Mother hen

mother hen fb
Towards the end of last year I was asked to do a chicken themed commission, and, while I felt up to the task, I’ve never really drawn chickens before. In preparation for this illustration, I spent quite a while sketching chickens from reference photos. I first wanted to figure out how to draw a chicken that looked like a chicken (because my initial attempts looked more like short-necked geese than chickens), and once I figured that out, I needed to figure out how to give a chicken personality. This piece came out of the ‘attempting-to-give-a-chicken-a-personality’ phase. This image popped into my head while I was thinking about the tender, nurturing aspect of a mother hen:
It took quite a lot of erasing and revising to arrive at this sketched image, but I think it now reads like a real animal with personality. When I think of hens, my first mental impression is the classic red comb and white feathers image, but now that the city of Nashville is allowing residents to keep chickens in their yards, many of my friends have been posting images of their chickens on Facebook and I’m now aware of the wide variety of feather colors and patterns that chickens display and decided to use a more interesting coloring and pattern for this hen. I’m very pleased with the final results.

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Boy with T-Rex

kid and toys colors fb
This image started as yet a further attempt to bring some humans into my portfolio. I was thinking about trying to draw a little kid who is really into playing with his toy airplane. That got me thinking about what I would have done while playing with an airplane, and the most obvious thing to me would be to have it get eaten by a T-Rex! I loved dinosaurs as a kid (and I still do) and tried to incorporate them into all parts of my life:
Here I’ve refined his expression a bit more, and changed the way his nose is drawn. I added a finger to the hand holding the airplane, and changed the way the t-rex’s legs were positioned. I also experimented with adding fuel tanks to the wings of the plane, but decided against it. If you look closely, you can see where I’ve erased them:
Then I started trying to fix his sleeve, which was bothering me for some reason. I finally decided that the angle of the sleeve was wrong, so I redrew it. I also turned his face a bit more to the right, as if he was just looking at the T-Rex, and now he’s anticipating what will happen when the plane gets a little closer:

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Boy avoiding snake

boy avoiding snake fb
In my last post, I mentioned that I have been making an effort to include more humans in my portfolio. This piece today is part of that same effort. The same day that I sketched a little kid watching a butterfly, I drew another kid hanging from…something. I wasn’t sure what he would be hanging from, but I liked the sketch I’d done with his little arms behind his head, his eyes looking down with a concerned expression, and his shirt sort of riding up. I wanted to know what he was looking at though, and what he was hanging onto. I went through a bunch of different ideas and scenarios (hanging from a wire in a circus, hanging from a high tree branch where he slipped while trying to get his kite back, etc…), but I eventually decided that since he was a kid, I didn’t want him in too dangerous of a situation, as that would probably cause the viewer to worry about him instead of enjoy the picture. I finally settled on the idea that he was getting away from a snake, tried to climb a nearby sapling, and discovered that it wasn’t able to support his weight. Here’s my initial sketch:
I didn’t really change much when I refined this one. I mainly tried to smooth out some of the details of the tree:
In thinking about the colors for this one, I dressed the kid in colors I tend to like to wear. The blue shirt happened to work out pretty well in retrospect. With all the green surrounding it, it helped to draw the viewer’s eyes to the boy who is the center of interest. The circular composition then gets the eye moving around the image. I wish I could say I had planned that, but the truth is that I only discovered these things after it was finished. I’ll have to keep that stuff in mind though for future illustrations and try to be more intentional about incorporating it.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Girl and butterfly

girl and butterfly
Welcome to 2013! Looking through my portfolio a few weeks ago, I realized that it is almost exclusively animals. This wasn’t a conscious choice, it just sort of happened. I love animals and enjoy drawing them, but I also enjoy drawing humans, so I decided that I needed to focus on adding some humans into the mix. To that end, I sketched up a little kid watching a butterfly:
After drawing this sketch, I spent about a month doing other things, so by the time I came back to it, I could definitely see it with fresh eyes. I decided that this child should probably be a girl so I added some longish hair and a scarf. I also made the butterfly smaller
While planning the colors, I decided that because the girl was wearing a coat, it must be early to mid autumn. I tried to make the grass a bit drab-colored, the dandelions have gone to seed, and I made the girl’s cheeks a bit rosy as if she’s been out in a brisk wind. I then made the butterfly itself a very vivid blue and green to help it to stand out against these muted colors. I liked the idea that a butterfly would be more rare at this time of year, which adds a bit to the girl’s look of satisfaction in seeing it. I played around with some sky colors and clouds, but ultimately I liked the simplicity of just the girl and the butterfly best.

