Wednesday 21 October 2015

'Barging Through' Rough Drawing

'Mason's Joy' is causing a lot of disharmony on the canal.
This will be the final painting in my series of animal characters influenced by 'The Wind In The Willows'.

The setting is based on Horton bridge, on the Kennett And Avon canal near Devizes. In order to get the appropriate photographic reference, I took a very nice five minute drive, with my son Arthur, down to the bridge. Then with my two year-old in a harness on my bag, I trooped around the tow path with my camera in hand. While I took photographs, Arthur commentated on his surroundings - he especially liked the boats but he didn't think much to the police-badger.

Tuesday 6 October 2015

'Warming Up' Finished

Warming Up
Watercolour & Gouache
51 x 39cm
After a break from painting to work on other jobs, I have finally finished Mr Badger's kitchen. I'm very pleased with the final result but it does feel like I took longer on it than I should have. A possible reason for the drawn out painting process could be I decided to have red and black tiles, and a complicated Persian rug on the kitchen floor.

Below you can see a few photos I took as I painted. Sorry about the blurry shots, what can I say, having a wild badger model in your studio while painting can make your hand shake.

The beginnings of my rough drawing, getting the basic layout and positioning of the characters.
The finished rough - notice how I have changed the perspective, especially the fireplace horizontals. I realised I had to use two point perspective to create realistic diagonal kitchen tiles and so the two vanishing points positively affected the rest of the composition.
Once the under-painting was completed I then blocked in colour with a medium sized round brush.
I had nearly finished at this stage, I just needed to fully render the wash bucket, fireplace, food stocks and rug.

Friday 18 September 2015

Peacock Arts Trail 2015

I'm very pleased to announce I will be opening my studio to the public during the Peacock Arts Trail this year. The trail is an artists open studio event encompassing Corsham and surrounding towns and villages. For more details on the trail and other exhibitors, visit the website -

My studio is at the Pound Arts Centre, Corsham, SN13 9HX. I am in studio number 2. From the car park, walk through the black peacock gate, to the left of the main building, and enter a small courtyard and look to your left and you will see my place of work!

Where I draw and paint things.
I will be open to the public on these days:

Sat 3rd Oct    -  10am-5.30pm
Sun 4th Oct   -  10am-5.30pm
Mon 5th Oct  -  10am-5.30pm
Tues 6th Oct -   CLOSED (sorry but I want to visit the other 55 artists exhibiting too!)
Wed 7th Oct -   CLOSED
Thurs 8th Oct - 10am-5.30pm
Fri 9th Oct     -  10am-5.30pm
Sat 10th Oct  -  10am-5.30pm
Sun 11th Oct -  10am-5.30pm

Entry is free and you will get the chance to see all my artwork from the past two years. That's everything to do with my animal watercolour series, plus the sketches and the individual magazine and private commissions I have worked on during that time. You will also be able to meet me and discuss art or whatever topic takes your fancy (except Star Wars and country music).

An artist's interpretation of what you may encounter when visiting my studio, subject to weather conditions on the day of your visit.
 I look forward to meeting you!

Monday 24 August 2015

Artist Appreciation Month

August Is Artist Appreciation Month

Recently, I was informed by the folks at Patience Brewster about a project called 'Artist Appreciation Month,' in which artists are invited to talk about an artist(s) who has inspired them to create. Patience is an artist as well and designs ornaments and unique gifts for Christmas and year round d├ęcor. I knew straight away this would be the perfect opportunity to share with you a FANTASTIC artist and hopefully shed light on my early days of struggling to find my ‘way of painting’ - notice I didn’t say ‘style’.

John Howe

My first major inspiration, and the man who made me aware of illustration as a career, was John Howe. Everybody, whether they know it or not, has at some point seen his artwork, either on book covers, board games or in every single Peter Jackson Tolkien film.
Make-up artists working on the Fellowship Of The Ring, stuck this image on the mirror opposite Sir Ian McKellen as they turned him into Gandalf
I’m not going to do a great big biography or go into any detail about John Howe (you can find that on his website) in this post, instead, I’m going to concentrate on one single publication featuring his artwork - the 2001 Tolkien Calendar, published by Harper Collins.

I have been a big fan of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth since I was 9, when I read the Hobbit for the first time. Not surprisingly at such a young age I didn’t know anything about the huge wealth of Tolkien inspired artwork in the world, so there was a big gap between reading the stories and finding visuals. That happened at the age of 14, when I Christmas shopping in a local independent book shop (remember those!) and I stumbled across John Howe’s calendar. My world suddenly expanded as I bought it, got home and started to flick through the 13 wonderful pages (13!? - there was a pull out poster).

