Manatee Mama

This week, while waiting for some more pictures of Jim for the portrait, I made a line and wash painting of a manatee mama and her calf. I love the slow gentle nature of these animals and the beauty of their curvy body shape. I would rather swim with these guys than dolphins any day, although octopuses are still my favourite. I think I would give my right arm to swim with an octopus!

Here are my process photos…

I have a strong preference for scientific styled paintings of animals and plants which usually have plain white backgrounds. However having some kind of background really helps a painting find connection with it’s viewers. This week I tried to make a smaller background by masking off a smaller rectangle around my main subjects and painting in a varigated wash using yellows greens and blues. Peeling off the extra masking was such a joy – like peeling the plastic protector off a new calculator or phone!

I stopped to savour the last bit and ended up photographing it.

Once this was done I painted my manatees. I began with big washes over the grey / brown areas and green areas (where the animals get covered in algae) and then moved on to the details.

Here’s the final painting…

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 #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!

Gaia – ink and pencil drawing

Recently I watched the Disney film “Moana“. It was wonderful – the ocean, sailing and a beautiful island earth-mother goddess – what a fabulous combination!

The ocean (Image Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios)
Sailing (Image Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios)
Island earth-mother goddess (Image Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios)

Inspired by this, and by Earth Day, I made a drawing of the Greek Goddess Gaia. I began with a simple design drawn digitally on my tablet. I gave her features which were similar to Te Fiti (the goddess in the film), but then added foliage from more of a central and northern european location.

I then redrew this in more detail on A3 paper…

I debated whether to keep this as a pencil image or work on it in ink. I chose ink in the end. I love the permanence of it and the way it makes me concentrate to get each line as I want it.

Next I began to ink in my details…

I used my Pigma Micron pens for this 0.3 and 0.05. Once all of the ink detail was done I then wanted to add some tone. I played around digitally with the idea of a watercolour wash in regular expected colours and then in a more green dominated palette…

But somehow these coloured options seemed to lose something I wanted in the feeling of the picture. So I tried again with greyscale only…

Now this I liked much more. So I worked on the image with pencils and blending stumps to fill in some tone in her face and body. I was planning to put a darker wash over the whole picture but once the body was done the picture seemed to be where I wanted it so I left it as it was.

Here’s the final image…

I hope you all had a super Earth Day!

Line and Wash – Damsel Fly

 

I wanted to try using watercolour on an ink drawing.  I decided to use foliage in a particular shape with a small animal, like a butterfly as the main focus.

First I worked out what sort of shape I wanted…

 

I tried several ideas for the main shape of my picture.

In the end I went for a spiral but I wanted the shape to form the structure of the picture but not be something that the viewer notices right away so I drew on some very light guidelines.

Then I began drawing.  Because I was drawing in a spiral I was concerned that as I moved around the paper I might smudge earlier work.  So, rather than struggling with that, I decided to draw in sections and then ink each section before I carried on.  This worked better than expected.

 

 

Gradually I worked my way around the picture…

 

 

…until I had my inks finished.

 

 

Then I used watercolour to colour and tone my image and then played around a little with my background using Photoshop.  (I had painted a simple gradient wash with watercolour but it looked flat and boring so I added some shapes with a large soft brush tool in Photoshop and then ran a filter over them to draw the changes together and soften them.)  Here’s the final piece…

 

Art Therapy

Sadly, I had to leave my job for health reasons a few months ago and I have struggled quite a bit with this change. At first my GP helped me and then eventually I managed to arrange some phone counselling to work through it all.

Now I’m not going to go into details about any of the counselling itself here, except to say that it’s been incredibly helpful. What I have found though, with respect to my art, is that it is of real therapeutic benefit.

Firstly, art it is a form of meditation for me a lot of the time, and this has been very helpful. It’s very soothing to draw and paint. It feels a bit like putting a really good hand cream on very chapped hands. Secondly though, it gives me this wonderfully safe space in my head and on the canvas where I can work things out. I don’t know if this kind of thing would work for everyone, some people are more at home with words than visuals, but for me it has been very useful indeed.

This is a drawing I did as I mulled over a question my counsellor left me with at the end of a session…

It was initially done in ink on paper and then toned with Mars Lumograph pencils.

Then I scanned it into my computer and coloured it like this…

I wonder if other artists find art is supportive in this way? Maybe some writers and musicians feel the same way?

Jo Kenobi

This week’s art is a little fantasy sketch of what I might look like if I were both young again and a Jedi!

I took a picture of Lucasfilm’s character Obi-Wan Kenobi…

 

…and a picture of myself when I was about Ewan’s age in this promotional shot from Attack of the Clones.  Then I attempted to make a sketch of the two faces mixed together!

 

I began with some basic measurements.  Luck was on my side with this as mine and Ewan’s face proportions were really similar.

 

Then I sketched out the basics…

I expanded the eyes to give the whole picture a hint of manga styling and then put in some basic pencil shading…

 

I had this drawing like this in my sketchbook for a while.  Then, when I got my Mars Lumograph Pencils, I thought I would have a go at inking the picture and shading it with pencil.  Here are the final results…

 

I wish I were a Jedi!!!