No blog, just some of my recent paintings/sketchings…
After my pontifications in https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/painting-part-3/. I made some minor changes to the orangutan painting, but then stopped, thinking that I wasn’t really adding anything, just playing around. Maybe you get more confident with knowing that as time progresses?
Anyway, I did look into how to get a set of prints and had some lovely advice from https://www.sarahkingart.co.uk/ on first steps. Essentially there’s something called Giclée, which is an unofficial standard for prints and seems to comprise of the resolution of the image, the paper and the quality of the print. You could do the required standard of printing yourself but its not for the faint hearted due to the costs of the ink etc.
After some playing around with the scanner that’s built into my existing printer, I realised that I could get a good scan resolution on it which was a bonus. I then just did a quick google of printing companies and went with http://www.printed.com for my first toe dip in getting prints (they had an offer on!). A few days later they arrived – really pleased with how they look. They’re Giclée standard at A4 size on Hahnemühle Photo Rag Pearl 320gsm with a 2mm card backing (for anyone who cares!). Its satisfying to be developing this hobby, and continuing to learn.
I plan to try and sell the prints for https://www.orangutans-sos.org/. Hopefully someone will be interested!
(Update – they all went via Facebook/Instagram links and I donated the money raised – woohoo!).
For other painting blogs see:
Painting part 1 – https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/painting-part-one/
Painting part 2 – https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/painting-fur/
Painting part 3 – https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/painting-part-3/
So, although Covid-19 continues to be a concern, the overall lockdown has eased and some of the drivers that were there for doing all the craft (namely, keeping my sanity and entertaining the kids when we’re all in the house together 24/7) are not quite as intense.
Couple that with the fact that my son has become obsessed with going out to hunt Pokémon on Pokémon Go, and we seem to have spent more time outdoors chasing Pikachu through the park and less arts/craft. I definitely don’t want to stop consciously doing creative things with the kids but it’s been good to be outside more. That said, I’ve been continuing to draw and paint once they’re in bed, and it remains satisfying that I’m getting slowly better.
This week, I started working on this painting of an orangutan. Random, I know, but its world orangutan day on the 19th August (bet you didn’t know that) and in the back of my mind I thought maybe I could ask for a donation to charity from anyone who might want it when its finished.
It’s not yet finished but you get the idea…
I contacted the Sumatran Orangutan Society https://www.orangutans-sos.org/ to see whether they have a forum for selling paintings etc. They can try and sell things for you, but it’s easier if you do it yourself and then donate the profits so I will try and do that as even if it only gets £20 then that’s still something good for charity!
However, it also got me wondering about how prints are made from paintings, what’s the cost involved etc etc. I’m going to look into this and write about it for whoever’s interested in knowing about that sort of thing. As with most things I suspect that its only complicated until you know what to do.
Something else that’s been on my mind when practising painting, is when to stop with something you’re working on. I’ve never studied art or have any awareness of different styles etc, but it strikes me that as you do start to know your own preferences and skills, you have to make the decision on when is enough, enough. I know for example, that I’m not aiming for photo-type realism, so what am I aiming for?
As an example, take the orangutan painting. You can see that picture 2 is better than picture 1, but would a picture 3 be better than picture 2?
Picture 2 is where I’ve got to with it at the moment. It was never intended to be the final thing, but when I got up this morning I was actually pretty happy with it. Only thing is that I just bish, bash, boshed (technical term) the fur as I know I find it difficult (see https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/painting-fur/) and the fingers are only suggested, both of which I was aiming to go back and work on. I’m not now sure whether to do that or not though, so I thought to myself ‘am I starting to find my style?’, or ‘am I just scared of messing it up?’ (or can I just not do the detail?).
The answer I came to is that I need to keep going with it, and prove to myself how much is too much. I’m hoping that I’ll naturally find a point to stop where it looks its best, but I’m guessing I might go past that before I realise it!
I’ll put the finished thing on here so you can judge for yourselves. in the meantime don’t forget about world orangutan day, and if you’d like to make a donation to SOS, I’m sure they’d appreciate it.
