The next part of the story was actually the first that I painted, even though it is in the middle of the tale. Whilst our mouse is trying to find his way home he is spotted by a Barn Owl and has to run for his life.
As usual the image is drawn out in watercolour pencil on the Bockingford paper.
I was worried about painting the wings, I had not tried before, so I worked on them first, if it didn’t work out it was then easier to start again, luckily it went ok. Most of the wings are white so what I actually had to paint were the shadows of where they overlapped and then just a few of the patterns that cross the feathers. Lastly the hint of the coloured feathers on the back that cover the wings when they are folded. I used salt on the wet paint to give the mottled effect and added some of the little black dots that cover the feathers.
Next, the shadows on the body and tail to give the owl a more three dimensional appearance and the top of the head again with salt for the mottled effect. The eyes are dark and concentrate on the mouse and the claws are exaggerated to increase the awareness of the danger that our mouse is in.
For the mouse I tweaked the perspective to emphasise the speed and the panic as he tries to escape and made the rabbit small as he disappears into the background making his getaway.
And then the dandelions, I think I could paint them in my sleep now I have done so many but these were the first.
Lastly the dots of light in the owls eyes, it makes all the difference.
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So what happens next? Does he escape? Yes, of course he does, see how very soon.
To continue with the Mouse story, we are following our mouse on his adventures as he tries to find his way home. This time he meets a rabbit happily eating away at the dandelions but not very forthcoming with information.
After drawing out the scene as usual in watercolour pencil my first problem was how to make the rabbit look fluffy. So I worked on mixing the colour required choosing watercolours that tend to granulate, in this case yellow ochre with ultramarine, a little coeruleum blue and a touch of Alizarin Crimson. The yellow ochre and the coeruleum being good for granulation if the mixture is right. I experimented with the mixtures until I found one that worked then damped the area to be painted and quickly applied the paint, then it had to be left to do its magic.
Some of the paint separates and the heavier granules sink into the indents of the watercolour paper giving a soft textural effect and damping the paper meant that the paint would fill the area leaving soft edges. I painted the rabbit first because that was the part of the painting that had the most chance of going wrong, they do sometimes, and if I had to start again I would not have lost to much work.
Next the mouse and sketching in of the surroundings.
Then as usual working top to bottom filling in the landscape. First, sky and distance.
Note the hint of an owl in the sky in the distance, I try to leave clues in the pictures as to what might be happening next. Then the middle ground, trying to merge everything slowly into focus.
Then the foreground with all the detail and the warmest colours. Finally the finishing touches, the inside of the ear, details on the eyes and face and last of all the whiskers.
I have not gone into any detail of the colour mixes in this picture as they have mostly been the same in the past paintings, any new colour mixes that I use in the future I will include in each new blog.
Any guesses what will be happening to our little mouse next?
It has been a long while since my last blog but sometimes life happens. So to continue my mouse story, this is where the mouse sets about trying to get home, he tries to talk to anyone he sees. As usual I transferred the design onto the watercolour paper using watercolour pencils. The mouse is stood in the field looking up at some birds on a wire, you may remember the starlings from a while back, well they are the upper half of this scene.
The mouse was painted first again using a mix of French Ultramarine with a little Alizarin Crimson and Yellow Ochre, doubling the layers for the darker areas. Then I gave the dandelion flowers a light yellow wash so that I didn’t lose them amongst the greenery and used a white wax crayon do draw little stars on the seed heads.
Next using a very watered down mix of the mouse colour I painted over the seed heads and dropped a touch of the stronger mix in the middle. The wax resist remains white and just hints at the little umbrellas attached to the seeds and the darker area in the middle is the old flower head. I mixed a basic paint for the leaves of French Ultramarine and Lemon Yellow and used this for the start of all the other greens adding either more Ultramarine or Lemon Yellow or Gamboge Hue, or Coeruleum blue and sometimes Alizarin.
It is a long process building up all the layers of green but it is just a matter of filling them in and adding shadows. I used the white wax crayon again on the flowers, little dots and lines to represent the petals and then painted over with the Gamboge Hue. The soil is little squiggles of various colours mixed with Alizarin or Yellow Ochre and tiny dots and splodges of greens for the smaller weeds and mosses, with added tiny pebbles.
The page in the book will have the starlings at the top so I have made a mock up of what I hope it will look like.
Last Winter was the hardest we have had in all the 16 years that we have lived in Cornwall. There were drifts across the roads and the roads themselves were just sheets of glass. Every path and surface was coated in freezing rain and the wind cut like a blade but the Robin still sat on the ice covered crab-apple tree and sang. So here is a watercolour tribute to that hardy little bird.
This is the view from an up-stairs window of my home. I have left a few things out, like telephone lines and a farm building to help with the flow of the picture. As usual I sketched out the design using a watercolour pencil, this time it was lavender in colour.
