Lightning Strike – Digital

While working on these posts during February half term, I tried a new digital drawing application called Autodesk Sketchbook. At first I doodled around on it making a doodle drawing of a dream I had. After a little practice I began to get the hsng of it a little more.

I began with a quick little cartoon sketch of a dog who ended up having very big ears. So I called him Big Ears.

Here he is…

Next I wanted to have a go at doing a more tricky multi-layered digital image. Rather than having a clear picture in my mind I just started playing around with the software. Here are the layers in the order painted them. I began with a tree…

Then after a little finishing on the final image via photoshop – here is the completed painting…

The things I enjoy most about this kind of digital art are:

1. That it is so quick to do, and

2. That the textured brushes can make such beautiful effects!

PS: I also made a gif slideshow of the painting process for this image…

Little Acorns


This is a small pencil sketch of some oak leaves and their little acorns.  It was done with Fabre-Castell watercolour pencils and a small watercolour brush.  I wanted to see how small I could go and still put in some textural detail in the acorn cups.  The actual drawing is two and a half inches across.

Here’s a slightly enlarged photo of the drawing…

Ten Minute Video Observation Practice #3

This week’s video observation practice drawings were from the 1994 TV mini-series of Stephen King’s The Stand and from an advert I saw on You-Tube. I only caught the very end of it so I don’t know what it was advertising but I was really drawn to the cinematography. Again they were both drawn in approximately 10 minutes with Pigma Microns and a manga pen and shaded with natural tone brush pens.


Kathy Bates as Rae Flowers

Kathy Bates as Rae Flowers in the 1995 TV mini-series of The Stand produced by Greengrass Productions and Laurel Entertainment Inc.

I really loved reading The Stand and have read it twice now. So when I saw that they made a DVD of the miniseries I bought it. It wasn’t a bad adaptation either. I particularly liked the performance of Gary Sinise as Stuart Redman (although, for me, he will forever be Ken Mattingly, the part he played so perfectly in the film Apollo 13).

The frame I sketched was of the actor Kathy Bates playing the radio presenter Rae Flowers.

In this scene Flowers is running a call-in radio show during an outbreak of a deadly disease in America. Her callers describe the power of the epidemic and speculate, correctly, about the origin of the disease – that it was made in a government lab and was accidentally released. The station is stormed by US soldiers and Flowers is killed. It’s quite a powerful scene. I completely loved the bravery of the character defending her 1st ammendment rights.  Kathy plays it beautifully.  Here’s the sketch…

I managed to complete the sketch and most of the shading in just over ten minutes for this one (12min).


River scene

The second sketch this week is of a couple of people in a boat on a river. I’m afraid I don’t remember much about the advert this came from, except that it had an Asian feel to it. I’d been looking up the history of Japanese woodblock prints and somehow got this image from an ad associated with the video.

Here’s the sketch…

Mostly this was done with my trusty Pigma Microns again and my brush markers. I did try the branch silhouette, though, in a different Kuritaki manga pen. The pen was lovely, however the ink I chose to use wasn’t quite as waterproof as I am used to with the Microns and did smudge a little. At first I was going to give up on the sketch but then I decided to add more diffuse colour and try to get the river below the branch to look more watery with darker and lighter reflections. I quite liked the effect in the end, although it looks better if you don’t know about the ink issue!  This one took about 7 minutes in total.

As I write this it’s now half term and I’m trying to put together at least a month of posts ready for going back to work next week.  I’m nearly there with that which will mean I will finally have time to work on my “Fae” picture inspired by the Amazon series Carnival Row.  I am really looking forward to it.  I also have another importantproject I’m doing for my mum, but I’m not sure about sharing it here as it’s especially for her.  I really want to get it done by Christmas if possible.

“The Greatest Teacher Failure is”

Yoda says in Star Wars The Last Jedi
“Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is.”

I’ve certainly found this to be true. I have learned a lot more from my failures than I have from my successes. At school, our headteacher has this quotation on her door. We sometimes have children who find the thought of failing at something very, very hard and so would rather avoid trying if they think they might fail. Every other term or so we all walk around to the headteacher’s door and read the quotation and then go back to class and talk about it. In a world where so many people put only their successes on social media and hide their failures it feels really healthy and relaxing to be OK with messing something up.

This week’s painting a portrait of Yoda when he was young (only about 400 years old, rather than 900!)

I began with a reference photograph from one of the films…

Then I used my PC to try out various backgrounds. In the end I settled on this tree sketch behind him…

I painted him in watercolour on A3 hot pressed, 300gsm paper, beginning with the background and then working forwards to the Jedi Master himself. It took me a couple of weeks on and off to get this done. I actually finished it before Christmas but was working on publishing my October Ink drawings at the time so I put it aside until later. Here’s the final picture…

I like his younger look and the shape of the tree behind him. However, if I did this portrait again, I would reduce the saturation and contrast in the tree a little and maybe even paint it more loosely to push Yoda forward and give the picture more depth.

October Ink 5, 6 and 7 – Water, Mammal, Tree

The next three October Ink drawings I did were of a splash of water, a mouse and a bonsai tree.


Water is something which has always fascinated me.  I could watch ripples and splashes in water for hours, literally.  This summer we made a trip to Paris.  There were beautiful fountains and overflowing pools of water in the Trocadero Gardens (just the other side of the river from the Eiffel Tower, right next to the Pont d’Lena).  It was SO beautiful there.  Paris is a wonderful city and the people there were really helpful when I needed a wheelchair for my pain condition or help to find a taxi  – such lovely people!  The food was absolutely fabulous too!

Here are some photos of the gardens.  It was a very hot day (31 deg C) so many people were enjoying the water…




With repect to my October Ink drawing of water I tried to use just flat colours with no gradients to see what effect it would have.  Looking back I think it would look better if I had used some gradients in the blacks and greys.  Here’s what it might have looked like with a gradient watercolour wash over the top…

I added the colour digitally to see how much difference it made – I think it works better.

