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Hanna-Mae Illustration

Illustrator & eco clothing designer

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watercolour

It’s in the details…or not

Since January I’ve been working on a Children’s Illustration course and recently I’ve been finding that I’m really enjoying it. Oddly, it’s the more basic things I find difficult. My brain loves details and up until a year or so ago my work had more of a fine art vibe. I’ve always had a soft spot for children’s illustration though and admit that I’ve spent much time in the children’s section of Waterstones looking at the variety of styles in the picture books.

I find it difficult to limit myself when it comes to details so the most recent task in the course was challenging for me. We were to first use the ‘wet on wet’ method to apply watercolour or gouache to a page and do this with 4 different colours. Once that was dry we were to create a scene using only basic outlines, which we would cut out from the watercolour sheets and stick to a blue background. I found it quite liberating roughly sweeping and dabbing the gouache on and being really free with it. In fact, even my ‘mistakes’ turned into positives as they added interest to the look.

Whilst waiting for my pages to dry I sketched out an idea of how I wanted my final page to look. It was enjoyable just going with my instinct and not worrying about whether what I was doing was ‘good’ or not.

jungle sketch.jpg

I used letters as a key of what colour to use where and considered what colours would stand out against each other.

jungle.jpg

I was worried the final piece would look too basic but I was quite pleased with how it turned out. I feel like the exercise helped me loosen up and feel better about omitting detail.

I’m looking forward to starting the next brief, which is a double page spread for a story book aimed at 2-4 year olds. Check back for the finished version in next month’s update post!

Three to see!

As my blog followers will know, I love to find enthusiastic artists out there and give them a bit of exposure here. There are so many talented individuals out there whose work just needs to be seen and shared! As I’ve been working on my large Mabinogion piece (if you missed the post about this you can find it here: link) I decided to have a dig on Deviantart (you can follow my account here: hmwillustration) for some Celt-inspired work and came across some superb pieces. It was difficult to narrow down my favourites but after much deliberation I’m sharing my top 3. Be sure to check out each artist’s profile, or better still let them know what you think of their wonderful work! Please remember that the copyright belongs to the artist.

 

1

Roberto Pavic  (DeviantArt name: roblfc1892)

Roberto has been a member of DeviantArt for many years and his gallery is full of interesting photography and tattoo designs. He has a whole gallery folder dedicated specifically to Celtic tattoo design, with my favourites being his Celtic dragons. Also look out for the exquisite ‘Swallow’ and ‘Ravens’.

(click image for direct link)


nov1

2

Rachel Arbuckle (DeviantArt name: CelticArt)

Rachel is from Italy and has a love of Gouache paint. Her gallery is entirely dedicated to Celtic designs and is a treasure trove of intricate work. Below is one of my favourite pieces, titled ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’.

nov2

 

3

Lucie Ondruskova (Deviantart name: LucieOn)

Lucie is from the Czech Republic and works a lot with watercolours. Her gallery has a collection dedicated to her ‘Knotworks and Patterns’ which are made truly unique with her interesting application of watercolour and small additional details. Below is ‘Celtic Butterfly’, just one of many beautiful pieces of subtle knotwork.

nov3

Next week i’ll be posting my usual ‘Monthly Tutorial’. This time I’ll be showing you how to develop your ideas.

Choosing the right sketchbook

You’d think it would be the easiest thing in the world: finding some paper to start your art project. But when you’re just starting out in the world of art (such as GCSE students etc) it can be perplexing to navigate your way around the vast options available. Don’t be tempted to reach for the cheapest option just to save some money! I’m sure plenty of you have been in a situation where you begin full of enthusiasm only to find that your paper is wrinkling or your ink bleeding. This is because it really is important to be using the right kind of paper for your piece, it really can make or break a piece. I’m going to take you through the basics of choosing a sketchbook when you’re just starting out, or are just getting serious about pursuing your artistic interest. I’ll be putting key points/tips in bold/colour.

All sketch books will generally be suitable for what it says in the title: sketching. Just getting some ideas down in pencil. Where problems usually arise is when you begin using other mediums, especially ‘wet’ mediums such as paints and ink. The very basic sketchbooks you can find almost anywhere (such as budget shops) are usually not suitable for anything more than just getting down some ideas in pencil.

Over the years I’ve learnt to feel my paper before choosing in addition to looking at the description/symbols on the front of the book/pad (more on this later). Generally, cheap papers are quite rough to the touch and will feel thin. Slightly higher quality paper will feel thicker, but may also have a rough texture. But BEWARE! If you do choose a cheap sketchbook for just doodling it’s good to know that cheaper kinds of paper won’t usually stand very much erasing. Ever seen higher quality paper advertised as being ‘acid free’? This is beneficial because it means your work is less likely to fade and the paper less likely to break down.

