Julia Wakefield

The home page of Julia Wakefield, an independent artist that specialises in illustration and printmaking. Online gallery, recent news and purchase links.

Days 1 and 2, Postcards for the Reef

Well it’s now Day 2 and I have done two drawings/paintings, as I promised myself. When I did the the first one I suddenly realised the enormity of the task I’ve set myself: how will I manage to produce a drawing I’m really proud of every day, when each of these marine creatures presents a different set of challenges? I guess I shouldn’t have started with the wrasse, a highly colourful, intricately patterned fish with a distinct character – but I couldn’t resist it. By 10pm I decided I’d tried far too hard, and my husband’s comment was ‘it looks like a really sad fish’. Anyway, here it is, the Sad Fish:

'Sad Fish', Maori or Humphead Wrasse, also known as Napoleon Fish

‘Sad Fish’, Maori or Humphead Wrasse, also known as Napoleon Fish

In addition to having a reputation for being very affectionate to divers, the humphead wrasse is one of the few predators of toxic animals such as the sea hare Aplysia and Napolian Junior Ostraciidae and has even been reported preying on crown-of-thorns starfish.  So they are very useful in the ecology of our reef.  They are also apparently very tasty, but they are now protected because they are so easy to catch.

After studying the extraordinary patterns on this fish’s head, I now not only understand why it’s called the Maori fish – I also have no desire to eat it.  Those patterns on its flanks are also intriguing, and I’m sure I haven’t got it right. I need to go to the Reef and see one of these close up. I hope I will get the chance.

For Day 2 I’d already decided to simplify the task, but I still had a major challenge: as today was World Turtle Day, I naturally had to draw a turtle. For my own sake and for anyone who might be contemplating a similar challenge, I broke it down into stages:

Pencil drawing, made using a number of reference photos. I transferred this onto watercolour paper using carbon paper.

Pencil drawing, made using a number of reference photos. I transferred this onto watercolour paper using carbon paper.

I then applied masking fluid to all the patterned areas. Blue masking fluid is easier to see.

I then applied masking fluid to all the patterned areas. Blue masking fluid is easier to see.Next I decided to stretch the paper – this is Bockingford rough 250gsm, ok for quick sketches but needs to be stretched if you are layering washes.

Dip the paper in water, no need to soak, then secure it on all sides with wet gumstrip. Leave to dry in the sun, if there is any!

Dip the paper in water, no need to soak, then secure it on all sides with wet gumstrip. Leave to dry in the sun, if there is any!

First I apply water to the area surrounding the turtle,  then I drop a light blue wash (cerulean and phthalo blue mixed) into it. My board is on a slope, so the wash gradually drips down to the bottom. As I reach the bottom I add more water, diluting the wash even further.

First I apply water to the area surrounding the turtle, then I drop a light blue wash (cerulean and phthalo blue mixed) into it. My board is on a slope, so the wash gradually drips down to the bottom. As I reach the bottom I add more water, diluting the wash even further.

Now I tint the whole turtle in shade of green. The background wash is still damp so we have a few 'halos' - I like the accidental effect, but if a dark wash bleeds into a light wash you often get unpleasant 'cauliflowers'.

These are all the paints I've used so far: Cotman's cerulean, phthalo and ultramarine blue, and W & N Gamboge.

These are all the paints I’ve used so far: Cotman’s cerulean, phthalo and ultramarine blue, and W & N Gamboge.

For the next stage, I mix a dull purple from ultramarine and cadmium red, and paint it over the head and flippers. The masking fluid allows the paint to puddle in interesting ways.

For the next stage, I mix a dull purple from ultramarine and cadmium red, and paint it over the head and flippers. The masking fluid allows the paint to puddle in interesting ways.

Finally I erase the masking fluid and apply more of the dull purple, closing up the white lines. I add a duller green to the shell and wash out some of the dull purple, as it  needs to look battered and worn, like an old overcoat.

Finally I erase the masking fluid and apply more of the dull purple, closing up the white lines. I add a duller green to the shell made from gamboge and ultramarine blue, and wash out some of the dull purple, as it needs to look battered and worn, like an old overcoat.

Final stage: I darkened the background a little with phthalo blue and added a bit of texture at the bottom to suggest a shallow ocean floor. One happy turtle!

One more stage: I darkened the background a little with phthalo blue and added a bit of texture at the bottom to suggest a shallow ocean floor. One happy turtle!

These two pictures will go on my Redbubble page as the first of thirty pictures that I plan to complete by the Solstice on June 21. See my last blog entry for the details: all the pictures will be available as postcards and I will donate all profits from sales to the Fight for the Reef Fund.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Sue on May 23, 2015 at 10:29 pm

    julia, these cards are going to be superb. Thank you for sharing your technique as well. It’s interesting to see your process.

  2. Julia on May 23, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    Thanks, Sue! It certainly helps me to keep a journal of the process. I think I’m going to get a lot more from this project than simply getting to know some of the reef creatures on a more intimate level.

2 Responses to “Days 1 and 2, Postcards for the Reef”




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