To Catch a Mouse

Continuing the Mouse Story, the next two images are going to be small illustrations of how our mouse was caught.   Below are the initial sketches.

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Initial sketches

The first one was transferred onto watercolour paper, this is just of the trap and the mouse.

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Transferred onto watercolour paper

My first step was to get a little paint down to hint at the surroundings. This was a thin mix of Ultramarine and Gamboge yellow to represent the green carpet, and then Yellow Ochre, with a tiny touch of Cadmium Red and Ultramarine to make the amber colour of the trap. The amber mix was very thin so that I could build up layers of colour depending on how many walls of the trap were being looked through. 

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Getting some paint on the page

Next I added the basic mouse colour which is Ultramarine with Alizarin Crimson and a little Yellow Ochre.

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Basic mouse colour

Then a very thin mix of Alizarin Crimson and Gamboge for the fleshy parts of the mouse with some of the fur colour dotted onto the tail while it was wet to suggest a few hairs. I added the eye and the rubber bumper on the trap.

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Details

The shadows were next assuming the light was directly above.

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Shadow

And finally a few details like the little end of the pivot on the trap and whiskers on the mouse.

Whiskers

The mouse trap took quite a long time to get right, I had a lot of failed attempts, trying to get the angle right and to make it look interesting. Here are just a few.

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Then on to the next little illustration, this time with the mouse in the trap.

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Transferred onto watercolour paper

As before the image was transferred onto the watercolour paper, Bockingford as usual.

 

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Basic mouse colour

I started the painting by filling in the body of the mouse, this time using a little more Yellow Ochre to give the mouse a slight tint of the amber colour that would have reflected on him as the light passed through the trap.

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Painting the trap

Next I painted the trap, again with the thin amber mix.

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Painting depth

I added more layers to show where less of the light got through and also the shadow to the breathing holes. The white plastic trap trigger was toned down with just the slightest hint of colour in clean water as the light shining through does this. I also painted his tail just as I did in the previous illustration and added shadow to the black bumper.

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Whiskers

Finally I added the whiskers.

 

Here are the final illustrations shot in a slightly better light.

 

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Next time, freedom.

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In the Beginning

After a much longer break than anticipated I am back to the mouse book that I started quite a while back. Below are my sketches for the first two images, as I mentioned in my blog back in April,   https://wp.me/p7Ohdq-j7  ,   the story is about a mouse’s adventures after he is caught and removed from the house.

The first painting is of the mouse in the boiler cupboard, it seems to be one of their favourite places, we even found a shrew in there once which was very vocal about being removed.

As usual I drew out the image on Bockingford paper with a pale purple watercolour pencil so that it washes away once the paint is added.

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As the cupboard is dark I mixed Ultramarine, Alizarin Crimson and Lemon Yellow watercolour  to make a dark grey to paint the inside shadowy areas and the back of the door. To contrast the inside with with the outside I used a mixture of Lemon Yellow and Gamboge Hue to represent the light from the room outside. Once dry, I painted another layer of the grey to increase the depth of the shadows inside the cupboard.  The old piece of paper on the back of the door was painted with Yellow Ochre and a little touch of  Ultramarine.

Next was the pipework which was painted using Cadmium Red, Ultramarine and Gamboge Hue,  to make a dark coppery colour and for the joints I added extra Gaboge Hue for a lighter brassy look. The shadows were added using more of the grey mixture. For the mouse I used Ultramarine, a small amount of Alizarin Crimson and Yellow Ochre which tends to granulate and gives a nice texture for the fur, and I dabbed off with tissue for the lighter areas. The mouse’s shadow was painted using the same grey as the inside of the cupboard and for the mousetrap I used a watered down version of the pipework mixture. Finally I added the little details and shadows and used a black watercolour pencil on the eye and around the joints of the pipes.

