Playing around with styles

This week I’ve been quite unwell and struggling with really bad pain. I’m handling it all by resting, talking with my GP and trying to keep my mind off the pain and on other things while I wait for an appointment at a London pain clinic (UCLH). It’s quite hard to keep my mind clear of the pain at the moment though because the pain is bad enough to shut down my thinking a lot of the time. It feels like wading through very thick treacle when I try to concentrate. Audiobooks are good and my little handheld switch video game player helps too because it provides an outlet for my mind to be active without impacting my body. Art has been really difficult though. The only thing I’m able to do is short figure drawing sketches and some arty playing about on my android tablet to add to backgrounds to the sketches.

So, here are a few of the 5 minute sketches I’ve been doing…

I’ve been taking some tips and ideas from the simple exercises in this brilliant book on life drawing by Bridget Woods. (I love this book)…

Of the four sketches I did here, the one I found most interesting as an exercise, was the one on the bottom left. It is drawn entirely with curves (which was fairly easy with a curvy woman as my subject). I was amazed at how simple it was to get the lovely curvy feeling of her body down on paper using only one type of line.

Then I photographed these sketches and pulled them into my tablet for some colouring. I wanted to try out different styles and approaches. It was great because each sketch only took 5 minutes, I wasn’t worried about messing anything up which gave me a lot more freedom to really experiment with things.

The first sketch felt like it had fairly precise, careful lines. I remember as I drew this particular girl I fell into this absorbed but relaxed state. It was beautiful – almost like the drawing was drawing itself. Consequently when I came to add colour and tone to the sketch I painted her with sections of flat colour and then made the background by overlapping blocks of pastel colours in simple triangles and quadrilaterals. Then, remembering the lessons I learned from the Art Prof team on YouTube, I made some changes to the way I framed the portrait to give it a kick of the alternative.

Here it is…

The second sketch I chose to colour was really tiny. This made the lines look rough but natural looking. So I followed that theme and put my dancer into a naturalistic rough pastel world…

The aspect of this one I like most is actually the rough dark green border which I drew by hand.

Then I went on to my favourite of the sketches – the one drawn only with curved lines. I coloured the main shape of my figure one colour and then gave the background another colour. Then every other bit of shading and colouring (apart from her hair) was done with circles. This was such good fun.

Here’s the final result…

While none of these are proper art projects, they work well as little thumbnails which can, perhaps, point me to fuller, more complete pieces, later on. I did enjoy an enormous sense of freedom and creativity working on something I knew wasn’t going to become a finished piece later on.

Monster Fish

I’ve really been missing fishing in the last year. So I had a little bit of imaginary fun this week drawing a monster fish.

I based this creation on a real monster fish I saw caught on YouTube. Here’s a still from the video…

The fish is a big old Lingcod. If you fancy watching a family doing some great fishing here is a link to the video from The Fishing Doctors Adventures channel.

I took the basic fish shape with that huge head from the Lingcod and then played around with it, adding spikes onto his back and an angler fish type lure onto his head. Here are some process photos…

After I got to this stage I finished it off digitally playing with the highlights and shadows and adding a castshadow…

If I ever pulled this one out of the river I think I’d be a bit shocked, even if I were spinning for pike and perch! I think I’ll call him Jerry.

October Ink Days 12 and 13 – The Hero and the Beetle

For my hero I chose Mace Windu from Disney’s Star Wars.

In the prequal trilogy Mace always seemed solid, reliable and powerfully incorruptible as a character. He was wonderfully portrayed by the legendary Samuel L Jackson which is always a big bonus. Also I recently finished re-reading what is now a Star Wars Legends novel about Mace Windu which also influenced my choice. The book is by Matthew Stover and it’s called Shatterpoint. It is brilliant.

The most wonderful thing about the book is that it’s written from Mace’s point of view so we can hear his thoughts and follow his feelings and decisions. This is something I have always loved about books which will always put books above film as a form of media for me. The fact that you can hear people’s thoughts and internal struggles in a book is just beautiful. I really love being able to know this stuff.

On top of that, I’m hoping to get the trade paperback of the new Marvel Mace Windu – Jedi of the Republic comic soon. (A trade paperback is a softback collection of about 6 comics into a book.) It’s been out for a while but I haven’t been able to get hold of just yet. It looks amazing. Here is the beautiful cover for issue 003…

My next drawing was of an insect. I chose the amazing scarab beetle called the Hercules Beetle, (Dynastes hercules). It has this really long horn on the front of it’s head. It is so weird looking!