Let’s talk about cartridge paper…this type of paper is widely available and a lot of illustrators and artists are happy to use it.  If you do decide to go for basic cartridge paper for paints such as watercolour bear in mind it must first be prepared. Painting directly on to lower GSM* cartridge paper will cause buckling and you’ll end up with a wibbly painting! The process of preparing paper for watercolours/gouache is known as ‘stretching’. It’ll take a little effort to do, so if you’re desperate to get stuck in to some work straight away using wet mediums it’s best to avoid low GSM cartridge, or make sure you have a stash of pre-prepared sheets. I learnt how to stretch paper on an ‘introduction to art’ summer school at a local college when I was 15 and found the course a real stepping stone into GCSE art, which then progressed to A level, which then progressed to a degree. By the time you reach university it’ll just be assumed that you know these basics. It’s good to look out for taster courses or holiday schools at local colleges/uni’s as you could pick up some skills that prove useful for the rest of your artistic journey. You can find so many videos on Youtube showing you how to stretch paper: link

Now we’ve covered the cheaper ‘everyday’ papers let’s look into specifics. The good news is that a lot of the sketchbooks they stock in art and hobby stores usually have guides on the front, it’s just a matter of reading the symbols and understanding what certain things mean. Something I found confusing for a while was ‘hot pressed’ and ‘cold pressed’. It’s actually as simple as this: hot-pressed paper has a smoother, finer surface, whilst cold-pressed has a more textured surface. Some pads don’t even mention these terms though and keep it more straight-forward by saying ‘smooth’ or ‘grained’. It’s really a matter of personal reference, I use both depending on the finish I want.  As I usually work with a lot of detail I generally avoid heavily grained papers as lines can be less ‘crisp’. Thanks to the information on a lot of sketchbooks it’s actually now easier than ever to select your book. Some pads will say ‘mixed media’, meaning that generally any medium is ‘safe’ to use, others will say ‘watercolour’ or ‘drawing’ (Daler  Rowney label their sketchbooks really well making it easier to select one). As for symbols, they’re easy to work out; a paintbrush head means it’s suitable for paint, a fountain pen means fountain pens can be used, a fineliner/pen means drawing pens may be used and what looks like a conte stick means pastels can be used. But there’s one area that I know confuses a lot of people…GSM*. This stands for ‘grams per square metre’. Basically, the higher the GSM the heavier the paper, meaning it can handle more. GSM is sometimes written as ‘G/M2’. Papers with high GSM are usually labelled as ‘heavyweight’.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to understand what paper you’re using before you begin an important project, mainly to avoid frustration over things like buckling, bleeding, eroding etc. I think the most important thing you can do is read the specs of the paper (even individual sheets in art/craft stores will usually have a little label telling you hot/cold pressed and GSM) and if you’re not sure then ask!

Time for some recommendations! For general doodling and really rough work I carry around a small ‘Graduate‘ sketchbook. These are Daler Rowney’s reasonable, lower GSM books that come in various sizes. Hobbycraft also offer their own version of these, with a similar GSM and a very modest price tag. For work that I plan to use (for exhibitions, card designs etc) I rarely stray far from Daler Rowney finegrain heavyweight paper as I find it can hold all mediums really well. I’ve used pastels, oils, gouache, pens, pencil and I’m always happy with the results (though be careful if working on small areas in oils especially oils that have been thinned as sometimes you can get a ‘halo’). I also recommend Daler Rowney’s smooth heavyweight when I want less of a textured surface. If I’m solely using gouache or watercolour I may also opt for their Aquafine smooth pad.

So that’s it, your guide to choosing the perfect sketchbook. Happy creating!

Monthly review- Derwent Inktense watercolour pencils

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been putting Derwent’s Inktense watercolour pencils to the test with interesting results. As promised, here’s everything you need to know…

Product name: Derwent Inktense watercolour pencils (24 set tin)

Price: £18.99-£40.75

Rating: 4/5

About: A tin of 24 watercolour pencils which can be used with or without water.

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Having relied on the same brand of watercolour pencils for the past 9 years I was excited to try these and, I admit it, slightly sceptical that they would live up to their implied vibrancy…but I was pleasantly surprised!

Although it took me a little while to get used to the softness of the tips (more on this later) when I got stuck in I was delighted to see a vibrant drawing begin to emerge. The quality of these pencils are evident, and provide an intensity I personally find hard to achieve with other, ‘normal’ watercolour pencils.

What I like about these pencils is the control you get. They’re very versatile in the way that they offer the best of both worlds; if you want a softer, subtler effect this can be achieved by using light pressure, whilst if you want the promised ‘inktense’ effect this is achievable by layering and applying the right amount of pressure. The fact that the drawing may be left as it is, or diluted/smoothed over by applying water with a brush afterwards also demonstrates this versatility. I found I was happy with the effect I had achieved without feeling the need to add water.

However, as you can tell from the comments above, it would take someone who has at least some experience with watercolour pencils to understand about the amount of pressure you need to add, which is why these wouldn’t spring to mind when thinking of children or beginners. I feel these pencils are suited more to practicing artists, particularly as they’re quite expensive.

As I mentioned earlier, the tips of these pencils are very soft. Whilst watercolour pencils are often very soft in comparison to ‘normal’ coloured pencils, these seemed softer than the average. So, if like me you like to work with a very sharp tip you’ll need to sharpen these often and with a scalpel/thin craft knife. Due to the soft nature of the tips they’ll become ‘blunt’ quicker, particularly if you’re using them with the aim to produce that promised vibrancy.  This makes them less cost-effective so there’s a bit of a trade off: vibrancy or pencil life?

To conclude I’d say that these are a genuine pleasure to use, which will be picked up by artists who appreciate their materials. They’re something I would use for a special piece, or if material costs were included in a commission, otherwise, these are good to put on Christmas and birthday lists!

wherebuyThe most competitive prices seem to be on amazon, but these pencils are available in stores too. The Range stocks Derwent Inktense 24 tin (as well as 12) at £29.99, whilst Hobbycraft stocks them for £30 and are currently offering those who join the Hobbycraft club 15% off their first online order.

 

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Undiluted watercolour pencil drawing, Hanna-Mae Williams

 

 

 

birdcolourfulcr
watercolour pencil drawing with ink background. Hana-Mae Williams

 

 

 

 

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.

seablog1

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.

blog3

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.

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