Some time ago I drew a picture of a squirrel, but not a local one. That one was a Rock Squirrel from Arizona, and the picture had been taken at the Grand Canyon. Well, one of my friends remarked that I’d have to have a go at a Canadian squirrel, and he was quite right. So I decided to try and take some photos as reference, although not at anywhere as impressive as the Grand Canyon. No, these were in our own back garden, where we have a thriving group of American Red Squirrels, stealing seed from the winter bird feeders. I call them ‘American’ here, although they are generally just called ‘Red Squirrels’ but they at a different species to the European Red Squirrels that we saw in the UK (if we were lucky!). Unlike the European species, the American Red Squirrel holds its own against the much bigger Grey Squirrels, although that isn’t a problem here in Nova Scotia, where we never see Greys. When we lived in Quebec, both species were common in our garden, and the Red Squirrels would chase and bully the much bigger Grey Squirrels, which was a treat to watch.
So I took a few shots, the squirrels generally chattering and scolding me although I was quite distant and at maximum zoom. From the shots I took, I liked the following one, which I always think of as the ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen’ pose, as he looks like he is about to declaim, although I think I will decline to lend him my ears, as I suspect he’d try to snack on them!
As I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to do something a little more colourful, after all that grey on grey, and the background of this picture was a bit dull, so I decided to ‘borrow’ a background from another picture, taken a couple of years ago at a local beach (and rather earlier in the year).
All those berries are definitely more colourful than the bare twigs in the original reference.
So everything was going well, and I thought I’d choose a coloured paper to provide a neutral background, and so that I wouldn’t need to worry about adding any sort of bokeh on this picture. This was probably a bad decision. I chose a brownish piece of Mi-Teintes pastel paper and used the smoother side. From the start I did not like this colour-it seemed to suck the vitality out of the piece. As you know, I don’t easily give up so I kept on going, and in the end I was reasonably pleased with it, but it was an effort and this piece took considerably longer to finish than the last one. That’s a testament to how much I didn’t enjoy it. It is a lesson learned, I’d rather do a background than have that experience again, so maybe the Mi-Teintes will stay in the drawer for a while. White paper for the next one, I think.
One interesting thing was the use of the Luminance pencils with OMS blender. They didn’t really blend at all. I’ve been using the lighter Luminance (white, titanium buff, primrose, etc.) for the lighter areas in the fur, and then went in with OMS to blend-the other pencils blended out but the Luminance definitely resisted it. I think that will be useful for keeping features that I don’t want to lose in the blend, but it is something to keep in mind. I know other artists have stated that they don’t use luminance until the end of the picture (if mixing pencils, that is) and I can understand why. Incidentally, Luminance does blend well using the blender pencils, or a white coloured pencil, so all is not lost.
I’m sad to report the demise (already!) of my super pencil sharpener! I was really enjoying getting the very sharp points on my pencils, and I did have the point selector (a tiny, rather inadequate-looking red knob) tightened up to maximum. It seems that this was too much, and now it won’t tighten at all. It is rather poor plastic, so maybe I can take it apart and try to replace it with something else that will tighten up? I shall have a go-I have nothing to lose, after all!
This is the mechanism, and you can see the tiny red knob that has failed on the handle. I am looking for a replacement (one pencil piece using hand-held sharpeners is enough!), but most seem to suffer from a similar silly little knob. I was looking also at electric sharpeners (reluctantly), but I’m really not sure that they will fit all of the pencils I have, which vary in size a lot. The slimmer ones are the Caran d’Ache Pablo pencils, and then there is a range of pencil diameters, right up to Luminance, which are pretty chunky. Unfortunately, many artists here use mainly Prismacolor pencils, which are on the smaller side, and the reviews over this side of the pond tend to favour them heavily. I will keep on looking into that, but its getting urgent- I really miss my sharp points!