Thursday, September 29, 2011

Gone Fishing

Here's the reason I haven't posted, for a few days - we've gone fishing, for a week:)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Finished! Newborn Portrait

Finally, it's finished!

I'm sure I could come back and improve it more - that's always the way - but, at this point, it's time to stop and move on.

What do you think? I've left a poll, on the left sidebar. So, please feel free to stop and leave your response. I'd love to know what you think!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Goldilocks Meets her Doom

Art is a serious business. When I am drawing a portrait, I tend to concentrate hard and enter into a peaceful sort of utopia. It's deeply satisfying and enriching, but it's not funny.

Cartoons, on the other hand, can be very funny and, often, offer some very welcome light relief, in the midst of a long and methodical drawing project. Though, the ideas can take time to formulate, compared to a portrait, they are usually quick to compose and, often, provide an intellectual challenge, which can be the means of a different type of self-expression.

I was a little hesitant about publishing the above cartoon, on my website, as it isn't quite politically correct. My cartoons are, however, representative of the type of humour which characterizes my personality and my love of comedy.

Drawing cartoons, such as this, allows me to use much bolder, more spontaneous and, also, more expressive strokes than is possible with my coloured pencil technique. It frees and refreshes my creative abilities and allows my brain to think on a different level. The complete contrast in momentum between the two techniques is enough to create stimluation and avoid stagnation, during a long and earnestly industrious portrait project.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Watercolours - Painting a Wallaby

This watercolour of a wallaby was painted with a few different techniques to achieve the different textures of soft fur, as seen in shadow and light. The reference photo was taken in bright light, which is why the contrast is so sharp, in places. The sharp line of the dark shadow, on the neck, is an example of the effects of this type of light. The bright, white highlights of the legs and the very dark features of the shadowed face are, also, suggestive of bright sunlight. Observing the sun, at midday, when the sun is high in the sky, and comparing the effects with the long shadows of the late afternoon, will bring some understanding as to how a subject changes in different lights.

I began painting the wallaby with wet paint on a dry surface. To achieve the effect of softness, I applied the next colour straight onto the wet surface, without waiting for the previous layer to dry. This wet-on-wet technique creates a diffused look with soft edges. It is a useful method for painting skies and fur.

I, then, waited for the paint to dry, before applying drier pigment to the now-dry surface. This allowed me to render the details of short, rough fur, in patches where the individual tufts of fur are more apparent. Though some amount of detail is effective here, it is important not to overdo it, or a messy, unattractive picture will be the result.

I started with quite diluted paint for the initial washes and added less water to the pigment, with each subsequent layer - I worked from light to dark tones. I used a good quality, sable brush with a sharp point. I chose a thicker, quality brush with a sharp point, rather than a thin brush, because it will hold more paint and keep its shape better. A poor quality brush is likely to drop hairs onto the painting and will not hold the paint or its shape as well. It will be harder to paint fine details with this type of brush.

The picture below shows my progress with the newborn portrait. The photo was taken in fading light, so it is a bit grainy and faded - a consequence of taking my pictures at the end of the day's work! The clothes need some sharpening of the deepest shadows, and some reflected blues, lavender and beige worked into them. After that, I will deepen the shadows on the faces, before moving onto the final arm. The end is now definitely in sight!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Video Demonstration - Pencil Strokes

The plain, white clothes make this portrait look pure and simple, but the creases and shadows mean that there is a lot of detail to consider. There are many different colours in white - and this can take some time to depict realistically. I use very light and short strokes to create the soft effect of flowing fabric. It is important not to use heavy, thick strokes as this will give a hard, sculptured look - so, once again, depth must be built up gradually. The following short video shows an example of my technique - notice how the pencil is turned to keep the point as sharp as possible.
I appreciate the loyalty of the readers and subscribers to this blog, especially, considering that my current portrait is taking so much longer than usual. It's been quite a slog for me and I'm grateful that my regular readers have persevered in their encouragement - some with very welcome comments, but the majority choosing to offer their support quietly (I appreciate this, also).  In an attempt to satisfy my need to be creative and to display the pictures to better effect, I've been experimenting with my blog design. I'm, also, working on mixing up my posts with past works, some of my on-going sketches and more demonstrations. A magazine-type format, with the progress of my current portrait as the basis, may make for a more interesting blog. What do you think? I'd love to hear some feedback.

In my next post, I will be showing a past watercolour that I painted of a kangaroo - a different technique to coloured pencils, but still a delicate finish.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Sketch of my Daughter

This sketch of Melanie was drawn in about three afternoons, nearly three years ago, and it brings back many memories of my daughter as she was, at that time. It has a coloured surface, which gives a different effect to the portraits, on white Stonehenge paper, that I have been concentrating on, recently.

One of the nice effects of coloured paper is the glow, which is achieved by adding a few white highlights, at the end of the drawing process. You can see it here with the shine on the nose. This is my favourite part of this technique - it produces a pastel effect which I feel results in a soft and attractive-looking portrait.

Although, I had been using coloured pencils for a number of years, when I drew this picture, my technique was still quite raw. The picture looks more like a sketch than a finished portrait to me and it has more of a stylised, than a realistic, look. My technique, these days, is not accurate enough to be described as photorealism, but it is, nonetheless, a lot more realistic than it was, only a year or two ago. The challenge to create photorealistic pictures has intrigued me, at some points in my development as an artist, but, on the whole, I find that my need for artistic expression overrides the temptation to attempt to produce a perfect photographic imitation of my subjects.

I am still plodding along with my newborn portrait. I am starting to get excited about finishing it, soon. I have an arm and the baby's clothes to render, and, then, I will be ready to add the final touches. In this portrait, I can see that I will need to deepen the shadows significantly, during the final stage. It won't necessarily take a long time to achieve this, but I will need to be bold with these shadows. Insufficient depth will produce, not only an insipid result, but it will, also, make the portrait look very flat and unrealistic.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Going Back in Time

Progress is steady on my latest portrait, but oh, sooooo slow!
So, here are some of my early graphite pictures to show where I have come from. The one above is a favourite of mine. It was drawn, in short bursts of activity, when my eldest child was just a couple of months old - she's now 20. so it's a pretty old picture! I was only dabbling in colour, in those days.
Marilyn Monroe was drawn, at the same time. I think she looks beautiful, but vulnerable.
Finally, it's Scarlett and Rhett. In this one, I tried to show that 'less is more.' There's minimal shading, partly to give a stylised Hollywood-type of look, rather than a photographic effect, and partly to keep the picture very simple and clean-looking. That was my thinking - I wonder if it worked...
And, here we are, today. The end is becoming apparent, at last! This is the longest that I have ever worked on a colour pencil portrait and I must admit to feeling bogged down and bored with it, at times - though, never when I am actually at my drawing table. I always go into my own kind of utopia when I am in the process of drawing or painting. 

I am starting, now, to see where I need to deepen the shadows. The baby's face, in particular, looks very odd, through a lack of shadowed contrasts. Despite feelings of impatience with this portrait, I never feel like giving up. A lot of work has gone into it, so far, and it would take an irretrievable mistake to tempt me into abandoning it before it was finished to an agreeable standard of completion. So, here I go, chugging along, again...