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?

🙂

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.

Fantasy Harbour – Digital Colouring

This week I’ve been struggling with really bad pain.  So I took a sketch I drew about a year ago and coloured it digitally.

This is the original ink sketch…

 

Here is how I coloured it…

Some of the things I kept in mind in colouring this picture were:

  • The reflection of the sky in the river is less bright and less saturated than the actual sky.
  • Objects in the background are less saturated and slightly lighter than foreground objects.
  • The sun will tint objects which have direct light slightly yellow.
  • The sailcloth of the boat in the foreground will show some shadows from behind.
  • I also wanted to reduce my colour palette slightly to give the picture a particular feel.  (I avoided reds and only got near to red in my browns and yellows.
  • In terms of planning my colour I worked from background to foreground.  I prefer to do it this way as it works really well for traditional painting as well as in digital colouring.

Here’s the final picture…

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…

 

 

 

Season’s Greetings!

 

Some Christmas Cards painted for this season…

 

The Winter Owl

The owl one was sketched in pencils and then inked with rapidograph pens on Bristol Board. After that I added some tone with Mars Lumograph pencils and scanned it into my computer.

This is the greyscale drawing…

 

Then I coloured it digitally.  This is my finished painting…

 

 

Shepherds

This was a more tradition Christmas card theme of the shepherds outside Bethlehem.  I started with a gouache background on Amazon shipping cardboard…

 

 

Then I inked on the drawing with a Sharpie. Next I painted in some hills and went over the drawing with black and then white gouache paint, giving me a final simple painting like this…

 

 

Once it was painted I cut it out and stuck it to a card using carpet tape.  I used this once years ago because I didn’t have any other double sided tape and it worked so brilliantly I’ve used it ever since.

 

Then it was finally ready to put in it’s envelope…

 

Later I decided I liked the border around the painting so I made a digital version too.  I like the idea that there’s an original painting on the first card but I also like that it’s my finished image how I wanted it on the second card.

 

I hope you all have a lovely Christmas holiday!

 

 

 

Trainers – Digital and Traditional

This week’s art is a traditional ink drawing of some trainers and a digitally coloured version of the same drawing. I have been working quite a bit on these two areas recently, ink drawing and digital colouring. My aim is to improve my skill in both.

 

Ink drawing aims

With the ink drawing I particularly want to be able to emulate artists like Olivia Kemp. Here is a link to her Instagram where you can have a look at her art: Link to Olivia’s Work.  I think her textures are amazing!

Now, some of what makes her art wonderful is the huge attention to detail, which means working on a bigger canvas and taking more time to draw. My ink drawings take about an hour to do and then half an hour to colour if I’m doing it digitally. So I think planning and drawing a bigger, more longterm, ink drawing would be a good step forward. The second thing Olivia seems to do is to take care with each line. I do think before I draw, especially when working traditionally, but I don’t take such care of each mark I make, so I could work on that too. However, the most impactful thing Olivia does, that I’m only beginning to work on, is to use varied textures for different materials and objects in each scene. Until recently I only used hatching and cross hatching and sometimes little dots, which is very limiting. On top of that I don’t really like the look of my cross hatching. So these are all things I’m going to work on going forwards.

In this picture I concentrated on making the canvas parts of these shoes look like canvas and, more than that, look like canvas that had been stretched to someone’s feet. I used hatching, but in a very controlled way so that I could show the viewer how the pressure from the laces molds the shoe to the wearer’s foot. I also experimented with using cross hatching in a very broad way to indicate the pattern of threads in the laces.

 

Digital colour aims

With digital colouring I’ve been studying colour theory some more and trying out different techniques and approaches. In today’s art I felt, for the first time, that I was able to really use some of this new learning in a way that felt natural and normal. It’s like the difference between struggling to play a difficult scale on the piano (which I’ve been metaphorically doing for a while now in my colour work) and being able to naturally use that scale without thinking in a piece of music.

