The calendar page turns over and we’re into a new month.
August always heralds the end of summer and start of autumn, my favourite season. It is the last full month of summer here in the Valleys of South Wales. The evenings come noticeably earlier, always a sign that the year is continuing on its endless cycle of seasons.
We have a grey, damp and blustery start to the first day of the month. There are shafts of sunlight finding their way through gaps in the clouds, but there’s a deliciously refreshing snap to the cool and fresh air after the night-time rain.
I thought I’d create a really simple mandala design for the start of this month, one that is full of warm colours, but that hint of autumnal tones in the background.
I kept things simply stylised in the design. If nothing else, working on it made me smile, inwardly as well as on my lips.
I woke early-ish today and did some work on one of the typographic portraits I’ve been doing. Then, in my rush to get to the shower, I clicked the wrong button and lost my work. Thankfully, it’ll be easy enough to do it again. I also think that with the version I’m working on, I’m finding my way with the process. I have a lot of the portrait left to do, but I feel less frustrated with it and have a clearer idea of what I’d like to achieve now I’ve taken a few days break from this kind of work.
Before I settle back to the typography, I am going to take a walk in the fresh air of the morning. Well, after I’ve done my social media posts!
Tonight, at 10:43 BST, the Sun appears to enter Cancer, as viewed from the Earth. Of course, it’s the Earth that is moving around the Sun. Today, marks the official start of summer, but it also marks the time when we have the days of most light here in the Northern Hemisphere, and we’ll soon notice there’s not quite so much daylight at the end of our days.
This year, English Heritage are live-streaming the solstice sunrise tomorrow morning on their facebook page. You’ll have to be up early (or just not go to bed!) as they start streaming from 04:07BST, with sunrise at 04:52BST. I’m certainly going to do my best to watch it. This is one of the good things to come out of the pandemic. The live stream hasn’t been done before. I would never go to Stonehenge on either Solstice as there would be too many people and far too much noise and bustle for me, but this is a nice way to see it as it happens, not recorded and shown after the fact.
I’ve always felt an affinity with the cycle of the seasons and marking the solstices and equinoxes has felt far more natural to me than any religious celebrations. The scientist in me appreciates the facts around these dates in the calendar, my heart and soul appreciate them in different ways that are personal to me.
I found this quote about the solstices, and it sums up a little bit about how I feel about them.
The artwork shows a lot more about how I’m feeling today – not quite with it, spaced out, emotional and well out of sorts. I had an idea in mind, but I just couldn’t execute it to my satisfaction today. It looks like I need another self-care day. Which is fine. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s best to go slow in order to go fast. By taking time out from commitments, I return to them in a better frame of mind and emotional state and I’m more able to fulfil them to my satisfaction for sure.
In my book, ‘A Dangle A Day’, I mention that just by changing the colour scheme you can easily change the appearance of a dangle design for an occasion or to match someone’s favourite colours. So, I thought it would be nice to show an example of this.
I chose a simple monogram dangle design from the book; you can see it in the top left corner. This dangle design has a very spring-like feel to it with the lovely bright pinks and greens of the new, fresh flowers and leaves that blossom and bloom at this time of year.
Taking my cue from this, I coloured in three versions of this design in the seasonal colours.
At the top right is a summery version, with a lovely warm sunrise as the background to the letter, blue summer skies, warm golden sun, and the bright and warm colours of the flowers. A golden summer glow could be achieved by using a hint of gold Wink of Stella brush pen from Kuretake, or by adding dots of gold glittery wonderfulness.
Autumn tones were used in the bottom left version. Fiery oranges, reds and yellows and clear autumnal sky blues were used. Enamel dots, glitter pens or stickles would add sparks of autumnal glory to this design.
The final design has a definitely cool wintry colour scheme – icy blues, cool purple and the blue-green tones of evergreens, along with silver. To this I could add white snowflakes or stars with a gel pen, or dots of silver glitter with Stickles from Ranger or Nuvo Drops or a glitter gel pen. Using a Wink of Stella brush pen from Kuretake to colour over the design would result in a lovely, sparkly, frosty finish.
Of course, there are many, many ways that the designs could be embellished to suit your taste, supplies or the recipient. So much fun can be had adding embellishments which also personalise the design even more.
I hand drew the original design on paper and then digitally for the book. My tools were Microsoft Surface Pen, Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, which I also used for the colour variations above. I set the ‘brush’ pens up for the book so they mimicked the shapes/patterns pens on paper create and left lines a little wobbly and imperfect, just as I would when drawing on paper. Indeed, I very much treat my Surface Pen and Surface Studio screen as if they’re pen and paper in the way that I draw (and colour).
I do hope you’ll give dangle designs a go, and that you’ll show me the results of your work. You can find me online here:
A knock at the door, a Fed-Ex delivery driver asking me for a signature before handing over a parcel. I saw it was from Lydia at Quarto so knew it would be a copy of ‘A Dangle A Day’. So excited to open the package and see the book in a solid, tangible form.
I’ve seen the pdf versions of the book as it was put together before going to print. But, it’s never, ever the same as having that book in my hands.
Even more so today as this is my first book with words and art done by myself. I trust it won’t be the last.