Here’s a photo of the beast…

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…


Ink Dreams and October Fun

October Fun

I’ve been thinking about next month and the whole Inktober thing. Now I’d quite like to do a small ink drawing everyday for a month. I think it would be fun. But I had a look at the list of prompts for this year and didn’t relate to most of them. I prefer prompts which are more definite – nouns rather than adjectives. I guess the original list is made up of adjectives to give artists more freedom but I can’t really follow it. It’s just something which makes little sense in my autistic brain. So I decided to make a list for myself.

Here it is…

If anyone wants to use this list – feel free – no rules – no stress – just enjoy doing what you want. I suspect I’ll take more than a month to do it, or skip some when I’m too busy or too tired, but I’m not going to let that stop me having a go.

Ink Dreams

Also this week, I’ve been reading Neil Gaiman‘s Sandman Comic series. It’s really excellent! He’s a wonderfully imaginative author. I really love his character “Dream”. Dream is a quiet reflective sort of guy who occasionally seems melancholy in a modern, hipster sort of way and yet at the same time is an immortal with his own realm. The comic artists who worked on this Vertigo series were Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Jill Thompson, Shawn McManus, Marc Hempel, and Michael Zulli.

I wanted to have a go at drawing this character.

I began with a basic drawing and played around with his hair colour-wise…

However this version seemed a bit generic and Dream is definitely not generic. So I did a few more sketches…

I think the top one ended up looking more like Professor Snape than Dream!!! But I liked the bottom one. I was especially pleased with the way my Pentel Brush pen was behaving as it ran out of ink. It gave me some lovely textures to use on Dream’s coat.

Then I began a different pose in pencil…

I really liked this look where Dream’s eyes are shadowed. Here’s the same image inked…

This time I used a shading technique where you hatch the shadows but also outline them. I really like the effect it made.

Carl Grimes Fan Art – ‘Drawing with Ink’

This week I carried on working on my bigger project and also worked on some comic fanart for a friend’s son (an older teenager).  He’s really into the comic version of ‘The Walking Dead’ by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore (with later art by Charlie Adlard).

He asked for a fan art picture of Carl Grimes when he gets shot in the eye.  It’s based on Charlie Ablard’s original art.

It’s not really the kind of subject I usually draw – I’m not really into horror – it’s too scary – but I do really enjoy making pictures for other people so I had a go.

Here’s the sketch…

It was done on Bristol Board with my graphgear mechanical pencil.

Then I inked it.

I began inking in the normal way but then, about half way through I saw a really inspirational video on YouTube.  I had previously posted a link here but when I left a courtesy message on this person’s YouTube page they deleted it.  Now I don’t know what that means.  I thought I was following the proper internet etiqette and being polite and respectful but with the autism there’s always a chance I did something wrong so I’m going to err on the side of caution and not link to this chap’s video anymore.

Anyway what I really noticed about his technique was that he wasn’t outlining or inking the pencils, he was drawing with ink.  He was using the pencils as a guide but still drawing.  Maybe it’s a subtle distinction, but for me it was a powerful learning point.  So I continued the rest of the inks for this Walking Dead fan art piece concentrating on drawing with ink rather than ‘going over the pencils’ or ‘outlining’.

Finally I added some tones with a waterbrush.  I had a mixture of ink and water in that to give me some nice greys.  And then I added some strong red watercolour for the blood.

So here’s the final picture…


An Easy Digital Colouring Process

This week I worked on a number of smaller images in my sketchbook and started a bigger project.  The smaller images were in ink and pencil…


[Pencil on paper]



[Ink on paper]


[Ink on paper]

(NB:  The Drawing is my own but the character ‘Strontium Dog’  (aka Johnny Alpha) belongs to 2000AD (Rebellion) and the art style I used was my own version of Carlos Ezquerra’s brilliant work.)

Then I coloured them digitally.  I thought it would be fun to go through the basic colouring process I use with the gecko picture as an example.

(1) I start by scanning in the art work and cleaning any scanning artifacts (I always get one which is irritating).  I also do a general clean up of the image and adjust the curves and levels if it’s needed.  I usually do this bit in photoshop.

(2) Then I save the cleaned image and open it in Manga Studio 5.