Because of the snow most of the paper is left white and the paint, for the most part, is various strengths of the same mix, French Ultramarine, Prussian Blue and Alizarin Crimson. I painted the distant fields with an extremely thin wash of the mix and when that was dry started to paint the hedges in the middle of the picture adding salt to the wet paint to create the mottled snow covered effect. Starting in the middle gives me a base to work from so that I can create the feeling of distance by painting the back with a weaker mix and the front with a stronger one.
Then I painted in the distant fields and added in some stronger tones for shadows, all the time adding salt to the wet paint.
When painting the foreground I added a little yellow ochre to the paint mix and dropped in more of the stronger colour for shadows.
When that was dry I drew in the top of the crab-apple tree.
Then painted the tree with a much stronger version of the same mix
Finally I added the Robin and some snow flakes.
The snow causes no end of problems, mainly because we have it so rarely and are therefore unprepared but I love it and I hope we have the same again this year.
Continuing with my mouse story this is where he finds himself after being brave enough to leave the safety of the hole in the wall, in a huge expanse of open countryside. Normally mice don’t have very good eye sight but for the sake of the story this mouse has amazing human like optical abilities.
As usual to begin I sketched out the basics with watercolour pencil. With the moors in the distance and just a hint of the sea on the left hand side.
Then working from the top down I painted the sky with Coeruleum blue and a touch of Alizarin Crimson, painting right down into the valley. I also used the blue to paint the sea, just hinting at the waves. When the sky was dry, I added a little more Alizarin and water to the mix and painted the moors in the distance, painting over the blue down into the valley. The closer hills were painted using a mix of the Coeruleum blue, Ultramarine and Gamboge yellow and a lot of water.
The other fields were painted using the same mix but also with touches of other colours added into the wet paint to make each field slightly different. In the two ploughed fields I added Ultramarine and Yellow Ochre just as the paint was drying and applied it in straight lines to suggest the lines of the plough. The field boundaries where left to paint later to stop the different colours from bleeding into each other. The group of trees were painted using Ultramarine and Prussian Blue with a little Lemon Yellow and I used a little of each of the colours to paint the cliffs and rocks by the sea.
Using the same mixture that I used for the trees I made little marks on the moor to look like fields and trees in the distance. Then strengthening the mix I marked in the closer field boundaries, gradually adding Gamboge yellow the nearer I got to the front. I put a faint wash of yellow on the dandelion flowers so that I didn’t lose them amongst the green. The mouse is painted in the usual mix of Ultramarine, Alizarin and Yellow Ochre dabbing off a little underneath and at the front where the mouse is lighter. The tin building was painted with the sky colour and I used the mouse colour for the shadows.
For the green plants at the front I used various shades of Ultramarine mixed with Gamboge yellow with occasional drops of Prussian Blue and Lemon Yellow. To make the group of trees more three dimensional I added water sparingly to the whole group and then dropped in a darker shade of the tree colour. The Dandelion flowers were painted with Gamboge Yellow and then when dry some of the paint was lifted off with a damp brush to form the petals. Colour was added to the mouse’s eye, feet and tail. A hint of buildings in the distance, another layer of the blue to the sea, the centre’s to the Dandelion clocks, a neutral tint to the road and it was done.
The next part of the story is where the mouse is released into the wild fields of Cornwall. Although we need to catch any mice we find in the house it is not something we enjoy but setting them free and watching them bound away is a wonderful experience. Just sometimes they don’t rush off, they sit and assess the situation or even have a quick wash so we stand very still until they eventually go. This is what developed into the story, as a family we would discuss what we thought the mice, we had released, would get up to and what adventures they would have.
Thankfully this is the last illustration that includes the mousetrap, I am glad I will not have to draw that again. So having worked out the basics I transferred them onto the watercolour paper.
I roughly sketched in the details that I wanted to add, especially the dandelions that feature a lot throughout the story, the field beyond the gate and the ivy on the gate post, all with watercolour pencils so that they would mostly wash away when the paint was added.
Then I finally got to start painting. Sky first using a very faint wash of Cobalt Blue with a touch of Alizarin Crimson. Then by adding just a little Gamboge Hue to make the green wash, I painted the field, leaving a few areas at the front to paint in the flowers later. While the green was still wet, with a tiny brush I dropped in touches of the Gamboge Hue to look like dandelions in the distance. The grey metal gate was painted using a stronger version of the sky mix but with extra red and yellow and further layers for the shadows. The trap was painted using very thin layers of Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre and Ultramarine, building up the layers depending on how much light was getting through and then the mouse using Ultramarine, Alizarin Crimson and Yellow Ochre. While that was drying I tidied up the sketches of the ivy and the dandelions and then painted some of the spaces left for flowers in the field leaving some white for the seed heads.
