Line and Wash – Badger Cub

This week’s painting was done using the line and wash technique. It was of a cute little badger cub, transfixed by a bumble bee! Being a true Hufflepuff, I love badgers! They’re a very grounded animal. I just love their dirt snuffling ways!

I’m afraid I had a difficult week with my health, so this was quite a quick little sketch. I began in pencil then added some ink outlines and then inked all of his fur, like this…

Once the inks were completed I washed over my picture with watercolours to add a little more depth. Here’s the final painting…

Line and Wash Shoebill

This week I painted a picture of a really odd-looking bird. It’s called a Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex), because, unsurprisingly, it’s bill looks a bit like a shoe. I think it looks more like a clog. I wonder if Clogbeak will catch on? 😊

I used the Line and Wash method of painting for this picture. Basically it is a mixture of an inked line drawing painted over with watercolours. (Although I have seen people paint watercolour pictures and then add the ink lines later which is interesting.)

Here is a beautiful photograph of one of these birds. I absolutely love the feather definition the photographer has picked up on the back of the bird. The photo is by Hans Hillewaert.

© Hans Hillewaert Licenced under CC BY-SA 3.0

Here are some process photos of the drawing process…

Inks Part 1
Inks Part 2

Here is my ink drawing…

Once my ink drawing was complete I then set about painting. I began with a pale yellow wash over the background area. While the wash was still wet I dropped into it some Cadmium yellow deep (which is a gorgeous colour). I also played around with removing some of the colour in places with a paper towel so I could have a nice textured background.

Next I painted all of the bird apart from his eyes and bill with a very light Paynes Grey with a little French Ultramarine to make it a little more blue. I gradually built up my depth of colour and depth of tone in the darker areas.

Once that was done I painted his eyes and then his amazing clog-like bill. I finished off using some titanium white with a really small rigger brush to put in some highlighted feathers and some eye-shine.

Here is my final painting…

I think they’re really funny birds. As well as having a significant bite, they also clatter their beak when greeting a friend and bow and shake their head to show affection!

Here’s a YouTube video which shows a female Shoebill clattering her beak and greeting her favourite keeper with bows and head shakes. It’s a lovely video! (The clattering starts at about 1 minute 20 seconds and the bowing and head shaking happens shortly afterwards.)

Disgustingly, they also defecate on their own legs to cool down when they’re too hot. I don’t know if I would ever be hot enough to do that! They are also, very sadly, classed as a vulnerable as a species with only 5000 to 8000 left in the wild. This is partly due to the black market for their bodies (despite them being a protected species on CITES) and partly due to habitat destruction in their central African home due to farming and burning of the land.

Octopus Dream #5 – The Bubble Fountain

This is the last in my series of “Octopus Dreams” posts.

One of the things I love about octopuses is their curiosity and playfullness. I saw a video online of an octopus playing in a bubble stream in his tank. It was wonderful! Unfortunately it looks like the video has been taken down so I can’t show it to you. Instead here’s a video from a different channel, Octolab TV which is quite similar where an octopus is playing in the output from a water pump. I love the way he gets surprised by the feel of it but keeps going back because he’s interested. I think he’s having fun!

In my painting this week I wanted to capture an octopus playing in some bubbles.

I started off with a drawing…

Then I painted the background with a basic blue/green/yellow wash in watercolour. When it was half dry I added salt to the damp paint. The salt sucked up any remaining fluid which removed some of the paint in a patchy sort of way. I used this effect to give the impression of smaller bubbles which were further away behind my lovely curious octopus.

Next I began to draw in my main octopus shape using Prismacolor pencils. I used three colours – a dark blue/green, a low saturation mid-green and a pale yellow/green (which looked yellow because of the green around it!)…

Once I had the basic shape I then used a bright yellow and a white to push the lighter surfaces and a black Prismacolor, along with a 4B Mars lumagraph pencil to deepen the darker areas. I blended these in with a blending stump and then went on to add my bubbles. Once this was finished I photographed my finished art and adjusted my levels in Photoshop.

Here is the finished picture…

Next week – some new adventures!!!


