Roast rabbit – and an art revelation

I had a clear “where have you been all my life” moment yesterday. After using gouache quite satisfactorily on Gil-galad, not just for highlights but also for some rendering, I decided it was time for another stab at gouache.

Gouache is often described as opaque watercolour (and indeed, many languages use no separate word for it), and can either be applied thickly and even paste-like, much like oils, or in thinner washes, much like watercolour. I’d often thought about trying around with the former, mainly because I’d been using only the most transparent of watercolours in recent years and felt that going opaque was just the opposite of what I wanted. One and a half years ago, roughly, I bought a book on painting animals in gouache, and faithfully copied the examples. It worked, but I didn’t like it. My gouache tubes went to the bottom of my art cupboard again.

I’d been thinking about the medium again and wanted to take another shot at it, when I looked at some paintings in my “inspiration” folder whose technique had always baffled me and it hit me: They weren’t watercolours. They were thinly glazed gouache paintings.

Gouache has a pastelly, fuzzy quality to it that I’d never really given much thought.

I immediately decided to try that. My mother had asked for a picture of Sam Gamgee roasting a rabbit, and it looked like just the thing to try in gouache.

I painted very much the way I always do, except that I mixed in white instead of relying on the white of the paper. The white gouache made for a fuzziness that just turned blending colours into an absolute dream. The greenery in the background also just fell onto the paper effortlessly. The only thing I’ll do differently next time is that, instead of a thin blue shadow map, I’ll do a bolder, more neutral shadow line the last time, and drop in the blues later, while it’s still wet.

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I recorded the painting process and uploaded it as a timelapse here.

The original painting is available in my Etsy shop!

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The dark side, and the light

Trying my hand at another full watercolour portrait of Kylo Ren. It’s cool how much this working from photos phase has taught me about realistic painting since January! Adam Driver’s face still defeats me more often than not, but I’m quite happy with it here. A bit too handsome, perhaps, but I’m biased.

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Watercolour and gel pen on Clairefontaine Nuageux cold-pressed paper, 39×29 cm (~11×15 in)

Original and prints available here!

Video on Patreon.

 

The Force, it’s calling to you.

So I’ve fallen in love with Star Wars again, and the more I think about it, the more I know why that is. (Scroll down for the art if you’re not into rambling.)

Last week, I dug into my old diaries and found what I wrote when I first saw Episode 1. I was surprised to read myself gushing over a movie that is today considered as bad as they get. I even loved Jar Jar Binks. But even then, I wrote that I loved it all because it was so bad. Literally. I’d been prepared to love it all and when it turned out to be silly, I told myself I loved it for the trash factor. Back then, I was okay with that.

Now, after seeing The Force Awakens twice, I’m only slowly understanding how much the prequels let me down, and how much Episode VII lives up to its very first sentence spoken: “This will begin to set things right”.

Yes, the obvious plot parallels to IV and V bothered me after the first viewing. Not so much after the second. JJ Abrams felt sure Star Wars needed a reboot, and I think it worked fine. My only qualm remains Starkiller Base, but I can apply my Episode 1 practice here and like it because it’s just so ridiculous.

What I love more and more is the characters. Those characters! I can’t even decide which I love most.

JJ Abrams gave us a female protagonist whose gender isn’t even an issue, as well as a black hero whose skin colour is never even mentioned. (It reminds me of the novels of David Weber, where skin colour and gender are totally secondary.) He gave us a daredevil pilot who is kind and likeable instead of selfish and badass. He gave us a villain that is so much your typical entitled manchild that teenagers hate him and adults love him for being such a complex figure.

 

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Poe Dameron

How can you not love Poe? I’m hoping the rewrite of Episode VIII will enlarge his role.

Video of the painting process is here.

You can buy the original painting here.

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Scarred

I didn’t fall in love with Kylo Ren until really late in the day, but as you’ll have noticed, fall in love I did. I can’t wait to find out what turned him to the dark side, and whether anything might turn him back to the light. I’m also semi-guiltily digging through Youtube to locate anything with Adam Driver in it. I can’t believe how versatile he is.

You can buy the original painting here.