Here are my process images…

With shading and some halftone ink added – this is my finished traditional ink drawing…

I also scanned this drawing in before I added the half tone ink so I could colour it digitally which turned out like this…

I made some subtle changes to the way I colour here, adding a range of hues for the violet canvas colour, from a darker, low saturation navy blue to a mid saturation magenta added in the centre of the violet colour where warm light would be hitting the shoe. I also changed the colour of my shadows. They still read as grey, but are actually a dark airforce blue. You can’t easily see the difference just looking at this picture alone, but just using greys left the image looking dull compared.

So the final question is, which picture is best? Well, I don’t know. I love the purity and simplicity of ink on paper, but I like the freedom and possibilities of digital art.

I would be really interested to know what do you think?

The Dryad’s Awakening

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking a lot about imaginary worlds in literature.  (This was sparked by an excellent post made by a fellow blogger and book lover, Calmgrove, which you can find here.)

The Bronte siblings, I have learned, developed the imaginary “Glasstown”.  C S Lewis made up “Animal-Land” as a boy and then “Narnia” as an adult.  Tolkien brought “Middle-earth” to life and Ursula K LeGuin brought us “Earthsea”.  As a child (and still as an adult) I spent a lot of time reading and finding myself adventuring in many different imaginary lands; I enjoy it enormously.  So I began to wonder what sort of imaginary place I would create, if I could?

I am strongly drawn to two different narrative landscapes.  The first are those where nature-centred stories seem to grow, especially those where every living thing has it’s own being and will, every plant, , every fish, every beetle.  Sometimes even the stone of a mountain might grow it’s own will and sense of being.  These places contain, for me, a mixture of 3 different things.  The first are prehistoric, animistic ideas (including ritual landscapes like long barrows and standing stones).   The second are ideas from the Japanese Shinto Religion, stories of various Kami with rivers being Dragon Lords and volcanoes as Gods of Fire.  The third place I always find my imagination going to is into classical Greek mythology with dryads, centaurs, river nymphs, harpies and giants.

The second landscape revolves around adventures in space; places from science fiction including my favourite galaxy far far away (Star Wars).  So the landscape is actually a galaxy wide region of space with may different planets, environments, people and cultures.  Among these cultures I prefer tales set in the margins, on the borders, where things are difficult and people have very little personal power to change their own fate.  I prefer hard science fiction to space opera, but only in so far as I think the things  a person could make or do in that world needs to have reasonably coherant explainations.  And there would, of course, be a plethora of totally cool spaceships and droves of interesting aliens!

Having all of this turning over in the back of my mind I fell into thinking about the first of these two landscapes and began researching dryads.

This week’s art is a drawing of such a dryad who has slept very late into spring and is awakened by a butterfly.

Here’s my basic outline sketch…

I made my pencil outline quite dark and then worked up the details of the tree also in pencil…

 

Then I began to ink the picture.  First I did the outline with a 0.5 Pigma Micron pen…

 

Then I worked on the inside area with my trusty 0.3 Micron.  (I seem to use this size pen more than any other.)

 

This is my final ink drawing…

I must admit, I absolutely adore doing ink drawings like this.  I know there are so many other techniques and opportunities to make art these days, especially with the advent of digital art, but I love the simplicity and starkness of the black lines on white paper.  Anyway, I decided I wanted to keep the drawing as it was so I scanned it in and did all my colouring digitally…

I added my colour on several layers underneath the ink layer.  When put together, these colour layers make an interesting shape with the ink layer removed.  It’s almost like the shadow or spirit of the drawing.

 

Here is my final image…

Woodland Glade – Using Oil Painting Techniques with Gouache

This week I wanted to create a painting in Gouache but using some basic oil painting techniques. The main technique I focussed on was Blocking In. This is a way of painting which I’ve not really tried very seriously before. Basically you paint the overall big shapes and basic colours, then you refine them with more complex shapes until your picture appears. Stopping the refinement before it gets realistic leaves you with a painterly styled picture, which is what I wanted to achhieve.

Because Gouache can be overpainted in the same way as oils and blended in a similar way to oils (but less easily) it seems like a good candidate to create an oil styled picture without the bother of waiting weeks between layers for the oils to dry and going through the messy clean up process after each painting session. (You can use Liquin as an oil medium to speed up the drying process but it still takes quite some time for some colours and hues to dry.) With gouache and a hairdryer I can get things dry in a couple of minutes and my brushes and palette can be cleaned under the tap very quickly.

