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What's on the drawing board

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MY FIRST FESTIVAL. PATCHINGS.

July 14, 2022

In the midst of one of the hottest weeks in UK history (or so it felt like in the tent) I had a wonderful time meeting so many other artists and fellow creatives on the Derwent stand at Patchings Art and Craft Festival in Nottingham. 

As far as first festivals go, I was very lucky to enjoy the four days as part of the retail exhibitors. I loved chatting to everyone who came up to the stand and asked questions, and I loved talking about the products I was using, or helping people get the best out of the products they already owned. 

While I was there, I created a bright and bold and slightly bonkers butterfly illustration using 3 Derwent products together. It came out fantastic, and I'm very proud of it.  I've added some products to m

Really enjoyable few days. I'll be back next year!

ROUND BUNNY LINOPRINT

PERFECT BUNS

July 2nd, 2022

Super-cute and only 1.5in across, this linoprint makes me smile so much. 

After completing the portrait (below), I just fancied unwinding with a little linocut that I'd been thinking of, but I struggled so much with the inking process that in the end I needed some expert advice.

Just a few texts later, and some visual guides on the amount of stipple needed on the rolled ink, I managed to print a selection of beautiful buns. Also a curled up cat (which is equally cute) and a ball of yarn, which I coloured with a pastel fade from blue to yellow. I'm going to send some to my friends. 

Though I do prefer to figure things out on my own, it goes to show that with a little help and a nudge occasionally, I can get through the struggles without losing my mind.

I will put the rest in my shop soon.

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RETURNING TO PORTRAITS

June 12, 2022

It's been a good few years since I've been asked to create a colour portrait.  This used to be my first love, before animals and before botanicals.  It's nice to go back and see that the skills I now have are transferrable back to this subject. 

I am feeling the need to work more on the things I love to draw, so have decided to quit commissions for a while. That was a big decision, but I want to continue to test myself and develop as an artist.

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UPDATE ON TILLY

May 24, 2022

I wanted to share this second stage in-progress photo with you becuase there's a lot going on.  As I mentioned before, there's a background to this portrait; something I don't often include. 

We have a carpet of fallen leaves to navigate. I am very excited and a little scared. Hahah.

I have been going live a few times on Instagram. If you would like to watch in real time how some of these leaves are drawn, coloured, and incorporated, please visit me there. And leave a comment too. It really helps with visibility on that platform.  Thanks x

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BRIGHT FLORALS ON FILM

May 10, 2022

You know I'm a sucker for bright and colourful things, so when I was invited to teach a Florals on Film workshop I had no trouble finding images that I loved.  Trouble was, there were just too many!! In the end though, this vibrant Tiger Lily won my heart with its vivid yellow spotted petals. 

This image shows how the drawing on drafting film looks fantastic and super-real with the reference image slotted in behind. I enjoy seeing it like this almost more than the finished version...but the finished version is pretty cool too!

Sadly this workshop is now over. It was huge fun, and I loved every minute of teaching the very talented group we had. Feedback has been amazing, so I will definitely be arranging more in-person events soon.

See the final image in my Gallery.

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TILLY TAKES CENTRE STAGE

April 19, 2022

I don't get asked to draw many cats, so it is always a pleasure, but doubly-so for this lovely lady, as her human is a very good friend and I've wanted to put Tilly on my board for a long time.

The thing about art, and creativity in general, is that it has the power to bring people together. I am so fortunate to have met some wonderful people, pet-owners, and fellow artists too. Tilly's mom is one of those and I am happy that I get to draw this special girl for her.

Tilly's portrait is going to be full-body. She's mostly white on her belly which is going to be interesting for sure. I have also got to do a background too...I'll update here soon with that (I'm not exactly sure how to tackle that just yet!)

If you would like your own pet portrait, get in touch now. I have some availability after the summer. 

This one is 11x14"

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HAPPY HOUR

April 14, 2022

It's been a tough few weeks thanks to Covid and Shingles in the house and I think I might have been channeling my innner need for a large beverage with this piece!

I knew I wanted to draw, but I didnt have the energy to focus for long, and I suddenly remembered that I had super-soft pastels in the drawer which I'd been promising to use one day soon. 

If you haven't ever tried soft pastels (these are by Senellier) they are an absolute must...if you can stand the dust! The incredible brightness and clarity of pigment, vivid colours and utterly buttery laydown is something only soft pastels can supply.  It's messy as hell, but the results are hugely rewarding.

