What's on the drawing board
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.
Keep an eye on my Instagram Stories for more updates.
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.
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.
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.
DRAWING TREES AND SKY AND A BARN FOR THE FIRST TIME
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!
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!
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.
MORE THAN JUST A PEN
July 18, 2021
This was so much fun to do. I wasn't sure how these paint pens would be on a realistic animal drawing, but they handled brilliantly well, and are super vibrant. I love it!
Have you tried the Derwent Pain Pens yet? They're acrylic paint, in a pen, which makes them super easy to use just like a pencil...but unlike a pencil you can cover up/layer over your lower colours, working from dark to light with ease.
WHY I CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS!
June 28, 2021
This fun still life was meant to be just a couple of starburst sweets drawn to give the new Derwent Chromflow pencils a run for their money (or my money, seeing as I bought them). But, just like me opening a bag of sweets, I couldn't just stop at a couple. Oh no, I had to finish the whole packet!
The pencil testing is now completed. I have to say I am a big fan of how they feel, and how they layer and blend. They're soft and blendy (is that a word?!) and I like to burnish so was unsure how they'd cope, but they were great actually. Because they're softer they don't hold a point for long...and on the subject of long points, they don't much care for a long point. I found it was much better to use a regular metal hand sharpener for a shorter point that lasted longer.
The final picture is up in my gallery for you to enjoy. I have contacted Mars(the company, not the planet) for their okay with this...better to beg forgiveness than approval eh! Maybe they'll see al the hashtagging and tagging I've given them.
I SEE FIRE
June 12, 2021
I can't seem to go anywhwere at the moment without stopping and taking photographs along the way. The plus side is that I am getting quite the reference stack of images, so I guess there's that!
This poppy is one from my garden. It came and went in just a couple of days, but I was lucky enough to spot it, and snap it. Funny though, this drawing has been around longer that the actual flower was.
I love the textures on the petals. It looks so much like crushed silk. A bugger to draw, but I think this will be beautiful when complete.
I'm using the Derwent Lightfast on drafting film. Making good use of the reverse of the film to enhance the depth of those reds and oranges.
I have lots of botanical art for sale in my shop. Why not peruse at your leisure. Everything comes fully mounted, or framed if you prefer. UK postage is included in the prices.
MARBLE MADNESS AGAIN
May 20, 2021
This 'marbellous' artwork underway is for a video tutorial I am doing for a fellow artist's Patreon. Lisa, from Animal Art by LAW, invited me to be her guest artist, and this is the artwork that will be available to her Patreons in June.
Rather than use stock photos, we decided it was better to have our own, so she bought some marbles on Ebay, and photographed them in various ways. This is on tin foil (aluminium foil), which created some interesting reflections and bounced the light around, which was great.
I used Derwent Lightfast pencils, on the Derwent watercolour paper, which is lovely and smooth and great for coloured pencils. It can really stand up to a bashing. I even used the ceramic blade to make all those little dinks and scratches.
The artwork is now complete if you'd like to have a look in the gallery. I am also selling the original, as well as prints. Please see my shop page for info.
BACK TO BLACK
April 23, 2021
Another beautiful magnolia is on my board this week. I took the photo myself on a walk through the streets of Winchester. It's amazing the quality of photographs you can now get with a phone.
I decided to dig out my Fabriano BlackBlack paper for this, as I knew I wanted something striking and really contrasty. I remember my first picture on this paper was the Koi one, for which I won Best Picture at the 2019 UKCPS Online Exhibition. I haven't really used it since.
I remember it being a lot easier than I'm finding it now though. It's really hard to cover the page, and OMS isnt helping at all. I wonder why I'm having such a hard time this time? Could it be that I have changed my process?
Well, yes I have. I'm being a lot more picky about when I think its finished. Honestly, I think last year I would've stopped a few layers back and called each petal done, but now I just want it to be the absolute best I can get it.
I wouldn't say I'm a perfectionist (too messy for that). I would say that I have higher art standards now though. As I have progressed, and improved I can see new levels to attain. Its never ending :-)
See the finished drawing in my Gallery.