A Short Digital Light Exercise

This week’s art is a digital lighting exercise. The aim was to try to find a way to show light reflecting off a wet surface in a really simple way. I gave myself 30 minutes for this exercise and no reference materials just to see what I could come up with from imagination alone.

I decided to draw a city scene at night in the rain. Here’s the sketch I began with…

Once I had my basic drawing mapped out I painted in the colour from the back of the scene to the front. Like this…

Once I had all of my colour in I pulled the image into Photoshop. Then I added some rain in blues and yellows and reworked my tonal values to produce my final image…

The drawing and painting did take half an hour and then I spent another 10 minutes or so playing about in Photoshop after that.

I was pleased with the way the light shone through the material of the lady’s umbrella and the relative brightness of the street lamps. I would have like to do something more for the headlights of the car but without reference I could’t work out how that would look. At the time I gave myself an excuse that the lights were nearly head-on and dipped for in-town driving so I didn’t have to do much, but thinking about it now, just putting some light in front of teh car ont eh road would have helped.


Deeper into Art – The Whole Creative Process Part 2 of 2

Following on from last week where I documented the first four stages of my creative process. This week I’m going to look at the second half of that process. In all I have 7 steps I usually take to make a piece of art:

  1. Intention
  2. Inspiration and Reference
  3. Exploring
  4. Preparing
  5. Creating
  6. Assessment and Review
  7. Sharing

So I’ll be focussing on Creating, Assessment and Review, and Sharing.


I began drawing with pencil and then hard pastel pencils. Once that was done I layered on my pastel pigment. Here are my process photos…

It seemed to go well until I took a step back and really looked at my final picture…

Assessment and review

The final image had the wrong feel to it. So I began to look carefully at what I had done.

Here is my digital plan and my final image side by side…

I think the “Plan” worked because the reddish colour of the background is pushed towards brown which is really just a dark orange yellow and so just looked like a different tone of the same basic colour as the Buddha’s skin. This made it more restful. There was a small amount of blue in his hair which, being an ultramarine blue/ violet, added an accent of complemetary colour to the picture which I liked too.

However in my actual drawing the blue was more prominent and not as violet, and in my background I’d picked up on the red of the paper directly with my pastel colour choices so I had three colours, giving my pastel picture the wrong feel all together. Red, blue and yellow are a triadic colour combination which is a high energy variation of a split complementary colour scheme. This gave it a youthful, playful feel which just didn’t work for my intentions with this image at all.

Back to the Drawing Board

So I literally went back to the drawing board and decided to try again and rework the whole thing with a different colour scheme.  However I now had about half the time to get it done!

I felt that using the burgundy paper I already had was really working against my intentions at this stage so I made the decision not to frame the picture under glass but to use a fixative on it instead.  I thought I would present it on a backing board in a clear plastic sleeve. That way it would still make a good present and I had time to order some more supplies. I bought some fixative and some creamy grey pastel paper.

I chose this time to use a blue background with cool blue light as that would make it more serene and tie it into the Buddha resting at night. I kept the golden yellows of my Buddha’s skin and the darker blues of his hair.

Here are my process pictures as I remade the image…

And this is the finished picture…

I am much happier with the result this time. 🙂 The portrait answers the question which my heart was asking when I decided to work on this.

Once it was finished I fixed it outside with a professional artist’s fixative using my home made spraying bay…

I made this out of an old vacuum cleaner box. It works really well to hold the picture at a good angle for spraying and doesn’t let the fixative go all over the ground. (I use this for varnishing gouache sometimes too.)

Assessment and Review Take Two!

I am pleased with the warm golden feeling of the Resting Buddha’s skin and the calm night-time feel of the background. I wish I could add the smell of an open wild place, like our local common, and the sound of summer insects to the scene somehow.

The final image which I gave to my friend was slightly more muted in colour due to the fixative, but that added to the gentle restful feeling of the picture.  (I pushed the saturation and contrast in the pastels so that it would still look good when the fixative muted everything.)

