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...

...it'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!!!