Ollie and Olga

This week I focused mainly on my portrait of Jim, but I also created another tonal painting. Meet Ollie (the Octopus) and Olga (the fish). They were very briefly the best of friends – until, very unfortunately, Ollie got hungry!

Here are some process photos…

I began by sketching the two aquatic friends (and doing my best to keep track of all eight of Ollie’s legs).

After that I added ink to the drawing, using darker thicker lines on the shadow sides of each object and then stippling a gradient from full black to the half tone grey of the paper. I used this to begin to render the shapes in three dimensions.

Then I deepened the shape rendering effects by adding some darker tonal areas using black watercolour paint and feathering the edges.

Finally I added similar gradients to the lighter sides of the shapes using titanium white gouache to add highlights.

Here’s the finished picture…

I really enjoy using this simply method to create black and white (and buff) paintings. I think it might work really well as a basic approach for making independent comic art. It’s not too onerous to do but gives well rendered results which I think would read and reproduce quite well in a comic format. I might produce a comic page like this when I have time and see how it looks.

Art Therapy – The Shadow

Most of the time I like to draw and paint images which are restful, uplifting or have positive associations with them. I often give my art to friends, family and sometimes put images which mean something special to me up at home. Having challenging art up on my walls though can be quite problematic so I don’t go in that direction very often.

However, I think art can be about more than good feelings. It can be a way to communicate more difficult and uncomfortable subjects and emotions. While these things are not always something you want to look at they do have their place and can be very powerful when used in the right way. (Obviously art is subjective, this is just how I see things.)

The Use of Darker Imagery to Highlight Social Justice Issues

I particularly like the work of Käthe Kollwitz, most especially her earlier realism-based drawings which seem equivalent to the work of news photographers today – highlighting and communicating the difficulties and troubles people go through. I could easily see this etching (below) as the equivalent of a Reuters photograph of an area of social injustice in our modern world. Below is a linked image of the last etching plate in the cycle of seven in her Peasant’s War Series…

‘The Prisoners’ (‘Die Gefangenen’), (1908), etching. Plate seven of seven from the cycle Peasants’ War (Bauernkrieg), (1903-08)

“The Prisoners” is undeniably a powerful image which carries a lot of emotion. Her themes, in her earlier career were all centred around social justice. I really love this particular etching (above) even though it’s quite disturbing. In it she wanted to express her empathy and show the courage, difficulty and struggles of poorer people at the time.

(If you’d like to explore more of her work here is a link to the Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln. They have a virtual tour here, and this is a link to all of the images in her Peasants War cycle.)

Shadow Work

Another place where darker and more difficult images can be really helpful is in doing what therapist’s call “Shadow Work” – looking at the hidden and half hidden darker side to humanity, particularly inside ourselves. It’s another part of Art Therapy.

The image I worked on this week is, I think, to do with fear. It began as a pencil doodle of a monster drawn for fun, for halloween, but became more serious as I got into it…

I used my grey-toned sketchbook again for this. Once I had the pencils down I decided to use black and white pastels to shade and highlight the picture.

This is what that looked like…

This came out quite well in real life but the tonal differences weren’t strong enough for photographic reproduction to really capture the image properly. So I sprayed the paper with a fixative (Conté á Paris) and began to ink the drawing.

My original plan was to darken my darks with ink and then to add some white gel pen to add white highlights in the same manner. However the gel pen I own doesn’t write very well. It’s great for textural work but doesn’t produce a clean line. So I smoothed out what I’d already done with the gel pen using water and a fine brush and then went on to use white gouache to add my highlights. This is what that looked like…

I then felt that I needed to balance the white with some strong watercolour shadows. I painted them in using Winsor and Newton lamp black with a touch of burnt sienna to make the lamp black less blue and was finally satisfied with the image. Here is the finished monster…

Although it’s actually about fear, I think I could equally call it The hangover or maybe Teachers near the end of term!

