It was over before we knew it, and the relief and heartache are still there in equal measure.
I, of course, was utterly pathetic at remembering where I had planned to share my spooky offerings so here is the collection of them all. I didn’t do each day, but I did a lot and I think I enjoyed it more because of that.
This month I’ll be focusing on writing and junk journalling. I have been very busy since the summer using some of my pressed flowers for vintage/floral collages and I’ll sling some of that on here soon.
Vampire Ku is that gaudy vampire of mine and has always been a flashy fellow. I’m learning the ways of digital art using procreate and I cannot explain how long this took to make, but no paper has been wasted! Digital is very tree friendly!
The farmer had cut his crop. With singing hearts and shining eyes, we looked on in wonder. There was so much hay! Planning out our evenings adventure began in earnest. It was going to be so much fun! We felt so lucky to have a house on the edge of the estate – overlooking a farmer’s field that went on and on until it reached the tree line of the woods and the farmer’s cottage beyond. Such a wonderful playground – speaking to us in seasons – its colours changing with the crops.
It had been a hot day but also rainy, so we decided to wear our cagoules. The front pockets of those raincoats were amazing! Not only did they store the raincoat itself, but it was great for carrying sandwiches in, and once the sandwiches were eaten, we would fold them and compete for the star prize of “prestige” for the tidiest packet pocket. I think that’s what we used to call it, anyway.
Having met at the arranged time, just after tea, we climbed with well-practiced skill over the green mesh fence. It was about a metre high, but it was not in the slightest bit stable so choosing the right foothold and momentum to lift yourself over was quite important. The foothold needs to be not too high and not too low – swinging as the fence bent with our weight from a high foothold was terrifying but not being able to climb over from a low anchor would lead to scratches and possible failure.
We scrambled gracelessly over to the other side, landing on the furrowed edge, and stepped up on to the slightly higher flats of the field. It smelled delicious. Dry and grassy, yet hot and damp – earthy and humid and buzzing with insects and faint whispers of dust that had yet to settle after all the hectic harvesting.
Racing across the field, I was feeling slightly terrified. We were, after all, trespassers.
Our crime was immediately forgotten with the first hay fight of the summer. Racing and dancing, howling, flinging handfuls of hay at each other. We were positively wild!
The plan we had made to build hay hills, no… haystacks, was a success and we used them as trampolines and crash mats– catapulting and somersaulting with running jumps as terrifying human projectiles – practically screaming with laughter. I don’t think we’d ever tried this before, and probably never would again, (but we had planned to), on that fine and lovely day. Such fickle children living in a shining moment forgetting that tomorrow was another day. Having played until it started getting dark, the streetlamps flickering from across the field were now telling us it was time to go home. I didn’t want it to end and perhaps the others thought so too, judging by the bereft looks on their faces. It had been so much fun!
A little dishevelled, I was surprised when my return was not met with too much commentary, but the next day was a different matter. Somehow, I’d managed to bring a million caterpillars back in my raincoat. They were everywhere and causing all kinds of upset from the cupboard under the stairs where we hung our coats and kept the vegetable rack. It was initially received with humour but in the end, it became clear that I would be scolded all that morning when enough was most definitely enough. The thing is the caterpillar problem just would not even try to die down as a new caterpillar would rear its hairy head every other minute. It was as if that cupboard was haunted by caterpillars, and it became draining. My mother was huffing, and my older sister was puffing – deep down glad it wasn’t her who created such a drama for once. Because she often did, I can tell you! But it was worth it. I still remember the absolute joy for that haystack adventure and the caterpillars who came, too.
Oh, so long ago a lovely collection of seeding dandelions were collected and collated into a collage. The perfect store for my Seed Fairy’s fashion inspirations. She wears fluffing dandelions in her hair, a pretty petalled gown and dusty moth wings. She is ready for the fairy ball. Or so you’d like to think. But no, she is the worlds biggest trickster as she loves to hide out of sight and have seeds rain down on any unsuspecting fairy she takes a shine to.
You’ll meet that fairy next time.
I drew her using aged flowers that had been collected and displayed in a picture frame. The dried fluff on a dandelion is perfect and I began with graphite with the idea that I would finish with coloured pencil. I love to draw in graphite, but I know colour would enhance a lovely fairy, so I decided to make my graphite work as an under drawing and then I can add colour later. Grey scale underpaintings are a useful step towards your finished piece as you can solve quite a lot of problems at an early stage. I always find this part relaxing. I think giving yourself freedom to make mistakes is very important to enjoying the process – art shouldn’t be stressful. I find painting stressful as I’m not a painter and this is my answer. And once the graphite drawing is ready, I plan to scan a slightly paler version of it and print it on the same good quality paper so I can then continue safely adding colour to the drawing. Colour pencil directly over graphite is not a good idea – it looks dirty and you can ruin quite a lot of effort that way.
Going back to the initial graphite I used a few mark making techniques that I find work quite well with graphite pencils. You can get them reliably sharp and work at different angles and pressure to get some interesting effects.
