The tiny photo bomber

A photobomberpillar?

This morning I was trying to capture an image of the mouthparts on this tiny 3-4mm monarch caterpillar, using my ridiculous new 4.5:1 lens, to see if I could.   I’ve almost nearly figured out the flash settings needed, and this time almost almost had the minuscule in-focus zone right when some sort of bug started messing things up by moving around just in front of the lens.  Pulling back a bit, it turned out we were being photobombed by a much faster and tinier lava of some different species.  It seemed to just want to rear up in front of the front of the lens and wave about, firmly refusing to hold a pose long enough for a decent identifying photo.

Amusing, so long as the intruder doesn’t turn out to be the harbinger of some kind of swan plant mothy doom.  I hope at least some of the new crop of monarchs make it to the butterfly stage this summer.  Since I have this new lens and all.

Caterpillars

Hey, what is this blurry fast blob that keeps getting in the way?  Ah, that fellow.   

20mm, F11, 1/100, iso 400

Fluffy wolf charcoal technique revisted

I said I’d try some more with the recently learnt slow-wolf approach to using built-up layers of black and white charcoal as an approach to creating a more finished drawing.  So I have.   This one is  . . . okay.  I stopped before it was really done, as each time I set a layer with the fixative, it had started bringing up odd lines and marks from layers below.  The fixative was likely either too thick, not thick enough, or the wrong one. Or something about this particular paper.  One of those.

So, overall verdict: not super fond of the outcome and it’s not actually finished, but, meh, getting there, a bit, maybe. Rinse and repeat? I may try another time lapse once I work through all the kinks.  And as for glasses, they are clearly a challenge I need to set myself more often *.

Also on my list of arty challenges, a friend recently gave me a giant box of pastels which had belonged to her grandmother.  Hundreds of colours!  I don’t know if I’m ready to draw in colour, but I suspect the layer/fixed/layer approach might work well with pastels too.

dsc03949_2048

 

 

* Assume some wise words here about how the most learning comes from those tasks we loath and/or desperately avoid.

Looking closer . . . closer . . . just a little bit closer!

When a new camera lens arrives you just have to put it on your camera and go take photos.  The only creature in my garden willing to pose for my 20mm Zhongyi  4.5x super macro budget lens was this particularly dozy fly.  Possibly the 160 km hours whipping through town at the moment may have moved on many of the other potential subjects.  I’ll need to do a bit of experimenting . . . but so far I like it.   This shot at ISO 1000, f5.6, 1/200 sec.

Macro fly

Torture by fluffy wolf

The thing with making art is that you get used to using favourite tools in a certain way. It’s good to shake that up a bit.

I belong to an art society, and draw there with a portrait group one morning a week most weeks.   The model is in one pose for about 2 1/2 hours, with pleasantly social breaks for tea.  My preference is to do one quick black and white charcoal drawing on brown paper, to warm up, get familiar with the way the model’s features are put together and explore problems like how glasses sit on a face (glasses are so tricky!).  Then I’ll do a more careful and detailed drawing of the model in ink or pencil or whatever I feel like.

Similarly, when life drawing, I use charcoal for the quick-fire warm up drawings at the start of a session, capturing essential curves and lines, darkness and light for poses 2, 5 and 10 minutes.  Half an hour is too long for charcoal; when the poses lengthen I switch to other media.

Because for me, charcoal is for warming up and drawing fast.  Not really a medium to fuss and fiddle with, and that’s what I like about it.

Pat

How I usually use charcoal: quickly noting down the lightest and darkest parts of an image, and working out the shapes

The art society runs several ‘summer school’ classes in January, all of which offer the chance to take a full day or two to explore a particular technique or media.

One of the classes this week was about charcoal drawing technique.  The teachers own work is very delicate and realistic,  I hoped to learn ways to make what I thought of as a loose and casual medium look so accurate and refined.

It was interesting.

And mild torture.

The key technique is spending a long and careful time concentrating on the work.

The teacher suggested we pick a reference image from a small selection of photocopies.  I (I realised, during the choosing) just don’t draw fruit.  I find isolated flowers nearly as dull.  I also have very little interest in people wearing entirely face-covering hats.   Leaving me with the choice of . . . a fluffy wolf.

wolf

Slow accumulation of fluff

The technique taught involved working in layers. Starting with using powdered charcoal and soft erasers, smudging everything, blurring and then reworking and redrawing with soft charcoal, finally fixing that level, then repeating the process several more times, until for the last few layers working with white charcoal to create highlights. Each time the fixative was used it tended to blur and soften the current layer even more. So much smudging and blurring and redoing the same bits over.  It took a whole day.  It is a picture not in my style, and not really to my taste.

It possibly didn’t help that I’ve really not drawn much fluff, certainly no wolves. Without a sense of wolfish anatomy I struggled with the “how is a wolf not like a dog” shape of the face.

Such a stiff, stilted drawing.

And yet . . . there’s something there. Not in my drawing, but something in the technique.  Something from the day that is/will be well worth knowing, and playing with more.  In some ways maybe all that blending and blurring has similarities to how I started with digital painting (another neglected medium I should re-explore).

So, I’ve bought some new cans of fixitive, and I’ve ordered some charcoal powder.  I will try the process working with my own reference, and maybe it’ll be much more my sort of work.

Not sure.

Not sure at all.

But it is good to try new approaches. Good, and irritating*.

*Assume some sort of wise or witty comment about pearls and oysters here.

New Year’s Street Hog

As seen on my way to a New Year’s barbecue, one of a pair of youngling hedgehogs rummaging around in leaf letter.

Baby hedgehog

This baby hedgehog is adorable.  An adorable noxious invasive pest.

European hedgehogs are one of thousands of species settlers introduced to New Zealand in the 19th century as acclimatisation societies worked to recreate a vision of bucolic England.  Hedgehogs were also imported by keen gardeners to be, ironically, biological pest control systems and eat lettuce-ravaging slugs and snails.  Train guards even helped distribute them around the country, and they thrived pretty much everywhere.  Unforrrrrtunately, hedgehogs find native species like weta, skinks, and the chicks and eggs of ground-nesting birds delicious.  And they enjoy a complete lack of badgers and generally anything else which eats hedgehogs.   The Department of Conservation would like the cute critters to be, well, not here.

But I haven’t entirely overcome a childhood  contaminated with the works of Beatrix Potter and other English anthropomorphised critter-propaganda creators.  There’s a part of me that knows toads drive fast cars, and talking badgers have a key part to play in helping lost princes regain thrones.  That part finds this cute little gutter pig winsome and charming.