My next sketch was of a little mouse…


When I was at secondary school I used to keep 2 white mice in a special habitat at home.  They were lovely but they sometimes chewed their way out of their habitat (which was made of wood).  One day I remember getting ready for a hockey lesson at school when I found one of my mice in my hockey boot!  My PE teacher initially didn’t believe me when I told her what had happened, until she saw the mouse! I had to take it to the biology department so it could be looked after until the end of school.

My last drawing of a Bonsai Tree was another experiment where I was trying to use a very rigid drawing style.  Here it is…


It wasn’t as effective as I’d hoped.  However, if I add some digital colour, it really comes to life…


Lesson 3.1 – Colour Families – part 1

Today I decided to try to paint a picture using only the green colour family (only shades of green).  I decided my definition of green can go from ‘almost blue’ to ‘almost yellow’ since green is a secondary colour anyway.  I also wanted a focal point which did use (as part of the colour mix – not on it’s own) a bit of red.  I was hoping that having this red hue mixed into this one object would make it stand out.  (My ‘object’ is another owl – sorry – I just love those little feathered friends.)

So I began with a sketch:


Then I began to lay down flat colour.  I was using a gouache method called ‘The Mid-Tone Method’ where you paint the middle tone and then darken and lighten that later to give texture and form.


It was really odd using a yellowish/green for the sky.  On the palette it looked really too green for sky but against the more green greeens it looked yellow.  I didn’t realise that colour could change with context to such a significant extent.


Another experiment I’m doing at the moment is that I’m seeing how gouache responds to being dried out and reworked on the palette.

Here’s my palette:


I found this worked perfectly for watercolour paints.  I thought it would work well for gouache since it reactivates so easily but I’m finding that it only works well when I want to use the gouache in a dilute form like you would with watercolour.  For the flat colours I needed it to be just a little bit thicker than I could easily mix from the dried out paint.  This is a pain because the flat colour I wanted looks less flat.  It probably also means that, long term, I’ll need to move to a different palette system to work with gouache.  I think I’m going to go for a paper palette since it’s nice an easy to clean up.  As you can see (in the partially completed painting above) the paint is not as flat as I wanted.

I’ll finish it tomorrow…    🙂


Something Completely Different

Before I continue with the course I want to have a bit of freedom for a day.  I decided to paint a sunset.  I used a big round brush – new from Hobbycraft last weekend.  I decided to make it loose and strongly coloured.  However, the  brush decided to drop not one or two but nine hairs all over my painting (even though I had washed and prepared the brush properly before hand).  So in trying to get these hairs off I ruined the painting.  (That’s the first and last time I buy brushes there.)

However, I’ve seen a technique where paint is deliberately removed with newspaper to make a textured background so I thought I could use this small ‘problem-ette’ as an opportunity to try it without wasting anything if it didn’t work.

It did make quite an exciting texture although it is a bit messy and busy for my taste.  It reminded me of the “scortched earth” in various post-apocalyptic stories (I’m reading Stephen King’s “The Stand” at the moment) so I painted a dead tree and a kneeling person next to it to push the idea of things being quite broken and the picture was done.  It’s very much an experiment but at least I got something out of it.  (Plus – big bonus – my son likes the style!)


Here it is:

The Scorched Earth FIN_WEB

A simple tree

I wanted to explore using a particular colour as a shadow colour.  I decided to paint a simple tree and use a blue / grey mixture for the shadow.  So I mixed up some green, some grey/ blue and some of the same grey / blue with a little green in.  The green mixture I varied as I painted adding yellow  for highlights and then blue to darken it down.


I began by painting the main body of the tree with a basic green and then adding a lighter yellow/green to the left side and a blue green to the right:


Then I just built it up.  One of the hardest things was knowing when to stop.  The most fun part of the painting though was the trunk and branches.  I especially enjoyed putting in the shadows for this (although my control still wasn’t what I hoped and I had to do some bits several times).

Here’s the finished study.


Soft Pastels – Tree of Life

After some more messing about with pastels I wanted to have a go at drawing a proper picture. One of the ways I love to relax in the summer is to sit under a big tree with a good book.  So I took this image as my starting point for this picture.  I also like being at the top of hills. As a child in the summer holidays I used to go hill walking in North Wales (and sometimes in the Lake District and the Peak District).  We used to stay on a farm in Snowdonia, quite high up in the hills and go walking from there. Here are some photo’s of the region generally from the World of Travel Website Snowdonia Snowdonia-National-Park (Please note these beautiful pictures are not my own photos.) When I was there it rained from time to time and was nearly always cloudy but it was beautiful nevertheless and I loved the quiet, the sound and smell of sheep and the crunching sound of my walking boots on the rocky, gravelly surface of the tracks we hiked along.  The higher we got the quieter and simpler the world became until it was just ground and cloud with the sound of the sheep from further down in the valley and the wind in the background.  I love places like that – I feel like I can breathe and be myself and I don’t have to fight and work really hard to try to fit in.  So I wanted my picture was going to include a hill too. But then as I looked at the brighly coloured soft pastels I had I realised that I wanted this image to be really brightly coloured and that didn’t fit very well with the dark browns and yellows and greens of Snowdonia.  It was then that I thought of making it more like a fantasy world, or a world from legend, or from the deep past. I still kept the hill and the tree ideas but changed how they would look. So this is what I came up with: treeoflife_WEBThe final picture ended up very different from my favourite oak tree which I sit under when I’m out with my dog and different from the Welsh hills but, for me at least, I still feel that sense of space and calm I get from those two places. I called it the tree of life because it feels like heaven.