Finn

I feel infinitely bad that this wonderful character hasn’t got his portrait from me yet! He was actually the very first The Force Awakens piece I did, back in December, pretty much after returning from the cinema, but the pose and the colours didn’t work out, and afterwards, I didn’t dare try again. Now, finally!

For me, Finn is the heart of the gorgeous new young cast. He’s fun, he’s brave, he’s kind. He may take second place after Rey, but he’s the one I identified with most, wearing his heart on his sleeve so much, and not bothering to hide it.

I also love what I’ve seen from John Boyega in interviews. Such a fun bloke. I hope that someday, someone will get him to re-dub his character in British English. “I’m a stohmtroopa, I’m here’t save ya.” I really want to hear that. finn_col

Finn. Daniel Smith watercolours on Clairefontaine Nuageux paper, 27×36 cm.

Timelapse video on Youtube.

Original here!

“That hairy beast”

Kylo Ren remembering Chewie. Or trying not to.

Just as he calls his father “Han Solo” to avoid any emotional ties to him, I imagine he avoids thinking of Chewie as anything than in terms of “that hairy beast” or maybe the “walking carpet” Threepio and Leia used to denote the Wookiee. Especially after being shot by him.

Except “Fuzzball”. That was Han’s. He wouldn’t use that.

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Watercolour and gel pen on Hahnemühle Le Rouge cold-pressed paper.

Original here.

Thranduil in Spring

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The third in a series of four seasonal Thranduils – the last remaining will be summer. Flower-wise, spring is my favourite season, and I really enjoyed the magnolias, cherry blossoms, forget me nots and johnny jump ups in his crown.

Watercolour and a bit of gel pen on Canson Fontenay cold-pressed paper, 20×29 cm.
Prints here! I’ll make a set available once I have all four together. :)

Crossing the Alps

Across the wild alps

Across the wild alps

This piece really gave me a hard time, but it’s probably very fitting that, in mid-October, I struggle with a piece depicting Hannibal struggling with the Alps in mid-October. My losses were in paper and pencils rather than mules and men, but it seems crossing the Alps isn’t meant to be easy.

The lineart stage alone took me a week and four pieces of paper as I redrew this bit and that and put the pieces back together again. The colour was even tougher. I don’t think I’ve ever painted anything as complex as this. I’d say I mostly succeeded. Another parallel there.

Before I started, I made myself a greyscale sketch in Photoshop, so I knew where to get how dark in the final piece.

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Then I mixed some Phtalo Blue, Indigo and Shadow Violet in one compartment of my palette, some Ochre in another, and then some reddish brown from leftovers I had in my palette (probably mainly Burnt Sienna, Piemontite Red, and Sepia).  I sprayed my entire canvas with water and added a very light blue wash, then going into all the bits that are exposed to the light with extremely thin Ochre.

Then, when this had dried, I painte a rather uniform pale blue sky. The picture is going to be busy enough; when everything else is done, I’ll decide how many clouds this piece can handle.

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Next, I started painting the mountains in the back of the image. I used a pale Blue, mainly Phtalo, and painted the “negative space” around the snow. I mixed in some green to suggest a few trees further away.

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Then I went about detailing the rock-faces closer to us, with mixes of different blues (more Pthalo here, more Indigo and Shadow Violet there), intermingled in the shadows and rockier parts with different, toned-down browns I mixed above.

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I make sure never to get too dark, but more and more detailed towards the front.

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More details and deeper shadows to the rocky bits.

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I painted a thin brownish/bluish wash across the army and the space below them, to tie them in with the surroundings. The group of three men, immediately behind Hannibal and the soldier he’s pulling to his feet, is overlaid with a muddy wash so they won’t distract from the two later on.

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I then decided the empty triangle of sky could well use another mountain, plus a few bluer shadows on the other mountains, which I painted in with Phtalo and Indigo.

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Next, I set out to paint the mountainside to the left. It’s completely in shadow, and I mixed some more reddish tones into the blue.

Down there, you can already see me detailing out the rocks with a brownish wash. The colour consists of everything I have on my palette at this point. 
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Finished detailing. Not too much – I want the detail to be almost lost in the rock face later on, enough to look finished and non-monotonous, but nothing to distract from the figures.

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Next, some skin, bronze and leather.

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Outfitting Hannibal’s Libyans with warm winter clothes. Quiet there in the back, I’ll get to you eventually. The elephants go first.

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More detailing of the figures in back. Simultaneously, I determined how dark my darkest spots would be in this image – Hannibal’s hair – to set off the rest against it, and to have something to check the column against, to keep myself from getting too dark in the background.

And well, after fiddling with hundreds of little figures for hours that don’t look like anything, I needed something rewarding to paint.

