Praying with pictures…

Art as Prayer

I find that two of the strongest effects of painting and drawing on me as an artist are:

  • that I find myself becoming calm and meditative as I draw or paint.
  • that I find in myself a growing intimacy with, and understanding of, my subject.

Because of this I think that art is sometimes very similar to prayer.

Second Wave in India

In April and May I was really concerned to see how bad the second wave of Covid was for the people of India, particularly after I’d read a story on the BBC News website about a family from Ghaziabad trying to get help for their father, Annop Saxena. (Link to the story.)  Following this family’s hopeless struggle to save their dad was really crushing.

I don’t really pray anymore. The nearest I get to prayer is to hold people in my heart while I think through what I can do to help them.  To be honest it feels the same as prayer used to feel, but has a more practical outcome.   However, because I think in pictures rather than words, drawing and painting are both really helpful here since they help me find a calm meditative state in which to think and they draw me close to the subject I am concerned for.

Digital Study of a Photograph

So I made a study of a Reuter’s picture I came across while reading about the crisis in India.  Here is a link to the original photograph on the Reuters website.  Here is how Reuters describe the story of this photo:

A man is consoled by his relative as he sees the body of his father, who died from complications related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), before his burial at a graveyard in New Delhi, India, April 16, 2021.

REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo

Meditation, Connection and Trying to Help

So, this study is much less about art and much more about meditation and connection and trying to help.

Here’s the painting process…

And the finished picture once my levels and hue/saturation were adjusted in Photoshop…

I am really glad that things are improving in India now and they are getting on top of it.  I send my warmest wishes and condolances to those who lost family to this horrible disease, in India and anywhere else.

🇮🇳

Octopus Dreams #4 – Designing Octopus Tattoos

Sometimes I like to try out tattoo ideas directly on my skin. I usually do this by just doodling the design in black biro. This is how this picture started…

It was quite tricky to do since I chose a spot on my lower leg! I tried to brighten the eyes with some white gel pen, but as you can see, that didn’t really work. I did enjoy having an octopus on my leg for the day though! 🙂

So I thought I might make a better job of this on paper or via digital drawing. I tried digital drawing first.

Digital Octopus Tattoo Design

For this first design I wanted to make something symmetrical. So I began with a couple of circles to give me some rough guides for where I wanted parts of the shape…

Next I used the symmetry tool to draw the octopus. Using this tool I only had to draw half of it and the tool put the other half in for me and kept it symmetrycal.

Once I had a basic outline I added some other small details and removed my guide circles…

Then I added some shading. I used the pen tool to put in some darker and lighter tones and then used the blend tool to blend them together. This is exactly how I would do it with oil paint…

My final job here was to add some textural marks to the design…

Here is the final digital tattoo design…

Traditional Ink Octopus Tattoo Design

Here’s the process I went through to create a traditional ink drawing for a tattoo design. I began with the basic structure…

Then drew in an outline…

Next I inked my outline…

Then added some details…

Here is what the linework looked like once I was finished. (You might be able to see that I added some greyscale shadows in pencil on the design.)

Reviewing my work

Looking at the two designs I think each one has some strengths and weaknesses:

The digital design has:

  • Interesting textures especially on the octopus’ mantle.
  • Some webbing between the octopus’ arms which gives it a nice feel.
  • An overbearing outline which seems to me to be the wrong style for the final image.
  • A symmetrical shape which can be problematic in tattoos if the skin stretches in one direction more than another.

The tradition design has:

  • A well placed sense of the animal.
  • An interesting overall shape.
  • Textures and other design elements which work well together.
  • A lack of three dimensionality.

So having looked at both designs for a couple of days I decided to draw a new version which incorporates some aspects of one drawing and some of the other. Here is my final octopus tattoo design…

You can see I’ve based it on the traditional drawing, but added webbing, shadows, three-dimensional shading and some sand cloud and bubble effects.

Which one do you prefer?

Next week I’m going to be posting a study of a beautiful but sad Reuter’s photograph which I painted digitally.

