June 6th through June 12th
Week two went pretty well. I had high high hopes that it would go better than it did though. I mentioned in my last post that I wanted to use these weekly challenges to push myself to conceptualize several fresh ideas for the same topic.
This was one week that I immediately had an idea for, even while I was putting this challenge together. It was not a completely fleshed out concept, but I had a basic idea of what I wanted this to be. I planned for this first idea to be completed as a sketch but I also had a second concept for a composite that I was super excited about.
My thought was to an the HDR image I had created in the winter (above) that has all of my lovely plant babies which was obviously perfect for this challenge, and composite a separate photoshoot of a witch (me) into the image. I planned to have the witch tending to her babies. Unfortunately, compositing is very difficult when you are trying to match two source images together. During the photoshoot, I did not properly position and angle the camera in a way that matched the perspective of the original image. Having been several months ago, I can not remember my exact camera position for the shoot. Additionally, I think that I would have also run into issues matching the lighting of a regular photo to that of the HDR image.
But the failures don’t define this week. Especially when my other idea turned out so well.
Let's dive into it!
For my sketch, I imagined a witch, surrounded by her plants, who had turned into a plant herself. Perhaps taking the challenge of Plant Witch a little too far, buuuuut this was the first idea that came to me when putting together the challenge and I was a little obsessed. If you can’t tell, I often become obsessed with my new ideas. Lol.
Figure drawing is still something I am relatively new to. At least, dynamic poses. I knew I wanted the witch to be sitting on the floor, but I couldn't see how to draw them sitting cross-legged. I settled for this sort of ‘wrapped’ posture. I used circles at the shoulders, wrists, and ankles to help me with positioning and proportion. As you can see, I also draw ALL the lines when I am sketching. Even the ones that technically would not be visible like those of the legs where the arms overlap. I have not always done this. I used to try to just edit the unseen lines out with my mind white I was sketching. However, this often leads to things being a little wonky. Now when I am sketching, I will draw all of my lines all the way through.
Then I go back and clean up the sketch, erasing the unseen lines and adding a little shading to help me visualize the depth and light source. Which I noticed is almost always the same for me when I am not using direct reference photos. Top left diagonal light. Perhaps this is something I will confront in challenges to come.
For now, I am still working on creating more environment compositions so I had to focus on the witches' surroundings next. I thought some strategic layering of potted plants would add depth and tell the story I had in mind.
It turned out REALLY well so of course I wanted to finish it. I did not see this as a watercolor painting though. And I did not want to do this as digital art. Fine liner pens and graphite are the mediums I took this sketch to the end with.
When I was younger, I loved graphite and shading. It was my medium of choice. But I have not used graphite to finish a piece in years.
I found some really nice, 157lb Bristol Vellum paper. Using a high-contrast version of my completed sketch on my laptop, full brightness, I traced my concept onto the paper with a 6H pencil. Even though H pencils should not to be used for traditional art (architects use them when sketching drafts) I like to use this pencil to sketch and transfer sketches to my final paper because I have a slightly heavy hand and the hard lead draws lightly.
My paper was larger than what my laptop could help me transfer. It cut several of the plants off at the side or top. I chose to just finish off those plants, making all subjects fully visible in the final composition.
I was excited to get started. I definitely did not expect the process to take as long as it did, *sigh* which seems to be a developing a theme for these challenges.
Starting with the far left plant, it became obvious that this piece was calling me to play with textures. I love to work with textures but watercolor is a difficult medium to use when trying these techniques.
This made me even MORE excited.
I mean, just look at how cute this plant on the little stool turned out!
It's usually best to work from left to right (if you are right-handed) when finishing a piece. This way, your hand won't drag across the completed parts and smudge your lines and shading or, most times for me, rest in a lovely puddle of watercolor I just meticulously curated *rolls eyes*.
~ TIP: If you forget to do this with a graphite piece, as I often do, grab a piece of scrap paper to place under your hand as you work. I like to use a piece of unopened mail. ~
I had to take a lot of breaks while working on this piece. All the scrupulous line work and tiny texture details made my hand cramp. Like a lot. I think I finished the image over the course of three days because it was tedious.
I really wanted each plant to have its own unique texture. Mostly, I tried to replicate the plant's natural textures, except for the tall leafy plant. That one I just made up a texture. Funny, it's the texture I like the most. I also decided that the housing the cactus needed some texture to it as well. It's difficult for me to explain why exactly other than to say that the piece felt unbalanced. This is an issue I often run into when creating. A piece will feel unbalanced, like it is calling out for the addition of… something and it's my job to figure out what that thing is.
The shading of the witch and the last three plants took nearly three hours. But it was totally worth it. I love how this turned out. I can see that these challenges are really going to encourage me to create some great things.
If you like this piece, please let me know in the comments! I am considering having some prints made but would love to gauge if there is any interest in reproductions before I commit to that.
Use the links at the bottom of the page to follow me on Instagram so you can get sneak peaks of how my next challenge is going throughout the week.