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.

October Ink Drawings – Days 1 and 2

I’m doing my own version of Inktober this year. I decided to make up my own prompts because the official ones seemed quite confusing to my autistic brain. They were adjectives rather than nouns. I prefer nouns. So here’s my list of prompts…

Because I have a chronic pain condition I decided to let the challenge continue for as long as I need but I will, eventually, make a drawing for each day in Ocotober.

So my first 2 were River and Bird. Here are the ink drawings…

The river one made me feel really calm while I drew it, despite the fact that it was drawn in those few spare minutes before school and at lunchtime while I was at work. I think the experience I have of fishing and boating on rivers and lakes brings calmness into the picture.

Being next to a body of water has always been like going home for me. When I was a child it was Toddbrook, the small stream near where I lived. As a teenager it was the gravel pit lakes where I sailed dinghies twice a week come hell or high water. Now it’s a mixture of the Norfolk Broads and all the lakes and rivers I fish regularly.

I used my Pigma Micron pens for most of this drawing.

And then added some greyscale using a Pentel water brush pen filled with a mixture of ink and water. This is what my water brush pen looks like…

My next ink drawing was of a Raven…

As I was driving to work this week BBC Radio 4 reviewed a book about the Ravens in the Tower of London. It really caught my heart and led to this picture. The book is called “The Ravenmaster” and it’s by Christopher Skaife. It’s all about his relationships with the Tower Ravens.

I don’t know if this is an autistic thing or just a general human thing but I find communication with animals much easier than with people. Dogs would be top of my list but most animals I find easier to deal with than people. So I was very interested.

I also remember an experience in a town centre where I met the scruffiest crow in the world. He was fabulous. His feathers were a mess, he hopped on only one leg and he metaphorically fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. But he was smart and bright and interested in everything. I saw him watching me eat my slice of bread pudding. As I walked past he kind of begged, hopping comically next to me as I walked along. So I stopped and gave him a little. Not too much obviously because it was bread pudding which is pure gold on my scale of brilliant foods. Then he began to beg in earnest. He bobbed his head, hopped from side to side and generally made a huge fuss which I think indicated that he liked bread pudding as much as me. So I gave up, sat down and shared it with him.

Next week, Dinosaurs and Computers… 🙂

The Shape of Light on Water #2


This is another painting I attempted in my work towards learning how to paint water.

I saw a great video on YouTube by a really good watercolourist called Steven Cronin.  (Here is his channel.)

This is his video:


I thought I would try to follow his technique and see if I could paint a version of the same thing.  Please note this was just a study to help me learn how to do it.

His painting was using only one colour – a mix of blue and payne’s grey.  But I wanted to add a colour for the light rather than just relying on the white of the paper.  So I added a yellow.

Here’s my version:


I couldn’t quite get it like Steven Cronin’s picture  – I don’t have his control of paint from a big brush.  To try to work around this I made a few changes to the way I painted it.  I used a wet on dry technique after the wet on wet phase to give sharper edges to the hills around the lake and I used a wet brush on the almost dry forground to pull out some shadow reflections.   All of that said, I think it does bear a likeness to Steven’s work and I can read the image as a picture of water.  So that’s a step forward!

Thanks Steven!!!


The Shape of Light on Water #1


I’ve been unwell for a few weeks.  Up until now my posts have been already written and scheduled weeks before they were published so it’s all worked automatically.  However now I have run out.  I am feeling better but I’m still waiting to see if my doctor will give me an operation so I’m not up to much in the way of painting.  (I was too ill for the surgery I was due to have earlier this week.)

So I’m going to post some stuff this week from last summer when I was inspired by a beautiful holiday on a boat in Norfolk.  None of the following pictures are really finished works – instead it’s a record of my progress in trying to paint water.

I became fascinated with the shape of water and the way light reflects from it while we were on the boat.  But, try as I might, I found water very diffcult to draw.  At first I couldn’t even really see clearly what I was looking at because it was moving and changing all the time.  So I studied still photos of bodies of water and tried to see the pattern.

My first go at painting this was fairly poor…



It seems to me that my boat is sailing on some gently rippling cotton material rather than water!  The gold paint was my attempt to salvage the painting, with little success.

Then I had a go with pencils.  I used Faber Castell Aquarelles.  With this picture I was looking to simplify the patterns I could see in my photographs so I limited myself to three colours.



I lost control of the blues in places and they’ve kind of leaked into the other colours.  I’m not sure if this worked with or against the likeness of water but either way I didn’t like it.  So I next decided to try the same picture again using gouache paint where I could be stronger with my colour boundaries…



In this picture for the first time I could see something of a likeness to water despite it being quite sylised.

Progress – hooray!


Next week I’ve got another painting on the same theme of water where I followed a tutorial / demo from a guy called Steve Cronin on YouTube.


The Dark Forest Lake – Ink on A3 Paper

This has taken about 4 hours and was done over three days.  It’s my first ever A3 Ink drawing.  I was inspired originally by the dark forest picture on pottermore.  At the time I was refining my ability to draw trees and these creepy bent, mostly dead trees seemed perfect.  It took a lot of patience as there’s lots of paper to cover but I loved doing it.  The chance to draw some better detail was wonderful.  I already have an idea for my next A3 Ink drawing.

Anyway, here it is…


(Click for a larger version)

Also, please note I’m not able to find my good camera at the moment so this photo was taken with my phone.  It has lost the most detailed parts of the image – the surface of the water and some of the other fine lines.

Here is my sketch from early on…


And here is the piece halfway through…