Today was the last day of a two week marine science illustration class at California State University Monterey Bay. I learned so much in the last two weeks. The class was designed to teach us how to use watercolors to paint marine subjects. It was very intense and I was surprised how exhausted I was after every class period from concentrating so hard on very small details in my piece. I took photos along the way so I can show you all the progression from inspiration to final painting.
On the second day of class, we took a field trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for inspiration. I have always loved the Monterey Bay habitat tanks that are filled with pink anemones and covered in pink coralline algae. My goal for this class was to pick a subject where I could show an environmental context for the organism. I was really interested in a species of chiton that I had never known about before. This is a carnivorous chiton, Placiphorella velata. It sits on the rocks much like a limpet, and puts up an extended girdle, or veil. When a worm crawls across specialized precephalic tentacles, it snaps down quickly over the animal and traps it!
First, we produced detailed line drawings of our organisms, scanned them, and arranged them in Adobe Photoshop. This was very helpful because I was able to use the computer to arrange and resize the line drawings into the composition I liked best. We then printed out our line drawings and transferred them onto our watercolor paper using carbon paper.
The next step was to figure out the colors. Here is where I learned the most. Using test strips and printouts of my reference photos, I was able to experiment with colors. Test strips allowed me to put my paint colors directly next to the photos and see how well they matched. It was surprising how many different purples, greens, blues, and magentas are in patches that seemed to be just pink!
Then it was on to experimenting with fadeouts, shadow colors, and level of detail that I want in the final painting. Here, I was trying to decide whether to fade out the rock to light watercolors or to pencil. (I picked the one on the left).
Then, it was days of layer, layer, layer!
At last, it was time for the final touches. Darkening the shadows, adding some very dark "divets of darkness" helped make the crustose coralline algae pop. Adding a little bright white guache also helped add contrast to the final painting and made the anemones stand out. The very last thing I did was add some very fine graphite lines in some of the subtle areas of the branching coralline algae. Thanks, Logan Parsons, our wonderful instructor, for teaching us some really great techniques!
Back when we were reading paper books more than ebooks, the cover illustrations played a big part in a book's appeal as it sat on a bookstore shelf, and in how we imagined the characters or the iconic scenes. More and more, we pick up an ebook and see only the same e-reader cover or tablet face, regardless of the contents.
Recovering the Classics, a joint project by the Creative Action Network, the DailyLit, and Harvard Bookstore, is a creative project that will allow ebook readers to download a classic book with a cover illustration of their choice. Seventy years after an author has died, their works become part of the public domain. This means that the content is free to the public. Ebook readers enjoy downloading the classics for free, but these come either with dated, worn out cover art, or with no cover art.
Recovering the Classics project is asking designers and illustrators to submit their cover art for 50 classics, including The Jungle Book, A Tale of Two Cities, and The Count of Monte Cristo. Readers will then be able to download a book with the cover of their choice from among submitted cover illustrations for $15, to be split among the organizations and illustrators.
All of you artists out there should submit something! What a wonderful way to breathe new life into classic books and to give the readers an opportunity for active participation in choosing the cover that most appeals to them.
Usually I do a lot of very structured drawings of structured animals like arthropods. It can be difficulty to draw more fluid organisms, so tonight I felt like just using a ball point pen and quickly sketching some jellies in an effort to capture their fluidity.
I really enjoyed doing these sketches, so I wanted to turn one of them into a painting. I thought the sea nettles looked better as a group of three. Using a micron pen on watercolor paper, I re-sketched the three jellies and then used water colors over the pen.