For other painting blogs see:
Painting part 1 – https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/painting-part-one/
Painting part 2 – https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/painting-fur/)
This week I’ve tried to keep practicing painting when the kids are in bed. I’ve continued the dog theme (see https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/painting-part-one/) but chose to try and paint a friend’s Cavapoo; who is adorable but has really thick teddy bear like fur.
Here’s what the end products looked like:
You can see they’re pretty different. The larger one I was working on a lot and getting very frustrated that I couldn’t get it how I wanted it. The fur is really tricky to do, and although I wasn’t aiming for an exact replica of a photo, I did want something that at least looked like it had some texture. In the end I had to take a break from it as I was getting my hair off. Teaching yourself to paint has its limitations!
I then chose to do a much simpler one, building up the fur from the start by painting simple, thick strands on a dark background. I was pleased with that one, and felt it had a nice style to it that deliberately wasn’t aiming for realism. It encouraged me to go back to the bigger one.
Long story short is that I’m still not sure exactly how to make fur look realistic. I plan to look into this and try and develop. I don’t have the patience for really detailed work, I just can’t see that being my style even when I’m a lot better. So, I need to find a way of making it look good without having to spend hours on it – if you know any tips, let me know!
In the meantime I’ll just keep practicing and see how it goes.
For other painting blogs see:
Painting part 1 – https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/painting-part-one/
My pyrography hobby seems to have been short lived. The very quick lesson from this blog is don’t buy cheap pyrography pens – they will snap!
My daughter leaves nursery soon to go to school, and so I’d planned to make her keyworker a present. She’s been there for years so I thought it’d be a nice thing to do.
My first pyrography project was good (after some teething problems), and I learnt quite a lot on how to use the pen. For more info see: https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/pyrography/
So, I sat down last night and actually things went well to start, I’ve learnt how to use the different tips a lot better, and found I was much quicker.
Within an hour or so, I’d almost finished and it look like this.
Pretty nice really, the aim is to put it in a box frame and give it to them on her last day. The only thing in terms of making it, was the tip snapped off in the barrel of the pen, so it’s now unusable. Luckily I’d pretty much finished but it was annoying when I was just starting to get the hang of it.
I’ve now looked at the reviews (maybe should have done that beforehand) and this seems to be a fairly common issue. Shame really as I was enjoying it, but need to have a think about whether I’ll get enough use out of it if I buy a more expensive one. My plans to save a small fortune by making a load of presents for Christmas have been thwarted for now!
I’m slowly, slowly, getting better at painting with acrylics. This is just a short blog entry with pictures to show a process and where I’m at up to now. Might be useful to those who are on a similar journey.
My acrylics paint set is just a basic set of colours from the Works https://www.theworks.co.uk/. I buy a lot of white paint in larger volume as I tend to get through more of this than the others. The canvases I get in packs of about 5 from either the Works, Hobbycraft or Amazon (depending on who has a deal on at the time). I mainly buy larger canvases now, simply because it seems easier to paint on a bigger space, but the one for this dog painting is about A4 sized. If you’re a beginner and you go too small, it becomes really tricky.
The method shown below is one that I’ve found helps when I’m on a fairly short timeframe and when I’m doing something where I’m bothered that the end piece looks decent.
To start, I took the canvas and put a grid on it (you can get some apps that put a grid over a photo for free on iPhone or Android so you can use that to copy an image). I’m sure there’s probably a snobbery about grids and I don’t tend to use one when I’ve got longer (as I can just keep painting over things until it looks right) but they are really effective in helping to get started.
I’m partial to a bright background, which is easy to do. Just put blobs of your chosen colour and white, and mix on the canvas. It does make a difference which colour you use, and some will work better than others. As I learn more on this I’ll try and explain in future blogs.
Next sketch a rough outline to work from. If you want to rub your grid lines out at this point, you can. Or, leave them until later.
Now time for the paint. As with sketching https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/sketching-a-portrait/ forget about any detail in these early stages and just map out your darkest areas and lightest areas. The colour on this was essentially yellow ochre and white, introducing a darker brown (burnt umber) and black for the darker shades.
Once you’ve got your darkest and lightest areas, you can find the mid ground for the rest and build up. Acrylics dry quickly and so you’ll need to work with that, but it does mean you can get layers built up in a short timespan.
