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…

Line and Wash – Badger Cub

This week’s painting was done using the line and wash technique. It was of a cute little badger cub, transfixed by a bumble bee! Being a true Hufflepuff, I love badgers! They’re a very grounded animal. I just love their dirt snuffling ways!

I’m afraid I had a difficult week with my health, so this was quite a quick little sketch. I began in pencil then added some ink outlines and then inked all of his fur, like this…

Once the inks were completed I washed over my picture with watercolours to add a little more depth. Here’s the final painting…

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 #3 – The second half of a larger line and wash painting

I have been experimenting for some time in my artwork, trying to find a way to tone ink drawings traditionally. This week I have toned an ink drawing of a Larger Pacific Striped Octopus with black watercolour. Initially I was thinking of either using charcoal or watercolour over my ink. It was really hard to make up my mind without trying it out, so on some scrap paper I had a quick go of both methods. Here are the results of my experiments…

(Charcoal)
(Watercolour)

I decided to go with the watercolour in the end. It took more time and was not removable like the charcoal, but I liked the level of control had with watercolour and the depth of colour I could generate.

I began with a few basic washes…

Then I added some mild shadows to the light coloured sand. To do this I put on a wash of clear water and then dropped in black watercolour at the top of each wet section and allowed it to “stretch out” naturally.

Once this was done I began the painstaking work of putting in the details. Because the original ink drawing was A3, this took quite some time, but it was very enjoyable.

Here is the final line and wash drawing…

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…

 

A Fantasy Firebug

I was looking through Wikipedia at various invertebrates when I came across the Firebug (Pyrrhocoris apterus). Here is a link to the page. I really liked it’s striking colours and decided to make a sketch…

At first I planned to use the real bug as a basis for a more fanciful “line and wash” painting. I began this by adding the kind of comb like antennae which are usually found on moths. Once that was done I had a go at adding similar patterned protrusions to parts of the creature’s legs but this seemed to unbalance the picture and I worried that they might reduce the striking nature of the colours later on, so I rubbed them out and just kept the moth antennae.

Next I made a simple ink outline drawing…

After that I went over this in detail as if I were making an ink drawing…

My final step was to paint the wings and body with watercolour and then touch up the black once the paint was dry.

Here’s the final image (I added a shadow in photoshop)…

I like the final picture but feel a bit sad that I didn’t find more fantasy changes to make to my insect. Sometimes I just get caught by the weirdness of reality!

The Fae

A while ago I watched the TV series Carnival Row on Amazon Prime. I loved it. Travis Beacham’s story and world was fresh, different and beautifully crafted. I was totally blow away by it. It’s set in a Victorian world where mythical races, collectively called “The Fae”, have been discovered. They include pucks, faeries, kobolds and centaurs. It is wonderfully done. Having watched the series, twice, I felt inspired to paint my own faerie. Last time I posted about this I got to the stage where I’d played around with the the idea and drawn some quick thumbnails.

From there I made a basic sketch of the pose I’d decided on…

Next I used this as a reference for a more careful drawing to use in my final painting…

Then I began to paint. I added a yellow wash with more pigment around the area where my sun was going to be and less elsewhere. (The yellow is a bit stronger on the actual painting than in this photo. I think my camera noticed that I was taking a photo under artificial light and corrected the white balance a bit too far..) Here’s the photo…

Then I painted my larger areas with some initial colour. For the wings I began with a light ultramarine wash with a tiny bit of viridian in it. I tried to keep it light enough that some of the sun colour would show through. Here’s this stage…

Now I wasn’t happy with the brown trousers she is wearing (above) so I reworked them into a blue. It gave me a really nice shade. I see brown as just a darker version of orange so I used that information to help me mix a new blue on the page. Once that was done I added some shading for all of the main colours and shapes and then got into the details – always my favourite part!!!

Here’s the final picture…

(PS: I’ve been unwell this week with a bug going doing the rounds at school. Apologies for any typographical errors etc. Although I wrote this post weeks ago I normally do a final editorial check before publication, however I haven’t been able to do that this week.)

The Fae

I had a slow start to art this week.  I’m still feeling quite weak from being ill and I had to concentrate mainly on work.  I did, however, watch a lot of a new TV show on Amazon called Carnival Row.

(Official Amazon Carnival Row Poster.)

It was the best TV I’ve watched in years!  I just loved the sparklingly new idea behind this series.  So much of Hollywood follows the same well worn path to the same formulaic stories.  It’s like a breath of fresh air to have newer video productions from people like Amazon (and Netflix) producing genuinely new stories and going in new directions.  From my point of view these guys are leaving Hollywood in the dust.  The script was written by an American Screenwriter called Travis Beacham.  It’s original title was  “A Killing on Carnival Row” but I guess they changed it to “Carnival Row” so that if the series takes off they can generate further stories.

I think I was really taken by the idea of the Fae – the fairies, the pucks, the centaurs – the creatures of legend brought into a gritty victorian, industrial reality.  I loved the subtext about the fight between nature and industry, between freedom and social convention and the views of different peoples on each other’s ways of life.

So I decided to make a larger (A3) ink drawing of a fairy and then colour it with just a touch of watercolour.  I began by making some thumbnail sketches.  This helps me get an idea of what I want to draw and organise my inspiration into a composition.  I used a wide range of reference, from standard face shots of models to ballerinas, to women diving in competition to get some ideas of how I could arrange my fairy on the page.

Here are the thumbnails – they are blown up to double the original size…

 

I really like the simplicity of the first one but it seems too static for a being who can fly.  The second one is a better pose in terms of movement but needs to have her wings above her body for it to really work.  The third is a classic ballet pose but looks too refined and restricted for a fae.

I’m going to have to think about this some more.  It will come with time.  🙂

 

 

PS:  I had some “help” today from my kitten, Leia, while writing this…

She came up with some good stuff…

 

 

Jurassic Line and Wash

This week I made a couple of ink drawings of Jurassic animals – the classic T-Rex in a running pose, and a drawing of Dimetrodon, which was a mammal-like reptile from the clade Synapsida.  I used basic shapes initially to get the general mass of each animal right and then refined each shape towards my reference.  Once I had a basic pencil drawing I switched over to my ink pens to finish the drawings properly.

Here are the two ink drawings…

 

 

Then I had a go at putting a watercolour wash over the top of my ink.  This was really fun to do…

Here are the final pictures…