Morning flight

I haven’t posted any art in a while. We’ve been so busy with outdoor things these days, I only draw on rainy days and occasionally in the evenings if I can. I decided to take a quick break from the rather dark and colourless world of soil life and draw something light and airy for a change.

I’m not used to working in these lighter tones and I noticed that I felt calm and meditative while drawing, compared to some of the darker dragons I’ve drawn in the past.

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It’s back to working on soil drawings after this although I admit it’s been difficult to stay motivated with so much else happening.

I’ve opened an Etsy shop, by the way! I haven’t posted my dragon art in there yet, just sticking to soil life for now. If you’re interested in buying prints of any of my other work that hasn’t shown up in the shop just send me a message!

Here’s a link to the shop. It’s very new and occupies a very small niche so it hasn’t had much attention yet. If you’re interested in some unique art that will probably spark some interesting conversations though, take a look! ūüôā

The rhizosphere/mycorrhiza drawing is slowly coming along. That one is giving me a real exercise in lighting and perspective. It’s almost like trying to draw a bowl of spaghetti.

Here’s the work in progress as it is right now. I think I like where it’s going, I can’t wait to be finished with it! I’m adding a teeny bit more colour than usual to this one and that has been quite fun ūüôā

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Mycorrhiza and.. more dragons

I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at plant roots and fungi in the microscope, and I have to admit it’s a little dull. That’s not to say I don’t like it, I mean the whole concept of mycorrhiza is super fascinating. If you’ve never heard of it, I’d highly recommend listening to the Radiolab podcast episode called “From Tree to Shining Tree“. Basically, plants and fungi actually form complex¬†partnerships to help each other out. Nature never ceases to amaze, and it’s just another example of how little we really know about the world we’re stomping around on every day. Here’s a picture of an infected root that I took from the microscope:

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We treated the root sample (from our experimental wheat field) in the lab with a process that removes the pigments from the plant cells but stains the fungi with a dye so that they become visible to us. Sometimes environmental science is not so environmentally friendly.. and this bothers me.. but we can leave that discussion for another day. In this case the plant cells took on a bit too much colour¬†but the fungi are still easy to spot as very dark, thin, gnarled looking threads. The samples are interesting, and beautiful, to look at and I don’t have to worry about my specimens swimming away or eating each other, but¬†it’s just not as much fun as soil samples with living critters. These samples are very dead and analyzing¬†them gets a bit boring after a while.

So,¬†sometimes I feel a need to stretch my imagination at the end of a microscope session and draw some quick fantasy art, just to balance things out a little bit. I put on some music and just let loose with whatever comes out. I’m particularly fond of dragons lately. I think it’s because they are a loosely defined creature¬†with a basic generalized form that anyone can modify to suit their own imagination. They can be mindless destroyers or keepers of ancient wisdom, depending on your mood or whatever books you’re into.¬†There is no right or wrong with dragons, so as a perfectionist it’s a good exercise in letting go of the need to be¬†accurate. Having said that, I have strong preferences about how to picture dragons, and I almost never see dragon art that really fits my idea of what they should look like, so I just make my own according to what feels right.

Here is the one from today:

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I only spent about two hours on this, so it’s not as “finished” as it could be but the point was just to get the idea¬†out of my head and not spend too much time on it.

I legitimately felt bad painting the little deer there. But then I made myself feel better by saying that this dragon is so big it wouldn’t bother with the deer.. it would be like taking time to stop and eat a sesame seed. The deer obviously doesn’t know that so just imagine its relief when the dragon just passes right over it and continues on its way ūüôā

Here’s one I did a couple of weeks ago. There have been a few more in between now and then but I haven’t finished those yet so they aren’t “postable” at this point. They’ll be done soon‚ĄĘ.

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That one is way too dark. Maybe one day I’ll go in and add some flames or something to brighten it up but I wasn’t really feeling it at the time so I just left it. I mostly just wanted to experiment with¬†a profile view since I’ve been doing a lot of front view dragons lately. This one was just quickly sketched out in maybe an hour or so, at the most.