Once you’ve got basically got everything in the right place and your tones look about right, you can start to introduce more detail. It feels good when you do start to make progress and the picture springs to life. Here, the eyes made all the difference.
You then have to make the decision as to how far you’ll go with the detail. I don’t have the patience or skills to get something that looks photo realistic, so just like to get the sense of something. At this point in time, I also don’t really do backgrounds as I feel its almost like doing another painting which is too much risk in case I wreck it! That may change, but at the minute I’m happy with a bold character on a bright background.
So this is where I’ve got to at the moment in terms of a skill set. As and when I think I’m getting better, I’ll return to the blog.
Pyrography is the posh name for burning wood with a pen. Done well its amazing. A quick search on google images and you’ll find some absolutely incredible pictures. It’s a real skill to do it properly.
Here’s what I learnt in my first attempt.
I’d been thinking about having a go for a while, so took the plunge by buying a beginner’s kit from Amazon. It was about £30 I think. There are cheaper ones, and I think that Hobbycraft do the pen on its own for about £10 but I went for a set as I wanted the option of the different tips that came with it. It also turns into a soldering iron, but one step at a time.
The instructions that came with it were a bit limited so I spent 5 minutes trying to look for a description online. I could see loads of You Tube clips about improving technique but nothing that specifically said ‘use this pen tip to start’. I think the only real way to know what does what (a bit like the whittling kit https://www.thecraftydaddy.co.uk/my-art-work/whittling-wood/ ) is to get a blank piece of wood and try them out. The problem with that is you have to wait for the tip to cool down each down, which for someone as impatient as me, isn’t fun.
Unfortunately, if you don’t wait for it to cool down and you try and use your sleeve to unscrew it quickly, you end up (predictably) burning your jumper. Not advised!
For my first project I wanted to do something relatively simple. I chose a motto that a friend uses with her family and did a sketch of the design. I traced that on to greaseproof paper and then on to the wood. Here’s a quick summary in pictures…
You’ll then end up with your design on the wood.
You then have to bite the bullet and get on with using the pyrography pen. I was nervous, I can be a bit of a liability with tools.
Choose the tip you want to use and screw it in. Then plug the pen in, turn it on and wait for it to heat up. This takes 5 minutes or so with my pen. I got immensely frustrated for about half an hour, as I didn’t realise how hot it needs to be. Mine had a temperature variation setting on it, and I had it at 36 degrees, which turns out, isn’t hot enough to burn the wood. Needless to say, I was ready to send it back and was moaning about how rubbish it was. I then realised it turned up to about 50 degrees, and once I’d put it to 45+ degrees it began to burn the wood quite easily. Wish someone would have told me that and saved me half an hour!
I set about going around the design with the pen. I think I chose the wrong tip as I went for one with quite a thick circular end. This just seemed to make a circular hole (unsurprisingly) and didn’t pull along very well – this meant that I kept just making holes rather than a fluid line. It was too late by the time I’d realised, so I had to see it through. When it came to the sunflower, I used the thinner point (see above) and this worked better.
It took me hours to do it, but steadily I made progress. I think that my choice of wood didn’t help as the grain is circular, which adds an extra dimension to trying to pull the pen around. I’d say get a flat piece of wood with the grain running in one direction, and make your life easier as a beginner. Also, I wrote with curved, looping letters – avoid this as well as curved lines are harder than straight lines! Basically, do everything that’s opposite to what I did!
Anyway, regardless of all that, I got there in the end.
It’s a bit clumsy, but for a first attempt I was fairly pleased. The infinity sign at the bottom didn’t go too well, but you can’t win ’em all!
Why not have a go yourself?
Sketching a face – what I’ve learnt so far…
I’m not trying to present as having any particular expertise in drawing or painting, just a renewed interest in it. I only really started about 18 months ago, when I did a short online course with Vitruvian Art Studio (check them out for demonstrations of ace drawings, and also access their free materials guide https://vitruvianstudio.com/). Through that course and some reading, I have learnt a bit about portrait drawing that I thought a few people might find interesting.
