Emperor Penguins in Watercolour

This week I painted a family of Emperor Penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) in Watercolour. I wanted each adult to reflect the two imperatives of penguin parents whilst bringing up a baby – to protect the chick and to feed themseves (and the chick). So I drew one looking down at the penguin and the other looking off towards the sea ready to take their turn to fish.

Here is my very basic sketch (apologies I drew this very lightly and it is a bit hard to see)…

And here is the basic drawing I made from my sketch…

My next task was to plan my colours. I did this by pulling my sketch into my android tablet, marking off some basic flat areas, putting in some colour and then playing around with the colour until I was happy. Here’s an animated gif (if I’ve done this correctly) of the process I went through to plan my colour…

Once I was decided on my colour choices I was just a quick and happy painting session away from a finished picture. It took a while for me to get to it though since I was unwell for a few days again.

I did have a lot of fun using some dry brush techniques to make my baby penguin suitably fluffy. I also used a light yellow ocre/grey to add some shadows which “pushed” the baby into his parent’s feathers so the viewer gets the feeling of him being loved and cared for by his mum and dad.

Here’s my finished watercolour…

Octopus Dreams #4 – Designing Octopus Tattoos

Sometimes I like to try out tattoo ideas directly on my skin. I usually do this by just doodling the design in black biro. This is how this picture started…

It was quite tricky to do since I chose a spot on my lower leg! I tried to brighten the eyes with some white gel pen, but as you can see, that didn’t really work. I did enjoy having an octopus on my leg for the day though! 🙂

So I thought I might make a better job of this on paper or via digital drawing. I tried digital drawing first.

Digital Octopus Tattoo Design

For this first design I wanted to make something symmetrical. So I began with a couple of circles to give me some rough guides for where I wanted parts of the shape…

Next I used the symmetry tool to draw the octopus. Using this tool I only had to draw half of it and the tool put the other half in for me and kept it symmetrycal.

Once I had a basic outline I added some other small details and removed my guide circles…

Then I added some shading. I used the pen tool to put in some darker and lighter tones and then used the blend tool to blend them together. This is exactly how I would do it with oil paint…

My final job here was to add some textural marks to the design…

Here is the final digital tattoo design…

Traditional Ink Octopus Tattoo Design

Here’s the process I went through to create a traditional ink drawing for a tattoo design. I began with the basic structure…

Then drew in an outline…

Next I inked my outline…

Then added some details…

Here is what the linework looked like once I was finished. (You might be able to see that I added some greyscale shadows in pencil on the design.)

Reviewing my work

Looking at the two designs I think each one has some strengths and weaknesses:

The digital design has:

  • Interesting textures especially on the octopus’ mantle.
  • Some webbing between the octopus’ arms which gives it a nice feel.
  • An overbearing outline which seems to me to be the wrong style for the final image.
  • A symmetrical shape which can be problematic in tattoos if the skin stretches in one direction more than another.

The tradition design has:

  • A well placed sense of the animal.
  • An interesting overall shape.
  • Textures and other design elements which work well together.
  • A lack of three dimensionality.

So having looked at both designs for a couple of days I decided to draw a new version which incorporates some aspects of one drawing and some of the other. Here is my final octopus tattoo design…

You can see I’ve based it on the traditional drawing, but added webbing, shadows, three-dimensional shading and some sand cloud and bubble effects.

Which one do you prefer?

Next week I’m going to be posting a study of a beautiful but sad Reuter’s photograph which I painted digitally.

Whale Song

I thought we’d have a break from octopuses this week with a watercolour painting of a beautiful humpback whale swimming with a diver.

I used Arches hot-pressed watercolour paper this time. It’s odd but, although I really find Arches paper great to use for watercolour because it takes a wash so beautifully, I keep avoiding using it because it’s so expensive. I just feel I have to save it. Then when I do use it, I feel a sense of pressure not to waste it which isn’t overly helpful. I think this is quite a common thing though. I’m going to deal with it by just using the paper until it feels more normal.

So, I began my whale painting with a pencil sketch…

Next I did the big washes – starting from the background and working forwards…

After that I worked on the details – the diver, the whale’s eye and other features and I worked on bringing the whale shape to life with some shadows. I also added a little more pencil in places to give a little more definition to some parts of the painting.

Once the painting was finished I photographed it and then corrected the levels in Photoshop. Here’s the finished painting…

I had a “whale” of a time with this one! LOL

😀

Gaia – ink and pencil drawing

Recently I watched the Disney film “Moana“. It was wonderful – the ocean, sailing and a beautiful island earth-mother goddess – what a fabulous combination!

