The Nest

I saw a beautiful, detailed picture of a wasp’s nest a few weeks ago.  I really loved the patterns the colony had made as part of their home.  Initially I planned to draw just the nest but I thought having a member of the colony coming straight out towards the viewer would give the nest context and make the picture more dynamic.

Here are some process shots of the development of my picture…

Pencils
More detailed pencils
Ink outlines
Ink details

Before filling out the rest of the nest I enclosed an area in pencil which would show a highlight along the edge of the nest.  I wanted to see how I could change the pattern to give this impression and if it would work to make the nest appear more three dimensional.  In the diagram below I’ve highlighted the area I outlined in pencil in lilac.  To make the highlighted part of the nest look lighter I made thick lines thinner and dropped out many of the really thin lines altogether.

I think it works as a first approximation.  Next time, rather than just highlighting a single area and adding some deeper shadows on the sunless side I would like to see if I could spread out the highlight and have it gradually become lighter right across the surface of the nest and then go a little darker again. 

Anyway, as it stands, here is the final ink drawing I made…

(PS:  In terms of my health I hope I am slowly beginning to “turn the corner” now. Thank you so much for your kind messages. I am trying to get back to normal but that’s a longer journey than I had hoped at the moment.  I am now on some heavy duty psychiatric drugs for my mental health.  It was like having a soft down blanket lying over my mind at first but I am beginning to experience things more clearly in the last few days.   I do feel better on this medicine though and it’s controlling the worst of my symptoms. I’m still hearing and sometimes seeing things that aren’t there but it’s rarely the really bad stuff now and I can mostly ignore it.

  I think the doctors and other clinical staff have been really very good indeed. Their decisions seem sound and are helping me. I was discharged from the hospital team back to the community team on Tuesday of this week which sounds good but feels scary.

  I’m hoping to get my physical health a bit better soon too. I’m on long term antibiotics again for my chest which hasn’t been clear for months and my cardiologist is doing some tests so he can work out a plan. I have also finally got an appointment with the doctor from my pain clinic. So, things are looking up a bit after so many things were put on the back burner during Covid. I really do appreciate your support and kind words!

Thanks again!  Jo 😁 )

Zebra in Ink

This week’s art is a Zebra sketched in pencil and then drawn in ink over the course of an hour or two.

Here’s the drawing in a little more detail…

Arm Tattoos

Jim’s portrait is coming together now and is getting to a point where I think I will do an update on it soon. Until then, here are a couple of designs I worked on a while back for tattoo’s I want to put on the top of each of my forearms. I will put the tree on my right arm and the triskelion on my left.

The tree design is re-worked from a previous design I created but wasn’t happy with in the end. (Because tattoos are so permanent I sit with the design ideas I have for a few months to really make sure they are exactly what I want. The more I thought about the original tree design, the more I wanted some greyscale tones included in the design.) Here’s a link to the original design…https://jofoxadventuresinart.wordpress.com/2021/04/16/simple-tree-tattoo/

So I went from…

…to this…

And then finally settled on this with a dropped shadow around it in grey…

My Triskelion design actually began as a way to try to cope with very severe and lasting pain during the difficulties I’ve had recently.

For me the natural world is where I ground myself, where I find peace and where I go when I am not coping. I have always loved what Mikhail Gorbachev said about his “faith” in nature…

“I believe in the cosmos. All of us are linked to the cosmos. So nature is my god. To me, nature is sacred. Trees are my temples and forests are my cathedrals. Being at one with nature.”

Mikhail Gorbachev

The trouble with really severe pain is that you can’t push it to the back of your mind for a period of time like you can with moderate pain. So you get no rest from it at all. Instead I tried to find a way to draw strength from my connection to nature despite the pain by drawing a triskelion on each of my arms.

Looking back it was quite an odd thing to try but I was feeling really desperate at the time and didn’t really care how odd something was if it worked. It turned out to be pretty helpful since every time I caught sight of them my mind went to all of the good associations I have with the natural world. The pain wasn’t any less but the constant reminders of good things gave me a lot of strength.

In terms of drawing these, I just drew them on freehand with permanent markers like this…

The Triskelion has had a lot of different meanings over the centuries since it’s first use. For me though, it has always symbolised Mother Nature so that’s the meaning I chose. There are also different ways of drawing it with the archemedian spirals going clockwise or anti-clockwise. In the literature the clockwise spirals seem to be associated with outward work and movement, whereas the anticlockwise version seems to be most often associated with inner work and stillness. I chose the anti-clockwise spiral.

