Friday, 22 May 2015

Illustration Masterclass, 27 - 31 July, Marlborough College Summer School

Artwork by Arnaldo Putzu
I'm very pleased to announce, I will be teaching a full time book illustration workshop for 5 days at Marlborough College Summer School, 27th - 31st July.

The course will be focusing on illustrating the classic children's story 'Swallows And Amazons' by Arthur Ransome. Summer japes and a jolly good adventure in the English Lake District - what could be better?!

If last year is anything to go by, the course will be lots of fun and hopefully participating students will learn a huge amount - if not, there is always the free food!

Course fee: £370
Click this link for more details.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Woodland Party "Behind The Scenes" Final Instalment

For my previous posts click here, Part 1 and Part 2

Below are a series of progress photographs taken as I worked my way through the painting.
Moving on from basic blocking in of colour.
You can see here I am starting to get past the local colour stage and really moving into finding form using colour. For example look at the fox playing skittles. He is lit from the top by the warm glow of the lanterns (lots of cadmium yellow, yellow ochre and burnt sienna), however the majority of his head is facing away from the light so he is picking up the cool colours of the wood in shadow so (more prussian blues and greens).
I could have been more thorough by adding an aardvark and zebra.
By the above stage, I had just about painted the furry aspects of each critter to a suitable standard. Believe it or not, I had a folder of animal reference on my laptop that I methodically worked through from A to B (or badger to wild boar). I didn't move on to the next creature on the list until I had completed the one before it. I found it helped to break down the painting into manageable chunks by creating these small milestones to tackle each day.
It's hard to tell from the above photo, but by this stage I was concerned with the lack of depth in the image. I decided to darken the bottom edges with cool colours to hopefully lead the eye further into the middle of the scene. The bottom edge now acted like the sides of a stage design by framing the scene and providing more perspective. Note how in the final image below I darkened the sky in the far right background, again to push that further away from the tree in front.

I also completed the lanterns by deciding to keep it simple by using just yellow ochre where I could. I felt they would glow more if I depicted less detail, as if they are so bright they would be over-exposed in a photograph.
Woodland Party
Watercolour & Gouache
66 x 45cm

Job Dunn (pardon the pun)! I was pleased with the final outcome as it came very close to realising the fuzzy image I had rolling around in my head at the rough drawing stage. However I wasn't pleased when I had removed the painting from it's board, scanned and stitched it together on Photoshop, only to find I had forgotten to paint the skittle ball being held by the rat! As you can see I fixed that and then double-checked the whiskers on every animal, which is normally the thing I forget to do at the very end.

I hope you enjoyed this series of posts. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask, either on the blog or Facebook.


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Woodland Party "Behind The Scenes" Continued

See my previous post here.

My drawing was approved so it was time to start work on the painting.

The process to get the finished drawing on to stretched watercolour paper can be a bit tedious but it has to be done. Firstly I enlarge the scanned rough drawing in Photoshop and then I print the image on A3 layout paper. The layout is just thick enough to go through my printer and thin enough to act like tracing paper. This enables me to trace on the reverse of the printed image, with a soft pencil and then place it on the watercolour paper and transfer using a bone folder. Some people like to use biro pens for transferring because it's more accurate, however rubbing with a bone folder is very quick.

I remove the print and find the soft pencil has transferred enough to give me a ghost image on the stretched paper. I then go into the drawing with a 3H pencil and very carefully outline everything I need and tidy up any areas that are not legible. By using a hard pencil, I'm able to erase the softer lead and wash watercolour over the top, all without losing the important line work. If I were planning to keep an area very light I might not use a pencil at all, just because the pencil line might show and distract from the overall image.

Once the line work is completed I start an under-painting in sepia watercolour (see below)
The finished under-painting. If you look carefully you can see lots of the original line drawing, especially around the lanterns hanging from the oak tree.
The under-painting serves me well throughout the whole painting process. It maintains an overall warm hue as the majority of the painting will be in transparent watercolour. Also it helps to create tone and define characters in a complicated scene, and it provides me with a useful beginning step into colour because I know, whatever colour I glaze on top, the under-painting will hold the composition together for me. There is nothing worse than having to re-draw a section because the paint has washed away the initial compositional drawing.
Colour decisions being made - there's no going back!!
Under-painting finished, time to get out the colour palette! I start by blocking in the local colours (i.e red for the badger's jumper, green for the leaves), at this stage I'm not thinking about reflected warm or cool light. I have a good idea how warm the final painting needs to be, so I make sure there are lots of yellows, reds and browns, however when it comes to the clothing I either make it up there on the spot or research some old Edwardian photos to get an idea of pattern and arrangement of colour.
Working mainly on the background.
There are so many decisions being made at this stage, such as how best to depict bark on the tree trunk, does it need to have a warm into cool transition, how much light do I need to show around the lanterns, how much detail in the lanterns is required, what colour should the sky between the trees be and why did I decide to paint such a complicated image?! That last question kept on being asked.

