In this blog I'll share what I have learned over the years about drawing and painting. My processes creating illustrations, visual development and concept art. I'll share thoughts, techniques and ideas that have worked for me in my career as an illustrator. I hope they inspire , and work for you too!

maandag 28 november 2011

Niklas Andersen Graphite powder tutorial

I recently stumbled upon This post on Niklas Andersen's blog. I asked him some questions about his use of graphite powder. His elaborate answer was very useful, and Niklas was so kind to let me share this on my blog. 
 Niklas: " Here is a illustration made and inspired by the great world we are living in now financially speaking and those who has played a major role in making that grave, I thought it was the appropriate time for this kind of evil picture:-)
Apart from the mockery it has been a very good learning experience of doing it all analog. I made it with pencils and graphite powder that i have spread out with a paint brush and rendered further with the pencils going from HB to 4B. I can really recommend the pure graphite powder i got from Sennelier and the paper from Daler/Rowney the heavyweight version.

The brush/brushes I use is first of a large soft round one from Daler/Rowney that gives the initial even soft spread (not precise). Then for the details and the way I get it more precise is with a smaller nr 4 square stiffer brush which makes it posible to apply more pressure and therefor more darkness+precision. How I block out larger areas even, I start out for example with the overlay block on the left, filling it out with the large brush and I even go over the lines to get i even to the edge. Then I take my kneaded eraser and erase precisly to the edge of the block. Then i take the smaller brush and continue to darken it in within the limits of the edge. From there on you have to use pencils if you want it even darker.

Another thing is if you use the graphite powder from derwent then it is almost impossible to get it even and with out spots. It is really a bad brand for that. When i tryed it, it just became dark so fast and it maked spots etc. But the powder I got a hold of from Sennelier, it never makes spots and is so easy to spread out evenly, you can continuously mold it while you have the extra powder laying on the paper. Last things is that when you do graphite powder then you should be really careful not to touch the paper and leave fingerprints, it really shows up clearly and it ruins the even surface. "

Niklas Andersen website: LINK

donderdag 10 november 2011

Caricature Sketch Demo

Close up. Click image to take a close look at the brush strokes
In this video I recorded the process of sketching a James Brown caricature. At the very start of the recording, my computer suddenly ran slow, which caused the initial sketch to be a little rude and blunt. I decided to keep on going and use the heavy linework as a staring point for the rest of the painting. I usually create a more subtle basic sketch.
You can see that the basic sketch does not have the right proportions yet, and I chose to paint and correct this along the way. I used dark linework on top of lighter values and left some parts open to keep the painting vivid.

dinsdag 12 juli 2011

Watercolor/Ink technique

SECRETS REVEALED! William Stout’s Rackham/Dulac Technique

Some of my most popular pictures are in what I call my Rackham/Dulac style (after two turn-of-the-century children’s illustrators who used this technique extensively, Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac). It dates back a hundred years or so but it’s pretty easy to do. Here’s how:
1) Pencil your picture.
2) Ink your picture with a Hunt crowquill pen, using a 50/50 mixture of waterproof black (India) and sepia inks. That will make your black a nice warm black.
3) After the ink is dry, erase the pencil lines.
4) Mask off your image using white art tape.
5) On your palette, prepare a little pool of raw umber watercolor.
6) Quickly soak the image using a very wet fine-grained sea sponge (or “art sponge”), then wring out the sponge.
7) Using a wide (about three quarters of an inch) Aquarelle watercolor brush, cover your image with the raw umber watercolor.
8) Using the wringed-out sponge, dab and blot up the raw umber watercolor in the areas of your picture that you want to remain light. You may have to wring out your little sponge several times during this process. Work quickly (and near a sink) before the watercolor dries. This will give your image an antique parchment look. You can also add a little raw umber with a smaller brush (not too small) to the areas you want to be darker.
9) While the picture is still wet you can add and perform any wet-on-wet techniques you care to (I usually do this in the sky areas, adding various colored tints).
10) Let the picture dry a little bit, then start adding layers of transparent watercolor to your piece, slowly building up the color to what you want it to finally be.
11) After your picture has dried, use an eraser if necessary to lighten some of your watercolor.
12) When dry, you’ll notice that sometimes your watercolor has greyed-out some of your black pen lines. Mix up a batch of colored ink (never dyes) appropriate to your color scheme with a lot of water to get a nice PALE transparent wash. Brush this over your picture. It will do two things: It should unite your color scheme and it should also bring back the intensity of most of your pen lines.
13) Sometimes adding a touch of Prismacolor pencils is called for to bring out some highlights (I use the Cream and Sand colors a lot for this), darken some shadows or add some complementary “color sparks” to your picture.
14) Carefully remove the white tape.
15) Retouch with white goauche any unsightly color bleeds if necessary. If you need to pop in any white highlights on your piece, now’s the time.
16) When completely dry, spray the piece with Krylon Crystal Clear acrylic coating. Don’t breathe that stuff — you’ll end up with plastic lungs!

