Ink Adventure 3 – a Crow and some trees

In my final week of experimentation with ink I played around with splattering ink and dropping ink to paint some trees and a crow.

For the trees I painted a big wet blob on the paper with clean water. I let it sink in and then I painted it again to make sure it was really wet. Then I dropped quite a few drops of ink into the little pool that I had made. I then did the same thing again for each additional tree. I tried really hard not to disturb the ink/water mixture. Eventually I put the painting high up on top of my printer where Leia (my cat) couldn’t get to it and left it to dry naturally. This took all day! I did get some excellent patterns in the ink.

Once it was dry I painted on the tree trunks and the ground. Here’s the final picture…

The last painting I did was of a crow. I drew all of the crow except his wings in ink pen (Pigma microns and a thin, flexible tipped cartridge pen). Then I dropped a big pool of ink and blew it across the page. It really took some courage to do that since in one breath I might have ruined the whole painting! Then, when the first wing was dry I put another smaller blob of ink on the paper and blew it again for the second wing. Finally I went back into the drawing and tried to join up the wings and body more smoothly. Here’s the last picture…

I quite like this one. I do love crows generally and the ink splatter makes this crow look particularly scruffy! It reminds me of a one legged crow I met many years ago in a municipal garden next to a shopping centre. I was eating bread pudding and this intensely scruffy one legged crow hopped next to me for 200 yards. He was quite clearly begging for some bread pudding. I gave in and shared my food with him. He was extra friendly.

Ink Adventure 2 – Dropping the ink

Continuing with my series of ink paintings, this week I have a painting of a wave and a painting of a snail for you. For both of these pictures I used the technique of dropping permanent ink onto very wet paper. When I did this the ink spread out across the watery surface and after a few seconds partially dried. Then the dried sections floated around like an ice-flow in Antarctica with bits breaking off and other bits holding together. It was fascinating. I tried to think of ways to use the texture which this technique lent to the ink.

First I thought about using it to represent turbulent water under a wave. I painted it in and then added some smoother water on top.

It kind of worked but I didn’t think the technique came through strongly enough to really show what it can do. So I had another go. This time I used it to paint a cobbled pathway which my snail was slithering along. This was much more effective. You can really see the sections of ink. Here’s the second painting…

Ink Adventure 1 – Freedom vs Control

As we head into the new year I’ve got a series of images I painted at around the same time. I want to show you two at a time over three weeks. While doing this I was trying to explore more adventurous ways of painting with ink.

I began with two paintings which are complete contrasts. The first is an ink painting of a sweet pea flower done using my regular watercolour technique but using ink rather than watercolour as my medium. I have a strong natural preference for precise, high control methods as I paint and this is the kind of painting I often make. I find it incredibly relaxing to paint like this..

However, I think I might develop more as an artist if I can learn to let the ink speak for itself a little more, letting go of control to some extent as I paint.

To try to kickstart myself into doing this I had a go at just playing with the ink. I made a splatter painting using a home-made straw to blow the ink in various directions. At first it felt like all semblance of artistic endeavour was gone and I was just mucking about, but gradually, as I got into it, I began to get a feel for how to blow the ink and where. I followed my gut, feeling my way into the painting. It surprised me quite a lot that I still had that same sense of direction about the painting that I get normally. I thought it would flow more somehow without any end in mind, but my heart was seeing into what I was doing and it still felt like I knew which way to go. I wondered if my mind was putting order onto chaos or if there was some kind of order there already which I was somehow picking up on.

Anyway, here is the spatter painting I made…

It was pretty good fun to make!

I wish you all a very happy new year!

Fighting Fish – Watercolour

This week’s art is a small watercolour painting of a Fighting Fish (Betta splendens). They are called fighting fish because the males are extremely territorial and will fight one another if put in close proximity. In the wild one fish will normally back down from the other and swim away. In captivity however they can’t do that and so it’s recommended never to keep two males together. Housed alone or with other peaceful tankmates they are wonderful peaceful fish. I’ve kept many betta’s over the years. They are very intelligent and learn easily if you train them with food. Mine particularly loved bloodworm.

Here’s my first betta fish called Anthony…

While I didn’t draw Anthony I think my colour choices were influenced by him. Here’s my pencil drawing…

And here is the watercolour painting…

This was only a small painting done in my sketchbook during a couple of hours at an Art Club I attend at the charity Mind.

