Mara, a wallaby, and a christmas illustration - December 24th 2012

Story posted: Wednesday, 19. December 2012 by Lizzie Harper

This week has been rather more to do with preparing for Christmas than illustrating.  However, I have completed the remaining four roughs of deer for Whipsnade Zoo, and painted a Bennet’s Wallaby.

I also completed a mara, an animal that I’d not heard about until this commission came through.  I took a few scans as I painted, in order to illustrate the steps involved in completing one of these mammal pictures.  First, I do a pencil rough which I send to the client for approval, and to give them the chance to make any alterations required.

Pencil rough of a mara


Once I get the go-ahead, I get out my paints and my number 2 sable watercolour paintbrush. I lay down a base coat of the fur colour, covering the whole animal and trying to enhance the areas of light and dark according to where the muscle tone and underlying structure fall.  Next, the second layer of fur colour is applied, again concentrating on darker areas of the coat.  This helps add depth to the colour as well as making the animal “rounded”.  Subsequent colours will be added in layers according to the colours of the animal needing painting; in the case of the mara the fur is darker on the back and grey-ish near the shoulder.  White areas (like the bib) are worked into with a purplish shadow.  A uniting wash covers the whole painting, often very pale ochre (as in this instance).  This means only the details and dark shadows are left to do.

Mara illustration progression


The final stages are putting in the eye, whiskers, claws, and dark shadows.  Many illustrators begin by painting the eye, but I don’t like the picture watching me as I work, which is silly, but has led to me working in this way.  It does, however, mean that it is imperative not to mess the eye up by losing the gleam on the pupil or making the pupil too large.  I’m quite pleased with this final piece.

Mara final illustration


I also completed a Bennet’s Wallaby which was hard as it has areas of grey and areas of far redder fur.  However, I think it worked out alright and I’m happy with the result.

Bennet's Wallaby


Since it’s Christmas eve, I thought I should add something a little more seasonal, so here’s a kitsch robin in a santa hat that I did many years ago.  It was used by Hay Primary School this year though, which goes to show that it’s worth never throwing anything away.  Happy Christmas everyone.

Kitsch robin in santa hat


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