Octopus Dream #5 – The Bubble Fountain

This is the last in my series of “Octopus Dreams” posts.

One of the things I love about octopuses is their curiosity and playfullness. I saw a video online of an octopus playing in a bubble stream in his tank. It was wonderful! Unfortunately it looks like the video has been taken down so I can’t show it to you. Instead here’s a video from a different channel, Octolab TV which is quite similar where an octopus is playing in the output from a water pump. I love the way he gets surprised by the feel of it but keeps going back because he’s interested. I think he’s having fun!

In my painting this week I wanted to capture an octopus playing in some bubbles.

I started off with a drawing…

Then I painted the background with a basic blue/green/yellow wash in watercolour. When it was half dry I added salt to the damp paint. The salt sucked up any remaining fluid which removed some of the paint in a patchy sort of way. I used this effect to give the impression of smaller bubbles which were further away behind my lovely curious octopus.

Next I began to draw in my main octopus shape using Prismacolor pencils. I used three colours – a dark blue/green, a low saturation mid-green and a pale yellow/green (which looked yellow because of the green around it!)…

Once I had the basic shape I then used a bright yellow and a white to push the lighter surfaces and a black Prismacolor, along with a 4B Mars lumagraph pencil to deepen the darker areas. I blended these in with a blending stump and then went on to add my bubbles. Once this was finished I photographed my finished art and adjusted my levels in Photoshop.

Here is the finished picture…

Next week – some new adventures!!!

🙂

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

😀

The Cardinal’s Mistress

This image comes from a pencil sketch I made while watching the CBC series “Tudors” about the life of Henry the VIII. At the end of the first season the mighty Cardinal Wolsey is in trouble with his King and is living in discrace with his mistress in a dilapidated house with a leaking roof. All the way through the series I was really touched by Sam Neill’s (Cardinal Wolsey) and Lorna Doyle’s (the Cardinal’s longtime mistress Joan) performance here. They were able to show us another side to the scheming and ambitious Cardinal – a man, like any other man, going through some serious difficulties with the help of his wife. There was a tenderness to those scenes which I found really moving.

Here is the pencil sketch…

I pulled the sketch into Autodesk Sketchbook and began to colour it.

First I just put in some mid tones roughly in the background. In the TV programme the walls were a cream colour and there were were various browns around in the furniture. I added the blue to my composition to give the viewer the feeling of water which was everywhere in the scene.

Next, using a similar palette I filled in some basic midtones in the foreground…

Once this was done I needed to push my shadows and highlights a little with the colour so that the pencil shadows don’t have to work so hard. I also experimented with adding some other colours here and there to add depth to the painting…

I then finished off the image in Clip Studio Paint. Here is the final picture…

I like the unity between the foreground and background and I quite like the hints of green I put into her dress. If I redid this picture I would be more careful where I put the dark greyish navy shadows in her hair. I think they work in places but don’t in others.

Peacock – a simple digital painting

 

This week’s art began as a doodle of a peacock on some copy paper…

 

 

I scanned the sketch and pulled it into Autodesk Sketchbook. Then I reset the drawing colour to a light blue so that I could redraw over it digitally…

 

 

I find this kind of drawing very relaxing and did most of this while watching some the excellent new(ish) series of Star Trek Discovery (which is awesome!!!)

Here’s the doodle redrawn digitally.  You can see that I used two different line weights.  To keep a track of this while I’m working I draw a little sample of each line weight I’m using and then write the size next to it.  This means I can make changes at the correct weight without having to guess…

 

 

Next I added some fanciful swirls to his lovely tail…

 

 

Finally I added some colour and then colour balanced and finalised the image in Photoshop…

 

 

 

Deeper into Art – The Whole Creative Process Part 2 of 2

Following on from last week where I documented the first four stages of my creative process. This week I’m going to look at the second half of that process. In all I have 7 steps I usually take to make a piece of art:

  1. Intention
  2. Inspiration and Reference
  3. Exploring
  4. Preparing
  5. Creating
  6. Assessment and Review
  7. Sharing

So I’ll be focussing on Creating, Assessment and Review, and Sharing.

Creating

I began drawing with pencil and then hard pastel pencils. Once that was done I layered on my pastel pigment. Here are my process photos…

It seemed to go well until I took a step back and really looked at my final picture…

Assessment and review

The final image had the wrong feel to it. So I began to look carefully at what I had done.

Here is my digital plan and my final image side by side…

I think the “Plan” worked because the reddish colour of the background is pushed towards brown which is really just a dark orange yellow and so just looked like a different tone of the same basic colour as the Buddha’s skin. This made it more restful. There was a small amount of blue in his hair which, being an ultramarine blue/ violet, added an accent of complemetary colour to the picture which I liked too.

However in my actual drawing the blue was more prominent and not as violet, and in my background I’d picked up on the red of the paper directly with my pastel colour choices so I had three colours, giving my pastel picture the wrong feel all together. Red, blue and yellow are a triadic colour combination which is a high energy variation of a split complementary colour scheme. This gave it a youthful, playful feel which just didn’t work for my intentions with this image at all.

