This crow study was completed in my small (5 1/2 by 8 in) sketchbook. Rather than using a pigment (ink) pen this image was rendered with a brush, Speedball Super Pigmented Acrylic Ink, and acrylic paint. Using a brush with the acrylic ink allows for the opportunity to make a variety of marks without changing tools. The super black ink is highly opaque when undiluted but I also used it as a wash here to create different tones. I opted to work from dark to light and layered acrylic paint on top of the ink to flesh out the image.
It’s common to find old implements at yard sales and second hand stores in my area. They can be oil covered or rusty so prep work is required before they can be painted. I bought this saw from a second hand charity shop. It was rusty so I sanded it and applied a coat of Tremclad rust primer to create a sealed base coat. The barn owl is painted in acrylic. It’s a bit stylized which I think is a good approach for a found object painting. To finish I applied a spray coat of Krylon varnish to the blade to protect the painting from scratches. I left the handle alone as I like the worn condition left from actual use. It’s a bit of an odd object to photograph so I opted to hang it on plant hook in my back yard to get a full length picture. I’ve included a closer look below as well with a bit less of the background.
This image was rendered with the #2 Pigma archival ink brush pen and Staedtler pigment 0.1 and 0.05 liners. The drawing is 5.5 inches by 8 inches. This is the second of three owl pieces I completed. If you’re an owl expert (not saying there’s any around these parts but they’re out there somewhere) you may have noticed that this isn’t exactly a faithful rendering. I was interested in attempting to convey something more immediate (or even whimsical) that I associate with those momentary glimpses we so very rarely catch of owls or larger birds in general.
My house was built circa 1910. Being a lath and plaster construct, it wasn’t insulated. The people who owned it before us installed blown insulation in the walls and attic. At that time most of the attic flooring was removed leaving a few planks to walk on and a couple of smaller cuts lying around. I’m not sure what kind of wood the flooring is but I’m of the mind that it might be hemlock. The portion I used to create this piece has a lovely rich colour along with some interesting dings and scratches. Neither the bottom or top are cut even. It’s an odd fifteen-ish inches high and a smidgen under one inch deep. It is tongue and groove but the groove side was snapped off (it’s still a foot across though). It’s not “pretty” but those are my favourite kind of found objects to use. They have their own history and that added element enriches the final piece.
I’ve not been lucky enough to photograph a Great Grey Owl so I went online to research my subject. I didn’t draw from any single source but rather found inspiration in a variety of places. I noticed that owls exhibit consistent perching behaviour no matter the breed or environment so that determined the composition. I used a layer of matte varnish to seal the wood before I started painting. This juvenile Great Great Owl, painted with acrylic and somewhat stylized, is all about the brushwork. Building from dark to light I fashioned shape and substance with layers of small brushstrokes making no attempt to blend or smooth them out. I wanted the image to retain the unique properties of the wood surface. To that end, although there are multiple layers of paint it’s not so thick as to hide the texture of the wood allowing it to be seen through the brushstrokes.
This piece started with a drawing based on a turtle photo I found online. The turtle felt a little lonely sitting all by itself in the middle of the white page so I placed it “under water”. The plants aren’t referenced from anywhere other than vague memories of water plants I’ve seen prior. I utilized a compact composition to create a natural frame whilst allowing some of the drawing to break that framing element. It’s a characteristic I associate with movement and I like the organic atmosphere it engenders.
This watercolour sketch is based on a photograph I took a couple of summers ago. An enormous toad would come out after dark and sit on the back patio. He was a bit of a stoic chunky bumpy blob who couldn’t be bothered to move even as I took a couple of flash photos. I started the sketch by keeping a light hand layering in the background and basic shape. When those sections were dry I added a bit more character using the accent of darker markings.
I captured an image of an immature bald eagle way back in February 2006. I was heading down to the lake and stopped to look over the cliffside to see how rough the water was. I was surprised to see the eagle sitting there. The picture ended up blurry as I only had a split second before the raptor saw me and took off. The photograph wasn’t good enough to use anywhere but it was interesting enough to keep for resource material.
For this project I created contrast by layering watercolour washes and allowing them to dry before working darker linear elements on top. The original image was very grey. I thought it might look muddy rendered in watercolour so I opted for a brighter palette. Acrylic was used for the white highlights.
If you compare it to the original image (bottom of post) you can see my watercolour sketch isn’t a faithful rendering. That wasn’t really what I was about here. I primarily wanted to explore how this would work with watercolours in a small scale.
I’ve included this picture to better show the size of the piece. I photographed my sketchbook in the mudroom off the back of the house to make use of the afternoon light. I wish it was as warm as this picture makes it look. It was super chilly!
Although an interesting experiment, I’m not sure watercolour was the most effective medium for this particular composition. I’m not saying I’m unhappy with the results. I learned a lot and if I return to this image as a resource I’ll have a better understanding of how to work with it.
The Inktober prompts for these were “Whale” and “Flowing”. The vagueness of the terms allowed for any kind of interpretation. I utilised different marking techniques for each of these images but the designs follow a similar footprint. The eye is drawn from the upper left corner into the page and down for both. The downward movement is emphasised through the descending verticals of the “whale tails” in the upper drawing. For the lower drawing the downward movement is created through the use of elongated “ribbons” that serve to direct the gaze. Even though the imagery and marks chosen are different they find a common ground in the compositional movement.
Here are three more scans from my 2018 Inktober series. I kept the preliminary pencil work to a minimum attempting to use it specifically for defining overall sections or linear elements rather than detailing. That worked fine for organic material like plants but when it came to anatomy…not so much. That wasn’t a big deal in this context. As an exercise in exploring techniques it’s more interesting figuring out what can be done with the tools at hand rather than meeting a specific aesthetic.
Here are several selections of recent sketches from my travel sketchbook. I’ve had a number of sketchbooks but this is my old go to comfort one. I’ve been carrying it around in my purse for years. It’s become quite battered with dented corners and dirty edges. These sketches are from the very last pages as the book is finally filled up. I feel a little sad that I won’t be bringing it along with me anymore.