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In this painting, my approach is very un-classical. Instead of going strictly from light to dark, I made sure to lay done some guidelines, shapes through the painting, forcing myself to keep an overview rather than getting lost in the details.

Like the fact that Hannibal’s sword is four inches long. >_<

So this is where the mixed media part comes in, and I mixed some dark burgundy with gouache and fixed that sword thing. Next, I added some bright colours (not gouache this time, still sticking mainly to the colours I’ve previously used) for Hannibal’s clothes. They’re too bright as of now, but I plan to make generous use of dark shadows and liquid watercolours to tone them down and add that extra punch that liquid watercolours excel at.

The shields of the men in the back have also been detailed with a mix of ochre/Burnt Sienna/violet mixes already in use. No new colours have been introduced here.

I also painted over the entire army in the back again with a good brushful of dirty water. That got rid of the little white flashes of unpainted whites everywhere, and tied them together neatly. I’ll go in later to pick out some bronze helmet highlights.

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Liquid watercolours in action, picking out shadows.
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Some gouache too, for lighter highlights, which I rarely do, but which are needed here.

The colours look off in the photograph; the original looks much better.

As gouache palettes, I always keep the plastic lids of Chipsletten crisps (Pringles-like,but Chipsletten taste better). They’re the perfect size and quality for palettes on an overcrowded desk like mine.

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The epiphany of the week came with the realisation that a watercolour that looks off is ruined, and a gouache painting that looks of may just not be done yet. That’s a concept I never really grasped. The next step will be to understand how to go on. I manage well enough with gouache in metal and clothes, but skin is not very successful yet. A part of me refuses to paint skin with anything opaque, which seems to be my problem.

Last details of the Celt’s helmet…

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And the clothes of the men in front.

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Watercolour, 2013

Learn to follow before you can learn to lead

The commander's son

Under the watchful eyes of his father Hamilcar Barca, Hannibal is prepared for a life of leadership – and before he can lead, he must first learn to follow.

This paves the way for Hannibal’s later success as the commander of an army composed of Iberians, Africans, Numidians, Punics, Celts, Sicilians, Italics, and the occasional Greek – he gets no extra treatment, learns their languages, shares their hardships and has grown up as one of them, so that they follow him through mountains, swamps, and through years of a losing war without any sign of mutiny.

Schmincke and Daniel Smith watercolours on Stillman&Birn watercolour sketchbook, A4 size.

A sorrowful meeting

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Sorrowful was their meeting in Tasarinan; for Finrod was lost and Angrod too, and never more would Aegnor walk beside Andreth Saelind beneath the green leaves of spring.  ~(Paul Leone, the commissioner of this piece)

You’ll remember this one of Finarfin being reunited with his daughter Galadriel around the War of Wrath. I redid it as a commission – as you know, the old version was coffee, and it wouldn’t be a good idea to hang it on a wall! :)

On my latest workshop, so many people were doing terrific things with masking fluid, so that I decided to give that another go as well. I used it for a layered look of negative space throughout; here you can see how:

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The Darkening of Valinor

This is a commission I took on last November (…!), for a wonderful guy and one of the greatest clients I’ve ever worked with. He wanted a painting of Fëanor holding his slain father, and the scene quickly evolved from there.

As usual, the fist sketches I made were digital, so I could shift around elements and try out what looked good where – digital thumbnailing. In the margin, quite a lot changed; the centre was pretty clear for me right from the start. Only Fëanor’s head went all over the pace during the sketching phase.

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At this stage, I took it to pencil and paper, lightly sketching out Fëanor and Finwë.

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In the end, I had everything where I wanted it (and had corrected Fëanor’s leg and Finwë’s head wound). For the centre image, I had been working in A4 format, which I find easiest to handle. (Especially on a desk otherwise overflowing with unmarked exams – school really kept me away from drawing for the better part of 2013. But you probably noticed that from the absence of pictures this year.)

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I then started on the background. For this, I printed out the centre piece on an A3 sheet of drawing board, in light orange, so I could filter it out digitally later and put the two different elements together but was in less danger of smudging anything. I wanted the centre piece there with me, because the entire piece was to have a unity (Fëanor was to be in direct eye contact with Morgoth across the different picture elements, and later, I continued certain flow lines across the borders- such as Fëanor’s clothing continued in Manwë’s clothing behind Nienna).

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Drawing Morgoth.
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Outlining the Valar. Ungoliant would be redrawn completely – she looks absolutely wonderfully terrifying, but I assembled her wrong – the legs are attached between the head and the main body of a spider, not on the main body. I can’t believe I studied spider anatomy for this image, and actually desensitised myself (huge arachnophobic here) enough to be able to google wolf spiders and draw them as terrifyingly as I could make it. Incidentally, the desensitising effect was enough for me to clean the basement floor for the first time since we moved into this house. If I’m feeling particularly daring, I might scrounge up the courage to pack up the spider-infested tent that has been lying around in the laundry room since last September.