You can find many many places with much better insights that I can give. The reason I’m keen to throw my two pence in though is because I think a lot of people tend to just see drawing/painting as something you can either do or not do; like it’s an innate gift that’s bestowed on some and not others. I’m sure that for some people, that is true and as soon as they were old enough to hold a pencil they had a natural knack for capturing what they see or imagine. For most of us though, it’s good to remember that you can improve if you put effort in. Practice may not make perfect, but it does make better. Go on, grab a pencil and have a go (even if that’s in secret!)
I guess anyone who draws has their own way of doing things, so here’s just one of many methods – aimed at people like me, who want to develop confidence and so need to see something half way decent to make sure they don’t throw the towel in after the first attempt.
I’m not going to go into the equipment you need as basically you can get a much better explanation than I could give on the Vitruvian website, but as a little tip regarding paper, if you can, get something that’s not bright white. The thing about bright white paper is that you’re always making things darker against a really bright background, so literally everything you do has to have some level of shading. If you get a slightly darker tone of paper, you can go darker where you need to, but you can rely on the paper to do some of the work for you, and even get lighter using a white crayon (which is pretty impossible on a bright white). A darker toned paper isn’t really that much more expensive, and you can find it in high street shops without any issue.
Anyway, whatever paper you’ve got, you need to start drawing somewhere. For portraits, I tend to do them about a handspan’s height so they don’t look too big on the paper. To start then, I just make a quick mark where I want the top and the bottom of the head to go.
Obviously, you then need the head shape, which you’ll intuitively know is roughly an oval, but don’t get too focused on that as it will vary depending on what you’re looking at. Get the rough shape with some straight/blocky lines and just refine it into curves until you’re happy. It probably won’t be exactly right but you can play with that later as long as its roughly there.
If you want your face to have more than a passing resemblance to the person you are drawing, then I think the most important thing is to get the eyes, nose and mouth in the right place. There are some basic, loose ‘rules’:
- the eyes are about half way down the head;
- the space between the eyes is about the same width as one eye
- the edge of the mouth is roughly in line with the pupils
- the side of the nose is roughly in line with the inside corner of the eyes
BUT…it really does depend on what the face is doing and what angle you are looking from. A smile changes things, and people’s faces aren’t symmetrical a lot of the time so be guided by what you see. By the way, if you’re a beginner; avoid teeth at all costs – I absolutely guarantee your picture will end up looking like Alan Carr or Mr Ed.
From what I’ve read the human brain is so good at recognising the difference between people (consider how even a young baby can tell its mum from someone else) that even if you draw a fantastic nose, if you get it in slightly the wrong positioning it will throw everything out and you’ll know its not quite right.
This bit isn’t very glamourous but if you’re prepared to admit to yourself that you might not yet be able to do this just by having a go at it, then I’d recommend working out the angles to some key points on the face properly at this point. It’s admittedly a bit deflating to think that there’s a bit more science to drawing than just grabbing paper and getting on with it, but I think the satisfaction that comes from a half decent picture is worth it. Over time you will get a feel for where to put them just by looking (you’re not committing yourself to this method forever), but I’d genuinely say that if you’re just starting out, have a go at doing it like this, and then without, and see which turns out best.
You can see below that for this portrait of my friend’s daughter, I’ve drawn lines to mark out the eyes and the bottom of the ears. I did this by literally just putting a protractor on the photo I was copying, reading the angle from a point on the top of the head and the replicating that angle on the paper. You could go further and mark out the corners of the nose or mouth as well. I did this just to show you how to find points that can anchor your features (for example, its easier to get the mouth in the right place if you know the eyes are in the right place).
After this, basically forget about actually drawing anything for a while and just work out ‘where are your darkest darks and your lightest lights’ (this is a mantra on the Vitruvian course).
For this picture, the light source on the actual photo has really darkened the eyes, the slight opening of the mouth, and has created patches of shade on certain areas of the face. The lightest parts are on the cheeks (particularly the left side) and the chin. My initial shading looks something like the picture below and I use a blending stump (readily available from Amazon or any art shop like the Works) to smooth it out.
I can be a bit heavy handed with shading, and I’m still learning, but you can see below how it starts to build up:
The point about getting your darks and lights in the right place is that all the rest of your tones hinge on those colours. If you don’t make your darks, dark enough, then you’re not going to have enough contrast with other parts to make them stand out. Its worth spending a bit of time on this stage as if you do then darken parts later on, you’ll probably have to readjust all the rest of your tones too or it’ll look out of sync (which is a hassle).
