Octopus Dreams #4 – Designing Octopus Tattoos

Sometimes I like to try out tattoo ideas directly on my skin. I usually do this by just doodling the design in black biro. This is how this picture started…

It was quite tricky to do since I chose a spot on my lower leg! I tried to brighten the eyes with some white gel pen, but as you can see, that didn’t really work. I did enjoy having an octopus on my leg for the day though! 🙂

So I thought I might make a better job of this on paper or via digital drawing. I tried digital drawing first.

Digital Octopus Tattoo Design

For this first design I wanted to make something symmetrical. So I began with a couple of circles to give me some rough guides for where I wanted parts of the shape…

Next I used the symmetry tool to draw the octopus. Using this tool I only had to draw half of it and the tool put the other half in for me and kept it symmetrycal.

Once I had a basic outline I added some other small details and removed my guide circles…

Then I added some shading. I used the pen tool to put in some darker and lighter tones and then used the blend tool to blend them together. This is exactly how I would do it with oil paint…

My final job here was to add some textural marks to the design…

Here is the final digital tattoo design…

Traditional Ink Octopus Tattoo Design

Here’s the process I went through to create a traditional ink drawing for a tattoo design. I began with the basic structure…

Then drew in an outline…

Next I inked my outline…

Then added some details…

Here is what the linework looked like once I was finished. (You might be able to see that I added some greyscale shadows in pencil on the design.)

Reviewing my work

Looking at the two designs I think each one has some strengths and weaknesses:

The digital design has:

  • Interesting textures especially on the octopus’ mantle.
  • Some webbing between the octopus’ arms which gives it a nice feel.
  • An overbearing outline which seems to me to be the wrong style for the final image.
  • A symmetrical shape which can be problematic in tattoos if the skin stretches in one direction more than another.

The tradition design has:

  • A well placed sense of the animal.
  • An interesting overall shape.
  • Textures and other design elements which work well together.
  • A lack of three dimensionality.

So having looked at both designs for a couple of days I decided to draw a new version which incorporates some aspects of one drawing and some of the other. Here is my final octopus tattoo design…

You can see I’ve based it on the traditional drawing, but added webbing, shadows, three-dimensional shading and some sand cloud and bubble effects.

Which one do you prefer?

Next week I’m going to be posting a study of a beautiful but sad Reuter’s photograph which I painted digitally.

Whale Song

I thought we’d have a break from octopuses this week with a watercolour painting of a beautiful humpback whale swimming with a diver.

I used Arches hot-pressed watercolour paper this time. It’s odd but, although I really find Arches paper great to use for watercolour because it takes a wash so beautifully, I keep avoiding using it because it’s so expensive. I just feel I have to save it. Then when I do use it, I feel a sense of pressure not to waste it which isn’t overly helpful. I think this is quite a common thing though. I’m going to deal with it by just using the paper until it feels more normal.

So, I began my whale painting with a pencil sketch…

Next I did the big washes – starting from the background and working forwards…

After that I worked on the details – the diver, the whale’s eye and other features and I worked on bringing the whale shape to life with some shadows. I also added a little more pencil in places to give a little more definition to some parts of the painting.

Once the painting was finished I photographed it and then corrected the levels in Photoshop. Here’s the finished painting…

I had a “whale” of a time with this one! LOL

😀

Octopus Dreams #3 – The second half of a larger line and wash painting

I have been experimenting for some time in my artwork, trying to find a way to tone ink drawings traditionally. This week I have toned an ink drawing of a Larger Pacific Striped Octopus with black watercolour. Initially I was thinking of either using charcoal or watercolour over my ink. It was really hard to make up my mind without trying it out, so on some scrap paper I had a quick go of both methods. Here are the results of my experiments…

(Charcoal)
(Watercolour)

I decided to go with the watercolour in the end. It took more time and was not removable like the charcoal, but I liked the level of control had with watercolour and the depth of colour I could generate.

I began with a few basic washes…

Then I added some mild shadows to the light coloured sand. To do this I put on a wash of clear water and then dropped in black watercolour at the top of each wet section and allowed it to “stretch out” naturally.

Once this was done I began the painstaking work of putting in the details. Because the original ink drawing was A3, this took quite some time, but it was very enjoyable.