(3) My next big job is to put in the ‘flat colour’.  Basically this process involves colouring every pixel of the drawing in flat solid colour with no anti-aliasing, shading or anything else – just flat blobs of colour right up next to each other.  I tend to use colours similar to those I want to use in the final product but you don’t have to.

So here, I’m putting in the flat colour for the first few leaves…

To combine the colour with the line art like this I put the line art in the top layer and set that layer to ‘multiply’.  Then I paint my flat colour in the layer below.

Here’s a bit more flatting done…

(Here you can see I’ve accidentally painted the flower properly with final colours in the flatting layer.  I could have wiped it all out and made it white but I knew there wasn’t much I wanted to do with that part of the picture so I left it.)

Generally I paint the flats using the polygon selector with anti-aliasing off so I get a clear division of one colour or the other with nothing in between.  Once I’ve selected my area I just fill it with solid colour.

Finally when all the flat colour is done it looks like this (without the linework on top of it)…


So with the linework we’ve now got to this…


I really love flatting images, I find it repetative but nice and it makes me feel relaxed.

(4) Next I complete the detailed colour and shading for each flat area.  This is where the real digital painting starts and I find in a lot of ways I can paint in my PC just like I paint on a canvas.  I can’t always get the same effects digitally but I do have the advantage of the back button which will undo my last few changes – I wish I had that on paper sometimes!

Here’s the painting done for the leaves but not yet the gecko…

And here’s the desktop with the gecko painted fully too…


(5) Finally I put on any borders I need and save the fullsize image, then reduce the size for the web and it’s ready to go.

Here are my final coloured pictures…



Days 57 and 58 – Hooded Manga Man – Watercolour Vs Digital Colour

Originally, all I wanted to draw in this image was a man in a hooded robe.  Inevitably, for me,  he turned into a Jedi!

So here’s my lineart…


Originally I planned to paint this in watercolour.  My first draft of the watercolour looked weak and uneven…


So I painted over it with a second layer – evening out the colour and generally trying to save the picture.  He’s how the second draft looked…


It still wasn’t how I wanted it to be, so I coloured it in Manga Studio.  I think it’s better coloured digitally, even though I rushed the digital colour work in about 20 minutes.  I just have to work harder and practice more with watercolour I think.  Here’s the final digital picture…


Challenge Days 11 and 12 – The Nakasendo Way

Over the last week I’ve been unwell with a chest infection.  I was still able to sketch a bit after a few days but haven’t been well enough to do much more.  Fortunately I had my last post already scheduled before I became ill so that went ahead without me.

While I was unwell in bed I was looking through pictures of Japan on my tablet.  I came across this old route from Kyoto to Tokyo called the Nakasendo Way.  It’s a route which people often choose to walk as it is recognised as being quite beautiful.

As I was recovering I began to try to sketch a scene from a small town on the route.


It was difficult because as the road climbs and turns it puts buildings into perpectives with different vanishing points.  The first thing I did was to slightly simplify this to two points.  I wasn’t aiming to sketch an exact copy but to make an enjoyable scene.

Here’s the beginning of the drawing construction:


I was drawing very lightly, mainly because I was in bed and not sitting at a table I think, so I had to ‘push’ the photograph when I got it into my PC to get it to show the lines.  Here’s the finished sketch:




My next stage, when I was well again, was to ink the sketch.  It was quite a therapeutic thing to do – really relaxing.  I love inking!

Here’s my finished ink drawing:


As you can see, instead of putting in the people who were in the original photograph I put in someone in more traditional dress.  I also added (at the sketching stage) a plant pot on the bottom right to add interest and detail to the forground.   I’m sad to say that I don’t read Japanese  and so I have no idea what the sign at the front of the picture says or if I copied it accurately enough.

Once that was done  I scanned the images into my PC and then added some greyscale shading to the picture to finish it off.  Rather than making all the ‘flats’ (areas of single colour which can be used to define a mask and paint just that bit), I decided to paint the greycale shading on – just colouring it in like you would on a paper colouring book.  It was much quicker.  In a couple of places I later played around with the lightness of certain areas using a mask.  Generally though I think I prefer the more organic shading as I think it has a nicer feel.  I tried to keep the shading simple and to use it to bring out the main shapes in the little town landscape.

Here’s my finished picture:


I’m really pleased with this one.  🙂