You can then start to get into the detail. I haven’t got space or the expertise to go through every feature in its own right (and I imagine that if you were that interested you probably will be doing a proper course and not just listening to me!) but there’s a couple of things I’d suggest might help you if you’re starting out:
The first is to draw what you see, not what you think should be there. If you draw a nose as you think it looks in your mind, I pretty much guarantee you’ll end up with something that looks a bit daft; for example there is rarely a hard line at the side of the nose. Instead try and suggest the shape of the nose through the shading.
The second is not to forget that the face is a three dimensional object. This might sound obvious but your eye is not a 2-D almond shape – it protrudes from your eye socket, and your eye lid comes over the top of that, so it really isn’t a flat surface – you therefore need to try and show that on the page. Similarly, the nostrils are not just two dark lines, they are essentially a hole – so create the shape of a nostril by the lines you draw around the nostril, which creates the hole i.e. you’re not really trying to draw the hole itself. I maybe haven’t explained that particularly well, but if you approach each feature trying to bear in mind that its 3D, it should help.
The final thing is hair – it really isn’t worth trying to draw individual strands unless there is a particularly unique strand showing or hanging down. Instead, to give a sense of a block of hair, just take that same approach of darkest dark/lightest light and blend if you need to.
This was a relatively quick sketch, but basically just continue to refine until you are happy. Remember to go easy on yourself, chances are you’re probably not aiming for an exact replica of the photo, so if something has a likeness and you know you’re improving, then just enjoy the journey.
So there you have it! My portrait doesn’t do my friend’s daughter justice, but there’s a likeness and hopefully she will appreciate the effort.
In terms of the advice in this blog, I’ll probably look back at this in years to come and think ‘what was I on about?’ but this is where I’m at at the moment and I wish someone had have told me some of this earlier. On that basis, hopefully it was useful to at least someone!
No time today for craft, but thought I’d capture a retrospective on some wall art I did for the kid’s playroom in the hope that it might encourage others. The point of this blog is that I genuinely didn’t know what I was doing, but if you just have a go, you might surprise yourself, and your kids will love it.
Like many people reading this, the books I loved as a child were mainly those by Roald Dahl. Who didn’t secretly try at least once to move things with their eyes like Matilda, or desperately want to go visit the chocolate factory and eat everything in sight?
I also have a really clear memory of me and my sister being engrossed in Rik Mayall reading George’s Marvellous Medicine on Jackanory. Forget Bottom, the Young Ones, Blackadder or Drop Dead Fred, this is his finest hour! I think you can still access that on You Tube if you’ve never seen it.
I don’t think I gave much attention to the pictures by Quentin Blake at the time, but have become really fond of them as an adult. They seem so simple but capture the sense of the books brilliantly, and have this enormous sense of fun. For anyone who does want to practice drawing, copying them is a good place to start (try it!).
Anyway, when we moved a couple of years ago, we were lucky enough to have a playroom and I wanted to do something to spruce it up, without actually having to decorate it.
I found a massive old piece of board (about 4ft by 3ft) in the shed, and the idea of using it for a painting came to me, which was quickly followed by a thought to do something Roald Dahl related. Matilda the film is admittedly pretty good, but I’d really love for the kids to have the same connection to the actual books as I did, so felt like bringing the illustrations into their world might help with that.
I genuinely hadn’t tried anything this size before, and presumed it would be rubbish by the time I’d finished, but knew that the kids at this point were too young to be anything other than wowed, no matter what it looked like!
I didn’t really know where to start, but gave it a lick of white paint as a base.
I wanted it to be bright so I then added colour by literally just squeezing the paints (I had some acrylics) onto the board and brushing them out, blurring them into each other a little but not too much.
The actual positioning of the colours was an accident really, and I’d intended on just doing one big picture of e.g. the BFG, but at this point I started to realise that certain books might fit with certain colours, and that this could actually work as a series of smaller images that work as part of an overall scene. Using any pictures I could get my hands on from the actual books, google etc, I hand copied in pencil on to the board then used a paint pen to give an outline.
