Grey and Yellow Cockatiel

 

This week I painted a bird.  It’s a grey and yellow cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus).  It’s a popular pet which is native to Australia.

I began with a sketch…

 

Then I gave it a blotchy background and laid down a basic lemon wash on the bird…

 

Then I put in all of the basic large scale colours and tones as a basis for the detail I was planning next…

 

Finally I got to the details and dived right in.  Once I was most of the way there with the finer work I could see how my background didn’t give the painting enough contrast so I darkened the whole thing right down.  Lastly, I finished off the edges.

Here’s the final painting…

 

 

I really enjoyed painting the eye, beak and other facial features of this little bird.  I used more gouache techniques on these parts and more watercolour on the plummage.  The feathers were the most difficult part, especially the feathers on the top of the head.  This is the weakest part of the painting in my opinion.  The only reference I had for the head feathers was a bit too small to use effectively.  However, it’s something I only realised with hindsight!

 

PS:  I’m having some issues with my health at the moment so I apologise if I’m a little late getting back to anyone.  Also, this is the last of my summer holiday paintings and I’ve not been able to paint for a while so I might not be able to put a post up next week but I will get back to it as soon as I am able.

Two River Scenes

 

 

At the end of April I had a car accident.  My car was written off and I got some minor injuries but no broken bones.  Anyway, I had some increased pain from the accident (and from the physio that I needed because of it) for a few months.  Because of that I haven’t been able to go fishing at all this year.  I’ve been really missing it. So one day during the summer holidays I drove down to a car park which is right next to our local river and just sat there for a while taking it in.  You can actually smell the water and, annoyingly, see fish turning over in the river just under a tree I normally cast into!!  When I got back I made a really quick watercolour sketch – not really capturing the details of the scene – but the feeling of the place, the living, moving river.

Here’s the picture…

 

Because it was such a quick sketch, with no reference other than my memory, it stayed quite loose.  I love it when other painters do this but I find it hard to like my own work when I use this approach.  It just looks scruffy to me.  🙂 It does work though, feeling-wise.

Later the same evening I was playing with my tablet and found a good little sketching program (Autodesk Sketchbook).  I played around with this and ended up making another river scene in a digital way.  I imported the basic scene into photoshop for finishing the next day.  Here’s the final image…

 

 

I like the textures in this one.  It reminds me less of my time in the car park next to the river though, and more of John Wyndham’s excellent book The Day of the Triffids!

The Dawn Wall

 

This is a painting I’ve been working on for a while.  It’s quite large (A3) and went through a lot of iterations before it was finally complete.

I first came across this particular rockface while watching some climbing videos.  The first was about a couple of climbers climbing a particular route on the rock face El Capitan in the US.  The section they climbed is called “The Dawn Wall”.  Then I watched the amazing Alex Honnold, in another video, climb the whole thing, free solo.  It was extraordinary!  My hands kept breaking out into a sweat just watching that chap.  Later the same week I was looking at some more beautiful woodblock prints from Japan.  I looked through a lot of Yoshida’s work and came across this beautiful print he made of El Capitan…

By Horoshi Yoshida, 1925

It just blew my mind.  If I were rich I would attempt to get an original copy of this.  I find it really beautiful.  Having seen this I made a couple of sketches of El Cap using photo reference…

 

I liked the feel of this sketch, so rather than sketching it again I decided to enlarge and transfer the sketch onto my watercolour paper.

  • First I scanned in my image and then printed it out 141% larger so it would fit to A3 paper.  Because my printer will only do A4 I printed 2 sections and then joined them like this…

  • Next I used a nice dark pencil to cover the back of the paper with graphite…

 

  • Then I got my Arches paper and laid the sketch over the paper and drew over my lines.  This marked the watercolour paper very lightly with my sketch…

 

Then I began to paint.  I began with a watercolour sky…

 

Then I blocked in some of the main light and dark areas on the rock face…

I built this up until I had a basic underpainting…

Then I began to layer on my gouache.  I thought the contrast between a hazy watercolour sky and the clear and definite strokes of gouache would make the rock seem harder.