Thanks for reading!

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Dancing flamingo

dancing flamingo
A couple of years ago I was asked about contributing some flamingo background dancers to the cover of a CD. I quickly found some reference for flamingos online, and drew up this wildly dancing, 20’s era flapper-looking, flamingo back-up dancer. I inked the drawing with my Pentel Pocket Brush Pen (one of my favorite art tools of all time) and then converted the inked lines to vectors in Adobe Illustrator. Here is what my inked, unconverted lines looked like:
I then added colors in Illustrator and posted it to facebook. Here is the colored, vector art image:
Ultimately the musician decided to go in a different direction, but I got a lot of positive facebook comments for it. Recently I was looking for older work that might be fun to redo as watercolors, and this image came up. I like my watercolored version more than the vector art version because the lines are more delicate and don’t overpower the colors as much as some of the lines do in the vector art version. I also changed the pearl necklace to blue rather than pink, and I think that makes for a nice break in the colors.

That’s all for today. Thanks for stopping by!

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Adventuring mouse

adventuring mouse colors fb
This image came from a time of free-sketching where I started drawing a mouse head. It had a mischievous expression and I decided to draw the rest of the body as if it were running away from something, much like the Playful Basset Hound that I did a couple of months ago. I initially thought that he had stolen something and was running away, but I couldn’t decide what he had stolen. I settled on the classic “handkerchief tied to a stick” for him to carry, and decided he was running away from home, or something like that:
I decided his back foot that I’d drawn in the air to show he was running looked weird, and redrew it on the ground instead. This made it look like he was walking instead of running, so I decided that he was setting off on an adventure, a concept I liked a lot better than the idea of him running away. I also drew in some rocks and grass to help explain the placement of his feet:
I then proceeded to mess up 2 attempts to ink this drawing due to the fairly light nature of my penciled drawing. I usually tape a piece of watercolor paper over top of my final penciled drawing and using a light table I trace my penciled lines onto the watercolor paper in ink, being careful to keep the lines pretty fine so that they don’t overpower the colors when I add them. In this case, I couldn’t see the mouse’s expression very clearly though the watercolor paper, so I messed up on his face twice. The first time, I finished inking the rest of the image after I had messed up so that I’d have something to practice on when it came time to add colors. On my third inking attempt I darkened the scanned lines in Photoshop and printed them out, making it easier to see his face through the watercolor paper. Here are those ink lines:
I was glad I had a version of this drawing to practice coloring because I messed up the colors the first time around, and I was able to solve those problems before coloring my good inked lines. There are few things more frustrating to me as an artist than messing up a nicely inked image and having to ink a new version all over again. Later on, I decided that I didn’t like the upper whiskers, and erased them in Photoshop. Well, that’s the story of this adventuring mouse. Thanks for reading!

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Chinchilla with coffee

coffee chinchilla colors fb
Chinchillas are adorable. The first time I saw one, I wanted it as a pet, and that desire hasn’t changed (though I’ve never actually had one as a pet up to this point…sad face). Their big ears, fat, furry bodies, and naturally happy and peaceful expressions make them stand out to me among the rodent population, much in the same way that a pizza stands out to me on a table filled with vegetables. A while back, in an attempt to come up with illustration ideas by paring words from 2 different lists, I came up with the combination of chinchilla and coffee. This is my initial rough sketch of that idea:
As you can see, I tend to do my rough sketches on the back of discarded paper that is laying around. I usually regret this later, but when an idea strikes, I just reach for whatever is around! I liked the way this looked, so I redrew that image on nice card stock, refining my initial sketch and adding lots more details. When comparing this sketch with the rough sketch, it’s immediately evident that I used photo reference from google images to work out the details of the face, ears, tail, and how those features interact with the body in terms of placement. When drawing animals, photo reference is extremely important! I also changed the cup from a mug to more of a nice teacup. Chinchillas are picky about the elegance of their coffee cups. Here is my refined sketch:
After finishing my refined sketch, my life got so busy that I wasn’t able to return to it for a few weeks. At that point, I decided that there was too much going on at the center of interest (which I would argue is the face/nose) with the whiskers, coffee cup, and steam from the coffee, so I decided to just erase the whiskers and redirect the steam away from the face. This gives everything more room to breath, so to speak. This is my updated sketch:
The inks for this one were really weird, primarily because I wanted to do the eyes in watercolor, so I only outlined the eye shape in ink. I had this inked chinchilla with lifeless eyes staring at me from my art table for several days, and each time I saw it, I was a little more convinced that it just wasn’t going to look right even after I added the colors. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. After adding colors, I used white out to add some highlights to his nose, the right edge of his head and body, and his coffee cup. I think it turned out pretty well over all.

