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This is my second attempt to sketch and write a blog this week, the first effort was not great – more wilting lilies. So, I decided to draw a fantastic tree for which Devonport (where I live) is quite famous – the Moreton Bay Fig. This large evergreen tree of the Mulberry family happens to be native to Eastern Australia. Lucky Devonport has many of these fabulous giants based around our library. They are so big they almost straddle the road, and I always stop and admire the amazing root systems which have tourists clicking their cameras. I became the tourist this day and took a photo while out walking. This will make a nice art project I thought.


I started sketching using a water-soluble graphite pencil, which has a nice thick, soft lead. My idea at first, was to make this a tonal wash sketch, using different techniques. I have tried using a white blockout lumocolor before, when there are considerable white spots in the texture in tree trunks, and would be too fiddly to leave so many bits of white paper showing, as I usually do. The blockout has worked well when I’ve used a straight watercolour wash. However, it doesn’t work that well with the water soluble graphite (for me anyway), as it leaves residual grain. So, I left the work to dry, and then tried to erase the extra pigment which had penetrated the white blockout. So now my work looks grubby, which is not unusual when I try using water! Never mind, the watercolour paper is 33gm Hahnemühle and can cope with heavy treatment.


I was reasonably happy with the top sketch but could see I had missed the proportion somewhat bottom left and top right. I did adjust that, and feel it is better. I also used a clean Staedtler eraser to lift off some of the unwanted tone. Done. But now, my task was to work more texture into the sketch, and to add limited colour. I used an 8B graphite pencil (not a water-soluble one) for the extra texture on the tree, colour pencil for the moss and the smattering of leaves. My conclusion is that maybe it’s okay to enjoy these magnificent trees while out walking, and forgo the urge to draw them – just saying.

Setting the record straight.

coverLast week I had a folder of artwork returned to me from a publisher who was moving premises. It was the first book I had illustrated, and I never expected to see the illustrations again, as royalties were paid in advance, thus becoming the publisher’s property. I had enjoyed drawing the illustrations, which were of a young Vietnamese New Zealand girl. However, I had always held a gripe about the finished cover, showing an image which was not what I actually drew. I had drawn two images of the girl inside the plane, one at the beginning, minus the box, and the other at the end holding the box. Both images I drew with the girl’s eyes shut. So what had happened here? Continue reading