The second image is the same scene looked at from the outside of the cupboard, so the room is painted with the mixture of Lemon Yellow and Gamboge Hue and the dark cupboard with the grey mix. The rest was just adding a few details to the room with the mouse trap and the jar of peanut butter to hint at what the smell was that brought the mouse out of the safety of the cupboard.  This image also expresses just how small the little mouse was out in the big wide world.

Here are the two finished paintings, the start of the story where the mouse is tempted out and gets caught in the trap.

And here are the sketches for the next two images where the mouse travels in the trap and is released.

Archie

For the last two years we have had a regular visitor to our garden we call him Archie. Archie is a beautiful male pheasant, he started appearing in Spring last year, usually under the bird feeders picking up whatever the other birds dropped, so we started feeding him then too.  After a month or so he brought a female along with him and then two females, they too are very beautiful close up with delicate lace like patterns on their feathers and a pinkish ring around their eyes. He would strut around the garden showing off to them and we hoped that we might get to see some of the chicks later but we never did. The females gradually stopped coming so we assumed that they were sitting on eggs but Archie kept turning up to be fed until mid Summer and then he to came less and less  and then not at all.  Then just into the new year Archie reappeared followed a few weeks later by a female.  They are now so used to us that they stand out side of the patio door waiting, sometimes I am sure that they knock on the window sill to attract our attention. Archie fluffs up his feathers and does the occasional call but his Mrs ignores him and keeps eating.   We are hoping that we may get to see some chicks this year but even if we don’t it has been wonderful having these beautiful birds become part of our lives and of course  subjects for me to paint, and we really must come up with a name for the female.

 

 

Starlings

The Starlings arrive a little after the Swallows leave, then again when the Starlings leave it is about a month until I see my first Swallow, they both chatter away happily on the telephone wires.  The Swallows swoop around in small groups and look down on me as I work in the garden and even occasionally fly in and out of the open landing window looking for a nesting site.  Starlings swarm across the sky moving from hedge to field and back again whole clouds of them settle in the trees at the side of the garden and produce a cacophony of squeaks, squawks and whistles. When the Swallows leave I am sad because I know that it means that Winter in on its way and the flowers in the garden will fade but the Starlings arrival cheers me back up with the sound of their happy chatter and the exhilarating feeling as hundreds of them hurtle past sucking the air along with them.

So I thought it was high time that I painted my noisy little visitors. As usual I took lots of photographs and did some sketches and decided that I would paint some of them sat on the telephone wires.

I drew them out and painted working left to right so that I could move on as each one dried without smudging the previous Starling, I am right handed so that is probably why I instinctively started with the largest on the left and worked away to the smallest on the right.

The tips of the breast and shoulder feathers where left white and I dropped in the purple and green while the paint was wet to hint at the iridescence. I also used salt to soften the look of the feathers and to give them more texture.

Working along the line I gradually reduced the amount of detail to help create the feeling of depth. I strengthened some of the greens and purples with thin washes and toned down the brightness of the white feathers by brushing over with clean water that picked up just enough colour from the other feathers to make the white less stark. Finally I painted the legs and beaks and added a few shadows.

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When I finish a picture I leave it propped up where I can see it while I do other things, this gives me chance to think about it and to decide whether it is really finished or not. I came to the conclusion that the last few birds were an unnecessary distraction so having photographed it I digitally removed the last three. The original painting still has all eight but it is helpful to be able to see both versions.

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Pan sitting in a hedge.

Just over a year ago I was looking for an excuse to paint a hedgerow when I discovered a poem by Don Moore called  “The Hedgerow Watcher”, It was exactly what I was looking for, a Cornish hedge, with many wildflowers and small animals in a Cornish landscape.

Here I will describe how I went about creating the first of what turned out to be a four part painting.

The poem is full of descriptions so that made it very easy to visualise  the scene. To begin with I did some very rough sketches of what I was aiming at and then some sketches of other images I could find of Pan and of men sitting on the floor.