I am pleased to say this piece wasn't on the shelf for long.

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TINY SHINY BALLS (AGAIN!)

March 29, 2021

I think I have a bit of a marble problem!  This is the fourth time I've drawn them, and I think this one might be the quickest, and most fun time I had doing it.

Once again I've used the bright and vibrant Derwent Chromaflow to best effect. They love smooth paper, but I've got this amazing result on the Lightfast paper, which has a bit off tooth. 

Another littleun to purchase if you want an affordable original. 

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OSCAR TAKES THE BISCUIT

 March 24, 2022

Back in November last year I drew Monty, the 5 stone lapdog. This is Oscar, his brother and I can't take my eyes off him.

His coat is very different to his brothers. It's a gorgeous pale biscuit colour that reminds me of Rich Tea (which in turn makes me want a cuppa) The thing I love about him most are those piercing green eyes though. 

The photo was another stunner. Making great use of shallow focus, only his face is in focus. The rest is soft and subtle. That makes for an easier portrait for me to draw, but hopefully will look wonderful once complete. 

The challenge here is to get enough colour in so that he still stands out against the white of the page...and of course that I don't eat too many biscuits!

My schedule is open from June this year, so if you are interested in getting your own pet portrait, people portrait, or anything portrait, do get in touch. Click the link below to see more about my commission process.

Thankyou.

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CHROMAFLOW BUBBLE

March 18, 2022

I've got a real soft spot for the Derwent Chromaflow pencils. They've just been released in up to 72 colours, and the way they work on black paper is first class! 

I wanted to show them off with a fun, illustrative (but realistic!) drawing.

Also, the more you say it, the weirder it sounds. 

Bubble!

I'm selling this one. He's only little. 

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FAST FLORALS WORKSHOP

March 16, 2022

Today was the first time leading an online workshop. Despite some initial nerves, I had fun. 
This was part of my role as a Derwent Ambassador (I am sometimes asked if I'd like to do these things) and I haven't considered it before, but having practiced my drawing and talking technique on Instagram LIVE over the past month or so, I decided it was time to do it for real. 
After the set-up was done, we didn't quite have the full hour, and only managed to get a couple of the blossoms done in the time. This picture is the full version. 
I focussed on fast laydown and quick blending with the Derwent Blender Pen. The pens are filled with liquid blender (like OMS I guess!) and should be more widely used, in my opinion.

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MAGNOLIA REMASTERED

March 11, 2022

As you know by now, I'm teaching myself how to carve lino and make beautiful prints at home. I've dabbled a couple of times now, and this weekend decided I should try something new...well, kinda new!

Re-doing something I've already done isnt something I'm interested in all that much. But a completely different medium, new techniques, even a new composition (somewhat unintentional however, since I forgot to flip the image yet again!) means that I'm not really re-doing it. I'm reimagining, or as the title suggests, remastering :-) 

The carving is really therapeutic. I enjoy listening to a podcast, or music while I work, and of course the lino wormies are inexplicably delightful to play with.  Hahaha!

I recently purchased some special water-based blockprinting ink, which had a very different consistency to the beginners stuff. I had a few misprints and struggled to get the detailed sections to come out nicely. 

But I got there eventually. 

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DON'T FORGET THE BLACK

February 9, 2022

I see and hear a lot of advice about drawing black fur in the various groups I belong to, and I thought, since I am currently drawing Digby here, who is a big black beauty, that I would share my thoughts too.

My advice is to not forsake the black pencil. The dog has black fur, so use the black pencil...but there are degrees of black, certainly. And layering other colours in with it will definitely help create a deeper black (not darker, just more 3D). 

Digby's coat in the highlights has black, but layered in and on is lots of greys; both warm (brown toned) and cool (blue toned), together with a bit of blue violet, some (Derwent) Mars Violet (which is a lovely earthy toned bluish greyish pinky violet, perfect for not too bright hightlghts) and some Dark Red to give a bit of a colour shift and bring out his reddy undercoat. 

His nose includes a lot of black too, together with the more blue/grey Paynes Grey, which is much better and less blue than Dark Indigo. It has some of the Mars Violet over the bridge, and cool greys to create the highlight, and white for the brightest spots.

You can see too there is a Dark Red undercoat going in on the right hand side. This is very light in contrast to the left side, which is in shadow, and his russet colour really shows. But it still has to look black, so I will still add a bit of black and use greys to layer and lighten.

