Saturday, April 30, 2016

100 Days of Old Movies Installment 1

I decided that I would take part in the 100 Day Project this year. Because I'm insane, clearly. My chosen subject is 100 Days of Old Movies - every day I am drawing a quick picture of an actor or actress in an old film. They're quick, so I'm not bothering too much about likenesses, but I want to see if I can build up my speed a bit while doing them. 

I'm posting them daily on my Twitter and Instagram pages but I have decided to post them here in installments of 10 each, with a bit more about the movies and why I chose them. I'm now 10% off the way through, so it's time for the first installment!

Please follow along! I'm drawing my old movies from a wide net of well-known and little-known films, you might discover a gem you've never heard of!

1 & 2 : Romeo and Juliet (1936)

Oh, that I were a glove upon that hand, that I might touch that cheek!

The start of the project coincided with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, so I started off with three Shakespearean themes. 

Romeo and Juliet was directed by George Cukor, and is a traditional-style Shakespearean movie, starring Leslie Howard as Romeo and Norma Shearer as Juliet. You can watch the trailer here. It's a beautiful film, but suffered a bit from the Shakespearean connotations (even though almost half the play was cut) and the age of the two stars, who couldn't really pass for teenagers. Personally I'm not one for tragedies, but I thought I'd start with a bang and one of the the Bard's most famous works. I haven't seen it in some time, but I think these costumes are from the ball scene where Romeo and Juliet first meet.

3 & 4 : Kiss Me, Kate (1953)

This is the way to kill a wife with kindness.

Kiss Me, Kate (Starring Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel (and Ann Miller)) has even less of Shakespeare's words, as it's not a straight Shakespearean production. It is, however, one of my favourite musicals, with music (slightly bowdlerised to suit the movie censors of the time) by Cole Porter. It's a backstage musical where warring divorcees star opposite each other in a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew. Here is the trailer. 

Kathryn Grayson's red dress from the beginning of the play is more well-known (she wears it to sing 'I Hate Men' but I chose to use the beautiful blue wedding gown, and likewise gave Howard Keel his wedding costume. Interestingly, the randomness of what he's wearing is never mentioned - you have to know the play to work out that the costume designer wasn't actually drunk while designing it. Petrichio turns up to the wedding looking like a tramp, part of his plan to tame Katherine. She is not impressed - but that whole scene is cut in the musical, there's no room for it with the double story-line.

Why, Petruchio is coming in a new hat and an old
jerkin, a pair of old breeches thrice turned, a pair
of boots that have been candle-cases, one buckled,
another laced [...]

(Act II Scene II)

Another interesting thing to watch for in this film is all the actions that were designed for the early 3D - Kiss Me, Kate was filmed in both 3D and 2D, and once you're looking for it, you find lots of occasions when the actors threw items directly at the camera to take advantage of the new technology.

5 & 6 : The Taming of the Shrew (1967)

I am ashamed that women are so simple, to offer war when we should kneel for peace.

In my personal opinion 1967 is almost too recent to be counted as 'old movie' but I thought it would be interesting to look at two treatments of The Taming of the Shrew. This Elizabeth Taylor / Richard Burton film was directed by Frank Zefirrelli and is fabulously over-the-top, bawdy and with very extravagant costumes. I chose the costumes from the finale as a contrast to the previous wedding scene. I'm afraid Richard Burton is hiding behind Elizabeth Taylor because it's a film that is very fond of close-ups, and I couldn't find a single shot where I could see what he wore on the bottom. It could have been shorts for all I know. Here is the trailer for this film.

This is the end of my Shakespeare films, I think.

7 & 8 : The Divorce of Lady X (1938)

We have ample opportunities in this court for learning what women mean, or what they mean they mean if in these days they mean anything at all!

This is a fabulous little comedy (not, I think, very well-known) starring Merle Oberon and Lawrence Olivier. You can actually watch the whole movie on Youtube, I think the copyright has well and truly lapsed. Stranded in a London hotel after a fancy dress ball (due to the heavy London fog) Merle finds herself a hapless bachelor and steals his hotel room, his bed, his pyjamas and his book. He gets to sleep on the floor in the sitting room of his suite. By morning, naturally, he's smitten, but he thinks she's married (she isn't), and what's worse, he's a lawyer and becomes convinced that he is the co-respondent in a divorce case he's handling for a man who's divorce-happy wife spent the night with a man in his hotel after a fancy dress ball. 

9 & 10 : Key Largo (1938)

When your head says one thing and your whole life says another, your head always loses.

Here's a bit of a change of pace - a classic film noir, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall's Key Largo. I cheated a bit here, I had already drawn Bacall but had never finished Bogart. This was a good excuse. Key Largo isn't my favourite Bogie & Bacall film, but really, they're all good, and this one is quite minimalist and elegant. It's in black and white, but I managed to track down a colour production photo, so Bacall's outfit is accurate. Here's the trailer.

And that's it so far! In another ten days I will post again with the next installment!

(all these sketches were done in Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2)

Chomp! Chomp!

For the 'brown ochre' colour collective I decided to go with a stick. When it comes to dogs, that colour could easily relate to poop, but I'm keeping it classy. ^.~

And I added another little friend - this time it's a New Holland Honeyeater. Our garden is full of them. Originally it was going to be a willy wagtail, but I liked the pop of yellow.  

Here's my original sketch, alongside the photo I used as inspiration:

Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Will You Play With Me?

