Dark Lord of the Sith

This is a digital painting of Ian McDiarmid playing Chancellor Palpatine in Star Wars. Although he’s a villain, he’s still one of my favourite characters, thanks to Ian’s superb acting work. Below are some stills from Star Wars “The Phantom Menace” (Image credit LucasFilm Ltd.)

My main reference for this painting was the top left photo (above).

I began with a drawing.

This was not made to be a proper drawing so much as a map for the painting which is why it looks a little bit funky.

Then I began to paint! At first I just scrubbed in some basic colours and tones to get the feeling for the main structure of his face and clothes.

Removing the map leaves us with this very rough sketch.

Then I began to refine the painting a bit at a time. I really enjoy this process as the details begin to appear. First I cleaned up the beautiful costume he’s wearing and then pulled together my very rough and ready rendering of Ian’s face.

Once I had things basically in the right place I worked on the details of his hair and facial features.

Finally I added a background and gave it some texture and tonal variation. This is the way I’m starting to move away from my autistic need to see each painting subject alone and seperate in a blank field.

My only job then was to pull the image into Photoshop and adjust my values. Here is my final painting.

He’s such a great character!

Here’s one of my favourite quotes from the Prequal Trilogy as Chancellor Palpatine is confronted by the Jedi Masters lead by Mace Windu…

Mace Windu: In the name of the Galactic Senate of the Republic, you are under arrest, Chancellor.
Chancellor Palpatine: Are you threatening me, Master Jedi?
Mace Windu: The Senate will decide your fate.
Chancellor Palpatine: I am the Senate!

(Clip courtersy of qpsizzle’s You Tube Channel / Film Credit Lucasfilm Ltd.)

The Razor Crest


Over the next three weeks I’m going to be posting some fun digital images that I’ve been playing around with.  This week’s image is a digital painting I made of a spacecraft called “The Razor Crest” from Disney’s Mandalorian series.  I like the shape of this one and the engine configuration reminds quite a lot of the “Serenity” from Joss Weedon’s Firefly series.

Here’s the way I painted it…

I began with some basic shapes and a horizon line.

Then I redrew the spacecraft more carefully and added some details.

Next I got rid of the basic sketch I started with and added some terrain.  The space ship was drawn from a couple of printed references, but the terrain I made up from scratch.

Then I began to paint.  My basic process is to fill in large areas of tone to give some depth to the main shape in my painting.  Then I gradually divide this simple shape into more detailed shapes.  First I put in some basic background tones.

Below I’ve begun work on the spacecraft, just giving it some basic form.

I didn’t put enough darker values into the basic form so I added them here (see below), particularly below the wings.  Although I used a couple of reference images for the ship, I wanted my light to come from a different angle so I had to see the highlights and shadows in my mind’s eye.

Then I added some specular highlights to the engines and windows.  (These are direct reflections of bright light on shiny surfaces.)

My next stage was to bring in some colour.  I wanted to use a restricted colour palette, which is something the cinematographer, Greig Fraser,  seems to do on the Mandalorian show itself.  I went for orange/yellow/brown offset against hints of blue/purple in the metal of the Razor Crest and in the shadows.  This is a fairly basic complementary colour scheme.

My final job with this painting was to pull it into Photoshop and adjust my levels.

I paint digitally on a Galaxy S4 tablet, but I often do this in bed.  I like to listen to a good book while I’m drawing.  It’s really relaxing and is great for diverting my mind away from any pain issues.  However, if I am in bed during the evening my tablet automatically adjusts the screen to darken it and reduce any blue light.  This is really helpful because it stops the light from the device keeping me awake for hours after I have finished.  It does mean though, that my levels are usually way out.  If I was working on a traditional painting this would be a big problem because the whole paniting would need reworking to correct the values in good light.  With a digital painting though it’s not too much of an issue – I just have to make some adjustments at the end and Photoshop can easily handle that.

So here is my final digital painting.



I like the overall setting and the sweet comic feel it has, but if I redid it now I would add more detail to the middle section of the background.  It could do with some rocks and gravel and general marks.  I think I would also try to work in some reflections in the lighter sand the ship is standing on, since then it would read as wet ground which might give the background more interest for the viewer.  The panel took about one and a half hours to complete.

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…




Art Therapy

Sadly, I had to leave my job for health reasons a few months ago and I have struggled quite a bit with this change. At first my GP helped me and then eventually I managed to arrange some phone counselling to work through it all.

Now I’m not going to go into details about any of the counselling itself here, except to say that it’s been incredibly helpful. What I have found though, with respect to my art, is that it is of real therapeutic benefit.

Firstly, art it is a form of meditation for me a lot of the time, and this has been very helpful. It’s very soothing to draw and paint. It feels a bit like putting a really good hand cream on very chapped hands. Secondly though, it gives me this wonderfully safe space in my head and on the canvas where I can work things out. I don’t know if this kind of thing would work for everyone, some people are more at home with words than visuals, but for me it has been very useful indeed.

This is a drawing I did as I mulled over a question my counsellor left me with at the end of a session…

It was initially done in ink on paper and then toned with Mars Lumograph pencils.

Then I scanned it into my computer and coloured it like this…

I wonder if other artists find art is supportive in this way? Maybe some writers and musicians feel the same way?

Natural Cycles – Mixed Media


I’ve been thinking about a new start in life.  Given that I can’t teach anymore due to my medical issues I am looking into the possibility of working as a freelance artist or as a private tutor or perhaps even an art tutor which would be a dream job!!!.  This would be a whole new adventure.  So my plan is to try to get some contract work when I am well enough to work again.

This week’s art was done in early December.  It’s an extension of my thinking on the Tree of Life motif with the additional idea of natural cycles.

