The Log Book
Tales of an Artist Afloat
In my last post, I said that my giant squid monster had led to something even bigger. Well, he got some friends. First was the tropical island angler fish, then the sea dragon and the tentacle-tongued ship swallower. I brainstormed things that sea monsters could do, or what they might look like. I was challenged to draw a sea monster a day for a month- cheating slightly, I counted my first four monsters as four days worth (though up till then my daily monster rate had varied between 2 and 0.4) then set to work on creating a sea monster every day.
I mostly used Copic multiliners to draw with- I love the range of sizes and consistency in their ink flow. My Rotring Tikky liners had a thicker ink flow- great for juicy, shiny eyes and rich dark blacks. Continuing with the same media and theme has started to help my art- I soon found that my cross hatching and stippling improved, and my monsters became more textured with increased depth. I got better at thinking of little details that would make my monsters more interesting and bring them to life. You can see monsters 1- 11 in the gallery below, and read their stories on Instagram and Facebook
Excitement hit on Sunday morning, somewhere between loads of laundry, a final tidy of the boat and a visit from our friend Adrian. The stressful jobs were done and I was ready to go sailing! There was a total lack of wind, so the sails remained furled, but we maneuvered away from the dock easily and headed to Waiheke. Our night at Blackpool was quiet and uneventful. I made the most of having time to read, Jim worked on the drain pump which had already began to misbehave, and the next day we set sail to Kawau.
We had beautiful winds. All the work which Jim had done on the hull paid off as Island Prism cut through the water at 6.5 knots. We met heavy rainfall, with beautiful sunshine in between, and by the evening were anchored near the Governor's mansion at Kawau. The anchorage there is secure and very pretty. The island has a colourful history, having been home to cannibals, coppermines and Governor George Grey, who imported exotic plants and animals and drove around the island in a carriage drawn by four zebras. Some of the animals remain today- peacocks and wallabies roam alongside the native birds.
The island's birdlife are always happy to see people, especially if you come bearing bread. A flotilla of ducks swam out to see us as I sketched the view from the boat in the late afternoon, and the following day the peacocks and weka stalked the cafe in hope of edible gifts. The peacock's feathers were glorious in the sunlight, although he did seem to have trouble turning round in the confined space between tables!
I was experimanting with my new Noodler's Nib Creaper and Lexington Grey ink. The pen is a flex nib, which gives it a range of line variations as you change pressure, and Lexington grey is a lovely shading ink which goes from a light pencil shade to a deep grey. The two worked together beautifully as the pen allows the ink flow to vary- I think the duck sketches show it well. On the cream paper in my sketchbook, everything had a very gentle 19th Century air. Next time we're back I might need to try something a little more outrageous, but for now the greys and greens suit the beautiful mansion house and peaceful island very well.
Kawau is beautiful, and it was tempting to stay another night- maybe looking for wallabies at dusk and barbequing on the beach. But the wind was blowing well so we decided to take it to head up the coast to Leigh.
Flirting with pens
This week my Inktober aim was to continue getting to grips with my Platinum maki-e brush pen. I do love the expressive lines I can get from it, and reach for it quite often, but have not yet achieved the practice I need to get total control over my line variations.
Sunday was boat yard day- we had to put epoxy primer onto the stripped-back hull, then get the first layers of bottom paint on within a few hours. That meant a break in between coats- as the weather tried to decide whether or not to pour down and ruin our hard work. There was a Beaver seaplane at the shipyard for repairs on some of the brackets for its pontoons. Perfect material for a sketch break- as a cold wind blustered and rain spat down. Even De Atramentis Document ink gets blotched if the rain falls as it's being applied, and the flapping pages did nothing to help my line work. Note to self- learn to carry clips to hold my sketchbook open! Despite making my sketching uncomfortable, the weather held off enough that we could get more coats done. Now Island Prism's bottom is done and she is one step closer to getting in the water!
It was only Week 2 of term but between boat work, teaching and house pack up I felt knackered! Drawing didn't happen on Monday- a lovely friend gave me a bunch of poppies as a perk up because I was looking so tired. I left the flowers at school on Monday but took them home on Tuesday- they were the perfect inspiration pick-me-up! I cheated on my poor brush pen though, and grabbed my Lamy Safari. It's still got Lamy ink in it, which smudges when I add a wash. I do like the effect that the running ink adds to the watercolour, though most people just assume it's gone wrong! Sometimes it's fun to look at things differently.
On Wednesday I tried the poppies again- this time with the brush pen (after apologising to it for the double dating). I used some of my Noodlers sample inks to colour the flowers- Navajo Turquoise, Apache Sunset, Yellow and Army Green. I do love Noodlers' names, and love the shading I got from the turquoise and orange!
For the weekend, we went up to see our friends in Ngunguru. They are very tolerant when I sit there trying to sketch their guinea pigs (who were quite shy), or drew horses at the beach (my gesture drawings were not fast enough to adequately capture their flying visit, so I tried adding an ink wash later to improve the page!). However, I have to confess to swinging wildly between pens. Sorry, brush pen!
