Saturday, September 26, 2015

Watercolour Portrait: Ella

My beautiful cousin was married last weekend, and her daughter Ella was one of the flowergirls. I'd already done a watercolour of her cousin Mary, and decided I would do a painting of Ella as well, from one of the photographs I snapped on the day. Not only are such paintings fun to do (especially with such adorable subjects!), but I need samples for a new budget-friendly commission option that I am offering – small watercolour illustration-style portraits of kids. 
Plus I'm still using up my mystery watercolour paper. Still not very fond of it, it leeches out some of the vibrancy of the watercolours, and it's a bit more effort to get them up to where I want them. 

I posted a few in-progress shots to instagram:

Copic Multiliners and Winsor & Newton watercolours with Winsor & Newton Series 7 brushes on mystery unbranded watercolour paper. About 3.5 to 4 hours in total. 

If you'd like to discuss a commission in this style, or any other style I do, both portraiture and illustration, please contact me via my website.

Illustration: Orchids in the Moonlight

It was Rose Tyrien for Colour Collective this week, and I chose to be inspired by the 1933 song 'Orchids in the Moonlight", music by Vincent Youmans and lyrics by Gus Kahn and Edward Eliscu. The song is from the film Flying Down To Rio (Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' first film together) and is technically a tango to match the South American setting, but Asia has more orchids than South America and really I just wanted to draw a hot-pink cheongsam. I've seen a lot of hot-pink Chinese silks in my time. Such are the deep reasons behind my for-fun pieces.

When orchids bloom in the moonlight
and lovers vow to be true, 
I can still dream in the moonlight, 
of one dear night that we knew.

When orchids fade in the dawning, 
they speak of tears and goodbye.
Though my dreams are shattered
like the petals scattered
still my love can never die.

There is peace in the twilight
when the day is through,
but the shadows that fall
only seem to recall
all my longing for you.

There is a dream in the moonbeams
upon a sea of blue
but the moonbeams that fall
only seem to recall
love is all, love is you.

Yes. Cheerful, I know. If you would like to hear it, here is a clip from the movie, sung by Raul Roulien. He will suddenly decide to be extra-noble approximately 30 seconds before the end of the film. He's not being noble here, he's laying groundwork that will ultimately prove to be a waste of effort.

I looked at old Chinese posters from the 30s while drawing this, some of them were so beautifully painted. 

This the eighth in this series. I wonder if I will run out of moon songs or inspiration before Colour Collective runs out of colours?

Adobe Photoshop CC with a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. Still inspired by Coles Phillips and his fadeaway girls.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Illustration: Moon River

This week the Colour Collective prompt was 'Duck Egg Green', which struck me as a good colour to use in a river setting - so this week my song inspiration is Moon River, music by Henry Mancini and lyrics by Johnny Mercer:

Moon River
Wider than a mile
I'm crossin' you in style
Some day

Old dream maker
You heartbreaker
Wherever you're goin'
I'm goin' your way

Two drifters
Off to see the world
There's such a lot of world to see

We're after the same Rainbow's end
Waitin' round the bend
My huckleberry friend 
Moon River
And me

I was naturally thinking of Audrey Hepburn while I drew this, but I didn't want to actually draw her - I just went with more of a gamin look, which worked well for the theme of the song, which isn't a swelling romantic ballad, like most songs featuring the word 'moon' in the title seem to be. I was originally going to use red accents, but in the end I decided on orange, which I though suited the mood better. 

The texture on the punt is from Everything is drawn in Photoshop CC 2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Illustration: Stella by Starlight

This week, Colour Collective was 'Phthalo Blue' - a lovely rich deep colour. I chose to use the 1940s song Stella by Starlight, music by Victor Young, lyrics by Ned Washington as my inspiration this week:

Have you seen Stella by starlight
Standing alone, moon in her hair?
Have you seen Stella by starlight
When have you known rapture so rare?

The song a robin sings
Through years of endless springs.
The murmur of a brook at even' tide
That ripples by a nook where two lovers hide.

A great symphonic theme
That's Stella by starlight
And not a dream.
My heart and I agree, 
She's everything on earth to me.

