Tinkering with a Lion

Deciding when a drawing is finished can be a difficult judgement call!

I am undecided if the drawing below should be considered finished!

Looking at both the drawing on the paper and then the photograph of the drawing I can identify areas where I could do a bit more work to… but if I did do that… would it add any value to the drawing?

One area I am thinking of is the forehead on the left hand side but another part of me says that if you add too much graphite then there is a danger of making the whole piece look too grey!

Another area is his white beard… I feel that it is too white but again my fear is if I add too much graphite… it will then be too grey!

This was very much a practice piece where the purpose was to identify how well the water soluble graphite in the form of graphitone and sketching pencils worked with other materials including the paper surface which was Arches hot pressed watercolor paper.

I do like using the pencils but there is no doubt that to get the best out of the pencils you do have to carefully control how much water you add.

While I decide if this is finished, I will get on with other projects such as continuing with butterflies. In the UK this was quite a year for butterflies particularly Painted Ladies.

World Lion Day was Saturday 10th August 2019

“World Lion Day supports and promotes charities and foundations that instill awareness of the great need for conservation efforts and sustainable solutions for addressing the global dwindling world lion population”

To acknowledge World Lion Day I decided to post on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram the following image:-

I chose this early graphite sketch as it best reflected how I feel about the lack of a ban on Lion Trophy hunting imports both here in the UK and internationally. As part of the post I raised awareness of the “Change.org petition Ban lion trophy hunting into the UK” hoping people would go and add their signature to that cause. Since then I have discovered that there is also a similar petition in the US on “Keep The Ban on Importing Elephant and Lion Trophies“. Hopefully these petitions will be successful!

For more information why not visit the World Lion Day website .

Lions are my favorite Big Cat and despite having completed a few lion drawings… I decided to undertake another drawing but this time in graphite. I had previously done this chap in color and will at some point redo a version in color as since that last drawing I have adopted new techniques and my drawing skills have improved.

A work in progress of a graphite male lion
A work in progress of a graphite male lion

In addition to it being World Lion Day on the 10th, it was also World Elephant Day on the 12th August. I have only ever done a very rough elephant sketch as you can see below!

Elephant on smooth card: Source image in “Animals” by Lucy Swinburne

Elephants are tricky to draw but I think I am now ready for another go. When I will get the time… I have no idea!

Just Playing!

Having recently bought new Derwent sketching pencils… well I just had to play with them!

Within the set of four pictures, you can see a comparison between a drawing of a deer done in charcoal… top left along with one done using the sketching pencils which is bottom left.

As you can see the reference image was not the best but by using the charcoal I could sketch and erase until I produced a result that I was happy with.

A collage showing 4 images... one of a deer using pencil, one in charcoal, the equipment used and the reference shot.
A comparison between two drawings, the reference shot and the equipment used.

Using charcoal to create an initial sketch helps to generate a familiarity with the subject that can then be used to create a better drawing.

To create that “better” drawing I decided to use these Derwent sketching pencils. They do allow you to add water to create a “wash” which if the water is carefully controlled allows you to create a good foundation on which you can then add detail to.

To apply the water I decided not to use a paint brush but instead use a make-up sponge applicator. I think these tools are wonderful for blending and smudging particularly in small areas.

Up until now I have used them dry. But… in this project I decided to use them damp and by not making them too wet, I was able to control the flow of pigment. It worked well and is worthy of more experimentation!

After the initial wet layer was allowed to dry an additional layer was then applied using the same sketching pencils. For blending a dry make-up applicator was then used and for the finer detail, I continued to experiment… but this time with a dark onyx pencil and a black polychromous Faber Castell pencil.

Where I needed to both blend and lighten in a small area, I used a white Faber Castell pencil. In small areas that worked quite well.

To lighten larger areas a kneadable eraser (sometimes called a putty rubber) was used while a tombo eraser was used to completely erase lines in areas where I was over enthusiastic!

The reason I went down this path is that I do like drawing in grey scale. However, using graphite alone in my opinion does not always offer enough contrast. In other words the blacks are not black enough and there can be an unwanted shine. In some circumstances that shine can be beneficial but not always.

In conclusion both the charcoal and the drawing pencils are good for sketching.

There is no denying that charcoal is messy!

The sketching pencils do offer a cleaner alternative but I won’t give up using charcoal as I just like it’s properties and I see no reason why I could not use both in the same project!

Fox Project Complete for Now

collage of three drawings of foxes. The dog fox in the middle, a cub on the left and the vixen on the right.

I have now completed for the time being my fox project.

It started with noticing a number of foxes living in the woodland at the back of the garden. From there some photographs were taken.