I really liked having the triskelion on my arms so I decided to make a formal tattoo design which I could later get put on my arm by a professional tattoo artist.

Here are some process screenshots of me working on this design…

Finally, after quite a few changes and revisions I got it how I wanted it…

Here are both designs completed…

I want to get them tattood in black and grey possibly with some white highlights in a few places. I think I will get some advice from a tattooist about this. I do love white highlights in tattoos but I don’t know how long they last in skin or how hard they are to put in. (I have heard that white is a hard colour to pack into an area, but I don’t know how true that is.)

I think they will look pretty cool and might be a permanent help with my pain. 😊

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.

Simple Tree Tattoo

This week I designed a tattoo. I’ve made a couple of attempts to design this tattoo before but both times the design was too complex and would need to be larger than I could handle in terms of having the work done. This design was made to be kept small (about 7 cms in diameter) which is manageable.

I did the design work digitally and began with a very basic shape…

Then using this as a guide I roughed in some basic branches…

Taking away the original rough guide, it looked like this…

Next I filled in my basic branches and then reworked them a little…

My next job was to put in some leaves…

To do this I needed to reduce the length of many of my branches. I used a simple rendering of light on the leaves. I imagined that the sun was setting just to the right of the trunk and kept the light section of each leaf towards that direction.

Finally, I wanted to give the viewer some idea of the texture of the trunk, but still keep things really simple. In the end I settled on this…

Here’s the finished design…

I think it will look good! I’ve found a really good tattooist to take this design forward and tattoo it for me. Now I just have to put down a deposit and then get an appointment!

Designing a Motif to Represent Mother Nature 2 of 2

Last week’s art was a watercolour I made from a digital design I came up with based around the motif of the tree of life. Link to last week’s art. The idea was to celebrate my love of nature in art. This week I’m going to go over how I made a detailed digital design of the same subject based on my outline design from last week.

At first I just played around with the design, trying out different effects and seeing what I could do with my basic outline and how I might want to develop it digitally.

Here are a few of the ideas I came up with while I was still exploring what I might do…

1. Seemed to make a nice sillouette which could be used as a tattoo design but wasn’t what I wanted for my final drawing.

2. and 3. were OK but still far too simplistic. It was OK to keep this design simple when I was using watercolour because the whole point was to let the simple colours and shapes speak for themselves. With this drawing though I wanted detail.

With 4. I started to see more of the form of the tree which I liked but it was still too simple. So I decided to change the form of the trunk to make it more interesting. Like this…

And then I began to play around with some texture…

The combination of textural and contour lines inside one textural pattern worked really well. So I went on to use this over the whole tree…

Next I used shading to give more form to the tree. The shading alone looked like this…

When added to my line drawing I completed my project…

At this point my greyscale design was complete but I did spend a little while having some fun with colour after that. Here’s how it went…

I worked in photoshop 6.0 for this. I used a circular gradient across a mask to make the main colour…

…which looked like this (above) once I had balanced the greyscale and the colour approriately. (This was actually quite tricky and took a while to do.) After that I added a background and then a partially opaque white circle over the main design and it was done!

Ink and Watercolour Koi

This week I played around with using watercolour and ink seperately and then together.  I began making a koi tattoo design using black ink on paper.

This was drawn in my sketchbook.

Then I thought I’d have a go at doing a proper watercolour koi carp.  I love the way watercolour spreads when it’s wet in wet and I thought that would look great with the spots you get on the back of some of the fish.

I got this all painted but the style was really loose and impressionistic.  My son liked it but I couldn’t tolerate it.  It’s odd because I love it when others are quite free in their work but I can’t stand it in mine.  So I began to tighten it up with ink.  I liked it much more this way with the black ink supplying a strong boundary and contrast for the more impressionistic red watercolour spots.  I’m not totally happy with the result but it was fun having a go.  Maybe I should try to let things be more free?

 

Here’s the final picture…

 

Day 103 to 109 – Hands, hearts and music.

I began this week with an exercise on drawing hands from Mark Crlley’s Manga book…

manga books crilley

 

So here are my sketches…

hands-sketch_fin_web

I discovered that I really like drawing hands – they are such interesting objects with so many patterns and shapes that they can be in!

Then I gave them some shading in pencil and then added colour using a three shade cell animation style.  I worked at using a different skin tone for each hand which made it fun…

hands-shaded_fin_web

Looking at them now I can see some errors and mistakes I would like to draw better next time, but they do look more like hands than bananas so I’m OK with them generally.

