A tribute to the Hollow Knight

Ok, I admit it, I’m a massive gamer. It helps enormously to manage my pain and keeps my mind very active. I recently bought a Nintendo Switch Lite which is a handheld games machine by Nintendo (who have a superb reputation in this area). That way, I can play wherever I am. One of the games I’ve recently got is called Hollow Knight by Team Cherry. The game is set in a fictional land of bugs. It’s beautiful. The artwork in the game just blows my mind away. Here are some examples..

They use a simple cartoon style for the foreground objects and then a digital watercolour / gouche style painting effect for the backgrounds. It’s a lot like Studio Ghibli.

So I decided to paint a tribute to them in traditional media. This post details my first try at this. It’s quite difficult to make a traditional painting look like a digital design since all of the tools of the trade are different.

I began with a basic watercolour wash on which I pencilled in my basic drawing…

As usual I used several pictures as reference and combined different parts of them. Then I added my lineart…

And then finally I painted the foreground. I used watercolour for almost all of it with some white gouache mixed in in places and used on it’s own for highlights.

Grey and Yellow Cockatiel

 

This week I painted a bird.  It’s a grey and yellow cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus).  It’s a popular pet which is native to Australia.

I began with a sketch…

 

Then I gave it a blotchy background and laid down a basic lemon wash on the bird…

 

Then I put in all of the basic large scale colours and tones as a basis for the detail I was planning next…

 

Finally I got to the details and dived right in.  Once I was most of the way there with the finer work I could see how my background didn’t give the painting enough contrast so I darkened the whole thing right down.  Lastly, I finished off the edges.

Here’s the final painting…

 

 

I really enjoyed painting the eye, beak and other facial features of this little bird.  I used more gouache techniques on these parts and more watercolour on the plummage.  The feathers were the most difficult part, especially the feathers on the top of the head.  This is the weakest part of the painting in my opinion.  The only reference I had for the head feathers was a bit too small to use effectively.  However, it’s something I only realised with hindsight!

 

PS:  I’m having some issues with my health at the moment so I apologise if I’m a little late getting back to anyone.  Also, this is the last of my summer holiday paintings and I’ve not been able to paint for a while so I might not be able to put a post up next week but I will get back to it as soon as I am able.

The Dawn Wall

 

This is a painting I’ve been working on for a while.  It’s quite large (A3) and went through a lot of iterations before it was finally complete.

I first came across this particular rockface while watching some climbing videos.  The first was about a couple of climbers climbing a particular route on the rock face El Capitan in the US.  The section they climbed is called “The Dawn Wall”.  Then I watched the amazing Alex Honnold, in another video, climb the whole thing, free solo.  It was extraordinary!  My hands kept breaking out into a sweat just watching that chap.  Later the same week I was looking at some more beautiful woodblock prints from Japan.  I looked through a lot of Yoshida’s work and came across this beautiful print he made of El Capitan…

By Horoshi Yoshida, 1925

It just blew my mind.  If I were rich I would attempt to get an original copy of this.  I find it really beautiful.  Having seen this I made a couple of sketches of El Cap using photo reference…

 

I liked the feel of this sketch, so rather than sketching it again I decided to enlarge and transfer the sketch onto my watercolour paper.

  • First I scanned in my image and then printed it out 141% larger so it would fit to A3 paper.  Because my printer will only do A4 I printed 2 sections and then joined them like this…

  • Next I used a nice dark pencil to cover the back of the paper with graphite…

 

  • Then I got my Arches paper and laid the sketch over the paper and drew over my lines.  This marked the watercolour paper very lightly with my sketch…

 

Then I began to paint.  I began with a watercolour sky…

 

Then I blocked in some of the main light and dark areas on the rock face…

I built this up until I had a basic underpainting…

Then I began to layer on my gouache.  I thought the contrast between a hazy watercolour sky and the clear and definite strokes of gouache would make the rock seem harder.

