Art in August #25 – Elsa from Frozen

My Elsa Watercolour

My Elsa Watercolour

I think this is probably my favourite Art in August piece so far. I have to say a thousand thank yous to Laptop on the Ironing Board for coming up with the Art in August challenge – it has given me an excuse to indulge in some of my favourite creative pastimes without guilt. It’s for the blog, so it’s working, right?

Drawing animated characters is something I have always enjoyed doing. I find it much easier to copy someone else’s drawing than come up with my own, and cartoons have a simplicity to them that give great results without spending hours on shading and detail.

My first attempts at copying animation, back in my teens, were when I became obsessed with drawing stills from the Watership Down movie. Back then, before the handy invention of the tablet, I had to pause the video and copy from the screen – occasionally tracing off the TV (in the days when they had glass screens and you could touch them) but more often sketching from the image and then redrawing in detail.

Pencil sketch

Pencil sketch

Animation was easier to copy then, as the originals were usually watercolours, in flat colour, rather than the modern CGI three-dimensional almost lifelike characters (well, apart from the scary-huge eyes and tiny chins!) The largest Disney drawings I have done are when I painted a four-foot Ariel and a three-foot flying Dumbo, together with Winnie the Pooh and Piglet, on the wall of a little girl’s bedroom. I always intended to do the same for my children, but our walls of crumbling plaster don’t really lend themselves. Besides, talk about setting a bad precedent!

Today, I was fortunate enough that the children were off trashing the playroom playing for an hour, so I was able to start the picture of Elsa I’ve been wanting to do for weeks.

As time is of a premium now I have children, I decided to use a tutorial by Mark Crilley for my drawing of Elsa. It meant I could follow step by step, focussing on things like the way the eyes tilt up and the sassy slant of the eyebrow.

After first watercolour

After first watercolour

The tutorial was brilliant, although Mark did much of his shading using coloured pencils. I’m not so good with pencils and finding any that weren’t full of broken lead proved challenging, so I used watercolour on pretty much all of it.

I’m a bit frustrated that I started too close to the top of the paper and couldn’t fit all the hair in, and the shading of the dress isn’t great because I couldn’t see it too clearly on the tutorial, but otherwise I am pleased.

I love Elsa, the “conceal, don’t feel” ice queen. They used to call me the ice maiden when I was younger – a combination of white-blonde hair and shyness that came across as arrogance – and I would give anything to have a hundredth of Elsa’s cool sass.

For now the picture will have to do!

Art in August #24 – My Little Knight

Photoshopped Knight

Photoshopped Knight

I decided that there have been so many dragons on my art posts recently that we need a knight in shining armour. So for my ‘art’ today I opted for some Photoshop work on an ipad photo of my son in fancy dress.

A few years ago I studied digital photography with the Open University and the course concentrated heavily on Photoshop. I’d used the software before but without knowing what I was doing, so it was great to learn how to do stuff properly. I have to say, for just tweaking pictures, I still prefer Windows Live Photo, but if you want to do any major work then Photoshop is pretty cool.

Many people think Photoshopping photos is somehow sacrilegious. When it comes to airbrushing women for magazines, I agree. But I’m not adverse to pumping up the colour a bit in a photo (I do it all the time with the ipad shots because they’re usually so washed out) or erasing things that shouldn’t be there: telegraph wires, toys on the floor, litter, stray birds in the sky. It’s all part of the artistic process. Besides, it’s more fun than actually tidying the room first! (I’ve even airbrushed the hairs from my leg when I needed to take a photo of my ankle tattoo, once, because I couldn’t be bothered to shave them. Now that is lazy.)

Original Knight photo

Original Knight photo

The skills have come in handy for book covers: I’ve removed a whole person from one of the images (Two Hundred Steps Home Volume Five), and in others I’ve changed the colours (The dress in Two Hundred Steps Home Volume Six) or flipped the photo the other way around (the latest Class Act cover). I did the whole dragon pendant for the original Dragon Wraiths cover, using about five different images.

I’m a bit out of practice though (and ipad shots don’t have many pixels to work with) so this isn’t my best work. But it was fun remembering how to use masks and layers. For this photo I lassoed the image of my son and gave the background a Gaussian blur (so it looked like I’d used a wide aperture like an f4, not something you have a choice with on the ipad!) Then I erased the sippy cup from the floor, and a pack of cards from the recess in the fireplace; darkened the picture on the TV; pumped up the colour on the horse and the cape; and added a black border (which was meant to look like the Instagram borders I love, but sadly doesn’t).

I’m not entirely pleased, but it was good to have a go again. And doesn’t he look cute? (Worth remembering on days when all he looks is grumpy).

Art in August #23 – More Dragons

Dragon-tastic

Dragon-tastic

Hubbie and I went out this evening without children, for the first time in years, to a friend’s birthday party. Great, food, great live music, great company. It was nice. It was even nicer to come home and swap spanx for pyjamas!

As a result, I don’t have many words or much in the way of art work. So here are a few more dragons I drew while waiting to see the doctor about my chronic tiredness (come back and see us if you’re still tired when your kids are back at school!) while offering unspoken smiling moral support to the mother of a fractious tired child.

