This is the start of a Pet Portrait of my neighbours dog for their Christmas Present. The little critter is called Schnell, a Wire Haired Dachshund. He's a very sweet natured dog, full of character but ugly as sin. I suspect he may be the cross between a Giant Rat and an Oven Scourer. He's had a tough life - been run over by a tractor (twice) and mauled by a larger dog, he's got a little arthritis and only stands a couple of inches off the ground so there's not much clearence on a muddy day. Of course, being a dog, he doesn't seem to notice these things.
To start the pic I took loads of photos and chose the one that best showed his character. I traced the main bits such as eyes and nose to make sure that they were in the correct place and then pencilled in the rest. Tracing wasn't essential as I could have done it freehand but it saves time and this way you know you've done it right. Now I've started I'm not sure if I chose the right paper. The stuff I'm using is thinner than normal cartridge paper though I have used it for other work. I guess if I've screwed up I can start again. The beginning of any picture is often the hardest part because it doesn't look like anything then. You have to have a little faith that's it's going to be ok or have somewhere private where you can swear if it goes wrong.

Pens (the ones I use)

I figured you might be interested in how I build up the pciture so below are some pics of the pens I use as they are slightly different from normal pens. I've heard them called Mapping pens, Technical pens and Drafting (or Draughting) pens and they tend to used for technical drawings such as schematics. They are basically a hollow cylindrical nib with a small hair running down the center to help feed the ink which comes from a cartridge or from a resevior depending on the type you have. I use the cartridge type as it's easier and lot less messy but the other method, which involves syphoning ink from a container, probably saves you more money in the long run. There are various makes but the ones I have always used and would recommend are Rotring Rapidograph. (is there any chance they might be reading this???)

The size of the hollow center varies from over 1mm to 0.1mm. In fact it's not the 0.01 that's the smallest in my experience but the next one up which is a bit weird. The small nibs allow dots and lines so small that it can take ages to shade anything and the fine lines can often resemble pencil marks. It also involves a lot of repition leading to a kind of self hypnosis if you've been doing the same thing for an hour or so. In this case, Schell's nose had the darker areas filled with a bigger nib and the rest was built up with smaller nibs. I rarely fill anything in solidly and most black areas are actually thousands of small dots repeated over and over.
The White pen in the first pic is a standard Gel Ink pen which is produced by many companies and can be found in most art or stationary shops. The ink is translucent as in you need several layers (most of the time) to make the white solid but this also has it's advantages in that it makes things grey sometimes. Handy for different tones of fur. On larger areas the best way to achieve white is to leave the page as untouched as possible but for small areas like a Specular (the glint of light on an eye or mirror) a gel pen is very handy.

 
 
I guess inspiration can come from anywhere or anyone but I find most of mine comes from nature. It tends to be all year round and usually doesn't matter where you go but there are times of the year when you get things for a short while and you have to make the most of them. In particular, Mushrooms and Toadstools, which are generally around for a couple of months during the Autumn. While there are some that can be found throughout the year this is definately the best time to see them.

They've always fascinated me, partly because they are so unusual with their colours and shapes and partly because they never seem to be quite 'real'. By that I mean some look like they belong in a Fairytail while others in a Horror movie or from some Fantasy Book. Others can make things look ancient. Some of the colours are so varied it's like they're living Gem Stones. Even the browns and greys have enough variations to make them interesting.

So a while ago I bought a book on Mushrooms and Toadstools and decided to see what I could find, especially as I found a couple of cool ones last year and didn't have a clue what they were. Now I realise they are everywhere and unless you know what you are looking for you could be standing right beside them and not see them.  Of course I'm far from being an expert which is why half my identifications are sketchy to say the least and if anyone can identify a Toadstool for me that would be great. Otherwise I'll start making them up and hope no one notices.

Nature's Tower Blocks

I came across a fantastic Tree stump in a local woodland called the Plantation near Bovey Tracey in Devon. There were two stumps, one being bigger than the other, and both were covered in mushrooms. It just struck me how many of them were tigtly packed into little groups kind of like an Oriental Shanty town. In terms of art, I figured it may one day make a great picture either as it is or with a Fantasy or Sci-fi slant. The caps could be tiled and there could be ladders and stairways connecting them. Maybe piping and other stuff. Possibly the tree trunk could be rock and if the scale 's brought down then it's like the inhabitants have got their own woodland growing up the side of the rock face prompting me to wonder why they don't venture down on the ground. What else is living there and why so close to each other? Also, do the Tree stumps engage in block war like they have in Judge Dredd?
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Toadstool Treestump - with the other stump in the background
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Toadstool Treestump
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Blueleg Brownie (or Funeral Bell)
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Blueleg Brownie (or Funeral Bell)
This log was found in Parke Estate which is a National Trust property in Bovey Tracy, Devon. Just one fallen tree covered with some kind of Bonnet mushroom. Kind of like a Horizontal version of a Tower Block. For some of the pics I had to use a flash as light levels were poor but it does show them up very well. Again, it's looks to me like a load of fantasy buildings all crammed together for some reason. The Honey Fungus and Sulphur Tuft again demonstrate maximum use of space.
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Toadstool Log
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Toadstool Log
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Common or Clustered Bonnet
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Common or Clustered Bonnet
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Common or Clustered Bonnet
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Honey Fungus
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Sulphur Tuft

