

😊

Fire Salamander Inks and “The ugly stage”

This week’s drawing began as a doodle of some water currents. I then decided to redraw them and add a fire salamander larva (which looks a lot like an Axolotl).

Here are some process photos…

“The Ugly Stage”

The photo above captures really well how most of my artworks go through a horrible “ugly stage”. This is the point at which I start to think I am kidding myself about being an artist and I should just give it up and watch Netflix instead! As it happens with this particular drawing I was tired and asthmatic while drawing the above. I had pneumonia. My Ventolin had given me an essential tremor in my hands and for some inexplicable reason I had persevered with the inking anyway. Thankfully I stopped before I completely ruined the picture.

The next day I picked my drawing time carefully to avoid problems with my breathing and things were much easier. I tidied up a lot of the errors and began the process of trying to find creative solutions to the difficulties I’d got myself into.

Here is how the drawing turned out in my book…

Here it is close up…

One of the things I was unhappy about with this picture was that I wasn’t able to fully make the salamander larva stand out from the background. Normally I would do this by making the contrast and dark black lines strongest in the subject, but I had made the water currents really dark already so that wasn’t possible. It would also have been good to have put part of one of the water currents over the top of the animal to make him appear to be floating amongst them.

I did play around with adding some digital colour to push the subject/object contrast through colour, but in the end I think I preferred the ink drawing…