LOL 😁

The Whispering Bat – mixed media

The brown long-eared bat is also known as the “Whispering Bat” since it’s echolocation can hardly be heard at all. These amazing creatures are common in the UK. They hibernate over winter beginning from about now. Sleep well little creatures!

I drew this using pencils, ink and black and white pastels.

Here are some process photos:

Pencils…

Ink outline…

Black and white pastel tones…

I added these by scraping off some of the pastel onto with my finger or a blending stump and then applying it to the paper. After getting significantly messy I ended up using one finger for the black and another for the white which was much more effective…

Similarly on the blending stump I used one end for black and another for white. Eventually the whole drawing was toned…

Once this was done I played around with the various patterns to use on the wings…

Then finally I sealed the pastels with a fixative and added black and white ink on top of the toned image. This was really fun to do. I enjoyed it enormously. Here’s the final picture…

Happy Halloween everyone!

Open country

I’ve had some serious issues with my health again this week so rather than doing a proper painting I had a go at digital speed painting. Basically I painted a very quick sketch of some open countryside.

My aim was to complete it in 15 minutes.

I began by splashing in some background colours, making the picture lighter and less saturated for the parts of the landscape which are further away and making it darker and more saturated for parts of the landscape which were near the viewer. Like this…

Then I blended these basic areas and added a range of colours to the foreground. Then I very loosely sketched in the trees and hedgerows in the distance and the fencing and gate in the foreground…

Then I began to tidy the whole thing up – straightening the fencing, and adding highlights and shadows to everything…

Then I added some textures in Autodesk Sketchbook using some brushes I adjusted expecially for the job, copied my painting across to my PC and loaded it into Photoshop. Once in PS I adjusted the levels of the image and ran a filter over the top of the image to give it more edge definition (I used “poster edges” for this). Then used another filter to highlight the textural details of the painting (fresco). Here’s the final image…

I didn’t quite finished the painting in 15 minutes – I took 18 minutes! What can I say – “a swing and a miss”!

Jim – Part 1

I have been working on my portrait of Jim, my father in law, who passed away recently. It one of those pieces of art which is really personally important because it’s a gift for his widow Jane and also a tribute to such a good man. At first I struggled to get started so I made a few sketches digitally to get myself warmed up a bit. This is the best of those…

At first it didn’t really look like himbut once I added some shadows and highlights it began to feel better.

Then, since I had a digital sketch I played around with the colour scheme to find something that felt right. Here are some of the attempts I made at that…

Of the colours above I preferred the royal blue and the red. Overall though I thought that the red brought out the warmth of him as a person, so I decided to go with that.

Once I’d got all of these ideas roaming around in my head I found myself finally ready to get down to drawing.

I began with a very rough sketch where I measured quite carefully his general facial anatomy. It doesn’t look a thing like Jim, but I find it an important step for making a decent portrait…

Once I had that sketched in I used it as a framework for drawing a more careful map of his portrait, ready for the paint. This is as far as I have got at the moment due to being unwell last week. Here is the drawing / map I made to guide me when I paint. It doesn’t yet capture his likeness because there are no strong shadows or highlights, but I am hoping it will turn out well. I will do my best!

I’m not going to rush this painting, so I expect I will post other artwork in between updates of this project.

Here are my main steps so far along with the main photo reference I am using…

The Eternity Dragon

I made an ink drawing this week of a dragon.

In western literature dragons are mostly symbols of evil and destruction who have to be killed or vanquished for life to go on.

However in many eastern cultures they are seen as strong, beautiful, natural and lucky and often associated with water. In Vietnam dragons are seen as bringing life sustaining rain and are therefore symbols of life and prosperity. In Japanese stories dragons are the Spirits or Kami of rivers and lakes and seas as well as being associated with rain. In China the dragon is a very powerful symbol of energy, wisdom and good fortune.

Because of these positive connections I chose to draw an eastern dragon, rather than a western one. I think the only western dragons I really like are those from Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Quintet. It’s been a while since I read this series but my overarching feeling about the dragons in her world is that they represent wildness. I really like that!

