The Beautiful Pangolin

This week’s art is a drawing I started a while ago and finally finished. It is of a Pangolin. I think these guys are such awesome animals. They can roll up like armadillos and climb like monkeys; they can spray like skunks , dig like badgers and have tongues like anteaters! How great is that?! I don’t think I would mind being a Pangolin. It must be brilliant.

I began with basic shapes which I eventually worked into a sketch…

Then I began the process of inking. My goodness there were so many scales!!! Still, it was very meditative to draw them. I tried to do some in bed one afternoon when I was feeling a bit rough, however a certain Princess Leia was having none of it. Clearly it was kitty playtime, not art time as I had thought – silly me…

I’m so lucky to get such good feline help with my drawing LOL!

Here’s a closer picture of the beginning of my ink process…

After playing with kitty and working in short bursts on more of the drawing I finally got the basic black inks of the pangolin done. Then I sketched out a fallen tree for her to be walking along…

I inked the tree…

…and then added both white gouache and black watercolour to add highlights and shadows respectively. Finally it was finished! Here it is…

Venom – Original Fan Art

This week I tried a black and white drawing of a major Marvel Comic character – Venom. I haven’t read many superhero comics so I don’t know that much about him except that Venom is a living symbiotic suit which to some extent takes over the person wearing it. Initially he was very definitely a big villain, up there with Doc Oct and the Green Goblin, but later he became more of an anti-hero. I drew him because I think the design is really good and would work really well in a greyscale image like this.

He first appeared in the Amazing Spiderman comicbook and was written by David Michelinie and drawn by Todd McFarlane, but, interestingly, his original concept came from a fan from Illinois who was paid a huge sum for the idea! How very cool it would be to be that fan!!!

So I began with a pencil sketch…

Then I put in my outline and filled in my solid black areas…

Once that was done I rendered the shape more carefully with ink and added some white gouache to give it some contrast. Here is the finished character…

In terms of how this drawing went I found most of it pretty OK to draw except for Venom’s left leg (on the right-hand-side as we look at it.) For some reason I found it really hard to get it to look right. I’m still not quite sure about it. I think I’ve looked at it so much now that I can’t really see in my mind how it should be anymore. So I did the best I could and left it at that.

It was quite fun to draw a superhero, but I do prefer drawing animals.

(Just so that everything is clear and “up-front”. I made this as an original drawing of Marvel’s Venom. While I drew every part of it, the character is Marvel’s intellectual property and this is just fan art.)

Direct Ink – Quick Sketches

Over the last couple of months I have done less art since I’ve been struggling with my health. This week I have a small group of quick sketches drawn fast, in ink, with no pencils. I was doing all of this while watching Netflix and YouTube in bed one evening.

For my midtone I used a brush pen loaded with water darkened by a tiny drop of ink. It was good except that I couldn’t easily paint a gradient. I played around with it until I found a way to do it by smudging off some of the ink with a combination of my fingers and some kitchen towel.

At first I was quite nervous using ink without any basic pencil shapes to indicate structure. It felt like I was trying to put up a building with no structural support – I thought the whole thing might collapse in on itself. I began by drawing a young Obi-Wan Kenobi (since I was very familiar with Ewan McGregor’s face from watching the ABSOLUTELY AWESOME Kenobi series on Disney + three times over!) This is him as a Padawan though, looking all eager and ready to take on some battle droids…

Next I drew a woman in bed from a Netflix series I was watching…

She looked all cosy and comfy and I really wanted to capture that feeling. This was easier that drawing Kenobi despite the more difficult subject. I think a lot of my difficulty with drawing young Obi-Wan was just my nervousness of drawing directly in ink. The second time was definitely better.

My last drawing was of a seal – by this time I was a bit more confident and it was a dead easy subject. So here he is looking all happy on his rock…

I think he’s thinking “This is such a cool rock. All the lady seals are going to love me now!”

Results of this exercise

I think this was a really good exercise. It stretched me a little without being stressful and was really great for confidence building. I found it better to draw in a rough way so that it felt like I was sketching in pencil even though I was using ink. It was good to see what I could come up with like this because normally my sketches get erased once I have my ink outline done.

I was reading about an artist on the internet who draws daily directly in ink making portraits on public transport. I think this would be a great exercise, but I’m not sure I’d have the courage. Drawing outside gives me a much greater sense of inspiration from what I see but people are always very curious about what I’m doing which is tricky.

I have some mental health difficulties going on at the moment as well as ongoing sinus, ear and chest infections, so going outside is pretty difficult. I’ll have to think about it.