After the first wash with gouache the painting looked like this…

 

Then I did the bulk of the actual painting – all the medium level tones

and colours…

 

Then I was ready for my favourite bit – the details.  Here’s the final painting…

 

 

Quakers

I have been associated with the Quakers in the UK on and off since I was in my early 20’s. I went back to Meeting for Worship (which is what Quakers call their Sunday gathering) today for the first time in a year. I have wanted to go back for a long time but my health has meant that I needed to concentrate on family and work only so that I could make sure I did those two things well rather than more things badly. Thankfully now my GP has made a change to my pain medication I’m able to do more again.

It was so lovely today to sit in silence with them – it was like coming home. I don’t have to be anything except myself there. I don’t have to perform or be on my best behaviour. There’s no singing or standing up or sitting down, no reciting of prayers or bread or wine. Nothing is really done and yet everything is accomplished. It reminds me quite strongly of Lao Tzu.

One of the long time members at our Meeting left to go to a retirement home about this time last year. So I wanted to paint her a picture of our Meeting for Worship to remember us by. I began by sketching during our Meeting one Sunday last year. I still have the sketches that I made but I haven’t asked anyone for persmission to put their portrait up here so I’m not going to do that. For the final painting I decided to paint the people in the meeting in outline only and to colour them according to how I see the Quaker Testimonies (which are concepts that are important to Quakers – Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality and Stewardship). Community was not done as a colour but was intrinsic in the image of a group of people sitting together. I also added a white line around each person to speak to the Quaker idea of the Light. It was done in a mixture of watercolour and gouache.

Anyway, here’s the final painting…

Mechanic – a large comic styled gouache painting

This week I’ve been dipping into some cool indie comics. One of them was called Quad. Each volume of Quad is a collection of four short stories in comic form. In Vol 1 is the story of Terah and Elvis written and drawn by Eduardo Shaal.

It’s a pretty good story with a Walking Dead type vibe – imagine Kirkman and Adlard’s Walking Dead after things have settled down a lot more and the zombies are just an annoying part of life which are dangerous if you’re not prepared. What I liked most about it was the feeling I got from the main character “Terah”; she had a sense of integrity lots of mechanical practical ability and a strong streak of independence. I really admire that way of being. Here’s the cover of the comic…

…and a link to it (here).

So, when I wanted to make a large comic-styled picture for my bedroom I thought of Shaal’s character. First I made an initial sketch in pencils based on a comic panel I particularly like. (If you follow the link above and use the ‘Look inside’ feature you can spot Shaal’s original panel on page two.)

I changed her hair and hat and I removed her gloves. Then I made the shadow of her cap less dense to I could draw her eyes in which were lost in shadow in the original work. I wanted to take the image in a slightly different direction from Shaal’s original. (Shaal has a beautifully loose drawing style which I love but wouldn’t be able to replicate even if I tried. So, rather than making a study of his work and style, I decided to follow his pose and work from there.)

Here’s my initial sketch…

This was done on A3 watercolour paper using pencils. It was harder and easier to draw something really big. It was harder because it took more courage to sketch something on a big scale. It was also easier because there was so much space to get every line I wanted and when you work bigger the final results are cleaner.

Then I inked her…

I used my Pentel Brush Pen for most of the main lines, which was great because you can get a very wide range of line widths really smoothly with this pen.

Then I used my Pigma Microns for the details.

Once the line work was complete I used my computer to have a play with colour schemes. I wanted blue and gold but I wasn’t sure exactly how to arrange it all. At first I thought this would work…

But her skin colour has too much yellow in for mustard coloured clothes to look right. So I changed her clothes to blue. This meant I had to work on trying to keep the blues properly differentiated but I thought it looked better…

Next it was time to paint. I’ve never tried to get such large flat washes before, especially inside tight lines. I used watercolour for the dark upper background colour (Payne’s Grey with some ultramarine dabbed into it). The rest was done with gouache. I know that professional illustrators often use a Liquitex acrylic gouache when they want large flat areas but I don’t have any of that so I did the best I could with regular gouache. It took a few hours over two days to complete the painting which is a really long time when you think that I did both digital colour scheme sketches in a total time of about 30 minutes.