In my eyes, John Howe, had depicted the aged and menacing atmosphere of the Lord Of The Rings perfectly. Even the painting of the Black Riders in the Shire had a wonderful subtle creepiness and the gorgeous trees and environments just topped the whole thing off.
Black Riders In The Shire
Throughout all of the year 2001 (a Tolkien odyssey) I lovingly marvelled at each month’s artwork and I even scrawled on the days, which is something I had never done before or since. These days I just keep a diary - not as exciting but easier to fit in a rucksack.
This poster of Sauron's forces attacking Minas Tirith remained on my wall until I left home for University.
So how did this calendar inspire me? Well, for me it was the ‘Big Bang’. Quickly following the calendar I found books (and websites) about John Howe and other related artists. I started to use watercolour and I began copying John’s paintings (no I won’t be posting those!), and even when, during my foundation year, I had a hiatus from watercolour in favour of oils (because w/c is just so hard), it was John Howe who brought me back into the light and I picked up watercolour again determined to crack it.
Gollum Flees The Elves Of Mirkwood

The Argonath
 Since that first year of discovery, I have found other wonderful artists and maybe I will post about some of those in the future. But because John Howe was the first BIG inspiration, and the man who inspired me to paint and attempt a career from my own artwork, he will always be at the top of the pile. I’ve been fortunate enough to see his originals in a small show at the Illustration Cupboard, London, but unfortunately I just missed meeting the man himself that day. Hopefully in the future our paths will cross and I’ll get to be the awkward geeky fanboy I know I really am.
Legolas And Gimli At Helms Deep
To think about how I paint now, my first concern when beginning a new illustration is ‘atmosphere’, be it based on temperature, weather or emotion, I always want to convey some kind of atmosphere before the viewer notices what the main character is doing. For that major prerequisite you can thank that flipping calendar (it did actually flip over you know)!

Below are more illustrations from the calendar.
Horsemen In The Night
Gwaihir Rescues Gandalf From Orthanc
Shelob About To Leap On Frodo
The End Of All Things
The Grey Havens

Friday 7 August 2015

School Playground

 'School Playground'
Watercolour & Gouache
66 x 50cm
After working on other jobs and taking a week off to teach a summer school course, I have finally finished 'School Playground'.

I'm pleased with the overall result but I do think I could have developed the relationship between the characters and first school further. Maybe by depicting a young animal going through the doorway or a few heads poking out of the windows? I'm not sure, but it is certainly something I will keep in mind for future similar paintings.

Enough of the internal soul searching... here are some pictures showing my progress.
Rough Drawing
Concentrating on the background after finishing the sky and trees
For this passage I was closely copying a photograph I had taken a few days previously
School finished, working on the playground now.
Bit by bit I worked through the characters
Keep painting...
... and painting
... and finally pull out the gouache paints.
The school is based on the old Corsham Primary school which is now the Pound Arts Centre - where I have my studio! Next door to me are two other artists, the superb Penney Ellis and the extraordinary Caroline Rudge. We have an open studio every Monday, so please feel free to drop by and say hello if you are in the area.

See if you can spot any of these animals in the playground. The two young rabbits might be hard to spot.

Wednesday 15 July 2015

School Playground WIP

No painting today as I am preparing for my upcoming illustration workshop at Marlborough College Summer School. However here are a couple of photos of the painting so far.
The drawing has been transferred and cleaned up with a 2H pencil.

Here the sky and trees well on their way and I've just started to block in the school and playground.

Thursday 2 July 2015

Picnic By The Lighthouse

Picnic By The Lighthouse
Watercolour & Gouache
70 x 50cm
Here is the most recent of my large paintings. It was surprisingly quick to finish, mainly due to the vast sky and relatively small amount of characters.

My aim was to produce an accompanying image for 'Rescue From The Storm', maybe depicting the day after - I'll let you decide.

Tuesday 16 June 2015

More WIP

I've spent the last day and half working on this and it's finally starting to come together.

Tuesday 9 June 2015

Picnic By The Lighthouse WIP

Day One: Drawn up, masked and wet in wet blue sky
Day Two: Defining clouds, more masking fluid on the grass and blocking in
This is the sister painting to 'Rescue From The Storm'. The same lighthouse from a different angle and much more pleasant weather conditions.

I'm hoping to pick up my brush again on Saturday, which seems like an age away!

Monday 8 June 2015

'Rescue From The Storm'

The finished painting.
'Rescue From The Storm'Watercolour & Gouache
70 x 50cm
I thought you might appreciate seeing the whole thing and a crisp detail, rather than the blurry excuse for a photograph I posted previously.
Detail: I might develop the Torchcliff setting in future paintings.

Thursday 4 June 2015

A Sneaky Peek

Apparently some of these otters are 'catching a crab' - it's a rowing term
Recently finished but no scanner! A fuzzy photo will have to suffice. 

Monday 25 May 2015

Rescue From The Storm WIP

"Paint, paint, paint, paint, painting!" (requires sing-song voice)

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.


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.