You can order a print of this beautiful piece now. Just get in touch and let me know what size. A3 or A4
I NEED SOME NEW GREEN PENCILS
April 15, 2021
I have LOVED this experience on drafting film so much, I think it might be my new favourite surface to work on.
I really went for it on this piece. As close as I've ever got to hyperrealism, the sharp focal flowers are brought all the way forward by the deep depths of that background, and those slightly fuzzy violas.
I ran out of Forest green Lightfast on the last day, which could've been a bit of a disaster if it were not for Emma at the colouredpencilshop.co.uk. An emergency order (including some schmancy new Pablos) arrived the very next day!
See the now complete version in my gallery. Double click it to tell me you like it.
The drawing is available as a lustre print on A3 and A4 should you be interested. Drop me a message by clicking the contact button below (I still haven't sorted my shop out!).
SPRING HAS SPRUNG IN HI-DEF!
April 8, 2021
I am back on the drafting film again, but this time I am really going for it!
I was so taken with the recent magnolia drawing on film, that I really wanted to push for a more saturated, high colour piece that I could take my time on. So, here you see what 15 hours looks like! I am going for a hyper-realistic style. I want it to look three-dimensional.
This square image is about half the height of the actual drawing, which is A3. The added size does make it a little easier to get the details in, although a lot of the greenery is in soft focus.
For more progress photos, why not check my Instagram?
(For some weird reason I started bottom left and am working my way up the page - which is not my usual way at all)
PAINTING THE UNDERPAINTING
April 2, 2021
With coloured pencils, when you say 'underpainting' you don't necessarily mean with actual paint. And I have only really given underpainting with a brush and paint a go once before with my purple and orange tiger.
I have this lovely back-lit image of snowdrops that I thought I could try two things with;
1 - using Derwent Inktense sticks dry and then wetting the pigment.
2 - using them wet like a paint pan.
The background on this anthracite pastelmat has been gone over twice with dry inktense black, and blended out with a wet brush. It remains a little patchy if you get the light on it. But it is pretty good, and lovely and black.
The coloured areas, I applied the Inktense wet with a brush. It didnt spread or reactivate the (now dry) black, which is a wonderful characteristic of the Inktense.
After this, I added some details with Procolour over the top to sharpen the edges and add contrast and extra colour where needed. The final version is in the gallery. I think it turned out lovely!
GREY CAT STRUGGLES
March 18, 2021
I don't get asked to draw many cats, so when I do, I really enjoy it. I just love Lola's eyes here. So bright and alert!
She's very thick furred, and grey too, which is a tricky colour to not look flat. Also even trickier to photograph, I found out. My camera had a helluva time with it. In the end I had to tone the saturation right down, and change the levels so that I could get a copy that was half-way towards what I was actually seeing with my eyes.
The trouble with greys (warm greys in this instance) is that they can be really flat. They only really come alive when next to or surrounded by contrasting colours. Thankfully, Lola has a bright tabby tummy, and some lovely flecks of it across her face, so despite some initial worries from me (and my camera) she looks stunning in the final result. Which you can now see in my gallery.
Go give Lola a double tap to drop a heart on her.
March 10, 2021
Being a big fan of the very textured pastelmat for most of my drawings, I didn't buy into the whole drafting film malarkey. I figured it would be far too slick for my heavy hand. But, about eighteen months ago, there happened to be some available, and it happened to fall into my trolley, as these things do!
Fast forward to last week, and for some reason I remembered the roll I had tucked away behind the sofa. I had a few days before starting my next portrait, so why not give it a go? What's the worst that could happen?
Well, I now feel that I've been missing out on a beautiful surface. Yes it is slick, but I think my heavy hand has finally started to lighten, because I had relatively few problems with this very different feel. Either that or I chose an easy subject to draw - which doesn't sound like me at all :-)
Have a look in the gallery to see what you think of the finished magnolia. I intend to do more work on this interesting surface.
HAVING FUN WITH ABSTRACTED ART
March 1, 2021
A break from the norm here, I have been enjoying my gouache paint a little too much recently. I made a few of these of abstracted cat paintings, and paired them with these 8x8" glossy bright candy coloured frames from The Frame Company.
If you'd like to own this one, or any of the other original art I have for sale, please click the button below and look at what I have available right now. I am also offering wallet friendly prints too.