As a result of all this work, you should have a brand new ancient-looking masterpiece!

Good Luck!

William Stout

This post was taken from this blog: LINK

zondag 5 juni 2011

Plein air step-by-step

I photographed the various stages of my plein air painting in Dochamps, Belgium.
The first thing I do is taking a walk, and look around for interesting shapes, lighting, colors structures...anything that gives me a reason or a challenge to start painting. In this case, I was struck by the mosses on the roof of the house, and the tilted horizon, which can cause interesting compositional challenges.

Here's an overview of my setup. For more information on the materials I use and equipment I bring along, check out this previous post: LINK

I start out with a pencilsketch. I use the sketch only to define the placement and sizes of the objects in the composition. I don't take the drawing any further than this. I want to do the rest of the decisionmaking with a brush in my hands. In other words: I want it to be a painting, not a drawing.

I first put a basic (in this case) yellow tone over the complete canvas, to get rid of the pure white of the paper. This white will appear nowhere in the painting. Then I add light washes to define the basics of the color composition.

I now use thicker paint, to apply accents and tonalities.

I start out adding more detail first at the point of interest of the painting. I can decide later on how much detail the background needs to support the subject of teh painting.

More detailing. At this point (which is quite late) I decided to leave out the pole in the front. I made the mistake of waiting too long to add it in the painting, (I should have done that in the very beginning, when I still had the fexibility in the painting to move stuff around , and play with it, to make it work. Now it became a separate object in the painting, that caused the composition to fall apart. At this point I was frustrated because I didn't think of this at the very beginning, which made me forget to take a picture of the moment I put the pole in, and then paint it over again. That would have been an interesting moment to show... I'm sorry about that...;-)

The final painting. Little details in the front, and less detail in the trees left, lead the eye to the house.
The shift in lighting, because clouds getting in front of the sun, and the movement of the sun because time passes, makes painting outdoors extra challenging. Especially at the and of the day, or in the morning when light changes quickly, I lay in the shadows, so I know xectly where they are, even when they changed already.

vrijdag 22 april 2011

Howard Pyle notes

This post was taken from this blog.

The great American illustrator, Howard Pyle, taught about two hundred students in his lifetime. Of those, about eighty became well-known artists and illustrators. His assistant for many of those years was Charles DeFeo, whose job it was to clean Pyle's palette, reset it with fresh color, wash the brushes, and take Pyle's French poodle, Bijou for walks. While DeFeo was in the studio, he recorded some of the advice Howard Pyle gave to his class.

First an artist- then an illustrator.

If you are going to be an artist all hell can't stop you. If not, all Heaven can't help you.

If you receive only fifty cents for a job, put as much of your heart into it as you would in one you are receiving $500 for.

If you are doing a black-and-white, a little color will hide a multitude of sins.

If you are painting a sky full of birds, or a garden of flowers, or any objects- show one or a thousand.

If an object in the foreground of your picture looks too big, make it bigger. If it looks too small, make it smaller.

After the first half-hour of work, your lay-in should kill at a hundred yards.

If you can make a picture with two values only, you have a strong and powerful picture. If you use three values, it is still good, but if you use four or more, throw it away.

In using three values he used to say, "Put your white against white, middles tones (groups) against grays, black against black, then black and white where you want your center of interest. This sounds simple, but is difficult to do."

If you're doing a fight picture or a stormy scene make the background fight as well as the figures in the picture.

A strange color, that is different from the color scheme of your painting, use in one spot only. It will be beautiful, but do not repeat it.

They will never shoot you for what you leave out of a picture.

Your picture is finished if it is one-third as good as your original idea.

My favorite of DeFeo's reminiscences of Pyle's class, however, is the comment Pyle would make after giving a painting demonstration: "I'm afraid you didn't get much out of it outside of entertainment for you could see me work, but you could not see me think." Whenever I have witnessed a demonstration by a master painter, I am always left with the frustration of seeing what they did, without knowing WHY they chose to do what they did. For better or worse, I know my style will always have a signature element that is me; I am not seeking to be a copy of another artist (no matter how brilliant they are). If I could only "see how they think," though, perhaps I could approach that master's skill.

maandag 18 april 2011

John Kascht on caricatures

In this film "Funny Bones" artist John Kascht gives us a behind the scenes look at the creation of his portrait of Conan O' Brien, explaining his artistic process and approach to caricature.

zondag 10 april 2011

My outdoor equipment

This is my equipment for painting gouache sketches outdoors:

1.) Moleskine sketchbook with watercolor paper. The size and shape of this sketchbook is well suited for landscapes, and it works good for gouache.