Alas, poor ink brush! It did not get the week of glory and relationship building that it deserved. Lazing in the sun on Kowharewa beach, I reached for the fineliners first. It does not mean our relationship is over- oh no- but maybe I'm just not meant to go steady with just one pen. Though I must be a bit of a flirt if I can't even manage one week! And sometimes, on a glorious sun-drenched afternoon at Kowharewa Bay, you just need to get down all the details.
(If this seems like a low-output sketch week, I have also been working on transferring some of my watercolours into digital form. I wrote about the process on my earlier blog post at www.andreaengland.net/blog/playing_with_lionfish - and you can see some of my new watercolour sea creature designs at Redbubble!
Inktober- Inky notes and boat repair
Today's post is a bit on the image heavy side- click on an image to expand it for a closer look.
I've been trying to follow along with Inktober. It's a month long drawing challenge where the aim is to draw every day in (yes, you guessed it) ink. There are optional prompts to follow, but I've decided to go the route of doing my own thing and using a different tool each week.
During Week 1 I focused on using fineliners- not the most adventurous start as I use them all the time, but it was school holidays and I had time to do lots of detailed drawings, so I figured I'd make the most of it. I'm enjoying mixing up pens of different sizes- it gives interesting variation in the hatching and line. On the days I had time to draw twice, I grabbed my Lamy Safari. Sorry fineliners, I love you but don't think we're about to enter an exclusive relationship.
On a boat note, Jim's polished up the anchors and we've been working on repairing the furler, which has required quite a bit of running around and ordering parts. Finding affordable steel rope proved a bit of an epic task, but Jim managed it, and my paperwork endeavours succeeded in getting Prism an extension here in NZ- meaning we can spend the summer in NZ waters.
Week 2 of Inktober saw me going back to work. Goodbye lunches at the boat yard with Jim, sketching and playing with watercolours. Hello, long days at school! For my tool, I picked my new Noodlers Konrad pen. I wanted to explore the flex nib, and be able to work quickly in case I was pushed for time (which I was).
I was a little nervous about the pen as I had read quite mixed reviews about it. Noodlers pens are handmade but are also very inexpensive- this can lead to a pen which requires some tinkering (it seems like the perfect instrument for people who like taking things apart). I lucked in and became the proud owner of a pen which wrote perfectly straight out of the box. The flex isn't as dramatic as you might get with a dip pen nib, but is enough to give decent line variation when sketching. I think it will take a bit of practice to optimise this, but for this week I found it fun to use.
I've been working my way through some of the ink samples I ordered along with the pen, with some pleasant discoveries. Noodlers Blue-Nosed Bear (the partly waterproof ink I used on the owl) showed beautiful colour variations when I added water, pulling turquoise tones out of the dark teal.
For more inky explorations, see my blog post inky jellyfish.
My ink samples come from Goulet Pens. It's been a great way of playing with different colours! (I am in no way connected to Goulet other than being a very happy customer!)
I was very excited when my order of ink samples from Goulet Pens arrived, along with a couple of ink syringes. The syringes are supposed to be used to transfer ink into my fountain pens without creating an eco-disaster, but I soon got distracted by other possibilities! I made a video as I went- I've added more instructions and details about supplies below.
I started off by creating the bell shape with some water from a pipette- a water-loaded brush would work just as well. Then I pulled a very small amount of gold ink into the ink syringe and squirted it into the water bubble. It only took a few drops- and watching the ink swirl in the bubble is so pretty! I added the darker red, then used a brush to trail some water to make the tentacles. Once again I squirted ink into the water- occasionally a little too much would come out but I think the blobs add interest. In fact, the inspired me to try drawing straight from the syringe! It was also perfect for adding some little dots, then I used a brush and some water along with turquoise ink to paint the water. A few swirls with a white Posca paint marker was the perfect finishing touch.
If you fancy trying this yourself, ink syringes are available from Goulet, and you can pick up a whole rainbow in ink samples from them for about $1.25 per sample (I used Noodlers Apache Sunset, Ottoman Rose and Navajo Turquoise). They also ship worldwide and the samples are so well packaged they survive international transit (I am in no way affiliated with or sponsored by Goulet- I'm just a fan!).
You can also drop the ink in from an eyedropper or paintbrush. It will be a bit less precise but equally pretty!
If you give this a try, then please let me know how it goes in the comments, send me a link to your pictures or tag me on Facebook or Instagram- @andreaenglandart I'd love to see what you come up with!
Sketching at the boat yard
Jim's been working steadily on Island Prism, and I've been going down to the boatyard to take him lunch, sketch and lend a hand. I thought about making a visual record of everything we are (he is?) doing to get the boat ready for launching, but long furlers and small screws don't make for terribly arresting images. The boatyard itself is far more inspiring, so I've been doodling the boats instead.
