Less than two weeks to go now! I’ve been drip feeding a couple of photos of my bee over on my social media accounts but thought I’d better post them here too. If you didn’t read my last blog post, I’m participating in Bee in the City, a public art trail where over 100 giant painted bees will be scattered around Greater Manchester. The art trail runs from 23rd July to 23rd September.
Bee in the City preview shots!
My sculpture will be on display outside North Manchester General Hospital in Crumpsall for the duration of the trail, after which it will be moving to its permanent home in Manchester Royal Eye Hospital on Oxford Road.
My bee is sponsored by the NHS for Henshaws, a charity dedicated to helping blind and partially sighted people. To create an accessible piece of artwork, I incorporated many different sensory elements including different textures and 3D features, shimmering pigments, and an audio box on the base describing the sculpture. I poured my heart and soul into this project and enjoyed every second.
I can’t reveal the full sculpture until the trail begins (not long to go now!) but here’s a little preview of the elements included in my sculpture as well as a couple of photos from when I was working on all the textures. I can’t wait to unveil the full thing!
That’s it on my bee for now! Keep your eyes peeled in a few weeks for the full unveiling! Also if you’re in Manchester in the near future then be sure to check out the Bee in the City art trail, there are so many incredible sculptures on the trail and it’s definitely worth spending a day out exploring the city and looking at them all!
This beautiful boy was one of my Christmas commissions. His endearing puppy-dog-eyes and sweet expression were so much fun to render It was so refreshing to work with paint thinner again for my coloured pencil art too. I didn’t realise how much I missed it!
This piece was drawn using Caran d’Ache Luminance, Caran d’Ache Pablo, Faber Castell Polychromos and Derwent Drawing coloured pencils. The paper I used was Fabriano Artistico 140lb Hot Pressed Watercolour Paper. I used Daler Rowney odourless paint thinner to blend. Touch-Up Texture and Titanium White powder were used on the chest to pull out the white hairs and highlights on his collar.
This was such a fun experiment. I may have started off a little wonky on the chin and mouth area, but once I got the hang of the medium it was as natural as riding a bike.
The tools I used to create this piece are Rembrandt soft pastels and Stabilo Carbothello pastel pencils on Clairefontaine pastelmat. Reference photo by Katerina Mirus from Wildlife Reference Photos, used with permission.
Soft pastel is a really enjoyable medium to work in. Expect to see more in this medium from me in the future! I can definitely see myself doing lots of little landscape studies in this medium.
The fully commentated tutorial video for this piece will be available this weekend! I’ll also be reviewing and discussing my thoughts on the brands I used to make this piece too. I might end up splitting it into two videos depending on how long it is. Stay tuned!
Last but not least I also started on a new coloured pencil drawing this week.
I’m so excited to share this one with you. The concept to this drawing has been swirling around in my head for months now and I finally have a spare moment to start putting it onto paper! 😀 The subject for this drawing is my absolute favourite animal – the okapi. They are an endangered species native to the Congo and their closest relative is the giraffe. When they were first discovered they were so strange-looking that they were thought to be mythical creatures – hence the title of this piece – “Mythical Beast.”
I’m trying to get a sense of mystic surrealism in this portrait so I chose to have the okapi looking up at the aurora borealis – something you would never normally see in the tropical forests! It also gives me the excuse to use lots of pretty blues and greens, muahaha!
I’m using Caran d’Ache Pablos, Caran d’Ache Luminance, Faber Castell Polychromos and Derwent Drawing pencils for this drawing. I’m using powder blender to blend the background, but I’ll also be trying out paint thinner when I get to the okapi itself as I’ve never tried using paint thinner on sanded paper before! I still marvel at how quickly I can get things done with the powder blender. I’m only an hour and ten minutes into the drawing so far, and my background is already almost finished!
I’m also trying out Fisher 400 paper for the first time for this drawing. The tooth of the paper is wonderfully consistent, and in my opinion is superior to UArt paper.
This is turning into a long blog post so I’m going to leave it here for now! I’ve got lots more in store for you guys so keep your eyes peeled 🙂
Last weekend I finished my hyacinth macaw drawing in coloured pencil!
