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…

 

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.

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?

Texture and the Little Yellow Space Bus

The Space Bus

This week’s illustration was drawn traditionally with pencils and ink and then toned digitally. My two main aims in doing this were to work on my textures and practise some one point-perspective.

I began with some basic shapes…

Then I added more shapes and general “dodads”…

Once I had all of the basics sketched in I began to use ink. First I outlined my pencils in pen and then cleaned off the pencil with a putty eraser…

Next I began to really flesh out the shapes with ink…

And this is my final ink drawing…

Once that was complete, I scanned my ink drawing into the computer and toned the image digitally in Photoshop. I decided to do this because the background in space is nearly always a darker tone and I would run low on ink trying to darken my whole page like that.  SO I used the computer to add tone.

 

Here is the final illustration…

 

The problem is I made zero progress with my textures! The picture hangs together OK but so many of the surfaces look the same. In fact it still only has four different textures!

On realising this I decided to do a couple of exercises on texture.  I really need to get this into my head somehow!

Texture Exercise 1

First I drew 35 quick squares and then tried to fill each of them with a different texture. I gave myself 30 seconds for each one.

Here are the results…

I panicked a bit about the timeso  couple here and there are very similar but at least I began to find ways to make more interesting textural marks.

Texture Exercise 2

Next I chose 6 real world textures and made an attempt to draw them in a more detailed way. Here they are…

They took a surprising amount of time to draw (although I was watching Star Trek Voyager at the same time! It was the set of episodes where they travel through Borg space and first meet 7 of 9. Captain Janeway was her usual gorgeous self so I was more than a little distracted!)

(Image Rights to Viacom and Screenrant.)

Evaluation

Evaluating this exercise, I think these drawings show a good range of texture and, to my eye, they read reasonably well. I think more practice would be good for me, but I will do that as I incorporate more texture into my art.

I’ve learned three things about texture from doing this:

  1. I need to remember to take the time to look really carefully at textured surfaces when I want to include them in a drawing.
  2. Once I’ve looked carefully I also need to work out a way to represent that texture so that it reads accurately for the viewer. This can take some exploration.
  3. Finally, I need to give the textured parts of any artwork the time they need to be drawn well.

“Young Adults” Part 2 # 3 – Softball

This is the second of a three-part sketching series on Young Adults. The aim was to ink my drawings in the same way that I draw with pencil to try to get a looser feel and to draw people who are just being themselves.

This sketch is of a young woman softball player, looking quite relaxed, perhaps after having played a game.

I began with some structural lines…

Then I made a pencil sketch…

Next I added my ink ouline and cleaned off my pencil…

After that I added some hatching marks for the deeper shadows…

My final job was to add some ink diluted with water as a midtone. Here is the final drawing…

What I am happy with in this drawing is the subtle gesture of her centre of gravity (below, in red) which gives the sense of her standing in a relaxed way, along with the contrast of the opposing gesture in her arms (below, in blue).

I’m also finally finding it easier to draw hands more naturally. If I wanted to improve this drawing one of the things I would do would be to rework the way her T-shirt is hanging on her right (our left) which doesn’t read well to me. I think the lines need to be more curved. I also think it’s much tighter than the loose feel I was aiming for.

“Young Adults” Part 1 # 3 – Eat…Drum…Sleep…(repeat)

 

For the next three weeks I’m doing a series of simple traditional ink sketches, based loosley on the theme of “Young Adults”.  Apart from scanning the images to get them onto the internet, they will be done entirely with traditional materials.

This week’s sketch is, ostensibly, of a fantastic young drummer I know, although I actually used three different references for the drawing.  He does do a LOT more than just eat, drum and sleep, but it still feels like a good motto for this particular drawing.

Here’s a photo of the pencils…

 

This is the final ink drawing…

 

It was done on Daler and Rowney cartridge paper in an A4 spiral bound sketchbook which I am really enjoying.  It is really liberating to have a bigger sketchbook!  I used Pigma Microns for the main drawing and then some “Calli” India Ink (made for calligraphy), diluted with tap water in a brush pen to add some mid tone.

While working on this I didn’t actually have a photo of my subject in this position, although I have seen him sleep like this on many occasions!  So I used three references to make this drawing, a portrait of my young drummer and 2 photos of different men lying on a couch.  One of the men was actually sleeping with a newspaper lying on him so, wanting to keep the theme of my subject being the young musician that he is, I changed it to the New Musical Express (even though the NME went digital a long while ago).  The other male reference was for his body sinking into the cushions since the first picture didn’t really show that.

With this set of drawings my aim was to try to ink in the same way that I draw, to give the drawings a looser feel.  I also worked on having my figure sink into his surroundings.  I pretty much managed it with his body, but forgot to really push this effect with his head!  I think if I’d have shown some of the cushion overlapping with the bottom of his face and changed the line of his hair to take account of it falling on the cushion it would read a little better.

 

The Dryad’s Awakening

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking a lot about imaginary worlds in literature.  (This was sparked by an excellent post made by a fellow blogger and book lover, Calmgrove, which you can find here.)

