Highline Deer

Deer Against Blue and Tan.
Graphite and colored pencil on tan paper, 7.5″ x 9.75″

This is one of a couple of deer I saw while taking a long walk at the Highline Lake State Park last week. I liked the pose as it stepped over a branch.

On the reference photo I made a grid and some diagonal lines to make it easier to see where different areas of the body are in relation to each other, but there was no grid on the paper. Transferring a drawing from a photo to paper using a grid on both can really help to get good accuracy, but the process is so slow that I don’t enjoy it. This was still slow because it was partly relying on that method, but I feel like if a drawing can’t be transferred by sight then it means more practice is needed, which is still something I need. Besides that, I tried using some sight-sizing, which is where you hold a pencil between you and the subject and use your thumb to measure the length of various things. That way you don’t accidentally draw a line disproportionately long and it’s faster than using a grid.

In the first try the proportions were off because I was going purely by sight and not measuring anything. Since the drawing was going to be started again anyways it was an opportunity to try different pencils and charcoal on that paper, so that’s why it looks a little messy.

The second try was drawn just with my favorite pencil, a .3mm Pentel graphgear 500 with either 2H or 4H lead. I have both and I’m not sure which is actually in it. The eraser was a thin Tombow mono. The drawing was going pretty well, but there wasn’t a finalized plan for what to do in the rest of the composition or what kind of background to use, so I decided to place everything in an oval with a simple background. After watching a video on how to draw ovals it went surprisingly well.

The background sky is just a Prismacolor light cerulean that’s heavily applied in two layers and smoothed out with a Derwent blender pencil.

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Mountain Crossing

Descending Deer
Watercolor on paper, 7″ x 5″

When planning this painting I knew that I wanted to paint a deer again. The first idea to be sketched was a closeup of a buck facing the viewer with the far distant mountains and the eastern sky with the reddish belt of Venus behind it at twilight.

Mountain Crossing sketch

In the second sketch I replaced that one with three deer. The composition wasn’t working well because the deer were all facing the same direction and getting progressively smaller in that same direction, so the viewer’s attention would just follow that path straight into the bottom left corner. I took a photo of it and in Photoshop tried switching the places of the two left deer, which helped interrupt that progression. Then, just in pencil on the sketch, I tried drawing the mountains closer and with more size variation. By putting the larger mountain on the left it helped to balance the composition more, as the silhouette of its ridge slopes down to the right.

Mountain Crossing ref

The deer used in the second sketch and final painting are from a photo I took through the front window of my old house several years ago, with a few adjustments.

Winter Lookout

Two Deer in Snow
Watercolor on 140 lb paper, 4.25″ x 6″

The setting for this painting is in the same Azure Valley as in the last post, and because I’ve passed through there many times I have many photos from different times of year. One of them had a buck walking through an open area of snow with some scrubby brush and low trees around. It seemed like a good start for a scene, but he was too small and the brush too far away, so I made a few edits to the photo.

Winter Lookout 1 ref 1

After cutting the buck away from the snowy background and positioning him closer to the darker and more interesting shapes of the trees and brush it still seemed too minimal. I did like the contrast of the brown against the cooler background colors, but the lighting on that cloudy day wasn’t very interesting.

Winter Lookout 1 ref 2

These two deer were in that same area, maybe even the same field, but on a different day. I liked their different poses, but they didn’t fit into the vertical format I was planning. By cutting out and repositioning the deer on the right to be next to the deer on the left it helped them fit and also changed the dynamic between them. Now their closeness might better emphasize a sense of togetherness and mutual trust.

Winter Lookout 1 wip

I then drew everything with the lead holder, seen on the far right, with a 7H lead in it. Everything was painted in sections, with each section being mostly finished before moving on. There were a couple of other small brushes used after this photo. The palette for everything was the five color palette I posted on Instagram a few days ago here.

Brisk Afternoon

Brisk Afternoon
Watercolor and gouache on sketch paper, 8.5″ x 5.5″

This was one of many deer that I’ve taken photos of from the train. Often they’re far away or there’s only a couple of seconds to aim the camera, focus, and take the photo, so a lot of them end up blurry or missed completely, but there’s a few that are decent enough to use as a painting reference. With this one I cropped away most of the photo, including some other deer, and repositioned this deer closer to the foreground plants for the composition.

The drawing was made only with a fountain pen and Daniel Smith walnut ink, no pencil needed, because this ink quickly melts away when painting over it with watercolor. Any errors or guiding lines that needed to be erased simply disappeared while painting, and any residual brown color blended in with the colors used.

Using a small porcelain dish for a watercolor palette works very well and it’s what I’ve been doing for most of the paintings and sketches I’ve made lately. Not all of the paints seen on it here were used in this particular painting because I don’t clean it between paintings. Van Dyke brown and cerulean gouache with Payne’s grey, ivory black, and dark yellow ochre watercolors was the palette for this, plus whatever other paints got mixed in.

Aside from briefly testing out a different brush at the beginning, the Cosmotop Spin oval wash brush seen in the final photo is what was used for everything. That could easily be my favorite brush because of how versatile it is, from razor thin lines to small areas of wash.

Red Deer

Hillside with Red Deer
Acrylic on paper, 8.5″ x 6″

Here’s a painting from a couple of days ago. The reference photo is from Paint my Photo, here.

The colors used are just titanium white, ivory black, and burnt sienna. Early on some premixed neutral grey was used too out of convenience but it wasn’t necessary. Again the paper was just regular sketch paper, and you can see the buckling of it in the background, but I like how the acrylic paint feels on it more than on bristol board.

Deer and Sheep

Deer, Sheep, and Snow
Watercolor and ink on paper, 7″ x 5″

I made a few tries at this scene with different media each time. This third try started with pencil and micron pens followed by a mix of blue and reddish brown watercolor. Using watercolor over an ink drawing like this is something I don’t do often. The watercolor needed a lot of adjustments to fine tune it, such as lifting most of the background when it was all too dark, but I like how it worked. The reference photo is again from Paint my Photo, here.

Wading Stag

Stag wading with reflections
Acrylic on bristol board, 10.25″ x 9″

This was painted from a reference photo on Paint My Photo here. I’m starting to rethink my opinion of acrylic paint. There are some challenges like how quickly it dries and then the need to remix the same color to make an adjustment, which often isn’t an exact match, but an advantage was the whole process went quickly. I need to practice water more, or just not rush it so much.