A copper Dragon, I do like painting dragons, this one is in watercolour and ink.
Today it is a Cornish hedgerow, forever changing and always fascinating.
Day 1 Kingfisher
Just for fun to fill the gaps between episodes of the Mouse story a hundred days of art, a different picture everyday.
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?
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, ( https://wp.me/p7Ohdq-lG ) 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.
Next, Meeting the Locals
The fields of Cornwall are bounded by Cornish hedges this may sound obvious but it really isn’t. A Cornish hedge is a wall. It may be just a wall or it may be a wall with a hedge on top or a wall with trees on top or a wall with a whole mixture of things growing on, in or through it. Sometimes you cannot tell there is a wall at all as it has become so overgrown and looks like a huge bank with a complete ecosystem growing on top of it. Here are just a few examples.
These are the type of hedges/walls that surround the fields around our house and this is where our mouse runs to after he has been released, ( https://wp.me/p7Ohdq-kK ) they are the ideal place for him to hide.
As usual I drew out my illustration using watercolour pencils
Then I added some of the wildflowers and grass.
At last I could start the painting. I decided to paint the mouse first so that I could judge the colours in the wall better to ensure that the mouse would stand out. Each block of the wall was painted separately by flooding the area with water and then dropping in colour which would spread and merge together to create a natural effect. Then I sprinkled on a small amount of table salt to make random patterns.
I will not go into what colours were used for each block (the blog would be never ending) but over all I used Coeruleum blue, Yellow Ochre, Alizarin Crimson and the same mixture of grey that I used for the mouse which is French Ultramarine, Alizarin Crimson and Yellow Ochre. The mouse colour is much lighter on the wall because it is just dropped into clean water and dissipates.
Once I had done a few blocks and some started to dry I painted the cracks and some of the spaces between them with a stronger version of the mouse mix.
Then it was the grass and wildflowers which were painted using various mixes of green using French Ultramarine, Coeruleum blue, Lemon yellow and Gamboge Hue. The Mouse was finished using a very faint mix of Alizarin Crimson and Yellow Ochre for the ears and feet, the deep shadow mix for the eye with a white dot for reflection and the whiskers were drawn on with a gunmetal grey watercolour pencil.
Where does our mouse go from here?
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.
Next time a mouse sized hole to hide in.
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.
Next time, freedom.
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.
And below is a link to the original blog about finding dragons.
More on the ‘Mouse Story’ soon.
Can also be seen on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/Wraptious/posts/1843967958998987
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.
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.