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

😀

Octopus Dreams #2 – The first half of a larger line and wash painting

This week’s art is the first half of a two part artwork featuring a Larger Pacific Striped Octopus outside her den. She’s sitting in a position which allows her to begin to explore and hunt but, with two of her arms still fixed to the back of her den, she can also withdraw to safety at a moment’s notice.

I began this ink drawing on A3 hot-pressed watercolour paper with some sketching…

Once I was reasonably happy with the basic drawing I began to go over it with ink. When doing this I tried to make the pen strokes clean and consistent, but I also made slight changes to the design as I went. Since this is an A3 drawing the inking took my quite a few hours but was incredibly relaxing…

I got to to this stage (above) and then stopped for the evening thinking I had probably finished inking. However, when I looked at the picture again the next day I felt that some full black shadows around the bottom of my octopus and around the rocks on the sea floor might help balance the composition. So I popped those in and made some other small changes to the density of my linework in various places to make my final ink drawing…

Although my inks are finished my picture is not yet complete. I want to keep the picture in black and white, but add some greyscale tone to it. Previously, with other pictures, I have done this digitally and I’ve tried doing it with mars lumograph pencils and with markers, but I want to try something different with this one.

I am really looking for an authentic way to tone ink drawings. While I can get really lovely results painting tones in digitally, it always leaves me feeling slightly unsatisfied because the final picture comes out of the printer and not directly from my hands. It’s almost as if the printer steals some of the joy of making the art – or perhaps I’m more traditional that I thought!

So, next week I’m going to tone this picture with black watercolour. I want to use the same techniques I used to paint an ant in watercolour (Link to Ant Painting Here). This time, however, the painting will go over the top of an ink drawing. I did think about doing this with charcoal, but after some experimentation on scrap paper I decided against that!

Octopus Dreams #1 – A small gouache painting

This last week has very much been an Octopus Week for me. 🙂

It began when I watched My Octopus Teacher on Netflix. At first I thought it was going to be a natural history program, but after about 25 minutes it was clear it was more of a memoir. It’s about a professional film-maker who became really burnt out in his life. Then he attempted to find his way back to himself, his work and his family through a friendship he made with a wild octopus. It was actually quite wonderful – I really enjoyed it.

Then, once I was in the mood for Octopuses, I came across a fellow blogger’s excellent book review of Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus. Again, I thought the book would be more of a natural history tome but again it was really a memoir and this was all to the good as it was also a very enjoyable read!

So I have decided to create two or three octopus pictures over the next few weeks.

Simple Gouache Painting

This week I worked on a simple octopus painting in gouache. It’s a painting of the famous and deadly Blue-ringed Octopus. The animal itself is gorgeous looking, but carries enough venom to kill 26 adults despite being really quite small!

One night when I couldn’t sleep I scribbled down the idea for this picture on an envelope…

Then I made a clearer drawing on a piece of cardboard I reclaimed from the packaging which comes when you buy books online.

Next I painted the background but forgot how very opaque gouache can be so I lost my initial drawing!

I redrew it quickly in pencil and then got my paints out.

I painted the local colour of the octopus first…

…and then put in some basic shading to indicate the three dimensional shape of the animal and it’s basic colour pattern.

Once that was done I went to town of the details of the rings and the richer darker tones of the octopus right next to it’s rings. Finally I added some white to give the octopus a shine. Here is finished painting…

Reflections

My aims with this painting were to try to show the dimensionality of the animal’s legs. I wanted to use a colour scheme which included the bright blue the animal shows in it’s rings when it feels threatened. Finally I wanted the octopus to look like it was floating free in space with his legs all out around him.

The idea I had of putting in the shine was something I was in “two minds” about. An object which is underwater doesn’t show this effect since it is created by the thin film of water on the object when surrounded by air. However as humans, frequently we visually “read” this effect as indicating wetness. In the end I decided to put communication of the slimy, wet, feeling of an octopus above the physics of underwater reflection.

Next week – I’ll be starting a large octopus ink drawing which will probably take a couple of weeks to complete. (I think it’s pretty appropriate to draw and octopus in ink!!!) 🙂

Dan Droid and Autism – A Digital Art Design

This week I worked on a simple greyscale digital art design of an android. I called him Dan because if you say Dan Droid it sounds close to Android (which I thought was funny) and also he reminds me of Asimov’s Daneel Olivaw who was my favourite robot as a child. (I think I also rather unconsciously modelled his human looks on a Euphonium player I knew at school called Daniel.)

I began with a simple sketch. One of the things I’ve been working on recently is how to better use my drawing tablet to get nice tapered lines. I really tried to work on that here. It meant drawing faster and having more faith in my hands to do the right thing without the constant supervision of my brain. Here’s the sketch…

Next I planned out a basic elecronic look for the part of his face which is showing his internal structure. I looked at reference for the muscles and bones of the face for this so that I could mimic real human anatomical structures with electronic equivalents. So the group’s of wires you can see, for instance, model muscle groups in the face.)

After that I added my darkest shadows. I really do love the way solid blacks look in comic art. At this point I gave him black hair to balance the image tonally, even though my Euphonium friend had blond hair.

Then I added 2 levels of greyscale tone using a cell-shading approach.

Finally to finish off the image I surrounded him with a background reminicent of electronic circuit diagrams. I though he looked really great amongst all of that.

