Sculpting with Paint – Tiny Gouache Portraits


This week I did some solid painting practice.  I wanted to improve my ability to paint directly with no drawing and to render 3D shapes using the paint.  Since faces are such an odd and challenging shape I thought some portrait practice might be good.  I split up a piece of A4 watercolour paper (Hot Pressed) into 4 and taped each piece down…


Then I gave myself half an hour for each one.

I began by painting the mid tone and then the dark.  Then I added the light tone.  I made three tones for each colour and mixed and blended them on the paper.  I wanted a rougher look so I stuck to my restricted time which forced me to accept a lot of imperfections.  I tried to be very varied in my colour choices.

For the first sketch I used complemetary colours, orange and blue (my favourite combination)…


My second picture was more purple and yellow…


(I had the lady’s coat in purple too originally, but I found that it dissapeared into the background leaving me with a floating head(!) so I changed it to red.)  I find painting very smiley faces quite difficult but this lady looked so lovely and cheery that I couldn’t resist.

In my next picture I used analogous warm colours to give more restful effect as the lady in my reference photo looked like she was meditating…


For my last sketch I allowed myself to paint a Jedi!!!  I went with a more monochrome feel but in blue so the whole thing was quite cool…


I learned quite a bit from this exercise but it’s difficult to put what I learned into words.  It’s the kind of learning that stays in your hands and eyes and doesn’t really need language except if you try to write about it!


The Moonlit Sea

I found another Shin Hanga print I really like. It’s by an artist called Koho Shoda. It really only has one colour and black and white. Here’s the original Japanese woodblock print…

I wanted to create something along the same lines but with a well known English boat as the main subject and in watercolour and gouache. I don’t live very far from Maldon where some traditional Thames Sailing Barges have their moorings. I think there’s also a repair yard in Maldon for these beautiful boats. I spent some time in my teens sailing on the Blackwater, very occasionally alongside these wonderful boats. They are so big that they’re a little scary to be near when you’re in a small sailing dingy, but they still retain the grace and beauty of a sailing vessel. Maybe coots feel the same way about swimming near swans!

(Wikipedia Photo of two Thames Sailing Barges going East on the Blackwater near Bradwell Power Station. By Terry Joyce)

I began with a wash using a mixture of French Ultramarine and Phthalo blue…

Then I painted on more details with gouache…

I did quite like the picture at this stage. It had an open feel. But I went ahead and added the foreground reeds…

Reviewing my picture at this stage I quite liked the contrast and the reflections but I very much disliked the ultramarine sky – it felt too warm and too saturated for the sea below it. To give you an idea what it might look like with the hue shifted towards green and away from red and the saturation dropped a bit I manipulated it in Photoshop. This is how I wish I had painted it…

I think this looked closer to what I wanted but it wasn’t there yet.

I was painting this in the last week of the Spring Term and was really tired so I was temped to leave it there, but every time I looked at the original, still taped to my board, it annoyed me. In the end, on the Thursday before the end of term I decided to do something drastic. I got a big paint brush I had bought for my son to use in painting the bathroom and used it to add a phthalo blue / ultramarine glaze over the top of everything. Then I worked the paper with water to blur much of what I had already painted. The gouache which I had used mixed with the watercolour and helped the paint to move and it really changed. In fact it really looked like a big dark mess, so much so that I went to bed in disgust!

However, today, the first day of the Easter Holiday, I saw it dry and still taped to my board. It’s amazing what eyes which have had 12 hours of sleep can do! I repainted all of the details and followed my heart’s feeling for the picture. Finally I had a painting I like!

Here is the finished picture…

Ink Dreams and October Fun

October Fun

I’ve been thinking about next month and the whole Inktober thing. Now I’d quite like to do a small ink drawing everyday for a month. I think it would be fun. But I had a look at the list of prompts for this year and didn’t relate to most of them. I prefer prompts which are more definite – nouns rather than adjectives. I guess the original list is made up of adjectives to give artists more freedom but I can’t really follow it. It’s just something which makes little sense in my autistic brain. So I decided to make a list for myself.

Here it is…

If anyone wants to use this list – feel free – no rules – no stress – just enjoy doing what you want. I suspect I’ll take more than a month to do it, or skip some when I’m too busy or too tired, but I’m not going to let that stop me having a go.