I began by playing around with curves and loops trying to find a pleasing way to draw this animal…

Then when I found a design I liked I began playing with it to see how I wanted to form it into a dragon…

Once I had the idea in my head I began to draw it…

At this point I realised that the basic structure I had chosen had two interesting relationships to symbols.

  • The first was that the main shape was that of the infinity sign used in mathematics, but also used frequently to represent autistic people.
  • The second was that the head appeared to be moving towards eating the tail, which is another symbol for infinity or eternity.

So I carried on working on the form, laying out ideas with pencil and then inking them as soon as I was sure they would be permanent, like this…

This is how my final ink drawing came out…

Next I used my watercolour paints to add tone to the drawing. Then I added a shadow to lift it out of the page a little and it was finished.

Here’s the finished art…

“The Eternity Dragon”

I do enjoy the symbolism in the picture. The association with autism brings it home for me as does the association with the Le Guin’s wild dragons. (That is, if I’ve remembered and interpreted this correctly and not mixed it up with another story!) The eastern links to water are also lovely too given how much I love being on the water in boats.

In terms of the art itself in a more technical sense. I’m fairly happy with the overall drawing but not quite sure about putting a shadow on it. I do like the way the shadow lifts the dragon out of the page, but sometimes I think keeping it simpler is better. Here is the drawing before I added the shadow…

I like the simplicity of this, but the shadow gives it more of a 3D effect and draws my eye more.

What do you think?

A Poppy card

My mum loves poppies. She even grows large ornamental ones in her garden. So for her birthday I made her a card with a poppy on it. I tried to make the background very loose which is not something I am good at.

I didn’t manage to take any process shots of this painting. I think I had to concentrate so hard to get the background to work that it just went out of my mind! Oops!

Once I’d finished the painting I trimmed it neatly with my rotary trimmer and then mounted it on a card. I actually use doublesided carpet tape to mount heavy paper like this. It works really well.

Here’s a picture of the card…

And here is the final painting…

❤️ Happy Birthday Mum!!!! ❤️

Rudd

Since I’ve not painted for a few weeks I wanted to get back into the swing of it before attempting an important portrait of my son’s Grandad who passed away recently.

I began this painting just messing about with gouache on a watercolour background.  The foliage began life as grass, but soon became the kind of water weed found in freshwater rivers and lakes in the UK.  Then I sprayed it with some fixative (since gouache can be reactivated very easily by water). 

Once it was partially fixed I sketched on a fish like this…

I blocked in the underpainting of the fish roughly, giving it some warm and cooler colours…

Next I partially fixed the painting again with the fixative and then applied a more finished layer.  I also tidied up the my rendering of the weed too…

Finally I added all of my details and highlights and then painted in some weed in front of the fish.

Here is my completed painting…

When making this painting I changed my usual gouache process a little.  I added a spray of fixative between layers.  This partially stabilised the gouache so that the layer beneath wasn’t quite so readily activated by paint on top.  This method worked really brilliantly allowing me all of the freedom of using gouache without the hassle.  I will use this method again I think.

🙂

Up on the Moors

Very sadly, a couple of weeks ago my father in law passed away. He had been ill but we were hoping for another year with him. In many ways it released him from pain and suffering which is good, but I just miss him, a lot.

He was a good, good man and would do anything for his family.

Since this happened I haven’t been able to paint. The creative place where my pictures come from is just silent at the moment. I’ve let this blog just roll through the schedule I had already prepared and uploaded. But now I have run out.

I am planning to paint a portrait of Jim for his wife in oils or acrylics once I’m able. I think oils would be better but they will take so long to dry, so I’m going to try using acrylics in a similar way to painting alla prima with oils and I’m going to use a retarder to give me more time to blend.

Today I had a go at a simple digital painting despite the silence inside. Although I didn’t plan it, it does reflect some of the saddness I feel about losing Jim and seeing his wife Jane so sad at his loss.

Here are some screen shots of how the painting went…

I completed the painting in Photoshop. I adjusted the levels and added a border. Here’s the finished picture…