Here is the final line and wash drawing…

Octopus Dreams #2 – The first half of a larger line and wash painting

This week’s art is the first half of a two part artwork featuring a Larger Pacific Striped Octopus outside her den. She’s sitting in a position which allows her to begin to explore and hunt but, with two of her arms still fixed to the back of her den, she can also withdraw to safety at a moment’s notice.

I began this ink drawing on A3 hot-pressed watercolour paper with some sketching…

Once I was reasonably happy with the basic drawing I began to go over it with ink. When doing this I tried to make the pen strokes clean and consistent, but I also made slight changes to the design as I went. Since this is an A3 drawing the inking took my quite a few hours but was incredibly relaxing…

I got to to this stage (above) and then stopped for the evening thinking I had probably finished inking. However, when I looked at the picture again the next day I felt that some full black shadows around the bottom of my octopus and around the rocks on the sea floor might help balance the composition. So I popped those in and made some other small changes to the density of my linework in various places to make my final ink drawing…

Although my inks are finished my picture is not yet complete. I want to keep the picture in black and white, but add some greyscale tone to it. Previously, with other pictures, I have done this digitally and I’ve tried doing it with mars lumograph pencils and with markers, but I want to try something different with this one.

I am really looking for an authentic way to tone ink drawings. While I can get really lovely results painting tones in digitally, it always leaves me feeling slightly unsatisfied because the final picture comes out of the printer and not directly from my hands. It’s almost as if the printer steals some of the joy of making the art – or perhaps I’m more traditional that I thought!

So, next week I’m going to tone this picture with black watercolour. I want to use the same techniques I used to paint an ant in watercolour (Link to Ant Painting Here). This time, however, the painting will go over the top of an ink drawing. I did think about doing this with charcoal, but after some experimentation on scrap paper I decided against that!

Octopus Dreams #1 – A small gouache painting

This last week has very much been an Octopus Week for me. 🙂

It began when I watched My Octopus Teacher on Netflix. At first I thought it was going to be a natural history program, but after about 25 minutes it was clear it was more of a memoir. It’s about a professional film-maker who became really burnt out in his life. Then he attempted to find his way back to himself, his work and his family through a friendship he made with a wild octopus. It was actually quite wonderful – I really enjoyed it.

Then, once I was in the mood for Octopuses, I came across a fellow blogger’s excellent book review of Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus. Again, I thought the book would be more of a natural history tome but again it was really a memoir and this was all to the good as it was also a very enjoyable read!

So I have decided to create two or three octopus pictures over the next few weeks.

Simple Gouache Painting

This week I worked on a simple octopus painting in gouache. It’s a painting of the famous and deadly Blue-ringed Octopus. The animal itself is gorgeous looking, but carries enough venom to kill 26 adults despite being really quite small!

One night when I couldn’t sleep I scribbled down the idea for this picture on an envelope…

Then I made a clearer drawing on a piece of cardboard I reclaimed from the packaging which comes when you buy books online.

Next I painted the background but forgot how very opaque gouache can be so I lost my initial drawing!

I redrew it quickly in pencil and then got my paints out.

I painted the local colour of the octopus first…

…and then put in some basic shading to indicate the three dimensional shape of the animal and it’s basic colour pattern.

Once that was done I went to town of the details of the rings and the richer darker tones of the octopus right next to it’s rings. Finally I added some white to give the octopus a shine. Here is finished painting…

Reflections

My aims with this painting were to try to show the dimensionality of the animal’s legs. I wanted to use a colour scheme which included the bright blue the animal shows in it’s rings when it feels threatened. Finally I wanted the octopus to look like it was floating free in space with his legs all out around him.

The idea I had of putting in the shine was something I was in “two minds” about. An object which is underwater doesn’t show this effect since it is created by the thin film of water on the object when surrounded by air. However as humans, frequently we visually “read” this effect as indicating wetness. In the end I decided to put communication of the slimy, wet, feeling of an octopus above the physics of underwater reflection.