If you ever have questions about anything I’ve discussed here or just about art in general I’m more than happy to answer them. Just post your questions in the comments section and I’ll get back to you.Thanks for stopping by!

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Otter eating pizza

cheesy otter colors 3 fb
As I mentioned in my previous post about the goat with the watering can, a couple of months ago I came up with a couple of lists, one list of subjects and the other items and actions, and then paired words from both lists in interesting ways, such as ‘otter eating pizza.’ I immediately saw in my mind an otter struggling to get an exceptionally cheesy bite of pizza to separate from the main slice, with his very flexible back arched but his sort arms not allowing him much room for separation. I quickly jotted this idea down as a rough sketch:
I then refined this idea, focusing on otter facial characteristics, the otter’s overall expression, and the details of the slice of pizza, and generally finalizing the details of his pose, fur and whiskers:
Now satisfied with my pencil drawing, I inked this guy and started coloring. My first attempt was too dark, due to indecision on my part about how dark I wanted to make him. I kept going back over the figure with darker and darker paint, and wound up horribly overworking the image. I also forgot to leave a strip of white at the top of his nose to indicate the gleam of the light on his wet nose. Here it is:
On my next attempt, I wound up making a mistake while inking the bottom of his tummy, and the lines got really dark. I wasn’t sure it was bad enough to start over, so I went ahead and added colors. I overworked his midsection again, but it’s not that noticeable in the scan. However, I decided that my inking mistake stood out too much and that I would start agian. Here’s my second attempt:
On my third attempt, seen at the top of this post, my inks were better, my colors were comparable to my second attempt, and I didn’t overwork any areas of the color. It is a pain to ink the same image over and over, but ultimately I’m glad I stuck with it because I really like the concept of the image, and it’s very satisfying to have a completed version of that concept. Thanks for stopping by!

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Goat with watering can

watering goat colors fb
In my junior year of college I spent a semester at a simulated third-world village in Florida, learning things like how to: cook over fire, filter water, take care of various animals, butcher animals, grow vegetables in raised bed gardens, and lots of other stuff like that. As part of that, we took care of a herd of Nubian goats, which have a very istinctive look to them, and I came away from that experience with a fondness for them. A few weeks ago, i was trying to come up with ideas for things draw and decided to make a list of potential animals and types of people. I made a second list of smaller objects or actions, and then paired them with the items on the first list, resulting in some interesting combinations. Goat with watering can was one of the results. Apparently I failed to scan my initial sketch, but here’s my finished pencil drawing:
Before starting to add colors, I did some google image research on the coloration patterns of Nubian goats, and decided that I wanted a light brown goat with darker splotches and spots. Many of the goats I saw seemed to be darker towards the top of of their bodies, so I decided to paint the body of the goat wet on wet to get a nice transition of medium to light brown. This worked out pretty well, and then I was able to come in and add the coat pattern, and the body shading once it had dried. I haven’t done much wet on wet painting so it was good to do some experimenting.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Scratching cat

scratching cat fb
My wife, Gypsy, and I have a cat named Sushi who will occasionally get an itchy ear. I’ve seen dog’s scratch their ears on a regular basis, but never a cat, so it’s always interesting to me when she does it. While looking for inspiration for more watercolor illustrations one evening, I realized that a cat contentedly scratching her ear would fit the bill perfectly. Here is my initial sketch, done very quickly to just capture the idea:
It took a lot of sketching, erasing, and frustrated sighs to come up with a final revised pencil drawing. I kept making the cat too angular, too stiff, too, just, wrong looking and I couldn’t figure out why. I finally was able to get a sleek, elegant, happy, fuzzy-looking, proportional, anatomically accurate cat sketch that in my option captured what I found adorable in my itchy-eared cat:
I can’t explain why I chose to color her as a ginger tabby, but it seemed more colorful than the gray and white of the real-life Sushi. I felt like the stripes added a nice visual element, and gave her a very warm personality. This is one of my favorites so far.

Thanks for stopping by!

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