After the first wash with gouache the painting looked like this…

 

Then I did the bulk of the actual painting – all the medium level tones

and colours…

 

Then I was ready for my favourite bit – the details.  Here’s the final painting…

 

 

Quakers

I have been associated with the Quakers in the UK on and off since I was in my early 20’s. I went back to Meeting for Worship (which is what Quakers call their Sunday gathering) today for the first time in a year. I have wanted to go back for a long time but my health has meant that I needed to concentrate on family and work only so that I could make sure I did those two things well rather than more things badly. Thankfully now my GP has made a change to my pain medication I’m able to do more again.

It was so lovely today to sit in silence with them – it was like coming home. I don’t have to be anything except myself there. I don’t have to perform or be on my best behaviour. There’s no singing or standing up or sitting down, no reciting of prayers or bread or wine. Nothing is really done and yet everything is accomplished. It reminds me quite strongly of Lao Tzu.

One of the long time members at our Meeting left to go to a retirement home about this time last year. So I wanted to paint her a picture of our Meeting for Worship to remember us by. I began by sketching during our Meeting one Sunday last year. I still have the sketches that I made but I haven’t asked anyone for persmission to put their portrait up here so I’m not going to do that. For the final painting I decided to paint the people in the meeting in outline only and to colour them according to how I see the Quaker Testimonies (which are concepts that are important to Quakers – Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality and Stewardship). Community was not done as a colour but was intrinsic in the image of a group of people sitting together. I also added a white line around each person to speak to the Quaker idea of the Light. It was done in a mixture of watercolour and gouache.

Anyway, here’s the final painting…

Mechanic – a large comic styled gouache painting

This week I’ve been dipping into some cool indie comics. One of them was called Quad. Each volume of Quad is a collection of four short stories in comic form. In Vol 1 is the story of Terah and Elvis written and drawn by Eduardo Shaal.

It’s a pretty good story with a Walking Dead type vibe – imagine Kirkman and Adlard’s Walking Dead after things have settled down a lot more and the zombies are just an annoying part of life which are dangerous if you’re not prepared. What I liked most about it was the feeling I got from the main character “Terah”; she had a sense of integrity lots of mechanical practical ability and a strong streak of independence. I really admire that way of being. Here’s the cover of the comic…

…and a link to it (here).

So, when I wanted to make a large comic-styled picture for my bedroom I thought of Shaal’s character. First I made an initial sketch in pencils based on a comic panel I particularly like. (If you follow the link above and use the ‘Look inside’ feature you can spot Shaal’s original panel on page two.)

I changed her hair and hat and I removed her gloves. Then I made the shadow of her cap less dense to I could draw her eyes in which were lost in shadow in the original work. I wanted to take the image in a slightly different direction from Shaal’s original. (Shaal has a beautifully loose drawing style which I love but wouldn’t be able to replicate even if I tried. So, rather than making a study of his work and style, I decided to follow his pose and work from there.)

Here’s my initial sketch…

This was done on A3 watercolour paper using pencils. It was harder and easier to draw something really big. It was harder because it took more courage to sketch something on a big scale. It was also easier because there was so much space to get every line I wanted and when you work bigger the final results are cleaner.

Then I inked her…

I used my Pentel Brush Pen for most of the main lines, which was great because you can get a very wide range of line widths really smoothly with this pen.

Then I used my Pigma Microns for the details.

Once the line work was complete I used my computer to have a play with colour schemes. I wanted blue and gold but I wasn’t sure exactly how to arrange it all. At first I thought this would work…

But her skin colour has too much yellow in for mustard coloured clothes to look right. So I changed her clothes to blue. This meant I had to work on trying to keep the blues properly differentiated but I thought it looked better…

Next it was time to paint. I’ve never tried to get such large flat washes before, especially inside tight lines. I used watercolour for the dark upper background colour (Payne’s Grey with some ultramarine dabbed into it). The rest was done with gouache. I know that professional illustrators often use a Liquitex acrylic gouache when they want large flat areas but I don’t have any of that so I did the best I could with regular gouache. It took a few hours over two days to complete the painting which is a really long time when you think that I did both digital colour scheme sketches in a total time of about 30 minutes.