Ink Dreams

Also this week, I’ve been reading Neil Gaiman‘s Sandman Comic series. It’s really excellent! He’s a wonderfully imaginative author. I really love his character “Dream”. Dream is a quiet reflective sort of guy who occasionally seems melancholy in a modern, hipster sort of way and yet at the same time is an immortal with his own realm. The comic artists who worked on this Vertigo series were Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Jill Thompson, Shawn McManus, Marc Hempel, and Michael Zulli.

I wanted to have a go at drawing this character.

I began with a basic drawing and played around with his hair colour-wise…

However this version seemed a bit generic and Dream is definitely not generic. So I did a few more sketches…

I think the top one ended up looking more like Professor Snape than Dream!!! But I liked the bottom one. I was especially pleased with the way my Pentel Brush pen was behaving as it ran out of ink. It gave me some lovely textures to use on Dream’s coat.

Then I began a different pose in pencil…

I really liked this look where Dream’s eyes are shadowed. Here’s the same image inked…

This time I used a shading technique where you hatch the shadows but also outline them. I really like the effect it made.

Smooth Green Snake in Prismacolor

This week I worked on a small picture of a snake in my sketchbook.

I saw this great video on YouTube by MiltonCor of him drawing a brilliant realistic snake with Prismacolor pencils.

Here’s the You Tube Video…

I thought it was fabulous so I had to have a go.  I’ve not worked seriously with Prismacolor alone before although I have used them in conjunction with watercolour in the past.


I began by downloading probably about twenty Smooth Green Snake photos so I could have a good idea of what I wanted to draw.  I used different bits of different photos for my reference.  That way I could have my snake in exactly the pose I wanted.

I made a sketch and then just began trying to draw it with the Prismacolor pencils.


It was much harder work than painting because you have to press so hard to get the colour to transfer but the quality of the colour was excellent.  They really are great pencils!


Once I completed the snake I filled in the black background with black ink and a brush and then added extra highlights with a white gel pen and extra detail to the eye.

Here’s the finished picture…

I think it’s recognisably a snake and I like the colours but it’s not as realistic as I was aiming for and the shiny bits don’t work as well as I’d wanted either.  I will have to watch Milton more closely!  Still, it was great fun for such a small image and I learned a ton of things about how to use pencils effectively.




Koi Carp – Watercolour

This week I finally made it back to work!!!  I also worked on finishing a watercolour painting of a Koi Carp which I began before I was ill.  I have a really strong fascination with fish.  They just amaze and delight me.  And I think Koi are some of the most beautiful.

I used to keep fish and would like to do so again when my health is up to doing the tank maintenance properly.

Here are some of the tanks I’ve had in the past…


30 Gallon Angel Fish Aquarium


small tank inside

5 Gallon Betta Aquarium



15 Gallon Tiger Barb Planted Tank with DIY CO2.


Anyway, bakc to painting.  I had this idea for a Koi picture and I sketched it out on the PC using photoshop and my wacom drawing tablet.  I filled in some quick colours and moved things around until I had a good plan of how I wanted the picture.

Here’s the plan…



Then I got out a lovely big A3 sheet of cold pressed watercolour paper and started to sketch…



Here are some painting process photos…

I covered the fish and the flowers with masking fluid and then painted a varigated green background and added some sharp dark shadows.


I painted my rocks.  Above is the first layer – it took three to get the texture and colours I wanted.



After that I added in my foliage.  This also took several layers.

Then I cleaned off the masking fluid and began painting the fish!!!!!   Yay!!!



…But no…  My original plan was to paint the Koi in a traditional loose wet in wet watercolour style and to contrast this with a sharp tight background.  My idea was that the wet in wet technique would help the fish look below the water.  However, the masking fluid didn’t cover the paper as well as I’d hoped so I had some background colour steaks and some shadow colour streaks right across the white area where I want to paint my fish.    It was a real pain.

So I had a bit of a think and then went to plan B.  I painted several coats of white gouache over the marked paper and then used more of a gouache technique to paint the fish.  It gave it a different feel, where the Koi is surfacing temporarily, but I think I’ve ended up with something that works well enough.

Here’s the final painting…





Suzi the Teenage Dragon – Completed Original Design!