If the speed seems surprising, it’s not because I’m crazy skilled or anything like that. Imagine painting with real paint, but you don’t have to spend all that time mixing colours. If you notice something that needs changing, you can just fix it in a few seconds without having to carefully mix up all the colours again and try to get it just right. That’s basically why digital paintings like these can be done so much faster than with real paint. I could do the same thing on a canvas in about the same amount of time if I had an infinite selection of premixed paint colours available. I’ve been working on some canvas paintings lately, and I find that while I do enjoy working with real paint, it really is a different experience and it can be more frustrating at times, but also more rewarding in some ways. I could go on all day comparing digital and physical painting but I’ve done that before in a previous post and I won’t go into it again. I like them both, we can leave it at that ūüôā

 

Pyrography and Dragons

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Finally! I’ve managed to get my head back into art after far too long out of it. Impossible working conditions in the apartment and then the big move have stood in the way for most of this year, but now I have an amazing new studio with a wood stove, no distractions, and a gorgeous view. I also have a super awesome boyfriend who will sometimes randomly buy tools for hobbies that neither of us have ever tried before, which is how we ended up with a pyrography tool, aka a branding iron (but that makes it sound¬†like a torture device). Well actually it is a torture device; I wasted no time burning my left middle finger with it. I tend to adjust my grip a lot when I’m absorbed in drawing and with pyrography that can have pretty terrible consequences. I think I’ll try¬†using a glove next time. I also have a new respect for burns. I’ve been collecting all kinds of callouses, cuts, and scrapes since we moved out of the apartment and into the real world, and so far it’s been¬†no big deal, but DAMN! Burns are a whole different world¬†of pain! It was very minor this time but I definitely learned a lesson. Safety first!

That goes for the rest of our new toys too like axes, knives, and other dangerous¬†gardening tools. I do not want to make mistakes with a wood splitting axe! We have a scythe too, by the way, which I think is pretty badass even though all it does is cut grass. I guess it’s the whole grim reaper thing. It is actually a very practical tool though, and surprisingly fun to use.

Here is my first little experiment with pyrography:

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I was at the viking ship museum in Oslo a couple of weeks ago, and bought a book with¬†viking patterns and ornamental design. Viking art is awesome, and I left the museum feeling inspired to try some new things. I tried playing around with carving a bit, but I’ll leave that for img_0014another post as there isn’t much to show for that yet. I dulled my¬†pocket¬†knife in no time and haven’t quite mastered the art of knife sharpening yet.

I’m still pretty clumsy with the pyrography tool, but I love the visual effect that wood burning makes, and it smells like heaven. Actually the smell is exactly like a sauna, so working with pyrography really sort of feels like a relaxing visit to the spa, as long as you don’t accidentally touch the iron of course. I also found a very practical use for it¬†and tried making an “all natural” garden marker that should last for several years before it rots away (and adds its nutrients into my garden soil) and I need to make a new one. This was super easy and I’ll definitely be making many more of these next year when we start up with the gardens for real. I especially like that the writing won’t fade away despite sun and rain, and it only took a few minutes to make it. I just wandered out into the backyard and found an appropriately sized stick, hacked one end into a point¬†with a hatchet and then sliced off a section of bark with my carving knife. I’m not sure if leaving the rest of the bark on will make it rot faster or not, but I like how it looks with the bark on so we’ll just see how it goes. I didn’t use any treatment to preserve it because I don’t really care if it rots away, I’ll just make another one and be happy about feeding the soil a snack ūüėČ

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“Hvitl√łk” means garlic in Norwegian in case you were wondering. I had some garlic getting old and sprouting on the counter so even though it’s a bit late and we’ve had frost already, I thought I’d try planting it and covering it with a heavy leaf mulch. If it works, great, if not.. well it was going to compost somewhere so it might as well be in the garden.

I used the viking design book to try another pyrography pattern on a flat piece I found outside. Above that you can see some of my attempts at carving a different pattern from the same book:

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It’ll take some practice to know which nibs are best for which effects, and it’s kind of hard to change the nib¬†while the iron is hot so I tend to want to do as much as possible with the same one, but that can result in clumsy or sloppy work. I probably won’t dedicate much time to getting good at pyrography, mostly because I’m sure I’ll burn myself more with it and that really sucks, but I will definitely be¬†using it now and then, if even just for practical things like garden markers.

