Mixed Media – Vintage Diving Helmet

I had a go at mixing Ink and Charcoal in the same drawing this week. It was really good fun. I really enjoyed the way I could add textures with the charcoal that I could never achieve with ink.

I began sketching in pencil, then added an ink outline and then added some deep shadows in ink too, like this…

Once I had my ink drawing I began to add shadow using a charcoal pencil and some charcoal sticks, like this…

Above was my first work through with the charcoal. I could see I needed to go darker in places and that I needed also to smooth things out with some blending stumps and tissues.

Once I’d completed the charcoal work I photographed the picture and brought it into Photoshop. I added a black background and then adjusted my levels. I did quite a bit of adjustment to get it to look right with the black background and to get rid of some reflection from my black ink brush pen which sadly has a shiny finish.

Here is the final image…

I like the textures and the strong contrast. It also made me smile to have things around the wrong way, with the water and fish inside the helmet and us humans looking in from the outside! While I was reviewing the image I thought it might make a big difference if I added some halftone reflections on the glass in the front window. So I quickly opened up Photoshop again and added them in post production!

Once everything was complete I also had a quick play with adding some digital colour…

I think it turned out OK, but I prefer the black and white image.

Which one do you prefer?


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.’

October Illustrations – Using Graphical Patterns to Draw a Squawking Crow

This was also drawn during the summer holidays.

I live on the very edge of town next to a local common and a small wood. We have a small colony (or “murder!”) of crows living in the wood. Occasionally they fight with other birds (mainly magpies, but also seagulls if the weather is turning bad offshore). They make a huge racket when this happens. This is what was going on when I began to think about this drawing. I wanted to see if I could make a drawing of a crow using nothing but patterns. I also wondered if I could somehow show the crow squawking really loudly in indignation in a visual way.

So I had a try. I began by sketching out a quick basic crow…

Then I developed some simple filigree type patterns over the top of the basic sketch. I kept the beak more realistic as I felt that it was an essential feature which is didn’t want to change.

Once I had a basic outline I filled in some shading, added a half tone ink wash to some of the bird’s body and head and then built up a background using similar motifs trying to show visually the huge noise these birds can make when they are annoyed.

Here’s the final drawing…

I think the drawing captures the essence of my shouty little friend sqawking his little black head off quite well. The mid tone ink wash doesn’t photograph very well unfortunately but it’s patchy quality when photographed adds to the general scruffiness of the crow in question so it’s still in character! I do wish I’d taken a photo of this image when all of the black ink was done before I added the half-tone wash because I think adding tone digitally might have been a good option for this design.

“After the Game” Character Illustration – Part 2 of 2

My second attempt at a character illustration is again of an older man.  This time he has just been to the gym is having a bit of a sit down before hitting the showers after working out.  I wanted him to be in reasonably good shape for his age but feeling more tired after physical exercise than perhaps he used to.  Maybe he’s reflecting on this as he rests?


I began with a sketch…

It was done very quickly using a Pigma Micron ink pen and brushmarkers to add tone. At some point it also got wet and the edges all got a bit smudged.

I took a photo of this and reworked it digitally. My first job was to re-draw all the line art. At this stage I also corrected an error I could see with the man’s right leg (the left as we look at him) which appeared to be out of position.


Next I filled in some basic tones…


Then I added cell shading.  I do really enjoy the simplicity of this old fashioned way to partially give shape to a 2D image…


Once that was done I worked on the bench he was sitting on…


My last job was to draw in a painterly background. I imagined my subject was quite well off, so the place he was in was more of a private health spa than a regular gym, with the kind of generic paintings on the walls that I imagine might be in places like that.


Finally I adjusted my levels, made some tiny detail corrections and added some shadow to the area immediately below his feet so that the viewer can see the connection between him and the ground. Here is how it turned out…


Looking back I think the linework on his arms is a bit janky.  If I redrew it I would de-emphasise the changes in his outline due to different muscle groups.  Overall though I like the pose and the effect of a more painterly background agains the stark 2D cell-shaded figure.


Next week I have post all about a magical creature I drew in ink.  After that I will begin a series of three traditional ink drawings of young adults which I drew during the Witsun holidays.

Mopani Wood and New Directions

Mopani Wood

For my last Inktober picture I played around with ink. I used some water brush pens and 2 types of black ink. I began by wetting an area of my sketchbook and then dropping the ink into the wet area just as you would when using a wet in wet technique for watercolour. I got myself a lovely ink-run…

I let it dry and then began to feel out shapes in the random way the ink was lying. At first I just added some strong shadows…

I wanted to keep some of the ink I laid down in place and move some of it with a water brush later so I put down Pigma Micron ink (which is VERY permanent and great to use even under a heavy water wash). Then I used another pen which has soluble ink and put some of that on top. Then I went in with my water brush and moved the ink around again. Once that had dried I added some details with the Pigma Microns. Here’s how it looked after that…

Mostly I was taking my cues from the patterns made when the ink ran and moved in the water. At first these patterns reminded me of smoke and fire and I thought that my ink drawing would end up being of a fire. But as I continued to work at it – just letting it draw itself – it began to remind me of this beautiful wood which is used often in the aquarium trade. The wood is called Mopani Wood and has these beautiful light sections with this lovely dark brown grain in places. Here are a couple of pictures…

It’s great for fish which like acidic water as it leeches tannins into the tank. Fish which wouldn’t spawn in my hard water area will spawn with Mopani wood in their tank. Some aquarists don’t like the way it yellows the water but I think it depends on what you want. If you want your tank clear and uncoloured, then no, it’s not a great choice. But if you want happy, comfortable fish in natural conditions then it can be great.

Gradually I added more detail and reinforced my darks and lights using a mixture of fixed and water soluble inks. Here’s the last interation when the drawing was nearly finished…

And here is the final Mopani Wood drawing – all from an ink-run!

New Directions

Looking ahead, my next artistic adventure is going to be in acrylics. I began all of my adult artwork about 16 years ago with acrylics where I painted 3D geometric abstracts…

Now, having worked through a variety of mediums and art courses over the years, I want to go back to acrylic and see what I can paint now. It’ll be fun!

“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.

75 and 76 – Ink Patterns with Multiliners

With this drawing I drew some basic structural lines in pencil and then worked directly in ink.  It’s an abstract picture really.  I’ve used the comma shape a lot before in the past when I was painting in contemporary acrylics.  So it was lovely to see how it looked in a completely different type of picture.

Here’s my picture…



I’ve also decided to give myself a bit more time each week by rolling the three posts I normal put up each week into one weekly post.  I want to still paint and draw just as much and then blog about it on a weekly basis.