The ivy leaves were next, they were painted using a stronger version of the field colour leaving some white spaces for the veins. When the leaves were dry the gatepost was painted by filling the spaces with a little water and dropping in various colours which spread and merged to look a little like stone with lichen growing on it. The dandelions were painted using Ultramarine and Gamboge Hue adding a little more of the blue for the darker leaves. The flower heads are a weak layer of Gamboge Hue followed by a stronger second layer to define the petals and the seed heads were painted with water and then just a little of the mouse colour dropped in just below the centre so that it spread to fade into the white. The shoe is Prussian Blue and the foot is painted with very thin Alizarin Crimson and Yellow Ochre.
Next I added a shadow to the gate post and to the ivy leaves. Then I started filling in the colours of the gravel and stones on the path using various mixes of the colours already used in the rest of the illustration. I put in a few low growing plants and grasses and finished painting the dandelions. Finally I added some white highlights to the mouse trap.
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.
The first one was transferred onto watercolour paper, this is just of the trap and the mouse.
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.
Next I added the basic mouse colour which is Ultramarine with Alizarin Crimson and a little Yellow Ochre.
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.
The shadows were next assuming the light was directly above.
And finally a few details like the little end of the pivot on the trap and whiskers on the mouse.
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.
Then on to the next little illustration, this time with the mouse in the trap.
As before the image was transferred onto the watercolour paper, Bockingford as usual.
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.
Next I painted the trap, again with the thin amber mix.
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.
Finally I added the whiskers.
Here are the final illustrations shot in a slightly better light.
The Mouse Story is taking a little longer than expected, so much sunshine so it is harder to ignore the garden, after our very harsh Winter it is in need of much love and attention. In the mean time I have entered a cushion design competition with ‘Wraptious’, Using my Dragons from a while back , here are the five that I have entered.
For some time now a story I started about a mouse has been in limbo while other things were worked on. So now I am determined to complete my little book and thought that It would be interesting to share the process, it might take a while so here goes.
We sometimes have a problem with mice in the house, so we have humane mousetraps permanently set up in a few places where mice have been caught before, I check them every morning just in case we have had a visitor. There have not been any so far this year but in previous years we have caught quite a few. When we do catch one we take it up the road away from houses and release it into a hedge. The mice usually bound away but occasionally they have to be coaxed out and sometimes they run into the shadow of the person releasing them. As a family we have talked about what we think that the mice might get up to once they are released and what adventures they may have, so it occurred to me that these ideas would work nicely as a picture book.
Some of these photos are a little blurry, the mouse moves fast!
So my story is about a mouse that we caught in the house and then released up the road and all of his adventures until he finds his way back to the house again. I have done some of the work a little while back so much of the research has been done and some drawings and even a few paintings but I will try to work chronologically so the story can be followed as it grows.
Even more mice
Lots of mice were drawn
And some painted.
Over the next few weeks I will be working on the start of the story, I have rough sketches drawn and now I need to translate them into finished scenes.
Rough Sketches 1 and 2 waiting to be transformed into finished pages.
We have lived just outside Bude for sixteen years now and have never regretted moving here, even when the wind is blowing so hard that you can feel the floorboards shake. The weather can change very quickly from fog to sun and back to fog again and sometimes the fog hangs around for days but when that sun shines in the huge blue sky and the skylark is wittering somewhere over the fields, it is the best place on earth. Most of what I have written about in my blogs has been based on my garden or the moors and lanes of Cornwall so I thought it was time to look to the sea.
The beaches in Bude, Summerleaze and Crooklets, are huge, when the tide goes out the sea is just a thin line separating the sky from the sand. Looking out west across the sea the next piece of land is Newfoundland 2,200 miles away, so our beaches feel the full force of the Atlantic. This helps to keep Cornwall warm, often wet and definitely windy but it also means that we have wonderful waves, therefore surfing is very popular here. Walking along the tide line and looking back at the cliffs in the distance is quite an unusual experience, the roar of the waves being the only sound the rest of the world disappears.
Nearer the shore there are wonderful rock formations and rock pools covered in limpets and barnacles and teeming with life. There are the dunes and the sea pool, the river and the lock gates to the canal. The canal still runs inland for a couple of miles and otters have been seen by walkers on the towpath, we have also seen kingfishers, herons and little egrets in the marsh area where the river runs beside the canal. At the back of Summerleaze beach is the castle with the museum and galleries and of course there is town it’s self.
Moving away from Bude just a few miles to the north are Northcott Mouth , Sandymouth and Duckpool, three more tiny settlements with beautiful beaches. To the south is Widemouth with it’s long sweeping beach, Millook with it’s crazy rock formations, and Crackington Haven.
Then further south still is beautiful Boscastle and then legendary Tintagel.
At home we look out over the sea and on a clear day can see down to Trevose Head and at night can see the lighthouse flashing there. Although the coast is still a mile away we hear the roaring of the waves and can watch the storms blow in from the southwest. There are some drawbacks to living here, we are a very long way from everything, it takes over an hour and a half to reach the nearest motorway and 45 minutes to the nearest train but I think that my biggest problem is that I am going to need several lifetimes to paint everything.