For Colour Collective's 'limpet shell' prompt I decided to work the colour in as the sky, and feature a bird - Myrna loves to chase birds. A lot of them (especially magpies) tease her, flying just in front of her - but she doesn't really want to catch them, she just wants to chase them and make them fly. If you've ever seen the scene in Lady and the Tramp where Lady rushes out into the garden to chase away the birds... that is exactly what Myrna does. 

When we're out walking and Myrna spots a bird sitting on a street lamp or a powerline she stares directly upwards at them, like this... I wanted to put the bird on a street lamp (as we have been mercilessly teased by a white cockatoo sitting way up high and squawking at us) but the height of a lamp didn't really fit with the format I've been using for these illustrations, and I didn't want to change it. So I put in a lower tree-branch and, after toying with a white cockatoo, a pink and grey galah, hanging upside-down for maximum tease-factor. 

Adobe Photoshop CC on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2

Saturday, April 23, 2016


or The Warm Spot

Last week the Colour Collective colour was 'Cadmium Yellow Deep' and I wanted to continue with my Myrna theme. It was quite a warm colour, so I decided to use it as a background for a sunny patch of carpet - like most dogs, Myrna likes to sit in such sunny patches. But that was a bit boring by itself, so I added a hint of mayhem. Myrna is a bit of a terror with pieces of paper. She'll be fine for days, or weeks, and then you'll find she's ripped something up. She's three now, so she's much better and can be trusted 98% of the time, but when she was a puppy, all available paper was fair game and we would often enter a room to find bits of damp paper everywhere and a dog looking either unconcerned or guilty, depending on her mood.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2

Thursday, April 14, 2016


I was recently commissioned to do a memorial portrait of a schnauzer that had died unexpectedly. The commissioners were friends of the owners, and I thought it was a lovely thing to do. 

Here is the final portrait:


Initially I was asked to surround Oscar with flowers, but before I'd got started on rough sketches I was told that he spent a lot of time at the beach, and that that would be a better setting. I did three rough concepts to start with, two of which included coastal vegetation, and the one they chose, with him looking out to sea. I've worked with this client before, and she knows that my hideous rough sketches will eventually become better, so the initial concepts were very rough.

Here's how the piece progressed. Rough sketch (Photoshop) > More refined sketch & colour study (photoshop) > inking (Copic Multiliners) > Painting (Watercolour & Coloured Pencil)

Winsor & Newton Watercolours, Prismacolour Pencils, Reeves Gouache, Copic Opaque White and Copic Multiliners on Moleskine watercolour paper.

Birthday Dogs

I just realised that I never posted these birthday dog commissions I did. 

This one was commissioned in February by a guy for his wife's 30th birthday. They have two schnauzers called Emilio and Nico:

This was to be printed out and framed as a birthday present. Originally it just had the dogs, but then the commissioner decided (quite rightly, why should the dogs have all the fun?) that he'd like to be in there too, so I squeezed him in. The gold/black/silver/blue colour scheme was requested, and went beautifully with the schnauzers.

And this one I did in June of last year. It was also commissioned for a birthday, but was going to be used as a birthday card (as well as some cards without the 'Happy Birthday' text) instead of a large print-out, so it's not quite as refined (so as to cost less, with the four dogs). The dogs featured here are the beagles Pantz and Sox, Chops the Schnauzer and Chocco the poodle-cross. 

I had a lot of photos to work from - it's always tricky to make a dog look like a specific dog, especially if they are hairy! Both illustrations were done in Adobe Photoshop on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 - but the later one was done using Kyle Webster's photoshop brushes and the first was done using the default Photoshop chalk brush. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Can we go home now??

I've been having such fun doing little pictures of Myrna for Colour Collective. This week's colour was 'pearl', and while Myrna very definitely doesn't have any pearl in her colouring, lots of dogs do, so I introduced some friends. 

Myrna's not too sure of big dogs - she's had a couple of bad experiences, so when big friendly slobbery dogs lollop over on the oval she tends to hide behind me and try to make herself invisible while I try to exude confidence and secretly hope that the big dog in question really is as friendly as it looks. The overwhelming majority are, of course, and Myrna has lots of friends on the oval now (although usually she counts smaller dogs as 'friends'. I've never seen anything look as nonchalant as Myrna pretending that she just hasn't seen the bounding great danes.)

The two friends here aren't specific dogs, although we regularly see labradors, retrievers and weimaraners in our travels. 

Here's my original messy sketch:


Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 (Using Kyle Webster's China Marker and Gouache Less Dry brushes). About 5 hours, mostly while watching tv at the same time.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Let's Play!

After the popularity of last week's Colour Collective I thought I would do another drawing of my dog Myrna for the Leaf Green prompt. Sometimes, often while we're on the oval, she goes completely hyperactive and skitterish (and borderline insane), and looks really cheeky - which I thought went well with the fresh, spring-like green. 

Originally I experimented with putting a whole background in, but then I told myself no, I am supposed to be working on not putting insane amounts of detail into everything and deleted it. I think this simpler version works much better, and goes better with the first one. And this one is proving popular on twitter too, which makes me very happy! 

Here's a progress gif showing the three messy sketches I did before I put on the solid colours and shading. As you can see, I had the most trouble with the tongue. I don't actually have a photo of Myrna being this hyperactive, she always does it where the light is bad (thus necessitating a slow shutter speed) and then moves like lightning. So with no reference, there was a lot of trial and error to get the expression just right!

I'm having such fun with these. I wonder if I can work Myrna into the next Colour Collective as well - which is Pearl. I am thinking Labrador friends....

Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. About four hours (Which is too long, but I'm still working on this style...) 


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