Aquarium of Axolotls

The first time I saw a photograph of axolotls on FB a few years ago, I knew I had to make a drawing of one. They are so cute! Axoltils are a species of salamanders typcially found in Mexico. What makes them so adorable is that unlike other amphibians or most animals for that matter, they do not undergo metamorphisis when reaching adulthood. Thus, their kawaii baby-like features. You can see that they are almost looking at you and saying “hello”!

Inspiration and Pencil Sketch

I then went and googled for some cute photos of these amazing critters and came up with a few. Having made my choices, I set about making a pencil sketch first on my Strathmore’s Watercolor Sketchbook. They do come in a a variety of forms (including one knitted version) and thus I placed mine in different shapes and sizes around the page. To frame the composition better, I added some sea plants around some edges.

The Bubbly Background

Medium chosen for this painting was watercolor, more precisely my pans of Kuretake Gansai Tambi from Japan. To begin with, I had an experiment in mind. A turquoise color was applied after having spread some water firstly with a wet brush. Before the paint dried, I sprinkled some table salt on the painted area and let it dry. I worked in sections, in fact, so the paint would not dry to quickly before salt was sprinkled. Once the whole background was done, I waited till the end of the day to let the salt dry before wiping it all off. The result is a mysteriously marbly and even bubbly effect to enhance the aquatic surroundings! Not too bad for the first time in months. Important thing is to sprinkle salt whilst paint is wet and not touch it until completely dry.

Coloring the Axolotis

I continued with watercolors for the axolotis. Seeing how axolotls are rather translucent in appearance, I felt this was the best medium for this purpose. Throughout the painting I used my pans of the Kuretake Gansai Tambi, along with some neon and pearlescent variations from this brand. What I love about this brand is that the pigments are derived from nature rather than artificially produced. In fact, the pigments have been used in traditional Japanese paintings, only this time they are compressed in pans. The result of using natural organic pigments is that the colors turn out vibrant and strong, even with a light hand.

Enhancing with Colored Pencils

Whilst I was happy with the result of the watercolors, I felt I could strengthen the effects further with some colored pencils. I did not however want to add another layer of paint in case we lost the translucency. The pencils further help in creating some shading to the subjects to gain more dimension. I also used the pencils to outline them as well so the axolotls pop out more. A variety of brands were used for this including Caran d”ache’s Pablo and Faber Castell’s neon colored range It was Holbein’s Artist’s Colored Pencils, though, that was a godsend with their wide range of pastel colors! Once I was done with the colored pencils, I drew the eyes and mouths with some black and silver gel pens. And now!

Once again painting something new. And going beyond my comfort zone too, but this was so much fun so it’s no longer about comfort levels anymore! The experiment with the salt and watercolor worked rather well, even better than I expected based on past experience. I’d definitely like to draw and paint more axolotis again. Next time, though, I might like to make a digital version of one!

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