Finding your pack

This week’s art is a line and wash painting of a wolf howling out her song. I painted it for a friend.

I began with a quick sketch…

Next I refined my sketch and changed the shape of the howl in the air…

Once I was happy with my basic forms I moved on to ink. I used to simply redo my pencils in pen at this stage, but now I use this stage as a place where I can further refine the drawing. Here are the inks completed…

Once I had my ink drawing complete I then had to come up with my colours. So I photographed my ink drawing and then added colour digitally in Autodesk Sketchbook.

Once I had a solid idea of where I wanted to go colour-wise I finally began to add watercolour washes to my drawing. As usual I began with lighter washes and then developed my shadows. I pushed the colours I’d initially decided on digitally to bring more contrast into the image.

Here’s the final picture…

Jim – Part 1

I have been working on my portrait of Jim, my father in law, who passed away recently. It one of those pieces of art which is really personally important because it’s a gift for his widow Jane and also a tribute to such a good man. At first I struggled to get started so I made a few sketches digitally to get myself warmed up a bit. This is the best of those…

At first it didn’t really look like himbut once I added some shadows and highlights it began to feel better.

Then, since I had a digital sketch I played around with the colour scheme to find something that felt right. Here are some of the attempts I made at that…

Of the colours above I preferred the royal blue and the red. Overall though I thought that the red brought out the warmth of him as a person, so I decided to go with that.

Once I’d got all of these ideas roaming around in my head I found myself finally ready to get down to drawing.

I began with a very rough sketch where I measured quite carefully his general facial anatomy. It doesn’t look a thing like Jim, but I find it an important step for making a decent portrait…

Once I had that sketched in I used it as a framework for drawing a more careful map of his portrait, ready for the paint. This is as far as I have got at the moment due to being unwell last week. Here is the drawing / map I made to guide me when I paint. It doesn’t yet capture his likeness because there are no strong shadows or highlights, but I am hoping it will turn out well. I will do my best!

I’m not going to rush this painting, so I expect I will post other artwork in between updates of this project.

Here are my main steps so far along with the main photo reference I am using…

The Eternity Dragon

I made an ink drawing this week of a dragon.

In western literature dragons are mostly symbols of evil and destruction who have to be killed or vanquished for life to go on.

However in many eastern cultures they are seen as strong, beautiful, natural and lucky and often associated with water. In Vietnam dragons are seen as bringing life sustaining rain and are therefore symbols of life and prosperity. In Japanese stories dragons are the Spirits or Kami of rivers and lakes and seas as well as being associated with rain. In China the dragon is a very powerful symbol of energy, wisdom and good fortune.

Because of these positive connections I chose to draw an eastern dragon, rather than a western one. I think the only western dragons I really like are those from Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Quintet. It’s been a while since I read this series but my overarching feeling about the dragons in her world is that they represent wildness. I really like that!

I began by playing around with curves and loops trying to find a pleasing way to draw this animal…

Then when I found a design I liked I began playing with it to see how I wanted to form it into a dragon…

Once I had the idea in my head I began to draw it…

At this point I realised that the basic structure I had chosen had two interesting relationships to symbols.

  • The first was that the main shape was that of the infinity sign used in mathematics, but also used frequently to represent autistic people.
  • The second was that the head appeared to be moving towards eating the tail, which is another symbol for infinity or eternity.

So I carried on working on the form, laying out ideas with pencil and then inking them as soon as I was sure they would be permanent, like this…

This is how my final ink drawing came out…

Next I used my watercolour paints to add tone to the drawing. Then I added a shadow to lift it out of the page a little and it was finished.

Here’s the finished art…

“The Eternity Dragon”

I do enjoy the symbolism in the picture. The association with autism brings it home for me as does the association with the Le Guin’s wild dragons. (That is, if I’ve remembered and interpreted this correctly and not mixed it up with another story!) The eastern links to water are also lovely too given how much I love being on the water in boats.

In terms of the art itself in a more technical sense. I’m fairly happy with the overall drawing but not quite sure about putting a shadow on it. I do like the way the shadow lifts the dragon out of the page, but sometimes I think keeping it simpler is better. Here is the drawing before I added the shadow…

I like the simplicity of this, but the shadow gives it more of a 3D effect and draws my eye more.

What do you think?

Manatee Mama

This week, while waiting for some more pictures of Jim for the portrait, I made a line and wash painting of a manatee mama and her calf. I love the slow gentle nature of these animals and the beauty of their curvy body shape. I would rather swim with these guys than dolphins any day, although octopuses are still my favourite. I think I would give my right arm to swim with an octopus!

