Category: painting

Art Book Volume 2 and Some Help…

Some of you who follow me on my social media pages, particularly Facebook, may know that I have been working on my second art book for a while now. My first volume, titled "Dark Visions," was released in 2009. I've wanted to create another for a long time now, but the time just wasn't right. I believe that it now is and that the group of art that I have to include in it is the strongest body of work I've had. The first book focused on my artwork from approximately 2004-2009. I was a pretty young artist for much of that, and I have learned so much since then. But while saying that, I am still proud of the work included in the first book. I learned something with each painting.

I am about 65% done with my second art book. This one, unlike the first one, does include some commentary about most of the artwork. There will also be some sketches included, some never before seen. It's looking to be about 110-115 pages (subject to change, but most likely won't be less). I figure that I will probably finished this in 2018 sometime. That is the goal anyway. I don't know exactly when since I have to work on it in between some other work and I still have to do some artwork for the book. But it is coming!

Now I am trying to decided which artwork I want to be on the cover. I've narrowed it down to 5 ideas. I am looking for your feedback on which is your favorite for a cover image. Not necessarily which is your favorite painting, but which you could see best as the cover of a book.

Here are my picks:

"Unseelie," "Spirit Guides," Elf and Pooka artwork once painting is finished, "Midnight Travelers," or "Silence"

Please cast your votes in the poll below the photos. Thanks in advance! I will use the results to help lead me to the best decision. ♥

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Acrylic Gouache

Turner Acryl Gouache.

Acrylic gouache is an interesting medium that I’ve been using for the last year or so. Since I’ve started using it I’ve gotten asked a lot about what it is and how it is different from regular gouache.

I’ll start with a little background info about me. I’ve been a watercolor painter for years. It has been my go-to medium since I started painting. But I’ve always been one to experiment so on occasion tested out different media. I’ve wanted to learn a more opaque form of paint, like acrylics, gouache, and oils. I’ve been a bit hesitant to ever try oils because I’m so used to how quickly watercolors dry, I don’t know how I’d feel with such a slow drying paint. So I decided to try out acrylic paints several years ago. I did a few paintings with them… I just never really took to them. My main complaints were that because they dried so quickly it was hard to blend smoothly (this was before I knew about acrylic retarders), and I didn’t like how shiny they dried. The shine combined with the brush strokes that dried into it, made scanning my acrylic paintings very difficult. There was a lot of post-scan editing to edit out reflections and shadows, particularly with darker paintings. I wasn’t a fan. Now if I’d known about acrylic retarders back then to slow the drying time, then I’m sure the shine would have been my main complaint.

“Harlequin” everything but her skin is done in gouache paint.

Next, I decided to give gouache a try. Regular gouache paint is a water-based paint like watercolor, only instead of being transparent, gouache is very opaque. I’ve been using white gouache to highlight my watercolor paintings forever, but I’d never done an entire painting in gouache. I thought since it was so similar to watercolors in a lot of ways that it would be the easiest for me to learn. My first attempt didn’t go very well. One mistake that I made was trying a different paper than I usually work on with my watercolors. I decided to try out this colored paper called Art Spectrum Colourfix Paper. When using this paper, the gouache wouldn’t blend without lifting up the layers underneath. It was very frustrating! Everything was a streaky mess. I gave up. I little while later I tried gouache on my usual watercolor paper, and had a much easier time.  My painting “Harlequin” was that painting. Lifting could still be an issue, but it was much less of one on watercolor paper.

Then came my “Spirit Guides” painting last year. I wanted to paint it in gouache on blue colored paper. I still had several sheets of the Art Spectrum paper left, so I decided to give that another try… and the same thing happened again. A streaky mess when it came to blending. I wanted a solution that didn’t require me starting completely over because miraculously the background had turned out okay, but I encountered this issue when it came to painting her skin.