Apart from arachnophobic concerns, another huge topic was how to portray the Valar. I’m really glad that the client gave me completely free reign with this. I had a hard time finding back to my view of some of them – I’ve seen entirely too many Morgoths, Mandoses and Manwës looking entirely too pretty. Many will disagree with me for Manwë, and feel free to, by all means – I know that “they took the forms of the children of Ilúvatar”. And yet, Tulkas has a beard, and when I first read the Silmarillion, I imagined the Valar like Greek or Norse Gods, with Manwë definitely in the tradition of Odin and Zeus.

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Fun fact: Nienna, for me, has always looked like the woman in the video of “Babe” from Take That. The song was in the charts in 1993, while I was reading the Silmarillion excessively during my last year at school, and the video featured a solder coming home from a war (?) in a wintry landscape, where a woman clothed head to toe in some sort of black gauze was walking through the ruins of a Russian palace covered in snow, usually with her head in her hands. I’d never been much of a Take That fan (my teenage tastes were rather unusual – Maedhros, Hannibal and football players instead of Mark Owen and Gary Barlow), but the video fascinated me visually. And gave me a clear vision of Nienna.

 

Next up: Watercolours!

Welcome to my life, Quinacridone!

A few people recommended Daniel Smith watercolours to me when I posted my last blog post. I got curious and found a place to order them online in Germany. I got myself Shadow Violet, Quinacridone Deep Gold and Indian Red (which I’d run out of anyway). The owner of the shop very kindly also included a couple of “dot cards”, watercolour paper with dried paint dots on it, which you can try out for yourself. And wow – am I hooked! Especially the Quinacridone hues are amazing – completely transparent, light-fast and wonderfully vibrant and alive.

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In the corner, I tried some Shadow Violet (with masking technique). The hues you see there are for real. Just wow.

I also got myself some Fabriano paper, as I was running out of Montval. Fabriano, for me, is a real discovery – as grainy and cottony as Arches, but without the latter’s setbacks (I could never get dark colours on Arches). Together with a new watercolour technique book by Roland Roycraft, I suddenly found myself wanting to try it all out at once – new technique with masking fluid, my new Daniel Smith colours, my new Fabriano paper, and leave out lineart and paint loosely, while we’re at it.

With all those novelties, it was clear who’d be my guinea pig.

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I still managed to totally warp the proportions (no lineart! Heeeelp!), so thanks for the miracles of Photoshop’ liquefy tool. :D

The colours are 100% original. Let’s just pretend the face looks like this too.

The harp no longer sings

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This is a concept that has occupied me for years, resulting in several pieces already. It’s symbolic rather than illustrative of any given passage in the text – Maglor, a remnant of the Elves in Middle-earth but excluded from his people, caught in a world of his own where music no longer brings consolation, surrounded by the ruins of the former greatness of the Noldor, whose downfall he had a part in.

I’ve never really done much with the “ruins” part of the scenario; half-hearted attempts at best, probably because I really struggle with architecture of any kind. Now, though, I’ve decided to give it another go.

This is a more refined version of the first sketch.

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Here’s the lineart:

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When I print the lineart, I tint the ruins in the background more greenish and very light, so that it will mostly disappear in the finished painting, and reduce the ruins to faint structures that could just as well be from a dream.

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This picture is a great excuse to make excessive use of my new Cobalt Turquoise from Schmincke. For the first background wash, I mix it with Chrome Oxide Green and a touch of Ultramarine and Cadmium Yellow, and apply it very thinly with a soft brush, lighter at the top and darker at the bottom.

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I then re-wet everything, and paint darker streaks, that will look like sunlight filtering through tress – or through water. I want the whole lighting here very ambiguous.

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After this has dried, I use the same colours – more green here, more blue there – very thinly to paint the detail in the ruins.

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To make it less monochromatic, I go in with a bluer tone, and paint the shadows in the areas between the streaks of sunlight. This is the point where my camera decides “This is all just green. Yeah, whatever.” I hope my scanner is more sensitive later…

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In all the following, excuse the turquoise colour mash, please.

Next, I add some Ochre to everything in the foreground – first the structures, to suggest sandstone or a similar stone.

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It gets a greenish-blue layer for shadows, to make it stand out less. I then decide Ochre will make a great foundation for the figure too. This looks very yellow now, but will mostly vanish under the greens and blues of Maglor’s clothing later, only serve as a “grounding” in the light situation around him.

