Adventuring mouse

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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!

Chinchilla with coffee

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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!

Otter eating pizza

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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!

Goat with watering can

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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!

Scratching cat

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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!

Girl and frog

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Ever since I was young, I’ve been fascinated by frogs. Their bulging eyes and cool coloration made them stand out to me, along with my inability to catch them. I caught plenty of toads, but frogs were scarce, making them all the more interesting and desirable.They are also remarkably hard to draw convincingly and I did plenty of bad frog drawings in my life before sort of getting a handle on the finer points of frog anatomy. I’m sure that my inability to catch as many frogs as a child as I would have liked played into the idea for this image of a young girl who has caught a massive bullfrog. Here’s my initial sketch:
As you can see, I wasn’t sure whether to have the frog’s mouth open or closed, but overall, I stayed with this basic composition through to the finished image. Next, I added more details, figured out what the frog should look like, what the little girl should be wearing, and all that good stuff:
In my mind I saw this girl sort of as a little farm girl whose front adult teeth have just come in, so they’re very prominent. I also decided she’d be wearing overalls instead of a dress, but would be barefoot. After sitting on the image for a little while, I decided to give her teeth less definition, and make the frog’s head smaller. I also added some wrinkles to the frog’s neck where the girls hands are pressing into it, which help to give the frog a sense of weight and helps to sell idea that these two characters are interacting. Here is the finalized pencil sketch:
Now satisfied with my pencil sketch, I inked the image and made some color choices. I decided to give the girl red hair, and at the last minute gave her a bunch of freckles. The standard “shorthand” in illustrating for freckles is three dots on the cheek and maybe one on the nose, but the people I know with freckles have many, many more than that, and I wanted to try to incorporate that into this image:
Unfortunately, she looked like she had chicken pox or something. I was bummed. It was also clear that I had over-inked her hair, so the red wasn’t really showing through. I decided to re-ink the image and start over, ending up with the image at the top of the post. I made sure not to ink her hair so much, and to not make the line for the frog’s mouth so thick, and then gave her fewer freckles and made her hair a brighter shade or orange. Over all, I think the image is better for it. Well, that’s the story of this image…thanks for stopping by!

Playful basset hound

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This playful basset hound illustration was finished a couple of months ago and comes from a desire to draw an image with a bit of action in it. I love basset hounds, partly because they have a very funny look to them with their long, floppy ears, long bodies and short legs, and because their faces with all the wrinkles provide great expression. Once I had settled on the image of a basset hound running, I wanted to try to tell a little story with the image, so I needed a reason for him to be running. My parents’ dog, Dixie Belle, loves to play keep-away with objects she finds, so I decided that this dog was playing keep-away as well. A ribbon provided a nice visual element to emphasize the action and movement of the image. Here is my final pencil sketch:
Once I had inked this image and done a bit of Google research on the specifics of basset hound coloration, I used a little wet-on-wet technique to blend some gray into the various brown spots. I’m still experimenting with how best to do this, but I like the results this time around. Here are my inks for this image (you’ll notice that I changed the position of the left eye in the final image using photoshop to make him look less googly-eyed):

Monk and frog

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Today I present a simple monk and a frog he found. For this one, I decided that I really wanted to do a simpler coloring style than with the images I’ve posted up previously. While learning to use watercolors, I was initially attempting to emulate the style of an illustrator named Peter de Seve, however, it became clear to me that I wasn’t really ready to try to emulate his style of painting. I still like his style a LOT, but I decided that it would probably be better to get a handle on a simpler style of coloring, and then maybe move up.

This image began as a little doodle sketch I did one night. I try to make time to just draw and let my mind wander, in the hope that I’ll find a spark of inspiration in one of the doodles. In this case, I drew a bald guy with glasses who sort of looked to me like the Dalai Lama, so I gave him what I thought looked like Tibetan monk’s robes (I later discovered that I was way, way off), and drew him holding a frog because of the reverence with which they tend to give nature. Here is that first doodle, quickly inked with a ball point pen:
Upon review, I realized that his arms were too long, and his legs were too short. I also decided to give the frog a smug look instead of a disgruntled look, as if he’s now used to being carried around by this monk, and is pleased that he’s found what he considers to be “the sweet life.” I redrew this image to incorporate these changes, and liked the results a lot more. I then did some google image research to see what Tibetan monks wear, and discovered that the fabric is wrapped around the body much more than I had drawn it, and there was often a big piece that draped down their front which would provide me the opportunity to put in a lot of interesting wrinkles and folds, so I updated his clothing. Here is my pencil sketch:

Enter…the rat

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In my previous post, I discussed my illustration of The Mole from Wind in the Willows, which I created for my newborn niece, Willow. Today, I present the companion piece to that one, The Rat. Once the Mole ventures out of his hole, he comes upon the Rat, out rowing his boat on the river, and joins him. This is a river rat, or water vole, which live in England and are closer to a muskrat than the city rat or farm rat (which is what I tend to see in my mind when I hear the word “rat”.)

I decided to show him taking a nap along the riverside because that’s what sunny afternoons are for when you’re a river rat, right? I had a good time with this one, coming up with various shades of brown to try and give him some dimension and make him look furry. Below you can see the pencil drawing I did for this sketch. I wish I had matched some of the pencil lines more closely when I inked it, but overall I’m pleased with how this turned out.

Enter…the mole

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This is my take on the Mole from Wind in the Willows. In March of this year, I became an uncle to a little girl named Willow and her dad (my younger brother) mentioned to me that if I had any ideas for art to decorate her room, I should feel free to indulge those ideas. The room was going to be a nature themed room and so as I thought about it, the characters from the Wind in the Willows naturally came to mind.

I’ve liked the Wind in the Willows since I first read it, and have liked the illustrations that others have done for the book, but I decided to try and update the characters a little bit in my renditions of them. The book was first printed in 1908, and since the book describes the characters as wearing clothes, most illustrators place them in the common dress from that period of time in England. This makes for quaint and charming little critters, running around in their coats and hats, but doesn’t really reflect current fashion trends. For this illustration, I tried to dispatch with my mental images created by other illustrations I’d seen, and try to show my modern take on the Mole.

The very beginning of the book finds the Mole doing some spring cleaning, and suddenly, for some reason, coming up out of his underground tunnel and being overcome by the beauty of the outside world. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone doing spring cleaning in nice clothes, so I chose to garb him in overalls. I also gave him large glasses, partly for comedic effect, and partly because moles as a species have very poor eyesight. I did try to stay true to the anatomy of a mole in most respects, so you’ll see that his hands are the large tunneling paws specific to moles, and his toes are oddly splayed like most mole feet. I’m not sure that moles have ears like that, but I needed something to have the arms of his glasses rest on, and I don’t think they are too distracting. I mean…he is wearing clothes after all.

For those interested, here is my pencil drawing of the mole.