Tiger, Tiger

Hello?  *tap, tap* Is this thing on?

Ah, yes – there you are!  You’re looking good today – got a healthy glow, so you do! Me?  Pfft, I’m fine – just rejoining the rat-race after two weeks off and… Well… I’d love to say that it’s a nice feeling being back at work, but in all honesty I’d rather be back at home with my pencils, paper and pens and a hot mug o’ coffee.

I got up to various things during the two week break, but importantly to this blog, I managed to start and am nearly finished a new piece of art.  I bet you’re excited, huh?  I can tell by your face.  Before I get into that however, I’m going to have a little rant and regale you with a tale about an experience I’ve had when trying to purchase my first set of Copic Ciao marker pens…

After deciding on Friday the 28th that I was going to make my first purchase of a few of them, I had a mooch around the interwebs and decided to buy ten of them from ‘copic-shop.co.uk’.  With a URL like that, it was surely going to be the best place for me to get them, right?

WRONG. 

The experience of purchasing the pens from the site was simple enough, but from that point onwards things took a very sharp dip, as although the order confirmation I received via email said that my pens had been picked and dispatched, the tracking number and link to the Royal Mail tracking service website brought up the message ‘The system is currently unable to confirm the status of your item.  Please try again later’.

Hmm.

‘It’s ok’, I thought.  ‘Perhaps it’s just a Royal Mail blunder’.  They do tend to blunder with great and magnificent frequency, so the tracking error didn’t necessarily mean that my pens had been lost somewhere in the system or hadn’t been posted.  Right?

In this age of Amazon Prime and ‘I wants my goodies and I wants ’em naaaow’ next-day delivery times, it’s easy to find your patience dwindling when things haven’t arrived within two or three days, but when it came to it being a full seven days since I ordered the pens and they still hadn’t arrived on the Friday, my alarm bells started ringing.  It prompted me to do the first thing that most people would do in my situation; I contacted the shop via email.

I got a fairly fast response more or less telling me to wait a few more days.

I waited until the postie had been on the tenth day (and, surprise surprise, no pens dropped through my mailbox) and after getting no response to a further two emails to them, I resorted to picking up the phone and speaking to the shop.   I explained the situation but the chap at the other end of the phone said that he couldn’t do much because the manager wasn’t in.

Yeah.  Great.  

He then went on to more or less tell me to wait another 2 weeks as the pens could have been delayed.  This was unacceptable, but it was clear that he was going to be about as much use as a wet fart in a hurricane.

Rather thankfully, I paid for the pens via PayPal so have started a dispute/claim process with them so will hopefully be able to get my money back at some point.

The morale of this story is DON’T BUY ANYTHING FROM COPIC-SHOP.CO.UK.  Seriously, don’t give them your business.  Go somewhere else to buy your pens.  If, by any chance, any of you have a recommendation on a good (and cheap) place to buy Copic pens in the UK, I’d be delighted if you’d leave a comment.

Easy, Tiger

Now that I’ve got that grumble out of the way, let’s get back onto the art.  As I said, I’m just about finished a new piece and I’ve decided this time do do something a little different this time.

Unlike my previous pointillism efforts, which have been mostly solid blocks of dotty goodness, I’ve decided to add big, bold blocks of black to this latest one and I think it’s worked out rather well.  My subject this time (as you many have guessed) is a tiger, which is a fair bit more detailed and larger than anything I’ve attempted so far, which also means that it’s taking a fair bit longer to complete.

I’ve also decided to take some progress photos to document my work this time as I’m going along, so here’s how it started…

cof

…A simple sketch, yes?  Well, no – not quite.  Apologies with regards to the horrible image compression, but you can just about make it out.  Note the grid in the background.  I tend to use a grid to copy the main shapes from a photo reference, then get jiggy with a dash of artistic license.

cof

Using the brush tip on my black Copic Ciao pen, I then did the tiger’s facial markings in thick, chunky slabs of black.  Sexy.

cof

…And continued to keep doing this, adding more detail with technical pens.  Gratuitous fur.

cof

…And let the dots begin!  I usually start out laying out the colours in large dots using the chunky nibs of my Sharpie markers first, then bolster the colours with multiple layers of tiny dots from my Stabilo Point 88 pens, which appears to be a winning combination.  It does however take a heckuva long time to do.

 

cof

…And this was the most recent photo I took of the piece, resplendent with the pens I’ve been using.  It’s almost finished.  I decided to make the whiskers black in the end, and by my reckoning it’s ended up turning to look almost a bit like an Andy Warhol rendering of a Tiger, which is totally unintentional.

That’s all you’re going to get to see for now – I’m building up a portfolio of my pointillism pieces and will dump the completed piece(s) on Etsy when the time has come to do such things – and of course there will be links to them in my currently-unused Shop link above.

 

 

Back to the art

If you’ve been following my posts, you might have noticed that the billowing sails of my newly-launched artistic venture have had the wind knocked out of them recently with the horrible business of having to deal with Maurice, our beautiful, sweet puss-cat who we had to get put to sleep.  On Saturday, I decided to climb back into the saddle (so to speak) and managed to complete a new piece.

