Designing a Motif to Represent Mother Nature 2 of 2

Last week’s art was a watercolour I made from a digital design I came up with based around the motif of the tree of life. Link to last week’s art. The idea was to celebrate my love of nature in art. This week I’m going to go over how I made a detailed digital design of the same subject based on my outline design from last week.

At first I just played around with the design, trying out different effects and seeing what I could do with my basic outline and how I might want to develop it digitally.

Here are a few of the ideas I came up with while I was still exploring what I might do…

1. Seemed to make a nice sillouette which could be used as a tattoo design but wasn’t what I wanted for my final drawing.

2. and 3. were OK but still far too simplistic. It was OK to keep this design simple when I was using watercolour because the whole point was to let the simple colours and shapes speak for themselves. With this drawing though I wanted detail.

With 4. I started to see more of the form of the tree which I liked but it was still too simple. So I decided to change the form of the trunk to make it more interesting. Like this…

And then I began to play around with some texture…

The combination of textural and contour lines inside one textural pattern worked really well. So I went on to use this over the whole tree…

Next I used shading to give more form to the tree. The shading alone looked like this…

When added to my line drawing I completed my project…

At this point my greyscale design was complete but I did spend a little while having some fun with colour after that. Here’s how it went…

I worked in photoshop 6.0 for this. I used a circular gradient across a mask to make the main colour…

…which looked like this (above) once I had balanced the greyscale and the colour approriately. (This was actually quite tricky and took a while to do.) After that I added a background and then a partially opaque white circle over the main design and it was done!

Designing A Celtic Tree Motif 1 of 2

Nature has always been really important to me. It’s why I read a mixture preclinical medicine and biology during my degree, why I paint and draw animals, plants and natural places so often, and where I go when I am in need of restoration. I wanted to design a piece of art which captured this feeling and could be used repeatedly in many places as an icon or symbol for these experiences.

I thought a tree would be the perfect subject for this particular project and I was drawn to the motif from many cultures of the “Tree of Life”. I love the way that a tree in this style is shown as part of a circle which links very much with the way nature comes and goes in cycles. I also love tree of life symbols which incorporate celtic knotwork into them. I have found it hard to discover the real history of this kind of knotwork as much of it has been repurposed as marketing for various modern jewllery and tattoo designs. Personally I see, in this pattern, ideas about interweaving the varied threads of life and mutual dependance among living organisms.

At first I began playing with this idea in my sketchbook…

…but soon moved across to a digital drawing board since I wanted a largely symmetrical design and could use the symmetry tool to design this really effectively. (This is a digital tool which will reproduce the mirror image of what you draw on the other side of a line of symmetry.)

I began, as always, thinking about the large shapes in my design…

Next I moved onto my own knotwork design. I alluded to this style rather than implented it more fully so that my tree still looked very tree-like but with strong overtones of knotwork in it. So each branch weaves through others but is only joined to them at the trunk. I planned the knotwork first using single lines so I could get a feel for the pattern that I wanted. I went through several iterations of this and finally found something I liked…

I really liked the way the top of the tree has a hint of a large lotus flower in the way the branches are placed.

Like this (in orange)…

Once I had a pattern that I liked I moved on to roughing in some branches and roots…

Once I removed my blue guidelines this looked like this…

My next stage was to redraw my line art neatly and put in a balanced set of crossovers in the knotwork effect. This is taken part way through when I had done a lot of the roots and was working on the branches…

Then I added some leaves, but this decentred the picture…

…so I got rid of my original outer circle and put in two new ones. My basic outline design was now finished…

From here I wanted to make two different pieces of art. The first was a gradient wash of watercolour in some iconically natural colours. The other was a detailed digital design possibly one in greyscale and one in colour. This week I’ll go over the watercolour work.

Watercolour

The first part of this painting was getting my digital design onto some watercolour paper.

I printed out the design on two sheets of A4, with just over half of the tree on each side. The using scissors and sellotape I made an A3 copy. Then I used an 8B pencil to rub all over the back of every line in my design. That done, I fixed it with masking tape to some A3 Watercolour paper and I was ready to transfer my image…

I went over the lines of my design with a hard pencil until I had redrawn the whole thing. Once I lifted up my copy paper I had a light imprint of my design to work with…

It had some darker bits where the pencil had bumped against the sellotape but it worked. I then went over this with a pencil and used a putty eraser to get rid of any rough work like this.

Finally I had my design on A3 watercolour paper!

My next job was to hash out how I wanted to do the colour. Here’s one of a few trials I made on copy paper to see what worked…

Eventually I decided on going from dark paynes grey with ultramarine, through a range of greens to a cadmium yellow deep at the tips of the leaves.

So I began to paint…

The painting was simple but demanding in the sense that mistakes couldn’t be rectified. It gave me a lovely period of intense concentration and then it was finished…

I am fairly pleased with how it turned out. I like the colour changes and the patterns and lines. If I had to pick something to work on I would paint the wash differently. Normally I paint a wash wet in wet and the watercolour almost takes care of itself. With this, because the lines were so thin and I wanted some really intense colour, I painted it wet on dry and just tried to move fast enough to mix the colours on the paper. I think taking my time and doing a few layers to build up the colour wet in wet might have given me a better result (although the final painting looks much smoother and more consistent than the photograph above).

Next week I’m going to take the outline I designed and use it to make a textured digital symbol in grey scale and in colour.

The Shield Knot

A while ago I did some more carving.  I had some mahogany offcuts from a local timber yard and decided to make a family present from one of them.  I drew a shield knot onto the wood and then carved it out.  I used the same tools as I used for the Wand last Friday – but no Dremel.

tools

The carving took over a week but was incredibly relaxing to do.  I really enjoyed it.  Once I had the carving work done I painted the carved areas with a dark brown acrylic paint, to make it really stand out, and then varnished the whole thing.

Here’s the finished work:

Shield Knot Carving1_WEB

And here’s a close up:

Shield Knot Carving2_web