Trinity Portrait – ink, pencils and digital colour

I spent a lot of time in bed at the beginning of this week and played around with portraits in my small sketchbook. I drew a few quick sketches of various people from Netflix and YouTube. I was working on finding out which parts of a portrait I need to measure (as a proportion of my pencil) and which bits I can just do by eye . This is a portrait based on Carrie-Ann Moss who I always remember playing Trinity in the film The Matrix although I redid her hair to make it longer than she had then.

Above are the very basic marks I made when I began. You can see where I am making some measurements.

I developed this into a rough ink sketch. Although it’s really rough and doesn’t have a good likeness I really liked the way it turned out…

At this point I decided to make a better drawing in a bigger sketchbook. I used my trusty mocron pens. I particularly like using my big 0.5 pen. Through use the end has become blunted but I can get really great fine lines and textures by using it leaned over on it’s side at about 45 degrees to the paper. Below is the drawing I made copying my drawing and tweaking various bits of it to try to get more of a likeness. You can see the textural stuff I did in her hair…

Once I had the inks down I wanted to add some shading but wasn’t sure how I wanted to approach this. So I photocopied my drawing and then played around with various types of hatching and mark making to see if I could find something I liked…

I liked the bottom left bit of hatching which followed the contours of her body best, but didn’t like it enough to actually use it. In the end I decided to add shading with pencils. I shaded lightly and then used my fingers and a blending stick to smudge the tones. I also used a kneaded eraser to pull out some white areas in the line of her neck and across her nose and collar bones.

Here is the finished drawing…

Once I had photographed the drawing and pulled it into photoshop I also experimented with pushing my portrait to the right of the frame. I really liked this. I find it interesting how the space, the nothingness, around Carrie changes the feeling of the picture.

Later in the week when I was feeling a bit better I fired up Clip Studio Paint again and had a go at adding some colour. I tried to follow a similar process to the colour work I did on the Dandelion picture I did a while back. Here it is…

I think I prefer the greyscale image personally. Which do you prefer?

Attelabus nitens – ink on paper

This drawing was a quick ink sketch I made when I got a new pen. The pen is designed for drawing Manga, but rather than being a dip pen, it’s actually a cartridge pen. Here’s what the nib looks like…

I’ve always thought this would be a good idea. Unfortunately it doesn’t hold a zebra G nib, which would have been perfect, but it does look pretty good.

I found a really cool looking weevil in my Collins Complete Guide to British Insects book…

I though this little dude looked awesome. So I made a sketch…

Unfortunately I went off the page a little bit with his rear right foot!

Then I began to draw with the new pen. I was able to make some great textures and create really small lines too. I did have some trouble keeping the ink flowing and had to dip the pen in water from time to time to help draw the ink out. I wonder if I need to put a flame to the nib to burn off the coating they sometimes have? So for places where I needed jet black ink I used my trusty Microns but most of the rest was all with this manga pen. (I did put in a shadow with pencils.)

Because I’d gone off the page, when I framed the photo of my drawing I added some extra space to deliberately make the weevil look like he was just about to crawl across the paper. I liked this effect. I think I will work more in future on placement and framing. Anyway here’s the final sketch…

This was a good little project to test out my pen but the image was too small for the kind of detail I would like on a picture like this (the weevil is only about 7-8cm long in my drawing). I think I will try to find a way to get the ink to flow properly and then have another go with this pen on a bigger sheet of paper.

Dandelion – traditional Ink and Digital Colour

This week I drew a dandelion with it’s seeds taking flight. I began with a sketch…

…and then switched to drawing in bed. (My pain is not great at the moment.) It’s always a bit dodgy to do this. I already have one sheet and duvet cover with permanent ink stains! But keeping busy really helps so I did it anyway.

Here’s how my ink drawing turned out…

This drawing was inspired by the many dandelions in a bit of scrubland I can see from my front window. There used to be a hedge there but the local council pulled it out. It’s quite interesting how different plants take root in the new space. Biologically this process is called ecological succession.

Now I happened watch the dandelions release their seeds during the golden hour when the sun was setting one evening and it felt like fairy dust rising in some kind of magical realm, like I could see a gateway to some deeper time and place. I wanted to convey something of that singular experience in my picture. Sadly, looking at the ink drawing I made – it seemed flat and dull to me, more like a very basic scientific illustration than a witness to a wonder.

Initially I just turned the page in my sketchbook and moved on to something else. But then later on I wondered what I could do with some digital colour. I very much wanted to find an illustrative way to communicate something the sense of magic and connectedness I felt when I saw those dandelions in the sunset. So instead of pulling the drawing into Autodesk Sketchbook, I uploaded it to the PC and fired up Clip Studio Paint. This software has been developed for exactly this kind of illustration and has some excellent brushes built in. I’ve dabbled with the previous version of the software (when it was called Manga Studio) but this was my first time trying to use the new software in earnest.