2.) This is my palette. It has a lid, so I can close it, and the paint will stay wet. If I work on a bigger scale and more paint is required, I can also use the lid for mixing paints. I can close it, and put it in my bag without everything becoming messy with paint.
John Pike watercolor palette: LINK

3.) I use:
-a pencil, for my initial sketch
-a sumi-e brush for my initial broad washes. The shape of the brush has a lot of variation, which creates interesting shapes.
-two watercolor brushes for detailing and linework
-two square watercolor brushes for block ins
-two broad watercolor brushes also for initial washes

4.) -A water container. (I just see what old jar i have, and use that..)
-Gouache paints. I use a selection of basic colors. When I am on the spot to actually paint, I decide which colors will end up on my palette. I hardly ever use all the colors I take with me.

5.) An atomizer. It is filled with water, and I use it on my palette to keep my paint from drying out. I also use it for effects on my painting.

6.) A small chair, which makes it easy to sit wherever I want..

This is the complete package I carry with me when I go out to paint...


maandag 4 april 2011

Notes on drawing and painting

These notes were taken from the underpaintings blog: LINK

Fred Fixler: Notes on Drawing (compiled by Norm Nason)

General Concepts

Learning the craft of draftsmanship is The Goal we are trying to achieve.

Structural form must be understood.

Drawing is describing form. The importance is not in the finish, but in its veracity (its truth, and accuracy of construction).

You must learn to see, not so much learn to draw.

School studies are not ends; they are means.

Until you can learn to ignore details, you won't learn to draw.

Every device must be employed to carry out accuracy of initial mapping-out of a drawing.

Whatever the form or volume, start with the ideal. Then, compare and modify your ideal to fit the model.

Where the figure rests on something, draw the imprint of the form first.

Anatomy makes it easier to interpret what you see.

Squinting is important in order to reduce the outline to its greatest simplicity. Avoid all those bumps.

Shapes and Patterns

Light and shadow in itself produces design.

Light shapes create the image; dark shapes create the pattern and the design. It is light shapes that give form; the dark shapes make the pattern.

Draw dark with one eye and with the other see the light.

Shadow shapes must describe either structure or the form on which it lies.

Lay out form and action first, then indicate the light and shadow pattern.

The shadow pattern may look right, but more often than not it is the light pattern that is wrong.

Turn your drawing upside down and ask yourself how it might be improved. A good, balanced pattern will still look good upside down.

In a drawing, try to keep open or white spaces as part of the design; they provide rest for the eye. Be aware of the positive nature of the paper left untouched. Doing thumbnail sketches will help you to see this. You can do anything with the darks so long as it is accurate where it meets the light.

See two main tones—a light area and a shadow area. Some variation within each. If you squint, you can narrow it down to two basic tones. Separate lights from shadows. Increase the contrast. Make all areas in the light a little lighter than you see them, and all areas in the shadow a little darker than you see them. the lightest light in the shadow is darker than the darkest dark in the light. The object is to make all lighted areas hold together as one group, as should the shadow areas. Otherwise, the subject will not hold together; it will lose validity.

Over modeling comes from incorrect values. One of the quickest ways to correct a problem is to clean up the light and dark areas, simplifying them. Reflected light should never be as light as the main lights. Draw them at least two values darker than anything in the light.

The eye instinctively goes to the light areas in a picture. The real problem is the half-tones: which goes to the light? Which goes to the shadow? Half tones with the light should be made lighter. Those with the shadow should be made darker. Squinting helps here. When it comes to half-tones, when it doubt, leave it out. Make certain that half-tones go around the form. If you don't, your drawing will look two-dimensional.

If two light half-tone passages appear to be equal, squint until one is almost lost to view. Obviously, the one that's almost lost to view is the lighter. Squinting prevents one from being engrossed in detail. It encompasses the total scene. Your drawing, viewed with eyes wide open, should look like the model does with your eyes half shut. Squinting also works with photographs.

Don't overstate highlights—it's a sure way to achieve over-modeling.

Eliminate lines between intercepting cast shadows, like a cat on a skylight.

