Day 103 to 109 – Hands, hearts and music.

I began this week with an exercise on drawing hands from Mark Crlley’s Manga book…

manga books crilley


So here are my sketches…


I discovered that I really like drawing hands – they are such interesting objects with so many patterns and shapes that they can be in!

Then I gave them some shading in pencil and then added colour using a three shade cell animation style.  I worked at using a different skin tone for each hand which made it fun…


Looking at them now I can see some errors and mistakes I would like to draw better next time, but they do look more like hands than bananas so I’m OK with them generally.

Then I decided to use some of this ‘hand work’ to sketch a picture of my son playing guitar…




Drawing his real hands was much harder than drawing the hands from Mark’s book!  I had a good go at it thought and then inked my sketch and shaded it with some greyscale markers.  Once I got it scanned it, at first I played around with the music notes and added colour to them…



But, despite adding a drop shadow and trying a number of other things too I couldn’t get the contrast I wanted on them so I reverted for my final image to the scan…




The next day I was kicking back watching ‘Tattoo Fixers’ (a UK TV show about doing Tattoo Cover-ups – it’s a bit of a favourite in our place) and I saw one of them design an artificial something – I think it was a heart.  Anyway, I thought it was a great idea for a drawing so I began to make up my own artificial heart.

I began by sketching a real heart really lightly from a textbook I’ve got at home and then replaced each part with something artificial.

Here’s my final work from my sketchbook…


I used ink and pencil to create this.  I still thought it was a bit boring though so I added a background and colourised the ink/pencil drawing…


I think this has managed to make an interesting picture but I think I failed to really match the background well to my foreground image.  It just doesn’t tie in properly and loses impact because of that.  Ho hum – you can’t win them all.

Post Script:

I looked at this again today, after it was published and thought of some ways I could improve the coherance of the artificial heart picture.  I had a quick play around in photoshop and this is what I came up with.  I think it’s slightly better but I might be trying to make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear!  LOL


I used colours from the background in the foreground image and then added some filters to both to tie them in.

Days 90 to 95 – Inspiration from artists I really admire.

This week I worked on two projects.  The first was to make a study of a full page piece from a Manga artist I really like (Makoto Yukimura) and the second was to work on a picture of my own design but in the style of a German artist I really like (Iraville).


The Manga I’m enjoying so much at the moment is called Planetes


It’s written and drawn by a super artist and storyteller – Makoto Yukimura.

Here he is…


The story is written as a slice-of-life take on hard science fiction – it’s fabulous!  The characters are complex and very accessible, the science is excellent and there are some great funny bits in it too which had me laughing out loud.

One of my favourite stories is when one of the main characters, Fee,  goes off duty in a space station and wants cigarette.  However a terrorist organisation is blowing up the smoking rooms in space.  The story chronicles her quest to have a quiet smoke.  (It’s the 3rd story arc in book one.)

The idea of an astronaut who smokes  really captured my imagination.

For this story Makoto Yukimura drew a full page of Fee smoking in her space suit.  I made a study of this brilliant image.  I find when I try to work in another artist’s style or work on reproducing one of their pictures as a study I get much more of a feeling for their work than from just looking at it.  It kind of takes me deeply into it – really close.  I love that feeling of studying every detail of something, especially something I find beautiful.

Here’s my sketch  (on the right) of Makoto Yukimura’s original picture (on the left) in my sketchbook.



Once I’d finished the sketch I tidied up my line work, inked it and added some grey ink to give it some tone.  The grey ink was waterbased so doesn’t go down as smoothly as the alcohol based stuff but I did the best I could with it.  (I have finally broken down and ordered some grey W&N brush markers and a blender pen.  Hopefully this will make my traditionally inked tones better in future.)

Here’s the finished study of Makoto Yukimura’s inspiring work…(Again Yukimura’s brilliant original work is on the left.)




The second artist I studied this week is Ira Sluyterman van Langeweyde (Iraville), a german illustrator and character designer from Munich.  She has a beautiful YouTube channel here:

Iraville’s YouTube Channel

Iraville uses watercolour to colour these beautiful stylised images.  Her style is, as far as I can tell from a quick internet search, completely unique.  Here’s an example of one of her pictures…

Iraville’s beautiful original watercolour painting style.

I wanted my picture in her style to be of a turtle carrying a small patch of nature around on his back.  As part of the nature I wanted to have a little orange fox.

