21 August 2014

Viking Table Top Design

I'm back, drawing another Viking inspired illustration for Wakefield Museum.
This one is for a table top in the Library and is to feature interesting Viking facts and a game to play.

The hand drawn and painted artwork is going to be enlarged to fit the table (1500 x 750mm) and I am working  at half size, which means breaking out the magnifying glass again to get the detail into the drawing.

I've pencilled the layout onto the watercolour paper, following a loose brief
from the Museum and making the drawing up as I go along. 

I used 2b lead for the pencil drawing. Experience from doing the floor map showed me that the harder HB lead left a slight indentation in the paper when the graphite is erased. Not so much a problem for the naked eye but when the industrial scanner, scanning at high resolution is used at the print origination stage, they were picking up shadows from the pencil indentations. hopefully the darker lead will be easier to erase without leaving those shadow marks.

After inking with a dip pen and Black India ink I leave the work to dry for a good few hours. Then using a putty rubber erase the pencil under drawing. I then start to apply colour washes using water colour paint. Mixing up a good quantity of the base green and blue, which probably translates into something equivalent to an egg cup of each. I build up several layers using a 1/2 inch Flat Brush, trying to keep the looseness and spontaneity in the painting.

When the 'block' colours are done and dry I then go in with  smaller 6 and a 7 Round Brushes, adding spot colours and darkening shadows and textures. As I did for the Viking Floor map I finish off with a bit of coloured pencil over the top to bring out a bit more texture.

The final artwork was then ironed flat and a bunch of River Serpents added in to the gaming grid design bit. These serpents were spay-mounted down into position with a very strong craft type aerosol glue applied sparingly.

Did I say iron flat the artwork? One of the technical issues from the previous floor map was shadows caused by buckling of the watercolour paper. This can happen with the thickest of papers and also paper that has been pre-stretched. The problem was solved last time by dry mounting the original on to mount board. I had tried ironing artwork years ago with little success, it seemed to stretch the work and make waves out of the buckles, still not desirable. I found this video on the internet which refines the ironing technique and works a treat.

3 August 2014

From the Pages of Beyond the Border
Storytelling Festival 2014

I recently took my sketchbook and pens to a Storytelling Festival at
St. Donats Castle and Arts Centre in Wales, 4th -6th July 2014.

I made drawings and notes in situ over the weekend, of the performances I saw and compiled them into something with a narrative (and tidied up my hand writing) when I got back home to Wakefield. The festival is huge, in its 21st year and this comic strip is the briefest of snapshots of what went down Beyond the Border...

Interested? Here are some useful links to some of the spectacular
performers I got to see at the weekend...

Laura Simms

John Welding

(I've done this sort of thing before but never this organised or
on this scale of which you can see more here, here and here.)


As a little blog extra, here are some mobile phone photos of the drawings in progress...

This is the rain battered book I was working in for the weekend...

The sketchbook is a record of the festival in itself.


Extra, extra...

Leaving Wakefield Friday morning.

Home for the weekend.

Set up in the rain.

And then the sun on Saturday made everything okay.

The feeding tent. This made the project possible.
(I couldn't afford to pay festival food prices all the time)

Look. People sitting around outside on a Sunday afternoon.
Listening to stories.

Yeah. More weather. Aint so bad.

Monday morning. The walk home back to reality.

2 July 2014

Viking Map Illustration

The last few weeks I have been making a map for Wakefield One Museum for their upcoming display featuring the remains of a genuine Viking boat, to hopefully go on display in the near future.

My first approach was to draw the map digitally in Photoshop, the brief had lots of details and maps have to be accurate, don't they? My first attempt was rejected. I had it in my mind that the artwork had to be created actual size for it to look sharp for display (6m x 1.5m at approx 200dpi). My last few illustration jobs had been done digitally but it was becoming apparent from Museum feedback that they wanted the hand drawn quality.

The obvious go to reference for hand drawn Vikings is Peter firmin's Noggin the Nog. I also had a file of images the Museum thought might work and from that I found this...

Which went a long way in influencing the way the sea and the towns were rendered on my map. I normally draw direct in pen and ink or use a light box but in this case had to pencil out the fine detail first to ink over. It took time but took away the panic I normally feel when drawing direct.

I ended up using a Magnifying glass and a 0.5 HB Mechanical pencil to sketch out the details.

The Magnifying glass came in handy for inking fine details too. I got used to using the glass, it slowed my hand and cut down on the amount of lines I use when I draw which seemed appropriate for map work.

After drawing everything out with dip pen and waterproof ink it was time to add watercolour. Sounds easy but the weather was affecting my lines. Hot and humid days but as the night air cooled the paper started absorbing moisture, and ink that normally stayed crisp edged was bleeding into the paper fibre. I tried swapping from Indian Ink to a thicker Acrylic Ink but the same bleeding occurred. The hand drawn artwork is a 1/5th of the intended size so any tiny 'hair line' would be magnified. I ended up having to close the outside door on a summer evening and put the heating on to dry the air. An hour later the ink was back to its normal sharp edged quality.

I left the ink to dry and then went to bed, experience has taught me not to erase pencil lines until the ink is well and truly dry, in this case about ten hours dry.

When all the pencil lines were erased it was time to add water colour. Laying down chunky washes first to kill the whiteness of the paper. After that had dried I then went in adding shadows and spot colours building up the texture and detail. A thing that I do, because I've never been told otherwise is, I use colour pencil over the top of water colour paint to add texture. I also use a fine blue lead technical pencil to add in that cool blue effect you get from shadows. You can't see it from these shots but it is in there.

The photos I take for convenience are from my mobile phone, usually late into the night with not very good lighting. I took the finished artwork into the Museum Team this morning and they provided me with some truer to life, colour wise photos of the map.