I wanted to work out a good format for painting / drawing Suzi the Teenage Dragon.  So I redrew Suzi carefully in dark pencil and scanned her in to my PC and saved the file.

Scan FInal Dragon Design Good drawing

Then I inked the pencil drawing and shaded it also in ink.  I scanned this in too.

Scan_Ink Drawing of Suzi_FIN_WEB


I wanted to make a manga version, in greyscale, with the ink drawing and a full colour version with the pencil.

With the Manga version I just coloured the picture in using greyscale and then added some shading where the ink lines asked for it.  Here’s how it turned out.

Full Manga of Suzi_FIN_WEB

To make the colour version I first cleaned the image and set up some flat colour in photoshop.

Flats_COlour Suzi

Then I opened the file in Manga Studio and coloured her mainly using watercolour paintbrushes.

Final Dragon Design Colour_WEB


However, being such a sucker for colour I then wanted to see the ink drawing line art over the colour.  So with a bit of fiddling around I managed to import the ink drawing as a layer and use the same colour on it.  This turned out to be my favourite style.  I’m going to use this method for the rest of this project, but with slightly less in the way of shading with ink.  I want to restrict the ink ‘shading’ to only indicating texture because I can shade the image easily when I colour it.

Here she is…

Suzi Ink and Colour_FIN_WEB

I feel that she’s beginning to look like a proper girly teenage dragon now.  Perfect for my story.

Aslan – the Lion of Judah

Inspired by C.S. Lewis’s wonderful Narnia books I wanted a picture of Aslan for my bedroom.  I’d been thinking of painting this for years and had a canvas all ready with the background paint on and a pencil sketch lightly over that.  Although my flat is not sorted out yet, I really wanted to paint again so, over the course of a few days as my pain is not great at the moment, I gave it a go.


First I sketched over my pencil marks witha sketch in paint  and then began to flesh out the design.

Sketching in Paint

I was thinking of using the colours for C3PO and R2D2 but it didn’t look right – the blue was too cold.

So I switched to entirely warm colours…



I gradually went over all the blue using yellows, browns and blacks.




When I added a darker brown I used a lot of red in it to warm the picture even further.  This is the finished picture…




In terms of design it’s a  bit of a departure for me – being more abstract than realistic. In a way it’s a mixtiure of the two styles I’ve worked on previously – realistic painting and contemporary abstract acrylic.  The base coat of paint for this painting was acrylic and I used gouache over the top.


This is the very first time when painting that I’ve really relaxed and found a freedom to just paint and see what happens.  I think it’s because it was on this old canvas which was I thinking of throwing out so I wasn’t worried about the cost of failing.  It was super to paint again.  I have really missed it.

Something Completely Different

Before I continue with the course I want to have a bit of freedom for a day.  I decided to paint a sunset.  I used a big round brush – new from Hobbycraft last weekend.  I decided to make it loose and strongly coloured.  However, the  brush decided to drop not one or two but nine hairs all over my painting (even though I had washed and prepared the brush properly before hand).  So in trying to get these hairs off I ruined the painting.  (That’s the first and last time I buy brushes there.)

However, I’ve seen a technique where paint is deliberately removed with newspaper to make a textured background so I thought I could use this small ‘problem-ette’ as an opportunity to try it without wasting anything if it didn’t work.

It did make quite an exciting texture although it is a bit messy and busy for my taste.  It reminded me of the “scortched earth” in various post-apocalyptic stories (I’m reading Stephen King’s “The Stand” at the moment) so I painted a dead tree and a kneeling person next to it to push the idea of things being quite broken and the picture was done.  It’s very much an experiment but at least I got something out of it.  (Plus – big bonus – my son likes the style!)


Here it is:

The Scorched Earth FIN_WEB

Little Owl – Illustration in Gouache

Yesterday on WordPress I found this lovely picture of an owl by Ashley Wolff:

Lovely Owl Card By Ashley Wolff

I love owls.  I think they are my favourite animals.  So I loooked at some owls on the web and found this beautiful “Small Owl”


This isn’t my photo.  I tracked the photo down to a number of websites but, unfortunately, couldn’t find the author.


So this is my process of illustrating this owl.





“Light Shadows and Eye Colour”


“Head Plumage”



And the finished illustration…