Sketch of my honey.
It was my birthday late last month and my wonderful partner, Anna-Lena, got me a copy of Shaun Tan’s The Bird King – an artist’s notebook, and it is both beautiful and inspiring to read and look at. I will never grow tired of it. My sister also bought me an actual artist’s notebook and I now have a few more sketches and doodles to share with the world.
The picture below is a face, kind of, until you tilt your head to the left. Now it’s two cyclists about to go round a bend. I know that feeling!
Here’s one from way back when. Nude self portrait. Included for no special reason:
Below is the work in progress cover illustration for book 3.
Who are your favourite illustrators? Do you have a favourite illustrated story? Would love to hear from you as it is a great way of finding new art and artists and inspiration.
What story would you illustrate or like to see illustrated?
One day I hope to make one of my own!
Please check my website for more art and info on methods and pricing: Dean Harkness Artist
If you got this far, thank you, and Happy Holidays!
Well the weeks and months are falling off the calendar at a fair rate. It’s not been a bad first quarter of the year, and I’ve made good progress with using my digital tablet to work with much more than pens and paints etc. In fact I’ve used the tablet so much that it has become a real joy again to go back to pencils and other physical media in between. Still haven’t cracked open those paints yet – maybe as the weather warms and I can start to think about working in the studio again.
Am hoping to upgrade my version of Photoshop in the next few weeks, which will open up a whole heap of options and ways of doing things. Now that I have a new computer that can handle a better version I can’t wait to get one!
I’ve been working on a set of pencil illustrations for a children’s book about ancient and pre- history. It’s been interesting using the digital tablet and Photoshop too to get them ready for print. It still takes quite a bit of time but at least it is actually possible.
Here’s an example of one of the illustrations. Each item is actually a separate layer in Photoshop so things can be moved around, but also so that the background can be made transparent, which may be useful for layout purposes, so as not to interfere with, or be interfered with by any of the text of the story.
I don’t want to say much more for now, though I would love to introduce you to the main character, a boy called Archie, but I think I’ll save that for a later post when it is closer to being completed, or is published.
Anyway, like I say, it’s been a nice ‘change’ to use pencil for finished illustrations again. – I needed it! I did actually start turning several of these illustrations into digital ones but it just didn’t feel right somehow. And now I am sure it was a good move to use some graphite and paper instead.
Oh, and all the illustrations have been done using my new clutch pencil which I blogged about here, So I guess you can say that that has been well and truly christened. And the new KUM pencil sharpener came in handy too :o)
Clocks go forward this weekend, I think. And Spring is most definitely sprung!
Thanks to a friend who posted a link to a great little post by Angry Dog Art about the KUM Automatic Long Lead / Pencil Sharpener I was reminded of clutch pencils, which by coincidence I had recently searched for online but not by that name as I didn’t know that that is what they are called.
I ordered one of the KUM sharpeners to begin with, and then searched online for ‘clutch pencils’, and not propelling pencils, claw pencils, or grabby thing pencils. Not surprisingly there are lots to choose from. I searched for one that I thought looked reasonably well made but also reasonably priced. One can spend a fortune, of course, but to my pleasant surprise I found a make of clutch pencil called KOH. On seeing an image of one I had a vague sense of having seen one before. It comes with a specially designed sharpener in one end that I would not have remembered seeing before without seeing it again. I don’t think I actually had one of these pencils as a child (and it would have been wasted on my if I had) but other kids had them, and maybe even one of my brothers did too. The design has not changed in over 30 years, at least!
This is the pencil:
and here is a picture of the built in sharpener
Clever stuff, huh? And all for the modest price of about £2.95
I’ve had a fine time over the past week or two using the new pencil to work on a bunch of illustrations for a children’s book I am currently doing for a friend (the person who shared the post about the sharpener, no less!) You can see Abi’s author site here: http://abiburlingham.com/
I also treated myself to a very chunky clutch pencil that I found in a local shop. It was less than a fiver and feels nice in the hand. I’ve sanded it and oiled it (it has a wooden body) but I haven’t actually drawn with it yet. This is what it looks like:
And here is a picture of the KUM sharpener:
It gives an extra long lead to pencils when sharpened, and has two small bladed for sharpening leads in clutch pencils too.
I shall invest in some more leads for the pencils soon. There’s a nice variety for the chunky one, including charcoal sticks and sepia sticks etc. Hopefully I can get some softer leads for the standard sized clutch pencil too.
If you made it this far then thanks for reading!
It is so weird how memory works (or doesn’t). What was the last thing you remembered that you had forgotten you had forgotten? 😉
This is a follow up post to the last one in which I blogged about going from traditional to digital media for some of my illustration work
It didn’t take long to get the bug for painting with the tablet. The first day or two were very hit and miss. I watched a couple of tutorials by this guy http://idrawgirls.com/tutorials/ and that helped get me going. Picked up some info about keyboard short-cuts for changing the size, colour and opacity of the brush nice and quick, as well as a couple of handy techniques for how to construct images in Photoshop. By day three I was hooked! Having some decent software and knowing how to use it makes a huge difference to working with a tablet, and are essential if you are to get any enjoyment out of it, and that is actually more important than some might think: How you are feeling will always show in the finished work.
Here is a set of images that show the progress of a monotone, semi-nude portrait I made after using the tablet for a couple of days.
Spent most of Saturday morning drawing this, with some tinkering later in the day too. I was happy with the results and it encouraged me to push on. I had a go at a couple of portraits next, and will tentatively use more and more colours as things progress. Learning how to mix colour digitally is going to take some time I think.