I’m relieved this one is over! I had a bit of a battle with the paper all the way through this one. I used Uart 800 grade paper. Even with textured fixative and very light layers with the powder blender, it just won’t take any more layers of pencil. Not ideal! I hadn’t really experienced these issues in my previous drawings with the same paper (jumping spider and praying mantis). In this piece I kept getting ugly vertical ridges showing through that just wouldn’t blend out and the pencils just weren’t sticking to the paper no matter how many sprays of textured fixative I gave it. The paper is so fine and delicate that it just couldn’t stand up to the abuse I was putting it through!
It’s a little frustrating that I couldn’t make it as detailed as I wanted to, but I’m glad I finished it nonetheless! I got to play with my blue coloured pencils, something I don’t get to do often 🙂
I don’t think I will be using Uart 800 for coloured pencil again after this experience. The 600 grade paper definitely seemed to fare better in my cheetah drawing. I have also purchased some Fisher 400 sanded paper, which I hope to be trying out in the near future.
As with most of my pieces nowadays I have recorded my full process for this artwork and I’m currently in the process of editing. Expect the tutorial to go up on my YouTube channel this weekend!
I am also so thrilled to announce that my coloured pencil piece “Companionship” received an Honourable Mention in this year’s Colored Pencil Magazine competition! The other winning entries are absolutely phenomenal. Definitely check them out in this month’s Colored Pencil Magazine if you get the chance!
Christmas is a very busy time of year for me and I have several top-secret projects in the works. Updates will probably be a little slow during this period but please bear with me! I have a couple of treats for you lined up, including product reviews of Derwent Inktense pencils and blocks, and Rembrandt soft pastels, which I am really looking forward to testing out!
There’s nothing quite as addictive as new art supplies!
Until next time!
In this video I show you how I created my drawing “Companionship” in coloured pencil in a fully voiced-over format. Still getting used to talking to an imaginary audience but I guess I’ll get there with practice!
Editing blooper! I didn’t notice there were repeated lines in my audio until after I had uploaded to youtube. Thought I had deleted them all before processing my video! Hopefully I get better at using Adobe Premiere with time xD
If you enjoyed this video please leave a like and a comment, and subscribe so you don’t miss out on any art tutorials, discussions and product reviews!
Just a small update this week. I’m on the home stretch with Jack and Jess’s portrait now! I should hopefully be finished by the end of next week. Still recording my progress on this drawing, then I’ll have over 116gb (20+ hours!) of footage to edit down for youtube. I will be uploading my first vlog this coming week too, a studio tour of my art desk. Stay tuned!
A short time ago I was describing how I get such detailed rough sketches to someone on Facebook, when an ill-informed person commented on the post with an outcry of “Tracing is cheating!” I thought that this would make a good topic to talk about in this article.
“Hmm tracing…why don’t you draw it out yourself rather than cheating?”
Is tracing cheating? When I was fifteen and still drawing anime and cartoon dragons (which, to be fair, I still draw!), the answer was a vehement YES. For me and many other teens this was an inflammatory topic. In the environment that I grew up in, both at school and on the internet we were repeatedly told that tracing was cheating and you are not a real artist if you trace. You are a dirty, dirty cheater!
In truth, the only time tracing becomes cheating is when you trace someone’s art, without their permission, to steal it and claim it as your own work. And it is cheating for a very good reason –because you are breaking copyright law. As a result of this fact being pounded into people’s heads in online art communities and in real life, many people make the somewhat illogical jump that all tracing is wrong, and this opinion has somehow become entrenched.
It was many years later, when I got into realism, that I finally changed my mind.
I’ve learnt that when I am creating highly realistic artwork for pet portraits I need to be sure that I have every little detail perfectly accurate, every patch of fur and every pattern in the right place, or the outcome will look nothing like the owner’s pet. Tracing is a basic skill that many realism artists use. The reality is that it’s the end result that matters – not the way you do things.
Artists who trace are not photocopying machines like the aforementioned commenter on Facebook claimed. All tracing involves is getting the outline down onto the paper quickly and efficiently. Tracing doesn’t do all the work for you. You have to have a good understanding of shape, colour, lighting, texture, how your art tools work and most importantly, you have to have experience. A novice tracing out their rough sketch will result in the finished artwork looking nothing even close to the end result of an experienced artist’s work, no matter how good the novice’s trace was. They simply just don’t have the drawing skills.
“Optical devices certainly don’t paint pictures.”