Cast shadows should explain correctly the forms on which they lie.

When editing drawings at home, it should be a subtractive process: eraser, not pencil.

Eliminate where possible any lines between adjacent light and dark areas.

Consider drawing as a means of containing tone.

Strength in draftsmanship lies in the degree to which structure is depicted.

Make the paper more beautiful with every stroke added. Learn to ignore details, so that you can draw details. Look for the big, basic truths.

Construction is more important than finish.

Light and shade by themselves create design.

The pattern of light makes the drawing, the positive nature of the paper left untouched.

One can do anything with the darks as long as it is accurate where it meets the light.

There are two main tones, that of the light area and that of the shadow area.

Execute your drawing in the fewest possible values. Make certain the half-tones go around the form; get it to turn.

Line and Contour

There are two types of drawing:

Tone subordinated to outline
Outline subordinated to tone
A line is also a tone. If you use a line, make it clear whether it is a line or a tone. Emphasize construction line rather than contour line in the blocking-in of a figure.

Look for rhythmic lines that visually relate the picture or composition and rhythmic lines that create and relate forms. Enhance these effects.


When the light and shade of an object varies in clearly defined areas, it is said to have planes. If light on a form varies with no discernible boundaries, it has no planes; it is rounded. In the light, sometimes things appear too flat. These aren't just arbitrary variations of tone—look at them as planes.

Some forms (spheres, etc.) have no planes. Learn to recognize them.

A change in outline or contour is also a change in plane. Modeling of a surface should be set out in planes of tone, first larger ones, then smaller ones. Good modeling subtly fuses them together.

Gross roundness is characteristic of bad modeling. The most boring thing is a sphere. It does not exist in a human figure.

Try to determine planes that are at right angles to the light. All others will be slightly darker.

Every tone in a drawing represents a plane, facet and sub-facet, ad infinitum.

The degree of finish is a matter of how far you continue breaking down individual planes, probing for details.

Details are easy to see. It's the big form that's most difficult.


The edge of a shadow begins where planes of form turn decisively away from the light. Squint!

Determine the edge scale right at the start:

Softest edge
Hardest edge
Big blur or lost edge
All other edges that fall in between
What is the hardest edge inside the figure? What is the hardest edge outside the figure (on the silhouette)? The softest?

Big Blur—the largest area where values on the model and background are similar and where edges between are just as frequently on the light side as on the shadow side.

The degree of finish is the level to which one breaks down planes.

It is the light that will determine the character of the edges. Shadow edges in sunlight, for instance, are very hard. You can almost cut them out with scissors. Contrast this with diffused light. A point source of light (spotlight) has few half-tones and few hard edges.

Edges vary according to:

Conditions of the light
The distance from the viewer (edges become more diffuse and values become lighter the farther away a subject is from the viewer).
The intrinsic sharpness or softness of the object.
Soft edges always give the effect of light, and make things look luminous.

Edges are nearly as important as values. The edge of a shadow begins where planes of the form turn decisively away from the light. Ask yourself before you begin to draw:

What is the hardest edge inside the figure?
What is the hardest edge on the silhouette?
What is the softest edge on the silhouette?
What is the softest edge inside the figure?
Hard edges attract attention and make the form move forward. The best place to use them is within the light areas. The smaller the jump in value, the crisper you can make your edges.

Soft edges—most often exist on the shadow side of the form.

Lost edges—are the softest you can make, mainly on the shadow side.

The big blur—is the largest area in the picture where values on the model and background are similar and where edges between them can be softened or blurred. Edges can be lost in the light as well as in the shadow.

Try to blend or mass adjacent light and dark areas together, eliminating any lines between them wherever possible: a unifying effect. This does not have to mean the elimination of lines around the form, if wanted for delineation or for a decorative effect. Try exaggerating hard or soft edges as you follow shadow shapes.

Look for and create contrasts in value, color and edge.

Halation—the spreading of light around an object (i.e., sunlight coming in through a window sill, where two sharp edges occur and cross each other). Soften the one behind it, especially where they meet. There are only shapes, values and edges.

Go for freedom and looseness through your treatment of edges.

A studied treatment of edges yields the illusion of space. You cannot reduce these principles to a formula. If you look only for shapes and delineation, that's all you'll see. You should also look for softness, merging tones, etc. These are qualities we revere in the really good artists.

Notes on Gouache Painting
by Fred Fixler (edited by Norm Nason)

© 1987 Fred Fixler & Norm Nason. All rights reserved. This text may be freely copied for instructional purposes, but not reproduced for profit.