I now understand why I see so many ‘speed painting’ videos online. Graphics tablets work at the speed of light compared to working with actual paint and paper etc. I just thought everybody was getting obsessed with speed, whereas it just turns out to be the nature of the beast.
Working with the tablet this past week or two has been very interesting and is just like I thought it would be in some respects, and completely not in others. Things can only get better…. I hope!
You can see more examples of my first attempts with the tablet on my Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/BookCoverDesigns and there are links to that and other image hosting sites on my website: http://www.deanharkness.co.uk
Thanks for reading – hope you have a creative week ahead.
I have at last joined the digital world and the 21st century in relation to my art and design work. I have bought a large graphics tablet. The damn thing is nearly as big as my desk! It goes without saying that this is long overdue. Partly I was just being ornery in not converting to working digitally, but also I have resisted because I never felt I could afford equipment good enough to get the benefit from and at the same time enjoy using. Also I love to draw and paint with actual drawing and painting implements, and I spent years learning how to for that very reason, and for the results one can get of course when working with physical materials and equipment.
However, now that I have commissions coming in all the time and I hate to say no (and can’t afford to!) I can no longer afford to put it off. And wow, what an eye opener! Tablets these days can be pretty impressive bits of equipment. They are way out of my price range for the most part. The industry standard ones start at around £400 and upwards, which is out of my reach at this precise moment. Luckily there is at least one cheap alternative that sounds like it will do the job. Maybe one day I’ll upgrade to one of the more professional models. Thanks to @americannamor for pointing me in the right direction.
It has amazing sensitivity and resolution, and the short-cut buttons, and wheel for zooming and scrolling, and changing brush size and opacity etc make all the difference to the ease and speed of art and design work. The very expensive ones actually act as a monitor screen, but they are thousands of pounds.
This is a cheap alternative that gets very good reviews for a beginner level graphics digitizer tablet. It is made by Monoprice and retails for around £68, which is about a 6th of the cost of a Wacom.
Getting one of these should have quite an impact on the amount of work I can do. The amount of time involved when working with paper and paints can not easily be reduced without it showing in the end result, but when working digitally everything happens about ten times as fast. I’ve worked on a couple of illustrations using a ten year old tablet that is about 5 x 3 inches, and even that can speed things up on occasion, though I use it rarely because it is poor quality and is therefore not that pleasant to use – unresponsive, glitchy, and very small. Compared to the tablet I received this week it is a complete piece of junk. On Sunday evening I ordered the above Monoprice 12″ x 9″ tablet from Amazon. It arrived just two days later! It may only be the cheap option but that one piece of plastic can replace easels, painting boards, brushes, paints, paper, a studio, ink, pens, pencils, pastels, jars of water or white spirit, turpentine and linseed oil, retarding agents, rags, etc. etc. etc. All or which I can now use on my more personal pieces, and just for the fun of it. I often don’t use my paints for my own work because I know I need to keep a stock of them for work-work. This tablet should help alleviate that to some degree. It won’t replace everything I do, but it is going to be a great addition to my main method of working. The only possible drawback I can foresee in the immediate future is the potential for a numb bum from sitting at the PC all the time.
I’ve had a good play with it already, and I must say that I love it. The Wacoms must be unbelievably cool to use, but this will do for me… for mow 🙂
Have you ever radically changed the way you do a particular thing, due to technology, or a change in circumstances?
So you want to draw but think you can’t…
I have often heard people comment that they wished they could draw, or paint, or whatever, and then follow that up with the statement that they know they can’t. Well guess what? Neither can I. I have no innate ability or skill for drawing, but what I do have is the desire to draw and the ability to not let the fact that I’m not particularly gifted get in the way. You may have to accept that you’ll never be as good as Turner, Leonardo, or Picasso but so what – the pleasure you will get from creating something that did not exist until you started it is immeasurable.
The trick is to do it for pleasure and not what you hope the end result will be. Try not to have a too distinctly defined idea of what it is you’re aiming for. It’s the process that’s fun, not the looking at the picture once it’s finished. Though that’s not to imply that you wont get great pleasure from seeing what you’ve created.
At best I have a slightly above average hand / eye coordination but that is not essential either. If you can feed yourself with a spoon you can draw. And the simple truth is that the more you draw the better you will get, and it is always surprising the speed at which we improve in anything we do so long as we make a commitment to it no matter how small that commitment. Ten minutes practice every day is infinitely more beneficial than an hour’s practice once a week! And no matter how little skill you start off with (including no skill at all) if you stick at it you will end up producing work that you are both pleased with and happy to show to others. You may even end up selling some of your work because those people that have never made the commitment of learning this particular skill will often admire what you’ve produce, even though you’ll be aware of all it’s flaws.
Tip one is to not try and be different, or unique, or special. You are all those things and you couldn’t not be those things even if you tried. The less you try to be original the more original you will be. Try not to be precious about your work, especially your first attempts – accept that you’re probably not going to be happy with them and move on; You’ll soon find yourself getting engrossed in the process when you least expect it.
After that it’s all up to you and how much time you want to give it. There is no substitute for putting in the hours. Practice makes perfect as they say, and it really does too, as in all things. Practice is more rewarding than any amount of innate talent.
Tip two is more of a rule than a tip, and that is: Don’t spend ages trying to think of what to draw; If it is not immediately apparent what it is you want to draw just draw. Draw the first thing that comes into your head, or the first thing you see in front of you, or even just let your hand move across the surface and see what it leads to – it will almost certainly lead to something if you just relax and don’t worry or panic. And don’t ever stare at a blank page wondering what to fill it with – that could go on for hours! Making a few random marks is a tried and trusted method of getting yourself started.
Good luck and most of all… Enjoy!