Digital Painting – Chameleon

For the last few years I have asked my son for feedback on my art. Basically I show him the picture and ask him to guess what my subject was. If he can guess it correctly I count it as a good’un. But I want to move further on and deeper into my studies, so I’m going to try setting myself objectives as I draw and paint, more than just the simple realism-based aims I usually work on.

  1. I want to think harder about my use of colour. Specifically for this week’s work I want to try using a classic 90% : 10% ratio of complementary colours (green : red) and I want to avoid over-saturating my work. (Colour is like a drug to me, but I frequently enjoy paintings with more subtle colour, so I want to have a try at painting more like that.)
  2. Secondly I want to be able to paint more confidently. So this week I’m going to use the freedom of being able to digitally jump back a few steps to particularly focus on the work I do after the blocking in. I often find the gap between the image of the finished painting in my mind and my blocked-in beginning to be quite daunting. I know what to do next at that stage; I just find it hard to push through and do it. I think lots of practise will help.
  3. I want to change up my constant attempts at realism for a range of different approaches. I really enjoy the art of a French Painter called Henri Rousseau. He painted a lot of animals and plants in jungle-like scenes and, like me, he was self-taught. So, this week, I’m going to try to paint a chameleon in my version of Rousseau’s style.

Here’s my basic outline of a chameleon. I looked at a reference for the animal itself and made up my foliage completely.

The I added a background so that my colour choices would follow my plan for colour in this picture.

I blocked in some branches and leaves, remembering to use plenty of red in my browns. This is close enough to red to work as a complementary colour.

Next I roughed in my main colours and shadows, trying to give my Chameleon and strong sense of form from the start.

Then I removed the line art. This was the stage of the painting where I generally find things tricky. So I focussed on filling in medium sized forms, values and colours in the same way as I’d just blocked in the whole animal, but working on medium sized shapes, like the stripes and the eye.

Again, as I coloured the edges of the stripes on my chameleon’s side I pushed the raw sienna colour on my reference to more of a burnt sienna, so that there was more red in the colour. I also pushed the cream of the middle area of each of the big stripes to a more pinkish cream. I was hoping that I could metaphorically smuggle in the red via my browns to balance and highlight the green a little.

Next I started working on the details on the face and the bumpy texture of a chameleon’s skin. I tried to hint at the texture, rather than drawing every little round bump. This bit still took a long time to do but my earlier work on texture is now beginning to pay off.

Once that was done I varied the values of my leaves to give the viewer a hint of the play of light around them and painted on some 3D style veins. I wanted the leaves to look regular enough so that they can be recognised by the viewer, but similar in style to Rousseau’s almost animation style painting.

My last job was to import this into photoshop and adjust my settings. I had been working in a dark room with a lit digital screen and this made my whole picture a little too dark. So I adjusted my levels to make the finished digital painting below…

And here (below) is one of my favourite Rousseau paintings The Dream, 1910, oil on canvas, The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Beautiful, isn’t it?!

New Project – Chameleons

Initially I trained as a biologist, mainly because I find living creatures astoudingly beautiful.  One of the world’s livings things which I’m really fascinated with at the moment is the chameleon.  They are amazing looking animals and can be so colourful.

Here are some photographs I found on the internet.  (NB.  None of these are my photographs – I have tracked down original photographers or linked to original images where it’s been possible.)

Here’s a  baby:

 

Baby Chameleon by Chris Miller

This is by Paul Bratescu from Flicker:

 

And here’s a really colourful one.  I couldn’t track down the author of this.

 

So I began with some sketches…

chameleonsketch2_FIN_WEB

With this one I was kind of getting warmed up  to my subject.  I had only looked properly (with artist’s eyes) at a few chameleons when I sketched this.  I think it makes a real difference how well you know what you’re drawing.

 

 

Then I spent some more time looking at chameleons, especially looking at video because I think it really helps to understand how these creatures move and how their bodies fit together to draw them properly.

My next sketch was much better:

chameleongoodsketch1_FIN_WEB

So in the next few days I’m going to transfer the sketch to watercolour paper and have a go at painting this little lady (I think it’s female veiled chameleon).