Fashions on the Field – Part 2: “Attack of the Killer Bee!”

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I have been busy working on a piece for the Shoalhaven Turf Club’s Melbourne Cup event.  I am pleased to say it’s finally finished!  This piece will be one of the prizes for the winning lady of the Fashions on the Field.  I am looking forward to being part of the judging panel on the day and seeing what beautiful outfits the ladies come up with.

If you are interested in knowing more about this illustration and seeing some progress photos please keep reading below (or just scan through it and look at the pictures! 😉)


Visual Brainstorming (aka Time Wasting)

I had a really clear idea in my head of what I wanted to create for this piece; a pretty lady wearing a floral crown with some gold bees in it and seemingly about to be attacked by a real bee!.  (Honestly it really did sound so much cooler in my head!).  I wanted her to be a bit more relaxed and fun than you might normally associate with the “formality” (stuffiness) of Fashions on the Field.

I had so many ideas and images that I put them all together in a bit of a mood board.  Mostly this happens on Pinterest.  Pinterest is not only a great place to store all my ideas without clogging up my iPad but a fantastic time waster … research tool.   My Pinterest account is seriously out of control … last count I had over 3000 images.  I also collect images from magazines and take my own photographs.  I am not a particularly good photographer and a photography course is definitely on my #christmaswishlist.  But I am lucky enough to have a garden that is filled with lots of interesting blooms all year round.


Having all my ideas in one place helps me clarify what I really want to include and what elements are going to work well together.

I then very roughly sketched with pencil what I wanted to do and, in this case, used Photoshop to create a bit of a composite image.


This is honestly how rough the image looked before I drew it.  I’m not enough of a Photoshop expert to blend things so that they look exactly right and I don’t really see the point (unless I want to participate is some awesome Donald Trump Photoshop battles).  I’d rather figure out the finer details with pencil and paper as I go along.

My initial idea had been to have the girl on the far right of the canvas and the bee far left with a lot of negative space in between.  Unfortunately, this would have required me to use quite a large piece of paper like an A1 or A2. Since I was responsible for getting this piece framed I simply couldn’t afford to do it that way sadly! (picture framing course #christmaswishlist)

After drawing the basic sketch on the final paper I decided to add some honeycomb to the head-piece.  It was looking a bit too informal and I thought the honeycomb would make it look more “Fashun” as opposed to festival!   I also decided to add a lace dress to give a bit of interest to the bottom of the page rather than all the attention being focused up top. (I have a really bad habit of figuring things out on the final drawing rather than roughly sketching it out beforehand … it’s just the way I roll).


All that glitters is not gold (…it might be a bee)

For this piece I was working with an element (the bees) that I had not drawn before.  For once I thought I SHOULD go to the trouble of practicing beforehand.  I did a few studies of bees and was pretty happy with how they turned out.



I wanted the bees in the head-piece gold to make them distinct from the real bee and give the piece a bit of colour.  I am totally obsessed with metallic paints!.  I first used a gold metallic last year to add the tiniest (and I mean tiniest) gold highlights to a piece.  The only thing I could find in my local art store was some Maimeri Metallic Gold Powder which only came in a 60ml container at an exorbitant cost.

Recently I came across the Daler Rowney gouache metallic paint range and my metallic addiction skyrocketed.   Yes you heard right … a range:  pale gold, rich gold, copper, silver and of course I can’t stop at one so now I have all of them!  (see this is the real reason why artists are poor – they have serious I-see-new-shiny-thing addictions).  I’m in trouble if Daler Rowney ever decide to venture into coloured metallic paints.  I am coming over all twitchy at the thought of it!


Rich gold is definitely my fav.  The pale gold is okay but tends to look a bit dull especially over large areas (you can check out what I mean with my Rodarte Spring 2018 piece).  I went with rich gold for the bees.  I painted them first and then laid graphite over the top.  I’ve tried doing it the other way around but I find any water based mediums going over graphite tend to cause the colours to look dirty and I really didn’t want anything to dull the gold.


After my last traumatic attempts using charcoal I did not want to go there again just yet  but I do really like the effect of a matt black.  After a bit of research I came across Staedtler Mars Lumograph black pencils.  These pencils have a special lead formulation which contains a high proportion of carbon.  This give a much more matt black finish than regular graphite.  They are also much cleaner and easier to use than charcoal pencils.  Perhaps not quite as matt black as the charcoal they are pretty damn good (and they sharpen easily!!)  I am a convert.  I used a 4B Lumograph for the darkest areas and them my usual Tombows for the remaining areas.


Navigating muddy water (-colours)

For the flowers and the lips I did things the other way around.  I’ve never had much luck putting watercolour over graphite.  I find the water just smudges everything underneath and I end up with a dirty mess.  I’m thinking this is probably because I tend to favour really soft 6B to B graphite leads so maybe there is more powder that lifts and muddies the paint.  Also I am not particularly confident with watercolour and tend to proceed very cautiously using a really diluted mix with lots of water. More water most likely increases the propensity of the graphite to shift (I am sure anyone who has been to art school knows exactly what’s going on and can explain it better than me!).

I have tried putting graphite over watercolour but I really dislike the way watercolour messes with the integrity / texture of the paper and I just don’t like the “feel” of it.  That sounds a bit arty but I can’t really explain it any better. I can only do it this way round on small areas with a high pigment to water ratio (like the bees)

I desperately wanted to add colour to the original drawing so I took a chance and painted a fairly strong mix of watercolour over the graphite.  I did this to try to limit the number of washes (layers) I put down and reduce the risk of shifting graphite.  There is also quite a bit of workable fixative between the graphite and the watercolour.  I don’t know whether this stopped the graphite moving so much and mixing with the watercolour.  I’ve actually since read that fixative is water-resistant so by rights this should have been problematic! Worked okay for me!



The last thing to do was add the “real” bee.  I know in terms of proportion he is a GIANT KILLER BEE but I like to think of him as one of the gold bees who has managed to break free and is now exacting his revenge on the beautiful maiden.  All a bit dark really or maybe there is some hidden metaphor there?!


I did use Photoshop to create my initial plan of lots of negative space.  I much prefer this over the original to be honest (but be won’t tell the winner that!).


And just for fun I did one of those free online mockups to see what she’d look like mega-size!


The Tools

Arches Drawing Paper 185gsm smooth A3

Tombow mono drawing pencils 

Staedtler Mars Lumograph black 4B

Winsor and Newton Artists Water Colour

Daler Rowney designers gouache (Rich Gold 707)


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