Once the painting was finished I redid my line art to make it crisp and clear. This was so lovely to do, if a little nerve-wracking!

Anyway, here’s the final painting…

Simple Leaves

This week I gave myself a challenge. I wanted to paint some simple but beautifully shaped leaves, using only green hues (although I allowed myself to use any colour I liked to mix the greens). I wanted to do this in my watercolour sketchbook which is only 21cm x 13 cm, but still put in as much detail as I could. I really enjoy working on details so, since I’m now in the middle of the summer holidays, I just gave myself all the time I wanted to finish the picture. It was bliss!

I began with a drawing from a photo reference of a Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera deliciosa). It’s a tropical plant native to Central America…

Then I masked out the stem and main veins so I could work around them more easily…

Next I did a variegated wash over each leaf using a mix of sap green and Windsor yellow for the light green areas and sap green and viridian for the darker areas. Here’s how the wash turned out…

Next I used a darker green shade made with Payne’s grey, viridian and Windsor green to add a series of lines across the leaves. I blended these with the two previous colours I’d made to allow them to get lighter but still be visible.. Next, I removed my mask and painted the main veins and stalks and corrected a couple of masking errors. Finally I gave the leaves a small amount of thickness which would show particularly at the edges and where the leaf has natural holes. Finally I used a damp piece of kitchen towel to wet the lighter bits of the leaves and then used a dry piece of towel to remove a little colour. This was to try to give the leaf a very subtle sheen.

Here’s the final painting…

It was so relaxing to paint this simple subject; with lots of careful, repetitive details I enjoyed it tremendously.

I was also entertained while painting this by the antics of the newest member of our family – a gorgeous, 9 week old, Ragdoll cross kitten, called Leia (after George Lucas’ Princess Leia of course!). She was mostly exploring the sofa and kept trying to climb up the back cushions, appearing for an instant, and then jumping down onto the cushions. She’s so lovely!

Here she is…

Having fun with styles.

This week I had some fun playing around with some shorter paintings and trying out different styles.  Some artists try to “find their style” but I’ve never been really bothered about that.  I have this feeling that as you develop as an artist the style thing naturally appears over the years.  It’s still fun though, to play with different ways of producing visual media.

The first picture began as a study sketch I made while on holiday in Paris last year.  We visited the Musée d’Orsay, a museum on the left bank of the Siene which really revels in impressionist paintings although there are many types of art there.  While there, I loved seeing a lot of the art.  Alexandre Séon’s The Lament of Orpheus was one of the paintings that really caught my eye.

 

Here’s a glimpse of Séon’s original work via a photograph…

 

This painting was gorgeous to see in person.  It’s odd how seeing online photos of some of these famous paintings, as above, doesn’t do them justice.  In this form it seems flat, like something is missing.  Anyway, I got out my sketch book and made a pencil sketch of Séon’s painting which I then went over quickly and lightly with ink.  This is what I used for the first of my painting studies this week.

I took the ink sketch and coloured it with watercolour and a little gouache.   I wanted to see how a classical image might look if done in a more painterly anime style.  Here’s the result…

 

I’m not too keen on this one – I think the linework is too rough to really make it click.  I quite like the sand texture from the way the paint I was using was granulating on the paper, but it doesn’t quite draw together as a good image.  Next time I will leave it as a pencil sketch while out and about and ink it more carefully later on.

 

My next painting was a small sketch of some sea cliffs in gouache.  I tried to paint big portions of them from imagination which is something I find hard.

