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.

Flower Conclusions

I like flowers particularly wild flowers. There is nothing better than to go for a walk in the summer months and spot all the different plants as they each take their turn to come into flower before disappearing for another year.

Collage showing nine different images of wild flowers
Collage showing nine different images of wildflowers

Drawing them forces you to focus in on the details such as whether they are hairy or not, how many petals they have and whether there leaves are arranged alternately up the stem or are opposite to each other. It is definitely a good way to get to know them better.
But the drawings I am currently producing… while useful for identification are at this point just sketches.

Collage showing sketches of flowers
Collage showing sketches of flowers

It will be sometime before I can represent them in a way that I am really happy with.

I still spend a lot of time photographing flowers. Most of them are just snaps as represented in the gallery above. These are OK for recording purposes but I really want to capture the subtlety of texture.

Photographing them out in the field is hopeless… particularly if like me you live in a windy part of the world!

The other option is to bring the flower inside and while it is useful in terms of having full control, the downside is that it wilt fast so you have to be quick to capture the moment. Also, you are in effect destroying the flower in the process of photographing it. Is that right?

I did for a while buy interesting flower shapes from florists but that was proving to be expensive! Although, I did produce some pleasing results as illustrated in the gallery below.

Cut- flower collage showing 4 different flowers
Cut- flower collage

They are of course not the wild flowers that I really wanted to capture.

Capturing that delicate subtlety of wild flowers will take a lot of photographing and a lot of playing about… but hopefully I will get there.

In the meantime I am starting a nocturnal theme.

Portrait of Tawny Owl work in progress
Portrait of Tawny Owl work in progress

Blends of Green

I am more used to drawing hairy and feathery textures but when I decided while out walking to start drawing some of the early flowers that are now appearing on local walks I had assumed that it would be fairly straightforward.

Drawing the initial shape was not the problem and the petals so far have not given me too much difficulty but what I had not anticipated was how tricky the leaves were going to be.

Each leaf has a subtle blend of different greens.

Take a close look at a leaf … it can be on a flower or a tree … it does not matter. You will notice immediately that there is a difference between the top and bottom surfaces of the leaf. The top surface is usually shiny while the lower surface is more of a mat green. Also the veins have a darker shade on one side and are slightly lighter on the other side.

A further complication is that no two leaves are exactly identical and as each leaf hangs off the plant they will also curve in different ways. Blending the different greens to replicate this requires a bit of thought.

Now it would be easy to ignore all of this and settle for a generalized impression of each leaf but that would not look natural and anyway where is the challenge in that!

A sensible approach would have been to take one leaf and play about with it until it was reasonably representative. I on the other hand just jumped straight in there and started with the entire plant.

Collage showing work in progress for Wood Anemone
Collage showing work in progress for Wood Anemone

Getting the leaves right on the Wood Anemone is going to take some time and while I put the practice in I can take time out as thankfully spring and summer have other subjects to be inspired by :-

Swallow in flight
Swallow in flight

Nearly Finished

It has been a busy week full of distractions but nearly finished my latest drawings of a Pine Marten and a Roe Deer.

Work in progress of a Pine Marten
Work in progress of a Pine Marten

The pine marten still has a lot of work required around the head and on the log.

Work in progress of a Roe Deer
Work in progress of a Roe Deer

The Roe Deer still requires a lot of work around the ear and the head.

I will keep rotating between the two until they are finished

Choosing Size for Impact

In recent times all my drawings have been around the size of an A3 piece of paper. I now very rarely draw anything smaller as I feel that details could be lost.

For many of the subjects I wished to draw, this A3 size seems to be the optimum size. Not too big and not too small.

In early January I decided that more impact was needed for a story that I wished to tell. To achieve that I not only went with drawing the piece on black paper but also scaled it up to a bigger size. The initial sketching was started and that seemed to go well… then I never touched it again.

Now I have argued that there was a clash of schedules and l had taken on more projects than I had intended and… yes there is an element of truth in this.

But, if I was being entirely honest with myself there was also an element of fear and perhaps regret at attempting something so big particularly as I regard myself as being at the start of my artistic journey.

Now I could of course have gone the other way and gone smaller. There is no doubt that small, even the miniature can have a wow factor.

I have seen some incredibly detailed pieces of artwork such as watercolor paintings only 2 inches square that are beautiful.

They are exquisite and the skill involved in getting so much detail into such a small space can only be admired.

However, putting to one side the fact that I do not have the necessary skill to achieve so much detail in such a small piece, I am not sure the subtle approach is appropriate for the type of message that I want to put across.

My purpose is to raise awareness of wildlife issues and I want to shout as loudly as possible which is why I took the decision to go big and bold with the Orangutan and baby. The message of loss of their habitat to make way for oil palm plantations is one that should not be ignored.

