Our Rats are Low

I have been dreaming about rats, although thinking about it, it might have been a very large gerbil, but its probably because I have been drawing rats lately. I think it is true that we often relive or make sense of our waking experiences in our dreams and I have produced a few illustrations involving rats so far, so I decided one more couldn’t hurt.

I rather like rats – there are, perhaps, way too many wild ones for us humans but I think they are inquisitive and intelligent, if a little blood thirsty , gnarly and low. And they are part of the clean-up crew so need fair representation.

Rat

I experimented with pastel pencils, watercolour, watercolour pencils and ink. I don’t want to talk about the ink as it didn’t end well, but the other experiments paid off and I drew (using watercolour and watercolour pencils) a rat that had clearly been up to no good.

I worked with damp paper, dropping in a background wash and then, once dry, I added details and textures with the watercolour pencils. Some of this was blended with a damp brush and then sharpened up again with the pencils.

These are other rats I have worked on. I am especially proud of The Feast (one in graphite) – it married very well with my mission to draw hands and practice gesture. The bonus of the hand being consumed by Low creatures is that wonky bits can easily be blamed on the little nibblers!

Bibliography and Inspiration

Anatomy Essentials, Imagine FX/Future Publishing.

Beginners Guide to Sketching: characters, creatures and concepts, 3dtotal Publishing, 2015

Music I listened to

Chronicles of the Wasteland/ Turbo Kid Original Motion Picture Soundtrack  –  Le Matos, 2015

The Devil Wears Prada – Space EP

Faith and the Muse – various

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Murderous Abbie

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Murderous Abbie

 

I’ve had a bad cold and I’ve been in the doldrums, thinking a lot about what I am doing. I have been working on some of my character portraits. I wanted to spend the week finishing and refining some ongoing projects (they must be deemed finished at some point and the deadline for that book is approaching!)  I think that is the hardest part – knowing when to stop – I heard someone once say – stop when it cannot be made any more beautiful – but what if it isn’t beautiful? What if all I see are the flaws? The things that frustrate the hell out of me?  The things I want to do better? I think stopping when things are barely adequate is crazy but you can take the thing too far and destroy all your hard work, too. I think I did that when I first decided I needed to draw a face. I remember being really happy with  a lot of my early attempts and so I didn’t push myself enough perhaps – and then when I realised that the drawings could be a great deal better  I often found I kept pushing it until it looked overworked and seriously lacking in spontaneity. I think there is a vile fine line between the path of inadequacy and that of the destroyer!

I hope the things that I am making now are heading in that direction.  We never stop learning so it would be insanity to stop and say that will do, but I guess equally important – we mustn’t give up when we realise we could be more.

I’m going back to bed.

Oh, wait. I guess I should explain about Abbie. She’s a new character I am illustrating. She is a slightly murderous, post-apocalyptic badass, and scarred. Inside and out.  I hope she stays for a while as I really enjoyed drawing her – from her wild hair to her scarred, pretty face.

These images show the stages of my drawing – I will probably try to remember to keep a record like this in the future. I can then look back and find exactly where it all went wrong!

 

 

Bibliography and Inspiration

Turbo Kid – Directed by Anouk Whissell, Francois Simard and Yoann-Karl Whissell – 2015

– because it’s a post-apocalyptic masterpiece!

Anatomy Essentials, Imagine FX/Future Publishing

Faigin, G., The Artists Complete Guide to Facial Expression, Watson-Guptill Publications, 1992

Beginners Guide to Sketching: characters, creatures and concepts, 3dtotal Publishing, 2015

3dtotal.com

 

Music I listened to

Chronicles of the Wasteland/ Turbo Kid Original Motion Picture Soundtrack  –  Le Matos, 2015

Because it’s a post-apocalyptic/80’s/synthwave masterpiece!

The Gnarly Knuckle

I’ve been doing some work on hands – it’s something I’ve really started to love to draw – they are not that easy and just to make life even harder I like to choose really awkward poses – it’s rewarding to draw, more interesting to look at and sometimes a gnarly zombie hand emerges from the graphite dust just begging for some rot to be added to its suffering limbs, and what’s not to like about that!?

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Hand drawn in graphite

The first drawing was done from some photos of my hand and arm in tense gestures. I wanted all the tendons to show so I could try getting the tension down on paper. I think I succeeded and the next step was to re-do the piece in watercolour pencil, like another zombie hand I made recently.  I used tracing paper to transfer the image and I did a little research (see bibliography) to figure out what level of rot and bone exposure I would be going for.

