Monday, June 29, 2015

Portrait: Patrick Macnee

The Avengers (the cult British show, not the comic series, and not the awful 90s movie) has always been my favourite tv show, ever since I first saw it when I was in primary school, so I was sad to hear that Patrick Macnee, who played the debonair, eccentric and slightly slippery John Steed in both The Avengers in the 1960s and The New Avengers in the 1970s, had died. He was 93, so he was allowed to go, but it was still sad - so many iconic figures have gone this year - Terry Pratchett and Leonard Nimoy to name only two others.

I've always wanted to do a full illustration of all of the characters featured in the show, but I've never got round to it; so I did a little portrait of Macnee as John Steed, as a tribute piece. And here it is.

I used a couple of photos from "The Avengers: A Celebration" so that I could combine the expression and costume that I wanted. I drew and painted it freehand in Adobe Photoshop CC on a Wacom Cintiq Companion. I didn't want to push for full photo-realism and stuck with a semi-caricatured style. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Portrait: Ruby

I've just completed this portrait of baby Ruby.

(Click for a larger view)

Babies take a deceptively long time to render, and the little details, like their fine hair, and the thin veins around their eyes that show how thin the skin is are more important than when you're doing an adult portrait, and you have to get them right. Ruby also had a complicated frilly dress on, but as there was no background to do, I completed this portrait in just over 10 hours. 

Here's a detail:

For this portrait I used a 0.5 Mechanical pencil with a #B lead, and blended with tissues, cotton makeup remover pads, cotton buds and blending stumps. I also used plastic, kneadable and electric erasers. For more information on my portraiture tools, head over to this tutorial

A photo posted by Alison Mutton ( on

Illustration: The Floral Dress 2

Back in February I put together a little picture for my birthday thank you cards / Colour Collective Pale Pink. It was just a half-body painting, and the other day I dug it out and drew the bottom half, because I just felt like drawing a crazy 20s pannier skirt with an overabundance of tulle, while not having to think too much.

Adobe Photoshop CC

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Illustration: Gwendolen

I've been doing a series of black and white chapter illustrations for my portfolio, using Diana Wynne Jones' Charmed Life. This is the third one I have completed, but the first one I have blogged about. 

Here's the relevant text, from Chapter 8 of Charmed Life:

She was squatting in the middle of the carpet, beside a sheet of paper. At one end of the paper was a bowl of ingredients. At the other crawled, wriggled or lay a horrid heap of things. Gwendolen had collected two frogs, an earthworm, several earwigs, a black beetle, a spider and a little pile of bones. [...] 
Gwendolen began pounding the ingredients together in the bowl. As she pounded, she muttered things in a groaning hum and her hair hung down and quivered over the bowl. [...] Gwendolen at length sat back on her heels and said, "Now!"

She snapped her fingers over the bowl. The ingredients caught fire, all by themselves, and burnt with a small blue flame. [...] There was a fizzing, and a thick smell of burning. Then the flames leapt up, a foot high, blazing a furious green and purple, colouring the whole room with dancing light. 

Here are the steps I went through for this piece:

Step One: Rough Sketch

This is basically a thumbnail. For personal pieces I quite often dispense with thumbnails per se - I plan pictures out in my head while I'm walking the dog, and then do just one rough thumbnail to check that it works on paper. If it doesn't, then it's thumbnailing time! In this case, it worked pretty well first off, although originally I did have her squatting, but that was ambiguous with the shadows and not as aesthetically pleasing as kneeling.

Step Two: Draft Linework

Usually I will do this step in pencil, as I don't draw very well directly onto the computer - but I have just invested in a Wacom Cintiq Companion, and so I was able to do my draft linework digitally. I want everything to be as tight as possible so that I don't hit any snags while I'm inking. I like this sketch a lot! I think I need to do more pictures just like this - but as this image is part of a series, I couldn't leave it like that, I had to work it up to match the others.

Step Three: Tonal Study

I always do my tonal or colour studies on my draft, because I hate suddenly discovering that something doesn't work when painted while I'm painting. Here I just slapped on some rough tones in Photoshop. It's especially important to do a tonal study when the lighting is so strong and complicated!

Step 5: Inking

I print out my draft linework and use a lightbox to trace it onto watercolour paper, using a Pentel Brush Pen and technical pens (in this case, Copic Multiliners) for the smaller details.

Step 6: Painting
I painted this with black watercolour and black and grey Ecoline inks. My black Ecoline had decided to die on me, going very goopy and recalcitrant, so I was having a bit of trouble with it - because of that, I softened the edges of the smoke digitally after I had finished, as I couldn't get the smooth blends working in the way I wanted. 

As luck would have it, the twitter Colour Collective theme this week was 'Lamp Black'. I finished this painting on the Friday, and was able to post it for that! You can see all the Colour Collective pieces on the Facebook group.

Ink, Watercolour, Ecoline, Copic Opaque White and Adobe Photoshop CC

Charmed Life is copyright Diana Wynne Jones, this is a personal exercise, no copyright infringement intended

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Illustration: The Masqueraders

I needed some more cover art in my portfolio, and as I was listening to Heyer's The Masqueraders when I decided this, I thought I'd see if I could create a YA-style cover for that story. I first read it when I was about 13, and the plot of a brother and sister switching places amongst political intrigue and romance was a fun theme that could conceivably belong to YA lit. 

