Tuesday, 15 April 2014

[Commission] Vinos del Paseante - CODORNÍU S.A.

Finally the wine set with my illustrations on them were launched this month. I will write about the process on other posts. To see the complete illustrations, please visit my Behance. *feeling happy :)

[Tips] Painting Furs Quickly with Comber Brushes

I worked on the illustrations for Codorníu S.A. generally in 2 steps. First, I blocked all the designated spaces with wet washes. And, later, I built up the figure with many layers of fur and feathers, using a very dry brush strokes.

I painted them mostly in dry brush in order to imitate the paintings style of Mr Alexander Marshal, an English entomologist, gardener, and botanical artist from XVII century.

I was not used to work with dry brush. I did it by trial and error. When I worked on "El Pispa," the goldfinch bird illustration, I got quite frustrated with how long it took to build up the body of the bird with a small round brush. I even wore out my two favourite brushes. Fortunately, I bought 2 comber brushes from Rosemary afterward, which I used to work on the next illustration, "La Pelea." The brush has unique shape that can create many tiny strokes at once. It made the work of painting the furs much quicker and easier.

Some insight I gained in the process:
1. Adjust the dryness on a different paper to create separated fur at once.
2. Combine the round and comber brushes for natural variability. I used a comber brush for wide area and a round brush to put down some details or correct the stray lines made by the comber brush.
3. Follow the fur direction and control the pressure. I lifted the brush up at the end of the stroke to make pointy furs/hairlines.
4. Since I didn't use white paint, I started from light and moved to dark colour. The highlights were effected by making fewer strokes on the area while adding more layers on the shadows.

I know the illustrations was not a perfect sample of realistic painting but I believe these comber brushes can greatly help to make it happen.

And here is the scanned illustration of La Pelea for Codorníu S.A. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Japanese Chrysanthemum: Continuing an Unfinished Artwork.

More than a year ago, I found a lovely specimen of Japanese chrysanthemum. I made the sketch and painted most part of the flowers. I stopped working on it when I had too many things to do between our moving back from the UK to Indonesia and my pregnancy. Last week, I decided to finish this unfinished work. And these are some little insights during the process.

I found that the paper's characteristics somewhat changed. It was more absorbent and its surface was not as robust as I remembered. I realised it when I used the wet washes and lifting technique frequently. I wonder whether it changed since I brought it back to Yogyakarta and neglected it for about 7 months.

I am still wondering how to solve the humidity problem in the tropical Indonesia. The Japanese Chrysanthemum was not the only one that had been affected. I faced the same problem when working on the Paphiopedilum glaucophyllum orchids. Not to mention my shocking encounter with the massive mold attack on my other drawings when I left them on the hardboard for 4 days only (when I was in the hospital, giving birth to my baby). The weather was so humid, it seemed to pose the watercolour paper with many risks. Does anyone of my kind readers here have any idea as to how to solve the problem?

Back to the unfinished painting, I tried some new green mixing I learnt from artistnetwork. I bought Winsor & Newton Permanent Sap Green and I found it was easy to mix with my existing colours. But what made me happy was that the sap green mixing was not as staining as Winsor Blue (green shade) that I usually use. It made lifting the pigment easier both when the paint was still wet/damp and when it completely dried. I mixed sap green with French Ultramarine to get a dark green, or Cadmium Lemon/ Cadmium Yellow Pale to get the bright one. And a little touch of Alizarin Crimson, if needed.

Another new thing I tried was using kolinsky sable brushes as my main tool. I decided to invest in Raphael series 8404 no 2 and 4 after Billy Showell's demonstration. I found the natural brushes was very different from my existing synthetic one (mostly Pro Arte series 101). Here are my first impressions of using Raphael kolinsky sable brushes:

1. They are bigger than the synthetic ones with the same number size. The Raphael size 4 is even a bit bigger than my Pro Arte size 6.

2. They have much bigger capacity to hold water. It is good for glazing/washing big area, on the other hand, it requires more watercolour mixing prepared. [Tips] Use a cheap/discarded brush to pick up pigments and mix watercolour rather than using an expensive sable brush.

3. They release water/paints slower but more evenly. So they tend not to dump water/paints in a puddle.

4. The tuft/hair is softer and bend more easily (or somewhat a bit defenselessly for me).

5. The brushes' tip do not naturally point out when dry (whereas the synthetic do) and need to be reshaped when wet (whereas the synthetic needn't). I was aware of it since I saw Billy kept twirling her brushes' tip on a kitchen towel after she dipped them in water/paints.
[Tips] I reshape the brush by loading the brush with water, then shaking the excess vigorously with my elbow or tapping the brush handle with my other hand before I dip it in the watercolour mixing. I usually have the brush tip very pointed afterward without touching my finger on it.

The kolinsky sable brushes are not cheap, but at least now I know the difference between them and the synthetic ones. I need much more practise to feel more comfortable with them. However, as other people said: knowing how to best use what you have is more important than the "tool" itself. Cheers!

Another post about taking care watercolour brushes is here.

And here is the scanned illustration.
28 x 38 cm - 300 gsm traditional white HP Fabriano Artistico paper.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Saturday, 12 October 2013

[Tips] How to Transfer a Drawing using Tracing Paper

The idea is simple. The transparency of tracing paper allows me to precisely copy a sketch to the "real" paper.

By keeping the watercolour paper clean, I can sketch and revise as many as I want, for example, to accommodate the client's requests. Sketching directly on the "real" paper will leave too many erases and pencil scratches on the otherwise good watercolour paper. The other advantage is that I can transfer the sketch already coloured, or only necessary lines.

Here are the tools I need:
1. Tracing papers
2. Pencils or water soluble colour pencils to coat the other side of paper
3. A very pointy and hard pencil (e.g. 2H - 4H) to trace the drawing
4. (Optional) Eraser, pencil sharpener, kitchen towel, sandpaper.

And here are the steps:
1. Once a sketch was approved by client, I scanned and then printed it on a tracing paper. Again, it saved me another time from transferring a drawing twice from sketch pad to a tracing paper then to a watercolour paper. It was also less messy because it prevented me from smearing the watercolour paper with pencil dust that clings on my palm. Another tips to avoid pencil dust: Place clean paper between your hand and tracing paper if you aren't going the scan-print route. 

2. To coat the blank side of the tracing paper quickly, I held the pencil almost completely sideways then spread the mark with a kitchen towel. This helped me to gain an even outline like I draw directly on the watercolour paper with 2H pencil. 
My tips: For delicate botanical illustration or light coloured object, use water-soluble colour pencils with similar colours to those of the final paints to coat the backside of the tracing paper. This would save you some time from erasing it as it leaves no trace of pencil. On the other hand, when I paint less detailed or dark coloured object, I use graphite pencil to coat the backside as I did in this Asian palm civet illustration.

3. I placed the tracing paper on top of a watercolour paper and secured it with masking tape before I traced the image with very pointy 4H pencil. I trace only necessary outline to the watercolour paper and I did it with a steady pressure.
My tips: Grind the pencil to sandpaper
almost completely sideways to keep it very sharp/pointy.

4. After I had completed tracing the drawing, I gently removed the tracing paper and drew necessary line for the missing part. And the watercolour paints were ready to GO!