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Some detailing in the ground – mainly with Ultramarine and duller Indigo, but with the brush dipped into Chromoxide Green, Cobalt Turquoise, and Ochre here and there for colour variation.

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Detailing on the leaves, again with the whole range of greens and blues used above.

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The skin is done with Burnt Sienna, as usual, but thinned down beyond recognition with my dirty water, which is now a nice green-blue concoction, rather thick too, as it’s dried overnight. Comes in extremely useful for making any colour fit the mood of my painting.

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I use the same principle with the hair tone, which is Sepia with a lot of dirty green water. The shadows are done with a touch of Indigo, too.

(Give my camera a kick here, please. Thanks.)

On the image on the right below, I’ve re-drawn the eyes and brows slightly with a Sepia marker, as the lineart was starting to dull under the paint.

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Below left: Next, I put in the base tones, very light, of Maglor’s clothes. I choose a mix of Cobalt Turquoise, Ultramarine, and Chromoxide Green for his tunic, and a more Indigo-heavy tone for the cloak. The hose is just my dirty water at this point. ;)

Below right: First layer of rendering. I build the shadows up slowly, mostly with Indigo, to avoid getting too dark too soon, and adding another layer here and there to add depth.

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Below: detailing on the arm guards. (I love doing Maglor’s arm guards.)

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After darkening and shading, and detailing, we arrive at this.

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Final touches include painting the falling petals with white gouache.

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The Oath has been awakened…

Finished piece (here’s the process). The post was becoming so long that I decided not to hide the finished image at the bottom!

Click to enlarge!

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‘A Silmaril of Fëanor burns again in the woods of Doriath’; and the oath of the sons of Fëanor was waked again from sleep. For while Lúthien wore the Necklace of the Dwarves no Elf would dare to assail her; but now hearing of the renewal of Doriath and of Dior’s pride, the seven gathered again from wandering…

Detail shots (click to enlarge):

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The Drawing of the Sword

(Drawing the Drawing of the sword always results in semantic weirdness.)

It was in early 1994 that I realised this scene was one tough cookie. Two Elves, one at an arm’s and a sword’s length from the other? That means a bit of Elf at the margins of a picture and rather a lot of nothing in the middle.  I realised that this was an iconic scene from the Silmarillion, but I abandoned the project after this quick sketch.

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(Yes, I was under the impression that Fingolfin was blond.)

One and a half years later, I was doing my first ever watercolours, and I had found out that Fingolfin was dark-haired. I also found that a wider shot would solve part of the problem. I probably realised, theoretically, that foreshortening was called for, but this is 1995 we’re talking. No foreshortening in 1995, no, sir.

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So, this year, I took on a commission of this precise scene and knew I would have to deal with foreshortening and some clever positioning.

In the first sketch, I still had to resort to a carefully draped cloak in order to cover up my foreshortcomings. Then I got some terrific help from the guys at comicforum.de, and managed to pull the pose off sufficiently for me to go with.

A progress shot from the lineart proper: Underneath, you see the sketch printed out in pale yellow, so I can filter it out later.

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Second progress shot.

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Final version of the lineart (plus some parchment texture):

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Left to right: Finwë, Fingolfin, Fingon, Turgon, Argon, Fëanor, Maedhros, Maglor, Celegorm, Curufin.

Now for the Painting of the Sword!

… or, how to avoid cluttering up mass scenes. On your second attempt.

In this painting, I have such an amount of detail in the lineart that I have to be careful not to kill the picture with it.Let me give you a fun example of how *not* to do it, from exactly ten years ago when I still signed my pictures with PJ: Messy goblin battle

Why is the colour job in that one such a train wreck? Because I didn’t know yet that the sharpest contrast of an image goes where you want the viewer’s eye to dwell. And only there. Contrast draws the eye. And light and dark contrast draws the eye most. Dark and light contrast across the whole of a picture draws the eye in a sort of crazy polka from which it will want to break as soon as possible and leave the dancefloor. Permanently.

There are loads of ways to avoid this; here is one that works really well with any medium, but requires a bit of planning beforehand. In fact, I had planned this even before I drew the lineart. In even more fact, this only worked to full satisfaction on the second attempt.

My first stage is nothing unusual if you know my workflow: An even layer of a single colour covering everything, to tie the eventual colour scheme together and avoid glaring white highlights that tear the finished image apart. I choose a mix between Yellow Ochre and Sepia with a bit of Cadmium Yellow.

While the paint is still wet (rule of thumb: wet enough to glisten on the paper, not so wet as to form puddles), I go in with a tissue and dab off the paint from the areas that’ll need to stand out later, like Fëanor’s and Fingolfin’s faces, and, most definitely, the sword.

Please note: Sometimes, the colours in the photos here are pretty far away from the actual ones, especially the later images. Too much distraction and not enough light for my silly old digicam.