As Pan is sat in the an Elder bush I chose to use the more upright of the figures, it also  felt more exotic and would adjust better to look like the god. I added the horns and beard  and made the cheek bone more pronounced, then finally added the faun legs and feet. Next I had to work out the size that would fit best, so I copied out various sizes and tried them on a rough sketch of the scene drawn out on the same size paper as the final piece. It sounds long winded but it saves problems later. When I was happy with everything I copied it out on to the watercolour paper and drew the Elder bush.

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So that I didn’t loose Pan amongst the leaves and branches I painted his skin first to make him stand out. Next I painted the branches so that I could see where they crossed the body and where the leaves would be, adjusting as I went along. I tend to work from the top left to the bottom right to reduce the chances of damaging any paint, so once the structure was done I filled in from that corner down adding the detail as I went. When all the scene was painted I added shadow to give depth.

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As I said earlier this was the first part of four, each 22 x 15 inches all four parts were painted simultaneously so as to keep them all consistent with each other, for example , Pan also appears in the last part so I painted both Pans at the same time so that there was no variation in colour.

Pan in the Elder bush

The final four panels were the centre piece of my foundation degree exhibition last year.

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The Hedgerow Watcher, from a poem by Don Moore

https://hellopoetry.com/poem/1548247/the-hedgerow-watcher/

The Old Dun Cow

 

“The Old Dun Cow” is an old music hall song from the late 19th century about a group of men who are in a pub when it catches fire. Instead of getting out of the fire the men stay to take advantage of the free beer and spirits, and the song tells of their antics. I first heard the song performed by the folk band ‘Bellowhead’, listening to the tale evoked images of the pubs customers and their efforts to take advantage of the situation and although people are not my normal type of subject I couldn’t resist trying to represent them in paint.

 

 

 

I started by trying to work out the layout of the scene which included four drinkers and a pot-man. To get as much of the story into one frame I have played with time to show as much as possible happening at once and rearranged  the layout and the perspective to  show the firemen through the window. To fill the space more effectively I tried moving the people about, for example the figure second from the left in sketch number 1 moves from standing to sitting in sketch number 2, and the one on the far right goes from sitting to standing. The cat moves from left to right and as you will see in the next sketch below the man on the floor turns so his head is on the right, not in the middle of the picture. It felt more natural to have the man on the floor this way around if he had originally been sat at the table with his friends and to have the pot-man standing on the right helps to show that he is separate from the group and that he has just entered the room. Sketch number 3 was to work out how to show the shock experienced by the pot-man and how he interacts with the drinkers. In the sketch below I tried the pot-mans head in several positions and worked out a few other details before starting the final painting, you will note that the lamps still changed position and the window and firemen were added.

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Some of the other things that I considered were the style of clothing and the lamps. The clothes, I think, could be from anywhere between 1880-1950, the lamps caused me more of a problem. Would they have candles or gas lamps?  I don’t think it would be electric.  Then I worried that if they were gas lamps in reality there would of been an explosion. I decided I was probably over thinking the small details for an image depicting a comic song.

The final image was as usual drawn out with watercolour pencils and painted with Daler-Rowney Artists’ quality watercolour paints on Bockingford 300gsm paper.

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Here is a link for the ‘Bellowhead’ version of “The Old Dun Cow”, that inspired the painting.

 

Drawing

One of my long term projects is to create illustrations for a book of animal poems, it is something I drop in and out of when time allows. In the book the animals are having a party and each party goer has to perform their party piece, so my task is to illustrate the animals doing recognisable human actions (or extreme human actions in some cases). Because the animals are doing things that they couldn’t really do I have to imagine their positions. To enable me to do this I have to get to know how the animal works physically, I do this by drawing them, a lot. Drawing them enough times in different positions helps me to imagine how they would look doing unusual things. Practising in this way is also useful when I want to change the composition of a painting, it helps me to move wings and limbs and heads into natural positions.

 

  A few practice sketches of various characters.

Once I have the positions right I can transfer the outline to watercolour paper and create the final image. Below are just a few of the characters so far. We have a stunt diving duck, two beavers dancing a tango, an acrobatic tortoise and a sad clown buffalo about to receive a custard pie.