Self Portrait in coloured pencil

Friday, 15 March 2019

Yawning Cub WiP

Yawning Cub, Work in Progress

My latest pencil drawing is a cub yawning as s/he comes out of the den in the morning light. I am using a 2H lead in a mechanical pencil on graphic film. Maybe that is why the 2H comes out so black compared to drawing on paper. I like the smoothness of graphic film and the fact that it doesn’t buckle if it gets damp. As graphic film is translucent, I often colour the drawing on the reverse. If I do it on the reverse of the Yawning Cub, it might solve the problem of colouring the roof of the den. But at the moment I am challenging myself to do it in graphite pencil. 

I have had another challenge this week. I was blending pastel skies and distant hills. I was working on canvas primed with clear Colourfix. (Colourfix is brilliant for mixed media and I am using it to underpaint and sketch portraits in oils.) Colourfix is gritty which is why it holds the pastels. 
Many artists work with pastel on a sandy textured surface but in the past I always worked on Canson Mi-Teintes paper. But the paper absorbs water and buckles which is the main reason that I started working on graphic film. I wonder if I can prime graphic film with Colourfix? I will try it some time. 
Anyway to get back to the gritty surface on the canvas, I was blending the pastel with my finger and it got very red and sore. The next day I used another finger to blend pastel on the next 2 portraits and that finger got very sore. The next day I sacrificed a third finger on a big painting of a boy on his horse. 
After that I decided to preserve my forefinger and look for a solution so I searched for Colour Shapers online. I believe that they are made of silicone. I ordered 2 in finger sizes and another silicone blender which looks good for large areas. 
Time will tell. Today I drew, and did some oil painting. 
I also took Jasper for a walk. We have been kept in by the bad weather and he was beginning to go stir-crazy. Dogs are so valuable to get artists away from the easel and into the fresh air. 

Here are the silicone blenders. The black one is harder than the light grey. I don’t know which is best. 

Friday, 8 March 2019

Portrait of a Caracal, Finished

Portrait of a Caracal, Finished 

I finished the portrait drawing of the caracal and I have started a new drawing of a cub yawning. 
The caracal is drawn in graphite pencil in 2H on graphic film. It is designed to frame in a 5 by 7 inch frame. It took nearly 20 hours to finish because once I had the pencil marks I had to soften them with an eraser. I used a Mono zero elastomer eraser and also putty rubber. 

I had a challenge photographing the “work in progress” through the dark days of winter. I have a very nice Daylight lamp to work at my easel so when it was too dark to take a photograph I naturally turned the light on. But the photo came out striped. It reminded me of how, back in the days of rolls of photographic film and cathode ray tube televisions, to take a photo of a TV screen it was necessary to use 1/60 speed or the picture would come out striped. 

I tried Wikipedia, then Google to search for an explanation of the phenomenon but as I didn’t have a clue about the physics of light, I couldn’t find anything. Then I thought of dogs. I remembered reading many years ago, that dogs couldn’t watch TV comfortably because their vision is faster than ours and they see the flicker. So I googled dogs watching TV and got a result. 

It seems that we humans need 16 to 20 images per second to see the picture but dogs need 70 or the image flickers. 
Well I don’t know how many images per second my iPhone’s camera app is “seeing”, but it wasn’t able to take a smooth photo. I went to look for an app that gave me full control of the speed at which I took photos. I found an app called Yamera. It took a smooth photo at a speed of 128 but not the standard 125. I didn’t try slower speeds as they would have been blurred unless I used a tripod. 

I took a couple of photos this afternoon to show but I didn’t use the new app. I compared natural daylight to my lamp. Here are the photos first with light on then with light off. 
Below is the link to the article about human and dog eyesight. 

Friday, 1 March 2019

Portrait of Caracal: Work in Progress

Portrait of Caracal: Work in Progress 

The main problem with this drawing is the way that the cats keep sitting on it! 

I hope to finish it this weekend. 

I haven’t done much artwork for the last three weeks. It is three weeks today since one of my dogs died (of old age - she was over 15). First there was the burial, then the washing of bedding and toys. 

After that I had someone here building a catio for me. I spent too much time watching and leaving my easel. I tried to draw the caracal in the evenings but, as I wrote above, the cats demanded attention. I think that they missed Bryn so much. She adored the cats and they felt protected by her. 

The catio was finished a week ago. That is, the construction was done, but I had the “landscaping” to do. This involved carrying buckets of soil to build up raised beds. It isn’t finished yet. I am going to have it on two levels. I will grow catnip and oatgrass for Fliss. For myself I have a mini apple tree, and I am thinking of growing strawberries. A catio is a bit like a fruit cage and the strawberries won’t be eaten by the blackbird. They may be eaten by the dog though. Dogs like strawberries. 

Jasper, my other dog, has been trying to find a new dog friend on our walks. I am hoping to get a puppy for him (once I have caught up with my portraits!) Jasper is such a calm and friendly dog that he would be a very good influence on a puppy. 

Friday, 25 January 2019

Portrait of Young Wolf Finished

Portrait of Young Wolf Finished

I have finished the portrait of the young wolf. The actual drawing took me 47 hours although, as I took the photo in November 1999 you could say it took me 19 years.

When I met this lovely wolf he was 6 months old and he was being held on a lead. I was so honoured that he liked me. He took hold of my wrist very gently in his mouth. It was the highlight of my life. After he was put back into the enclosure with the other wolves he kept jumping against the wire mesh fencing towards me and I got splattered with mud all over my jacket from the wolf enclosure. The result was that when I got home next day my own dog wouldn’t come near me! It was quite a while before the smell wore off my jacket and Trixie got back to normal. 