Hopefully I’ll manage something new tomorrow. Have a great bank holiday weekend!

P.S. Class Act is free on Amazon today, just click the link on the right

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Art in August #22 – Fingerpaint Dragon

Fingerpaint App Dragon

Fingerpaint App Dragon

At 6.30am this morning I still didn’t have a clue what my Art was going to be for today, as I crawled into bed exhausted at 9.30pm last night and spent some time with Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.

I thought about using a photo of the kids and photo-shopping it, but I haven’t taken anything special recently. I trawled through my KidsDoodle pictures but I’m a bit bored of that app. And then I spotted a new one in the children’s games folder on the iPad. Fingerpaint.

This app is even more beautiful, annoying and uncontrollable than KidsDoodle. On this one, not only does the colour change randomly mid-stroke, but – depending on the force of your finger stroke – tendrils of colour run off in different directions. I chose ‘pencil’ and so the tendrils were delicate coloured pencil lines that I ache to be able to create in real life.

Oh to be a child of today, with all these amazing ways to create vibrant pictures. Of course, not being a child, I found the lack of control hugely frustrating. It took around thirty attempts to get this dragon. Still, it’s the process, not the end-product, that’s important, right?

Art in August #21 – Shark Week Cat

Cat in a shark hat

Cat in a shark hat

At 10pm this evening I remembered I hadn’t done anything for my Art in August post due to go live tomorrow morning, and the only loom-banding I’ve done today is triple fish band bracelets, because it’s been a day of coffee shop catch ups, kids play dates, and medical appointments (new glasses and high blood pressure anyone?)

I saw this adorable photo of a cat in a shark hat earlier (while hubbie was watching some awful movie about a giant shark, ironically), from The Cat House on the Kings.com Facebook page, so I put my loom down and looked for my pencils.

Unfortunately the best I could come up with was an Ikea pencil (those freebie ones you’re meant to hand back at the till – the kids never do) and a black pencil crayon that quickly went blunt.

Fifty minutes later I’d managed this.

Including original

Including original

I’m pleased enough, considering the time and materials I had to work with, (although of course a workman never blames his tools or lack of).

I haven’t managed to capture the adorable shocked expression, but at least you can tell it’s a cat (even if you can’t tell the hat is a shark!) I used to love drawing cats, especially their eyes, so it was nice to have a go.

Anyway, time for bed. Thanks for sticking with me so far with my random artistic efforts, and thanks for a fab idea, Laptop on the Ironing Board!

(And, hey, my new Class Act front cover seems to have attracted a couple of Kindle Library borrows – my first this month – so that was worth the effort! Let’s hope for a few more…)

Art in August #20 – Kingfisher Doodle

Doodle kingfisher

Doodle kingfisher

I spent most of the day at the park today. We haven’t been once this holiday and, as the kids were playing nicely, I tried to work out why. Then I remembered that even walking from the car and sitting on a bench for an hour would have exhausted me a week ago. Let’s hope our three-hour visit today means I’m getting better.

Daughter also went into her holiday club without tears today, making me very proud. I got to have a couple of hours with my son on his own for the first time in weeks and, I admit, it was nice. I love my children equally, but I fight less with my son and we see the world more the same way.

I’m hoping a little bit of one-on-one might curb the increase in tantrums, too, though I doubt it. If it fixed his new habit of going to the toilet every ten minutes (and I mean every ten minutes…) I’d be ecstatic. I’m taking him to the docs about it later in the week, but I’m 99% certain it’s psychological. When you and your hubbie have a history of mental health issues, even little hiccups like that can be frightening. I dread my children ending up on meds too.

Anyway, I did some doodles at the park and while the kids were eating ice cream in the Kingfisher Cafe, and this was my favourite.

Art in August #19 – Neon Rothko

Neon Rothko

Neon Rothko

Today was all about my little girl growing up and being brave so I thought I’d do some doodles based on her old class name, Rothko. Much like any abstract art, this was much harder than the end result would suggest, especially as you get a different colour with every tap when using the KidsDoodle app.

I don’t know much about art – I only studied it to age 16 at school and we didn’t cover art history – which always comes as a shock/disappointment to people when they find out I paint but haven’t heard of their favourite artist. A bit like when you study history at uni and everyone assumes you can answer any pub quiz question regardless of time period. Or like being a writer and having people say, ‘will I have heard of you?’ when you tell them what you do. Anyway, I digress.

At my daughter’s school, all tutor groups are named after famous artists and I’ve heard of only a handful. Thankfully she’s in Picasso next year although I only realised I was telling her how to spell it wrong when we parked next to a Citroen Picasso at the supermarket (I’d guessed at one s and two cs).

'Blue, Red, And Green'

‘Blue, Red, And Green’

However, as it happens, I had heard of Rothko before it became my daughter’s tutor group. Ironically I found out who he was several years ago, via an analyst I used to work with, who asked me to paint a Rothko replica. I wouldn’t, because he was paying me, and that felt wrong, but my style isn’t a million miles away from Rothko so I did something in the spirit of the picture he was after, after Googling who on earth Rothko was.