So here is the final image…

Reviewing the art

Looking at this drawing, I like the way he’s walking across the frame but turning to look the viewer in the eye. I think it engages the viewer a bit more and also reveals his inner nature. I also like the simple cell-shading style although that’s really just a matter of personal taste.

If I wanted to add more I think I would render the background into 3D and make some parts of it look like matte metal and some parts look like chrome. I could then drop a shadow behind him onto the background to really make him stand out.

Reflections on Androids and Autism

In terms of the meaning of the art, I personally think people draw their own meanings from things like this. For me, this is all about what it feels like when I suddenly make a mistake and reveal my autistic nature. It’s very much like I have suddenly turned my head and now they can see what I really am. The electronic background he seems to carry with him is like the label of autism which other people then see.

There are some folks who think autistic people shouldn’t be compared to robots, but personally I think it’s a good metaphor. In order to do the normal social things that neurotypical people find automatic I have to set up a whole raft of decision-making flowcharts in my head, remember them in detail and follow them. This feels like having to build and maintain external circuitry to my regular self in order to hold simple conversations. The huge extra work of managing this circuitry is one of the things that makes socialising so draining.

For a long while I have felt ashamed of being this way, sort of deficient. However now, through counselling, I am beginning to believe that being my own self might be OK (with the same caveat as everyone else in the world, which is that a person acts decently).

I follow Terry Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax on this one. She says. .

It’s not my place to tell ‘em what to believe, if they act decent.’

May the 4th be with you!

Happy Star Wars Day everyone!!!!

On this wonderful May 4th I wanted to share some Star Wars Fan Art. I’ve got some Star Wars universe species sketches, some digital Star Wars Rebels portraits, three pencil drawings and a watercolour painting of our beloved Yoda!

star wars Species Sketches

Star Wars Rebels portraits

Pencil portraits of obi-wan kenobi

My favourite character in all of Star Wars!!! 🙂

Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan
Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan

geonosian warrior pencil drawing

Yoda in watercolour

I drew or painted all of the art in this post, however, because it’s fan art, please note that the intellectual property belongs to Lucas Film.

Fantasy Harbour – Digital Colouring

This week I’ve been struggling with really bad pain.  So I took a sketch I drew about a year ago and coloured it digitally.

This is the original ink sketch…

 

Here is how I coloured it…

Some of the things I kept in mind in colouring this picture were:

  • The reflection of the sky in the river is less bright and less saturated than the actual sky.
  • Objects in the background are less saturated and slightly lighter than foreground objects.
  • The sun will tint objects which have direct light slightly yellow.
  • The sailcloth of the boat in the foreground will show some shadows from behind.
  • I also wanted to reduce my colour palette slightly to give the picture a particular feel.  (I avoided reds and only got near to red in my browns and yellows.
  • In terms of planning my colour I worked from background to foreground.  I prefer to do it this way as it works really well for traditional painting as well as in digital colouring.

Here’s the final picture…

Developing Characters for a Comic Strip

I began thinking of writing a comic strip a couple of years ago when I heard some people in a queue for the post office talking about the funny things children say. My first go at a strip on this subject was the simple one-panel strip above.

However, as I thought about it I wondered if it would be better to develop a set of characters in school and work from there. I could make each character a bit larger than life and really push their characteristics. At first I thought I might call the strip “The Little Plump Teacher.” so I began to design a little teacher around the title…

However, this direction didn’t work out. Firstly, the children were going to be the stars of the strip, not the teacher and secondly, I wanted each child to be very different from every other – with different personalities and different looks. I had been doing some reading on character design and one of the things the pros do when creating a set of characters is to make each individual have a very obvious and individual sillhouette. This gave me the idea to make my school a school for animals!

First I just played around with my ideas on a page of my sketchbook with some thumbnails of possible characters.

Then I made some quick character sketches.

At this point I decided I didn’t like the snail character “Smole”. This was partly because his personality overlapped a bit with my duck character “Duke” and partly because I didn’t like the shape.

So I created a different sixth character, “KittyKat”, a cat.

By this time I was happy with my little class, so I made some more formal character designs digitally. Here they are, ready to delight and amuse. I can’t wait to see what kind of adventures they might have!

An important side-note: Although the children I’ve taught have told me some of the most funny and heart-warming things over the years (enough to fill several books) I’m not going draw on any of that in order to protect their privacy and maintain my GDPR obligations. These characters are not based on any children I have ever worked with and the stories in the strip won’t include anything that has ever happened in a school I’ve taught at.

Peacock – a simple digital painting

 

This week’s art began as a doodle of a peacock on some copy paper…

 

 

I scanned the sketch and pulled it into Autodesk Sketchbook. Then I reset the drawing colour to a light blue so that I could redraw over it digitally…

 

 

I find this kind of drawing very relaxing and did most of this while watching some the excellent new(ish) series of Star Trek Discovery (which is awesome!!!)

Here’s the doodle redrawn digitally.  You can see that I used two different line weights.  To keep a track of this while I’m working I draw a little sample of each line weight I’m using and then write the size next to it.  This means I can make changes at the correct weight without having to guess…

 

 

Next I added some fanciful swirls to his lovely tail…

 

 

Finally I added some colour and then colour balanced and finalised the image in Photoshop…