donderdag 8 november 2012

Water at Last!

It was a lovely bright day with no demands on my time so I took the opportunity to spend the day drawing. Having filled in all the fish during the last sitting it was finally time to tackle the water, starting in the top lefthand corner and leaning on some clean paper to prevent the drawing from getting smudged in the process. Using a blend of spruce green, prussian blue, blue grey, and burnishing with Chinese white I made the water much darker, deepening the ripples and heightening the shine where needed.

Here you can see the already drawn in ripples, but these need deepening, refining and smoothing as does the surrounding water. I'll attempt to eliminate the pencil strokes as much as possible to make the final picture more realistic. This takes a lot of time, lots of layers, plenty of pressure on the pencils, a lot of burnishing and minute attention to detail. We'll see how close I can get to the picture in my head...

The roughly penciled in shapes and details of the water are clearly visible here. These will need to be a lot darker in tone and very much smoother.
In this photo I've done a fair amount of work on the movement in the water by adding lots of colour and smoothing things out with the help of the stumper. An eraser is very useful to help highlight the top "ridges" of the ripples. For very small white areas, particularly along the finer rings it can be helpful to cut tiny pieces of eraser with a paper knife for better accuracy. You can emphasize the light by adding dark colour in between the rings, but always blend and soften the edges so that the lines don't appear to be drawn.

Time for a break! I've had to turn on my daylight lamp so I can continue drawing. That's the trouble in the autumn and winter - the light fades quickly and it's not as easy to see the subtle differences between the various shades of colour. (That might of course be something to do with my gradually deteriorating eyesight, but shushsssss, we're not talking about that! I'm delaying the wearing of glasses for as long as possible! Well, I only need them for everything that's off in the distance. Trouble is, the distance is getting closer!). Anyway, I'm having a break now, looking out my window at the lovely trees. And no, that's not my halo you see reflected in the window, or a UFO hovering over the little park out the back, it's just that very useful magnifying daylight lamp which is allowing me to carry on drawing despite the clouds and fading light.

One cup of tea and a lot more drawing later and I've made some real progress. But more work needs to be done on the lower corner...
... and that's exactly what I do next, not forgetting the blurs of orange deeper in the water.
This photo shows how much darker the water on the left of the drawing has become. It's much darker in the room now so the flash from the camera shows up to the extreme left but you can see a clear difference in the depth of blue around the blue/white fish to the right. I'm working my way across to the right side.
Well, I've been busy now for 6 hours and 20 minutes - a very satisfying day of drawing - bringing the total time spent to 33 hours and 25 minutes so far. I'm guessing it'll be another 8-10 hours before the drawing is properly finished, but we'll see. It's going to be a challenge to get the water looking just as dark as in the photograph - but that's the fun of the exercise!

woensdag 7 november 2012

Fish Coming Along Swimmingly

Yes! The last few fish swim into view - well not quite, they still have to be drawn, but I'm almost there and very eager to finish. I sit down for another 3 and a half hours in my little studio, perfect daylight shining in through the window over my desk, online RTE radio playing in the background, little electric heater blowing heaven sent warm air onto my feet (it's such a cold room, with only a thin brick wall between me and the elements - ok cut the drama! - it's decidedly chilly in there though so the heater is necessary to keep me from retreating to the warmth of the living room). Anyway, I get on with it. All thought ebbs away as I become absorbed in the colours and shapes and I'm a happy bunny.

I add another fish, this time a pale little fellow with pinkish white skin and a deep orange patch on his head and some slight hints of a lighter orange around the nose. Deep tones in the water around the Koi's head serve to outline the details near the mouth. I also fill in more water, not forgetting to add the "floating bits" and shading them more deeply on the lower edges to capture the correct angle of light. I admit, the water doesn't look like much now, but there's a lot more work to be done on the whole of the water before I can call this a finished drawing. Now I just want to get those seemingly endless numbers of fish drawn in - then I can get on!

