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!

Little Acorns

 

This is a small pencil sketch of some oak leaves and their little acorns.  It was done with Fabre-Castell watercolour pencils and a small watercolour brush.  I wanted to see how small I could go and still put in some textural detail in the acorn cups.  The actual drawing is two and a half inches across.

Here’s a slightly enlarged photo of the drawing…

Simple Leaves

This week I gave myself a challenge. I wanted to paint some simple but beautifully shaped leaves, using only green hues (although I allowed myself to use any colour I liked to mix the greens). I wanted to do this in my watercolour sketchbook which is only 21cm x 13 cm, but still put in as much detail as I could. I really enjoy working on details so, since I’m now in the middle of the summer holidays, I just gave myself all the time I wanted to finish the picture. It was bliss!

I began with a drawing from a photo reference of a Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera deliciosa). It’s a tropical plant native to Central America…

Then I masked out the stem and main veins so I could work around them more easily…

Next I did a variegated wash over each leaf using a mix of sap green and Windsor yellow for the light green areas and sap green and viridian for the darker areas. Here’s how the wash turned out…

Next I used a darker green shade made with Payne’s grey, viridian and Windsor green to add a series of lines across the leaves. I blended these with the two previous colours I’d made to allow them to get lighter but still be visible.. Next, I removed my mask and painted the main veins and stalks and corrected a couple of masking errors. Finally I gave the leaves a small amount of thickness which would show particularly at the edges and where the leaf has natural holes. Finally I used a damp piece of kitchen towel to wet the lighter bits of the leaves and then used a dry piece of towel to remove a little colour. This was to try to give the leaf a very subtle sheen.

Here’s the final painting…

It was so relaxing to paint this simple subject; with lots of careful, repetitive details I enjoyed it tremendously.

I was also entertained while painting this by the antics of the newest member of our family – a gorgeous, 9 week old, Ragdoll cross kitten, called Leia (after George Lucas’ Princess Leia of course!). She was mostly exploring the sofa and kept trying to climb up the back cushions, appearing for an instant, and then jumping down onto the cushions. She’s so lovely!

Here she is…

Caterpillar in ink and watercolour

 

I had some more fun this week with ink and watercolour.  My subject was a little lime green caterpillar.  I think there’s something magical in the way tiny little life forms like this have their own ways, life-cycles and patterns of movement.  When I saw the reference photo for this it looked to me like the little guy was praying!

I worked on this over several days as my pain has been bad again.  I started with a pencil sketch which I helpfully forgot to photograph.  Then I inked the pencils.  Rather than drawing regular width cartoon style ink lines I used my 0.5 micron pen like I would a pencil and sketched the picture in.  It was quite fun because the end of the nib is slightly flat so if I use it at an angle I can get really thin lines from a fairly heavy pen.

Here’s the ink sketch…

 

 

Then I began painting the background.  I considered using gouach to get a nice plain flat colour but decided to play around with watercolour again.  Instead of going for a flat look I used a really textured brush stroke pattern.  At first it looked kind of weak…

 

 

But as I added more layers it got more depth…

 

 

I wanted it really dark so that I could shadow my main subject without losing too much in the way of contrast.  Finally I painted the caterpillar in my usual style.  Here’s the final picture…

 

An Easy Digital Colouring Process

This week I worked on a number of smaller images in my sketchbook and started a bigger project.  The smaller images were in ink and pencil…

 

[Pencil on paper]

 

 

[Ink on paper]

 

[Ink on paper]

(NB:  The Drawing is my own but the character ‘Strontium Dog’  (aka Johnny Alpha) belongs to 2000AD (Rebellion) and the art style I used was my own version of Carlos Ezquerra’s brilliant work.)

Then I coloured them digitally.  I thought it would be fun to go through the basic colouring process I use with the gecko picture as an example.

(1) I start by scanning in the art work and cleaning any scanning artifacts (I always get one which is irritating).  I also do a general clean up of the image and adjust the curves and levels if it’s needed.  I usually do this bit in photoshop.

(2) Then I save the cleaned image and open it in Manga Studio 5.

(3) My next big job is to put in the ‘flat colour’.  Basically this process involves colouring every pixel of the drawing in flat solid colour with no anti-aliasing, shading or anything else – just flat blobs of colour right up next to each other.  I tend to use colours similar to those I want to use in the final product but you don’t have to.

So here, I’m putting in the flat colour for the first few leaves…

To combine the colour with the line art like this I put the line art in the top layer and set that layer to ‘multiply’.  Then I paint my flat colour in the layer below.

Here’s a bit more flatting done…

(Here you can see I’ve accidentally painted the flower properly with final colours in the flatting layer.  I could have wiped it all out and made it white but I knew there wasn’t much I wanted to do with that part of the picture so I left it.)

Generally I paint the flats using the polygon selector with anti-aliasing off so I get a clear division of one colour or the other with nothing in between.  Once I’ve selected my area I just fill it with solid colour.

Finally when all the flat colour is done it looks like this (without the linework on top of it)…

 

So with the linework we’ve now got to this…

 

I really love flatting images, I find it repetative but nice and it makes me feel relaxed.

(4) Next I complete the detailed colour and shading for each flat area.  This is where the real digital painting starts and I find in a lot of ways I can paint in my PC just like I paint on a canvas.  I can’t always get the same effects digitally but I do have the advantage of the back button which will undo my last few changes – I wish I had that on paper sometimes!

Here’s the painting done for the leaves but not yet the gecko…

And here’s the desktop with the gecko painted fully too…

 

(5) Finally I put on any borders I need and save the fullsize image, then reduce the size for the web and it’s ready to go.

Here are my final coloured pictures…