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Hanna-Mae Illustration

Illustrator & eco clothing designer

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oils

Gaining some perspective

As any artist will know it can be difficult to focus when your mind is all over the place. Lately, my mind has been flitting from one thing to another meaning any sustained period of work has seemed near impossible! However, I’ve had a couple of short sessions over the past week where I felt really engrossed in my work and felt I channelled a lot of emotion.

I feel like art isn’t just a subject for some people, it’s so much more. To me, it’s not just something I’m ‘good at’, it’s an outlet, a distraction, part of my identity. Art is such a huge part of who I am I feel like it’s actually part of me, which is actually really quite reassuring when you’re battling with identity and trying to establish your place in this busy world.

I’ve started my distance learning with the London Art College and so far I’m finding it interesting. Initially I was wary of the way Unit 1 had me going right back to very basics but I feel like I still took something away from it. Unit 2 was interesting as it covered perspective, which is something I haven’t particularly found myself delving in to much over the 15 years I’ve been studying art. It was generally assumed that perspective was just a matter of getting the proportions and distance of what you were looking at right. Unit 2 took a more…’geometry-based’ approach (if that’s the right term to describe it) which actually had me searching the library to find out more. Next week I’ll be reviewing the book ‘Perspective & Composition’ by Barrington Barber. Perspective isn’t something you generally always have to worry about in the world of Illustration and I’ve found many inspiring pieces that appeal to the eye that aren’t in perfect perspective. It got me thinking of my own work though and how I’ve dealt with perspective without using the system described in Unit 2. Generally, I rely greatly on my own perception and trust what my eyes are seeing. I remember being just 8 years old and a teacher saying to me: we often draw what we think we should see, not what we actually see. I’ve remembered this ever since and always make a point of saying this to myself when I’m drawing from life. Below is an example of how I’ve used perspective relying on this concept.

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‘Union Street’ by Hanna-Mae Williams

At the moment I’m working on a still life piece that focuses on using shading to create depth. The advice given was to focus on the display as a whole. This is a real challenge for someone like me who often gets bogged down in the details! But I’ll be posting the finished piece soon. It feels good to be working in pencil again and taking time out from life to be creative.

 

 

 

 

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Out with the old

I’ve been dying to get stuck in to some artwork lately, especially as my Sakura Pigma Micron pens arrived yesterday but my time has been taken up mostly with packing things up to move. I’ve been having a good sort out of my art and craft materials and going through old pieces. My collection of past work has been piling up over the years, so I’m considering being ruthless and finally parting with some!

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As I’ve known my current neighbour for over a decade now I wanted to make her a special card to say goodbye rather than just buy one. Since I’ve been experimenting with children’s book illustration lately I decided to go with a cute design which would be good practice in this area.

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I’m already thinking of my next project and the deadlines I have. For the past couple of years I’ve been involved in the Y Galeri Caerffili Winter Exhibition and as soon as I get myself settled I’ll be starting work on this year’s entry. I have so many ideas in my mind and at the moment am doing a bit of reading on my subject choice (which is top secret for now!). As it’s going to be quite an involved piece I think it’ll be my main project for the rest of this year. Next year the charity Viva! are holding an artwork auction and I’ve been asked, as part of ‘Art for Animals’ to contribute a piece. It feels wonderful to feel excitement again over projects after a very difficult beginning to the year.

There is rapture on the lonely shore…

‘There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more’

From ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,

by Lord Byron,

published between 1812-1818

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve recently brought my focus back to the seascape I began late last year. Having recently signed up to DeviantArt (you can find me here: hmwillustration) I was excited to delve in to their user-contributed galleries, to sift through hundreds of inspiring seascapes by artists from across the globe. Here are my top inspiring pieces. Be sure to check out the links for more of these talented artist’s work and for full-size versions.

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http://hitforsa.deviantart.com/

Artist/photographer Paul has many captivating seascapes in his online gallery, and this is one of my favourite. I love the rich colours in this piece, and how the ‘traditional’ expectation of blues and greens that are associated with the sea have been completely ignored.

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http://bluefooted.deviantart.com/

As soon as I saw this piece it made me feel nostalgic as it reminded me of something I’d see in a storybook as a child. In fact, artist Erin used her favourite book ‘Winter’s Tale’ by Mark Helprin as her inspiration. I love the almost muted tones and the patterns in the sea.

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http://annmariebone.deviantart.com/

Looking at AnnMarie’s gallery I was surprised to learn she works mainly with acrylic as her pieces have a ‘softness’ I often associate with oils. The colours in this piece was what drew me to this, and it’s not just limited to this piece either. In AnnMarie’s gallery you’ll find tons of stirring pieces, I highly recommend checking out her ‘Golden Wave’ painting, which uses colour in a way that may surprise some.