– David Hockney
That said, tracing is an excellent way to learn how to draw. Only drawing freehand, especially when you have no one to go to for critique, can result in you making the same mistakes over and over again. Tracing is a good way to counter this and greatly improve your freehanding skills. It forces you to see shapes as they actually are, not how your brain thinks they look. A great example of this is a rose – when you look at a rose your brain only sees the overall shape and colour – it won’t break it down into smaller segments unless you train it to. When you trace, breaking objects down into shapes becomes a lot easier. You train yourself to see each rose petal as a combination of curves, triangles and ovals.
Hyperrealists, who spend upwards of hundreds of hours on their work rely on tracing -because if even the tiniest little detail is in the wrong place it will throw the whole painting off. Even Leonardo Da Vinci and many other old masters traced by using camera obscura -an optical technique that projects scenery onto a wall in a dark room from outside. Camera obscura was the forerunner for the invention of photographic cameras.
One final thing I would also like to add – many photos provided to me by clients of their pets are low quality, in bad lighting, and/or lacking in detail. In most cases this can’t be helped due to the pet sadly passing away or the client being unable to get photos of a friend’s pet for their top-secret gift. It is the job of the artist to turn that into a detailed, realistic and beautiful bespoke piece of artwork that immortalises the client’s loved ones. Tracing doesn’t do that work for you especially when the photo provided is poor – often I find myself having to guess parts! Here’s one such example:
So that was my stance on tracing. If you are one of those people who is vehemently against it, then don’t trace! I am not forcing you or anyone else to use this method. My aim when working is to produce beautiful, personalised, accuraterepresentations of clients’ pets. If tracing allows me to achieve that while also taking me considerably less time than sketching freehand or using a grid, then I have no issues with it. This is the way that I do things. There is no such thing as the wrong way in art, and in my opinion suggesting otherwise is a little close-minded.
I’ve been in a bit of an art slump recently after accidentally throwing tea all over this commission and having to start on it all over again! I hate it being so delayed (It was meant to be a Christmas gift! D: ) but now that I pushed through my slump and finished it, in a way I’m glad I spilt tea on the old version despite my embarassment. I think the portrait turned out for the better in the end! I really love this piece, I think the sheen on Mini’s fur came out really well without being too obtrusive. 🙂
Tools used: Caran d’Ache Grafwood pencils, AIN 4B 0.5mm lead, one Faber Castell 9000 8B pencil, Fabriano Artistico HP Watercolour Paper
I also have something special in the works – quite possibly the biggest coloured pencil piece I’ve ever worked on! I’ve not drawn anything for myself for a while, and I’ve also not done any works in coloured pencil since November. I’m really looking forward to starting it. Stay tuned!
Another Christmas commission to share with you all! This one is of a very sweet and cheeky cat called Angie.
It was quite a small portrait (A5 sized) so it was a challenge to get all the little details in but I really enjoyed making this one.
No step-by-step for you to see this time I’m afraid, I was up to my usual bad habits of working through the night in relative darkness again to get this one finished so I couldn’t get any good photos! 😛
I’m currently working on an 11x14inch graphite portrait of a very cute dog called Mini. This is where I’m up to so far:
Below is a little progress shot I took a couple of hours back. All three stages of my artwork process are pretty much visible in this WIP shot! On the muzzle I have just started adding the lights and darks with a 9B pencil. On the right hand side of the face and ear I have smoothed it all out with a blending stump and roughly added the fur direction with a Mono Zero eraser. On the left hand size is what it looks like when (mostly) finished, most of the details have been added and the values are just about right. I’m constantly adjusting the lights and darks throughout the whole process.
For those curious I use Caran d’Ache Grafwood pencils for all of my graphite work, they are my favourite graphite pencils ever! I also use a 0.5 mechanical pencil with AIN Stein 4B lead for the detail work such as hairs and whiskers.
Back in October a lovely lady over on the Siamese and Oriental Cat Chat group on facebook commissioned a portrait off me of her absolutely gorgeous havannah, Myah. Myah had sadly passed away after an illness last year and I was asked to create a portrait in her memory.
I was so touched to hear back from her on Christmas day when her husband recieved it –
As expected my husband absolutely loves the portrait of Myah. When I gave him it on Christmas Day it actually made him cry, and then of course I cried! We miss her dreadfully but he agrees it is a most fitting tribute and it has pride of place in our house. Thank you again, you captured her spirit perfectly.
This is exactly why I love making pet portraits- they are a lasting, tangible snapshot of your loved ones’ lives that stay with you even long after they are gone and I feel so privaliged to be a part of it.
I hope you all had a happy, warm and wonderful Christmas and New Years! See you next week!
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