Next week – I’ll be starting a large octopus ink drawing which will probably take a couple of weeks to complete. (I think it’s pretty appropriate to draw and octopus in ink!!!) 🙂

Dan Droid and Autism – A Digital Art Design

This week I worked on a simple greyscale digital art design of an android. I called him Dan because if you say Dan Droid it sounds close to Android (which I thought was funny) and also he reminds me of Asimov’s Daneel Olivaw who was my favourite robot as a child. (I think I also rather unconsciously modelled his human looks on a Euphonium player I knew at school called Daniel.)

I began with a simple sketch. One of the things I’ve been working on recently is how to better use my drawing tablet to get nice tapered lines. I really tried to work on that here. It meant drawing faster and having more faith in my hands to do the right thing without the constant supervision of my brain. Here’s the sketch…

Next I planned out a basic elecronic look for the part of his face which is showing his internal structure. I looked at reference for the muscles and bones of the face for this so that I could mimic real human anatomical structures with electronic equivalents. So the group’s of wires you can see, for instance, model muscle groups in the face.)

After that I added my darkest shadows. I really do love the way solid blacks look in comic art. At this point I gave him black hair to balance the image tonally, even though my Euphonium friend had blond hair.

Then I added 2 levels of greyscale tone using a cell-shading approach.

Finally to finish off the image I surrounded him with a background reminicent of electronic circuit diagrams. I though he looked really great amongst all of that.

So here is the final image…

Reviewing the art

Looking at this drawing, I like the way he’s walking across the frame but turning to look the viewer in the eye. I think it engages the viewer a bit more and also reveals his inner nature. I also like the simple cell-shading style although that’s really just a matter of personal taste.

If I wanted to add more I think I would render the background into 3D and make some parts of it look like matte metal and some parts look like chrome. I could then drop a shadow behind him onto the background to really make him stand out.

Reflections on Androids and Autism

In terms of the meaning of the art, I personally think people draw their own meanings from things like this. For me, this is all about what it feels like when I suddenly make a mistake and reveal my autistic nature. It’s very much like I have suddenly turned my head and now they can see what I really am. The electronic background he seems to carry with him is like the label of autism which other people then see.

There are some folks who think autistic people shouldn’t be compared to robots, but personally I think it’s a good metaphor. In order to do the normal social things that neurotypical people find automatic I have to set up a whole raft of decision-making flowcharts in my head, remember them in detail and follow them. This feels like having to build and maintain external circuitry to my regular self in order to hold simple conversations. The huge extra work of managing this circuitry is one of the things that makes socialising so draining.

For a long while I have felt ashamed of being this way, sort of deficient. However now, through counselling, I am beginning to believe that being my own self might be OK (with the same caveat as everyone else in the world, which is that a person acts decently).

I follow Terry Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax on this one. She says. .

It’s not my place to tell ‘em what to believe, if they act decent.’

May the 4th be with you!

Happy Star Wars Day everyone!!!!

On this wonderful May 4th I wanted to share some Star Wars Fan Art. I’ve got some Star Wars universe species sketches, some digital Star Wars Rebels portraits, three pencil drawings and a watercolour painting of our beloved Yoda!

star wars Species Sketches

Star Wars Rebels portraits

Pencil portraits of obi-wan kenobi

My favourite character in all of Star Wars!!! 🙂

Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan
Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan

geonosian warrior pencil drawing

Yoda in watercolour

I drew or painted all of the art in this post, however, because it’s fan art, please note that the intellectual property belongs to Lucas Film.

Canada Goose in Watercolour

A while back my son and I went down to our local river for our Covid exercise period. He pushed me in my wheelchair along the tow path for a little way and then went off to have a walk while I sat and painted. There were loads of narrowboats waiting to get through the lock and one was just moored up a bit further down. It was wonderful because the guy inside was playing this gentle 1970’s folk/rock music. Normally I prefer silence and the sound of the river but somehow his choice of music felt just perfect for moment.

I’m afraid I didn’t take any process photos and I didn’t quite finish by the time we were ready to go home either. But I got the basic colours and shapes blocked in.

Here’s what it looked like when I got home…

And here is a photo of the goose in question…

He was with his lady by the looks of things and the pair of them were hanging out with a pair of swans who were quite definitely courting. I know swans are regarded as more beautiful but I just loved the look of the geese (despite their tendancy to chase me when I was young!)

A few days later I painted in all of the details and repainted his eye which looked wrong to me. Here’s the finished painting…

He was a very handsome chap!