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This is the finished first layer with the faces dabbed lighter:

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I want the statues to be lighter than the background, to look like alabaster (and discourage any go-go-girl connotations). Therefore, I paint the background behind everybody slightly darker, but still translucent.

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Now I’m going to make sure that all the detail in the background, while still being noticeable, will not distract too much from the foreground.

To that end, I mix a duller colour with more brown, and paint the background figures and arcs with a uniform layer that only leaves out the alabaster statues and the foreground figures.

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So we’ll cleanly separate the different grounds – fore, middle, and back. I also add some handsome splashing to the bottom of my darker figure layer, which will stay even when all the rendering is done, to serve as “lost edges”. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of lost edges, read what the great Mattias Snygg has to say about it.

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Now, the detail is still there, and we have an image that is well readable and ready for the next stage – colour.

I then made a mistake. Th idea was to force myself to stay light in the background, so I went against watercolouring etiquette and started with the darkest part of the background figures – their hair. That way, I had something to check every other colour against – nothing must get darker than the hair. The idea was good, but the choice of material was not. I used liquid watercolours, as I have for months now – and they tend to cake up, and lose all of the lightness and transparency that a watercolour should have. And that’s what happened here.

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After the stage above, I added a second layer of detailing to the background figures – which killed the piece. Beyond redemption. No matter how lightly you apply liquid watercolours, they always come out more opaque that watercolours from tubes or pans. With my latest pictures, that never bothered me enough to actually scrap a painting, but here, it was inevitable. The second background layer became too dark, killing the detail, clogging up the lineart, and making it almost impossible for me to get the foreground darker and still more detailed than the background.

Before I started painting Fingolfin’s tunic and hair below, I already realised the painting was lost. The foreground didn’t stand out against the background figures any more – they already were too dark.

Lesson learnt: play to the strengths of your materials. Use tubes where you want light and feathery colours. Use liquids where you want it dark and don’t mind opaqueness.

When you arrive at a stage where nothing will save your painting, you take it between two thumbs and forefingers and close your eyes, and only open them again after you’ve heard that RAAAAtttttsch! sound. Makes it easier. Good thing I still had the lineart.

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I started anew and went back to this stage above. I used only watercolours from tubes this time, which really avoided that caked look.

This way, instead of doing the light background first and then forcing me to go ever darker in the thing that was more important in the painting, I started with the foreground – so Fëanor and Fingolfin would determine how light the background would have to be. A terminus post quem non, so to speak.

I started with Fingolfin’s tunic, with a wash of Ultramarine damped down by a touch of Indigo and Madder red, leaving lighter some edges to the right, where the light hits. I then mixed some Sepia with Indigo, Burnt Sienna and Madder and started on Fingolfin’s hair, still using only tube-paint.

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The picture below shows the second, darker, detailing hair layer.

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Then comes a part that’s both very laborious but still rather meditative. People are often amazed how I can have so much patience with patterns. Well, I could never understand why people paint Mandalas! But I suppose it’s much the same.

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After the mandala, sorry, tunic-pattern painting. You’ll see I’ve also added some light skin tones (Burnt Sienna with Madder), and started detailing the beads in Fingolfin’s hair.

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You’ll notice when painting around the patterns with darker colours I didn’t pay much attention to light and dark, leaving the tunic more flat-looking than in the first stage. So, more shadows are in order. For that, I now use some liquid watercolours, to make the colour more solid and dark. Rendering is easier with liquid watercolours, I find. I add quite a lot of purple to the mix, and start at Fingolfin’s right arm.

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And this is what the finished tunic looks like:

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I then mix in some darker brown and purple and give the hair the same darker treatment, adding depth and shadow with liquid watercolour:

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Then, some detailing on the belt, with Sienna and Ultramarine.

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Fingolfin is finished. Time to tackle Fëanor. The overall colour scheme will be blue for the Fingofinians, and red for Fëanoreans, so I start with an oxblood colour on Fëanor’s tunic, mixed from Madder red with some Indigo and Sepia. Tube paints, of course, for transparency.

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I then mix much the same colour, plus some darker purple, for the shading – in liquid watercolours for rendering:

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Some detail work that I tend to get lost in – hence, no in-progress shots for the metal parts and plumes on his helm. The paint dries so fast that I can work on the next layer almost immediately after painting the first, so I rarely take photos in between. All the colours below are again tube ones.