Back to the Drawing Board

So I literally went back to the drawing board and decided to try again and rework the whole thing with a different colour scheme.  However I now had about half the time to get it done!

I felt that using the burgundy paper I already had was really working against my intentions at this stage so I made the decision not to frame the picture under glass but to use a fixative on it instead.  I thought I would present it on a backing board in a clear plastic sleeve. That way it would still make a good present and I had time to order some more supplies. I bought some fixative and some creamy grey pastel paper.

I chose this time to use a blue background with cool blue light as that would make it more serene and tie it into the Buddha resting at night. I kept the golden yellows of my Buddha’s skin and the darker blues of his hair.

Here are my process pictures as I remade the image…

And this is the finished picture…

I am much happier with the result this time. 🙂 The portrait answers the question which my heart was asking when I decided to work on this.

Once it was finished I fixed it outside with a professional artist’s fixative using my home made spraying bay…

I made this out of an old vacuum cleaner box. It works really well to hold the picture at a good angle for spraying and doesn’t let the fixative go all over the ground. (I use this for varnishing gouache sometimes too.)

Assessment and Review Take Two!

I am pleased with the warm golden feeling of the Resting Buddha’s skin and the calm night-time feel of the background. I wish I could add the smell of an open wild place, like our local common, and the sound of summer insects to the scene somehow.

The final image which I gave to my friend was slightly more muted in colour due to the fixative, but that added to the gentle restful feeling of the picture.  (I pushed the saturation and contrast in the pastels so that it would still look good when the fixative muted everything.)

Here’s the picture after using fixative…

One criticism I have of this piece is that I drew the buddha’s neck muscles for a man sitting up or standing and then turned the image sideways as I found the kind of composition I wanted for my potrait. So the muslces at either side of his neck (sternocleidomastoid muscles if memory serves) are drawn as if they were active in supporting the head. However when he is laying on his side these muscles would most likely be at rest which would change the shape of his neck. If I went back and remade the picture a third time (!) I would find reference for the neck region of a man lying on his side so I could get this right.

It’s only a small detail but I have found that the more small details are correct in a picture, the more the viewer is able to see what I have in my heart as I paint it. It is the viewer who is, in many ways, almost a collaborator in each picture in the end.

Sharing

Well my friend really liked her picture and I was very happy to have done this for her.

Generally speaking I share my art mostly in person and on WordPress.

On the technical side of sharing art, I use tags on each page so that search engines can index my pages appropriately. This results in about half of my views coming from search engines and half from within WordPress.

I am also careful when sharing my work to keep the resolution of images down to something that displays well on the web but is too low for print as this prevents various automatic image stealing sites from grabbing my images. You’ll often see the suffix “_web” on my filenames as this helps me know when I have reduced the resolution appropriately. I keep all of the finished full-size files with a big suffix “_FULLSIZE” so that I can identify this file easily and make sure not to bin it when I clean up extraneous images stored on my PC. Keeping the resolution down to only what you need also has the effect of making file sizes small which means I don’t run into issues with running out of storage space on my WP plan even after quite a few years.

In terms of websites used to share, I’m not on facebook or twitter. I chose WordPress because it seemed more mature as a blogging site than places like Tumbler, and appeared to be more focussed on sharing projects, skills and hobbies rather just general information about a person’s day to day activities which you get on Facebook. I love to both share my work and see other people’s art, thoughts and ideas on WordPress. I value the fact that WordPress is such a supportive, friendly community. I’ve learned a great deal from connecting to other people here and I realy value the friendships I have found here.

I am also going to bite the bullet and start up an Instagram Account. Its really slow going though because Instagram can only be viewed in a portrait orientation which makes it very very difficult to use the physical keyboard on my tablet as I have to read what I’m writing sideways! Good grief! Anyway, I will find a way to get this new account set up at some point.

So that’s it, my full process! I hope it’s been interesting or perhaps useful to someone. 🙂

Orca

This week I painted a pair of orcas, a mother and her calf.

Here is my initial drawing design which I did on cartridge paper.  Initially I was going to make this a pen and ink drawing but I decided to paint it at the last minute….

 

Once I was happy with my drawing I masked out the white bits of the whales and went off to visit family for the afternoon while the masking fluid dried…

However, when I got back, and looked at the drawing carefully, I saw this…

They are scratches from my little kitty-cat, Leia.  I shouldn’t have been surprised really.  Despite being free to sit anywhere, she chooses to sit in various choice spots like…

…on my black work trousers, or…

…on the book I’m currently reading…

… in front of my PC monitor…

 

…and, more recently, on the clothes airer.  I think it is her life’s mission to cover everything of mine in little white kitten hairs!

 

Anyway, I decided to go ahead with the painting despite her best efforts.

I began by doing a couple of quick thumbnail sketches to give myself some idea of my colours.

I knew I wanted a restricted palette but wasn’t sure what colour scheme to use.  I decided on a variation of the left thumbnail.