PLAY MISTY FOR ME
February 25, 2021
Started a new commission this week of the very pretty Misty. She's adorable, and she knows it!
My client chose to go with a white background, which does make my life easier in one respect, but really hard in another. Anyone who's tried drawing white fur on white paper knows what I mean. The trick here is not to go too dark and not to add too much colour, she is a white dog afterall.
I'm really pleased with how her face and fluffy fur is coming together. As I head down the page onto her body, I hope I can keep it going.
DERWENT BLOG: INKTENSE STEP-BY-STEP
February 12, 2021
I was honoured to be invited by Derwent to create a step-by-step for my favourite pencil manufacturer, but they didn't want me to draw something....they wanted me to paint!
I'm no landscape artist, but I had such a lot of fun with their Inktense Studio Set that I had to push my boundaries and shake a fist at my insecurities.
I went into this with a can-do attitude, and together with the awesome layering capabilities of the Inktense paints (they don't reactivate when dry, just like ink) I think I did a pretty good job. I'm proud of this one!
You can read my step by step on their blog. Click the button below.
MORE MINI MASTERPIECES!
February 1, 2021
Enthused by the tiny Artist Trading Cards I did in January in coloured pencil, I wanted to see how I managed with another new obsession...gouache.
I am determined to improve my painting potential this year, and I really enjoy seeing the many YouTube artists painting with their jelly gouache some Studio Gibli scene or other. I opted to purchase the pinnacle of paint, Winsor & Newton gouache, as the opaqueness and longevity of colour is superior to those cheaper versions. But its a real learning curve, especially as the light colours dry darker and the dark colours dry lighter.
Getting to know how to use it is half the fun though!
The most annoying part of this little series of snowy paintings was that I cut them the wrong bloody size, so they can't be swapped or sold as ACEOs.
ARTIST TRADING CARDS
January 20, 2021
I'm just finding out about Artist Trading Cards (otherwise known as ACEO) and have become a little bit obsessed with creating them.
These tiny originals have to be 2.5x3.5inches and can be any 2D medium. They are made specifically to swap with other artists' cards. I chose coloured pencils for the first batch and made 7 in total (even though I was only swapping a couple)
This one might be my favourite because I incorporated some Derwent metallic pencils at the end, which finished this off so beautifully.
Thanks to my fantastic little Facebook Group (Return 2 Art) for taking part in the swap!
You can read more about ATC/ACEOs if you click the button.
January 11, 2021
A Happy New Year to you!
This is Hugo. He's been keeping me company this week as I try a new technique and a new surface.
Modern phones are are really good on the 'portrait' and 'selective focus' settings for creating this out-of-focus effect for things not in the foreground. Hugo here is in full focus on his face, but his right leg and his back are not. I've not attempted to recreate a fuzzy focus look before, but actually, it wasn't too difficult.
The trick is, and you'll probably laugh at how obvious it is, is to not to have any sharp lines or crisp edges, and to blend any colour transitions into each other. Simples!
I have also upgraded my surface to the Clairfontaine pastelmat board. It's a wonder I've not done it already to be honest. I really enjoyed how stiff it was and that it wasn't curling as I added more layers. I think I will have to invest in some extra colours now...or just do everything on white for a few months !!
Hugo was a commission. You can see his completed portrait in the gallery. Go have a look and double tap the picture to show me you like it.
FINISHING ON A HIGH
December 11, 2020
Well, what a wonderful way to finish such a difficult year. This is Dexter and he has to be my favourite portrait of the year.
Although he is no longer with us, I felt his spirit lift me and carry me through his portrait. From those soulful eyes, to the tip of that lovely nose. I found solace in my work with him. Thank you Dexter.
Using Polychromos again, on white pastelmat. I have purchased some board to try next year, as well as drafting film.
For now though, I wish you a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.
Dexter's completed portrait is now in the gallery.
WHAT BIG EYES YOU HAVE
November 29, 2020
I have an epic drawing on my board this week. This is Missy, another Christmas commission that will, eventually, live in Texas, but for now I get the pleasure of those saucer-like eyes staring back at me.
Tabby's are hard. I think I've said that a few times now, but they're definitely getting easier. Missy's portrait was one of those that almost draws itself. I found the whole thing super fun, and really enjoyable, and the final drawing looks like one of those 3D photos!
