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help with mallard

The animal and wildlife forum concentrates on drawings of all animals, from domestic pets to wildlife - anything dressed in fur, feathers or scales. The emphasis is on drawing but paintings are also acceptable.

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help with mallard

Postby Laurene » Wed Aug 09, 2017 12:50 am

Hi everyone,
I haven't posted this one as a WIP because I wasn't sure where it was going and now I'm facing a deadline for submission to a call for artists. I need extra eyes on this please. I don't usually work with a dark background and I'm starting to fiddle too much. Are the contrasts reading pretty well to your eyes or does it read as "muddy"?
Thanks for your help.

Graphite pencil and powder on Mellotex, 7" x 14"

Mallard 2 for TDF.jpg

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Re: help with mallard

Postby Bob1298 » Wed Aug 09, 2017 2:19 am

Laurene wrote:Hi everyone, I haven't posted this one as a WIP because I wasn't sure where it was going and now I'm facing a deadline for submission to a call for artists. I need extra eyes on this please. I don't usually work with a dark background and I'm starting to fiddle too much. Are the contrasts reading pretty well to your eyes or does it read as "muddy"? Thanks for your help. Graphite pencil and powder on Mellotex, 7" x 14"

Hi Laurene, the bird is beautiful, the shading is blended and smooth. I really blew up the post so I could get a good look at background what jumps out at me is that it is not smoothly blended. I see lots of holes (don't know what else to call them) I would go back in those dark areas with a O.5mm and fill them in. There is one real dark line far in the background that keeps jumping out at me might consider toning that down a little. One of the reasons I have stopped using powder is I really feel you lose a crispness in the work and that might be what you are feeling. I have gone back over my work with small circular strokes and that has helped somewhat. Hope this helps

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Re: help with mallard

Postby kennyc » Wed Aug 09, 2017 2:22 am

I don't know. The image seems familiar though....not sure why....
I'm seeing some mud but it's water, right? You mentioned graphite powder is that how you are doing the background?
The lighter highlight on the upper right behind of and to the left of the head is distracting to me....almost like it is part of the duck.
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Re: help with mallard

Postby Laurene » Wed Aug 09, 2017 2:53 am

Thanks Bob. Yes, I plan to go over the water again to smooth it out as much as I can but it will never be perfectly smooth at this point. I was thinking of spraying it lightly with workable fixative which gives the paper a little more tooth and then trying to smooth out the water a little more. I noticed that darker line too after I scanned the image. It doesn't stand out as much on the original drawing but the scan really brought it into focus. I'll blend it in more. Thank you for your insights - it really helps!

Hi Kenny. Maybe it looks familiar because it's a common pose for a duck but I always only draw from my own reference photos to avoid copyright infringement. I see what you mean about the lighter area behind the head. I'll take a second look. Thanks for your help.

In real life, the background is a little darker than it appears here so I guess the contrast between the duck and the water isn't too bad. Could be better though. Hope the workable fixative trick works... I haven't finished shadowing and contouring the duck but I wanted to be sure that the it was worth continuing. I'll push on.

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Re: help with mallard

Postby Bev » Wed Aug 09, 2017 9:48 am

Hi Laurene, I would repeat much as what Kenny has said, also look at the tip of the wing feather (the back wing) you have a very small halo around it which attracts my eye, but you say you are still working on the background so you may have seen it already. Looking good though, a very peaceful and calm feeling to this one.

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Re: help with mallard

Postby Laurene » Wed Aug 09, 2017 10:17 am

Thank you Bev, I'll take a look at that halo. Yes, I'm still working on both the background and the duck but it's really just a question of adjusting shadows and contrast at this point. I find I'm spending as much time lifting graphite as I am adding it and I was getting frustrated with it. I'm glad to hear that that the feeling of peace is coming through though.

Thanks for all of your insights. I think I know what I need to do now.

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Re: help with mallard

Postby Mike Sibley » Wed Aug 09, 2017 10:56 am

I think it's water, not mud, but... I agree with Bob about it not being sufficiently smooth. It's just the top quarter that's troubling me, and especially around the top right highlight. It looks grainy, which doesn't conform to what we expect water to look like.

I tossed a coin and it came up tails... sorry. So rather than stay quiet - there's something about the foreground wing is not sitting well with me. It's shaping is perfect, the highlights glow... and then I realised that it's TOO perfect. It's your vision as you see it, and you're the duck expert, but I think the white edges of the feathers are too perfect - there isn't a single tiny nick, notch, or misplaced filament, which I think would subtly raise the sense of reality.