Here’s my sketch – outlined in black ink and coloured with prismacolor pencils…



Then I drew it again on watercolour paper and coloured it with my Winsor and Newton Artist’s Watercolours.  Here’s the final picture…(it actually has no blue in it but the scanner seemed to try to balance the picture and added blue which kind of reduces the vibrancy a bit.  I tried to sort it out in photoshop but without success.)


I think it’s possible to see Iraville’s influence in the painting quite strongly but I just can’t paint like she does.  Somehow it comes out different.  I like the way it turned out though.  One of the things which really worked for me on this one was the colour – it was one of those little break-through moments.  I have really been struggling with colouring things even slightly decently but this one doesn’t look so bad.  Perhaps I am finally beginning to understand how colour works?     🙂





Days 71 to 72 – Facial Expressions, Encoding and Autism 2#2

My next plan was to make my own facial expression drawings based on Mark Crilley’s guidance but using my own made up Manga character.

Also, while working on this I was reading the early chapters of ‘Bakuman’ – a Manga series about two lads who decide to become Manga creators.

Bakuman Manga Cover
“Bakuman Manga Cover”

I got to the bit where the artist in the pair decides to work with nothing but a G-pen (which is a kind of dip pen with a nib very commonly used in manga called a G-nib.)  I thought this would be really cool to try.  So I had a dig around and found an old Italian dip pen and a flexible calligraphy nib which works well and very much like a G-nib.  Then I drew the sketches on Bristol Board (because the ‘Calli’ Calligraphy ink I’m using bleeds around each line in my notebook) and inked them with the dip pen.

This is my dip pen …


But the nib I’m using is not the one which came with this pen, it’s a modern calligraphy nib very similar to a G-nib…



At first it was really difficult to use the dip pen.  Line pressure needed to be controlled as well as direction.  My lines were noticably wobbly, they didn’t have a good shape and they took ages to dry.  Lucky for me there were twleve pictures to do, so I managed to have a good practice.

Here are the results…

Set one…



Here’s set two…



And here are the last four…



By the end of it I beginning to find my way into occasional good lines.  Even though I’m only beginning with this, I prefer the look of the dip pen lines to the multiliner.  The biggest problem I had overall with this method was that they took 2-3 hours to dry where the lines were thick.

Here’s a picture of the wet ink…



At the moment I can only really tell the following facial expressions – OK (plain face), angry (shouting), sad(crying) and happy(laughing).   I was going to look into the ones depicted rather simplistically in manga to see if I can learn to recognise a few more in real life.  However I’ve since found out that, for instance, the confused manga look isn’t that close to what most people do on their face when they are actually confused in life.  So I’ll just go on enjoying manga!


Days 69 to 70 – Facial Expressions, Encoding and Autism 1#2

So in the last few days I’ve been working on drawing facial expressions in manga.   It’s something I’ve been avoiding for years.  When I paint or draw people I like to draw them with a plain face – no particular expression.  If I can,  I prefer even more to paint people with masks on.  This is because  (1) I think masks are really cool and (2) I don’t have to engage with any facial expressions at all.

Facial expressions are one of those things which I find really confusing because of the autism.  I can’t decode what all of them mean, especially at the time.  If I could constantly record the expressions people make and then go back and analyse what I see with the help of someone who can read this stuff, I think I could come up with an algorhythm to predict facial expressions, but I can’t record people like that.


To learn other bits of social interaction I have in the past recorded many complete series’ of an Australian programme called ‘Nothing to Declare’.  It’s about the Aussie border protection services.  I have used this programme to learn a lot about social interaction.  I like it because the customs chaps say straight-out what they see in a person’s behaviour and what that means to them.  They also model an assertive but fair and compassionate approach to interaction which fits with my faith and values.  Once they’ve explained a bit of behaviour and ‘decoded’ it for me I can spin the recording back a bit and watch it over and over until I can remember it.  Then when I see behaviour that fits what the customs people described, I can think about using some of their responses.  It has helped me to deal with more difficult situations a bit better.


manga books crilley


So, anyway,  given all of this, I certainly felt a certain amount of trepidation in trying to draw twelve different facial expressions.  Firstly I drew the 12 expressions which Mark Crilley has in his first ‘How to Draw Manga book’  (it’s the book on the left in the picture above.)