I changed pencils to the Faber Castell Polychromos once more, which made me fall in love with them all over again. They just work so well on the pastelmat. I think they're my new old favourite!
Missy's final portrait is in the gallery already. Have a look at her collar and all the bling on it! hahaha
November 25, 2020
This pair of beautiful Boston Terriers have been on my desk this week. I finished it before I had a chance to take many in-progress photots though.
I forget how quick watercolour can be, especially when there's probably only 4 colours in the fur. Lets count them...
Pink (I forget which one)
Light cobalt blue.
Okay, that's 6 colours, and I did mix the blue and pink to get a nice purple, so I guess that's 7. And of course, the black wasn't straight black...so 8, and white of course...9 then!
Buster and Betty's portrait is complete and available to view in the gallery. Why not pop in there and give them a double tap heart.
TOFFEE TAKES THE BISCUIT
November 10, 2020
You know how I feel about soft curly fur, right? Well, Toffee here - she's a Labradoodle I believe - well, I think she may just have helped me get closer to where I want to be.
Recreating soft thick curly pale fur is, for me, one of the scariest things. But this forehead is the start of my conquering those nerves and trusting my instincts. I did need to change pencils though. My trusty Derwent Lightfast are just too 'sticky' and go on thick, which is normally what I prefer, but I have to say, the Faber Castell Polychomos, which are harder and more translucent, make it much easier.
But the main trick is to soften it all with a pale grey. This 'smooshes' all the edges together, and really helps to diffuse the hard lines and help with the softening effect.
Toffee's portrait is now in the Gallery. Why not go and take a look at her in all her soft curly glory! And double click to like it!
TRYING GOUACHE FOR THE FIRST TIME
October 20 , 2020
Since I still feel like a newbie to painting, I do like to dabble with different mediums. This month I rewarded myself with some Winsor & Newton Designer's Gouache. They're like watercolour, but opaque, and that intrigued me.
If, like me, you enjoy falling down YouTube holes, you'll no doubt have seen how popular jelly guache has become of late. I did some reading, and watched a lot of reviews before buying, and decided in the end to go for quality over quantity.
And it seems that I may have stumbled upon a medium that really suits me. I've invested in a good watercolour sketchbook, and some lovely brushes, and over the past week, I have been creating these rather interesting (and almost landscapey) paintings. Go figure!
NEVER HAVE I WANTED A SCRATCH AND SNIFF PICTURE MORE!
October 08, 2020
The Winchester Christmas Market isn't happening this year, which is a real shame. I've been every year since it began, and one of the stalls smells so good and Christmassy it really helps to get me in the mood for the festiveivities.
That stall is the Oranges and Spice Christmas wreaths. It has a warm mulled spicy orangy cinamonny smell. It's utterly delicious!
My reference photo was taken last December on my annual Christmas shopping day with my mum and sister. And to help us get into the spirit of the season, I thought I would have a go at drawing the bonkers detailed picture.
Is this destined for my sister's wall again, or will I get to keep this one?
EDIT - Have decided to sell prints of this. Contact me if interested.
To see the full finished version visit my gallery.
THE SKYE'S THE LIMIT
October 01, 2020
Having a lot of fun with this beautiful girl this week. Major procrastination on those ears, as usual. They weren't as difficult as I thought...as usual too!
The depth of colour in Skye's coat is lovely, and I'm pleased with how contrasty it is. I think I used every version of brown and a few reds to get it right. And thank the gods for Mars Black. That wonderful browny black is a godsend.
Skye's finished portrait is not in the Galler. Go give her a heart!
September 15, 2020
Lots of fun with this simple design. The background is a watercolour wash and I applied the pencils on top.
Tested a Derwent combo with this, namely the Coloursoft pencils and their Hot Pressed Watercolour Paper. Have to say, I was not a fan of the pencils on this paper, they seem to be more suited to a grainer texture. But the finished drawing looks great nonetheless.
My thanks to Georgina Strange for the image. I fell in love with her wildlife photography of the Falkland Islands, which is where these courting King Penguins was taken.
Find all the latest news and updates on Helen Carter Artist here.