Here is how it went. I opened up my inks in the program…

Before I really got properly started I had a lot of fun just playing around with a huge range of brushes and getting a feel for the way the software works. Eventually I found some ways of painting that I really liked so I laid down some colour. I wanted to imply out-of-focus plants and grass in the background around my subject so I was quite free with the painting. Once I had my main colours I used a blending brush to soften some of the edges and then added a bit more here and there to get a good range of tones. Here’s how that turned out…

I also added some airbrushed white behind the seed heads to make them stand out.

After that I began work on the dandelion itself – adding some blue-ish shading to the seed heads and browns and greens to the place where the stem terminates and the seeds are joined. I also painted the stems and the grass.

Then I painted the dandelion leaves and added some highlights to the stems. My last job was to add some very light airbrushed white behind the seeds dancing through the air to give the viewer the sense of the breeze carrying them – you can see this in the completed image below…

I’m still not sure what I think about this one. I like the background but I’m still not sure if it captures the moment I was aiming for.

The Space Dodo – Ink

This week I had a go at drawing without any reference. It really began as a doodle of a dodo, who became a space dodo when I put him in an astronaut’s headgear and then landed on the Moon when I drew in his background. He’s quite sad because there aren’t any more dodos left so he doesn’t want to go back home.

I wasn’t really intending this drawing to be more than a doodle so I didn’t take any process photos until I had my dodo already drawn (above). I drew him in the normal way though – using simple shapes at first and then more and more detail and texture.

I liked drawing the craters the most in this drawing. They were interesting and relaxing to draw. While I drew I was listening to the audiobook of “The Rivers of London” by Ben Aaronovitch. It’s funny how my dodo picture is now connected in my mind to the story in Ben’s book, even though they are not connected except by happenstance.

Finally I added a very light ink wash (made from water with the tiniest bit of ink in it). This helped separate my subject from his background. I think it would have been OK without but I preferred the wash. Here’s the finished drawing…

Autistic Animal Familiar – pen and ink

This week I drew what my own autistic animal familiar might be like. I began my drawing with some basic shapes…

Then I built on my basic shapes to make a pencil sketch…

Once this was done I set to work on my ink drawing. This was all done in bed since my pain has been ferocious recently. (I am trying to follow advice and listen to my body more and take better care of it but it has yet to show any results.) I prefer drawing at a table but “needs must when the devil vomits into your kettle” (Blackadder).

Here’s the finished ink drawing…

My thinking with this drawing and autism was…

  • I made him basic shape a scawney little cat – just the sort of cat I would be. Cat’s always seem to me to be naturally autistic. It gives me a very strong sense of affinity with them. My cat Leia and I are like two peas in a Star Wars loving pod. (Yes, she loves Star Wars too because people call her name sometimes and call her a princess, but mainly because I give her treats so she will watch it with me. Lol)
  • I gave him big big eyes, ears and whiskers to convey his heightened sensitivity and the way we take in all the information not just selective bits.
  • The broken collar represents how so many clothes, clothing labels, jewellery etc. are intensly irritating and also how we don’t always fit so well into society.
  • My creature’s tail is curved up into a golden spiral which is based on the golden ratio (which is approximately 1 to 1.61803398875). This indicates how cool patterns are for many autistic people, me included.
  • I also gave my cat slightly sad comic eyes to show how it can be difficult sometimes to be autistic, especially when we have communication and social problems.

I’m going to call my autistic animal familiar “Joe“.

😊

Fire Salamander Inks and “The ugly stage”

This week’s drawing began as a doodle of some water currents. I then decided to redraw them and add a fire salamander larva (which looks a lot like an Axolotl).

Here are some process photos…

“The Ugly Stage”

The photo above captures really well how most of my artworks go through a horrible “ugly stage”. This is the point at which I start to think I am kidding myself about being an artist and I should just give it up and watch Netflix instead! As it happens with this particular drawing I was tired and asthmatic while drawing the above. I had pneumonia. My Ventolin had given me an essential tremor in my hands and for some inexplicable reason I had persevered with the inking anyway. Thankfully I stopped before I completely ruined the picture.

The next day I picked my drawing time carefully to avoid problems with my breathing and things were much easier. I tidied up a lot of the errors and began the process of trying to find creative solutions to the difficulties I’d got myself into.

Here is how the drawing turned out in my book…

Here it is close up…

One of the things I was unhappy about with this picture was that I wasn’t able to fully make the salamander larva stand out from the background. Normally I would do this by making the contrast and dark black lines strongest in the subject, but I had made the water currents really dark already so that wasn’t possible. It would also have been good to have put part of one of the water currents over the top of the animal to make him appear to be floating amongst them.

I did play around with adding some digital colour to push the subject/object contrast through colour, but in the end I think I preferred the ink drawing…