As for the dragon at the start of the post, well that was kind of an accident. I sat down to work on drawing a rotifer, but I put the wrong kind of music on and was driven in a different direction. I find that music¬†is like a kind of fuel for drawing, it can put me in the right state of mind to get absorbed and let instinct take over, resulting in a kind of trance where I just watch myself do the work without really thinking about it. I’m not sure what the right kind of music is for drawing illustrations of soil life, but it’s definitely not¬†“Epic Legendary Intense Massive Heroic Vengeful Dramatic Music Mix“. Although, when you look at a rotifer’s mouth up close it could be considered pretty epic… maybe I should try designing a rotifer-inspired dragon with one foot and a spinning razor mouth!

I’m still finding that my drawings end up too dark and I really can’t figure out how to fix it once it’s reached that point. Adjusting the brightness at the end can cause some pretty horrible effects, and trying to draw¬†over it doesn’t work well. It’s like curling your hair; there is a point where you have to just stop because you’re making things worse, not better.¬†Perhaps it’s just laziness.. if something is in shadow I don’t have to add as much detail and the piece will be finished sooner, so I end up just making the whole thing shadow with a few highlighted parts. It can also be that I lack a¬†good understanding of working with light and colour. I’m getting a bit better with light, but I find it difficult to know which colours to use when and as a result my work tends to not have a great variety of colours in it. I stick to what feels safe, but that’s not what makes good art! ¬†There’s always so much to learn.

Oh and I drew a plant/soil life illustration too. Not very exciting, but it’s nice¬†to share ūüôā

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That’s all for now, hopefully I’ll be posting again soon with some new soil life drawings, and perhaps a crazy rotifer-dragon monster or some other random things. Thanks ¬†for stopping by!

Diaval

Maleficent dragon finalI drew this about a month ago after browsing some impressive work on DeviantArt and feeling a lack of confidence in my own ability. DeviantArt can sometimes be terrible for that and I often have to just stop looking at it and concentrate on my own work.

I sometimes feel that my art lacks drama, and lighting seems to be a big factor in this. Adding the right light makes a painting come alive, it can guide the eye around a predetermined path and tell a story. I stumble around a lot when it comes to lighting. I have only a basic understanding and a total lack of intuition for how light bounces around and reflects off things. Landscape lighting is the absolute worst since the light source is so generalized, and I really need to conquer that one soon for all the Flypso landscapes I’ll have to paint in the near future.

A nice way to learn about things like this is to watch movies and take screenshots at interesting parts, then use them to study lighting, composition, expression, etc. I can’t remember exactly where I got this tip but I believe it was from one of the videos on¬†Ctrl+Paint. This site was super¬†useful when I was first learning my way around digital painting and it’s still one of my favourite resources to go back to when I need refreshers.

So I rewatched the movie Maleficent¬†looking for some ideas. This scene caught my attention with¬†soft blue moonlight coming in from the right and a fire burning on the left. The dragon (not Maleficent herself but her assistant, Diaval) is approaching some soldiers which I left out, and he is highlighted from both sides with the different temperatures of lighting. This could¬†reflect Maleficent’s internal conflict in that story. I won’t say more in case anyone reading hasn’t seen the movie and is planning to, I wouldn’t want to spoil anything. It’s actually a pretty good movie and I’d recommend it!

It was super cool how the dragon¬†came to life when I started adding subtle highlights from the fire. My favourite part of any painting is adding things like eye shine¬†because it’s such a small detail but it makes an¬†instant and very significant change to the painting. Overall I was happy with this painting but I do think it came out just a bit too dark. The scene is supposed to be dark, but I feel like it could have been better if it was a little brighter. I’m not sure how to address that without doing a lot of repainting, and I haven’t figured out what exactly I’m doing to cause it, but very often I am finding that my drawings come out darker than I intend. I think it could¬†be a sign that I am still a little underconfident as an artist. Shadows are safer, since they only give you hints and leave the rest to your imagination. It could also be that I just want to hurry up and be done so I can go on to the next piece, instead of spending more time grinding through boring things like the texture of a wall.

There is so much to learn and so much I want to improve on, the hardest thing is getting a sense of direction. How can¬†I focus when I want to know everything at once? I envy those people doing speed paintings on youtube, how they can just throw together an amazing landscape concept in a few hours, seemingly straight from their imaginations with the correct lighting and shadow and everything. I know it comes from a lot of experience¬†and study, but sometimes I feel like I go around in circles with no idea what I’m doing or how to proceed. I guess the key to improving is to just keep going even if it doesn’t seem to be working, and eventually things just start to click.