woensdag 27 juni 2012

Capturing water

It's not the easiest thing in the world to capture water - and certainly not with coloured pencils! But looking closely at the task at hand reveals that it's more a question of colour than you would expect when you first think of water. It's also, however, a question of leaving colour out, at exactly the right spots, or rather the right ripples, to create a realistic effect. Hence the importance of sticking as close as possible to the shapes you observe as you draw. Only then will the final drawing look like the real thing.

At first it will seem like a mess and will come to nothing, but "patience grasshopper!", "everything comes to he who waits" and all that.

Here I've just started to introduce a few ripples in the surface of the water. In this case it's difficult to know exactly where to leave some white space for light as I'd like to make the water a little more interesting than in the photograph I've taken.

We'll see how I manage this as I go along, so I concentrate on the water surrounding the ripples first and will try to fill in the detail of the movement in the water at a later stage. So, for the moment I just apply some prussian blue and blue grey to roughly mark out the lines and shapes of the surface water.

I can't seem to get to grips with those eddies just yet so after some initial filling in and playing about with various shades of blue, using the same colours as I've been using so far, I give up for the moment.

Yeah, yeah! "Get on with it!", I hear you say. Well, it's all very well for you to talk - you are not staring at a virtually blank sheet of paper faced with the daunting task of filling it with sometimes reflecting, mostly murky water and teeming koi fish! "This needs time to unfold naturally... so don't disturb the process!", she says, trying feebly to disguise her very haphazard method of working!

Anyway, I decide to move on to some bigger fish! Here I lightly sketch in the main lines and shadows using deep chrome, making sure to leave the areas where the light falls white, just for now. This will make things easier! I'll get back to those ripples and reflections when things start falling together a little better. There's a long way to go, but this drawing just might work out.
Koi fish have those very recognisable black patches and spots, so the next step is to fill some of those in, first using mars black and then ivory black for the darker areas.

This sitting has taken 3 hours (7 hrs and 55 mins. in total) and then life interrupts. I hope I get a bit more accomplished next time... but that's another kettle of fish!...

zondag 17 juni 2012

The 1st Fish

At last I can get started with the fun part, the coloured pencils! I begin applying colour from the top lefthand corner, mostly to avoid inadvertently smudging the colours with my hand or sleeve as I work. Later when I need to go back to parts of the drawing to add more colour I will place a piece of paper under my hand and lean on this while drawing for the same reason. Coloured pencils are easily smudged and the details of a drawing can very easily be blurred without the proper care.

The first thing I need to draw is a small corner of water. I take 5 colours which I think I will need to produce the right effect, plus Chinese white to help blend everything together and achieve some depth. I use spruce green to start with using even strokes and filing up the whole corner area. I then go over this with a layer of oriental blue and use a blending stump to blend the two colours evenly together. I use the stumper at an angle to the direction of the coloured pencil so the colours blend well. This is followed by layers of juniper green, prussian blue and blue grey, each time using the blending stump to mix the colours.

At this point the corner is an even shade approaching the basic colour of the water that I'm aiming for, but there are of course shadows in the water, so I need to apply some of the darker colours to the shadowy areas (in this case in the top lefthand corner). I add more prussian blue and blue grey and once again use some Chinese white to blend the colours and get the desired effect.

I have no doubt that this will need more attention later, but next I want to start drawing the first fish.

I lightly sketch in the black patches on the koi fish using mars black, and with primrose yellow and flesh pink colour the areas where light falls on the fish's back, carefully following the shapes in the photograph.

I then fill in the rest of the fish, again lightly, with orange chrome and use deep chrome for the darker orange areas. There's an area of shadow where the underside of the fish fades into the water which I colour in using storm grey, again making sure to blend the orange and grey well with a blending stump.

The black patches on the fish need more depth, so I use Delft blue, again colouring according to the shapes in the photograph, followed by ivory black.

For the moment I feel I've paid enough attention to the fish. The fin and lower side will need more colour and more blending when I've done the surrounding water. Using the same colours as for the water in the corner I colour around the fish, mixing the pencils in the same way.

It's important to apply the lighter colours first as they can easily be darkened using darker colours or by applying more pressure to the pencil. A dark colour cannot be easily lightened, without the use of an eraser, sometimes causing damage to the surface of the paper.

This photo shows how I use the blending stump, making strokes at an angle to the coloured pencil strokes.

After 4 hours and 55 minutes this is the result so far. There's lots more work to do!

zaterdag 16 juni 2012

Setting up a drawing of Koi fish

I've been itching to start a new drawing for a while now and was trying to decide on a subject. I decided to look through all the photographs I have on my laptop and came across one I'd taken of some Koi fish vying for food in a pond in Dierenpark Amersfoort (a zoo here in The Netherlands), during a visit there in 2005.

I thought this would make a great subject for a drawing and one which would provide me with an opportunity to play with lots of colour - always good fun! This drawing will be more about getting the colours right then capturing accurate detail and should prove a real challenge, particularly where the surface of the water is concerned. Let's see if I can rise to that challenge!

Having picked out just the right photo I sent the file off to be printed. I chose to have it enlarged to 30 x 45 cm, so I'd have clear detail to work from and could place a good-sized grid over it to simplify enlarging it into a drawing on even larger paper. Am I being clear? - probably not! - but you'll see what I mean as I go along!