Once the painting was finished I redid my line art to make it crisp and clear. This was so lovely to do, if a little nerve-wracking!

Anyway, here’s the final painting…

Having fun with styles.

This week I had some fun playing around with some shorter paintings and trying out different styles.  Some artists try to “find their style” but I’ve never been really bothered about that.  I have this feeling that as you develop as an artist the style thing naturally appears over the years.  It’s still fun though, to play with different ways of producing visual media.

The first picture began as a study sketch I made while on holiday in Paris last year.  We visited the Musée d’Orsay, a museum on the left bank of the Siene which really revels in impressionist paintings although there are many types of art there.  While there, I loved seeing a lot of the art.  Alexandre Séon’s The Lament of Orpheus was one of the paintings that really caught my eye.

 

Here’s a glimpse of Séon’s original work via a photograph…

 

This painting was gorgeous to see in person.  It’s odd how seeing online photos of some of these famous paintings, as above, doesn’t do them justice.  In this form it seems flat, like something is missing.  Anyway, I got out my sketch book and made a pencil sketch of Séon’s painting which I then went over quickly and lightly with ink.  This is what I used for the first of my painting studies this week.

I took the ink sketch and coloured it with watercolour and a little gouache.   I wanted to see how a classical image might look if done in a more painterly anime style.  Here’s the result…

 

I’m not too keen on this one – I think the linework is too rough to really make it click.  I quite like the sand texture from the way the paint I was using was granulating on the paper, but it doesn’t quite draw together as a good image.  Next time I will leave it as a pencil sketch while out and about and ink it more carefully later on.

 

My next painting was a small sketch of some sea cliffs in gouache.  I tried to paint big portions of them from imagination which is something I find hard.

Here’s the gouache on it’s own…

Once I’d painted them I tried to emulate a style which is being used in TellTale’s video game, The Walking Dead.  They used a fairly painterly CGI rendering of the figures and then added some comic styled edges with a filter of some kind.  It’s a beautiful effect and very suitable for a video game based on a classic comic.  You can see a little of it in this still from actual game footage…

 

 

It reminds me of the amazing film “A Scanner Darkly” directed by Richard Linklater and based on Philip K Dick’s novel of the same name.  They shot the whole film in a fairly standard way and then spent 18 months with an animation team animating the footage over the top of the digital cinamatography.  It was visually incredible.  I’ve seen it many times now and it still takes my breath away. Here’s an example of what that looked like…

 

Now I don’t have the graphics software which Telltale have or the Rotoshop software, in which “A Scanner Darkly” was animated, but I had a go at using a Photoshop to fill out some comic edges on my gouache painting.  I don’t think I got close to the way the pros did it but I like the effect.  Here’s my Sea Cliffs painting with the filter…

 

 

I wonder if this effect could be achieved in a more traditional way by outlining the art with a 005, dark technical pencil?  It might work for the edges, but I suspect it wouldn’t give me the texture Photoshop gives me in the rocks.

 

The final painting I did was a small illustration of a fox in plain watercolour over a pencil sketch.  I used wet in wet first and then went over that base with some wet on dry. Once I had it scanned in I had a go looking at it with the same filter as I used on the cliffs painting…

 

 

But, in the end, I preferred the watercolour illustration as it is…

 

 

This was the easiest of the three styles and one of the better ones for me, although I did kind of like the gouache painting with the filter.  The Orpheus image didn’t really work for me this time but could, perhaps, be improved by better line art.

Crocodilian in Gouache

 

I love reptiles. They are such fascinating creatures. One day I would love to keep one as a pet. I’d probably get a Crested Gecko because they are so lovely to interact with, you can keep them in a live plant vivarium and they’re suitable for first time reptile keepers.

 

(This photo is by Jazium and is shared under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.)