When using white to layer, be careful, as this can make the coat look too grey and prematurely age the subject. A warm grey is better for this.

I'm saving his tongue till last :-)

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RETURN OF THE TINY ARTWORKS

January 31, 2022

It was about this time last year that I first discovered the tiny art of Artist Trading Cards (ATC).  I must have made a dozen and swapped them all in 2021. And I'm about to do it again in my Facebook Group, Return 2 Art.

ATCs are specifically 2.5 x 3.5 inches, can be on any surface and any medium (so long as they can be posted/easily swapped).  Great if your a  beginner looking to practice a technique, or a pro looking for a bit of instant art gratification (2 hours for colour pencil artists is as instant as it gets!)

This one is hand drawn, loosely copied from a photo I took last year. The good thing about these is that I don't have to worry about it being exact. Its not for a client, and nobody cares anyway.

I've used my favourite combo here. Derwent Lightfast pencils on Lightfast paper. 

If you'd like to join in my ATC swap, and be in with a chance of swapping art with me, join my Facebook group soon and sign up to the event.

Click the link below.

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LINOCUT PRINTING

January 25, 2022

I may have overreached a little with this one. I guess watching too many professionals creating amazingly detailed landscapes and cityscapes got under my skin, and I really wanted this to work.

The photo reference (from my honeymoon in Venice, in case you can't quite tell what this is!) is too busy and not quite right. The big areas of black are overpowering and the top part has lost too much information in the cutting.  The colour comes from a pattern of Derwent Inktense I put down before printing. It's my favourite part,  but I didn't quite nail it. Also, once again, I didnt flip my reference so its back to front, which is really annoying. 

But I'm not discouraged. I'm going to go back to slightly smaller prints and stick with some botanicals and/or wildlife ideas.  Amongst a whole lot of papers and gouges, I've bought a couple of lovely neutral oil based printing inks, which apparently will go down much smoother. Also need to investigate using watercolour too.

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LINOCUT AND PRINT

January 21, 2022

Something completely different from my usual artwork is this original linocut print.

My first ever attempt, and I couldn't be happier!  It may be simple, but it is mine and it taught me the basics of easy carving and handprinting. 

Of course, I did a huge amount of YouTube surfing to find endless examples of beginners and professional printers explaining how to do it.  Most were super easy, and it seemed like I could manage it alone. 

The only thing I did wrong was forget to flip my image before I carved. So the hare is facing the other way to my original sketch. But that's okay. I have kinda got used to it this way round now.

You can imagine now, my purchasing history from the craft store is all about lino and gouges and inks...oh dear!

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WEDDING BOUQUET UPDATE

January 20, 2022

Despite the complexity and detail, I had a great time with this drawing.  Going live on Instagram regularly definitely helped me to stay focussed, but even then I found it hard to work for more than a few hours at a time. 

But this glorious floral work is now completed (and in my gallery for you to enjoy) and I couldn't be happier. More to the point, my client couldn't be happier!

Hyperrealism, or at least highly detailed realism, is something I do aim for.  I seem to be able to get the closest to that using drafting film - a surface that is too slick and troublesome for many. I have really taken to it and plan to do much more on this (and other new surfaces) over the year.

Oh, and I really think flowers are my thing! I absolutely love drawing them.

This drawing was completed with primarily Derwent Lightfast pencils, with some of the peaches and pints from Caran D'Ache Luminance. 

Go take a look at the full image in my gallery.

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WEDDING BOUQUET

January 5, 2022

A very happy new year to you. 

The holidays are already a bit of a distant memory since I started this one. It's been quite a floral adventure for me over the past year, and somehow this is only the first rose I have tackled.  I got to say, they're HARD!

Working on drafting film is helping to enhance the colours and deepen the shadows to great effect when using the reverse of the page. 

It's not a large piece, only A4, but there are a lot of hours in it already and I think it is shaping up to be a real favourite.

Not bad for the first one out the gates :-)

UPDATE - this artwork is now complete. Click the link below to see the final drawing. 

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NOT A LINOCUT (NOT YET, ANYWAY!)

December 13, 2021

Now that the commissions are done all bar the packaging, I have some time to start planning my goals for next year.  This tiger, or one like it, is on that list for sure. 

This is actually a digital drawing which I did to see how a reduction linocut print might work.  I'm so excited by the prospect of giving printing a try that I've been planning a whole bunch of ideas that are most likely WAY beyond my capabilities at the moment - I have zero experience thus far!

But that never put me off, did it!