Here are the pictures:



I drew them in pencil, then inked them with my multiliners and then added shading in pencil.


Days 66 and 67 – Steampunk on the Thames

I’ve been playing around with steampunk on an off for a couple of days in the last few weks.  This is the picture I was working up to making.  It’s still not perfect but it’s beginning to be more like I want it to be.

Here are the sketch and ink drawings…





Then I coloured it in Manga Studio 5…


I am pretty pleased with the final result although, for my taste it could be a bit more gnarly and less smooth.  I think if I’d shaded it in pencil and then done some digital colour on top that would have helped a lot.  (I think I was seduced by the purity of the black ink on the white paper and didn’t want to touch it.)


For anyone who’s interested, I took some process screen prints of my digital colouring…

I've put in some sky and water and a bit of the base colour for the embankment.
I’ve put in some sky and water and a bit of the base colour for the embankment.



I’ve added some colour for the Houses of Parliment across the river.



More work on the background. I am trying to keep the colours and tones a bit muted to make the foreground stand out.



Background complete.



Finished the hat.



Done the coat and mechanical bird.


And here’s the finished image again…


Days 57 and 58 – Hooded Manga Man – Watercolour Vs Digital Colour

Originally, all I wanted to draw in this image was a man in a hooded robe.  Inevitably, for me,  he turned into a Jedi!

So here’s my lineart…


Originally I planned to paint this in watercolour.  My first draft of the watercolour looked weak and uneven…


So I painted over it with a second layer – evening out the colour and generally trying to save the picture.  He’s how the second draft looked…


It still wasn’t how I wanted it to be, so I coloured it in Manga Studio.  I think it’s better coloured digitally, even though I rushed the digital colour work in about 20 minutes.  I just have to work harder and practice more with watercolour I think.  Here’s the final digital picture…


Days 53 and 54 – More Mark Crilley Manga Practice

Over thess two days I practiced some more Manga poses from Mark Crilley’s ‘How to Draw Manga’ books…


So these sketches were done in pencil and then inked.  Then I shaded the inked pictures to give the figures a bit more form.

Next I scanned and coloured my images in Manga Studio…



For a change this time I blended my colours rather than using cell shading.

Days 51 and 52 – An Experiment with Watercolour in Manga

So today I had a go at painting a couple of manga ink sketches I’d done in my notebook with watercolour.  The sketches were based on one of Mark Crilley’s Manga books.

The paper really struggled to take the watercolour especially when I was trying to do a wet on wet wash.

Here are the images…



Then I took an old discarded manga ink drawing I’d done before.  I’d not bothered with it because I’d drawn the girl with her face turned away and mostly hidden by hair and I don’t think the way I did that worked very well – it made her face look odd.

Then, since it was on a stronger paper, I had a quick go at colouring it with watercolour.  I started out laying down gradients of colour, wet on wet as a kind of background for each part of the drawing.  Then I painted wet on dry to get some clearer details and cell shading type shadows.



Although the initial drawing is a bit faulty I’m happy with this attempt at using watercolour.  It will take some work but I think I could learn to using this medium well for colouring comics / manga if I dedicate myself to it.  I think it looks better than digital colour – has more interest and texture.


Days 38 to 40 – Love and Hate

Over the last three days I’ve been working on using the new style I’ve developed in a manga drawing.  I was looking through Mark Crilley’s Manga books…

manga books crilley

…and decided to draw some human poses.  Because they were on consecutive pages in the book I decided to do the kissing and fighting drawings and use them in an overall digital image of Love and Hate.  Here’s the ink line work with pencil shading…


I must stress that this is not original work, I am following Mark Crilley’s tutorial for these two images.  I added the chinese characters and gave it my own twist in the inking but it is Crilley’s design.

Then I coloured them using three level cell shading – a mid colour and a light and darker shade of each mid colour I was using.

Here are the foregrounds finished…



Then finally, I added a background.  (In fact I drew two backgrounds and my son chose this one.)  Because the background was quite dark I punched up the Chinese characters with a drop shadow but in white to make them stand out.


I am feeling really comfortable with this approach to manga art now, at least in terms of the foreground -ink and pencil with three cell digital colouring over the top.

I once saw a Japanese animated film (Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker) which used 3 cell or even 2 cell shading for the foreground and then a more painterly style for the background.  I totally loved it.  I am wondering about trying that approach for backgrounds myself?