The Bronte siblings, I have learned, developed the imaginary “Glasstown”.  C S Lewis made up “Animal-Land” as a boy and then “Narnia” as an adult.  Tolkien brought “Middle-earth” to life and Ursula K LeGuin brought us “Earthsea”.  As a child (and still as an adult) I spent a lot of time reading and finding myself adventuring in many different imaginary lands; I enjoy it enormously.  So I began to wonder what sort of imaginary place I would create, if I could?

I am strongly drawn to two different narrative landscapes.  The first are those where nature-centred stories seem to grow, especially those where every living thing has it’s own being and will, every plant, , every fish, every beetle.  Sometimes even the stone of a mountain might grow it’s own will and sense of being.  These places contain, for me, a mixture of 3 different things.  The first are prehistoric, animistic ideas (including ritual landscapes like long barrows and standing stones).   The second are ideas from the Japanese Shinto Religion, stories of various Kami with rivers being Dragon Lords and volcanoes as Gods of Fire.  The third place I always find my imagination going to is into classical Greek mythology with dryads, centaurs, river nymphs, harpies and giants.

The second landscape revolves around adventures in space; places from science fiction including my favourite galaxy far far away (Star Wars).  So the landscape is actually a galaxy wide region of space with may different planets, environments, people and cultures.  Among these cultures I prefer tales set in the margins, on the borders, where things are difficult and people have very little personal power to change their own fate.  I prefer hard science fiction to space opera, but only in so far as I think the things  a person could make or do in that world needs to have reasonably coherant explainations.  And there would, of course, be a plethora of totally cool spaceships and droves of interesting aliens!

Having all of this turning over in the back of my mind I fell into thinking about the first of these two landscapes and began researching dryads.

This week’s art is a drawing of such a dryad who has slept very late into spring and is awakened by a butterfly.

Here’s my basic outline sketch…

I made my pencil outline quite dark and then worked up the details of the tree also in pencil…

 

Then I began to ink the picture.  First I did the outline with a 0.5 Pigma Micron pen…

 

Then I worked on the inside area with my trusty 0.3 Micron.  (I seem to use this size pen more than any other.)

 

This is my final ink drawing…

I must admit, I absolutely adore doing ink drawings like this.  I know there are so many other techniques and opportunities to make art these days, especially with the advent of digital art, but I love the simplicity and starkness of the black lines on white paper.  Anyway, I decided I wanted to keep the drawing as it was so I scanned it in and did all my colouring digitally…

I added my colour on several layers underneath the ink layer.  When put together, these colour layers make an interesting shape with the ink layer removed.  It’s almost like the shadow or spirit of the drawing.

 

Here is my final image…

“The Boatman” Character Illustration – Part 1 of 2

This week and next week I am working on illustrating people and endeavouring show something of their character in the illustration.  For my first illustration I drew a boatman on a canal barge.    I began with a very basic drawing I made in my sketchbook.

Like this…

And here is my ink ouline…

 

I transferred the this outline to my tablet and then loaded the ink drawing into Autodesk so I could work on it.

First I filled in some basic local tones. I did this in the normal way by opening a new layer underneath my line art and setting the line art layer to “multiply”. This is a blending mode which adds the tones of both layers together. I could then, easily, shade in different parts of my picture…

My next job was to add some cell shading to the image, like this…

In line with what I learned about my art from the Art Professor I wanted to add a digital background so that my character wasn’t just a single subject in a white field. Since the picture is of a boatman on his canal barge I decided to paint in the river and the bank behind him. The effect I was aiming for is the same one that Studio Ghibli use, where they have simple cartoon style animation for the people and looser more painterly images for the backgrounds. First I just put down a gradient for the river…

After that I painted in the rough shadows of trees and bushes along the riverbank, gradually building up layers and tones…

Finally I added some textured details to give the viewer the feeling of leaves on the plants…

So here is my finished picture…

In terms of evaluating how it went I’m generally quite pleased with it.

I enjoyed painting the river and bank in a looser , more impressionistic style. I usually find this quite difficult but doing it digitally helps a lot since I can easily undo something which doesn’t turn out well. I also enjoyed drawing this older man.  He seemed relaxed, experienced and a little tired.

If I did it again I would try to improve the overall quality of my ink drawing and work on cleaning up the photo of it a bit more.

Firefly – Traditional inks with Digital Shading

 

This is the reworking of an ink drawing I made at Christmas time.  I photographed it in and then toned it digitally.

Here is the basic pencil sketch…

 

Here is an ink outline…

 

Here is the completed traditional ink drawing…

 

And this is the digitally toned image…

 

My main aim in toning this drawing was to give it a sense of light radiating from the firefly’s abdomen.  I had to find a happy medium between showing the firefly’s light and not making the whole image too dark.  There were two background densities where this might work.  One was using a dark enough background that the leaf the fly is sitting on looks a mid to light tone and the other is this one (above), where the flirefly’s light is less obvious but the rest of the drawing can still be clearly seen.  I added a selected part of a lenflare to the firefly to push the sense of light coming from it’s abdomen and then rolled the effect back to about 60% so it wasn’t too intense.  I’m not sure I got the balance right with this.