The frothy hair was made with twists and flicks, the smooth skin was made by transferring graphite from the pencil via the paper to the tornichon – I find this so much smoother than lines – especially for such a small face.
As I refined the sketch, I noticed that the proportions needed a little attention, her neck was a little too big and her jaw too manly, so I slimmed that down and sharpened her jaw – something I would have struggled with had I dived straight in with coloured pencil. I continued this way until I was satisfied that she was believable. This particular fairy is based on human anatomy and so I used a selection of references that helped me check that she was correct. I find manga and anime art is very helpful with this sort of project because it is very dynamic.
I continued working on her skirt – which is an inverted flower, and I made plump petals to give it a bell shape. I gave it movement by pushing them forward to show she was flying, and they were interreacting with her lower body. Her legs were loosely based on flower stems.
Since I have other plans, there is no point trying to finish this as a very detailed graphite drawing, so I scanned it, and printed it on to the same paper I used for the first stage. I added some pale layers of browns and reds and greens. Too many colours are likely to spoil the drawing and I like to use Autumnal colours for this type of creature so I am keeping it simple. I think a mix of different browns can look so lovely, and I’m pretty sure this is why I get so much inspiration from Froud and Rackham as their work features these colours a lot. I like working with muted tones. They seem more delicate to me. More subtle. They are not as simple as they look, but it’s nice that they give that impression.
There is still a lot of work to do at this stage. Make no mistake, it is not colouring in. The graphite is an underpainting and I’ll probably be here a while!
I’m using subdued colours for this fairy. Medium terracotta, Lincoln green, and a mix of browns. Understanding the colours will be helpful. Greens and reds are complimentary colours so tend to make each other appear brighter if they are next to each other. You can also use a red to mute a green – or vice versa – if your colour looks too bright. Mixing them creates different browns depending on the type of red and green you choose. I think this can make colours marry nicely as your parent colours will work without too much trouble with the brown you made them with.
I think making imaginary creatures believable should come from things that work and are recognisable in the real world. Believable anatomy will make you think the creature could exist, or make you hope it exists, at least. I have tried making creatures up just from my head and they are never as believable as they are when I have done some forward planning. Even borrowing tiny snippets from something real can really add to your own freaky freak. I don’t think that approach is due to a terrible lack of imagination (at least I hope not), they are useful to help you make real the thing you already thought of.
A few years ago, I was participating in the Twitter Collective Animaloonies (a very silly art challenge to inflate creatures) and one month it was the turn of the elephant – an elephantloon. I always hesitated at just inflating them into balloons and often chose other whimsical ways to play. So, I went the way of the chimera, combining a jerboa with an elephant and insect wings. This work was ultimately used in a Twitter Art Exhibition (TAE) charity auction and seemed to be well liked, too!
My creation has since evolved and is now based on the body of a jerboa, an anteater’s snout, and a hummingbird moth wings.
I call it the humming pig. I named it before I discovered the hummingbird moth so I feel this is some sort of destiny, and that makes me happy. I like moths. I know some people don’t but since they are the cool and darker cousins of the butterfly, I’ll take it.
As you can see, my humming pigs are based on a number of real animals to help make it believable despite them not being real at all. I’ll just put it out there. All of them were fun to draw and explore, but Jerboas are ridiculously adorable. Those things are so cute it’s heart-breaking. I drooled over and drew many examples preparing this. Just for practice, you understand.
Sketching out the real animals helps us to learn more about them – such as their form and proportions, and the correct positioning of the limbs and wings. It also serves as a practice run for the animal they will eventually become. You can try out different angles and figure out what your imaginary creature is doing, and how it functions in the world it inhabits.
I looked at lots of different examples of each animal and considered how they would work together to make something believable. Some things were simply abandoned. Not just because they wouldn’t work, but because they just didn’t appeal to me. The anteater snout replaced the original elephant trunk, but it isn’t that prominent – and to be honest this is maybe a sign that the elements are blending successfully as I make something new. The original proboscis wasn’t there in my first attempts either, but I think the proboscis is important for my redesign since I eliminated the elephant trunk, the kids got to eat after all, and I wanted to make something that might actually survive.
My humming pigs will continue to evolve, and I look forward to continuing my project. I’ll be trying different animals as a way to take my humming pigs forward and expand their natural history. I plan to keep exploring and testing new ideas so I can build a world for them. I want to explore geographical considerations which would inspire distant cousins – humming pigs from different places, evolving in different climates and with different diets, all influencing the final creature.
There is a huge line of animals just waiting to be transformed!
It’s worth mentioning that looking at other artists is always helpful. I like to collect art books and I have a couple of really nice ones about imaginary creatures. So, here’s some recommendations:
Principles of Creature Design – Creating Imaginary Animals by Terryl Whitlatch, 2015, Design Studio Press
Mythical Beasts – An Artists Field Guide to Designing Fantasy Creatures, 2017, 3dtotal Publishing
Sketching from the Imagination – Creatures and Monster, 2019, 3dtotal Publishing
There’s an animal anatomy section in a magazine which is still available:
The Creative Masterclass Anatomy Essentials ImagineFX, Future Publishing.
