Tuesday 30 October 2012

Autumn Scribe Part.1

As part of my wedding present to Suzanne I wanted to paint her a watercolour based on a similar theme to 'Jacques' Rest'. It didn't take long for me to come up with the main character so I began to work on some thumbnail sketches, I was hoping to post those too but I have mislaid them. In the end I did about six and then developed my favourite, adding another Owl in the background. 

Now that I had a rough composition I could stretch some watercolour paper and draw up a detailed version. I worked with a HB pencil as I knew the painting would be dark covering up pencil marks.

As I drew away the thought came to me to add objects to the setting that are meaningful to Suzanne so I secretly 'borrowed' a few things from around the house to copy them into the final drawing. All the time I was keeping the painting a secret, making sure I covered it with paper at the end of the day and not answering questions regarding the missing items.

The two photos above show the gradual painting process. When I do something as complex as this I tend to outline most things in sepia watercolour before adding local colour and washes. This helps to maintain the detail and add character to edges, such as the frayed corners of old books and gnarled tree bark. 

In my next post I'll show you the completed artwork and details of the 'secret objects'.

Thursday 25 October 2012

Test Illustration Part 2

To follow on from my previous post about my test illustration for the Folio Society, below you can see my first attempt at the finished colour version, executed in watercolour.

All the criteria was met with the above illustration but I felt it wasn't good enough. The sea wasn't particularly well painted and the Merman was flat along with the submerged sharks. I was trying to pull back on detail so I put this failure down to my lack of skill working loosely with watercolour.

After some time of pondering my finished illustration I decided to do another version that was more in my comfort zone. I deliberately concentrated on the shape and form of the Merman and sharks which led to my decision to simplify the sky. I also stylised the sea so that underwater details were easy to see and hopefully didn't complicate the image.

I was much happier with my second version and so was the Folio Society but in the end I still didn't get the seal of approval. Being an illustrator you get used to rejection, it may be depressing on the day you hear but by the next day you have to move on and learn from your mistakes and above all improve.

Thursday 18 October 2012

Test Illustration

Last month I worked on a test illustration for the Folio Society. Although my test wasn't successful and the job was given to a different illustrator afterwards, I would still like to show you what I did.

Without giving too much away I was asked to illustrate a scene in colour taken from a short fairytale which was provided by the Folio Society. The scene I picked was full of characters and very complicated. What can I say, I was probably trying to show off! Below you can see my detailed rough.

There were are at least another three different versions of this composition drawn before I reached the one above. I was struggling to fit all the relevant information in to what would be a small illustration so not surprisingly the art director suggested an alternative scene. Maybe in the future I'll paint this one for my own amusement, I actually think the colour will save it.

Above is the much simpler scene I decided to tackle instead. The main figure (Merman) is prominent and the direction of the narrative is obviously between him and the maiden in the tower. We both agreed to go ahead and paint this idea instead.

Stay tuned for the colour version(s)...

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Instructional Videos on Proko.com

I have just recently signed up to proko.com which for me has been a bit of a revelation. The website and videos are made by Stan Prokopenko, an artist and teacher. Proko is a resource for artists to get good art instruction videos, so far Stan has uploaded a selection all about how to draw the head and each important feature. The above video concentrates on the nose and it's structure, it might sound a bit dull but believe me they are very entertaining.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Sky Future Portraits

Above you can see a DPS illustration I have done recently for Management Today Magazine. I believe all of the figures are involved with Sky (the satellite broadcasting company not that blue thing over your head) and are in discussion about the company's future.

The style requested was a simple watercolour portrait with pen and ink for the bodies and surrounding objects. You can see a previous set of illustrations using the same style here.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Stop... Experimentation Time Part 2

In a previous post I showed you a drawing of Sir Chris Hoy which I was hoping to develop into, what is for me, a different style of portrait illustration. I have now completed that little project so let me take you through it.
Above you can see my grey acrylic under-painting. Why grey? Well I've been struggling to create an even overall skin tone in watercolour so I decided that I should try an acrylic wash underneath to unify all the transparent colours glazed on top.

Watercolour is notoriously difficult when it comes to skin because it's too transparent, oils work well because they offer an opaque sheen. Above you can see the results of glazing with watercolour just before I moved into photoshop to tweak everything and add background detail.

Above is the final image, you can see I have adjusted the levels on Chris and added a London 2012 Olympic gold medal. I have also contended with the slight speckle in the background colour by reducing it's contrast. Hopefully all of these changes reinforce my overall value concept of middle tone/lightest/darkest. Below you can see a progression.
In conclusion (sorry if this sounds like an essay) I very happy with the results, especially in the subtle skin tones. Without a doubt I shall be using this technique more often. I also have a mind to add gouache in the hope of becoming more realistic. Some aspects that I was disappointed were the accuracy of the portrait and the slight speckle still prevalent in my watercolours. The speckle could be solved by changing paper or concentrating more on acrylics, as for the drawing its just more practice I need.