I waited, somewhat impatiently, for my photo to be printed and delivered to our local supermarket, where we could pick it up. It only takes a couple of days, but when I'm waiting to get started with the drawing of a once-decided-upon subject, 2 days feels like forever. I'm not the most patient person in the world once I've decided something! Anyway, Saturday arrived and the photo was ready to be picked up. I couldn't wait to open the envelope...yes, this was gonna be a good one (I hope! - no pressure, don't you laugh if it doesn't work out!).

I have a slightly primitive but very effective method of getting drawings from photos to scale on a large piece of paper. As I said, my photo was 30 x 45cm (approx. 11.8 x 17.7 inches) and I was intending to make a drawing with a decent margin on a piece of paper which was 80 x 60 cm (approx. 31.5 x 23.62 inches).

I also have a grid with 6 cm (approx. 2.36 inch) squares drawn on a large piece of clear cellophane.

I took the cellophane and wrapped it around the photo, so that the squares lined up with the edges of the photo. This left a column of partial squares to the right of the photo which I will leave out of the drawing. My image will therefore be 7 squares x 5 squares in total.

In this close-up you can see the grid lines on the cellophane covering the photo.

The next step is to draw 8.5 cm (approx. 3.35 inch) squares on my large piece of paper. I draw 8.5cm squares (7 x 5), centering them on the paper. My grid is 59.5 x 42.5 cm (approx 23.43 x 16.73 inches).

Here's the sum to centre the grid:
80-59.5 = 20.5, divided by 2 for the margins left and right = 10.25 cm
60-42.5 = 17.5, divided by 2 for margins at the top and bottom = 8.75 cm.

To clarify:
left and right margins are 10.25 cm (4.04 inches)
top and bottom margins are  8.75 cm (3.44 inches)
7 squares across of 8.5 cm (3.35 inches)
5 squares down of 8.5 cm (3.35 inches).

Voila! The grid is ready, the drawing can begin. Getting the drawing all mapped out is a bit of pain I admit, but it's vitally important to get things right, otherwise the proportions won't be correct and the drawing a disappointment. Remember: luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity! And with any luck (and a little preparation) this drawing might just work out!

Again, I'm keeping a list of the time I take to complete the drawing. I just like to do this for the record, as once a drawing is finished I'm always asked how long it took and can never remember without keeping proper track.

I'll also keep a list of the colours I use once I get started. More about that later. 

At this stage, as I mentioned, the drawing could begin. I sketch in the outlines of each fish, using a 2B pencil, following the lines on the grid over the photo.  This ensures that everything is in it's place and the correct size.

After 2 hours and 35 minutes I've completed the sketch. Time to take out my much loved box of Derwent Artists coloured pencils and onto the next stage... let's see if I can capture those fish!

woensdag 13 juni 2012

Colours and Reflections

A little while back I completed a drawing for my youngest daughter entitled "Baking" - she loves to bake, so this was the perfect subject. It's a still-life of baking utensils. How I dislike the term "still life" - it immediately conjures up images of dull pots and ugly vases sitting lifeless in murky brown indecipherable backgrounds! But that's just me. I know there are many beautiful still life paintings and drawings out there, but those words "still life" just imply "dullness" to me. It's a word thing more than a reflection on art.

Speaking of reflections, I had great fun doing the baking drawing. The greatest challenge and the most exciting part was trying to capture the light, colours and reflections in the metal objects - the bowl, tins, cutters and most of all, the aluminium foil. What fun I had! There's no describing the pleasure I get from turning part of a flat piece of paper into an object that just jumps out of the paper. And since there's no describing it I'll just show you a few photos of the drawing in it's beginning stages.

After taking the photo from which I was going to draw, the initial thought is that it would be impossible to get a good result. How do you draw light? But getting down to it, you realise that you draw the colours and the shades - the negative
space in fact - and then it becomes possible.

The next challenge was to get the smoothness of the silcone baking tray right. It was orange all over! But looking more closely I came to realise that there were different shades of orange and subtle changes in shade all over the tray.

This photo shows all the pencils I had used by this stage. Incidentally, the piece of paper with all the writing, under the pencils, is a list I keep, as I work, of the length of time I draw at each sitting, so I have an accurate record of how long each drawing takes to complete.

The small tart form and biscuit cutter were both fun and challenging. Again, the shine and reflection was achieved by paying attention to the colours and shade. There's actually more blue and grey in those tins than you would expect on first sight.

Here you can see how by adding some very dark shadow along the scalloped edge of the tart form, even though using mostly the same grey pencils, I managed to differentiate the tin from the background. It's all in the depth of colour and the pressure applied to the pencil.

Another tin and a couple of bun cups on their  way to completion. Many more pencils have been added to the pile I've used so far - there are surprisingly many colours in that shiny tin! I used a few shades of brown and some black and grey to get the table top in the corner right.

Anyway, that's how it works! At this point I got so absorbed I forgot to take more photos.

Ok, ok! I have described the fun I had a bit, but the greatest pleasure was getting the drawing finished. After 72 hours, here's the result. There's magic in a simple box of coloured pencils! :-)