Then I decided to use some of this ‘hand work’ to sketch a picture of my son playing guitar…

 

guitarman-pencil-web

 

Drawing his real hands was much harder than drawing the hands from Mark’s book!  I had a good go at it thought and then inked my sketch and shaded it with some greyscale markers.  Once I got it scanned it, at first I played around with the music notes and added colour to them…

guitarman-ink-tonesfin-web-col-notes

 

But, despite adding a drop shadow and trying a number of other things too I couldn’t get the contrast I wanted on them so I reverted for my final image to the scan…

 

guitarman-ink-tonesfin-web-black-notes2

 

The next day I was kicking back watching ‘Tattoo Fixers’ (a UK TV show about doing Tattoo Cover-ups – it’s a bit of a favourite in our place) and I saw one of them design an artificial something – I think it was a heart.  Anyway, I thought it was a great idea for a drawing so I began to make up my own artificial heart.

I began by sketching a real heart really lightly from a textbook I’ve got at home and then replaced each part with something artificial.

Here’s my final work from my sketchbook…

artificial-heart-bw_web

I used ink and pencil to create this.  I still thought it was a bit boring though so I added a background and colourised the ink/pencil drawing…

artificial-heart-col_fin_web

I think this has managed to make an interesting picture but I think I failed to really match the background well to my foreground image.  It just doesn’t tie in properly and loses impact because of that.  Ho hum – you can’t win them all.

Post Script:

I looked at this again today, after it was published and thought of some ways I could improve the coherance of the artificial heart picture.  I had a quick play around in photoshop and this is what I came up with.  I think it’s slightly better but I might be trying to make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear!  LOL

artificial-heart-new-look-and-feel

I used colours from the background in the foreground image and then added some filters to both to tie them in.

Day 37 – Autism, illness, love and faith.

Being unwell has some odd effects on me.  I’ve been told that some of this is probably due to the autism, some is just the way my particular body and mind work and some is common to most people.

I’m normally a calm and quite happy person and well able to keep my head in difficult, even threatening, circumstances.  This is why I did well working with children who had emotional and behaviour problems when I first qualified as a teacher.  However when I get sick I become less able to manage as well as I normally do emotionally.  This tends to come out in the evenings when I’m tired.  I find myself getting tearful for reasons I can’t understand.  Because of the autism, I sometimes don’t notice other symptoms for a long while so the first sign on me getting ill is my emotions.  Then when I take my temperature and check myself over I find I’m feverish and unwell.

Once I realise what’s going on and start to take care of the illness I get medical help and proper bed-rest.  Then although I still feel horrible physically, emotionally I begin to feel better.  As soon as the fever begins to break I start to sleep a lot.  After a few days of that, when the illness goes, even though in this case I’m still left with a cough, it’s like waking up on a sunny morning after a night of heavy rain – everything is fresh and clean and quiet in my mind and I feel closer to God than usual.

It was in this state of mind that I drew the following in my sketchbook…

my-saviourscan_web

 

The symbol on the left is from a Catholic group called the Jesus Caritas Fraternity, although it is my own design of their idea.  I’m not Catholic myself (I’m Baptist) but I have a dear friend of many years, another teacher, who is.  She’s a musician too and we’ve played in catholic and protestant churches all over our home town.  Anyway the Caritas people concentrate on bringing the love of God to people who are abandoned and marginalised in a quiet, lowly way.  They don’t push conversion, instead they love people and care for them unconditionally believing that when people feel the love of God for themselves, then conversion becomes natural.  This is how it was for me.  Having read some books related to all of this by a chap called Carlo Caretto I came to see this symbol as meaning the love of God in Jesus and it became really very personal for me.

Many years later I ended up getting a tattoo of this symbol with the Japanese character Dao 道, which means road, path, way.  The design I did for this was…

jesus-caritas_way_tattoo-copy

It’s on my foot as a reminder to always walk in the path of the love of God – like a prayer which is always with me.  🙂

Anyway the picture on the right, of the shepherd and sheep kind of expresses a bit, that feeling I was trying to convey when I previously tried to draw some more religious art a month of so ago and ended up giving up.  It shows, for me I think, the love and safety and wholeness I feel so much from my faith.  (The shepherd is supposed to be Jesus and I’m the sheep.)

Here’s the final image…

my-saviourfin_web