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!

Snowdrop Sketch

Just a quick 10 minute watercolour sketch this week – some January snowdrops!

 

 

 

Orca

This week I painted a pair of orcas, a mother and her calf.

Here is my initial drawing design which I did on cartridge paper.  Initially I was going to make this a pen and ink drawing but I decided to paint it at the last minute….

 

Once I was happy with my drawing I masked out the white bits of the whales and went off to visit family for the afternoon while the masking fluid dried…

However, when I got back, and looked at the drawing carefully, I saw this…

They are scratches from my little kitty-cat, Leia.  I shouldn’t have been surprised really.  Despite being free to sit anywhere, she chooses to sit in various choice spots like…

…on my black work trousers, or…

…on the book I’m currently reading…

… in front of my PC monitor…

 

…and, more recently, on the clothes airer.  I think it is her life’s mission to cover everything of mine in little white kitten hairs!

 

Anyway, I decided to go ahead with the painting despite her best efforts.

I began by doing a couple of quick thumbnail sketches to give myself some idea of my colours.

I knew I wanted a restricted palette but wasn’t sure what colour scheme to use.  I decided on a variation of the left thumbnail.

First I put on some basic watercolour washes in Payne’s Grey and French Ultramarine.  I added some yellow for the sunshine and merged this in…

 

Next I used a similar blue mixture but with more Payne’s Grey and less ultramarine to put in the idea of some rocky land.  I painted the sun in Winsor Yellow with some Cadmium Yellow Deep and added a few reflections.

 

Finally I began to work on the more specific details and finished the painting…

 

I quite like the finished picture but it lacks precision.  I also think I could have managed my watercolour gradients better and more evenly.  I think I might have another go at this one sometime using proper watercolour paper and taking more time and care with the execution of each wash.

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.)

Grey and Yellow Cockatiel

 

This week I painted a bird.  It’s a grey and yellow cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus).  It’s a popular pet which is native to Australia.

I began with a sketch…

 

Then I gave it a blotchy background and laid down a basic lemon wash on the bird…

 

Then I put in all of the basic large scale colours and tones as a basis for the detail I was planning next…

 

Finally I got to the details and dived right in.  Once I was most of the way there with the finer work I could see how my background didn’t give the painting enough contrast so I darkened the whole thing right down.  Lastly, I finished off the edges.

Here’s the final painting…

 

 

I really enjoyed painting the eye, beak and other facial features of this little bird.  I used more gouache techniques on these parts and more watercolour on the plummage.  The feathers were the most difficult part, especially the feathers on the top of the head.  This is the weakest part of the painting in my opinion.  The only reference I had for the head feathers was a bit too small to use effectively.  However, it’s something I only realised with hindsight!

 

PS:  I’m having some issues with my health at the moment so I apologise if I’m a little late getting back to anyone.  Also, this is the last of my summer holiday paintings and I’ve not been able to paint for a while so I might not be able to put a post up next week but I will get back to it as soon as I am able.

The Dawn Wall

 

This is a painting I’ve been working on for a while.  It’s quite large (A3) and went through a lot of iterations before it was finally complete.

I first came across this particular rockface while watching some climbing videos.  The first was about a couple of climbers climbing a particular route on the rock face El Capitan in the US.  The section they climbed is called “The Dawn Wall”.  Then I watched the amazing Alex Honnold, in another video, climb the whole thing, free solo.  It was extraordinary!  My hands kept breaking out into a sweat just watching that chap.  Later the same week I was looking at some more beautiful woodblock prints from Japan.  I looked through a lot of Yoshida’s work and came across this beautiful print he made of El Capitan…

By Horoshi Yoshida, 1925

It just blew my mind.  If I were rich I would attempt to get an original copy of this.  I find it really beautiful.  Having seen this I made a couple of sketches of El Cap using photo reference…

 

I liked the feel of this sketch, so rather than sketching it again I decided to enlarge and transfer the sketch onto my watercolour paper.

  • First I scanned in my image and then printed it out 141% larger so it would fit to A3 paper.  Because my printer will only do A4 I printed 2 sections and then joined them like this…

  • Next I used a nice dark pencil to cover the back of the paper with graphite…

 

  • Then I got my Arches paper and laid the sketch over the paper and drew over my lines.  This marked the watercolour paper very lightly with my sketch…

 

Then I began to paint.  I began with a watercolour sky…

 

Then I blocked in some of the main light and dark areas on the rock face…

I built this up until I had a basic underpainting…

Then I began to layer on my gouache.  I thought the contrast between a hazy watercolour sky and the clear and definite strokes of gouache would make the rock seem harder.