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

😀

Octopus Dreams #1 – A small gouache painting

This last week has very much been an Octopus Week for me. 🙂

It began when I watched My Octopus Teacher on Netflix. At first I thought it was going to be a natural history program, but after about 25 minutes it was clear it was more of a memoir. It’s about a professional film-maker who became really burnt out in his life. Then he attempted to find his way back to himself, his work and his family through a friendship he made with a wild octopus. It was actually quite wonderful – I really enjoyed it.

Then, once I was in the mood for Octopuses, I came across a fellow blogger’s excellent book review of Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus. Again, I thought the book would be more of a natural history tome but again it was really a memoir and this was all to the good as it was also a very enjoyable read!

So I have decided to create two or three octopus pictures over the next few weeks.

Simple Gouache Painting

This week I worked on a simple octopus painting in gouache. It’s a painting of the famous and deadly Blue-ringed Octopus. The animal itself is gorgeous looking, but carries enough venom to kill 26 adults despite being really quite small!

One night when I couldn’t sleep I scribbled down the idea for this picture on an envelope…

Then I made a clearer drawing on a piece of cardboard I reclaimed from the packaging which comes when you buy books online.

Next I painted the background but forgot how very opaque gouache can be so I lost my initial drawing!

I redrew it quickly in pencil and then got my paints out.

I painted the local colour of the octopus first…

…and then put in some basic shading to indicate the three dimensional shape of the animal and it’s basic colour pattern.

Once that was done I went to town of the details of the rings and the richer darker tones of the octopus right next to it’s rings. Finally I added some white to give the octopus a shine. Here is finished painting…

Reflections

My aims with this painting were to try to show the dimensionality of the animal’s legs. I wanted to use a colour scheme which included the bright blue the animal shows in it’s rings when it feels threatened. Finally I wanted the octopus to look like it was floating free in space with his legs all out around him.

The idea I had of putting in the shine was something I was in “two minds” about. An object which is underwater doesn’t show this effect since it is created by the thin film of water on the object when surrounded by air. However as humans, frequently we visually “read” this effect as indicating wetness. In the end I decided to put communication of the slimy, wet, feeling of an octopus above the physics of underwater reflection.

Next week – I’ll be starting a large octopus ink drawing which will probably take a couple of weeks to complete. (I think it’s pretty appropriate to draw and octopus in ink!!!) 🙂

Dan Droid and Autism – A Digital Art Design

This week I worked on a simple greyscale digital art design of an android. I called him Dan because if you say Dan Droid it sounds close to Android (which I thought was funny) and also he reminds me of Asimov’s Daneel Olivaw who was my favourite robot as a child. (I think I also rather unconsciously modelled his human looks on a Euphonium player I knew at school called Daniel.)

I began with a simple sketch. One of the things I’ve been working on recently is how to better use my drawing tablet to get nice tapered lines. I really tried to work on that here. It meant drawing faster and having more faith in my hands to do the right thing without the constant supervision of my brain. Here’s the sketch…

Next I planned out a basic elecronic look for the part of his face which is showing his internal structure. I looked at reference for the muscles and bones of the face for this so that I could mimic real human anatomical structures with electronic equivalents. So the group’s of wires you can see, for instance, model muscle groups in the face.)

After that I added my darkest shadows. I really do love the way solid blacks look in comic art. At this point I gave him black hair to balance the image tonally, even though my Euphonium friend had blond hair.

Then I added 2 levels of greyscale tone using a cell-shading approach.

Finally to finish off the image I surrounded him with a background reminicent of electronic circuit diagrams. I though he looked really great amongst all of that.

So here is the final image…

Reviewing the art

Looking at this drawing, I like the way he’s walking across the frame but turning to look the viewer in the eye. I think it engages the viewer a bit more and also reveals his inner nature. I also like the simple cell-shading style although that’s really just a matter of personal taste.

If I wanted to add more I think I would render the background into 3D and make some parts of it look like matte metal and some parts look like chrome. I could then drop a shadow behind him onto the background to really make him stand out.