Back in those days, I had an SLR camera and I had to wait for the film to be developed before I knew if I had any reasonable photos. I tried to paint a portrait in pastel from the above pose but it coincided with the time I went down with post-polio syndrome and I had to give up artwork altogether for a while. 

I have always wanted to get back to doing a portrait from this photo, but it got put away in such a safe place that I couldn’t find it! When I did find it I looked at it and thought how soft focus it is compared to the sharp, see-every-hair photos that I can take with my latest DSLR. It was hard to see his hind feet because they were the same colour as the autumn leaves that he was standing in. That is why the drawing took so long. I did my best. Such a darling animal merited it. 

Because of the poor quality of the photo, I chose to draw a small portrait in graphite using mechanical pencils with different grades of lead from 2B to 3H. I draw on graphic film because it is “dimensionally stable” or, to put it another way, it stays flat in a humid atmosphere. The Eden Valley, where I live, is frequently humid. In fact I remember one day I was out in the rain and there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. 

I have two more photos of the wolf that I would like to use as reference for portraits. In one he is lying in the dead leaves so I will have to do that one in colour. Maybe coloured pencils?

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Work in Progress: Young Wolf 2

Work in Progress: Young Wolf 2

I took the above photo yesterday and then I started drawing again instead of writing this artblog. So there is quite a lot more of him done since then. 

I have been struggling to get the texture of his fur right. The reference photo was taken back in  November 1999 on film, so it doesn’t have the detail that I can take today even with my phone! 

I have been going over his head again and again, lifting off dots of the graphite pencil with a kneadable eraser, then re-applying using a 2H mechanical pencil trying to get the impression of soft fur with flecks of highlights. 

I so want to get back to this drawing that I will stop writing now. Watch out for an update. 

Friday, 28 December 2018

Work in Progress: Young Wolf

Work in Progress: Young Wolf

It is a long time since I took the photos of this young wolf. He was 6 months old at the time and absolutely delightful. I started his portrait in pastel at the time but then post polio syndrome hit me and I wasn’t able to continue. It was a few years before I recovered sufficiently to take up drawing again. 
But I have always wanted to do this portrait and have started a couple of attempts at it. Now I am determined to draw him at last. 
I am drawing him in mechanical pencil on graphic film as part of a series for an exhibition. As these drawings are small, I can draw sitting on the sofa of an evening. The only extra equipment that I need is something to quickly protect the current drawing from any cat who suddenly decides that they want to jump onto my lap. I bought a pad in a plastic folder that has 5 extra pockets to hold future drawings ready set up. 
I started this drawing a while ago. I had been using a 4B clutch pencil and, now that I have picked it up again, I see that I had made it too dark. So I have been working hard with putty rubber and the Tombow MONO zero eraser and I am happy now with the ear on the left and nearly happy with the top of his head. I drew Jasper’s portrait mainly with a 0.3 2B mechanical pencil and a 0.3 2H mechanical pencil on the “white” areas, so I am blending in the erased areas of this wolf portrait with the 0.3 2H mechanical pencil. 

The portrait of Jasper is finished but I haven’t scanned it yet. 

My last blog showed a photo of my dreadful tiling. I spent Christmas, with much appreciated help from my son, building a kitchen unit and moving furniture upstairs and downstairs. My kitchen is already working better for me though there are still problems to solve. One is the door to the unit. I found the door took up too much room when it was open and also I had trouble with the hinges. I am thinking of sawing the door in half vertically and hinging it so it will be a bifold door. 
The point of the unit is to hold the cat litter trays away from the dogs. The cats are happy with it so that is promising. The top shelf is holding the cat food and a spare bag of cat litter so it is looking promising. 

It would have been nice to start the New Year with everything organised. But it is much easier to cook my dinner in there and that is great. I was so tired of living on sandwiches!

And you can’t see how bad the tiling is. 
(See Fliss in the cardboard box rather than one of the beds! Typical cat.)

Friday, 21 December 2018

Jasper as a Puppy

Jasper as a Puppy

I have been drawing Jasper from an old photo that I took when he was a puppy. He is still as cute!
I am drawing in pencil on graphic film. I use a mechanical pencil with a 0.3 mm 2B lead so I don’t have to spend all my time sharpening a pencil. The lead that I am enjoying using these days is Uni Nano Dia Lead. It has nano-diamonds in it which make it very smooth to draw with. 
I also spend a lot of time using erasers, both kneadable ones and the Tombow MONO eraser which is a retractable eraser that is only 2.3 mms at the business end. Between the fine pencil and the small erasers I can make delicate pencil marks to suggest puppy fur. 
So far I have spent 5 hours on this portrait. Small drawings are not as quick as you might think. 

As well as drawing most days, I have been getting on with the plan for my kitchen alcove. I was expecting to start tiling last Sunday but I had to scrub a patch of black mould and leave it to dry. I didn’t want black mould trapped behind my tiles. So I did the tiling yesterday. The walls are so uneven that I am not worrying about how bad the tiling looks. Most of it will be hidden behind the unit anyway. I am capable of doing decent if not perfect tiling, but I would have had to replaster first to get the walls flat, and I don’t want to lose the time. The whole point of this is to make my kitchen more efficient so I can spend more time drawing and painting. 
The walls are uneven because this house was built back in the 1870s using sandstone from the local quarry. It is poor quality sandstone with lots of inclusions. I think it is referred to as pudding stone. The general effect is that the walls are built of rubble. There are a couple of internal walls made of lath and plaster with horsehair in it. There are the remnants of the old gas lighting if you do a bit of archaeology under the old plaster! 
So here is a photo of the alcove this morning. I have done grouting since, so it looks worse (until I clean it off).