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  • Writer's pictureKaren Ruffles

Subject and style

Now that I'm nearing the end of the Reflections series of droplet drawings, I'm preparing the next project which will take me back to my beloved monsters. I thought that made this a good time to talk about how my study of the everyday world connects with my exploration of the hidden world. At first glance, you wouldn't think the following two images had anything to do with each other.

Here we have the teasel droplet from Reflections, and dear old Stephen on the right. Now, in order to produce good drawings of the monsters I need a few things - a shedload of time for a start because I can't just go take a photograph of Stephen for example and work from that, I have to do a lot of research and source reference material that allows me to build a realistic representation. That still leaves a lot to fill in which is why I'm constantly seeking new things to draw to build my knowledge and technical skills. Through reflections, I've got to look very closely at a whole load of different surface textures and find the best way to reproduce those with pencil and paper. I've also learnt a lot about reflections of course, how the size and shape of a droplet affects what we see in it.

A charcoal pencil drawing of a droplet on a plant stem, with a bird egg reflected in it

A big, still droplet gives a very clear inverted image with little distortion. A droplet on the move will bend and stretch that reflection so we get fun things like the egg above, which appears to be in the process of being laid or extruded by the supporting structure. The speed at which a droplet grows has an impact too. Wandering back over to the monster side of the mirror, this project has inspired me to use reflections in the next series of creature features, to show how they exist alongside us - there but not there. Naturally, because anything involving that lot is 10 times as time consuming and complicated, I also need to be making some new models of them to pose for me which in turn meant rearranging my entire studio space so I have benches I can use to leave body parts out to dry. Clay body parts that is. Honest. I thought you might like a peek at my workspace while we're here so I've done a very quick 360 video. I might actually make that a regular thing so you can see the changes project by project.

That whacking great lobster claw by the way, known as The Lobstrosity after the things in Stephen King's Dark Tower books, was in the last set of droplet photos taken for this series and it's nice that the drawings are still taped up on the wall behind, ready for me to start photographing and framing them. I have plans for a second droplets project next year featuring aspects I didn't get chance to explore this time but that will be after I've done a chunk of monster drawings. Some artists get very worried about having to have A style, A subject and we do tend to get known for a particular aesthetic. But I credit my audience with being interested in many things - if I can like pretty raindrops and also eldrich horrors, I see no reason why you folks on the other side of this screen shouldn't do so too. The way I draw things is a constant and I think it's interesting to know how things are interconnected. Each choice leads to another and on that note, to see where it takes us next, make sure you're signed up for news (right at the bottom of the page).

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