Friday, 21 April 2017

Drawing diary: March

Star Wars: the Old Republic launched a new update (including a long expected new operation boss) and Lord of the Rings Online started off its tenth anniversary event this week, so what am I going to write about? Neither, apparently. I have plenty to say about SWTOR's 5.2, but I want to take the time to write it all down. You can expect a post early next week, and of course I'll talk about it on Corellian Run Radio Saturday. With all that's happening, I still need to set foot in LOTRO to try out the anniversary event, but that should happen somewhere next week as well.

Meanwhile, my drawing diary of March is way overdue, so I'll write that instead. I usually try to write these entries at the start of the month, but back then the Developer Appreciation Week (DAW) took up all of my time. I also may just have put this diary off because there was so much to scan. I made so much!

In February, I discovered two things: how to start with abstractifying paintings (inspired by Tara Leaver) and that you can dillute conté crayons with water. In March, I heavily experimented with both. I basically tried to let go of the idea that my drawings needed to look like real things and it was so much fun!

When I wrote about abstractified painting before, I thought you guys would all go "zzzz...". Luckily this wasn't the case and people were supportive! Redbeard even liked the weird stuff I made and wrote that the work with conté crayons somehow reminded him of native Americans. The crayons have very authentic colours because they are made of natural pigments. When I stumbled upon a photo of a bird of prey's feathers on Twitter, I had to think of that remark and I decided to take it up as a subject.

Feathers: bird of prey

I used a dry brush for the first time ever (I don't know, it had just never occurred to me before!) and it definitely has a special effect. You could say that the strokes simulate the feather structure somewhat - not that you can probably tell that the above was based on feathers, but that wasn't the point.

My goal was to draw more regularly. In total, I made eleven abstract miniature paintings with conté crayons and water: two or three per day. Interestingly, I noticed afterwards that each day had its own style and marks.

Feathers: dove

After the bird of prey I tried to go with something inspired by dove feathers, but without a reference picture. I added the dark stain near the end because I felt there wasn't enough happening without it.

Feathers: wing pins

This one started out with a vague idea about feather structure and then became an exercise in form in general. It's very different from what I usually make.

Feathers: Hoopoe (Upupa epops)

By now I had discovered the amazing Dutch-English website Feathers. It features a huge photo collection of wild bird feathers, so people  identify what bird a feather belongs to. I was fascinated by it and I learned that you aren't allowed to collect feathers in the Netherlands (even though I live there, I had no clue!) because the website's owner had to get a special permit from the government.

I struggle a lot with the black conté crayons (they don't give off much pigment), but I really liked how this one turned out. The pitch black background is made with pure charcoal.

Feathers: Hoopoe (Upupa epops)

With this one I turned things around: the black conté crayons in the background and charcoal on the feathers. It ended up being one of my favourites!

Schubert: bass

By now I started to get bored by feathers. It occurred to me that I was always drawing in complete silence. So this time, I put on a CD of Schubert (Der Tod und das Mädchen) and just started drawing without any prior ideas.

Schubert: drama

It's very emotional music, so these ended up being somewhat disturbing. The one above looks especially dark. It has some Cthulhu vibes.

Feathers: common swift (Apus apus)

While it was fun to experiment, it wasn't really my thing, so I returned to the feathers. However, the next two drawings turned out blunt and hasty, and I'm not happy with them.

Feathers: northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)

When I finished this one, I couldn't determine whether it looked better like this or upside down - I guess that's when you know for sure you have to try doing something else.

Runescape 1: Blurite cave

The last two abstractified conté crayon drawings I did were inspired by a blog post from Amathyx, who recently started playing Runescape 2. I have never played that MMO, but there's something special about those simplistic colourful graphics of its old virtual world.

Runescape 2: Snow

You can find the screenshots I used as a reference in Leaving no stone unturned on Amathyx does Gaming. I gave myself a couple of seconds to sketch and then closed the blog post, so I had to do the rest with my imagination.

