Inktober 2: A Study in Water Soluble Indian Ink

“Red Squirrel at the Water’s Edge”

Red-Squirrel-drinking-ink-study-final-111018

I am planning a colour illustration of a red squirrel, so I thought I would do a few studies first, to get to know the creature a wee bit better. This study was created entirely with Winsor & Newton’s Liquid Indian Ink, which (as I mentioned in my last post) is a suspension of traditional Chinese stick ink in water, so it has lots of texture and a tendency to granulate at the slightest provocation – which I like very much, though did not really exploit to any extent in this drawing.

I used the Arches Aquarelle cold pressed 140lb paper again, but on a smaller block, just 7″ by 10″. This paper is suprisingly yellow compared with a typical white piece of paper (as you can see in the final scan above), and it blends very well with the warm tone of this black ink. The study was drawn entirely with brushes, as I prefer to work that way when using ink. I have recently started using very lightweight (and cheap!) aluminium palettes for working with inks, and this has proved most successful. I reserve my ceramic palettes for watercolour paints, and the plastic palettes I used to use with ink never really came clean.

As I don’t happen to have a pet red squirrel who would be willing to pose motionless for several hours, I had to work from a photograph of course. This is never entirely satisfactory, but it’s more or less inevitable when drawing wildlife. The study got off to a fairly bold start, but there were lots of errors in proportion and form:

Red-Suirrel-drinking-work-in-progress-1

It doesn’t look too bad if you only glance quickly (except for the missing legs!) but there’s quite a lot wrong. At this stage the unfortunate creature looks rather more like a chipmunk with a bushy tail than a red squirrel. Luckily this robust paper withstands almost anything, so it was possible to make plenty of corrections. For general reworking I use a combination of washing out with a clean paintbrush, lifting with a piece of moistened magic sponge (you can see small pieces to the right of the drawing in these photos), and, when absolutely necessary, scraping back with a scalpel blade.

I completed the legs and feet, using a scalpel blade to correct the toe nails where they were not sufficiently well defined by the actual drawing, and did some more work on the face, ears, and general structure of the squirrel’s body. Eventually, after a great deal more reworking each time I made a mistake, I achieved something resembling the representation of the squirrel in the source photograph. It still wasn’t quite right though:

Red-Suirrel-drinking-work-in-progress-2.jpg

When I stood back I could plenty of errors, and so continued to fiddle with it for a while, until it got to the point where it was time to stop. The final result is shown (unaltered, straight off the scan) at the top of this blog post.

Although I would love to have such a light and accurate touch that I could convey an animal like this with just a few elegant strokes, one of the advantages of working into the drawing – and then reworking time and again – is that the layering process does build up an impression of depth and structure which a lighter, more elegant drawing would lack. This only succeeds if the paper has plenty of texture itself and is strong enough to withstand the treatment, of course… You can get some idea of the process and result in the detail below, where you can see stroked overlaid on strokes overlaid on strokes, and some of the granularity of the ink. Genuine Indian (or Chinese) ink, with its substantial body and texture, is ideal for achieving this kind of effect, whereas a lighter weight, dye-based ink would be no use.

Red-squirrel-detail.jpg

The final result is fairly dark, and may need brightening up a wee bit if it’s going to be used for reproductions on greetings cards, etc., but personally I like the naturally rich tones of this ink, and it’s a pleasure to work with – and an entirely different experience from working with the coloured inks discussed in my last blog post, although admittedly the result is much less colourful 😀

Leaping Orca: Watercolour Painting

Leaping Orca (orcinus orca), 8th April 2018

Despite the misleading popular name “killer whale”, the orca is actually the largest member of the dolphin family. Orcas are quite often seen in the Hebridean waters off the west coast of Scotland, and more frequently off the north coast and around the islands of Orkney.

The art work is finished, but the masking or extension of the edges for reproduction in different formats is not yet finally resolved, as always…

Original art work created with Winsor and Newton professional water colour paints, supplemented with body colour (white gouache), Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer watercolour pencils and Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils, on Fabriano Artistico HP watercolour paper.

All illustration work © Jenny Chapman, MacAvon Media

This painting ©2018

Leaping Orca: Work in Progress 2

Work in progress: Leaping Orca

5th April 2018

(Scottish Highlands artist’s studio series, no.2)

Things tend to get a wee bit messy as work advances, especially for a subject as dynamic as this one 😀

Compare with the relatively calm earlier stage of this work…

Note to budding artists: this is no way to treat your paintbrushes, unless you can afford to buy new ones frequently…

And there is still plenty more work needed – I underestimated the time it would take to finish this painting.

The final illustration will be posted soon… I hope!

Young Floraidh: Watercolour Painting

Young Floraidh is a young bunny rabbit who features in my series of children’s books Tales from the Adventures of Algy. This painting was created as an illustration for Algy’s third book The Magical Midwinter Star, inspired by a real and very sweet young bunny who visited my garden a few years ago.

Original art work created with Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer watercolour pencils and Winsor and Newton professional water colour sticks on Fabriano Artistico HP watercolour paper. The actual size of the art work is a wee bit smaller than A4.

“Young Floraidh” is available as hand mounted giclée prints and on greetings cards in my Folksy shop.

All illustration work © Jenny Chapman, MacAvon Media

This painting © 2016

Leaping Orca: Work in Progress 1

Work in progress: Leaping Orca

25th March 2018

(Scottish Highlands artist’s studio series, no.1)

The early stages of a new watercolour painting, intended primarily for reproduction on greetings cards, posters and prints. At least another two sessions to do on this one before the final scan and preparation for print – needs plenty more work on the spray, then final drawing on the orca itself.