I'm so happy with how it looks, I have made this gorgeous guy into a print you can purchase in my store.

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2021 IN REVIEW

December 12, 2021

What a year! Like many people, I still feel like its 2019 and that Covid has put time in stasis, however when you scroll down and see all the different things I've been doing, you'll be surprised, like I was!

One big change this year was moving from pastelmat paper to board. This seems to have given me a major boost to my portraits. I have genuinely loved all of them this year. It started with Hugo, one of my all time favourites with that shallow focus and a lovely face, and just finished with Monty, the bulldog, with an equally lovely face and a squishy nose that I can't stop looking at!

In between, I've joined Derwent's team of Artist Ambassadors, a move that I was nervous and honoured to accept, but which I now hope to continue long into the future as I continue to learn and try new things. 

I've explored botanical art, which somehow really took me by surprise. I have taken my own photos, cropped and played with those and produced some of my best work - or the most realistic certainly. 

I've tried drafting film for the first time too. All flowers so far as I've been nervous to try fur on it for some daft reason. My most challenging yet rewarding piece, the blue flowers (bottom right corner) has received some fantastic feedback for its photorealism.  

And I've been accepted into the International Guild of Realism recently too. Which was wonderful. 

I've explored Gouache a lot this year, and discovered that I really enjoy painting, and on that note I've painted with Derwent's shade and tone and Line and Wash sets loads in my sketchbook. I've written blogs about that, and articles about other products I've tried. 

It's not all been plain sailing. Behind the happy mask there's always difficulties, challenges and unhappy endings. I've had my share of these too.

But of course there's always my clients. The lovely people who come to me with a hope that I can draw their dog, cat, snake, bouquet, barn, boat, marbles and other random things.   I think you are all brilliant!

Thankyou for making 2021 personal, colourful and unique. 

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

xx

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THE FULL MONTY!

November 25, 2021

Aaagh, I love the way his tongue is out! BLEP.

Monty is my first English Bulldog. He's a 5 stone lapdog who, sat like this, reminds me of my grandad <3 

This is my initial sketch. Its what I used to make the line drawing, which is WAY neater and less cluttered for ease. 

I have attempted to pick the colours I'll use before starting to see if I can actually work out what I need in advance.  I reckon 5 pencils should do for the main colours, and then additional for the sofa and his eyes. 

Have actually done his eyes now (see instgram feed for latest updates)

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SAY CHEESE!

November 18, 2021

It's really fun to keep a secret like this one.  Bonnie was a birthday gift and I was sworn to secrecy while drawing her back in August.

She's a very special dog. A hearing dog, with a fantastic personality.  I really think the happy smiling pose  shows her off beautifully.  In the photo she is surrounded by her family, so she's relaxed and saying cheese for the camera, just like everyone else!

Can you see the array of pencils used? It never ceases to amaze me just how many colours go into a drawing like this. I think blonde fur especially is so reflective and so colourful that the more colour you use the better!

If you've been thinking of gifting yourself, or a loved one a portrait like this, please get in touch for more information and a no-obligation price.

Oh, and Bonnie's full portrait is now in the Gallery. Go take a look and admire her fabulous smile. (double click to like it)

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THE LOVELY LUNA

November 5, 2021

At last, I'm back to commissions. I felt a tad rusty at first, but the eyes looked great and after a few hours it went away. Now I'm back in the swing of things happily drawing this doggo in time for Christmas.

Luna is a very special dog, very spoilt and very much loved. She's a Rottweiler cross Labrador and she's raw fed.  I've learned so much about this from her Instagram (yes, she has her own doggie page).

If this is interesting to you, click the link below to take you there.

You can now see her completed portrait in my Gallery. Have a look at it...It came out great! (double click to like it!)

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I'M BLUE DAB A DEE DAB A DAI

November 04, 2021

Apologies for the ear-worm! 

Loads of fun creating this blue octopus. It began as a red octopus tutorial for the recent workshop I did in London, but because all the red pencils were being used I had to pick something different...so I went blue, and I just had to finish it!

This one's for sale. Message me if you are interested!

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CAROUSEL UPDATE

October 12, 2021

I haven't had a great deal of time to progress this intricate drawing very far, but as promised, here's an update.  I've used every red I own, and am now knee deep in yellow and oranges as you can see. 

The trick now is to make the three horses really pop from the background.  

I'm so excited to see this finished. It's not often a drawing takes me this long, but there's been so much else going on to take me away from my board that its kinda hard to get going again. 