Colours

Having flicked through the photos in my trusty new book I was amazed to see the variety and intensity of the colours you can get. I'm sure most of us have seen the fantastic Fly Agaric in our time (bright red with white spots) so you have some idea of what I mean but there are examples for every colour of the spectrum, even blue. I haven't been able to find some of the best ones but here are some of the ones I have found this year.
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Amethyst Deceiver - young
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Amethyst Deceiver - older
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Amethyst Deceiver - older
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Candlesnuff Fungus
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Yellow Stagshorn (I think)
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Meadow Coral (or Yellow Stagshorn - not sure)
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???
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Milking Bonnet
The Lumpy Bracket over on the far right is white and pale green but I understand that the green is cause by an algae that lives only in this fungus and nowhere else.
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Silver Leaf Fungus
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Oysterlings
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Rufous Milkcap
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Lumpy Bracket

Textures

Most Toadstools and Mushrooms look pretty smooth but some are very textured, especially when viewed close up. The Puffballs are covered in spikes and nodules and the Wood Hedgehog is just weird underneath.

By the way, the £2 coin on the Parosol mushroom is at least an inch across (but I think more) so it shows you how big these ones were. When they get older the stem can't support the weight of the caps and they collapse.
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Puffball or Earth Star
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Puffball or Earth Star
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Puffball or Earth Star
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Parasol
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Parasol with £2 coin for scale
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Shaggy Parasol
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Wood Hedgehog

Shapes

Sometimes I think mushrooms have very strange shapes and sometimes they form strange shapes. The Turkey Tail on the end of the log looks like a frame for something and the Silver Leaf at the end looks like the edges have been crimped by a machine.
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Turkey Tail
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Turkey Tail
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Turkey Tail
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Some kind of Chanterelle
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No idea
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You think this would be easy to identify???
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Don't know
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Possibly a Silver Leaf Fungus
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Wood Hedgehog

Freaky

I reckon there are some shrooms out there that are staright out of a HP Lovecraft book. They look so strange and 'wrong' they can't help looking sinister. The one which I think is a version of one called Yellow Brain (the name itself is bad enough) looks and feels like jelly. I can't rule out spores from another Galaxy so I'll have to keep an eye out for tenticles growing on me where they shouldn't! (which implies there are areas where tentacles should grow?) One of them seemed to be growing upside down with a blob on it (it was part of a group that were all like it), the Dapperling one makes me think of Spiders (I have a Spider phobia) and the pink one with a hole is just wrong on so many levels. The yucky one reminds me of the giant insect at the end of the Starship Troopers film.
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Yellow Brain
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Yellow Brain
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Yellow Brain
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Upright Coral
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Just yukky
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If it twitches I'm outta here!
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Dapperling, possibly
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Pink Funnel - I made that up and it sounds a little gross
The orange ones look like discs that have landed on the branch and are clinging on. If I saw them move I probably wouldn't be surprised. Well, I would. The Ink Cap doesn't seem too bad except for the fluffy white hairs at the base of the stem which seem to make it a liitle strange. Plus the fact that it was found inside a treestump and while there were loads of other types around this was the only one of its kind. Probably a scout then.
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Orangy flappy things
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Some kind of Ink Cap?

 

Gorgon

11/06/2012

43 Comments

 
Here are some pics of the Gorgon which I believe is about 99% finished. I might need to add a bit more shading to the face and brow as well as tidying up the edges but otherwise I think she's done. It was my hope at the beginning to make all the snakes the same but in the end I decided that, being fantasy, accuracy wasn't so important and the snakes could all be slightly different. The snakes themselves are based on Garter Snakes which are small and slender as opposed to the majority of Gorgons which seem to represented with larger, chunkier snakes like Rattle Snakes.  I don't know if she resembles anyone - snakes for hair aside of course. I thought at one point she looked like Ashley Judd and now maybe a little like Anjelina Jolie but that could just be wishful thinking.

The idea came from the film Labyrinth and in particular from a scene with a weird plant thing on a wall which had lots of small branches each ending in an eye and these branches all moved as one to get a look at Jennifer Connelly while she was there. I like the idea too, that if the Gorgon was looking at something, all the snakes would be hanging down the back of her head and would be dying to see what she was looking at. 

Once it's been scanned professionally I'll put it in the Fantasy Art section and come up with a price. Anyhoo, hope you like it!