TBC

Monday, 4 May 2015

Woodland Party "Behind The Scenes"

I have recently completed a very complicated watercolour painting featuring a multitude of British wild animals having a good old 'knees up'!

I thought I would show you the various stages I went through in creating the scene. To begin with the sketching stage. I began with thumbnail sketches, I think I did only eight in total before I found a suitable viewpoint. It's very hard thumbnailing such a detailed scene so I just concentrated on working out where the viewer should be and then relied on the more detailed drawing to find my composition.

The rough drawing below was created by sketching out rough shapes without reference working from left to right. I deliberately allow the pencil to do the work and just see what happens as I make my way across the paper, otherwise if I plan ahead, my brain would probably explode in trying to cope with all the potential compositions, characters and actions I could create. Working this way is like rediscovering my original joy of drawing as a child - no clear plans just drawing for the sake of it.

Once the basic shapes are in then I start to refine with lots of reference to guide me. I had three separate folders of reference material on my desktop for this piece, one for animals, another for furniture and props and another for trees and woods. I sketched away with a 2B pencil and used a blending stump (or tortillion) to speed up the shading. Finally I ended up with the drawing below
The first rough before alterations, 44 x 30cm

The scanned rough was sent to my wonderful client, Olivier Souille and he came back with some useful alterations which helped to focus the scene more effectively and generally improve the overall composition. It's great to have somebody like Olivier, who has a fantastic artistic eye and can often diagnose the weaker points AND suggest correct remedies.

In short I discarded a selection of animals on the woodland floor (two hares, two chickens and a toad). These were acting as filler and by removing them gave the main characters, like the badgers and foxes more room to to be defined against a lighter background. I also adjusted the female otter's 'walk like an Egyptian' left arm, added a banjo playing mouse, repositioned a stool leg which was unfortunately placed (see drunken hare, ahem) and tweaked a dancing bunny's right paw.

Final approved rough
 The new rough was approved and I was ready to get painting.

TBC.



Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Fire Brigade Emergency WIP

Work in progress but very near to being finished. As you look through these shots you can see the oak tree in the background becoming more defined and then it shrinks back into the mist. I felt it was coming forward too much and appeared to be on the back of the fire engine rather than well behind it.
Sepia underpainting completed

Washed in a background, smoke clouds, and started to block in the fire engine

Defined the hare heads and ladder. Check out the 'stand out' oak tree.

Now the oak tree is further back and the left bank is taking shape.

The painting in it's current state.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Answering The Call...

I've been working up a few sketches for my next batch of paintings. Here's one of them that has been given the go-ahead.
Now you know what an old Dennis fire engine would look like on a rally course

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

'Evening On The Lake'

I managed to finish this watercolour, 'Evening On The Lake', last night. Having said that when I got into the studio this morning I realised I had missed some whiskers for the characters in the immediate foreground.
That toad has just failed his driving test.
As you can see, I have included lots of overlapping elements in the painting in order to give a sense of movement and watery chaos. Based on their current positions I think just about every boat has the potential to crash into another vessel and not every person at the helm is paying due care and attention. There are also ducks and geese swooping in-between the maze of sails and steaming funnels - I find birds incredibly useful in breaking up a composition.

The overall colour gradually became very N.C Wyeth, not by design, the background just seemed to demand a rich golden haze as I started to build up the fells and tree lined banks. This did mean I kept washing varied amounts of cadmium yellow and yellow ochre continually on top of one another, which made the soft pencil on the top edge slightly bleed into the sky. Next time I'll go back to the trusty 3H made by Derwent (how very appropriate).


Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Evening On The Lake WIP

I'm currently working on my third large animal painting. Below you can see the rough sketch and three shots taken with my phone in the studio over 3 days.

The first painting day I finished a very basic underpainting, sepia in the foreground and cobalt blue in the background hills. For days two and three I have been glazing the background very carefully and started to flesh out the local colours in the foreground boats and figures. All the time I'm battling with warm light and cool shadows which is hard enough when painting from life, never mind making it up!!



Thursday, 8 January 2015

'Knitting Circle'

Knitting Circle
Watercolour & Gouache
24 x 31cm

This one was finished over the New Year break (no rest for the wicked). I thought I was going to have an absolute nightmare with making the blanket look woollen but it turns out my continual glazing technique works really well when it comes to soft fuzzy texture. At some stages I even just brushed clean water over the top of the blanket squares just to soften edges when drybrush wasn't working.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

'Knitting Circle' WIP

What better way is there to see in the New Year than chatting with friends over a nice cup of tea and some knitting needles?
The first day of painting.