Artwork is now completed and for sale. Contact me for details and see the final piece in my gallery.

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GALLOPING TOWARDS CHRISTMAS

September 27, 2021

This is the beginnings of a somewhat bonkers drawing I'm doing of a traditional Carousel fairground ride.   It is hugely detailed, and brilliantly bright, but it will take a while. 

I'm using pastelmat (actually light grey, not white as I ran out of white) and Derwent Lightfast pencils. I have also found that it is really handy to use an alcohol brushpen colourless blender to help cover the tooth in fewer than a million layers! 

I'll update at the halfway stage...probably end of the year at this rate! If you can't wait that long, it'll be on my Instagram I'm sure.

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SHADING AND TONING

20 September, 2021

This weekend was all about the warm earthy tones of the Derwent Shade and Tone Mixed Media set, which was kindly gifted for me to have a play with. 

It's been too long since I dug out my paint brushes, but I really enjoyed myself and have resolved to paint more regularly. 

This shroomy picture is one of three I did with this great little set. I absolutely love the colours and it was so much fun to just paint the tones, and not have to worry about mixing for a change. 


There'll be a blog about my experience coming soon. For now, why not check out my other publications. Click the link below.

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THE HAPPIEST HOBO!

10 September, 2021

I know I tend to fall in love with a lot of the doggos I draw,  but I have to admit to being more than a bit obsessed with this cheeky chappy!

Chester is a Jug - that's a Jack Russell crossed with a Pug - and he has all the naughtiness of both breeds compacted into this blonde bomb.  Just look at that grin though.  I mean, who wouldn't fall for his charms eh!

Completed with Polychromos pencils on pastelmat. He's quite dinky as its a full body image in my smallest size usually recommended just for head-shots. But I managed to get in quite a lot of detail, even if my poor pencils needed to be hella sharp!

His final portrait is now up on my Gallyer page.  Why not go take a look and double click to give him a heart. 

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DRAWING A WEDDING VENUE

28 August, 2021

Something really different for me with this commissioned artwork for a lovely couple who got married there recently.  The Lapstone Barn, situated in the Cotswolds, is a beautiful 18th Century barn, now a popular wedding venue.  And rightly so, the limestone brickwork has such character and inside looks fantastic with all the wedding bows and silks and lights and flowers!

My task here was to make it look like a more sunny day than it was, and not make it look like an illustration....and not to muck up those trees!!

Really, I think this constitutes my first actual landscapey drawing.  No longer can I say 'I can't draw trees' or 'I've never done a sky'.  You'd think I'd have more sense than to draw an entire building for the first time in an important commission too, wouldn't you! LOL

But, I'm so pleased to say that the result was fantastic and not at all illustrative. It has a wonderful watercolour quality to it, soft and subtle detailing and the trees came out great. 

My thanks must go to my lovely client V for trusting that I could do it, and to the Lapstone Barn for adding to the pressure by following my updates on social media (I'm kidding, it was great to know they were with me too!).

The barn is now finished and available to view in the Gallery. Click the link to see - and scroll about and double tap to like some of the others too!

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PAINTING MY EMOTIONS

25 August, 2021

Been feeling a bit Bleurghhh recently and needed to create something that was more personal.  I enjoyed using the Derwent Chromaflow a lot on the Starburst picture, and knew I fancied drawing something colourful, so it seemed a good idea to go back in for another round. 

The piece itself is a self portrait. The photo was taken at the start of the 2020 UK lockdown, when things here were a bit stressful, and I had a lot going on in my personal life that was  beginning to colour my life a bit. Don't worry, I snapped out of it eventually, but I felt like  that selfie, taken on a beautiful sunny morning, when I felt trapped and very un-sunny inside, was a good one to explore in colour. 

It's rather vivid, and my green nose captivates me. I like it!

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PUSHING THROUGH THE DOUBT

July 28, 2021

Noodle the cockerpoo has been on my board for the entire month.  If you know me, you know I find curly fur, and black curly fur, especially tricky!

What with the mini heatwave we had, where my pencils were a bit too soft to use, some major procrastination, and a lot of family and personal stresses to weigh me down, its been a real effort ... but I did it!  

The result looks fabulous. I'm so pleased I pushed through the self-doubt, low motivation and stress to get this gorgeous boy looking his curly best. 

My commissions are booked up into the new year now, but if you're interested in knowing more, you can get in touch anytime.

Find all the latest news and updates on Helen Carter Artist here.