Here's a progress animation of the main steps I took in creating this piece. There are hints in the earliest stages of a more complicated background, with silhouetted vignettes, but I eventually discarded that idea and stuck with something a bit simpler. 

This was a good exercise in drawing characters, as each character I had to draw twice, and they each had to pass as both a man and a woman. I couldn't just copy the faces 100%, but I tried my best to maintain all of their features. It's tricky when you don't have hair and clothes to fall back on!

For those unacquainted with the book, the bottom half of the picture has the characters the right way round, with the girl in the red dress and the boy in blue (They spend most of the book playing their opposite gender). Here's an inverted version so you can better see them:

I don't really have any idea how long this took, as I worked on it in small bursts of free time over the past year. It definitely didn't take long enough to warrant the whole year though! 

Adobe Photoshop CC with a Wacom Intuos Pro 5 and a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2
I looked up period references for the clothes and took my own references for help with the (always tricky) hands, but otherwise, no direct reference.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Lamb baby mobile

Here's another baby mobile I did recently, this time for my cousin, who is expecting a baby girl and has a lamb themed nursery (Since she lives on a farm now and her maiden name is Mutton, this is a very apt theme!)

I chose to have a lamb jumping over a gate. Lambs take forever to felt (all those little round curls are felted individually, and then felted onto the main body one by one) so while I would have liked to have a trio of frolicking lambs, time constraints and sanity had to be taken into account. 

Here's a closer look at the gate. I felted some bushes on the side using the same multiple-spheres technique as on the lamb, to tie the whole thing together - plus a single gate looks a bit boring. 

And so that it wasn't just a lamb and a gate, I added a moon and two stars. You can see a mini tutorial for the stars over here.

I didn't get very good photos of the mobile hanging, mainly because my camera lens has died and I'm borrowing one that I'm not accustomed to. I'm more used to it now, but I hadn't had the chance to adjust, as the photos had to be taken and the mobile wrapped and presented. 

I used a wicker heart to hang everything from, and left it bare for a more rustic look. 

Merino and Corriedale wool roving with assorted felting needles, hung with white beading cord on a pre-made wicker heart. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Needle Felting a Cloud

Here's a mini-tutorial on needle felting a fat little cloud.
Apologies for the photo quality, I took these progress snaps on my ipad. 

Step 1
Using either filler-wool of your choice, or (as I'm using) dacron stuffing, felt a rough cloud shape, as above. Don't felt it too firmly, it should still be fairly squishy, as we're not done with it yet.

I'm using a #32 standard (coarse) needle and a #36 star needle. Coarse needles are best for beginning felting, as they produce rough shapes from roving very quickly.

Step 2
Cover your cloud shape roughly with roving in the colour of your choice (I'm using a natural creamy white). I used the #32 and #36 star needles again. If you are using the same colour right through, you can skip this step, it's just to cover up the dacron core.

Step 3
Start defining your cloud. Felt firmly at the edges to indent and form round areas, and add small felted balls to the sides so that it becomes more 3D in shape. Add extra wool where needed so that your cloud begins to look as though it is constructed of spheres stuck together. You want to see nice smooth round surfaces from every angle.

Step 4
Clean up your surfaces so that all of the felting is smooth and firm. By this time my cloud requires a lot of pressure before it can be squeezed out of shape. 
I use a #40 (fine) needle and a #38 spiral needle for this last stage. The give you nice smooth surfaces, but felting takes longer using them.

And here is the result. Nice fat clouds, ready to be strung up!

Wind Waker Baby Mobile

I needlefelted this baby mobile for my lovely friends, who are expecting their first baby in July. 

Just before it was tidied up and finished, but I like this photo better than the final photos I took

It's really hard to photograph baby mobiles! Especially when you have 10' ceilings and can't hang them up!
They are decorating the nursery with the 'stained glass' wall decals that Blik released for the Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker game, and my friend liked the mobiles she'd seen with clouds and coloured balls, so I looked at the decals and picked colours from them:

Photo from 
To make things a little more quirky, I added a dragon and a couple of turrets to the top cloud, sticking as close as possible to the designs in the game advertising material (I haven't played it), although it was a little tricky as I was working at a very small scale: 

I do like my little dragon!
These look a little more like shroom houses than turrets...
Merino wool tops and assorted felting needles 

Illustration: Beauty #2

I've been shamefully neglecting this blog - I've been sick, and on holiday, then jetlagged, then busy. Oops. Time to do some blogging!

Here is another Colour Collective piece, this time for the Lilac prompt. I'd already done a little picture of Beauty in Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la BĂȘte for the previous Alizarin Crimson post, so I stuck with the theme and did another. The costumes in that movie are so beautiful.

This was the first piece I did on my brand new Wacom Cintiq Companion, without doing a pencil sketch beforehand. Never having used a Cintiq before, it was a bit of a learning curve, and unfortunately I got hit with a really nasty cold when I was halfway through.... It's a bit obvious where I got sick, half of this picture is much better than the other half....

Here's a screenshot of this costume, without the pearl ornament, which appears later. 

Adobe Photoshop CC 2014 with a Wacom Cintiq Companion


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