So I first chose a subject. I had a loose ink sketch of a forest glade lying about which I thought might lend itself to this kind of painting approach. Here’s the sketch…

I made an outline drawing of this sketch at the right size for my gouache experiment…

Then I began to have some fun with the blocking in. First I chose basic colours for each part of the painting…

It was great because I didn’t have to be too careful with my painting strokes or get anything right first time. This gave me the freedom to make different shadow colour choices than I normally would. I went with violets in the main but pushed one rock in the far foreground towards a pinkish colour to bring some heat into the picture at that point. Then I began to refine my shapes by adding more shadows…

This was lovely to do as I could see my brush defining each shape. I had loads of fun with this.

My next job was to start tidying it all up. This was enjoyable in a different, more meditative way, as I tried to get lovely flat blocks of colour. I began at the back of the painting and worked forward. I refined my edges as I did this. I also had to work out a way to show the water in the pond for what it is. I had a go at this by painting a very basic interpretation of the sky and trees merging into a darker colour near the front as the viewer begins to see more of the colour of the water and not the reflections. Then I painted in my reflection colours of the rocks. This was the most difficult part of the painting. They had to be the same basic colours but darker and less saturated. Once I’d got everything clean and toned to the colours I wanted I was finished. Here is my finished painting…

I am quite pleased with the painterly effects and the colour choices, although I think I would like to make the colours more subtle next time. I could use the same basic colour interpretation of the scene but with each colour pushed towards grey a little more. This is a bit of battle for me as I seem to get totally enchanted with the effect of strong, saturated colours whenever I sit down to paint.

I also quite like the way there is very little blending in the painting except in the water. I found it quite hard to render the water. Although the contrast between the blended water area and the rest does give the painting an interesting effect, I think the surface looks more akin to kitchen foil than a pond.

The other main thing I would change is my set up for photographing paintings as I often lose details when the differences between colours are smaller. For instance, in the back of this painting there is the indication of foliage shapes behind the main scene which adds to the feeling of a small clearing in the middle of a wood. They are obvious when I look at the actual picture with my eyes but the camera doesn’t pick them up. I’m avoiding scanned images too because my scanner can’t see blue very well at all, especially as it goes towards cyan.

At university when I was doing my PGCE (standard UK teaching qualification), they showed us the proper way to photograph media. It was a flat table with a flash light at each corner and a camera suspended over the top. Now I paint at my living room table so this kind of thing is not going to be possible but I could set up a proper Digital SLR with a couple of flashes somewhere in my home. My Dad is a really good photographer and has his Licentiateship from the Royal Photographic Society so I expect he will know how to get better results. It’s something I’m going to work on.

Sculpting with Paint – Tiny Gouache Portraits

 

This week I did some solid painting practice.  I wanted to improve my ability to paint directly with no drawing and to render 3D shapes using the paint.  Since faces are such an odd and challenging shape I thought some portrait practice might be good.  I split up a piece of A4 watercolour paper (Hot Pressed) into 4 and taped each piece down…

 

Then I gave myself half an hour for each one.

I began by painting the mid tone and then the dark.  Then I added the light tone.  I made three tones for each colour and mixed and blended them on the paper.  I wanted a rougher look so I stuck to my restricted time which forced me to accept a lot of imperfections.  I tried to be very varied in my colour choices.

For the first sketch I used complemetary colours, orange and blue (my favourite combination)…

 

My second picture was more purple and yellow…

 

(I had the lady’s coat in purple too originally, but I found that it dissapeared into the background leaving me with a floating head(!) so I changed it to red.)  I find painting very smiley faces quite difficult but this lady looked so lovely and cheery that I couldn’t resist.

In my next picture I used analogous warm colours to give more restful effect as the lady in my reference photo looked like she was meditating…

 

For my last sketch I allowed myself to paint a Jedi!!!  I went with a more monochrome feel but in blue so the whole thing was quite cool…

 

I learned quite a bit from this exercise but it’s difficult to put what I learned into words.  It’s the kind of learning that stays in your hands and eyes and doesn’t really need language except if you try to write about it!