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.

Paper – Searching for a Back-up

Pastel mat by Clairefontaine has been my preference for color pencil work. It allows a lot of layers and you can work in a lot of detail but I don’t want to rely on just one type of paper from one particular supplier. What would I do if something happened to that supplier and that type of paper was no longer produced?

Therefore, I have been experimenting with other papers such as Hot Press watercolor paper by Arches, a Bristol board by Strathmore and a drawing paper by Canson. So far they have all produced mixed results. I still need to do more experimenting with the Bristol board and the watercolor paper.

Most of my experimentation  has been on the Canson paper with the production of a Gorilla that I was quite happy with which l repeated on pastelmat. Although both produced different results I had no preference as they were both equally appealing for different reasons. Although sketchy the Canson one had a hairy charm that was appealing while the other had a much more refined look.

One gorilla drawn on pastelmat and the other three drawings on Canson a grain
The gorilla on the top right drawn on pastelmat and the other three drawings on Canson a grain

After that experience I continued with the pastelmat for a while then I had another go at using the Canson… first with a fox which was completed earlier in the year and then more recently with a Badger.

The fox has worked well while the Badger is OK . Then I started on this Tawny Owl mixing pan pastel and colour pencil. It was then I remembered why I liked Pastelmat. The way you can blend colour pencil and pan pastel on Pastelmat is just perfect.

Collage showing the work in progress of a Tawny Owl drawing
Collage showing the work in progress of a Tawny Owl drawing

In my view the pastel does not work so well on the Canson as I did try it on the gorilla drawing. It is not really designed for that. The pastel mat is far better but of course that is what it is designed for.

Clearly the paper you choose depends on the type of drawing you want to produce and the materials that you want to use.

While I will still use Canson as I do like the texture… it will be for specific projects where I feel the structure of that particular paper will enhance the drawing.

With regard to my main body of work, I will continue using the Pastelmat as it is still my preferred choice for projects that involve the use of pan pastel.

That then brings me back to my initial quest… the search for a back-up paper with similar properties to Pastelmat.

The search continues…

Spring Gallery

A wolf collage consisting of a head portrait and a snoozing wolf.

Now into the fourth month of a new year it is time to take stock of what I have completed this year.

There were a couple of wolf studies. The head portrait I would describe as my favorite.

A wolf collage consisting of a head portrait and a snoozing wolf.
A wolf collage consisting of a head portrait and a snoozing wolf.

A large amount of time was also spent on the big cats study that started with charcoal drawings and then progressed on to color drawings. I have no favorite as they are all different.

A Collage of four big cats rendered in charcoal and in colour pencil.
A Collage of four big cats rendered in charcoal and in colour pencil.

Lately I have concentrated on wildlife local to me. The latest piece to be finished is the roe deer. Again I find it hard to choose a favorite.

A collage consisting of a roe deer, red squirrel, red fox, and a hare
A collage consisting of a roe deer, red squirrel, red fox, and a hare

Still got drawings to finish such as the Pine Marten and the Orangutan. I will not rush them but I may need to revisit the Pine Marten. He is not turning out the way I would like!

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!