Heron – Mixed Media

I do really love herons! I know they are the bane of many Koi enthusiasts due to their tendency to snack on much loved fish but they do have a certain predatory beauty. This week I drew an ink drawing of a heron and toned it with smudged pencil. I am continuing to work on integrating my textural studies into actual artwork.

Here is my rough pencil sketch…

This shot was taken once I’d refined my pencil work…

This was taken in the middle of inking the drawing…

Here is the completed picture…

Once I had my inks finished I felt I really needed some greyscale tones to help give the viewer the feeling of looking at water. Previously I’ve either done this digitally or with a range of grey brush markers. For this drawing though, I really wanted to add some smooth grey gradients so I decided to mix up my media a little and use pencil for this. Rather than drawing the graphite onto the paper I used the graphite shavings from a mechanical pencil sharpener…

…and rubbed them on with a tissue. I had to practise this technique on some scrap paper a few times but I found I could get a lovely smooth gradient this way. Then I use my putty eraser and a fine mechanical eraser to remove the shading from the places where it went over a line. I am really pleased with how this turned out. I will use this technique again.

Reviewing this particular picture, I can see that my textures are very gradually improving. I would still like to develop more range and finesse with this. I am also quite pleased with the way the water ripples around the heron’s feet read. I think the smooth gradients really help this effect.

I also keep wondering if I should have added some indications of lanscape in the top left corner. It might look good to see a vague sense of a horizon line. Just a few marks to give the viewer an indication. At the time, I refrained from doing so because I liked the striking outline of the heron’s head and I thought putting in some landscape would detract from that. Sometimes drawings seem to ask for a change but I don’t always know exactly how to handle it. In the end I decided to leave it and just sit with the picture as it is. Sometimes, when doing this my unconscious mind seems to keep working ont eh problem in the background and days or even a few weeks later I figure out the answer.

A Shin Hanga Heron

I had another go at trying to create a Shin Hanga styled painting this week.  It taught me a lot about how I need to find the vision of a piece of art before I start to paint.
As before I began with a quick sketch in my sketchbook and then planned how I would paint it.  I chose only one reference for the shape of the heron, but used six for the colours.  I worked out what colour I needed where and then made a plan to get that to happen.  Here’s my plan…
Then I started painting.  I began with a variegated wash in paynes grey and ultramarine with a little cerulean blue added towards to the top half of the paper…
Then I painted it according to my plan.
Here’s the final painting…
I’m not overly keen on this painting.  I think what is wrong is that I didn’t quite have a fully formed vision for the painting before I painted it.  I went straight into the ‘how’ questions before I was really clear on what exactly I wanted in my final picture.  I also made assumptions about the colours and didn’t think out the perspective I wanted with the shapes I have in the water.   In the Shin Hanga tradition an awful lot of thought is put into colour and tonal choices as well as careful work on perspective and reflections.  So if I want to make Shin Hanga styled watercolours I need to put in the same work, I need to find the vision for the piece and see it in my mind and heart before I start the technical side of the venture in actually painting the picture.  So that’s what I’m going to do next time.

The Heron and the Depth Experiment

 

This week I worked on a watercolour painting of a Heron and digital painting experiment.

First the heron.  This was tricky because I wanted to try to capture the light that you get at sunset where everything seems to be touched with gold.  At the same time I wanted the coming darkness to be there in the picture too.

Here’s my attempt to capture this feeling…

 

Now for the digital experiment.  Although I don’t paint seriously with digital tools I often use the computer to try out ideas and play with new techniques I’m developing.  It frees me from the fear of wasting materials and allows me to change direction and even go back a few steps, so it’s an excellent tool for trying things out.  It’s also insanely quick.  I did the whole of this painting in about 15 minutes while I was waiting for Blizzard to update my World of Warcraft game!

I wanted to see if I could use blending in a way which would give the viewer a sense of depth of field when they see a picture.  My aim was to blend the background a lot and as we get into the foreground blend less and less until, with the main foreground subject, I use no blending at all – just direct paint.

I based this experiment on a photo I took over ten years ago when we were walking in the South Downs just north of Brighton…

 

I started by sketching out the basic colours of the picture in Manga Studio 5…

Then I blended all of that…

The blending effects in Manga Studio were excellent and felt a lot like working in oils.  I was really struck by how like real painting this was.  (I also use a graphics tablet so I am able to draw directly into my PC.  Mine is a relatively cheap Wacom Intuos)

Next I put in some of the background detail…

 

Then I began work on the foreground…

There was a lot of detail here so it took a few minutes to get this done…

I used very little blending in this closer scenery – just brushed lightly over some of it.

Finally I painted my main subject and it was done…

I used some artistic licence to change the exact configuration of the foreground plants to something which felt right to me but generally tried to be fairly true to my original photo.

I think it worked to an extent.  I also used less saturated colours as I went towards the horizon which also tends to help.

I might try a landscape oil painting soon to see how it looks with real paints!