As you can see, my Folksy Board theme this week is animal art! All graphite illustrations inspired by birdlife and marine life – originally made whilst participating in the Animal Alphabets art collective on Twitter
I have some prints available of the birds at the moment. The Weedy Sea Dragon is an original illustration only available in my Folksy shop.
I am currently collecting wild flowers (some people call them weeds, I suppose) as I go on my walks, and when I get home I press them between pages for future art making. So, this week I have been inspired to create my folksy board to celebrate the latest flowery members of my pressed flower family 🙂
So, this weeks Folksy Board theme is flowers – and it includes the orchid I illustrated for a recent magazine article. (I wrote about that here)
Pencil illustration – Inspired by pressed flowers.
I have some cards and postcard/art cards available, and I have also listed the original of the red flower and orchid/buttercup drawings available in my Folksy shop.
It’s been a month of ladybird creations for me as not only have I made some ladybird art for the Animaloon Collective over on Twitter, I also submitted another illustration and a story to the magazine I contribute to. This will be for the May 2022 edition so I will share soon enough.
For now here’s the artwork I made for the loony balloony balloon fest that occurs every second Tuesday of the month. As usual, I am loathe to inflate them. Instead they become airborne in all manner of whimsical ways. This time it’s steam!
This was inspired by ladybirds, steampunk dirigibles, and my work in progress ghost story.
I think mark making is a great way to build texture with graphite and I really love drawing fluffy things. I also yearn for a kitty cat but for various reasons I don’t have one, so it’s best to make one to fill that kitty cat void. This one looks very sympathetic and very fluffy!
Some time ago I drew a very silly cat called Slinky, shaped liked a skittle/bowling pin and very lanky, and I thought, since it’s kind of chilly, maybe she needed more hair.
I’m using some new pencils for the first time – Mars Lumograph Black – I like Mars Lumograph a lot, so I decided to test out the Black ones. They are similar to the others, just not as shiny as far as I can tell. My other tools include mechanical pencils, paper tornichons, and different erasers – a putty eraser, blue-tac, and a pencil eraser, which is, I guess, like a stick eraser in pencil form (must get me one on those!)
I don’t use the mechanical pencils for the mark making – there’s only so much you can do with a mechanical pencil as the lead can’t take the pressure, but they are good for laying out the initial line work, as I don’t need to worry about making errors and having to sharpen the wooden pencils into stubs before I’m even finished!
The paper I’m using is a lovely bright white – Canson extra white drawing paper 120 g/m2 – but to be honest just use whatever you like – I just like it very white! I have ordered white paper in the past that wasn’t remotely white and left me feeling rather bitter, so to actually find some that is bright and very white, well, I just feel I should mention it! 😊
I started out by working on the basic shape of the cat. I made her neck a little wider to take into account the fluff I‘m planning, and then started with the Black pencils. I added small lines and dashes very lightly, following the natural flow of the fur and the underlying structure of the cat’s body to make it believable. Even if she is a fantasy cat, she still needs to be believable. I drew the tail across her body – even though I plan to have it sit behind, this way the ends will meet, and make sense visually.
I blended my marks with the tornichon where the areas are small on her face and used a piece of cotton wool for the body. Then I kept working on another layer of marks, adding flicks of graphite along the contours to explain the changes in direction of the bones and muscles that sit beneath. I also used this to show the interaction with the cat’s environment i.e., the fur resting on the floor, flattened, or pushed up and out.
I changed to a heavier grade pencil, a 4B (then a 6B) so I could build on top of existing marks, and I added white flicks of exposed paper with the sharpened pencil eraser and the moulded to a point putty rubber. Keep the points of the erasers clean so they don’t add any unwanted smudges. Constantly sharpening the pencil eraser is a waste so you can use fine sandpaper to clean it off from time to time.
I also blended the sides of the cat to give her a blurred edge which would hopefully suggest a fuzzy fluffy fur effect. Continuing with the tornichon, I blended the marks I’d already made on the tail. I focussed on a line that ran down the centre of the length to suggest density where the bones would be and gave a lighter feel where only hair makes up the shape.
I started adding darker layers with a 6B to add a bit of depth. I realised at some point she had begun to look a little fluffier than I had intended. I’d lost sight of the skeleton and muscle, so I took steps to lift off some of the graphite with the putty rubber and the pencil eraser. Pushing the pencil with upwards strokes, as if working underneath the fur, creates some important shading as it creates a denser appearance. I did this with the darker 6B but I didn’t go overboard as too much uniformity with the mark making spoils the effect.
I finished with an 8B to add definition and find any lost details and sharpen up any important lines. And now Slinky is all set for a cold Spring!
I’ve focussed on the fur texture here and so I haven’t mentioned the eyes, but I plan to write about drawing eyes another time.
Oh! I’ve included some of the other floofs I made. They insisted! 😊