Mixed Media – Vintage Diving Helmet

I had a go at mixing Ink and Charcoal in the same drawing this week. It was really good fun. I really enjoyed the way I could add textures with the charcoal that I could never achieve with ink.

I began sketching in pencil, then added an ink outline and then added some deep shadows in ink too, like this…

Once I had my ink drawing I began to add shadow using a charcoal pencil and some charcoal sticks, like this…

Above was my first work through with the charcoal. I could see I needed to go darker in places and that I needed also to smooth things out with some blending stumps and tissues.

Once I’d completed the charcoal work I photographed the picture and brought it into Photoshop. I added a black background and then adjusted my levels. I did quite a bit of adjustment to get it to look right with the black background and to get rid of some reflection from my black ink brush pen which sadly has a shiny finish.

Here is the final image…

I like the textures and the strong contrast. It also made me smile to have things around the wrong way, with the water and fish inside the helmet and us humans looking in from the outside! While I was reviewing the image I thought it might make a big difference if I added some halftone reflections on the glass in the front window. So I quickly opened up Photoshop again and added them in post production!

Once everything was complete I also had a quick play with adding some digital colour…

I think it turned out OK, but I prefer the black and white image.

Which one do you prefer?

🙂

Line and Wash Shoebill

This week I painted a picture of a really odd-looking bird. It’s called a Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex), because, unsurprisingly, it’s bill looks a bit like a shoe. I think it looks more like a clog. I wonder if Clogbeak will catch on? 😊

I used the Line and Wash method of painting for this picture. Basically it is a mixture of an inked line drawing painted over with watercolours. (Although I have seen people paint watercolour pictures and then add the ink lines later which is interesting.)

Here is a beautiful photograph of one of these birds. I absolutely love the feather definition the photographer has picked up on the back of the bird. The photo is by Hans Hillewaert.

© Hans Hillewaert Licenced under CC BY-SA 3.0

Here are some process photos of the drawing process…

Pencils
Inks Part 1
Inks Part 2

Here is my ink drawing…

Once my ink drawing was complete I then set about painting. I began with a pale yellow wash over the background area. While the wash was still wet I dropped into it some Cadmium yellow deep (which is a gorgeous colour). I also played around with removing some of the colour in places with a paper towel so I could have a nice textured background.

Next I painted all of the bird apart from his eyes and bill with a very light Paynes Grey with a little French Ultramarine to make it a little more blue. I gradually built up my depth of colour and depth of tone in the darker areas.

Once that was done I painted his eyes and then his amazing clog-like bill. I finished off using some titanium white with a really small rigger brush to put in some highlighted feathers and some eye-shine.

Here is my final painting…

I think they’re really funny birds. As well as having a significant bite, they also clatter their beak when greeting a friend and bow and shake their head to show affection!

Here’s a YouTube video which shows a female Shoebill clattering her beak and greeting her favourite keeper with bows and head shakes. It’s a lovely video! (The clattering starts at about 1 minute 20 seconds and the bowing and head shaking happens shortly afterwards.)

Disgustingly, they also defecate on their own legs to cool down when they’re too hot. I don’t know if I would ever be hot enough to do that! They are also, very sadly, classed as a vulnerable as a species with only 5000 to 8000 left in the wild. This is partly due to the black market for their bodies (despite them being a protected species on CITES) and partly due to habitat destruction in their central African home due to farming and burning of the land.

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.

Octopus Dreams #3 – The second half of a larger line and wash painting

I have been experimenting for some time in my artwork, trying to find a way to tone ink drawings traditionally. This week I have toned an ink drawing of a Larger Pacific Striped Octopus with black watercolour. Initially I was thinking of either using charcoal or watercolour over my ink. It was really hard to make up my mind without trying it out, so on some scrap paper I had a quick go of both methods. Here are the results of my experiments…

(Charcoal)
(Watercolour)

I decided to go with the watercolour in the end. It took more time and was not removable like the charcoal, but I liked the level of control had with watercolour and the depth of colour I could generate.

I began with a few basic washes…

Then I added some mild shadows to the light coloured sand. To do this I put on a wash of clear water and then dropped in black watercolour at the top of each wet section and allowed it to “stretch out” naturally.

Once this was done I began the painstaking work of putting in the details. Because the original ink drawing was A3, this took quite some time, but it was very enjoyable.

Here is the final line and wash drawing…

Octopus Dreams #2 – The first half of a larger line and wash painting

This week’s art is the first half of a two part artwork featuring a Larger Pacific Striped Octopus outside her den. She’s sitting in a position which allows her to begin to explore and hunt but, with two of her arms still fixed to the back of her den, she can also withdraw to safety at a moment’s notice.