Family Portrait of an Orangutan and Baby
Family Portrait of an Orangutan and Baby First work in progress

However what is the point of aspiring to shout a message when I am fearful of doing so!

It was time to confront the fear!

The whole of last week was spent confronting that fear

second work in progress of Orangutan and Baby
Family Portrait of an Orangutan and Baby 2nd Work in Progress

This drawing of an Orangutan and her baby measures 70 cm x 50 cm and is the biggest drawing I have ever attempted.

To overcome the fear, I ignored the subject and just took small areas at a time mapping out the different shapes. Now I am slowly building up the layers. Approaching it this way has made it less daunting. There is also the opportunity to really focus in on the details of different elements such as the hairy hand, the nose, the mouth and the the arrangement of the hair in the mother as well as striving to capture that close relationship between mother and baby.

It is important to get this right and I won’t rush it. I will do a little bit at a time and carefully work out the best way to interpret each part of the drawing as I continue to rotate between other drawings.

Unfortunately it will take some time before I am ready to shout about this but it is better to get it right!

On Track… sort of!

From trying to work on six projects at once, I am now down to a more manageable three.

Portrait of a Fox

The fox is now complete but the butterfly will, unfortunately, have to stay as a demonstration piece.    While explaining to others what to do and what not to do with regard to the use of watercolour pencils, I have shown too many examples of what not to do. I now think it would be difficult to retrieve the piece.

But, all is not lost as using the experience I will then go on at some point to do the butterfly again. It will be part of a series of drawings and I have references that are my own. It is always satisfying to use your own references. The artwork is then truly yours.

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly
Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

The Wolf is virtually complete but  I am struggling to decide when I should call it finished. Every time I stand back and take a look… something catches my eye that could do with further work. If I am not careful I am going to overwork this piece. That would be unfortunate as I am really pleased with how it looks, particularly as it was a challenge to use only a limited number of pencils. Five watercolour pencils were used along with a Derwent Chinese white pencil for the fur while the eyes were completed using two polychromous oil based pencils.

Snoozing Wolf completed in Watercolor pencils

Watercolour pencils I feel should offer more possibilities but I guess the problem is that it takes time to get to know them… something that can be a struggle to find.

With the butterfly being put to one side to be redone at a later date, the Hare and the Squirrel have had more work done on them than was expected. Both should be completed within the next week.

There has been no further progress on the Orangutan.

Family Portrait of an Orangutan and Baby
Family Portrait of an Orangutan and Baby

After the completion of the Squirrel and the Hare, I really need to crack on with this piece therefore until then it’s no more new projects.

It gets Frustrating when you are not Completing Projects.

Normally, I don’t like having more than three or four projects on the go at any one time! But, I currently find myself with six projects and only the fox nearing completion.

So, why take on so many?

As the completion of a project nears, an eagerness to get onto the next project starts to take over. By going ahead and making a start on another project the pressure to simply rush the current project eases.

Also, pausing that initial project allows the following question to be considered:

Is the project progressing in the way that was intended?

After plotting out the second drawing I then go back and continue with the main project.

If the first project is particularly big then I may start a third project. Usually, by this time the first project is near completion and it is very rare to start a fourth. That only happens if there is a theme that involves a series of four artworks.

The reason I have found myself in this predicament is down to a clash of commitments, timescales and not planning properly.

Volunteering to undertake a demonstration on watercolour pencils required some preparation. It was a good opportunity to further explore their potential using the Albrecht  Durer range. The butterfly was the planned demonstration piece with the wings being split into sections to show how watercolour pencils can be used both wet and dry.

What I had not planned for was the undertaking of a wolf project.

The wolf was started as I fancied trying pencils that had been bought some time ago and not been used. These were from the Caran d’ Ache Museum Aquarelle Watercolour range. They are considered by many to be the best. Apart from the use of Polychromous oil based pencils for the eyes, the rest of the work will be undertaken by only using the five watercolour pencils that I have from the Museum Aquarelle range. Unfortunately, they are expensive but nevertheless lovely pencils to use.

I am looking forward to finishing the wolf even though he was an unplanned project.

Then along came a deadline to focus more on local wildlife. That required the starting of two more projects which were the Hare and the Red Squirrel.

Suddenly, I had lots of uncompleted artworks.

If I want the artwork to be completed on time, a more disciplined approach is required

In the short term, I will be prioritising on the completion of the fox and then the butterfly. After that, I will concentrate on the wolf.

Unfortunately, the  Orangutan which was started way back in early January will need to be put on hold while I concentrate on the local wildlife theme which will continue with the Hare and the Red Squirrel.

By next week I hope to be back on track!