I traced it onto a watercolour background I had painted previously – I like practicing washes and trying different colour mixes to create atmosphere, and I always try and make them with possible backgrounds for drawings in mind – it’s less wasteful!

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The Gnarly Knuckle – gnarled with watercolour pencils

For this drawing, I intentionally used a lot more watercolour pencil than I would normally go for as I wanted the hand to look like old, rotten, dirty skin – perhaps a little too much in retrospect as there were some areas that looked a little too muddy even for a dead thing – so, I re-wet the areas I wasn’t happy with and lifted some of the colour off with some clean kitchen paper. I then used a clean, wet brush to blend and pull the colours around until I was happy. Once dry, I went back in with the watercolour pencil and tidied up any lost lines or little details I wanted to keep. I will probably do more pieces like these – it’s excellent practice and seriously good for ones calm.

Bibliography and Inspiration:

Leonardo da Vinci, Anatomist , Clayton. M, and Philo, R, Royal Collection Publications, 2014

Fantasy Underground – How to Draw Zombies,  Butkis, M, and Destefano, M, Walter Foster Publishing Inc, 2010

Beginners Guide to Sketching: characters, creatures and concepts, 3dtotal Publishing, 2015

3dtotal.com

Craftsy.com

Music I listened to:

The Zombie E.P – The Devil Wears Prada

Siouxie and the Banshees-  Hyaena

The Chameleons

Requiem in White

Portrait in charcoal

This is a recent portrait I made in charcoal. He is a new character in the book I am working on and I spent a huge amount of time practising this guy as I didn’t have any useful reference photos, or a model for that matter, and I didn’t want it to end up being a caricature just because I was trying to do it from my imagination.

Must

Different races have key characteristics which an artist can refer to but that shouldn’t be an excuse to over exaggerate features just to make your point.  Gary Faigin (from Craftsy) briefly covers the differences in skulls and explained that Caucasian skulls in profile are flatter, African are sloping outwards (with the jaw sitting further out in relation to the forehead) and Asian skulls fall somewhere between the two.  I did a little more rooting around on this subject and there are even more skull types to learn about. I actually ended up drawing upon a variety of sources to make this drawing, including google for information and images about the skull, Faigin, graphic novels and I used an image of Christie from Alien Resurrection for his expression and age.

I stayed with charcoal for this drawing to be consistent with the rest of the portraits I have been doing but mostly because I am really enjoying learning to use this messy, unpredictable medium! I love blending with different brushes and I am discovering that depending on the coarseness of the bristle you can manipulate the charcoal in different ways. A small, flat, soft synthetic brush can push the charcoal in different directions, a finer brush loosely used in a circular motion can help blend small areas. Courser bristles can push the charcoal into the paper to help lay down a darker tone, and when finding the initial shapes this can be pretty useful in preventing greasy finger marks on the paper.

Bibliography and Inspiration

Craftsy.com

Faigin, G., The Artists Complete Guide to Facial Expression, Watson-Guptill Publications, 1992

Skulls and Race in google images

Alien: Resurrection, Directed by  Jean-Pierre Jeunet and written by Joss Whedon, 1997

Music I listened to

Faith and the Muse

Dear Love: A Beautiful Discord – The Devil Wears Prada

Don’t Stop Believing – Journey

The Big Stink – The men who will not be blamed for nothing

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XwemMOMmWM

I love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness

Creeps of London Underground

I have been drawing zombies and zombie portraits for a book a friend of mine is writing – he is self-publishing and when he asked if I would help I was really excited as I am big a fan of the old zombie!

He had a deadline and so my earlier drawings needed to be kept simple – I didn’t have that much time to explore some of the ideas I had so I saw book 1 as a chance to develop characters.  Now I am on book 2 I am continuing working on the characters but I am also taking my ideas a little further and exploring action, gesture and composition.

Blood Chin Zombie

This is one of my newer zombie portraits – a recently infected wreck of a man who just scored a meal. Compared to my previous portraits I have focused more on detail, rather than mood, as I have started to think about the decomposition of muscle and flesh. It’s no way near that point yet – but I can see my exploration of anatomy is going to be useful for this project and that’s the next step for me – I will be working from the inside out.