Here’s the picture after using fixative…

One criticism I have of this piece is that I drew the buddha’s neck muscles for a man sitting up or standing and then turned the image sideways as I found the kind of composition I wanted for my potrait. So the muslces at either side of his neck (sternocleidomastoid muscles if memory serves) are drawn as if they were active in supporting the head. However when he is laying on his side these muscles would most likely be at rest which would change the shape of his neck. If I went back and remade the picture a third time (!) I would find reference for the neck region of a man lying on his side so I could get this right.

It’s only a small detail but I have found that the more small details are correct in a picture, the more the viewer is able to see what I have in my heart as I paint it. It is the viewer who is, in many ways, almost a collaborator in each picture in the end.


Well my friend really liked her picture and I was very happy to have done this for her.

Generally speaking I share my art mostly in person and on WordPress.

On the technical side of sharing art, I use tags on each page so that search engines can index my pages appropriately. This results in about half of my views coming from search engines and half from within WordPress.

I am also careful when sharing my work to keep the resolution of images down to something that displays well on the web but is too low for print as this prevents various automatic image stealing sites from grabbing my images. You’ll often see the suffix “_web” on my filenames as this helps me know when I have reduced the resolution appropriately. I keep all of the finished full-size files with a big suffix “_FULLSIZE” so that I can identify this file easily and make sure not to bin it when I clean up extraneous images stored on my PC. Keeping the resolution down to only what you need also has the effect of making file sizes small which means I don’t run into issues with running out of storage space on my WP plan even after quite a few years.

In terms of websites used to share, I’m not on facebook or twitter. I chose WordPress because it seemed more mature as a blogging site than places like Tumbler, and appeared to be more focussed on sharing projects, skills and hobbies rather just general information about a person’s day to day activities which you get on Facebook. I love to both share my work and see other people’s art, thoughts and ideas on WordPress. I value the fact that WordPress is such a supportive, friendly community. I’ve learned a great deal from connecting to other people here and I realy value the friendships I have found here.

I am also going to bite the bullet and start up an Instagram Account. Its really slow going though because Instagram can only be viewed in a portrait orientation which makes it very very difficult to use the physical keyboard on my tablet as I have to read what I’m writing sideways! Good grief! Anyway, I will find a way to get this new account set up at some point.

So that’s it, my full process! I hope it’s been interesting or perhaps useful to someone. 🙂

Abstract Sunset – Pastel


This week I played around some more with pastels.  My main aim was just to get the feel of the medium.  I quite enjoyed making the poppy picture I drew a few weeks ago and I found that it helped me to loosen up a little in my art.

I began with a very quick sketch using some hard pastel pencils…


Once I had my main elements placed I began to scrub in some basic background colour.  I worked this over the whole picture almost like an underpainting.  I’m working from dark to light so I made this layer is with slightly darker tones.


One of the things which surprises me with pastels is the intensity of the colour!  Once I had the pastels applied I rubbed the pigments into the paper…


After this I did a few more layers in the same sort of way, building up the colours and mixing my pigments to get the colours I wanted.  This is something I find tricky with coloured pencils and pastels; mixing colours on the paper.  I am beginning to see how to make it work.

Once I was satisfied with my background I began working on my foreground – the abstracted tree.  I used the hard pastel pencils and the soft pastels for this.  Surprisingly the soft pastels were more effective.

Here is my final image…


Looking at my final picture, I like the colour gradients in the sky and ground.  But the overall balance doesn’t feel exactly right.  It’s one of those times where you know that you need something but don’t yet know what that something is.  I will have to sit with it for a while and see if I can figure it out.


PS: It’s now the next day and I can see what’s wrong!  The tree is leaning out of the picture and looks very unbalanced.

Looking at the correction I wanted to make, I can’t do it using traditional methods so I’m going to see what I can do digitally.

I used  copy of my photo in Autodesk Sketchbook and had a little play with it to what was possible…


I used the same technique I used when I digitally made a Star Wars blaster from a photo of a real gun (here).  I basically selected parts of the painting copied them and then used them to make changes.



Here’s the final picture…


It looks more balanced now!  🙂  (I think it would have been quicker though to re-draw the pastels!)



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.

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.

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.