Here’s the gouache on it’s own…

Once I’d painted them I tried to emulate a style which is being used in TellTale’s video game, The Walking Dead.  They used a fairly painterly CGI rendering of the figures and then added some comic styled edges with a filter of some kind.  It’s a beautiful effect and very suitable for a video game based on a classic comic.  You can see a little of it in this still from actual game footage…

 

 

It reminds me of the amazing film “A Scanner Darkly” directed by Richard Linklater and based on Philip K Dick’s novel of the same name.  They shot the whole film in a fairly standard way and then spent 18 months with an animation team animating the footage over the top of the digital cinamatography.  It was visually incredible.  I’ve seen it many times now and it still takes my breath away. Here’s an example of what that looked like…

 

Now I don’t have the graphics software which Telltale have or the Rotoshop software, in which “A Scanner Darkly” was animated, but I had a go at using a Photoshop to fill out some comic edges on my gouache painting.  I don’t think I got close to the way the pros did it but I like the effect.  Here’s my Sea Cliffs painting with the filter…

 

 

I wonder if this effect could be achieved in a more traditional way by outlining the art with a 005, dark technical pencil?  It might work for the edges, but I suspect it wouldn’t give me the texture Photoshop gives me in the rocks.

 

The final painting I did was a small illustration of a fox in plain watercolour over a pencil sketch.  I used wet in wet first and then went over that base with some wet on dry. Once I had it scanned in I had a go looking at it with the same filter as I used on the cliffs painting…

 

 

But, in the end, I preferred the watercolour illustration as it is…

 

 

This was the easiest of the three styles and one of the better ones for me, although I did kind of like the gouache painting with the filter.  The Orpheus image didn’t really work for me this time but could, perhaps, be improved by better line art.

Folds in cloth 101

This week I had a look at drawing and painting folds in cloth. Having never taken art at school (I had to choose between art and music) I’ve not really looked at this subject before though I know it’s a common subject for art students. So I thought the best way to start was with an observational drawing.

I began with an outline sketch of the main structures…

Then I worked on more details in my drawing…

Since the depth of shadows on the cloth depend on the angle of each section with respect to the light source I knew I would need a lot of gradients so I decided to paint this in watercolour as gradients are easy in this medium. I began with a wash of my lightest colour, a dilute cerulean blue..

Then I worked into deeper colours and slightly darker shades…

Next I decided to put in my darkest darks. I used a saturated mixture of lamp black, ultramarine and alizarin crimson to make a very dark purple.

Then I added more of my mid-tone ultramarine shadow colours to balance the picture out. Here is my final painting…

Rather than just using one colour and changing the tone for shadows and highlights I used a range of colours, from the very dark purple mixture I mentioned previously, to a dark indigo, to ultramarine, to cerulean blue.

Initially I also left some white spots to give the cloth some pure white highlights but this made it look glossy rather than like the cloth that it was. So I painted over them with a very dilute wash of cerulean blue. Those highlights still look white but doing this just pushed them back enough to help the painting read properly.

Overall I really liked the colour range. Using indigos and purples in the darker folds gave the cloth a bit of warmth in those places.

On the negative side there is a fold in the middle of the top left quadrant which looked good and interesting in the drawing but got gradually changed with paint until it lost the shape that I liked. I think next time I’ll take a quick photocopy of my sketch before I start to paint so I have access to my drawing all the way through. I think, in general, I prefer the pencil drawing to the final painting which sometimes happens.

Also, I had a devil of a job getting the photo of this painting to look like it does in real life on the web. I couldn’t find a way to scan or photograph my picture so that the cyan colour showed in the highlights – they just look white. I suspect the white balance isn’t right but I can’t manage the phone as I would a proper camera. I think later this summer I’m going to dig out my old digital SLR and have a go with that instead. It could be a lot of fun!

Gold and Blue Macaw – Watercolour

 

This week I painted a Gold and Blue Macaw.  They are really beautiful birds and often have the most loving and friendly personalities.

I began with a sketch…

 

Then I added some masking fluid to the face area…

 

Next I laid down some basic light coloured washes.  I aimed their tone to be the brightest of all of the tones in each area.  That way I could layer other washes on top and gradually pick up my mid-range and dark areas…

 

Once this was done I got down to rendering each surface with progressively darker washes and then adding details (my favourite part of any painting!)

Here’s the final picture…

 

I quite like his yellow under feathers and head, but if I were going to do this again I would work on my portrayal of his left wing.  It just doesn’t work as well as I’d hoped in my mind’s eye.