I began with some sketches on the back on envelopes which I “helpfully” threw out while tidying up!  So the earliest process image I have is of the main outline done in pencil…

I then went on to ink this outline and use my new learning on texture to fill it in.  Here it is part-way through inking…


Once the ink was complete I scanned the image into my PC, tidied up the scanning artifacts I tend to get from my scanner and balanced my levels. (This is the light and dark levels picked up by the scanner and translated to tones in the digital image.)


This is the finaly line art…


Once that was complete I toned the line art digitally to make a finished grey-scale, mixed-media design which looks like this…



Update:  Thanks for all your kind wishes with respect to the pain problems I’m having at the moment.  I started the new meds from the pain consultant yesterday.  I’m dealing with side-effects right now, but I expect them to settle down a week or two after the dose is put at the final level the Dr want’s me to take.  (This will take about 6 weeks since the old meds have be reduced slowly and the new ones introduced slowly.)  My pain is still pretty bad, but I am starting to get there.  I’m not allergic to the new medicine and, although there are side-effects, I can tolerate them, all of which is very positive indeed! It’s amazing how different I feel when I have some hope!  I’m also looking at getting carers in a few times a week to help with some of the normal day to day living things I can’t do at the moment.  This will start when my son goes back to Uni.


Anyway – I wish you all a very happy new year!!!!

Designing a Motif to Represent Mother Nature 2 of 2

Last week’s art was a watercolour I made from a digital design I came up with based around the motif of the tree of life. Link to last week’s art. The idea was to celebrate my love of nature in art. This week I’m going to go over how I made a detailed digital design of the same subject based on my outline design from last week.

At first I just played around with the design, trying out different effects and seeing what I could do with my basic outline and how I might want to develop it digitally.

Here are a few of the ideas I came up with while I was still exploring what I might do…

1. Seemed to make a nice sillouette which could be used as a tattoo design but wasn’t what I wanted for my final drawing.

2. and 3. were OK but still far too simplistic. It was OK to keep this design simple when I was using watercolour because the whole point was to let the simple colours and shapes speak for themselves. With this drawing though I wanted detail.

With 4. I started to see more of the form of the tree which I liked but it was still too simple. So I decided to change the form of the trunk to make it more interesting. Like this…

And then I began to play around with some texture…

The combination of textural and contour lines inside one textural pattern worked really well. So I went on to use this over the whole tree…

Next I used shading to give more form to the tree. The shading alone looked like this…

When added to my line drawing I completed my project…

At this point my greyscale design was complete but I did spend a little while having some fun with colour after that. Here’s how it went…

I worked in photoshop 6.0 for this. I used a circular gradient across a mask to make the main colour…

…which looked like this (above) once I had balanced the greyscale and the colour approriately. (This was actually quite tricky and took a while to do.) After that I added a background and then a partially opaque white circle over the main design and it was done!

Digital Painting – Chameleon

For the last few years I have asked my son for feedback on my art. Basically I show him the picture and ask him to guess what my subject was. If he can guess it correctly I count it as a good’un. But I want to move further on and deeper into my studies, so I’m going to try setting myself objectives as I draw and paint, more than just the simple realism-based aims I usually work on.

  1. I want to think harder about my use of colour. Specifically for this week’s work I want to try using a classic 90% : 10% ratio of complementary colours (green : red) and I want to avoid over-saturating my work. (Colour is like a drug to me, but I frequently enjoy paintings with more subtle colour, so I want to have a try at painting more like that.)
  2. Secondly I want to be able to paint more confidently. So this week I’m going to use the freedom of being able to digitally jump back a few steps to particularly focus on the work I do after the blocking in. I often find the gap between the image of the finished painting in my mind and my blocked-in beginning to be quite daunting. I know what to do next at that stage; I just find it hard to push through and do it. I think lots of practise will help.
  3. I want to change up my constant attempts at realism for a range of different approaches. I really enjoy the art of a French Painter called Henri Rousseau. He painted a lot of animals and plants in jungle-like scenes and, like me, he was self-taught. So, this week, I’m going to try to paint a chameleon in my version of Rousseau’s style.

Here’s my basic outline of a chameleon. I looked at a reference for the animal itself and made up my foliage completely.

The I added a background so that my colour choices would follow my plan for colour in this picture.

I blocked in some branches and leaves, remembering to use plenty of red in my browns. This is close enough to red to work as a complementary colour.

Next I roughed in my main colours and shadows, trying to give my Chameleon and strong sense of form from the start.

Then I removed the line art. This was the stage of the painting where I generally find things tricky. So I focussed on filling in medium sized forms, values and colours in the same way as I’d just blocked in the whole animal, but working on medium sized shapes, like the stripes and the eye.

Again, as I coloured the edges of the stripes on my chameleon’s side I pushed the raw sienna colour on my reference to more of a burnt sienna, so that there was more red in the colour. I also pushed the cream of the middle area of each of the big stripes to a more pinkish cream. I was hoping that I could metaphorically smuggle in the red via my browns to balance and highlight the green a little.

Next I started working on the details on the face and the bumpy texture of a chameleon’s skin. I tried to hint at the texture, rather than drawing every little round bump. This bit still took a long time to do but my earlier work on texture is now beginning to pay off.

Once that was done I varied the values of my leaves to give the viewer a hint of the play of light around them and painted on some 3D style veins. I wanted the leaves to look regular enough so that they can be recognised by the viewer, but similar in style to Rousseau’s almost animation style painting.

My last job was to import this into photoshop and adjust my settings. I had been working in a dark room with a lit digital screen and this made my whole picture a little too dark. So I adjusted my levels to make the finished digital painting below…

And here (below) is one of my favourite Rousseau paintings The Dream, 1910, oil on canvas, The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Beautiful, isn’t it?!

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?

“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.