The ocean (Image Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios)
Sailing (Image Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios)
Island earth-mother goddess (Image Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios)

Inspired by this, and by Earth Day, I made a drawing of the Greek Goddess Gaia. I began with a simple design drawn digitally on my tablet. I gave her features which were similar to Te Fiti (the goddess in the film), but then added foliage from more of a central and northern european location.

I then redrew this in more detail on A3 paper…

I debated whether to keep this as a pencil image or work on it in ink. I chose ink in the end. I love the permanence of it and the way it makes me concentrate to get each line as I want it.

Next I began to ink in my details…

I used my Pigma Micron pens for this 0.3 and 0.05. Once all of the ink detail was done I then wanted to add some tone. I played around digitally with the idea of a watercolour wash in regular expected colours and then in a more green dominated palette…

But somehow these coloured options seemed to lose something I wanted in the feeling of the picture. So I tried again with greyscale only…

Now this I liked much more. So I worked on the image with pencils and blending stumps to fill in some tone in her face and body. I was planning to put a darker wash over the whole picture but once the body was done the picture seemed to be where I wanted it so I left it as it was.

Here’s the final image…

I hope you all had a super Earth Day!

The Cardinal’s Mistress

This image comes from a pencil sketch I made while watching the CBC series “Tudors” about the life of Henry the VIII. At the end of the first season the mighty Cardinal Wolsey is in trouble with his King and is living in discrace with his mistress in a dilapidated house with a leaking roof. All the way through the series I was really touched by Sam Neill’s (Cardinal Wolsey) and Lorna Doyle’s (the Cardinal’s longtime mistress Joan) performance here. They were able to show us another side to the scheming and ambitious Cardinal – a man, like any other man, going through some serious difficulties with the help of his wife. There was a tenderness to those scenes which I found really moving.

Here is the pencil sketch…

I pulled the sketch into Autodesk Sketchbook and began to colour it.

First I just put in some mid tones roughly in the background. In the TV programme the walls were a cream colour and there were were various browns around in the furniture. I added the blue to my composition to give the viewer the feeling of water which was everywhere in the scene.

Next, using a similar palette I filled in some basic midtones in the foreground…

Once this was done I needed to push my shadows and highlights a little with the colour so that the pencil shadows don’t have to work so hard. I also experimented with adding some other colours here and there to add depth to the painting…

I then finished off the image in Clip Studio Paint. Here is the final picture…

I like the unity between the foreground and background and I quite like the hints of green I put into her dress. If I redid this picture I would be more careful where I put the dark greyish navy shadows in her hair. I think they work in places but don’t in others.

Jo Kenobi

This week’s art is a little fantasy sketch of what I might look like if I were both young again and a Jedi!

I took a picture of Lucasfilm’s character Obi-Wan Kenobi…

 

…and a picture of myself when I was about Ewan’s age in this promotional shot from Attack of the Clones.  Then I attempted to make a sketch of the two faces mixed together!

 

I began with some basic measurements.  Luck was on my side with this as mine and Ewan’s face proportions were really similar.

 

Then I sketched out the basics…

I expanded the eyes to give the whole picture a hint of manga styling and then put in some basic pencil shading…

 

I had this drawing like this in my sketchbook for a while.  Then, when I got my Mars Lumograph Pencils, I thought I would have a go at inking the picture and shading it with pencil.  Here are the final results…

 

I wish I were a Jedi!!!

 

 

Playing around with styles

This week I’ve been quite unwell and struggling with really bad pain. I’m handling it all by resting, talking with my GP and trying to keep my mind off the pain and on other things while I wait for an appointment at a London pain clinic (UCLH). It’s quite hard to keep my mind clear of the pain at the moment though because the pain is bad enough to shut down my thinking a lot of the time. It feels like wading through very thick treacle when I try to concentrate. Audiobooks are good and my little handheld switch video game player helps too because it provides an outlet for my mind to be active without impacting my body. Art has been really difficult though. The only thing I’m able to do is short figure drawing sketches and some arty playing about on my android tablet to add to backgrounds to the sketches.

So, here are a few of the 5 minute sketches I’ve been doing…

I’ve been taking some tips and ideas from the simple exercises in this brilliant book on life drawing by Bridget Woods. (I love this book)…

Of the four sketches I did here, the one I found most interesting as an exercise, was the one on the bottom left. It is drawn entirely with curves (which was fairly easy with a curvy woman as my subject). I was amazed at how simple it was to get the lovely curvy feeling of her body down on paper using only one type of line.

Then I photographed these sketches and pulled them into my tablet for some colouring. I wanted to try out different styles and approaches. It was great because each sketch only took 5 minutes, I wasn’t worried about messing anything up which gave me a lot more freedom to really experiment with things.