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Some more work on this clothes. I’m undecided with the cloak at this point; I want to make it very light to have Fëanor stand out even more, but for that, I have to check back with the client, so I leave it for the time being. I just add some very delicate gouache to lighter bits on his greaves and other shiny details:

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So the foreground figures are as finished as I can make them for the time being, and this is the overall result:

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With just a hint of Bunt Sienna and Madder red (tubes, of course, for transparency), I then do the faces in the background, leaving out areas where the light hits. They won’t get a shadow layer at this point. Just a single colour/rendering layer. I can always get darker later if I think the pic can handle it, but I can’t get lighter, as I found out the hard way on the first attempt.

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After the faces are painted, I use an extremely light (tube!) layer of Sepia for the hair. And some Burnt Sienna for Maedhros, and some unidentifiable mix for Celegorm, so everybody can pick out a hair colour for him and be happy…

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Next, the sons.

I’ve just bought a very nice tube of Cobalt Turquoise, which is blue enough to qualify as “Fingolfinian” but still very different from what Fingolfin wears, and I use it gratuitously on Fingon, Turgon, and Argon, adding a hint of gold here and there to keep them from becoming too monochromatic.

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The Fëanoreans get a similar treatment with Madder Red and Burnt Sienna, with a touch of purple and gold here and there. Mainly water on the brush, with just a spot of paint, avoiding the mistakes from the first attempt. And all tube paints, of course.

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Next, I do the statues with a very dull mix of Sepia, Madder Red, and a touch of Ultramarine, only painting very light shadows.

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Next, I splash around with rather a lot of purple tones on Finwë. Some redder, some bluer, to show how torn he is between the followings of his sons.

In the end, Fëanor is given a pale gold cloak, and some minor touchups to shadows and such follow… and we’re done! Please click for full view. :)

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Ahem… and as I frequently do when a new year begins, I changed my signature. People keep telling me to include “Dolfen” somewhere; and I keep finding that my previous “Jenny+Year” was fine for pencil but difficult to do with brushes.

Detail shots:

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So, I wish you all a Happy New Year! Drawing Runes this New Year’s Eve brought me Isa, Ice, the Rune of Stagnation. I suppose there can be worse things than stagnating on the level I’ve reached last year (brought to you by Inguz, Rune of Fertility, drawn a year ago). Better than the Rune of Bottomless Plummet or something.

Fun with textures – brought to you by Tancred of Hauteville

This one was a commission that allowed me to go wild with all sorts of newly-found textures. It shows Tancred of Hauteville, an 11th century crusader.

Before I used them on paper, I tried them out on a separate sheet. The three things I used were: white spirit, effect spray, and granulation medium. The latter are specifically for watercolour and are available in art supply stores or online. The white spirit was a leftover from my hubby painting the garage door. ;)

The granulation medium – top left – is a rather soft way for textures. For sharper edges, white spirit was a nice one (bottom row, left and right). But if you’ve ever worked with white spirit (Terpentinersatz), you know it stinks.
I’d had this effect spray from Schmincke for years, but never really used it as you have to spray it across the whole image.  You can see what it does in the bottom row in the middle. It’s a rather nice “starry sky” effect.

Now, as I had all sorts of little bottles with eyedropper lids, I thought: Why not bottle that stuff for more exact use?

So I found myself patiently spraying effect spray into an eyedropper bottle. XD The result was great – see it at the top right. Little starry, hard-edged blotches, more random than white spirit, but smells far nicer.

Grand Old English Wash Brush or: Painting of Maglor

If you read my last post about art slumps, you already know that this piece gave me a lot of grief.

Part of the reason was that the colours insisted on caking up. Even the royal blue that comes out pretty transparent. On any kind of paper and with any kind of brush, I found I could not give the background the lightness it needed to have.

Then, on Monday, I found the solution to all my problems.

Now this, my dear friends, is an English Wash Brush. (Don’t say this with your mouth full.) The hairs (Russian squirrel) are so incredibly soft that you almost don’t feel them. It cost a fortune (thanks, mum, for helping me out there, you saved my life!) but it’s another of those cases where quality does come at a price, and is worth every cent.

Why this one is better than a synthetic brush? Even a sable brush? I wouldn’t have believed it, but this soft miracle adds a wash of paint while leaving the paper completely intact. Now when you paint, there’s always some amount of friction of brush on paper, resulting in a roughening of the paper. Rougher paper results in a caked look. The more water, the more layers, the poorer the paper quality, and the harder your brush, the more your paper will cake up and lose transparency.

No longer.

The colours I’ve used throughout this piece are: Royal Blue, Indigo, Cobalt Blue, Yellow Ocre, and Sepia, and a spot of Alizarin Crimson for the skin. I’m working with liquid watercolours (Rohrer/Klingner, Docmartin’s, and home-made ones. Nobody stocks any Indigo or Sepia.)