The water below this fish is filled with the blurry shapes and colours of more fish deeper down in the water. I sketch these in and do some more blending - they'll get more attention later on.
I step back and look at the surface of the water and, subsequently, start to draw in the beginning of some ripples near the sides and tails of these last fish. Again these will get more attention during the final stage when I'm sprucing up the water.
Just one last fish, some more ripples and a little water and the details of the drawing are finally all filled in! The light is starting to fade so it's time to stop for the moment.
It's taken 27 hours and 5 minutes to get this far, but the fish are coming along swimmingly!
Next time I get to bring things to life by tackling the really fun part - the water....

Onwards and Upwards

I'm keeping this entry short, not because I'm bored because that's not the case - I'm actually really enjoying the drawing now and can see how it will all turn out in my mind's eye. Until the final "polishing up" stage the next steps are really only more of the same - blocking in colour and detail on the remaining fish, refining the details as I go and applying the usual sequence of colours to the large areas of water to the right side of the paper.
This time, having already spent a total of 22 hours and 20 minutes on the drawing, I sit down for another 1 hour and 15 minutes  and get on with filling in some more fish and water.

Following the shapes in the photo I colour in some middle chrome orange on one of the remaining fish. Deep chrome accents along the shadow side of the dorsal fin and some gold (which is more of a shade of yellow) along the ridge of the fish's spine are added too, along with the necessary patches of ivory black. Note the deep orange of the upper fin blending gradually into the water, suggesting depth and movement.
I blend all the colours with the stumper - a very useful tool! - and mark in the scales along the sides, taking care not to draw them in too precisely, in the spirit of trying to make the fish appear as natural and "un-drawn" as possible.
Then, having blended everything, I once again highlight the darker patches with ivory black and fill in the water below the fish, burnishing with Chinese white as usual. Orange and yellow is blurred into the water around the head of the fish to imply movement.
Total time now is 23 hours and 35 minutes and there are just a couple more fish to complete... the end is in sight!

A Woolly Interlude

By accident I came across the "Innocent" website ( - I think via a link on Facebook, but not sure - and read all about their knitting campagne designed to focus attention on the elderly and to raise money to support the "BoodschappenPlusBus", a project which provides 15,000 elderly people in The Netherlands the opportunity to get out and about.
So, having lots of ends of wool lying about from previous knitting projects of my own, I thought that this was a brilliant way to use them up and began knitting. This photo shows the first 18 mini hats I made. It's turned out to be quite an addictive pursuit - the hats are small and very easy to knit (I've chosen to keep to the most simple pattern, available on the website) and perfect to keep busy while sitting watching TV in the evening. You can be as creative as you like, but keeping it simple means I can get more done. So far I've knitted 53  - all different! The hats have to be sent in (free postage) before the 1st December, so I'll just keep knitting until the time or the wool runs out. What fun!

zondag 21 oktober 2012

Fish in Water and Floating Bits

Eager to get started on filling in a large area of water during this session I decide to draw in a few fish. That might sound contrary (and maybe it is!) but while in most cases the background is filled in before the foreground, I like to do things the other way around. In this case this seems to make more sense to me - after all the fish need to be "in" the water, and by drawing the fish first and the surrounding water later I can blend the fish "down" into the background colour better. Ok, the method is a bit backwards, but it works for me!

I sketch in a small fish using orange chrome, highlighting an area along the fish's back in a deep yellow (gold). I subsequently blend the two colours well into each other and the grain of the paper using the stumper.

I then apply a layer of deep chrome (orange) around the parts of the fish which are lower in the water.
Again the colours are blended together with the aid of the stumper and some Chinese white. Along the lower flank I add some fell grey and gunmetal grey where there is shadow from the larger fish swimming nearby.
Two more fish get the same treatment at the top of the picture and the surrounding water is quickly drawn in with the usual sequence of colours.
I move to a large area of water to the right of these two fish, applying the same layers of colour and making sure to blend them well with the stumper as I work.

It's important to step back from time to time while drawing and look at both the photo you are drawing from and the drawing itself.

