Monday, 12 April 2010

All Creatures Great and Small

If you are one of those talented artists who paint wonderful pictures of animals, this is definitely the moment for you to look away!

I've never been very good at, or in fact particularly interested in, drawing or painting animals. As a little girl, I habitually drew ballet dancers (I wanted to be one for a while!!) or sailing boats - obviously the result of living by the sea. In later years, I went on to paint landscapes, people, flowers, interiors, still lifes - and, apart from once making my big brother a birthday card with an elephant wearing a mortar board, standing by a blackboard, when he had just started teaching, I seem to have largely avoided attempting to draw our four-footed friends!

Today my teaching was postponed till tomorrow so I got around to making cards from some sketches I'd been working on in the evenings whilst watching my regular ration of whodunnits - and these cards involved animals!

I'd been putting them off for a while because I couldn't decided which medium to use. I wonder whether anyone else ever comes up against the problem that whatever I plan to do, someone famous has already done something similar and I worry that I'll feel as if I'm plagiarising! Sometimes I wish I hadn't looked at so much art and illustration and could start from a completely clean slate. For instance, I wondered whether to use pen and wash for my 'animals' cards but then Quentin Blake has made a pretty good job of a pen and wash elephant on a thank you card! But if I went down the collage route for this 'range', one of Leo Lionni's first and perhaps most famous children's book illustrations involved a wonderfully simple but effective collage mouse! So thank goodness for my newly discovered 'watercolour pencil and watercolour' technique!

I like to have two of these on the go at once so that I can work on one while the other is drying. In the past, I've had a few disasters when I've tried to tidy up the outlining before the 'wash' is completely dry!

So from a couple of decidely large animals to some of the smallest -

I haven't used this method very much yet but there's something I've learned about it which I'd like to pass on to anyone who may be thinking of trying it after reading my step-by-step instructions for painting a leprechaun for St Patrick's Day. If you use a mixture of different brands of watercolour pencils, BE VERY CAREFUL about how much pressure you use. Some are softer and/or more crumbly than others and this can result in flakes - or even chunks! - of the 'lead' breaking off and staining the paper. And it's practically impossible to then remove the unwanted marks. I've found that it's OK if I stick to using those softer ones because I get used to the amount of pressure needed, but once I start to go from one type to the other, I'm on dangerous ground!

That apart, I'm beginning to really like this way of painting and think I learnt some useful lessons from my Hot Cross Bunnies - and rather importantly, I'm hoping I won't wake up tomorrow with a painfully stiff shoulder, like I did this morning, as a result of  yesterday's fiddly collage!


Country Mouse Studio said...

I love them, mice are my favorite and the elephants look like they really do care about each other.
I use watercolor pencils all the time and have the same problem, sometimes I end up just using a wet brush to swipe the pencil lead and it's so soft I get all the color I need.

JudyAdamsonArtandDesign said...

Thank you, Carole. Your comments have encouraged me to try a few more animals - in my own style, of course!

BTW, I think your 'pocket mouse' is my all-time favourite from your portfolio!