Art-wise, this presents lots of interesting things to draw. It also highlights my inability to stick with exactly the same media for two pictures in row! On Thursday I drew a couple of boats being hauled out using Lamy ink and watercolour. I think I'm supposed to be horrified by the way the ink runs when I add watercolour, but actually I like the effect.
Both Prism's anchors are being stored on the ground. Their shapes and slight rusty patina were interesting so I sketched them in ink. I was going to paint them, but then I remembered I hadn't used my coloured pencils in a while. So I slowly built up the layers of colour in my home-made colouring pages. We spent a little while taking the roller furler apart- some of the plastic wedges holding it together were worn and needed removing.
On the drive home, the light over Auckland was absolutely stunning. I wanted my skyline to stay crisp and needed to work fast, so I pulled out my brush pen with de Atramentis document black and drew the view back to Okahu Bay and the city, then added watercolours. My flat water brush was perfect for catching the light reflecting on the sea.
Launch is supposed to be on 17th October. The timing is looking tight and we're not sure if we'll make it. We're planning to move onto the boat in November and have very exciting plans for next year... watch this space! Maybe by that stage I'll even be able to settle down into a signature style and medium. Do you tend to stick with one way of drawing, or do you flit between materials? I'd be interested to hear!
Urban Sketching- a tiny adventure
It's been an urban sketching kind of a weekend, despite the heavy rain and lower-than-I'd-like temperatures. I can blame Michael Nobbs for starting it off- our task for his class in Sketchbook Skool is to take a tiny adventure. I packed my sketchbook, pen and watercolours and headed down to Kohi Beach. A coffee from the Store was essential fortification against the rather chilly wind. I started off by sketching Rangitoto a couple of times, experimenting with how to use my ink brush to show waves and the lovely shimmer of the sun on the water. Then I spotted some kids having a tiny adventure of their own- climbing one of the pohutukawa trees which line the bay. I love the trees, so decided to do a quick drawing. Which turned into a more detailed drawing. Which turned into pulling out the watercolours then adding coloured pencils and being finished an hour or so later (JUST as it started to rain!). I'm not sure if it counts as a tiny adventure any more, but I really enjoyed it!
Sunday went a similar way- popping down to the boatyard to see Jimmie working on Island Prism led to a leisurely hour of drawing her. I've been happy with how my Pentel colour brush pen has been working for these sketches- I like the expressive lines I've been getting and have also got better at using it for fine details. The really wonderful thing is the ink dries quickly so I can use watercolours over the top.
As I finished painting Prism, the clouds rolled in. There was just enough time for a quick sketch of Jim before the rain started to pour- which did at least lead to some beautiful rainbows on the drive home!
School holidays have rolled around. To kick mine off, I headed to Auckland Zoo with my friends Jill and Ethan. It was a clear and chilly day, with the side effect of upping the cuteness factor as we came across hugging gibbons, huddles of squirrel monkeys and a pile of lemurs. What looked like 3 animals in a tangle of tails and long legs turned out to be 6- who were overjoyed when the sun came out. They swiftly unpiled and began to bask in that wonderful sun worshipping way that lemurs and cormorants share. Despite looking like they were meditating, they didn't keep still for long and my brush pen and I had to work fast to get some sketches done! They weren't so keen when the sun went in. One even wrapped his friend's tail around his neck as a makeshift scarf.
The cheetahs and tigers also graced us with appearances, and we were lucky enough to see three kiwi in the nocturnal house (plus an occasional frenzied flurry of bat). The kiwi were also on the move as they scurried round in search of bugs. They were surprisingly quick, but lots of fun to draw. The dark provided an extra challenge!
Back home, the meditating lemurs stuck in my head. I drew one in a calm yogic pose, and decided that the monochromatic creature would look good in front of a warm coloured sun. I transferred the drawing onto acetate to create a stencil, then used a bowl to help me draw a circle. Cutting out the stencil was a little fiddly in parts, but no lemur limbs were lost. A lack of ink pads meant I ended up using acrylic paints for the stencilling. Either the material or my technique were not ideal- after three attempts I still seemed to get paint blobs under the stencil! It probably didn't help that I insisted on stroking rather than dabbing the paint- but I liked the effect more.
I had intended to try oil transfer printing over the top of my stencils, but the bright red and yellow suns seemed to call for something stronger- plus I wanted to hide the paint blobs if possible! I decided my Pentel pocket brush pen would probably be my friend. As hoped, I got lovely expressive lines and was able to hide the occasional blobby bit of paint. then I reached for my Pitt pens to add a relatively even grey.
Meanwhile the idea of scarves as tails was rattling round my head. This time I went straight for the pen to create a little hat and scarf-wearing lemur. Somehow, giving him an ice cream felt right. He was also the perfect creation to try out my new wacom tablet- Photoshop is a bit of a learning curve but an extra layer and some playing with brushes gave him a little extra polish.
Some of the UK and USA's more interesting political figures. Done with watercolour, ink and a sense of distaste.
An Artist Afloat- Painting the world one anchorage at a time.