 

My favourite pet later on would be a chameleon, probably a Panther Chameleon or a Veiled Chameleon but that would have to wait until I’m more experienced with reptiles as the husbandry is more demanding. One creature I would never want to keep though, is a crocodile, even a small one! They are amazing creatures but have a deservedly fierce and scary reputation.

I made a sketch of one one evening on basic copy paper and liked the way it turned out so I decided to make a painting.

Here’s the copy paper ink sketch…

I made another, more careful sketch of this in graphite on watercolour paper…

Then I began painting in gouache. Because light paint can go over dark paint with gouache I started with the background. I used viridian, permanent green middle and lamp black to make my background. I was thinking of the Rio Negro, the largest tributary of the Amazon and the largest black water river in the world.

Here’s the background…

 

 

Next I added a light wash of gouache to map out my light and dark areas. It was more to get this information into my mind than to affect the final painting…

 

 

Then I painted my crocodile with basic shapes…

 

 

Once this stage was mapped out I then went to work on the detail, further defining my shapes and adding textures and specular reflections. I ended up re-doing the eye three times but it was worth it, because the eye of this croc has an amazing lime-green colour. Here’s my final painting…

 

 

And here’s a close up of the eye…

 

Kodama and a More Thoughtful View of Nature.

This week I played around with a simple illustration of Kodama (tree Spirits/Gods from Japanese folklore) sitting in the the shade of a small Nasturtium plant (Genus: Tropaeolum). My original intention with this illustration was to add some dotted shading over the top with black pigma micron pens . However, when I tried this out in Photoshop to see if it would work it seemed too dark and definite. While I was playing around thinking what to do next, I ran a photoshop filter over the painting (I was playing with the idea of a new background).  Anyway, the filter made the foreground look just how I wanted it. So I dumped the new background idea, saved the file and printed it off.

Here’s the original painting before any digital changes…

And here’s the finished illustration as I prefer it with the filter on…

 

I have always loved the idea of Kodama since I first came across them in Miyazaki’s beautiful film Princess Mononoke.

Film Poster for Theatrical Release in Japan – from Wikipedia

By personifying the spirit of living things like trees, Japanese folk tales, very gently, seem to point out that all living things are valuable and important as part of the whole. In the past and even today, in Japan the idea of Kodama has protected special trees in various places from removal. Whereas in the UK, local people can write to officials, get the press involved, put up huge banners across trees we would like to keep, but these wishes are ignored in favour of a marginally bigger car park.

As far as I understand it, Kodama are a form of Kami, which are said to be the divinities or sacred essences of many different things like, rivers, mountains, trees and animals. Shinto, which ritualises Kami worship (including the worship of some ancestors), is the indigenous religion of Japan and is still practiced by 80% of Japan’s population although the way Japanese people approach religion is very different from people in the west, being more practical and syncretic and less concerned with membership.

My feeling as I read up on this subject, is that Shinto has given the Japanese people an understanding of, and reverence for, nature that is beautiful. Many of Miyazaki’s films like Princess Mononoke, Naussica of the Valley of the Wind and My Neighbour Totoro resonate with this way of looking at the world. I think I prefer to see the world the same way.

Exploring Shine – Part 2

This week I worked on a small simple greyscale painting of a chrome doorknob. Having read up on various illumination models previously, I now realise how very complex light reflections between objects can be. Since painting from reference was so much more effective than trying to reconstruct reality when painting the human form last week, I decided to paint a simple shiny object just by painting what I see, hoping that the same would be true this time.

I began with a simple outline sketch of all the complex shadows, gradients and specular reflections I could see…

Then I chose a mid-grey and painted all of the areas which seemed to be that colour…

Next I painted all of the darkest darks and then some mid to dark greys. It was only a simple painting but I’m quite pleased with it.

Interestingly it reads better as chrome when the image is smaller. My guess is that this is because my original image was only about 8cm x 12cm so when I make a large scale photo of it all of the imperfections become apparent to the viewer and this gets in the way of the viewer’s brain recognising it as chrome…

I used W&N gouache for most of this with a little lamp black watercolour for some simple gradients.