Trinity Portrait – ink, pencils and digital colour

I spent a lot of time in bed at the beginning of this week and played around with portraits in my small sketchbook. I drew a few quick sketches of various people from Netflix and YouTube. I was working on finding out which parts of a portrait I need to measure (as a proportion of my pencil) and which bits I can just do by eye . This is a portrait based on Carrie-Ann Moss who I always remember playing Trinity in the film The Matrix although I redid her hair to make it longer than she had then.

Above are the very basic marks I made when I began. You can see where I am making some measurements.

I developed this into a rough ink sketch. Although it’s really rough and doesn’t have a good likeness I really liked the way it turned out…

At this point I decided to make a better drawing in a bigger sketchbook. I used my trusty mocron pens. I particularly like using my big 0.5 pen. Through use the end has become blunted but I can get really great fine lines and textures by using it leaned over on it’s side at about 45 degrees to the paper. Below is the drawing I made copying my drawing and tweaking various bits of it to try to get more of a likeness. You can see the textural stuff I did in her hair…

Once I had the inks down I wanted to add some shading but wasn’t sure how I wanted to approach this. So I photocopied my drawing and then played around with various types of hatching and mark making to see if I could find something I liked…

I liked the bottom left bit of hatching which followed the contours of her body best, but didn’t like it enough to actually use it. In the end I decided to add shading with pencils. I shaded lightly and then used my fingers and a blending stick to smudge the tones. I also used a kneaded eraser to pull out some white areas in the line of her neck and across her nose and collar bones.

Here is the finished drawing…

Once I had photographed the drawing and pulled it into photoshop I also experimented with pushing my portrait to the right of the frame. I really liked this. I find it interesting how the space, the nothingness, around Carrie changes the feeling of the picture.

Later in the week when I was feeling a bit better I fired up Clip Studio Paint again and had a go at adding some colour. I tried to follow a similar process to the colour work I did on the Dandelion picture I did a while back. Here it is…

I think I prefer the greyscale image personally. Which do you prefer?

Dandelion – traditional Ink and Digital Colour

This week I drew a dandelion with it’s seeds taking flight. I began with a sketch…

…and then switched to drawing in bed. (My pain is not great at the moment.) It’s always a bit dodgy to do this. I already have one sheet and duvet cover with permanent ink stains! But keeping busy really helps so I did it anyway.

Here’s how my ink drawing turned out…

This drawing was inspired by the many dandelions in a bit of scrubland I can see from my front window. There used to be a hedge there but the local council pulled it out. It’s quite interesting how different plants take root in the new space. Biologically this process is called ecological succession.

Now I happened watch the dandelions release their seeds during the golden hour when the sun was setting one evening and it felt like fairy dust rising in some kind of magical realm, like I could see a gateway to some deeper time and place. I wanted to convey something of that singular experience in my picture. Sadly, looking at the ink drawing I made – it seemed flat and dull to me, more like a very basic scientific illustration than a witness to a wonder.

Initially I just turned the page in my sketchbook and moved on to something else. But then later on I wondered what I could do with some digital colour. I very much wanted to find an illustrative way to communicate something the sense of magic and connectedness I felt when I saw those dandelions in the sunset. So instead of pulling the drawing into Autodesk Sketchbook, I uploaded it to the PC and fired up Clip Studio Paint. This software has been developed for exactly this kind of illustration and has some excellent brushes built in. I’ve dabbled with the previous version of the software (when it was called Manga Studio) but this was my first time trying to use the new software in earnest.

Here is how it went. I opened up my inks in the program…

Before I really got properly started I had a lot of fun just playing around with a huge range of brushes and getting a feel for the way the software works. Eventually I found some ways of painting that I really liked so I laid down some colour. I wanted to imply out-of-focus plants and grass in the background around my subject so I was quite free with the painting. Once I had my main colours I used a blending brush to soften some of the edges and then added a bit more here and there to get a good range of tones. Here’s how that turned out…

I also added some airbrushed white behind the seed heads to make them stand out.

After that I began work on the dandelion itself – adding some blue-ish shading to the seed heads and browns and greens to the place where the stem terminates and the seeds are joined. I also painted the stems and the grass.

Then I painted the dandelion leaves and added some highlights to the stems. My last job was to add some very light airbrushed white behind the seeds dancing through the air to give the viewer the sense of the breeze carrying them – you can see this in the completed image below…

I’m still not sure what I think about this one. I like the background but I’m still not sure if it captures the moment I was aiming for.

An Experimental Portrait – Kenobi

After seeing the beginning of Disney’s Kenobi series I wanted to make a portrait of my hero. However, I am still feeling really unwell so I had a try at using pastels since they are really quick.