 I see that I need to add some "floating bits" so that the water looks more realistic when it's finished. Taking the eraser I erase a few small "dots" here and there on the surface of the water. It's not necessary that these should be totally white, but they do need to be lighter than the water itself. They also need to be emphasised and to have depth, so I take the ivory black and apply shadow along the lower edges. Here it's vital to put the shadow on the same side of each dot so that the fall of light is from the same direction or things will look very odd!

Another couple of fish are (semi-) completed in the same way. I should mention that before applying coloured pencil in any area of the drawing I always make sure the paper is very clean. Using the eraser I erase all non-essential pencil lines, such as the grid lines, and clean the entire area of any smudges - it's amazing how grubby the paper gets while drawing! Equally, I all but erase the sketched in fish (or whatever the subject may be), leaving only just enough pencil to still see what I'm supposed to be drawing. Hey, pay attention!!! Pencil lines will shine through if not removed!

Yet another fish slips into view by the same means. This one is greyer and more dotted, has pale sides and a few darker patches - easy peasy!!!
Then there's another and another.... ooooh, I'm getting the hang of this! That water is way too pale though and there's so much more to do...
I carry on filling in large areas of water, not forgetting the "floating bits". What fun! Scanning the photo once more with a keen and eager eye (ok, I'm getting a bit silly here, but it's late and I'm sleepy) I see some areas of vague colour surrounding a few of the fish, some where a fish has moved at the moment the photo was taken, others where there are fish only barely visible way down deep in the water. I sketch these areas in in pale oranges and yellows and apply the blues and greens of the water on top, blending as I go along.

Putting plenty of pressure on the Chinese white pencil and drawing at an angle to the horizontal lines of the blues and greens I blend everything together, taking care to avoid the "floating bits". The water at the bottom of the picture is created following the same process.
It is now 2 hours and 20 minutes later (22 hours and 20 minutes in all). There's still quite a bit to do but I'm getting there.
Once all the fish are in place the task will be to make the water a lot darker and to eliminate the pencil strokes as far as that is possible (I'm aiming for something like realism here!), and to make those fish  like "fish in water" not "fish out of water"! We shall see...

Spare the Reader, Don't Spoil the Drawing

It's 15.10 on a free afternoon. Time to tackle those fish scales and I mean business! This drawing is taking a long time and I've made innumerable photos documenting every stage. I think though that I'll spare you quite a few of those photos seeing as a lot of the process is pretty much more of the same thing: the same sequence of colours, the same methods of application. At the last sitting I got exceedingly frustrated with a bunch of fish scales. This time I take a deep breath and am determined to stick to the conclusion I arrived at last time, that is, to fill in general areas of colour and not get too bogged down in trying to draw details. I step back and look at the pattern of the fish scales, their angles and shading - a lattice of diamonds, rounded by shade.

I sketch in the basic shapes - that's at least a start.

On closer examination the scales are black, but the orange of the fish is visible at the top of most scales. Using chrome orange I colour in the top of each diamond. But I dislike the result and once again, erase it all! This is looking too "drawn", so I remind myself that I'm supposed to be thinking in areas of colour rather than detail. Ok, another attempt...
I quickly sketch in more rounded scales using black ivory, colour over the entire area with orange chrome and then burnish with Chinese white. This looks worse... for the moment... but I want to establish the look of flesh and of the base of colours which seem to lie underneath the scales, the theory being "more layers, more depth". Let's see if it works...
It seems to make no sense to draw and erase, to shade in and then cover in white, but bear with me, this could be going somewhere!
For the next step, I draw the black edges of the scales back in using ivory black, dotting in the orange at the "top end" of the scales as I go and colouring some orange shading along the left flank of the fish.
I add more black towards the tail where the scales get smaller and darker. Using the stumper I blend some of the colour together to eliminate that "drawn" look and with the eraser lighten up the ridge along the fish's backbone which both shows the fall of light and gives the fish dimension. Ok, this fish has had enough attention for the moment. I'm impatient to get more fish filled in and make more progress with the water.
My attention turns to another fish further up in the drawing. I go to work in the same manner, sketching in shapes and areas of colour. This fish has a lighter, more golden skin underneath the scales and I suggest this using primrose yellow. The darker areas of the head are shaded in with orange chrome.
Ivory black serves for drawing in the scales with a few touches of chrome orange where appropriate. This time I cover the whole area with flesh pink and then once again darken some areas with ivory black and gunmetal grey. I will attend to the fins when I tackle the surrounding water, as this will involve some blending of colours between the two.