To begin with, I don't want you people to do anything with edges in your portraits. I want you to start out with the poster look, and work for that without smoothing anything out. I don't like smoothed-out color.

Who can say what color flesh is. It can be any color in the value area of 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being black and 10 being white. Flesh is a grayed color, not a pure color. It can be green, it can be blue, it can be anything except a vivid color. For example, if flesh looks gray-blue, it must be a moonlight scene. There is no such thing as a flesh tone.

The first thing I have to teach you is how to take such a flesh tone and go from its lightest light to its darkest dark. Now, I don't mean the colors that come out of the tube, I mean the color that you're using as a flesh tone. As an exercise, take some color from the palette. Mix a "flesh" color, a grayed color of some kind. Then learn to do value studies, taking that color from light to dark in ten equal steps.

As I said, don't use colors straight from the tube. Those are pure colors that you use to mix with. Never use them straight from the tube. Nothing is that color, anyway. Look around the room. Do you see anything that isn't some form of grayed color? Nothing is pure tone. Everything in the room is a grayed version of one color or another. If you never learned anything else in this course—if you left right now—you would have gotten your money's worth knowing that there are no pure colors anywhere.

Sometimes, in commercial work, you'll have a client who says that they want their package to stand out, that it's pure red. So you paint it pure red because they want it that way and againt the other grayed colors. It stands out like a sore thumb, but that's the only incident where such a thing would be done.

Now I know that you're all straining at the bit to get to the portrait work, to do Aunt Minnie's portrait. But people, you have to first learn to take a color and find its darkest value through its lightest value. You must do that as an exercise many times over before you can ever handle the portrait work. Really learn to do that. I know you're all going to argue that a shadow doesn't really go that dark, that it is influenced by reflections and bounce lighting and all that. But that's not what we're talking about here.

Contrary to any belief, you do not make a color lighter by simply adding white. That's the last way to do it. The simplest way to prove it is to take a color and add white to it, then mix more white to it. As you continue to do that it becomes whiter, yes. But it shifts into a cool color. All colors, when white is added, become cooler. You have to compensate for the effect of white and warm the color up with a little yellow or some other light-warm color. Yellow itself is sometimes too light, so you might start with a grayed yellow, to kill the blue. Try yellow ochre.

As I have said, there are no flesh tones. Flesh can be any color: greenish, bluish, reddish, etc. Faces are many colors, in all areas. When you're making value studies from 1 to 10, start with a grayed color and make a consistent value change all the way down the line. If the jump from one value to the other is equal to one half of a tone, then they all have to be oen half of a tone. They must all be the same chroma, and the same hue.

Say we have a tan color (tan is the hue). It's from the yellow family and it's value is from that family. Say it is approximately the eighth value. The chroma is also from the yellow family. Because this is our point of departure, it is the highest intesity of this particular chroma. When you add gray, it becomes very low in chroma, barely identifiable as a color. It's a warm, yellowish color, but very low in chroma. You have to understand these properties of color. Whatever color you pick, all the colors in your value studies must have the same intensity. They must have the same hue, the same chroma, and vary only in value. Say we have a hue of yellow green. You must keep it yellow green, keep the same chroma (the amount of yellow and green). Only vary the value, from lightest to darkest.

In mixing, if you find you have too much chroma, you can reduce it by ading it's compliment or by adding one of the shades of gray we have in our palette. That brings the chroma back into line. Remember, in gouache painting our colors are going to dry a little lighter than they appear when wet.

If you learn to do value studies—practice this patiently, tenaciously—it will greatly facilitate your portrait work. You have to get this first. Really work on it so it becomes second nature.

When you have one of these grayed colors, and you need to cool it, look around for a dirty cool to do it with. Don't go to a pure color, for that will botch things up. And don't make a spectrum that goes from a cool light to a warmer dark. Keep the spectrum all cool, or all warm, consistently throughout the 10 colors you put down. Don't start with a color that is too gray, or too dark.

Learn to do this and your painting will improve one thousand percent, I'll guarantee you. Learn to understand value and progression. For instance, the color on the shadow side of a red box is still red. It doesn't change just because it's in the shadow. In neutral light you'll see that the shadow side of the box is indeed red. Of course, it would be nice to be able to use the Impressionist's colors: reflected light, fill light. But first you have to learn to handle the progression of values.

woensdag 16 maart 2011


For those of you who want to know everything about me, I was interviewed by Jennifer Gwynne Oliver for her blog: Academy of art character and creature design notes.
Click on this LINK to check out the interview.

(photo: Nina Tulp)