I was proud of the drawings, and thought about leaving them as outlines as I was a bit worried about spoiling them with paint (I’d tried to do a small Gruffalo before, and just couldn’t get the brown to look right). I’m much better now at knowing how to make colour tones etc, but in the main these were just straight out of the tube. Luckily, it worked as the boldness of the colours stood out.
It took all week, starting once the kids went to bed for a few hours each night. I put on Spotify playlists, and I realised this was actually fun.
I’m not ashamed to say that I was really proud of this when I finished it, not because I thought it was of any particular standard but the whole process from start to finish felt good. Its genuinely nice to realise you can surprise yourself sometimes. A hobby is born.
I’m guessing you may not have thought about whittling wood as a hobby. Yet if something’s never in fashion, it can’t go out of fashion, right?
I got a starter set from my niece as a present (see below), and quickly realised that sitting outside with a beer and chopping bits off a chunk of wood is a surprisingly pleasurable way to spend summer’s evening. I’d encourage you to give it a go, you might be surprised how relaxing it is.
Whittling isn’t something I did with the kids, I wasn’t sure I was safe to be handling sharp implements, let alone supervise them (I still intend to buy a protective glove as I nicked my fingers quite a few times). However, I’m including it in the blog as an example of how you can get better quickly with a bit of perseverance.
If you buy a starter kit, you get a pack with a range of different tools in. Basically, they all do slightly different functions. Some carve deep lines, some scoop, some do a blunt edge, some curved. I’m sure you can google what they all do, but I found the only way to figure it out was to mess about with each one. The rough outline of an owl below was literally me just getting a block of wood and taking each tool in turn to see what cut it made. It was good enough to keep me going.
I then moved on to trying to do a little figurine. You can see that first attempt below, carved and then painted. Its rough around the edges but by this time I was really enjoying it, and although its tricky visualising what you want to do in three dimensions, I decided to take it a bit more seriously and find out how to do it properly.
Mike Shipley’s books do carving people in much more detail, but here’s a quick overview of how I did mine.
As mentioned, the tricky bit is visualising in three dimensions. I think Michelangelo is mis-quoted as saying about sculpture something along the lines of ‘it’s easy, just take away the bits that aren’t David’; and whilst I’m sure he wasn’t referring to carving a small bit of wood in your back garden, there is a truth to it in that as you take layers away, it slowly gets closer to what you want to see. You just have to think of how making a cut might change the look of the other sides of what you’re doing.
Using a template can help with those first steps. I got one of a woodland chap and just shrank it a bit onto some card so it would fit the block I was working on. You can see below that it helps with thinking about what the character looks like from the front and from the side. If you draw around these onto the block, you’ve then got an idea of the proportions you want to achieve at the end.
POWER TOOL ALERT! – I don’t have many tools, I’m simply too clumsy to use them. In this case however, I did use a Jigsaw to get cut it roughly to size and shape, and get an overall outline. This did save a lot of time as the tools in the starter set are for intricacy rather than just cutting big bits off. I forgot to take a photo of that stage but it basically looked like the picture below but without the detail on the face, hair etc. Needless to say I was pretty proud of myself at this point and grateful that I still had all my fingers.
I basically then just worked away at the shape, taking an area at a time, and working it with the tools, from each side and then using sandpaper to smooth it off. The hat for example, you just keep rotating it until each side is what you want. The body and feet etc were easy enough, just give it some shoulders, arms, legs and shoes etc.
The face was the trickiest bit as I’m more used to painting where for example, you’re adding a layer each time you paint and the nose can grow towards you with the thicker layers of paint. With carving though, its the opposite – if you want a big nose, you have to leave enough wood where the nose should be. I found that hard to get used to, and made a few mistakes. It was also tricky to do ears as they were quite intricate so I kind of gave up on that and just painted them on at the end.
When I’d finished the carving and sandpapering it looked like this:
I then moved on to the painting, which was fun. I chose quite bold colours and used acrylics as I wasn’t sure how well they would stick. That seemed to work well.
Finally, I gave it a coat of clear wood varnish I had in the shed, and the finished product looked like the figure below. As I said, I didn’t involve the kids but they saw the various stages and were impressed with the final transformation with the paint. I was chuffed with it, and genuinely think you might be surprised what you can do if you give it a go.