It's 2 and a half hours later (20 hours all together) and I think I've managed not to spoil the drawing. Next time I'll carry on in the same way - maybe there is method in my madness afterall!

vrijdag 5 oktober 2012

Frustrating Fish Scales!

It's been a while since I sat down to draw - life has a habit of getting in the way - and therefore also a while since I wrote anything more in this blog. Anyway, after a too lengthy pause I finally started working further on my Koi fish drawing today. I could have made some real progress were it not for the obtstacle of fish scales and the hazard of over-drawing. With me, over-drawing seems to happen most when I'm out of the habit of drawing at regular intervals and today's fiasco was no exception to the rule.

I started drawing where I had left off the last time. I took a prussian blue pencil and drew in the shape of the scales. "That's good", says you. "WRONG!" says I. That was my first mistake, and being out of my usual drawing routine and impatient to get this fish completed I carried on regardless. The fish began looking lumpy, the scales fake, the shapes all wrong. And still I carried on... "Never give up, just keep going, it'll turn out alright if I just stick at it", I told myself.

"Wrong again!" But was I listening to myself? Of course not. I kept going... and turned a potentially ok fish into an ugly monster with blurry, bumpy scales, all the wrong colour and well, "drawn"! Yes, that's a dirty word. Why? Well, this is supposed to become a realistic drawing, a drawing in which the viewer barely notices the pencil lines and is struck by the natural appearance of the Koi fish swimming around happily in reflective water, disturbed only by their fins. This was going nowhere! No, it was going to hell!

With my usual impatience I turn my attention to the murky, fin-filled waters at the lower flank of the fish, expertly ignoring the mistakes I've made. It'll be fine, you'll see!..
I blend spruce green, juniper green, oriental blue, chrome, and some blue-grey and Chinese white, making sure to leave a few small roundish white areas for the "things" floating in the water. Using ivory black I highlight the lower edges of the white spots so they appear to float on the surface of the water. I add extra deep chrome to the tops of the fins at the closet point to the fish's body. This raises the top of the fins, while the blended area suggests that the fins are further down in the murky water. The orange is mixed with the colours of the water to suggest movement.

I move my attention to another fish a little higher up in the drawing. Using chrome and deep chrome I shade in the shapes on the head of the fish, using ivory black for the eye. Some prussian blue, juniper green and spruce green suffices to create the shadowed area in the water around the head. Time to sketch in the scales, which I'm still finding difficult to get to grips with. The scales have to be fairly regular in distribution, the colour darker in some areas but most importantly they mustn't appear drawn, but natural. Hmmm... I attempt to draw them in but...'s just not working. In exasperation I grab the eraser and rub it all out! It's best left to another sitting. Next time, less drawing, more suggesting areas of colour. This has taken 1 hour and 20 minutes (the entire drawing 17 hours and 30 minutes, so far). FRUSTRATING FISH SCALES!!!

vrijdag 10 augustus 2012

Like a Fish out of Water

There's a fish swimming at the top of the picture which has beautiful blue patches and this is the next fish I decide to work on.

I lightly sketch in the shapes of the patches along the fish's back and tail using prussian blue.
Then applying the normal sequence of colors (spruce  green, oriental blue, juniper green, prussian blue, blue grey and chinese white) I fill in another area of water beside the fish, blending everything together in the usual way. The fish has a small patch of orange (middle chrome) near it's tail and again, to suggest movement I mix a little primrose yellow in the water beside the tail, blending well.