After the first wash with gouache the painting looked like this…

 

Then I did the bulk of the actual painting – all the medium level tones

and colours…

 

Then I was ready for my favourite bit – the details.  Here’s the final painting…

 

 

Quakers

I have been associated with the Quakers in the UK on and off since I was in my early 20’s. I went back to Meeting for Worship (which is what Quakers call their Sunday gathering) today for the first time in a year. I have wanted to go back for a long time but my health has meant that I needed to concentrate on family and work only so that I could make sure I did those two things well rather than more things badly. Thankfully now my GP has made a change to my pain medication I’m able to do more again.

It was so lovely today to sit in silence with them – it was like coming home. I don’t have to be anything except myself there. I don’t have to perform or be on my best behaviour. There’s no singing or standing up or sitting down, no reciting of prayers or bread or wine. Nothing is really done and yet everything is accomplished. It reminds me quite strongly of Lao Tzu.

One of the long time members at our Meeting left to go to a retirement home about this time last year. So I wanted to paint her a picture of our Meeting for Worship to remember us by. I began by sketching during our Meeting one Sunday last year. I still have the sketches that I made but I haven’t asked anyone for persmission to put their portrait up here so I’m not going to do that. For the final painting I decided to paint the people in the meeting in outline only and to colour them according to how I see the Quaker Testimonies (which are concepts that are important to Quakers – Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality and Stewardship). Community was not done as a colour but was intrinsic in the image of a group of people sitting together. I also added a white line around each person to speak to the Quaker idea of the Light. It was done in a mixture of watercolour and gouache.

Anyway, here’s the final painting…

Mechanic – a large comic styled gouache painting

This week I’ve been dipping into some cool indie comics. One of them was called Quad. Each volume of Quad is a collection of four short stories in comic form. In Vol 1 is the story of Terah and Elvis written and drawn by Eduardo Shaal.

It’s a pretty good story with a Walking Dead type vibe – imagine Kirkman and Adlard’s Walking Dead after things have settled down a lot more and the zombies are just an annoying part of life which are dangerous if you’re not prepared. What I liked most about it was the feeling I got from the main character “Terah”; she had a sense of integrity lots of mechanical practical ability and a strong streak of independence. I really admire that way of being. Here’s the cover of the comic…

…and a link to it (here).

So, when I wanted to make a large comic-styled picture for my bedroom I thought of Shaal’s character. First I made an initial sketch in pencils based on a comic panel I particularly like. (If you follow the link above and use the ‘Look inside’ feature you can spot Shaal’s original panel on page two.)

I changed her hair and hat and I removed her gloves. Then I made the shadow of her cap less dense to I could draw her eyes in which were lost in shadow in the original work. I wanted to take the image in a slightly different direction from Shaal’s original. (Shaal has a beautifully loose drawing style which I love but wouldn’t be able to replicate even if I tried. So, rather than making a study of his work and style, I decided to follow his pose and work from there.)

Here’s my initial sketch…

This was done on A3 watercolour paper using pencils. It was harder and easier to draw something really big. It was harder because it took more courage to sketch something on a big scale. It was also easier because there was so much space to get every line I wanted and when you work bigger the final results are cleaner.

Then I inked her…

I used my Pentel Brush Pen for most of the main lines, which was great because you can get a very wide range of line widths really smoothly with this pen.

Then I used my Pigma Microns for the details.

Once the line work was complete I used my computer to have a play with colour schemes. I wanted blue and gold but I wasn’t sure exactly how to arrange it all. At first I thought this would work…

But her skin colour has too much yellow in for mustard coloured clothes to look right. So I changed her clothes to blue. This meant I had to work on trying to keep the blues properly differentiated but I thought it looked better…

Next it was time to paint. I’ve never tried to get such large flat washes before, especially inside tight lines. I used watercolour for the dark upper background colour (Payne’s Grey with some ultramarine dabbed into it). The rest was done with gouache. I know that professional illustrators often use a Liquitex acrylic gouache when they want large flat areas but I don’t have any of that so I did the best I could with regular gouache. It took a few hours over two days to complete the painting which is a really long time when you think that I did both digital colour scheme sketches in a total time of about 30 minutes.

Once the painting was finished I redid my line art to make it crisp and clear. This was so lovely to do, if a little nerve-wracking!

Anyway, here’s the final painting…

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…