Seed Flower Fairy
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.