Communicating with colour

‘Colour in a picture is like enthusiasm in life’

– Vincent Van Gogh

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As artists and illustrators will agree, we tend to have our ‘favourites’ – our favourite mediums, our favourite subjects, and in my case a favourite colour palette. Well it’s time for a challenge!

The topic of my current canvas painting is ‘sound through the eyes of autism’, which explores the impact a variety of ‘everyday’ sounds we have become accustomed to whilst living in a busy environment can have on someone on the autistic spectrum. I will be using colour as a mode of communication, to express the intensity of the sounds, as well as positioning clashing colours strategically to covey the sense of discomfort. Whilst being an exercise in the perception of, and relationships between colours, this piece also allows me to practice using colours outside of my comfort zone, to learn the nature of the colours better, which I feel I have with my ‘go-to palette’.

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‘I want to know more, where do i start?’

Of course there’s so much to discover when it comes to colour. Whilst at university I took a module titled ‘Understanding Colour’ which only scratched the surface on this vast topic. If you’re interested in getting serious about colour theory, I recommend reading ‘The Elements of Colour‘ by Itten, the famous expressionist painter linked to the Bauhaus. First published in 1963, it’s an oldie but a goodie! An unusual and interesting read also comes from Sara Fanelli’s ‘Sometimes I Think, Sometimes I am‘, which offers ample visual examples of how colour and a limited pallet can be used to convey a message. The book also includes a colour booklet, and you’ll discover a mass of quotes from famous artists regarding colour. Find it on Amazon here.

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Colour can mean different things to different people and can be used in inventive ways. I found some treasures on Folksy by artists who are embracing the effects colour can have. I recently discovered talented print maker James Green, whose work uses limited colours in each piece to produce a real impact. Here is some of his work, which can be bought in his shop here: James Green Printworks. You can also show your support by liking him on facebook.

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Another shop I recommend checking out is ‘Hush‘, whose owner Sarah Walters has produced a wonderful series of prints based on the seasons. Her notelet pack offers the whole series of designs, meaning there’s no need to choose!

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Coming next week: Monthly tutorial – Accurate drawing for beginners

16/09/2016 – Tutorial now available here: Accurate drawing for beginners

Monthly Review – paintbrush cleaners

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What put me off oil paints initially was the fight to get my brushes truly clean. I tried a few tips (and stained a few sinks!) before finally discovering what worked best for me. I used to keep a set specifically for using oils and always found there’d be trace amounts of paint left behind on them,tainting the colour I was trying to create. Some people swear by washing up liquid, but as I often work with small brushes for fine detail, I find the condition of my brushes just as important as the removal of paint. In this months review I’ve brought you three of the best conditioning cleaners, their strengths, downfalls, and where to get your hands on them!

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Name: Water washable oil brush cleaner

Brand: Daler Rowney

Price: £5 – £6:50

Stockists: Jackson’s Art Supplies

Rating: 3.5/5

Benefits:

  • Low odour (solvent free)
  • Biodegradable
  • Conditions brushes whilst cleaning, using natural oils

Negatives:

  • Slightly tricky to pour (if pouring into smaller pot)
  • Can separate slightly
  • No longer stocked in high street stores such as Hobby Craft/The Range

How to use: As this can slightly separate be sure to shake first, then pour a moderate amount into a smaller pot. Wipe excess paint off your brush using tissue/paper towel before swirling your brush around a few times in the cleaner. Tap off excess before swirling in a jar of water and drying on paper towel.

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Name: Turpenoid Natural

Brand: Weber

Price: £5 + depending on size (236ml shown in photo)

Stockists: Jackson’s Art Supplies , Amazon

Rating: 4.5/5

Benefits:

  • Low odour
  • Doesn’t separate
  • Conditions brushes whilst cleaning
  •  Nontoxic
  • Can double as a medium

Negatives:

  • No longer easily available in high-street stores such as The Range/Hobby Craft
  • Tricky twist cap (though good if you have inquisitive children!)