About the book
I had a lot of fun creating this book. I’m so excited about helping others to create their own dangle designs and to gain confidence that they, too, can create lovely designs for use in all kinds of ways – BuJo pages and spreads, greetings cards, note cards, framed pictures, scrapbooks, planners, journals, bookmarks, place cards, and more.
I’ve done my best to show you how to create monograms and dangle designs in easy steps both visually and with some supporting words.
Suggestions about how to approach hand lettering is scattered throughout the step by step instructions for the dangle designs.
Examples of dangle designs in use in bullet journals and more are included – with all their imperfections. Remember, work created by each of us will be perfectly imperfect. It’s those imperfections that make it uniquely ‘you’.
There’s lots and lots of examples of designs and dangles and charms that you can use as they are or as inspiration for other designs. There are designs for all seasons and many, many different events throughout the year.
I’ve included suggestions for color palettes, media to use.
A short primer for bullet journals is included; I’m no expert on bullet journaling but I do make use of one and find it very useful not just in organising my tasks for the day but in recording ideas, reflections, memories and more.
This has put a big smile on my face this morning, and that smile will continue for a long while. I never thought I’d write and illustrate an art tutorial book. I’d thought I’d like to, but didn’t have the confidence to think it would be so.
Why I chose to use digital tools
I made great use of my Microsoft Surface Book and Microsoft Surface Studio along with a Microsoft Surface Pen and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro to draw many of the designs. Working digitally made editing designs, breaking the design process down into simple steps so easy.
I used to think, as many do, that digital art is simpler, easier than traditional forms of art.
The skill set required is different. I wanted my digital drawing and coloring to look like I’d done it with traditional media.
Digital drawing is no easier than drawing on paper.
What is easier is correcting mistakes, smudges and removing pencil lines. It removes the frustration I experience in scanning images in and spending a lot of time cleaning the image up for the publishers. Scanning can be a frustration for me too, which would’ve been worse if I’d had to scan in step after step after step. And having to re-draw if I’d missed a step out, or re-scan would’ve driven me nuts.
What I didn’t want was artwork that looked too perfect, too inhuman. I wanted digital drawings that looked like I’d drawn them on paper. So, I worked hard to set up pen ‘brushes’ that would mimic how my favoured drawing pens would look when drawn on paper.
Also, I rarely used any line smoothing tools for any of the work so it has that slightly ‘wobbly’ line appearance that my pen and ink linework has. I also kept the design elements, called charms, imperfect just as they would be if I’d drawn them with pen on paper.
In fact, each and every design started out as either a pen or pen drawing on paper which was scanned in so I could re-create it, step by step, digitally, saving a file for each step to the computer.
There were plenty of revisions/edits required and colour changes. Again, working digitally make this a less onerous task than if I’d had to do everything with pen and ink on paper, scanning in each step all the while worrying I hadn’t missed a step as I got engrossed in the process of drawing.
Working digitally did not make the drawing any easier or simpler, what it did was allow me a different way to draw the steps.
Coloring the designs digitally was no quicker than with traditional media, in fact it took me longer! I learned a lot about this process by doing this book, and I think it was the book that allowed me to become more comfortable with digital art and how to make it look like I’d drawn with pen on paper, in my own style.
Of course, I can print out the line art and colour it with any media I choose. I also can redraw any using traditional media. And of course, adjusting the size is so easy.
We’re a week into September and autumn is nearly here in the Northern hemisphere, so I thought my dangle design should be one for this season. I think this would be a lovely BuJo page to separate the autumn months. I also think it would make a pretty notecard or greetings card. The hand lettering could be changed for another sentiment and it would be suitable for an autumn celebration. Alternatively, it would look great framed and hung as part of a quartet of designs that cover the four seasons; now there’s a project for me to do!
I drew the design on squared paper using Sakura pigma micron pens.
Then, I scanned the image in, used GiMP to remove the squares and create a transparent background
Next, I used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro to colour the image, create the textured background and add a shadow to the design.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I love autumn! I love the way the world changes in terms of colours over the space of a few weeks, and the colours can be absolutely glorious.
I don’t know how the long, very hot and dry summer in here in the UK will affect autumn this year.
If you would like to design some dangles and not quite sure how, then my upcoming book A Dangle A Day (available for pre-order) will lead you through the steps as well as giving you plenty of ideas for dangle design.
Just a reminder that today is the last day for you to enter any of my giveaways, the prizes being signed copies of Eerily Entangled Art, my latest book in Dover’s Creative Haven series of coloring books.
See my previous blog postfor details on how to enter. I’ll be drawing the winners at random tomorrow evening, UK time.
I have spent the day working on this. I have used Rotring pens, watercolour paints and metallic watercolours on watercolour paper to create this imaginary landscape.
I thought I’d use colours that represent the different seasons, as well as autumnal and spring/summer trees. Spirals and curls are a feature of my artworks, as well as the highly detailed pen lines/textures.
I find it easy to do this kind of work, yet if I was to try to express a real landscape, I would end up bogged down in trying to make it real, to get it perfect, to use realistic colours …
I’ve had a ponder about such things in my journal today…but I’ve enjoyed working on this and am pleased, mostly, with it. It’s certainly something to continue experimenting with.