An Ant – watercolour pencil

 

This week I did a bit of a challenge.  I painted an ant using a single watercolour pencil.  The idea of this kind of exercise is to try to use the full tonal range of one colour or shade.  I chose black because it’s traditional for ants and has the strongest tonal range.

I began, as usual, with a basic sketch…

 

Then I worked on getting a detailed outline which was fairly accurate to my reference…

 

Then I began painting with my single black watercolour pencil.  I used a water brush to activate the pencil I laid down.  Here’s how it looked when I was a little way into it…

 

After some very pleasurable concentration I finally got it finished.  Here is the finished piece…

 

I have to give some credit for this to my cat, Leia.  She helped me rely less on looking at reference since, in her eyes, the reference photo was more of a cat toy which she felt the need to own…

🙂

 

 

 

A Fantasy Firebug

I was looking through Wikipedia at various invertebrates when I came across the Firebug (Pyrrhocoris apterus). Here is a link to the page. I really liked it’s striking colours and decided to make a sketch…

At first I planned to use the real bug as a basis for a more fanciful “line and wash” painting. I began this by adding the kind of comb like antennae which are usually found on moths. Once that was done I had a go at adding similar patterned protrusions to parts of the creature’s legs but this seemed to unbalance the picture and I worried that they might reduce the striking nature of the colours later on, so I rubbed them out and just kept the moth antennae.

Next I made a simple ink outline drawing…

After that I went over this in detail as if I were making an ink drawing…

My final step was to paint the wings and body with watercolour and then touch up the black once the paint was dry.

Here’s the final image (I added a shadow in photoshop)…

I like the final picture but feel a bit sad that I didn’t find more fantasy changes to make to my insect. Sometimes I just get caught by the weirdness of reality!

A tribute to the Hollow Knight

Ok, I admit it, I’m a massive gamer. It helps enormously to manage my pain and keeps my mind very active. I recently bought a Nintendo Switch Lite which is a handheld games machine by Nintendo (who have a superb reputation in this area). That way, I can play wherever I am. One of the games I’ve recently got is called Hollow Knight by Team Cherry. The game is set in a fictional land of bugs. It’s beautiful. The artwork in the game just blows my mind away. Here are some examples..

They use a simple cartoon style for the foreground objects and then a digital watercolour / gouche style painting effect for the backgrounds. It’s a lot like Studio Ghibli.

So I decided to paint a tribute to them in traditional media. This post details my first try at this. It’s quite difficult to make a traditional painting look like a digital design since all of the tools of the trade are different.

I began with a basic watercolour wash on which I pencilled in my basic drawing…

As usual I used several pictures as reference and combined different parts of them. Then I added my lineart…

And then finally I painted the foreground. I used watercolour for almost all of it with some white gouache mixed in in places and used on it’s own for highlights.

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…

Orca

This week I painted a pair of orcas, a mother and her calf.

Here is my initial drawing design which I did on cartridge paper.  Initially I was going to make this a pen and ink drawing but I decided to paint it at the last minute….

 

Once I was happy with my drawing I masked out the white bits of the whales and went off to visit family for the afternoon while the masking fluid dried…

However, when I got back, and looked at the drawing carefully, I saw this…

They are scratches from my little kitty-cat, Leia.  I shouldn’t have been surprised really.  Despite being free to sit anywhere, she chooses to sit in various choice spots like…

…on my black work trousers, or…

…on the book I’m currently reading…

… in front of my PC monitor…

 

…and, more recently, on the clothes airer.  I think it is her life’s mission to cover everything of mine in little white kitten hairs!

 

Anyway, I decided to go ahead with the painting despite her best efforts.

I began by doing a couple of quick thumbnail sketches to give myself some idea of my colours.

I knew I wanted a restricted palette but wasn’t sure what colour scheme to use.  I decided on a variation of the left thumbnail.

First I put on some basic watercolour washes in Payne’s Grey and French Ultramarine.  I added some yellow for the sunshine and merged this in…

 

Next I used a similar blue mixture but with more Payne’s Grey and less ultramarine to put in the idea of some rocky land.  I painted the sun in Winsor Yellow with some Cadmium Yellow Deep and added a few reflections.

 

Finally I began to work on the more specific details and finished the painting…

 

I quite like the finished picture but it lacks precision.  I also think I could have managed my watercolour gradients better and more evenly.  I think I might have another go at this one sometime using proper watercolour paper and taking more time and care with the execution of each wash.

The Fae

A while ago I watched the TV series Carnival Row on Amazon Prime. I loved it. Travis Beacham’s story and world was fresh, different and beautifully crafted. I was totally blow away by it. It’s set in a Victorian world where mythical races, collectively called “The Fae”, have been discovered. They include pucks, faeries, kobolds and centaurs. It is wonderfully done. Having watched the series, twice, I felt inspired to paint my own faerie. Last time I posted about this I got to the stage where I’d played around with the the idea and drawn some quick thumbnails.

From there I made a basic sketch of the pose I’d decided on…

Next I used this as a reference for a more careful drawing to use in my final painting…

Then I began to paint. I added a yellow wash with more pigment around the area where my sun was going to be and less elsewhere. (The yellow is a bit stronger on the actual painting than in this photo. I think my camera noticed that I was taking a photo under artificial light and corrected the white balance a bit too far..) Here’s the photo…

Then I painted my larger areas with some initial colour. For the wings I began with a light ultramarine wash with a tiny bit of viridian in it. I tried to keep it light enough that some of the sun colour would show through. Here’s this stage…

Now I wasn’t happy with the brown trousers she is wearing (above) so I reworked them into a blue. It gave me a really nice shade. I see brown as just a darker version of orange so I used that information to help me mix a new blue on the page. Once that was done I added some shading for all of the main colours and shapes and then got into the details – always my favourite part!!!

Here’s the final picture…

(PS: I’ve been unwell this week with a bug going doing the rounds at school. Apologies for any typographical errors etc. Although I wrote this post weeks ago I normally do a final editorial check before publication, however I haven’t been able to do that this week.)

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!