Alice in Wonderland: Painting

Finally, it’s time for painting. I don’t have much to say about my process. I keep things fairly simple. No special tricks or magic tools, just a bunch of familiar steps built over years of painting practice. 

Most of my paint is Windsor and Newton Professional Acrylic. I do have a couple of tubes of  Galleria (Windsor and Newton’s student range) as well as some Atelier tubes, but for the way I work, the Windsor and Newton Professional range feel the best.

For brushes I use a large, square to wash in the background, but the rest of the painting is done alternating between three differently sized round brushes. As for the actual technique, I can best describe it as layering on thin washes of colour and softly (but quickly) blending lights into darks until I get the desired gradient.

In future, I would love to video the whole process, but I don’t really have the right setup for it. For now, I can offer a photographic journey.

Next up: The Final Painting

Mini Spekboom Challenge

Spekboom is not only an awesome, carbon sequestering powerhouse, it also offers me a huge dose of childhood nostalgia, so when @dwarfjadebonsai over on Instagram started the Mini Spekboom Challenge I had to participate. What, you ask, is the mini spekboom challenge?

The challenge is to find or make the tiniest pot you can and then plant a tiny spekboom tree/cutting into the vessel, creating a miniature bonsai. And why are spekboom awesome?

In the words of @dwarfjadebonsai:

” Spekboom has the potential to mop up the excess CO2 responsible for #climatechange. Its immense carbon-storing capabilities and capacity to offset damaging carbon emissions are comparable to that of moist, subtropical #forests.

One hectare of Spekboom sequestering up to 4.2 tons of carbon per year!

Spekboom doesn’t burn, making it a hardy #plant to withstand veld fires and great material for firebreak hedges.

It can withstand drought too – mainly due to its succulent #nature, but also due to it’s unique ability to ‘shift gears’. While most plants require their stomata to be open during the daytime to absorb carbon dioxide, in dry conditions, the #porrulacariaafra can open its stomata at night instead, and close them again in the day to avoid loss of water. This slows down evaporation, and enables the Spekboom to #grow faster during the day. During the wetter months, the #Spekboom absorbs carbon dioxide during the day as normal, which helps reduce our #carbonfootprint.

We can eat it too! Its little #succulent leaves contain heaps of Vitamin C as well as a number of other minerals “

At first, I took an existing concrete pot (made by me) and planted one of my woodier looking cuttings. Most of my cuttings are still young and don’t yet have that hardened look. Of course, I couldn’t stop at that. So i pulled out some sculpey and had a quick bit of silly fun making the elephant and coil pot. If inspiration strikes, I may find myself doing another one… or several. 😛

This was a little bit of fun in these crazy times and I hope it brings a few smiles. 🙂 

Alice In Wonderland: Painting Preparation

With the sketch done, it’s time to prepare the canvas for painting. Word of wisdom, buy the canvas before deciding on what size to make your sketch. I, of course, did not work with this sort of wisdom and alas, when I went canvas buying, could not get the exact dimensions that I needed. The best canvas I could find was a little wider than the sketch, but not quite as tall.


With some tracing paper, a pair of scissors and ample floor space, I got to work making adjustments to my composition. Satisfied with the new positions, it was time to transfer. Another feat accomplished thanks to tracing paper. I make sure to put only the main lines down. They are fairly light on the canvas, and serve as a guide for the initial layers of colour.







Speaking of colour, I need to make some decisions on my palette choice. I paint out a few quick colour studies to get a feel for the atmosphere. For me, the yellow one best brings out the kind of vibe I’m aiming for.


Lastly, I prepare a reference board.


And now it’s time to paint.

Alice in Wonderland: The Sketch

After hashing out the idea for my Alice illustration in a few rough doodles, I jump right into the final sketch. This sketch is something of an exploratory process. I’ve got the basic idea of how I want the image to look, but I haven’t worked out the finer details yet. There is a lot of back and forth with erasing and drawing and erasing again, particularly in areas like the hands where getting the pose just right can be tricky

The sketch is A3 in size, done on an A2 sheet of Canson Artists Series Drawing Paper, 220GSM. I used a 6B graphite pencil for the entire sketch. I find I can get both really light and really dark with 6B pencils and don’t have any need to switch between pencils. The final trusty tool is the kneaded eraser.

Here are some shots of the process with the final illustration at the end.







Next up: Transferring the sketch to canvas and getting ready for painting!

Alice in Wonderland: Initial Sketches

When I started my Alice in Wonderland painting, I had three goals in mind. I wanted it to be vibrant. I wanted it to be busy, but mostly, I wanted it to be mine. I didn’t want my painting to be another iteration of Disney’s Alice (a glorious Alice at that) and in order to steer clear of those prominent influences, I had a few choices to make:
 
 
First, I read the book. Surprisingly this was something I had never actually done before and as a writer, well… guys, this story has no beginning, middle, nor end. It is a psychedelic stream of consciousness told through a series of puns (many of which I likely missed due to time period differences and whatnot.)
 
 
But as an artist? It’s a candy-bowl full of visual delights!
 
 
The first thing I decided to do was focus on the animals. The book has A LOT of animals. If an animal exists, Alice probably had a chat with it. I considered the human characters, but ultimately decided that I wasn’t up for the challenge of trying to better Disney on those. It is close to impossible for me to think about the Queen of Hearts and NOT see a tiny lady with a giant head. Animals would also much better fit my desire for something bright and lighthearted.
 
 
I knew I wanted to have Alice in the middle with rose bushes and animals around her.
 
 
My first thumbnail had her looking timid and scared, but the Alice in the books is never frightened.
 
 
 
My second attempt is better, but her expression still isn’t right. She’s not scared anymore. She looks like she’s in awe of Wonderland. Which, once again, she isn’t’. Mostly Alice waltzes around Wonderland trading snarky comments with everyone she meets. I did like the positioning of this thumbnail however and used it to further plot everything else.
 
 
 
 
 
I tried a couple of poses with Alice before coming to the one I liked. At first, she still has too much of the awe/scared thing going.
 
 
 
 
Finally I clue in to the fact that I need her cheeky. Sassy. Shes confident and strong and none of my previous attempts were carrying that message at all. Behold, the final Alice:
 
 
 
 
 
I did some quick sketches to figure out my version of the Cheshire cat and some studies of a few other bits and pieces, but that was pretty much it. My preparation for Alice was a lot of thinking and three pages of scribbling.
 
 
 
 
Next up: The Complete Sketch