Collage of nine images showing local foxes
Local foxes

These were a bit shaky as I was only using a small compact camera.

Not put off… I decided to sketch some of the images using charcoal.

Collage of four images showing different members of a fox family.
Different members of a fox family.

From there I have selected two from which to create colour drawings. For the third drawing of the Dog fox, which is shown below in the centre, I decided to just use the colour image as reference. The reference can be seen in the centre of the collage of nine images at the top. You will see in that photograph he is pictured with a cub. Maybe I should have drawn father and cub… but no matter that can wait for another time.

collage of three drawings of foxes. The dog fox in the middle, a cub on the left and the vixen on the right.
Meet the Fox family.

For now the drawing of foxes will be put to one side. I have really enjoyed photographing and drawing the fox family but my attention is turning to other subjects and different techniques.

One subject I would like to have another go at is butterflies but this time using pastels rather than colour pencils. Then there is also a desire to do more work with charcoal as I really enjoy using it. Oh decisions, decisions….

Foxy Update

I have now finished my little fox cub in colour and making steady progress in drawing Mum. Since last week I have now added Dad who is also progressing nicely.

After I have completed these three foxes, I will review my latest drawings and decide on what to draw next!

Collage showing a completed fox cub and the work in progress for the vixen and dog fox.
Foxy Family… a work in progress… the completed fox cub along with the vixen and dog fox both of which are works in progress.

Foxes in Colour – Work in Progress

From my recently completed charcoal drawings I have chosen to create coloured versions of the cub and the vixen. Here are images comparing the progress of the colour drawings with the charcoal versions.

Collage of four images that show a fox cub in colour and charcoal plus a vixen in colour and charcoal
mother and cub_ work in progress. Comparing the colour versions with the charcoal versions.

For the vixen I decided to concentrate on the head and shoulders as I really wanted to focus in on her expression. I just wonder what she is thinking!

Whatever it is, I still have a long way to go before the coloured drawings are finished.

Foxy Inspiration

There was a time when it was rare and therefore exciting to encounter a wild fox!

This was a drawing of a red fox that I did earlier in the year:-

Now they are so common and therefore easy to watch. I can see them when going out for a walk in the evening or even during the day.

A neighbour has been feeding them making it easier to photograph them. Numbers vary from a patient solitary fox to about seven depending on the number of cubs that are born.

Here is a gallery of the best fox images that I have managed to capture on camera.

Collage of nine images showing local foxes
Local foxes

These images are being used as the inspiration for charcoal sketches.

Here are the sketches I have completed so far!

Collage of four images showing different members of a fox family.
Different members of a fox family.

I will continue the foxy theme for a bit longer as capturing different aspects of Fox behaviour is a challenge that I cannot resist. But, I will also try drawing a couple in colour.

Interpreting Through Charcoal

I am really enjoying using charcoal!

It is great to go in light and smudge away or go in heavy and create that depth of shadow.

Having completed my drawing of a fox cub in charcoal, I have now added a drawing of the vixen plus a horse called Chester and a Red Deer. The Red Deer was very “obliging” by looking back and pausing long enough for me to photograph him.

None of the reference shots are ideal but good enough to sketch from.

Here are my sketches in charcoal and down below are the reference shots that I used.

Charcoal sketches of a fox cub, vixen, Horse and Deer
Charcoal sketches
Collage of 4 images showing a fox cub, vixen, horse and deer
You can see the four images are not the best reference material to draw from! Nevertheless the process was a useful exercise!

My favourite two drawings are of the foxes!

Capturing the Spontaneous

I like to take a camera wherever I go but lugging around a large camera, long lenses and a tripod is for me, not ideal. My preference is to have a camera that I can fit into my pocket.

Although the camera in my phone is extremely good, I still prefer to have a separate mini compact camera that has some form of zoom lens.

I accept that it is not going to give me the results that a DSLR is going to give me but the weight and bulk of carrying a DSLR is at times not practical.

For me the ease of portability creates the opportunity to capture the moment.

Yes, I will get shots that are blurred, which will be viewed by many as poor reference material but it is then up to me to translate what I have captured onto paper.

For this, I will initially use charcoal and start off lightly to begin with and at this stage all I am aiming to do, is to capture the form of the subject. That involves teasing out what the blurry lines mean. It may take a lot of erasing before I am happy with the final form but that is OK.

Here is a drawing of a young fox that has been taken from a blurred photo.

It has come out well and I will now go on to review all my recent photos to select the ones that have enough detail from which to work from.

Where need be, I will use other reference materials to refine the details. Eg. the shape of the nose or maybe the mouth.

Once I am happy with the results I will go on to create versions in colour.

I am looking forward to seeing the young fox in colour.