I began this ink drawing on A3 hot-pressed watercolour paper with some sketching…

Once I was reasonably happy with the basic drawing I began to go over it with ink. When doing this I tried to make the pen strokes clean and consistent, but I also made slight changes to the design as I went. Since this is an A3 drawing the inking took my quite a few hours but was incredibly relaxing…

I got to to this stage (above) and then stopped for the evening thinking I had probably finished inking. However, when I looked at the picture again the next day I felt that some full black shadows around the bottom of my octopus and around the rocks on the sea floor might help balance the composition. So I popped those in and made some other small changes to the density of my linework in various places to make my final ink drawing…

Although my inks are finished my picture is not yet complete. I want to keep the picture in black and white, but add some greyscale tone to it. Previously, with other pictures, I have done this digitally and I’ve tried doing it with mars lumograph pencils and with markers, but I want to try something different with this one.

I am really looking for an authentic way to tone ink drawings. While I can get really lovely results painting tones in digitally, it always leaves me feeling slightly unsatisfied because the final picture comes out of the printer and not directly from my hands. It’s almost as if the printer steals some of the joy of making the art – or perhaps I’m more traditional that I thought!

So, next week I’m going to tone this picture with black watercolour. I want to use the same techniques I used to paint an ant in watercolour (Link to Ant Painting Here). This time, however, the painting will go over the top of an ink drawing. I did think about doing this with charcoal, but after some experimentation on scrap paper I decided against that!

October Illustrations – Graphical Illustration “Japan in Black and White”

My last October Illustration is a graphical respresentation of some aspects of Japan.

During the Easter holidays, while the lockdown was happening, I found a couple of brilliant YouTube channels about Japan. (The Japanese culture and it’s beautiful islands are an interest of mine.) The first is Life Where I’m From and the second is Abroad in Japan . Both of them are interesting and informative and often charmingly funny.

While watching these I decided to make an ink illustration of some of the places and objects which captured my interest. I wasn’t sure how I was going to approach this so I began by making some rough sketches in my sketchbook…

Then I decided to make it into a black and white poster. I found some old A3 acrylic and oil paper which is really heavy and takes ink very well and taped it onto my board. I wanted to make a big tai chi in the centre as it would draw the eye from further away which is something you want when illustrating a poster. So I made some basic construction lines and then began to draw…

(Apologies for this image. When I start drawing I use my pencils really lightly, so I had to really push the image in photoshop to get the pencils to show up.)

I went on to make a simple outline drawing of all of my quick sketches and then added a few more…

Once my outline was done I first filled in all of the solid black areas so that I could make sure my picture had a good overall balance and looked interesting from a distance.

Here is the drawing once all of the black ink was done…

After that I put in my textures. I was still near the beginning of working on texture so there are fewer textures than I would necessarily like if I redrew this picture over the summer, but I was slowly improving.

Here are a couple of close-ups of the differing textures I used…

Once my textures were done I then added a few areas of midtone ink (made by mixing water and regular ink in a waterbrush.) Here is my final illustration…

Over all I’m really pleased with it. It has the strong graphical quality around the central tai chi which I was looking for.

 

A Rural Landscape in Ink

 

This week I worked on developing texture in ink.

I began with a basic sketch of a landscape which you might find in the north of England…

 

Normally I would just dive into inking this but I wanted to take some time to think about the textural effects I would use.  So I looked at the landscape and picked out eight different areas where a texture might work well.  Then I experimented with the textures for each of these areas.

I found that I needed more space for some of these areas, so I went onto another page…

Once I’d decided on the marks I would use to represent each texture I began to ink my drawing.

This week I switched over to using Rotring Rapidograph pens which are lovely to use and reliably produce the same line weight all the time.

I mus admit I thought they were superb.  They worked well as soon as I had set them up and never waivered.

I began inking the basic outline…

And then slowly and steadily worked my way through the whole drawing.  Working on this picture was a very restful meditative activity.  Time flew by as I drew and before long it was finished.  Here’s my final drawing…

 

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?

“Young Adults” Part 3 # 3 – The young man who loves to cook insects.

This is the last in a series of three ink portraits of young adults. This young Japanese man is an expert at cooking insects. I saw a video about him and was impressed by his knowledge, skills and enthusiasm. I paused the video just as he was serving a plate of insects and looking really thrilled at what he had made. His face was full of joy. It was such a beautiful image, I had to draw it.

Here are my pencils…

And here is the final drawing, following the same technique that I used in the previous two attempts at this particular exercise…

With this drawing I worked quite hard to put this young man in his commercial kitchen. It was an interesting place with many different tools of a chef’s trade. This drawing turned out a little looser than the last one. I think that gives it an immediacy which I almost like, but I still find my heart wanting tighter line work (even when I am actively trying to loosen it up a bit!)