For my first journal entry, I thought I'd write a bit about my trademark style, which is inspired by the vibrancy of stained glass and the jagged geometry of mosaics - but is achieved with mere pen and paper. I love combining the technique with my favourite themes from fantasy and mythology: dragons and snakes, great birds, mountains and lakes, warriors, goddesses and enchantresses.
This technique actually started out as a solution to a common problem: lack of space. I badly wanted to paint, but was finding it increasingly hard to lay out all the equipment where I wanted it - plus there was the inevitable mess! And then I hit upon the idea of fibre-tip pens. Often regarded as just for children, this much-neglected medium can actually create beautifully intense colour combinations. They are also easily portable, and can be ready to use or packed away in a moment. And so I began to experiment…
The materials are fairly simple. My essential kit presently consists of the following:
• fibre-tip coloured pens;
• metallic markers;
• gold and silver gel pens;
• black pens of varying thickness (at the moment, I'm using Faber Castell PITT artist pens in Indian ink);
• correction fluid;
• heavyweight watercolour paper;
• plus, of course, HB graphite pencil and eraser for the preparatory bit.
2) The basic technique…
• I begin by drawing the outlines and adding the jagged "tiles", all with an HB pencil. (If these tiles are kept fairly small, the final picture becomes more vibrant and sophisticated.) It's a good idea to plan the design in a sketchbook first: no point in wasting high-quality watercolour paper!
• Then the really fun part starts: the colouring in. For each distinct section of the painting (e.g. a creature's wings), I typically choose up to seven colours, which I first test to see how well they harmonise. Once I am happy with the combination, I fill in that section, distributing the colours partly at random, but also according to my own preferences for whichever shade(s) should predominate. I usually try to avoid having the exact same colour on adjacent tiles.
• I then go over the outlines in black ink, with thin lines between tiles and thicker lines between sections.
• Finally, I highlight the most important areas (e.g. the shape of a creature against the background) using correction fluid with a fine paintbrush and/or white gel pen.
• Et voila!
Naturally, my technique has evolved over time. I've found, for example, that the texture of watercolour paper combined with soft fibre-tip pens (as opposed to plain cartridge paper and cheap scratchy pens) creates an irresistible velvety richness, and I wholeheartedly recommend Letraset metallic markers for their soft glimmer - plus they're great for covering errors. And of course, media can always be mixed: I occasionally use pencil for extra shading, if I want to create an illusion of greater depth.
Leaving whole areas white can be advantageous. A background of plain white "tiles", with a few of them coloured for the sake of variety (as in "Dragon Lair"), can help to make the foreground stand out more clearly.
There's a real pleasure in trying to find that elusive alchemy of colours out of the myriad possibilities. In "Winged Enchantress", for example, I'm really happy with the way that the orange, pink and yellow work together to create the sun's rays. But things can go wrong as well: I once thought it would be a great idea to use the seven colours of the rainbow in one section, aiming for an iridescent, prism-like effect. It ended up garish, like a child's coloured bricks, and totally devoid of atmosphere. The moral to that unhappy episode is: if you want a rainbow effect, the colours have to be in strict rainbow sequence. Live and learn…
I really hope you enjoy the artwork here. Please feel free to get in touch: I'm always delighted to get feedback!