How to use: I pour a little into a separate pot, wipe the excess paint off the paintbrush wish paper towel, then swirl the brush a few times in the cleaner. You can either wipe with a paper towel and carry on, or swirl in water then dry (as I do)

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Name: The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver

Brand: B&J

Price: £4+ depending on size (Available in 4 sizes, 75ml shown in photo)

Stockists: Pegasus Art , Jackson’s Art Supplies , Amazon

Rating: 4/5

Benefits:

  • Suitable for all paints, not just oils
  • Conditions brushes whilst cleaning
  • Beautifully presented
  • no odour
  • Cleans incredibly well

Negatives:

  • One of the pricier cleaners
  • Some waste, as you have to wipe away left over paint grime from the top

How to use: Wipe off excess paint from brush, swish in water then carefully rub in circular movements on the solid block of cleaner. Swish brush in a clean jar of water before drying with a paper towel.

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And the winner, by the tiniest whisker is… Weber Turpenoid Natural! Whilst I noticed how conditioned my brushes were, and how well The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver cleaned my brushes, I found Turpenoid Natural lasted longer and cleaned just as well. However, if you’re looking for a universal brush cleaner, as opposed to just oil cleaner, I would highly recommend giving The Masters a try.

Happy painting!

 

psst! Now that you’ve got the cleaning up afterwards sorted, why not head on over to these tutorials for some inspiration?

Painting clouds with oil paints

Treetorial

 

 

Finding inspiration

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I have two ‘go-to’ ways of working, but I find the easiest and most relaxed to be working from a photograph. By working this way you don’t have to worry about changes in light, or changes in position, and are free to re-visit your piece at a pace to suit you.

There are many websites offering royalty-free images (some you pay for, others you don’t) but inspiration for your work can be found in unexpected places. The other week I visited a garden centre, which always offers a huge range of sometimes unusual, stunning flowers and plants. Build yourself a collection of photographs you’ve taken and store them in a file that you can revisit when in need of a quick reference image. This can save huge amounts of time searching for reference images on the internet. My own file has grown over the years and is organised into sections for easy navigation, including ‘plants & flowers’ ‘people’ ‘places’ and more.

Inspired by my recent trip I decided to create a painting that centred around a floral theme, using my favourite variety: the daffodil.

‘I wander’d lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretch’d in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: –
A poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company!
I gazed – and gazed – but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought.

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills
And dances with the daffodils.’

Williams Wordsworth, 1802

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Five fabulous florals to check out (click title to open new window):

The Last Flowers by TanyaShatseva

Alice and the Flowers by thedancingemu

When Flowers Dream by Puimun

Withered Flowers Illustration by Urielstempest

Watercolor Flower 4 by faegirlmara

 

Treetorial

via Daily Prompt: Paint

Like art tutorials? Follow my blog for a monthly ‘how-to’. You can discover more lessons in ‘Accurate drawing for beginners‘ and ‘Painting clouds with oil paints‘.

 

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‘The Magic Forest’ Hanna-Mae Williams

 

Welcome to August’s tutorial! This month I’ll be showing you how to paint background trees using water-mixable (or regular if you prefer) oil paints.

You will need:

  • Oil paints in various shades of brown  (I used burnt sienna, raw umber, and burnt umber) white, yellow ochre, crimson, and sap green
  • Liquin original
  • paint brushes (including one flat)
  • paper or canvas suitable for oil paints
  • paint brush cleaner
  • paint palette

 

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Step 1

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Mix burnt sienna, some burnt umber, and a small amount of Liquin to get a medium brown.

Step 2

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Paint a general tree shape – straight and flaring slightly at the bottom. Don’t be afraid to apply the paint thickly, this will add to the texture we’re looking for (see picture below). This is also why it’s important not to over-do the liquin – you need only enough to slightly lubricate the paint but retain the thickness.

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Step 3

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Tidy up the edges of your tree using a smaller brush, but don’t be too worried about lumps and bumps. Real trees are never perfectly straight! Again, don’t be afraid to add quite a lot to your brush (see below) this will help with texture.

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Step 4

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Now we’ll be using the flat brush to add white (zinc white is less intense than titanium white, which is preferable right now as we want the white to blend a bit with the brown). Use a dry brush (no thinners etc from now on) and lightly dab on the left of the tree and drag across. Do this all the way down your tree.

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Step 5

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With a small, clean brush loaded with white, now’s the time to add the real highlights. Dab white (avoiding merging with the brown) over the marks you’ve already made.

Step 6

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Using your darkest brown (raw umber) and using a clean, dry brush, dab this colour near the roots, up the left, and between the gaps all the way up your tree. Don’t worry too much about colours merging.

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Step 7

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Now’s the time to use the more interesting colours. It may seem a little unusual, but if you truly observe nature you’ll notice the unexpected variety of colours! Using the same brush as in step 6, take a small amount of ochre and dab lightly up the right side of the tree, towards the centre (see below). Unlike with the browns, a more light-handed approach is needed with these more vibrant colours. The aim is to make them blend in naturally, rather than to stand out.  