First I put on some basic watercolour washes in Payne’s Grey and French Ultramarine.  I added some yellow for the sunshine and merged this in…

 

Next I used a similar blue mixture but with more Payne’s Grey and less ultramarine to put in the idea of some rocky land.  I painted the sun in Winsor Yellow with some Cadmium Yellow Deep and added a few reflections.

 

Finally I began to work on the more specific details and finished the painting…

 

I quite like the finished picture but it lacks precision.  I also think I could have managed my watercolour gradients better and more evenly.  I think I might have another go at this one sometime using proper watercolour paper and taking more time and care with the execution of each wash.

Folds in cloth 101

This week I had a look at drawing and painting folds in cloth. Having never taken art at school (I had to choose between art and music) I’ve not really looked at this subject before though I know it’s a common subject for art students. So I thought the best way to start was with an observational drawing.

I began with an outline sketch of the main structures…

Then I worked on more details in my drawing…

Since the depth of shadows on the cloth depend on the angle of each section with respect to the light source I knew I would need a lot of gradients so I decided to paint this in watercolour as gradients are easy in this medium. I began with a wash of my lightest colour, a dilute cerulean blue..

Then I worked into deeper colours and slightly darker shades…

Next I decided to put in my darkest darks. I used a saturated mixture of lamp black, ultramarine and alizarin crimson to make a very dark purple.

Then I added more of my mid-tone ultramarine shadow colours to balance the picture out. Here is my final painting…

Rather than just using one colour and changing the tone for shadows and highlights I used a range of colours, from the very dark purple mixture I mentioned previously, to a dark indigo, to ultramarine, to cerulean blue.

Initially I also left some white spots to give the cloth some pure white highlights but this made it look glossy rather than like the cloth that it was. So I painted over them with a very dilute wash of cerulean blue. Those highlights still look white but doing this just pushed them back enough to help the painting read properly.

Overall I really liked the colour range. Using indigos and purples in the darker folds gave the cloth a bit of warmth in those places.

On the negative side there is a fold in the middle of the top left quadrant which looked good and interesting in the drawing but got gradually changed with paint until it lost the shape that I liked. I think next time I’ll take a quick photocopy of my sketch before I start to paint so I have access to my drawing all the way through. I think, in general, I prefer the pencil drawing to the final painting which sometimes happens.

Also, I had a devil of a job getting the photo of this painting to look like it does in real life on the web. I couldn’t find a way to scan or photograph my picture so that the cyan colour showed in the highlights – they just look white. I suspect the white balance isn’t right but I can’t manage the phone as I would a proper camera. I think later this summer I’m going to dig out my old digital SLR and have a go with that instead. It could be a lot of fun!

Gold and Blue Macaw – Watercolour

 

This week I painted a Gold and Blue Macaw.  They are really beautiful birds and often have the most loving and friendly personalities.

I began with a sketch…

 

Then I added some masking fluid to the face area…

 

Next I laid down some basic light coloured washes.  I aimed their tone to be the brightest of all of the tones in each area.  That way I could layer other washes on top and gradually pick up my mid-range and dark areas…

 

Once this was done I got down to rendering each surface with progressively darker washes and then adding details (my favourite part of any painting!)

Here’s the final picture…

 

I quite like his yellow under feathers and head, but if I were going to do this again I would work on my portrayal of his left wing.  It just doesn’t work as well as I’d hoped in my mind’s eye.

 

 

Dreams of Ink and Watercolour

 

 

Following on from last week’s ink sketches I painted a new picture of Neil Gaiman‘s character “Dream” (from the Vertigo Comic “The Sandman”).  I wanted to combine fairly standard comic ink drawing with the looseness of watercolour for the background and some highlights.

So I began by adding some masking fluid in a few places to add some texture to my background.  Then I laid down an initial wash using Ultramarine, Paynes Grey and Alizeran Crimson wet into wet…

 

Once that had dried I wet the whole canvas again and added to the initial colours…(The colour is a bit darker in this photo because the paint is still wet.  Watercolour paint always dries lighter than it is when wet.)

 

 

Then I sketched in my figure and laid down some basic ink lines… (Shout out to the lovely “Peter Draws” from YouTube who talks a lot about his love of lines.  Whenever I think about lines now I find myself thinking about him and his work. It’s nice because his videos are really relaxing.)

 

 

Then I used my brush pen to add some deep shadows.  I love adding the darkest darks because it sets the tonal range for the picture in my fuzzy little art head.

 

Next I gave his hair a lot of ink texture with a 0.5 Micron pen.  This particular pen has been a bit squashed on the nib so I can get a range of widths and textures out of it.  Then I began adding some Paynes Grey to Dream’s coat…

 

 

I finished off by shading his face and neck, and colouring his hair, coat and T-shirt.  His face in the comics is always white so I used a mixture of Lamp Black and Paynes Grey to get a really neutral grey colour.  The hair was done using varying mixtures of Ultramarine and Alizeran Crimson to get a range of purples, violets and blues.

 

Here’s the final painting…