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Han Solo

I never really liked Han in the original trilogy. “I happen to like nice men”, and as opposed to Leia, Han never managed to convince me he was one. But in this film, he breaks my heart. He started out as a cocksure smuggler who hadn’t even realised he’d lost his way; he found a terrific girl, found purpose, and ended up losing purpose, and the girl, and his way, as well as their son. The Force Awakens gives us what Han Solo “used to be” and tries to be again, but too many things have happened to be that person again. The Force Awakens is so psychologically astute and I connect with it on so many levels, and I keep discovering new ones.

If you like these (or my other work, to which I’ll no doubt return to, in case you were beginning to worry) – please consider supporting me on Patreon! Early access, special deals in my Etsy shop, digital and physical content, and a chance to win commissions and other goodies!

Painting of "Jon Snow"

So here’s the first work-in-progress documentation on the blog. Doing progress descriptions is so much easier in this editor than pasting it all together in Photoshop. Join me for a gigantic multi media show – video to come later, too!
For this image, I used (surprise!) a limited palette of Sepia Brown, Indigo, and Madder Red. The only exceptions were some Burnt Sienna and Cadmium Orange for the skin, toned done with a mix of the other three.

First, I wet the paper with a sponge, laying down a faint indigo tone so the skin will remain pale later on.
Next, after everything is completely dry so the paint doesn’t bleed into the figure, I lay down a generous background wash of my main three colours. I allow the paint to mix on the paper as opposed to putting down a smooth layer of one colour. Those little swirls you see are done using nail polish remover.
Next (again after waiting for the background wash to dry) I lay down my first skin layer, using Burnt Sienna tones down with my dirty water. I use much water on his right cheek, the side of his nose and other highlighted areas. My light source is upper left.

After the first wash has dried, I apply some Sienna with Madder Red for the areas where the skin is thinner – around the eyes, nose, mouth, and the ears. Then I let this dry too.
The problem with working from light to dark often is that such hues appear much stronger when hair, eyes, and clothes are still white. So I put down some more red than I usually would have, but I still had to add some after the hair and eyes were done.
Next, a novelty as of this year – I finally accepted that the fighting men I like to draw would not be able to be clean-shaven at every moment in their lives (thank you, Peter Petrelli!) So, next up, a video tutorial: Painting a five-o’-clock shadow! XD

You see me carefully applying a mix of Indigo and Madder (toned down with dirty water) whilst trying to keep the camera on the picture or on my brush, and finally dabbing off the paint again where I want no hard edges.
I might train my son to do the shooting for me next time… Having no hand free to keep the paper still wasn’t the coolest of ideas.

This is what the finished shadow looks like.I also darkened the shadowy areas under the nose, the eye sockets, under the lower lip, in the ear, on the forehead (from the hair) and under his chin.

Then I proceeded to paint the hair. I started with a gradient wash, dark on the right and getting lighter on the upper left, to allow for my light source.The hair is mostly Sepia, but again with quite a lot of Madder and Indigo mixed in. I have all three of those in pretty much every area of the image.
For the next step, I waited for everything to be completely dry again. I love doing hair in a sort of cell-shading, and that means no wet-into-wet bleeding.

I did the eyes while waiting for the hair to dry; starting with a more purplish tone, I just left a lighter speck at the bottom of the eyeball.
 After drying, I apply a second layer, darker this time, mostly in the upper portion of the eyeball – the lid casts a shadow.
Finally, a last, very dark layer in the pupil and along the upper rim again. A white speck will be done later in white pigment marker – after everything is dry.
You’ll notice I’ve already drawn the next hair layer at this point.

This is what I meant by cell-shading – one of the few anime influences I allow myself. I just love to paint hair like that. I kept very few highlights on the right half of the image, and left loads in the left.
(The eyes aren’t yet shaded completely.)

While working on the hair, I put down the first fur layer, allowing the paint to dry in places and painting over others while it’s still wet, to allow a certain amount of blending. I use a very thin size 2 marten brush for a long fur effect.
When this layer is again completely dry, I’ll add some darker shades, again with the same brush.

The finished painting!