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    Dragonflies and pond landscape

    Illustrating the background

    I had a wonderful week working on the Dragonfly landscape commission.  Once I’d got the go-ahead I put in the sky and the distant landscape, keeping it light and working from far to near, giving closer shrubs and water a bit more colour.

    Illustrating the plants and animals

    Then I worked into the detail, again, the distant things first (like houses and vegetation), and then the foreground.  The plants and flowers always get painted in first, then the animals.  I slot them into the painting like pieces of a jigsaw (you can see this in the image below with both the dragonflies and dragonfly nymphs).   It’s only once both plants and animals are painted in that I go over it again, adding darker shadows and smoothing out startling differences in colour with very pale washes.

    Illustrating the underwater scene

    Then it was the turn for the underwater scene.  I was nervous about this, I knew it had to be a pleasant environment, but noticeably less bright and lovely that the open skies and world above water.  I tried to show this by keeping detail and contrast light, and by knocking it back with a series of indigo washes.  I think it works well, not too muddy and miserable, with enough detail, but not nearly as sharp or bright as the land based scenes.  Alas, I scanned it before doing the nymphs…

    Adding the dragonflies

    The final stage was the three emperor dragonflies; I wanted them to be like flying jewels.  I can’t tell you how vital it was that these three animals stole the show, and that I didn’t mess them up.  I had a scary moment with one when I thought its abdominal black markings were too dark and had covered too much of the sapphire blue on its body, but I pulled it back with judicious use of white gouache and by taking a deep breath and having a timely cup of tea.

    Although the illustration is complete, and although I said I’d show it on this blog on Facebook and Twitter; I’m not going to do so yet.  This is a private commission for someone who is away right now, and won’t be able to see the scan of the complete piece until next week when they check their emails.  I feel it’d be churlish to show it to the world before they’ve had a chance to see and comment.  However, once the client has seen it, and if they allow me to post it on the blog, then I’ll put it up.  Until then, here’s a detail:

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    Lizzie Harper