I draw in the scales, an irregular "diamond" pattern along the blue patches on the fish's back.
Then using prussian blue and lots of pressure I fill in the darker areas. When drawing, it's vital to pay attention to the shapes you see and the depth of colour, rather than trying to draw the object itself. That might not sound very logical, but any drawing is made up of shapes and colour (or negative space, if you like) and if all these are drawn accurately, an accurate drawing will be the result.
I add a few small pale orange (middle chrome) patches to the white areas of the fish's back, and continue adding more prussian blue to the fish's head.
Once again I draw over the lines of the fish scales...
... and deepen the darker areas along the dorsal fin, the back and the head of the fish. I'm fairly pleased with the result so far, but this fish looks like it's floating on top of the water, something I talked about in the last blog. I can see I'm going to have to give the water a lot more attention - at the moment it's too pale and lacking in depth, but I did know this already. I was keen to get a few fish drawn first and will probably tackle the water again when I next sit down to draw.
This is how it all looks at the moment... and yes, that blue-patched Koi in particular is looking "like a fish out of water"!

It's 1 hour and 45 minutes later (16 hours and 10 minutes in total) and I'm done for the day.

The next stage will be to deepen the colour of the water and put that fish back where it belongs!

1 + 1 = 1 Fish

I really must remember to write these blogs as soon as I'm finished a drawing session, I really must remember to write these blogs as soon as I'm finished a drawing session, I really must... Well, maybe next time I really will! In the meantime, this piece is about the session before last, a 2 hour sitting. Always prefering to begin with something new I decide to work on the pale fish in the lower lefthand corner. Also working from left to right will enable me to work without smudging anything with my hand and arm.

The most noticeable thing about this particular fish is it's beautiful blue markings on very pale whitish skin. Using sky blue I lightly pencil in the scales on the flank of the fish's body and then go over the whole area lightly with the same pencil (using the side of the tip to avoid drawing lines). Again, using the same pencil, but applying more pressure, I go over those scales which I want to stand out. It's important not to draw the scales very precisely in the expected "scale shape" and to draw paler, irregular and lighter and darker scales. The aim is to get as natural an effect as possible.

My attention then shifts to the area of water just above the fish. There's a small orange-coloured Koi in the water below and the suggestion of movement, so I use a middle chrome (orange) pencil, mixed with deep chrome to suggest this and oriental blue and juniper green for the water.
I blend these using the stumper and Chinese white.

Then it's time to fill in some more water, taking care to leave the area for the blue/white fish's fin blank for the moment.
There's a deep orange Koi fish underneath the golden-coloured fish that I've already drawn in, so I pencil in it's tail using deep chrome. and then continue with the surrounding water a small distance. I'll tackle this area again later as it borders on another fish.

And so my attention moves to the bright blue of the water in the lower lefthand corner. I fill this area in using oriental blue and sky blue, leaving some white "spots" where there are "bits"(for want of a better word) floating on the surface of the water.
This close-up shows the  irregular shapes and colour of the fish's scales, as mentioned earlier.
I then start to colour in the fleshy pink/pale orange of the fish's fins, using minimal pressure. The fins are very delicate and I need only suggest the folds with slightly greater pressure on the pencil.
A hint of middle chrome along the upper flank and flesh pink along the lower flank of the fish is also added. Note here too the details of the fish's head. I've suggested the bumpiness of the head with patches of softly applied sky blue. The eye is sky blue and the area around the eye a blend of sky blue and gunmetal grey.
Attention people! Fish need to swim in the water, not float on top of the water - a little prussian blue around the lower fin gives more depth and movement and already the tail end appears lower in the water.
A little more water above the fish's head and I'm nearing the delicate edge of another Koi's fin, so I keep the colour away for the moment...
... until I can draw in the ragged edge of the fin. Then I carefully join up the two areas of blue.

I deepen and blend the colours to achieve more depth. And so we have another fish swimming happily in the water! I've now spent a total of 14 hours and 25 minutes on this drawing and I'm thinking that there are many more hours to go - but I'm starting to enjoy it! This session was 1 hour, followed by the obligatory (short) tea break and then 1 more hour. Which just goes to prove, dear maths teachers,  that 1 + 1 = 1 Fish!