Really, I just wanted an excuse to base an illustration around this dress, because it's gorgeous:

I don't know who designed this, I found it on Pinterest, here.
I wish I'd been able to do the sparkles properly, instead of resorting the scatter brush setting, but my drawing arm is not at all happy right now, and complained when I tried to draw each sparkle individually. So scatter brush it was.

Here are the six I have done in this series so far. I think my favourite is still 'A Sleepy Lagoon':

Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Illustration: Moonlight Becomes You

This week's Colour Collective prompt was 'tea rose', a lovely dusty pink. Continuing with my fadeaway girl theme, I chose the song 'Moonlight Becomes You', written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke for Road to Morocco in 1942, as my inspiration. This is the second week in a row that I've used a song from that team, they must have liked the moon! 

Moonlight becomes you
It goes with your hair
You certainly know the right thing to wear.
Moonlight becomes you
I'm thrilled at the sight
And I could get so romantic tonight.

You're all dressed up to go dreaming
Now don't tell me I'm wrong.
And what a night to go dreaming
Mind if I tag along?

If I say "I love you"
I want you to know
It's not just because there's moonlight, although
Moonlight becomes you so.

Want to hear it? How can we go past Bing Crosby in a clip from Road to Morocco? 

Originally I was planning on having a blonde girl in this image, but once I'd started roughing in some colours I decided that red hair was a more unexpected choice, and really went rather well with the overall image. I think I was channeling Rita Hayworth a bit, and having gone down the bombshell route, I really couldn't resist adding lots and lots of sparkles and chiffon. 

I've now done five Colour Collectives in this series. They're good fun, and an interesting exercise in keeping a whole colour scheme based around one colour, while still getting in enough variation to show shadows and highlights and skintones and everything else. 

Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Illustration: Mariella

My current batch of work requires a lot of waiting, so I've been using the intervals to create personal pieces, so here is a new illustration!

At the moment I am writing the story to go with this. We shall see how far I get!

I'd been toying with the idea of creating a kidlit illustration with a ghost in, and doodled a little character study of a 17th Century character that I named Mariella:

I chose the 17th Century so that there would be a big difference in costume between her and any modern children I drew with her. I wanted it to be obvious that she had been a ghost for a very long time. I browsed Pinterest for 17th Century children's clothing and settled on a date in the 1660s, when costume was rather swashbuckling. 

I did a few thumbnails to play around with compositions, picked the one I liked best, and worked that up. Here's a progress animation of the whole process:

Having settled on my thumbnail (almost illegible, I'm sorry) I sketched up a slightly more detailed plan in my sketchbook, and then took the whole thing into Photoshop to do a draft. Having done that I slapped a bit of colour on to see how everything worked. At this point I made some changes, most noticeably raising the boy's arm so that he could hold a torch. I had been planning on having everything lit with a ghostly blue light, but a flaming torch is more dramatic! 

I then did some tight linework and started painting. The torch was one of the first things I did, so that I could keep the lightsource in mind as I went. In general I like to work with linework, but as I didn't want black outlines everywhere, I painted the linework as well. In places where a bit more definition was needed, I allowed some contrast between the painting and the linework, and where the linework was no longer so necessary, I let it blend in almost entirely. 

It was fun figuring out how best to paint Mariella. As I was painting digitally I could try various things as I went, so you can see her change slightly as I progress. She was always going to be transparent, but I used a layer mask so that I could adjust the transparency to suit - Mariella herself is completely painted (in shades of blue), in case I decided that I wanted her feet visible after all.

I used a couple of textures from - for the stonework and the door - to speed things up a bit, but other than that, everything is painted by hand on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 in Adobe Photoshop CC 2015. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Portrait: Gemma

This portrait of Baby Gemma has recently gone off to the commissioner, so it's time to post it here!

Gemma was a tricky baby to draw, as she is quite fleshy and rounded, which required a lot of care in the rendering to get both realism and a good likeness - I didn't want her to end up looking plasticy! 

My reference was a bit washed-out, but thanks to the wonders of Photoshop I was able to claw back enough detail to allow me to draw the embroidery on her beautiful blanket (with the photograph at its normal state I could barely see the flowers).

Here is a detail:

This portrait took me 15 hours, and 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. It's an A4 portrait on A3 paper. If you're after a graphite portrait, please contact me via my website for more information, I'm always open to commissions for both portraiture and illustration. 


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