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Step 8

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Dab the crimson around the root area and up the left hand side of the tree, partly covering some of the darker areas. You just want to give a hint of red.

Step 9

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As with the crimson, the green should be subtle. Think of where you would find moss growing on a tree and lightly dab these areas.

And there you have it – how to paint background trees using oils!

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Having trouble getting your brushes fully clean? No problem, read my review on the best brush cleaners out there! Monthly Review – Paintbrush cleaners

Some Wednesday words of wisdom

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When working on a fine-detail drawing, to get an extra sharp pencil point use both a sharpener and then gently run a very sharp craft knife over the tip. I use Kum Extra Long Point Pencil Sharpener and Jakar Hobby Knife.

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If you use turpentine to thin your oil paints or oil pastels, a cheaper yet just as effective alternative is to head to the DIY section/shop and look out for ‘white spirit’. Price comparison: Winsor & Newton ‘Artists White Spirit’ (turpentine) from The Range – £7.99 per litre. Wickes ‘White Spirit Low Odour’ – £1.90 per litre. Note: Please follow environmental/safety advice provided with turpentine/white spirit.

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Save jam jars, marmalade jars, coffee jars etc. Especially if you are using oils/water-mixable oils, you will need to replace water jars several times a year as grime builds up.

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I was delighted to discover B pencils that exceeded the usual 6B maximum you often get in sketching sets, yet, in my personal experience 7B-9B pencils offer not much more depth. To get deeper shadows, try cross-hatching using a fine-liner. I use Pilot DR drawing pens in 01 and 02. BE WARNED: Use a light touch to avoid crushing the nib!

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And whilst on the topic of fine-liners…don’t be tempted by pens that aren’t designed to be used in art work as they may bleed. Some things are ok to scrimp on, whilst others in the long run will cost you more. Plastic palettes and rulers – yes; paper, brushes, and mediums in general – no.

Painting Clouds with oil paints – tutorial

Welcome to my first monthly tutorial! In this post I’ll be showing you how to use water-mixable oil paints to create realistic clouds.

I love using water-mixable oil paints in my work as they’re so wonderfully versatile! I began experimenting with normal oil paints 7 years ago and was somewhat put off by the stubborn nature of the paint – the never quite clean brushes, the lengthy drying time. Then I discovered Reeves water-mixable oils. If you’re on a tight (or student) budget, I can recommend Reeves as a fantastic affordable alternative to the bigger names, such as Winsor & Newton, though I tend to use both as Winsor and Newton offer the benefit of being able to pick individual specific colours, whilst you’ll usually find Reeves in a set. Use Reeves as a ‘starter’ and Winsor & Newton to build on this.

The set is available in The Range and can be found on their website.

Here are some examples of where I’ve used the following technique in my work:

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Above: ‘Moo Shoe’ water-mixable oils. Below: ‘Rush Hour’ Water-mixable oils & gouache. Hanna-Mae Williams

Here’s how to do it:

You will need:

  • Water-mixable oil paints in: Lamp black, yellow ochre, burnt umber, raw umber & white
  • Liquin original (available at most art supply stores such as The Range, Hobby Craft etc)
  • Paint brushes
  • Optional: liquid clear oil paint

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step1

You need a base. This technique is all about building up layers. Begin by mixing some white with a little black and add liquin and liquid clear until the mixture is quite loose (oils are usually quite stiff and thick) In this instance we’re making a grey base but once you get the hang of the technique you can alter this. I sometimes use blue.

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step2

Cover your area with your base colour, then add some more black to create a darker tone. Roughly paint the outline of a cloud. You’re going to repeat this shape over your piece.

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step3

You need to add depth to your clouds and now’s the time to stop using liquin. Using a circular dabbing motion, blend some black into the grey of your clouds around the bottom/edges, and introduce some umber.

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step4

Remember this is all about layering. To add dimension we’ll be adding to the background/foreground as we progress.

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step5

If you look at storm clouds they often have a yellowish tinge to them. This is where the yellow ochre comes in. You only need a hint, so dab and blend around the bottom of the cloud/where the clouds meet.

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step6

It’s time to add white. Using a smaller brush, dab and slightly blend around the tops of the more prominent clouds.

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Continue working through the steps until you have the amount of clouds you want. You can use your finger to slightly smudge the clouds – particularly to make the typical ‘cloud’ shape less defined.

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Now make cleaning up easy! Choose the right brush cleaner by reading this review.

 

Clouds

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