Like my other attempts, I used charcoal and a variety of old watercolour brushes for blending.  I spent some time looking at zombie art and graphic novels, and I bought “Fantasy Underground – How to Draw Zombies” so I could take some lessons – my page “Zombie Book” includes some of the little projects I did and I think they were really useful and most importantly, lots of fun. I’m also using “Anatomy for Fantasy Artists” which has been very useful for gesture, anatomy and reference photos.

Tunnel zombies

This is a scene I am working on (I think it’s almost finished) showing zombies creeping towards a fleshy meal in the dark tunnels of the London Underground. I used vanishing point to work out the perspective and I tried to make sure all the heads of the upright zombies in the mid ground and background were at the same level which helps keep the perspective consistent. I began by lightly working out the larger shapes and then focusing on the gesture, capturing the smaller details as I went along. I used graphite and a lot of swearing.

 

Bibliography and Inspiration

Leonardo da Vinci, Anatomist , Clayton. M, and Philo, R, Royal Collection Publications, 2014

Fantasy Underground – How to Draw Zombies,  Butkis, M, and Destefano, M, Walter Foster Publishing Inc, 2010

Anatomy for Fantasy Artists – An essential guide to creating action figures and fantastical forms, Fabry, G., and Cormack, B., David and Charles Publishers, 2006.

The Walking Dead Vol. 1, Kirkman, R. and Moore, T. Image Comics, 2006.

The Walking Dead Vol 2 -17, Kirkman, R., et al, Image Comics.

Revival, Seeley, T. and Norton, M., Image Comics,

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Graphic Novel, Austen, J. and Grahame-Smityh, S., Titan Books, 2009.

Music I listened to

The Zombie E.P – The Devil Wears Prada

The Powerless Rise – As I Lay Dying

An Ocean Between Us – As I lay Dying

JuJu – Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Creep  – Radiohead

My Dead Hand

This is the first instalment of my art journal. One of the things I always find daunting is drawing realistic hands and I want to address that because it is one of the main reasons I am nervous about drawing actual people. I decided I needed to learn about anatomy so that my attempts do not look so wooden and they look believable.  Besides, to draw a good zombie one must be aware of its innards!

This is My Dead Hand – it’s actually my hand and I have zombified it. I used watercolour for the background and watercolour pencil for the hand itself.

 

 

These hand sketches are the result of gesture exercises from a class I bought on Craftsy – a very useful online resource which provides tuition videos and feedback on many creative endeavours. I have also been looking at Da Vinci’s “Anatomist” and some of the Fantasy Underground books for some clues and inspiration.

 

I have been practicing drawing hands with graphite on rough paper, as you go through a lot just finding the movement and shape to begin with, and it seemed less wasteful than using up a good sketchbook.  I get a little precious over nice paper so this approach helped me loosen up and throw caution to the wind! My aim is to show the gesture and energy in the hand and I think these sketches are good examples of the stages and the progress I have made so far. The more polished piece (dare I say finished?) is for a zombie story a friend of mine is self-publishing. He asked me to do some illustrations for his book – a task which has been hard work but motivating, and one that has helped me to focus on some of the goals that are important to me; improving my knowledge on anatomy, and developing my skills using gesture. I am now working on the second volume and this drawing is one I hope to include.

The zombie hands were rendered using watercolour for the background and watercolour pencils for the hands. I have always wanted to make a decent water colour piece but I have had very little success. I don’t think I have the patience. Water soluble pencils are great because you can make the drawing and then use water to make it look more painterly. They appeal to me as I am more of a drawer than a painter. I have realised through trial and error to move the water away from the light area to the dark – otherwise flat or even muddy nightmares result.  I’ve included some of my favourite sketches here and the rest of them are on my sketchbook page – a sort of gallery of efforts  and progress.

Bibliography and Inspiration:

craftsy.com

Leonardo da Vinci, Anatomist , Clayton. M, and Philo, R, Royal Collection Publications, 2014

Fantasy Underground – How to Draw Zombies,  Butkis, M, and Destefano, M, Walter Foster Publishing Inc, 2010

Beginners Guide to Sketching: characters, creatures and concepts, 3dtotal Publishing, 2015

3dtotal.com

 

Music I listened to:

The Zombie E.P – The Devil Wears Prada

The Powerless Rise – As I Lay Dying

Requiem – Mozart

Ocean Rain – Echo and the Bunnymen