It's funny how different my drawings look from the originals. The snowy landscape looks like it has a face and the blurite mine has all these odd shapes and dimensions (as if there's something wrong with the space time continuum) that give me an uncanny feeling. I don't think I'll ever dare to mine blurite in Runescape.

Furthermore, I made this illustration of T7 disintegrating a command crate for my SWTOR post The solution to command crate schematic OCD. It's crude and quickly made, so I'm not all that happy with it, but it does its job. I still get dalek vibes whenever I get crappy things in my command crates (although it has hugely improved with update 5.2).

Decaying tulips

It felt like my abstractified drawings were just getting worse and worse, so instead I started painting the tulips that were standing on my desk using water colour paint. I'm actually super proud of this one! It's the first time I used water paint for something this big (A4) and although it has many flaws, I learned a lot from it. Somehow the colours got a bit lost in the scan: in reality they are more intense and it looks better.

Before I wrap things up, I'd like to give a shoutout to Cfcallier of Moon's Meadow, who has also been trying out conté crayons for her March drawing diary. It is a funny thought that we may have sat down at the same time at different sides of the world, both trying to do something with these crayons. Cfcallier also has a post up describing how she works with conté crayons in detail. Her drawings are very different from mine, because she did aim for realism. Naturally, there are also a lot more horses.

I hope you guys weren't too bored because of all the abstract drawings. For me, this month was amazing: it was so much fun to drop down everything I usually do and experiment freely! It isn't something I'm going to do forever, though: this month's drawings are very different already. You'll see in a couple of weeks.


  1. Personally, I haven't been bored at all. I think I mentioned it before but I do find it interesting to see what kind of thinking someone was going through when creating something. Maybe it is because it is so easy to take things for granted when you see the final product but when people talk about the process we start to see how much effort went into it. Or maybe I am overthinking everything!

    Anyway, I will admit I would never think most of those were based on feathers if you didn't say it. Still I like them. Specially the first one. For some reason I like the warm color and the lines.

    Cthulhu would probably be proud of the drawings based on Schubert's music. I can even see him peeking on the right lower corner of the second one...

    Agreed with your feelings about the Runescape drawings.

    And the tulips look perfect! It is one of those that would look wonderful framed and put on a wall for all to see. :)

    1. You're not overthinking things. There are a lot of small decisions going into a drawing that make it end up as it does and for me that's interesting to read about, especially since everyone does things very differently! Even if someone has a style that doesn't really appeal to me, or if they draw on an entirely different skill level, there are usually things I can learn from or be inspired by. I just thought it might be really boring to read about if you're not into drawing yourself, but I'm glad I was wrong!

      I think Cthulhu isn't particularly proud, in fact, I think he is rather disturbed by the sheer lack of stealth poodle sacrifices. Too bad for him.

      I don't know about framing, but I have the tulip painting and some of the feather drawings hanging on my wall with a sort of hanging system I made. I like it, because then my drawings serve some sort of purpose and I can easily change them around when I make new ones. That way my bedroom changes its look without me putting much effort into it - not more than I would've anyway. :)

  2. Wow! You were busy in March! Love seeing all that you worked on.

    My favorites are the Feathers: bird of prey, Feathers: wing pins, and the watercolor.

    Your use of line and pigment in both of the feather pieces are well done. The lines add so much visual interest and how you used the pigment helps add depth. I like just looking at them to see what I can see.

    I love your water color. You have a very soft style in your paintings and to me that makes me feel peaceful. You do very well with the flower shapes too.

    Thank you so much for the shout out! I greatly appreciate it. =D I like your thought about us both sitting down on opposite sides of the world to create with the conté crayons.

    I may have to try something with feathers now... You have gotten me curious and it's not something I ever thought of!

  3. I like that you're straddling that line between abstract expressionism and abstract impressionism in terms of look and feel. Obviously, you're not splattering paint like Jackson Pollack, but I really do like your abstract work. And like I said last month (or was it two months ago), the red/white/black palate really evokes a Native American feel.


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