Squid in Watercolour

I had a go at painting a squid this week. Here’s how it went…

Basic structure in pencil
More details added
Completed drawing

I tend to use the same basic approach to painting as I do drawing, which is to draw/paint the bigger shapes first and the successively add small shapes. Below I’ve put on the basic overall wash and then add a few more detailed washes to add some darker pigment for shadows and darker skin colouration.

First wash of watercolour

Gradually I built up the washes until I was content with the final picture…


My wonderful son has now graduated from University.  He got a very well deserved first!  Before he even got his results though, he also got himself a really good job. 

He had a chance at the job about week after he handed in his dissertation.  He had been planning a good rest and some chilling out on the beach after working so hard, but he said the job was too good an opportunity to pass up and went for it anyway even though he was really bone tired.  I think that took real fortitude. 

I couldn’t be more proud of him, and yet the thing that I admire in him the most is that, through all of these things, he remains a thoroughly decent, loving, courageous man who would do anything to help those around him.  I know I’m biased, but I think he’s the best son in the world.

I made this small painting sketch a few weeks before he graduated, but I was thinking how strong and independent he had become and, since my health was (and is) quite poor, how hollowed out and broken I am feeling.

I am trying really hard to get myself sorted out but it’s just really difficult.  I feel like a house of cards which will fall if any one card is wobbled a bit.  This week, after trying a bit too hard to clear my chest using some exercises from the chest physio, I think I must have irritated my throat.  Anyway I had a laryngospasm in the night, where my vocal chords closed and I couldn’t breathe.  In fighting to breathe I hurt my vocal chords which turned into an infection which then gave me bronchitis.  Then the coughing made my pain worse and the pain and the fever made my mental health worse!

I am quite lucky though, drawing and painting is still a very calming, soulful activity for me and it continues to be a refuge.

So I began this sketch with a pencil drawing…

Normally when I draw for painting I just get the main shape outlines done and then fill in the rest with the paint, but in this one I tried putting in a full tonal drawing and then painting over that.

Here is the finished painting…

I think having the tonal drawing underneath the paint was mostly quite helpful.  It pushed my darks darker.  It also gave me the feeling of the shape I was painting much more fully.  The only real negative was that my colour was affected by the darker pencil tones.  In places they  muddied things a bit.  So I lifted off some of that paint with my trusty kitchen towel (always a life-saver) and repainted those places.

Leaves – Mixed Watercolour and gouache

This week I played around with using watercolour and gouache together in my watercolour sketchbook. I tried to allow this sketch to become more impressionistic. I’m afraid I got so drawn in by the painting that I didn’t make any process photos – oops!

Here is the finished sketch:

PS: Apologies if I take while to get back to you at the moment or to keep up with reading the blogs I follow. I’m still unwell. I will do my best though. Take care!

Mandarin Fish – Ink

This week’s drawing is of a Mandarin fish (Synchiropus splendidus). As it’s scientific name suggests, it is a truly splendid fish with bags of character and gorgeous colours and patterns. While, in this drawing I wanted to capture the patterns, I like the animal so much that I think a detailed watercolour painting would be really lovely to do. I have some ideas for that cooking already in the back of my mind.

Here are a couple of pictures of the fish by a photographer called Luc Viatour (CC BY-SA 3.0):

Mandarin Fish by Luc Viatour (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Mandarin Fish by Luc Viatour (CC BY-SA 3.0)

I suspect that if they weren’t so very difficult to feed they might be the most sought after fish in the marine aquarium trade. Apparently they are particularly fond of Copepods (their natural diet on the reef in the wild) and quite resistant to being fed on frozen food like brine shrimp or bloodworm.

Copepod Species by Andrei Savitsky (CC BY-SA 4.0)

I have read about some aquarists who have managed to feed them on some frozen food by taking the time and gentle effort to teach them that the food is OK, but it takes a lot of skill and patience I think.

Here is the sketch I began with…

Before I got to this stage I sketched out the basic shapes to get the main structural elements proportionally correct but I forgot to photograph it.

Next I inked in an outline of the main areas and then added my ink rendering and textures. I particularly enjoyed making these three textures…

A – was the speckling on the tail which had a kind of randomised pattern to it which I really liked.

B – was a set of cross hatching marks in various directions which I like up close as a pattern but from a distance reads more like a simple grey scale area.

C – was the edges of the fins which were crinkled up and wavy in places.

To further push the impression of a three dimensional fish I then added some watered down black watercolour as a wash over the body of the fish. This also made the lighter coloured stripes stand out more.

Here’s the final drawing…

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?