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.



Carmen said...

Wow Chris, you continue to amaze me. I can see why you moved the stool leg from under the hare :-). I look forward to seeing how it develops.

Chris Dunn said...

Thanks Carmen, yes that one was spotted by somebody visiting my studio - thank goodness!!

Lisa M Griffin said...

Amazing! I love getting lost in your work, and such a treat to read about your initial process.

Chris Dunn said...

Thanks Lisa :)