Back to the water: this is probably a result of using graphite powder (or not - I've never used it) but there is a "halo" effect in places that is harming the separation of duck from water. As I say in my workshops, sharp edges separate planes; soft edges merge them. The left hand edge of the duck is merging with the water, and the tips of the rear wing and tail too (as Bev mentioned). If those edges were super sharp, with sharply-defined detail, I think the water would then recede and lose dominance with distance, which in turn might partly solve any issues you're having with the water.

I have to say that I really like the way the rich dark of the eye, with its bright highlight, pull me straight into the duck. And the composition is perfectly balanced too.
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Re: help with mallard

Postby Laurene » Wed Aug 09, 2017 12:57 pm

Thanks for your insights Mike. Yes, that upper right hand corner is where I lifted and re-applied graphite the most. I can't get back to the white of the paper and those nasty little dots darken instantly the minute I try to apply more graphite to even it out, even when I use a 2H pencil in tiny circles with the very lightest touch possible. I'm hoping that your trick of using a light coat of workable fixative will give me enough tooth to either even it out or just darken that area completely.

I tossed a coin and it came up tails... sorry. So rather than stay quiet - there's something about the foreground wing is not sitting well with me. It's shaping is perfect, the highlights glow... and then I realised that it's TOO perfect.


:D You're absolutely right. There will be plenty of nicks by the time I'm finished, I just haven't put them in yet!! I've been saving those for dessert :D

I'm glad the composition is working for you. If I finish this to my satisfaction, I'll show everyone what I had in mind. It's meant to be a companion piece to another drawing...if it works out that is.

You've all given me the energy I needed to get cracking and finish this. Thank you!

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Re: help with mallard

Postby kennyc » Wed Aug 09, 2017 1:00 pm

Dessert! :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: help with mallard

Postby Laurene » Sun Aug 13, 2017 8:18 pm

Thanks for helping me get back on track with this everyone. This is much closer to what I had in mind when I started. My goal with this drawing was not to concentrate on detail but rather to create a mood or emotion based on lighting.

The sun is meant to be very low in the sky as it would be in late afternoon, and it's coming from viewer's left and slightly behind the duck. The duck's shadow is therefore cast in front of the duck and there's a slight halo of light around the duck's head and breast. I remember feeling that the duck seemed to almost glow because of the lighting. Difficult to reproduce, but I think this as close as I'm going to get.

Mallard 2 for TDF_2.jpg


Bob, I smoothed the grainy texture of the water as much as I could. Thanks for pointing it out. This scan seems to exaggerate it but it's not as pronounced in the original drawing as it was.

Ken, you wrote
The lighter highlight on the upper right behind of and to the left of the head is distracting to me....almost like it is part of the duck.
. Agreed! I think it reads better now.

Bev, I went over the water all around the duck to eliminate halos as much as possible. I also tried to darken the water as much as I could in order to increase the contrast between the duck and the water and to crisp up all edges.

Mike, I added texture details to the feathers but actually much less that I would usually do. I hope I did enough so that they read as feathers. That is the one thing I think I will continue to fiddle with before I spray my drawing. I need to live with it a couple of days I think to be sure of what else I want to do in that area. You were spot on about darkening the water! It gave less importance to it and more importance to the duck. The extra contrast added to the mood I was try to create too.

This is what this forum is all about! When someone asks for help it's always there. :D

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Re: help with mallard

Postby kennyc » Sun Aug 13, 2017 9:17 pm

Looks good. I think you captured the 'glow.'
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Re: help with mallard

Postby Bob1298 » Sun Aug 13, 2017 9:25 pm

Laurene, it's looking good, very restful, really like the softness you have created.

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Re: help with mallard

Postby Bev » Mon Aug 14, 2017 12:06 pm

Looks great now Laurene and yes the glow is there. Big improvement in the water. Nice!
I still love this forum and you are so right Laurene "This is what this forum is all about! When someone ask for help it's always there"

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Re: help with mallard

Postby Laurene » Mon Aug 14, 2017 12:52 pm

Thanks Ken, Bob and Bev! Bev, I've learned so much from this forum and I'm still learning. Facebook has it's place, but nothing can replace a forum like this.

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Re: help with mallard

Postby Mike Sibley » Mon Aug 14, 2017 1:16 pm

The feathers no longer bother me - there are just enough nicks to satisfy my curiosity :)

More importantly, the duck is now separated from the water. And there are streaks in the water that subtly extend to both sides of the duck's head, which emphasises the water being on a plane behind the duck. Also, the darker water means the duck is now centre stage and the water has less importance.

In other words... it's looking great! :)
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