Here are my process photos…

I have a strong preference for scientific styled paintings of animals and plants which usually have plain white backgrounds. However having some kind of background really helps a painting find connection with it’s viewers. This week I tried to make a smaller background by masking off a smaller rectangle around my main subjects and painting in a varigated wash using yellows greens and blues. Peeling off the extra masking was such a joy – like peeling the plastic protector off a new calculator or phone!

I stopped to savour the last bit and ended up photographing it.

Once this was done I painted my manatees. I began with big washes over the grey / brown areas and green areas (where the animals get covered in algae) and then moved on to the details.

Here’s the final painting…

Rudd

Since I’ve not painted for a few weeks I wanted to get back into the swing of it before attempting an important portrait of my son’s Grandad who passed away recently.

I began this painting just messing about with gouache on a watercolour background.  The foliage began life as grass, but soon became the kind of water weed found in freshwater rivers and lakes in the UK.  Then I sprayed it with some fixative (since gouache can be reactivated very easily by water). 

Once it was partially fixed I sketched on a fish like this…

I blocked in the underpainting of the fish roughly, giving it some warm and cooler colours…

Next I partially fixed the painting again with the fixative and then applied a more finished layer.  I also tidied up the my rendering of the weed too…

Finally I added all of my details and highlights and then painted in some weed in front of the fish.

Here is my completed painting…

When making this painting I changed my usual gouache process a little.  I added a spray of fixative between layers.  This partially stabilised the gouache so that the layer beneath wasn’t quite so readily activated by paint on top.  This method worked really brilliantly allowing me all of the freedom of using gouache without the hassle.  I will use this method again I think.

🙂

Up on the Moors

Very sadly, a couple of weeks ago my father in law passed away. He had been ill but we were hoping for another year with him. In many ways it released him from pain and suffering which is good, but I just miss him, a lot.

He was a good, good man and would do anything for his family.

Since this happened I haven’t been able to paint. The creative place where my pictures come from is just silent at the moment. I’ve let this blog just roll through the schedule I had already prepared and uploaded. But now I have run out.

I am planning to paint a portrait of Jim for his wife in oils or acrylics once I’m able. I think oils would be better but they will take so long to dry, so I’m going to try using acrylics in a similar way to painting alla prima with oils and I’m going to use a retarder to give me more time to blend.

Today I had a go at a simple digital painting despite the silence inside. Although I didn’t plan it, it does reflect some of the saddness I feel about losing Jim and seeing his wife Jane so sad at his loss.

Here are some screen shots of how the painting went…

I completed the painting in Photoshop. I adjusted the levels and added a border. Here’s the finished picture…

Quick Charcoal Portraits

Having found my charcoals the other day I thought I would make some quick portraits. The first one I did in ten minutes. It’s of a boxer. I called it Fearless

Next I tried a 15 minute portrait of a very happy young woman. Her big smile seemed infectious. I called this one Beautiful

My next sketch was another 10 minute sketch of a really goofy, off-duty British cop, which I called Goofy

My last sketch was of a beautiful, older Indian lady who seemed to have this beautiful light in her eyes. I took more time with this one (20 minutes). I called the portrait Light

Of all of them I prefer the portrait of the older Indian lady. Which is you favourite?

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…

Mixed Media – Vintage Diving Helmet

I had a go at mixing Ink and Charcoal in the same drawing this week. It was really good fun. I really enjoyed the way I could add textures with the charcoal that I could never achieve with ink.

I began sketching in pencil, then added an ink outline and then added some deep shadows in ink too, like this…

Once I had my ink drawing I began to add shadow using a charcoal pencil and some charcoal sticks, like this…

Above was my first work through with the charcoal. I could see I needed to go darker in places and that I needed also to smooth things out with some blending stumps and tissues.

Once I’d completed the charcoal work I photographed the picture and brought it into Photoshop. I added a black background and then adjusted my levels. I did quite a bit of adjustment to get it to look right with the black background and to get rid of some reflection from my black ink brush pen which sadly has a shiny finish.

Here is the final image…

I like the textures and the strong contrast. It also made me smile to have things around the wrong way, with the water and fish inside the helmet and us humans looking in from the outside! While I was reviewing the image I thought it might make a big difference if I added some halftone reflections on the glass in the front window. So I quickly opened up Photoshop again and added them in post production!

Once everything was complete I also had a quick play with adding some digital colour…

I think it turned out OK, but I prefer the black and white image.

Which one do you prefer?

🙂