Note – the colours in the photos come out WAY off. There’s a definite green-yellow tinge even under my daylight lamp, sigh. In Latin, you call this way of working lucubrare – working in artificial light. That’s the curse of a working mum artist. ;)

First, I put my new brush to good use and went about painting the same background a seventh time. I used a light Royal Blue wash with a touch of Cobalt and Indigo, dabbing off the paint with  tissue while it was still wet where the crest of the wave would go.

My goal was to give the entire image a blue, cool, otherworldly tint. This piece is a sort of companion piece to “It ends in flame“, so where the other one is fiery red, this one will be cool blue.

I then used some masking fluid to preserve the whites of the gulls and the crest of the wave. You may remember my previous trouble with masking fluid; I’ve avoided that by mixing the fluid with water. This way, it usually comes off fine.

The masking fluid I now have is tinted blue. Very convenient, as the clear/white fluid is often really hard to see.

I wait for the fluid to try – this takes about half an hour – and paint the darker portions of the sky.

The wash I use for the darker sky portions is made up by Indigo and Royal Blue. To set off the sea later, I’ll use more Cobalt and Royal Blue and less Indigo. My first attempts at this were rather monochromatic but they didn’t cut the mustard. They can still be found in the bin.

I dab off paint again for the clouds.

While I wait for the sky to dry so I can rub the masking fluid off, I paint the  rocks with a bluish wash as well. That way, the rocks will later fit into the overall blue colour scheme though they will have some yellow in them.

I use a large brush and paint mostly into the corners and edges that will be in shadow later.

When everything is dry, I rub off the masking fluid.

Next, I paint the  sea. As stated above, I use Cobalt and Royal Blue, and paint around jagged bits that’ll create the illusion of waves. I make the smaller further back and bigger towards the front.

I then paint the insides of the rising waves with a darker blue containing Indigo and Cobalt. I use the same techniques as in my “Schimmelreiter” picture I painted two years ago, drawing up rising shapes of shadow and leaving lighter circles inside them to indicate foam.

Now it’s time to add some more colour. I mix Yellow Ocre with rather a lot of all my blues as well as Sepia to tone it down, keeping the different drops of paint in separate portions of my palette so the wash turns out slightly different with every brush stroke. I use more yellow in the portions to the right of the rocks. I don’t do any detail work yet.

Of course, the rocks in the background get the same hue, only with more blue to indicate that they’re further away.

I then painted Maglor’s coat. I stuck to the same basic hues I already had in the background, to make Maglor blend in with his surroundings and make him meld into them, as if he wasn’t really there any more and was becoming part of the seascape. Here, I mixed Cobalt with a touch of Yellow Ochre to gave the coat a more greenish tint.

For the ornaments and boots, I used pretty much the same tone as for the rocks.

I left Maglor for the time being and turned to the rocks again. First because they’d dried by then and second, because in the past, I’ve frequently become caught up in one portion of the pic, rendering it to death before I really came to my senses and got a good look at the overall thing again. It worked for most of those pieces, but here, I needed a rougher, more dreamy feel.

As I found out with all the ivy in “Ossiriand“, the only way to suggest detail is… to actually paint it. For this, I googled for barnacles to see how they were structured. In the lineart, I had already suggested barnacles in some portions of the rocks but not in others, to create lines through the pic and lead the viewer up to Maglor. I painted the shadows around the barnacles darkest in those places. I gradually added three darker washes in the shadows, getting smaller and more detailed with each one, while leaving large portions of the rocks un-barnacled. Just some squiggly lines so they don’t look bland and smooth.

There. Barnacled glory!

I grew up on the North Sea, so for seascapes, I can always draw on a good amount of experience mixed with memories and emotion (and smell). I had the smell of barnacles in my nose all night.

Okay, this is where the smell of vodka drowned out the smell of barnacles. I painted Maglor’s cloak with a mix of Indigo and Cobalt, with some Ochre thrown in to dirty it. The vodka was to make his clothes look faded and old. (And this is why you should always stay away from vodka, kids.)

Some faded texture on Maglor’s coat. I wanted this double effect of clothing that looks at the same time richly ornamented and old and worn.

Credit for the beautiful pattern on the coat goes to Marco Schüller and a painting he did of Columbus, who had a coat in the same pattern. I threatened that I’d send my Elven ninjas to steal the cloth from him. They’re as good as their word. Well, maybe not quite. His looked better.

I then added shading to the ornamental borders on Maglor’s clothes, doing squiggly stuff again. Squiggly stuff is wonderfully versatile. It can suggest barnacles or knotwork depending on the amount, size, and shape of squiggling.

The skin, by the way, was painted with a mix that doesn’t look like skin at all – Alizarin Crimson, Sepia, Cobalt Blue, and some Yellow Ochre. An actual “skin tone” would have looked horrendous here.

The hair was mostly done in Sepia, and needed next to no detail work, as most of that had been done in the lineart.

