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.

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?

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?!

Fishing, a Baby and Some Rocks…

This week I didn’t have too much time for art (still recovering from my cold) but I did manage some simple stuff.

The first was a sketch of some rocks with water running over and around them.  I found it really challenging.  I would like to paint a watercolour of this and my idea was to try to do a value sketch so I could see where the complicated light and shadows are in such a situation.

Here’s the sketch, such as it is…



Then I went on to draw a relaxing fishing scene.  I got the idea for this painting from some work I’m doing with the children in school.  We’re planning to make sillouette pictures of the Great Fire of London.  I was thinking about that and then wondered if I could make a painting using sillouettes of fishing – my favourite relaxing passtime.  (I haven’t fished since the summer but if it’s not too cold and if we’re both well, my son and I might go out this weekend.)

In terms of planning this one was easy.  I just made a sunset coloured wash – all reds and oranges and yellows and then sketched my fishing scene over the top.

Initially I was going to ink my scene onto the paper over the wash but my pens didn’t take kindly to the paint and I didn’t want to ruin them so I painted the black stuff using gouache black.  At the end I put in some highlights using yellow mixed with some gouache white.  Here are the results…


The last thing I worked on this week was a Madonna and Child sketch in my sketchbook.  I got the idea from a Christmas card which somehow escaped my post Christmas clear-out.

I drew it in pencil and then inked it using a watersoluble multiliner.  Then I used water to move some of the ink to add some tone…


I like how most of this turned out, but you can see some errors.  For instance I used the water soluble pen in the baby’s hair to give it some texture when I should have used a water resistant one so that the ink there didn’t move when I toned the hair.  Oh well, as our head teacher has on her door…

“If you want to succeed, double your failure rate!”

PS:  Just to see what it was like I also coloured this picture digitally…


I used the Manga Studio watercolour brushes to add some texture.

Days 77 to 82 – From Scribbles to the Central Line

I began this week making an ink drawing without lifting my pen off the paper.  I decided to draw my little dog.  In the end I did lift up my pen twice in the drawing but it wasn’t intentional – just habit.  The idea of this exercise was to try to loosen me up a bit.  I find it all too easy to want every pen stroke to be perfect.  While I think that’s OK if you can still draw freely, I sometimes get hung up about messing up a drawing or painting.  I guess there is always going to be a degree of tension when anyone creates something but I try to keep that as a positive tension.  Personally I think the secret for me is a bit of bravery and a focus on enjoying drawing (or painting) rather than results.

After the ink drawing I coloured the picture with watercolour.  I think my relaxation really helped with this and I found ways to play with the paint rather than fight it!

So, here’s my little dog…



Then I went on to work on the issues I have with using watercolour to add colour to comic style ink drawings.  Here’s my initial drawing already inked…


(This was done as a double page spread in my notebook.)

My use of colour has been a bit of a weak spot so I’ve done some studying of colour harmonies…


This gives me a better basic visual language when it comes to colour.

I used what I’d learned about colour to design my colour scheme for the picture roughly in Manga Studio.  Here’s the plan I made…


Then I painted it in my notebook…


Considering it’s not on watercolour paper I’m kind of OK with this one but it’s really not where I want it to be.  I can feel things moving forward with this kind of work but it’s slow progress at the moment.  What I’m really looking for is a way to add a limited palette of colours to my ink drawings and lineart which I really like.  I want them to have the strong rich colour and smooth gradients of a digitally coloured piece but with some texture and warmth which comes more often from more traditional painting.

After all of that colour work I then spent some time drawing with black ink on white paper.  I decided to do this with no pencil work beforhand.  I found it quite a challenge making final marks on the paper from the very first stroke but it feels like a healthy kind of challenge.   Here they are…



This second one of a man waiting for a central line underground train interested me and I tried a little “mixed-media-messing-about” with it…


I kind of like the way the two media clash quite harshly but at the same time the subject matter pulls them strongly together.  The background image is a photograph with added digital work to make the ground for the figure to stand on.  I also dropped the opacity of the background to make the figure stand out really well.

Days 66 and 67 – Steampunk on the Thames

I’ve been playing around with steampunk on an off for a couple of days in the last few weks.  This is the picture I was working up to making.  It’s still not perfect but it’s beginning to be more like I want it to be.

Here are the sketch and ink drawings…





Then I coloured it in Manga Studio 5…


I am pretty pleased with the final result although, for my taste it could be a bit more gnarly and less smooth.  I think if I’d shaded it in pencil and then done some digital colour on top that would have helped a lot.  (I think I was seduced by the purity of the black ink on the white paper and didn’t want to touch it.)


For anyone who’s interested, I took some process screen prints of my digital colouring…

I've put in some sky and water and a bit of the base colour for the embankment.
I’ve put in some sky and water and a bit of the base colour for the embankment.



I’ve added some colour for the Houses of Parliment across the river.



More work on the background. I am trying to keep the colours and tones a bit muted to make the foreground stand out.



Background complete.



Finished the hat.



Done the coat and mechanical bird.


And here’s the finished image again…


Days 27 and 28 – Pokemon, Turtles and an Apology

To keep up with sketching everyday I’ve decided to use a smaller notebook as I can more easily carry it around and that gives me more time for drawing.

So here’s my notebook pages for the last two days..





I started of with some lovely Pokemon to get warmed up, and because I like them – all credit for their creation to the wonderful Tajiri San.  You can see that the grey shading pens I was using do not give a very even result – they’re really patchy which is not what I want.  I guess I need to get some alcohol based markers.  They’re supposed to be much better.



Then today I drew a patterned ink turtle.  I began with several photo references  so I could get the turtle shape right.  Then I just let my doodling hands do their thing…which was fun!  Here are the final inks…




You can see that my line work is quite shaky in this drawing – mainly because as my breathing got worse I took more Ventolin which gives me a tremor.  I can work around it by working fast but when I needed to draw slower smaller lines it showed up.

Generally, I quite like this picture plain like this but, once I had the image scanned in, I couldn’t help adding a little shading.  Then one thing led to another and I ended up using just a dash of colour to give it a little punch.  He’s my completed image…





Apologies for not posting for a while.  My chest infection got a lot worse and , even though these drawings were done about ten days ago, I didn’t want to post things without knowing I’ll be up and around to answer comments.  Anyway, after 4 days in bed and a third course of antibiotics I feel like I’m on the mend – at least enough to answer comments!  The next three posts after this were all done before my health got worse too.  I’m going to allow them to be published every couple of days now I’m getting better.  (It’ll stop me getting ‘stir crazy’ in my home for all this time!)