Reflections on Androids and Autism

In terms of the meaning of the art, I personally think people draw their own meanings from things like this. For me, this is all about what it feels like when I suddenly make a mistake and reveal my autistic nature. It’s very much like I have suddenly turned my head and now they can see what I really am. The electronic background he seems to carry with him is like the label of autism which other people then see.

There are some folks who think autistic people shouldn’t be compared to robots, but personally I think it’s a good metaphor. In order to do the normal social things that neurotypical people find automatic I have to set up a whole raft of decision-making flowcharts in my head, remember them in detail and follow them. This feels like having to build and maintain external circuitry to my regular self in order to hold simple conversations. The huge extra work of managing this circuitry is one of the things that makes socialising so draining.

For a long while I have felt ashamed of being this way, sort of deficient. However now, through counselling, I am beginning to believe that being my own self might be OK (with the same caveat as everyone else in the world, which is that a person acts decently).

I follow Terry Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax on this one. She says. .

It’s not my place to tell ‘em what to believe, if they act decent.’

May the 4th be with you!

Happy Star Wars Day everyone!!!!

On this wonderful May 4th I wanted to share some Star Wars Fan Art. I’ve got some Star Wars universe species sketches, some digital Star Wars Rebels portraits, three pencil drawings and a watercolour painting of our beloved Yoda!

star wars Species Sketches

Star Wars Rebels portraits

Pencil portraits of obi-wan kenobi

My favourite character in all of Star Wars!!! 🙂

Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan
Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan

geonosian warrior pencil drawing

Yoda in watercolour

I drew or painted all of the art in this post, however, because it’s fan art, please note that the intellectual property belongs to Lucas Film.

Gaia – ink and pencil drawing

Recently I watched the Disney film “Moana“. It was wonderful – the ocean, sailing and a beautiful island earth-mother goddess – what a fabulous combination!

The ocean (Image Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios)
Sailing (Image Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios)
Island earth-mother goddess (Image Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios)

Inspired by this, and by Earth Day, I made a drawing of the Greek Goddess Gaia. I began with a simple design drawn digitally on my tablet. I gave her features which were similar to Te Fiti (the goddess in the film), but then added foliage from more of a central and northern european location.

I then redrew this in more detail on A3 paper…

I debated whether to keep this as a pencil image or work on it in ink. I chose ink in the end. I love the permanence of it and the way it makes me concentrate to get each line as I want it.

Next I began to ink in my details…

I used my Pigma Micron pens for this 0.3 and 0.05. Once all of the ink detail was done I then wanted to add some tone. I played around digitally with the idea of a watercolour wash in regular expected colours and then in a more green dominated palette…

But somehow these coloured options seemed to lose something I wanted in the feeling of the picture. So I tried again with greyscale only…

Now this I liked much more. So I worked on the image with pencils and blending stumps to fill in some tone in her face and body. I was planning to put a darker wash over the whole picture but once the body was done the picture seemed to be where I wanted it so I left it as it was.

Here’s the final image…

I hope you all had a super Earth Day!

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…

Line and Wash – Damsel Fly

 

I wanted to try using watercolour on an ink drawing.  I decided to use foliage in a particular shape with a small animal, like a butterfly as the main focus.

First I worked out what sort of shape I wanted…

 

I tried several ideas for the main shape of my picture.

In the end I went for a spiral but I wanted the shape to form the structure of the picture but not be something that the viewer notices right away so I drew on some very light guidelines.

Then I began drawing.  Because I was drawing in a spiral I was concerned that as I moved around the paper I might smudge earlier work.  So, rather than struggling with that, I decided to draw in sections and then ink each section before I carried on.  This worked better than expected.

 

 

Gradually I worked my way around the picture…

 

 

…until I had my inks finished.

 

 

Then I used watercolour to colour and tone my image and then played around a little with my background using Photoshop.  (I had painted a simple gradient wash with watercolour but it looked flat and boring so I added some shapes with a large soft brush tool in Photoshop and then ran a filter over them to draw the changes together and soften them.)  Here’s the final piece…