More darker Indigo for the cloak. And more vodka.

Plus some detailing down the sides of Maglor’s legs to indicate a seam.

The finished image, in its actual colours.

Detail shots (click to enlarge):

Ossiriand – painting

I finally found the time to paint “Ossiriand”.

The result surprised me, quite frankly. I chose Dr Martin’s Liquid Watercolours and Canson paper to work on, as I wanted this pic bright – turns out that the result was almost too bright. Hence, I turned down the saturation a little in the final painting (as well as adding a slight yellow overall tint); that’s why the in-progress shots don’t fit colour-wise. (It’s also because my camera was completely overtaxed with so many colours; especially towards the end, I haven’t been able to fix them in the wip shots completely. The original is not as far away from the above version as most of the photos below.)

I can’t believe I’ve been struggling with brighter colours for years. The combination of the good ol’ Dockers with Canson is certainly an assault on the rod cells!

The first stage was to put a yellow wash over the entire pic, to achieve a golden sunlight glow in the end. I made it less pronounced where the sky would later go, so as not to end up with a green sky.

After this layer had dried, I put down the blue for sky and rivers…

… and mixed some rather pale green for the greenery in the back.

You see my putting down quite a lot of wet-into-wet paint there, for vegetation look that’s not too detailed.

Background greens added:

Now for the leaves in the foreground, I used a somewhat more detailed approach. I’ve often tried, over the years, to achieve mind-blowingly detailed greenery by wishy-washy-wet-over-wet stuff. Needless to say, I never found the magic formula. The only way to do detailed greenery is with small brushes and painted details. I already laid some of that down in the lineart.

Now I start painting the foreground leaves – detailing a few select leaves by highlighting the veins (painting around them), using a rather yellow green tone so they’d really catch the sunlight later.

Then I painted the rest of the leaves in the same green tone.

Then I go in with a second, more bluish green tone, painting over some of the blocked in light green leaves, again leaving out the veins. Some others I completely paint dark, others I leave light green.

So with these two tones, I paint four kinds of leaves: the light ones with “white” veins you saw above, dark green with light green veins, light green without veins, dark green without veins. This makes for a lot of very lively variation with pretty little effort.

For some more realistic lighting, I paint in some darks with a touch of red – now the leaves really pop.

I then begin to fear that the reddish foreground will completely upset the colour unity, and lay down a stronger yellow foundation.

The first layer of horse coat (and Maedhros’ hair). I should add that what Doc Martin calls Burnt Sienna isn’t Burnt Sienna at all. I had to do quite a lot of mixing before I got the tone right.

For the second layer of horse coat, I added some more reddish-brown hues, but rather close to the first.

At which point my camera just quits and picks up all sorts of hues.Note how, in the pic above, the horse looks rather out of place. This will be remedied in the shadows.

For the shadows, I mix in lots of blue, to reflect the colour of the grass in the shadowy areas. This ties the horse to the surroundings.

Then I go and paint Maedhros’ clothes and all the little details – not much to say here that I haven’t said several times before when outlining how I shade. :)

Except this one – his boots. I relay liked the details here.

As always, hope it was helpful – enjoy the final result! ^___^

*Now* it ends in flame.

When before, let’s face it, it ended in coffee.

So, since painting “It ends in flame”, I’ve been wanting to do a more fiery version that your average coffee allows. Thanks to liquid watercolours, this now works much better.

All the others, gone

A missing moment that I hadn’t even seen until now – we all know that Finarfin came briefly to Beleriand to lead the Noldor of Valinor into battle against Morgoth in the War of Wrath.

Has it ever occurred to anyone how painful it must have been to finally be reunited with his daughter – and learn that his four sons, his granddaughter, his brothers, all his nephews and niece were dead, dead in that land for which they had set out six hundred years before, full of hope of glory and freedom…

Image

Galadriel looks rather younger and more vulnerable here than I usually see her – even in the rebellion of the Noldor six hundred years previously – but then, this whole concept of parents in their mid-thousands and their children in their early thousands is hard to grasp for us mortals…

Lineart:

Finished:

And I went ahead and made a coffee painting tutorial. Mostly because I really haven’t found any online that went past “Make coffee. Paint picture”. There are so many interesting things going on with coffee that it was really worth it explaining them.

Coffee texture from: http://fav.me/d3edyhg Coffee beans are a free stock image.

One Maglor, please. Milk, two sugars.

So, decided to look into coffee painting today.

Really handles a lot like watercolour, only stains more and does very interesting things at the edges. Forms harder edges too. Background painted in leftover of hubby’s morning coffee (Onko, der Milde), figure in Jacobs Instant Espresso.

I’ll definitely be doing more with this.