Drawing is my main focus whenever I produce a piece of artwork, whatever media I am using. It is a strong underlying drawing which I find so important and forms the backbone of my pieces. I love using colour, often working with acrylic inks and acrylic paints but I often find that working tonally can be a really powerful and beneficial thing to do as an artist because it forces you to concentrate on form and composition in a completely different way than when you use colour. It is quite unforgiving, however, and there is nowhere to hide when you draw purely tonally!
For ‘Porthleven Harbour’ I chose to use just acrylic ink in Paynes Grey on stretched Fabriano Artistico 300gsm HP paper, and all the different shades you see in the finished drawing were all formed by diluting the ink with water in varying amounts.
To begin with, when you’re drawing tonally, I’ve found it really important to choose a subject that has strong directional lighting. The day I was wandering around Porthleven on the south West Cornwall coast was a bright, sunny spring day. You want plenty of light and shadows to really make the drawing leap off the page.
I took a series of photographs which I used to create the drawing back at my studio. I’m not a fantastic photographer and tend to use them as an aide memoir, often sticking them together to form a panorama and taking lots of different angles of the subject.
Initially I drew sketched the outline of my piece in pencil, being careful to get the proportions and perspective right. Line drawings do highlight any mistakes, so it is necessary to be as accurate as possible. I often have to draw, step away and redraw parts of my drawing many times until I’m happy with it.
I really loved drawing all the fishermen’s equipment which had just been unloaded off a boat and stacked at the side. I thought this gave a different view of Porthleven to that I’m used to seeing being drawn or painted by other artists and really showed the atmosphere of this lovely little, working harbour.
Once I was satisfied with the pencil drawing, I started to redraw the outline in ink. Usually, when I’m producing an acrylic ink drawing, I use a dipping pen but as this had such fine detail, I decided to use fine line pens, as I find that they give me much more control over the thickness and quality of line.
For this drawing I used Copic Multiliners in black, in thicknesses, 0.05, 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.5. They give a lovely smooth line in a great variety of thicknesses and the nibs and ink are replaceable, which is particularly useful for the very thin nibs as they are easily damaged.
Finally I started to ink in all the different tones by building up layers of washes of Daler Rowney FW Acrylic Ink in Paynes Grey. The ink is permanent, and unlike watercolour, once it is on the paper, that’s it so it is very important to build up the shades slowly and carefully.
It is at this point that the drawing really starts coming to life and that it seems to start to jump off the paper! I particularly enjoyed building up the light and shade and textures in the fishermen’s equipment and especially the pile of rope. This was where having strong lighting really helped the picture as the contrast between light and shade made it very three dimensional.
In the following photo, you can also see where I’ve drawn test lines with my fine line pens, so that I could decide which thickness pen to use where!
After I had painted in the houses in the background, I noticed they were too dark. I added some white ink over the top to lighten them slightly. This isn’t ideal and I do notice it but I don’t think it detracts too much from the finished drawing, so I went with it!
Once I was happy that I’d finished the ink washes, I completed and signed the drawing. It is so difficult as an artist to know when to stop but when using acrylic ink which is so permanent and tricky to change once it’s on the paper, less is most definitely more!
The original of 'Porthleven Harbour' has been sold but prints are available. For more information click here
This is an acrylic painting based on a watercolour sketch and photos from my summer holiday in North Wales on the border of Snowdonia.
On the last day of our holiday we leapt in the car and drove up to the hills as it had stopped raining at last and we could tell that there was going to be a dramatic sunset!
I did a quick watercolour painting in my sketchbook which I did inside the car as it was VERY windy!
I used this sketch and some photographs taken at the time as reference for my painting
Initially I sketched out the view in pencil. I then laid down the colours very quickly using acrylic ink. I like to use ink when working on paper as an under painting as it is ver fluid and the colours can be got down on large surfaces quite quickly
Here's a detail of the under painting in acrylic ink...
As always, I started painting the sky first with acrylic paint. I always use a stay-wet palette with my acrylic paints to stop them from drying out and I use a 'flow improver' to mix them with as well as water as it slows down the dying time and creates lovely thin, even washes.
The sky was quite tricky to get right! It was such a dramatic sky, but I also wanted the clouds to look not too solid which was quite a struggle! I used lots of thin washes of lots of greys to achieve this.
I loved painting the golds and oranges of the setting sun.
It was time to start on the hills in the background. They had a pale, misty lilac hue which made them recede into the background and parts of them were obscured by the clouds.
As I worked on the green hills farther forwards, I used glazes of white and green to push them back and lessened this for the hills as they got closer. Sometimes I use my finger to smudge the glazes.
I then worked on the trees in the foreground. They needed to be quite dark and solid looking against the hills.
Finally it was time to work on the scrubby grasses and bushes in the foreground. For green fields there was a surprising amount of different colours and shades! I used a lot more detail in the grasses right at the front of the picture, again to give the perception of depth
The finished painting
The colours look different in the final photograph as the progress shots were only taken with the camera on my phone!
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