My latest subject is still equine-based, albeit one with a slight fantasy slant as I’ve decided to do a Unicorn; the fabled and mythical horned beast which farts rainbows and can bring people and other creatures back to life with a drip of one of it’s teardrops.  The appealing thing about doing a unicorn is that it would allow me a chance to really have a lot of fun with colours.  Here’s a low-res sneak peek at the semi-finished article…

cof

 

As you can see, I’m bravely forging onward with the pointillism work, which seems to be working out rather well and I’m really pleased to say that I can see a big improvement with my technique in this piece when compared to my last one.  I could have went down the route of just using a single pen for each of the blocks of different colours, but no – I’ve decided to use a technique where I’m using 2-3 pens (Sharpie & Copic Markers and Stabilo Point 88’s in this piece) to embolden each of the colours and blend them into one and other.  It’s working pretty good, methinks!

The one thing about doing work like this is that it takes absolutely ages to do, with this piece taking the best part of ten hours from beginning to end.  It’s still early days for me with this technique though, so I’m no doubt going to be refining it and getting a bit more brave with the things that I’m doing in future pieces.  Knowing me, this most likely means that it will probably start taking even longer to complete them as they’ll start to become more elaborate.

Zen Drawing

The best part, for me, is that I actually find this whole pointillism way of doing art incredibly relaxing.  Applying the colours dot by dot to the paper with good quality pens puts me in a very ‘Zen’ state of mind, which actually really helps as it keeps my mind off other things in life that can otherwise be fairly stressful.  In fact, when I start a piece and begin to do the pointillism it always surprises me at how addictive it is and how quickly the hours vanish as I’m doing it, to the point where I’ve completely lost track of time a few times.

If (and it’s a very big ‘if’) I was somehow manage to get to a point where people are interested in buying prints and originals of my stuff and/or I manage to start doing commissions, it would mean the world to me. To be able to quit the 9-5 rat race and sit at home doing art, drinking coffee and listening to music sounds like my idea of heaven, so I need to buck up my ideas and carry on creating stuff.

What’s next?

Well… That’s a very good question.  I think I’m going to create several more of these pointillism pieces with an animal theme before moving onto something else.  I think I’ll stick with the pointillism, but who knows?  It’s the beginning of what feels like an exciting journey at the moment.

 

Tools of the trade

There’s an old saying that goes along the lines of “you need the right tool for the job”, which was no doubt coined by a hard grafting craftsman in the dark ages who had a penchant for wearing togas and sandles.

I’ve been procrastinating about this recently as I’ve been having thoughts of updating the tools and materials that I’m using to create my art, which typically means that I’ve been throwing myself into the acts of reading a lot of blog posts and reviews of different types of fineliners, brush pens and markers. Although I’ve amassed a collection of half-decent pens (Faber-Castell ‘PITT’ brush pens, Stabilo Point 88’s and Sharpie markers mainly), I reckoned that in order to properly do the things I wanted to do, I was going to have to spend some cash and get the right gear.

TheArtMaterials

One thing became clear when I was reading the reviews that I was working my way through; there was an almost unanimous agreement in just about every single one of them, with only a few exceptions: Copic markers were apparently a cut above the rest. It was an easy decision to make in that case – those were definitely the pens that I wanted to get.

…But then I saw how much they cost.

There’s no point in denying it – I had a bit of a crisis while I was looking at sets of 72 Copic ‘Ciao’ markers.

With the cost of these sets averaging at around £200 – I was wondering how I could possibly justify spending that much on them, trying to find some angle which would cause the scales of judgement in my brain to tip towards into the ‘yeah, ok’ side of things rather than the ‘f**k no’ one.

The simple answer is that I couldn’t in all good conscience justify that cost but after looking at the alternatives, I made a pact with myself; if I was serious and committed to doing my art properly in the view of it becoming something that people were going to buy, I was going to have to get the Copics. It almost felt as if I had no choice.

To be fair, their seemingly exorbitant cost does have some justification in itself; they’re refillable for starters, come in a dizzying array of colours and it’s apparently a simple job to replace the nibs on them. Going from the ‘how to’ videos I’d been watching, it was also possible to blend the alcohol-based inks in them together, creating all sorts of interesting colouring and shading opportunities. Most importantly however, I noticed that it was possible to purchase them in smaller, bite-sized sets as well as buy them individually, which in a round-about way suddenly made acquiring them a far less painful proposition than I originally thought.

This month, I purchased my first small set of them, which consists of five grey-scale pens and a 0.05mm Multiliner. After a short play with them, I was pleased to find that the Copic Ciao’s are every bit as good as everyone says they are. It’ll definitely take some practise to get a hang of the colour blending thing, but I’ve seen some artists do astounding things with these pens, so I’m looking forward to playing with them some more.

Until I build up that set of Copic pens however, I’m going to stick with my Faber-Castell PITT pens, Sharpie’s and Stabilo 88’s which will serve me nicely – and now that I’m (mostly) finished setting this little site of mine up, I guess I’ll get back to the scribbling…

But before I go, I should also mention the snazzy storage bag I got for my set of pens, it’s a ‘Sensebag’, which has the space for 72 markers, that can be seen at the top of the picture in this post. Rather surprisingly, I’ve nearly filled it up already with my current collection of pens so I’ll no doubt need to purchase another one at my collection of those Copic ones increases. If you’re reading this and pondering over a good way to store your own markers, ponder no more.