I have to say, I do love Rothko’s style. Deceptively simple and incredibly soothing. I’d have them on my wall.

So, today, for my daughter who went to holiday club, despite dreading it for weeks, and didn’t hide under the table (as threatened), and stopped sobbing and screaming almost as soon as I left (I thought she would, but it’s still hard leaving a near-hysterical child), and who came out three hours later all smiles, this is for you. Mummy’s twenty-first century interpretation of Rothko’s ‘Blue, Red and Green’.

Art in August #18 – New Class Act Cover

New Class Act Cover

New Class Act Cover

I finally decided on a new cover for Class Act (because I’m impatient like that). It’s by the same photographer as the most popular of the six I posted before, although in this one the daisies and heart are a bit clearer. Yes it doesn’t have people on, and doesn’t really scream romance, and yes it doesn’t explain the title (Sorry, Rinelle, your advice was good and I did try to find my perfect shot, with paint brushes and theatre tickets and daisies and people holding hands, but after four hours I admitted defeat.).

It does at least have daisies and a heart, so hopefully says romance a bit more than the previous cover, and I think it sits nicely alongside Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes, so it will do for now! It can’t do any worse than the current one, I haven’t had so much as a borrow this month, despite the new Kindle Owners Lending Library. The only question is whether to change my Goodreads Giveaway, or let it run with the original cover. I’ve had so few people sign up so far, I’m thinking of the latter.

That’s about it for the art today. It turns out my mum doesn’t have a virus, she’s just topsy turvy on sleep from watching too much sport (she says she’s regressed to being a teenager) so I have to accept I’m not ill either. Just stressed and all-parented-out. At least hopefully that means I’ll feel better when the darlings go back to school. Only nineteen days to go, not that I’m counting. 😉

Art in August #17 – Loomband Hot Air Balloon

Hot air balloon and passenger

Hot air balloon and passenger

I had so much fun making my loom-less flower (using only the hook) that I decided to make this hot air balloon using a tutorial by the same person, FeelinSpiffy/Crafting Fantastic.

It took quite a long time for me to get the hang of it, and even longer to finish (it uses a lot of bands). Mine doesn’t stand up too well, I think because the jelly bands are so bulky. I wouldn’t have used them, but they were all I got in my last bulk order – unfortunately the cheaper the bands are, the less choice you get about what turns up!

In the original tutorial, Ellen (I think that’s her name) uses one of her super-cute turtles as passenger (and weight, to help it stand up), but my kids insisted on these penguins instead, using a DIY Mommy tutorial. They’re much easier to make, but the black doesn’t show up too well.

Hot air balloon with penguin

Hot air balloon with penguin

Of course my son wants a hot air balloon now, in green and black, although I doubt he’ll ever play with it. I’m having to take it easy though, as, even more than using the loom, this hook-only stuff kills my neck and strains my eyes. I feel 100 years old today.

Actually, hubbie and I are both shattered. Hubbie finished work on Friday, so has that post-handover exhaustion, and I’ve definitely discovered the limits of my childcare ability. Three weeks and I’m ready to do pretty much anything other than listen to twelve hours of squabbling for another three weeks. At least I still have my loom bands!

I’m trying to decide what to make next. There are so many cute things on the tutorials, I want to make them all. Suggestions? 🙂

Art in August #16 – Scary Sketch

My kids in a few years?

My kids in a few years?

When I did GCSE art, age 15-16, pencil was my medium. My favourite thing to do was pencil portrait sketching, preferably from posters and photos (I have a gorgeous one of Kevin Costner somewhere!).

One of the reasons I dropped art for A Level (aside from being convinced I wouldn’t get the grade I needed for uni) was that the art teacher kept trying to get me to use colour and I’m nothing if not stubborn. Ironic, then, that my solo abstract art exhibition in 2011 was titled It’s All About Colour.

Today I decided to try a sketch for the first time in about half a decade. I have to admit I was nervous and excited in equal measure. I couldn’t find any of my expensive pencils – long since lost to the children. So, using a broken HB pencil and a tatty rubber, I attempted to draw my children (from a photo).

The original

The original

It had to be both of them, to minimise arguments, so the choice of picture was tough: these days it’s hard to get a picture of my son where he isn’t sticking his tongue out. Hence why my son has a Christmas hat on: this one is from last December.

I really enjoyed sketching again, although it was frustrating to have a hard pencil, and a chattering child for company. I have to say, though, the holiday is certainly letting me do things I never normally allow time for. There has to be an upside to six  weeks of relentless parenting!

What’s a bit freaky is that the end result looks sort of like my kids, but like they might look when they’re older (and my daughter has a hint of Emma Watson as Hermione about her!). An artist’s sketch of their future maybe. I wouldn’t have shared it – I’ve done better – but this Art in August challenge is all about having a go! Time to raid the playroom and find my 2B pencil…

The Art in August challenge was started by the Laptop On The Ironing Board blog.