My plan was to draw with the pastels in the same way I would paint a digital or traditional oil portrait. I began with a map which is less of a sketch and more or a plan for highlights and shadows

Then I blocked in my base colours using my map…

(Poor Obi-Wan – he looks like a Sith Lord with a hangover at this stage!)

I used references of Obi-Wan from the Attack of the Clones film on my tablet. The thing I found most difficult was that I didn’t have the colours or shades I needed. So I grabbed a piece of scrap paper and broke up various bits of pastels onto the paper so that I could mix them like paints. It was quite difficult and messy but it did work. I struggled with it though. I think I just didn’t know the pastel colours as well as I do my paints and couldn’t always guess exactly what I needed to get the exact hue I was looking for.

Here’s my workspace, so you can see this process in action…

I completed the blocking in. Then reworked a lot of the colour. Then I used pastel pencils to finished the drawing off.

Here are the pastels and pencils I used on this project

Finally, I got it finished. It took longer than I expected (about an hour and a half) and my pain got quite severe by the end. While this didn’t turn out as the portrait of my dreams I will show it to you anyway…

The Rhino and the Lady – an experiment

I started this week’s art as an experiment. I had previously come across the plant “Honesty” (Lunaria annua) which has the most beautiful seed pods. Here’s a photo by Josef F. Stuefer from Wikipedia…

Used and resized under Creative Commons Licence (Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))

I really like the way the seed pods have this dark line around them. I wanted to se if I could create that using watercolour without actually drawing the line.

To do this I wet the area of each pod with water, then added some strong paint. Then I added some water in the middle which tends to push the pigment out to the edges. This is how I thought I might be able to get the paint and water to make the line for me!

Here is how that turned out…

And here is a close look at how the paint behaved…

So the answer to my experiemental question is yes, I can get the paint and water to draw the line for me! However the line was not clear enough or clean enough for the picture I wanted to make.

After I’d had a cup of tea I decided to make an ink drawing over the top of this painting experiment.

So I inked a drawing over the top and then finished it by directly painting in some details to both the seed pods and the two creatures I put into the picture. One was the Five-horned Rhinoceros Beetle (Eupatorus gracilicornis) just taking flight and the other was a Common Seven-spot Ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata).

Here is the final illustration “The Rhino and the Lady”

I find it difficult to stray from realism, so finishing this was really encouraging, since I used the shape of the plant’s seed pods but not the colour and did the same with the two beetles (although you can bearly see it with the ladybird). This painting is one of those turning points in life, were you can feel a different way of doing things growing inside.

On the realism front though I think it would be wonderful to make a pencil drawing of the seed pods and a large line and wash painting of the Rhinoceros Beetle as it unfurls it’s wings in black and white (So the only paint I would use would be black watercolour diluted down.) Of course I could experiment here and have a go at doing ink washes. I wonder how they might compare to watercolour washes?

The Night Watchman – Watercolour

This week I decided to try to paint something quite quickly since I’m still unwell. So I painted this forest scene with no sketching, no planning (except some planning in my head) and three brushes –

  • a hake brush for the background wash (this is a big flat brush which is great for covering big areas).
  • an old mop brush for the undergrowth and bushes (this is a scruffy blobby fat little brush which is great for textures).
  • a rigger for the trees (this is a brush with really long thin soft bristles and is great for drawing lines).

I painted a graded wash for the background going from a French Ultramarine (dulled with a tiny bit of Payne’s Grey) through a Winsor Blue (with a hint of Phalo blue) to Paynes Grey (with a tiny bit of Phalo blue as well.)

Then, once it was dried I added some bushes with dilute paint and gradually worked forward with the undergrowth using darker and more saturated paint as I went.

Once this was dry I painted in the trees, again working from the trees furthest away first using very dilute paint and then working on closer and closer trees with darker more distinct lines. The rigger is such a good brush for this. I love it. It makes them look good without any effort on my part.

Finally I added a Great Horned Owl in one fo the trees and gave him some fierce orange eyes – he is the night watchmen of the picture. It took longer than I expected to finish because I had to dry different layers with a hair dryer and my hair dryer kept on overheating and stopping. Overall it was about 40 minutes. Then I went back to bed.

Here is the final picture…

Red Panda – Watercolour

This week I made a quick painting of a Red Panda. Having been unwell for a while I wanted to get my skills up again ready to complete Jim’s portrait. This was a cheeful way to do that especially after seeing Turning Red by Pixar!

I began with a pencil sketch…

Next I mixed up some paint…

Then I added a couple of washes to each area (letting the paint dry completely before adding a second wash). This is the first wash of the whole painting…

Finally I added my wet on dry details – fur, eyes, nose, tree bark etc.