The first sketch felt like it had fairly precise, careful lines. I remember as I drew this particular girl I fell into this absorbed but relaxed state. It was beautiful – almost like the drawing was drawing itself. Consequently when I came to add colour and tone to the sketch I painted her with sections of flat colour and then made the background by overlapping blocks of pastel colours in simple triangles and quadrilaterals. Then, remembering the lessons I learned from the Art Prof team on YouTube, I made some changes to the way I framed the portrait to give it a kick of the alternative.

Here it is…

The second sketch I chose to colour was really tiny. This made the lines look rough but natural looking. So I followed that theme and put my dancer into a naturalistic rough pastel world…

The aspect of this one I like most is actually the rough dark green border which I drew by hand.

Then I went on to my favourite of the sketches – the one drawn only with curved lines. I coloured the main shape of my figure one colour and then gave the background another colour. Then every other bit of shading and colouring (apart from her hair) was done with circles. This was such good fun.

Here’s the final result…

While none of these are proper art projects, they work well as little thumbnails which can, perhaps, point me to fuller, more complete pieces, later on. I did enjoy an enormous sense of freedom and creativity working on something I knew wasn’t going to become a finished piece later on.

Heron – Mixed Media

I do really love herons! I know they are the bane of many Koi enthusiasts due to their tendency to snack on much loved fish but they do have a certain predatory beauty. This week I drew an ink drawing of a heron and toned it with smudged pencil. I am continuing to work on integrating my textural studies into actual artwork.

Here is my rough pencil sketch…

This shot was taken once I’d refined my pencil work…

This was taken in the middle of inking the drawing…

Here is the completed picture…

Once I had my inks finished I felt I really needed some greyscale tones to help give the viewer the feeling of looking at water. Previously I’ve either done this digitally or with a range of grey brush markers. For this drawing though, I really wanted to add some smooth grey gradients so I decided to mix up my media a little and use pencil for this. Rather than drawing the graphite onto the paper I used the graphite shavings from a mechanical pencil sharpener…

…and rubbed them on with a tissue. I had to practise this technique on some scrap paper a few times but I found I could get a lovely smooth gradient this way. Then I use my putty eraser and a fine mechanical eraser to remove the shading from the places where it went over a line. I am really pleased with how this turned out. I will use this technique again.

Reviewing this particular picture, I can see that my textures are very gradually improving. I would still like to develop more range and finesse with this. I am also quite pleased with the way the water ripples around the heron’s feet read. I think the smooth gradients really help this effect.

I also keep wondering if I should have added some indications of lanscape in the top left corner. It might look good to see a vague sense of a horizon line. Just a few marks to give the viewer an indication. At the time, I refrained from doing so because I liked the striking outline of the heron’s head and I thought putting in some landscape would detract from that. Sometimes drawings seem to ask for a change but I don’t always know exactly how to handle it. In the end I decided to leave it and just sit with the picture as it is. Sometimes, when doing this my unconscious mind seems to keep working ont eh problem in the background and days or even a few weeks later I figure out the answer.

“Young Adults” Part 1 # 3 – Eat…Drum…Sleep…(repeat)

 

For the next three weeks I’m doing a series of simple traditional ink sketches, based loosley on the theme of “Young Adults”.  Apart from scanning the images to get them onto the internet, they will be done entirely with traditional materials.

This week’s sketch is, ostensibly, of a fantastic young drummer I know, although I actually used three different references for the drawing.  He does do a LOT more than just eat, drum and sleep, but it still feels like a good motto for this particular drawing.

Here’s a photo of the pencils…

 

This is the final ink drawing…

 

It was done on Daler and Rowney cartridge paper in an A4 spiral bound sketchbook which I am really enjoying.  It is really liberating to have a bigger sketchbook!  I used Pigma Microns for the main drawing and then some “Calli” India Ink (made for calligraphy), diluted with tap water in a brush pen to add some mid tone.

While working on this I didn’t actually have a photo of my subject in this position, although I have seen him sleep like this on many occasions!  So I used three references to make this drawing, a portrait of my young drummer and 2 photos of different men lying on a couch.  One of the men was actually sleeping with a newspaper lying on him so, wanting to keep the theme of my subject being the young musician that he is, I changed it to the New Musical Express (even though the NME went digital a long while ago).  The other male reference was for his body sinking into the cushions since the first picture didn’t really show that.

With this set of drawings my aim was to try to ink in the same way that I draw, to give the drawings a looser feel.  I also worked on having my figure sink into his surroundings.  I pretty much managed it with his body, but forgot to really push this effect with his head!  I think if I’d have shown some of the cushion overlapping with the bottom of his face and changed the line of his hair to take account of it falling on the cushion it would read a little better.