Here is the finished painting…

In real life these animals are so gorgeous! I think the characteristic I like most is that when they feel threatened or try to assert dominance they put their paws up, like they are surrendering to police.

The little guy in the following video is at first threatened by a rock and then tries to dominate it. Finally he figures out it’s just a rock, has a sniff and then goes back inside for a lie down!!! (You might want to prepare for a cuteness overload with this one 😍)…

Orca – Digital Design

This week I created a digital Orca Design. It is of a mother Orca showing the way to her calf.

I have also started working on Jim’s portrait again after having a break following my father’s passing. That painting is at a critical stage – I have everything done and am working on the details of his face. It’s very nerve-wracking to do this because I worry about making a mistake a ruining it. It takes a lot of emotional energy to paint someone in your family so I am taking my time.

I began the orcas with a basic line drawing…

Because I wanted to use digital colour I then made a couple of masks. These are simple digital paintings which mark off certain sections of the design. I can then select these sections easily as I paint. In this case I wanted to be able to deliniate the orcas separately from the rest of the painting and I wanted the separate out the splashing water. Although I actually made quite a few masks for this painting I’m included these ones because I used these the most…

Once I had the masks in place I could start the colouring process. In terms of colour I decided to use a dark blue colour which went down to black at the darkest parts of the image along with some pale yellowy browns. I wanted my design to reference the famous Japanese print of “The Great Wave of Kanagawa” by Hokusai. The colours I chose reflect that. I have loved Hokusai’s work for many years. Here is his famous picture…

This is how I painted the Orcas…

I used a textured brush which gives their skin a lovely feel to it. (NB: Because of the way different screens show images (and because of the night-time settings I was using on my tablet when I painted this) the orcas don’t have the black at the bottom of their bodies which I wanted in these screenshots. This is something I corrected in post production via Photoshop.)

Next I painted the splashing water…

Once that was complete I removed the linework and kept the white “shadow” of the lines as part of my design…

You can see these white “shadows” better once I put in a background…

I kept the background quite simple to make sure that the Orca’s were the “stars of the show”.

Finally I saved the image in Autodesk Sketchbook and pulled it into Photoshop on my laptop to adjust my levels and do some general finishing tasks. Here is the final image…

I really like this picture – it makes me feel safe.

Orca

This week’s drawing is another in the series of animal drawings I am creating using ink and black and white paint. It is of an Orca.  I found it really quite daunting to try to capture in ink and paint the grace, strength and intelligence of one of these animals.  They are so beautiful and so powerful at the same time. They leave me in awe.

I began with a a quick outline sketch…

Then I filled in some of the solid black areas and stippled the edges…

Once this was done I just needed to expand the darker areas and maintain a stippled gradient to complete the ink drawing…

Once my ink drawing was done I added more shadows and highlights with black and white paint to complete the picture…

Reviewing my work, I think the final image turned out fairly well, but I don’t think I was able to capture that deep thumping “Oh!” feeling I get when I see an orca.

Here is a video of a marine life rescue team returning a juvenile orca to the sea.  I love this – mammals loving other mammals – we are family!

Finally, just because I absolutely can’t resist it, here’s another video of a beautiful female Orca (I think) with two calves (one much older) coming across a woman swimming in the ocean just off New Zealand.

The video title suggests that they are playing with her. I can see why they say that. However, I also wonder if the mature female is actually offering friendship to the swimmer. In the wild orcas offer a lot of bodily contact to one another. Some orca experts even describe them as having a behaviour that is the equivalent of a hug…

“I think orcas do the equivalent of hugs. They make a lot of body contact almost constantly. The pattern seen most often is to swim side by side within touching range, usually two at a time”

Howard Gareth, Orca Researcher

It just looks to me like she’s saying to the swimmer – “Hi, do you want to be friends?” or even maybe “Do you want to come with us?” Oh, if I could live in the ocean and this happened to me, I would go!

Anyway, here’s the video…

Herne the Hunter

I’m afraid I am still unwell – on a second round of differrent anitibiotics. So here is a another sketch done while waiting on the phone for 111. I did begin with some very light pencils but I forgot to photograph that stage. Instead, we begin with a very light ink sketch of this beuatiful buck…

I was thinking here about using the ink pen as a primary drawing instrument rather than a secondary tool to go over pencils. This gave the whole thing a different feel. I gradually worked in both details and deeper tones…

The photo above was taken about half way through…

… and this one was taken when my inks were complete. I then used black watercolour paint and white gouache to add deeper tones and brighter highlights. Here is the finished picture…