I remembered seeing Acrylic Gouache in some of my art supplies catalogs. This paint is described as being a sort of Gouache/Acrylic hybrid. It is opaque like both paints, dries to a matte finish like gouache does, but once it is dry, it dries permanently like acrylics. So theoretically, if I was painting say… skin, the first layer of color would dry down entirely so when I blended additional layers over top the bottom layers wouldn’t be reactivated by the wet paint and lift and streak.

There are a few brands available of acrylic gouache. Holbein, Turner and Jo Sonja are some examples. Jo Sonja is technically now marketed as matte flow acrylics, but older tubes say acrylic gouache on them, and from what I can tell, they work just the same. I decided to try out Turner Acryl Gouache first, because they are so affordable, just in case I didn’t like them. The picture at the beginning of this post are the first 7 tubes that I purchased.

“Spirit Guides” Skin painted with Turner Acryl Gouache.

Once they arrived, I dove back into my painting and this time I finally had success! I won’t say that there were no struggles. I hadn’t used acrylic paint in years so I had to sort of learn all over again. I found that painting with acrylic gouache is much more like painting with acrylics than like gouache. The finished product looks much like a gouache painting with it’s velvety, matte finish. But the techniques that go into painting with it are pretty much just like acrylic painting.

My homemade palette.

I use a homemade sta-wet palette, which uses a tupperware-like plastic container. I use the lid and line it with a few layers of wet paper towel and then put a layer of parchment paper over top. Then, when closed up, you can store your paint in between painting sessions without having to remix all new paint every time. It works great. I am thinking of buying a sta-wet palette just for the extra room. I haven’t yet found a bigger container that I liked.

I’ve used this paint a lot over the last year or so. Sometime exclusively, sometimes mixed with my other mediums. I really love it and it is everything that I wanted from acrylics and gouache separately but couldn’t get. I’ve used it on paper, wood, claybord panels. It’s worked pretty great on everything. Though I’m not crazy about claybord, so I seal the surface first. It is more like gesso-bord when I get done with it. Also about six months ago, I tried out an acrylic retarder with this paint, because I had the same blending issues with it as I did regular acrylic paints. Now they really do work like a dream! Adding a drop or 2 of retarder to your paint gives you way more blending time, and makes it work almost how I imagine oils would be. And if you want it more fluid but not less opaque, you can use a flow medium. I’ve gotten a lot of use out of that too for small details and lines.

“Stranded” Acrylic Gouache on sealed Claybord.

Pictured to the right, is my most recent painting using acrylic gouache. “Stranded” is painted on sealed claybord. I use an acrylic glazing medium to seal it and stop claybord’s super absorbent surface properties. I would say that this painting went the most smoothly for me of all the ones I’ve done in the medium. I hope that that is a sign that I’m finally becoming comfortable with it. My goal is for it to become as second nature to me as using watercolor is. After the painting was done, I varnished it with a matte varnish. In the future, I will be sealing them first with a glazing medium before applying the varnish. Some of the detailing in her scarf was blurred by the varnish and I had to paint it back in. After some research, I’ve read that it is good to seal it first because the paint can absorb some of the water-based varnish, and if it is a fairly fresh painting, there is a chance it might smear or lift. Paintings that I’d varnished that I’d finished months prior to varnishing did not have this occur because the paint was really set. But if you can’t wait months to varnish, sealing it with a clear glazing medium first can help. A spray varnish, like Krylon Kamar Varnish, also works to seal it first. I used that for this painting after touching up her scarf, and before adding more matte varnish. I also like Jo Sonja’s mediums and vanishes.

I hope that this was helpful information for any curious about acrylic gouache. I would like to put together a tutorial in the future for this medium. I just want to get a bit more comfortable with it myself, before I try to teach others how to use it. 😉

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Unicorn and Fairy WIP

6/28/12:

I’ve started a new artwork, and here is the sketch! It features a dark unicorn and fairy. I’ve only ever drawn a couple unicorns, so I was overdue to do another one. Of my others, one was a commission and the other is a really old drawing that I don’t even have on my website.

Last month sometime, I was watching the movie “The Grey” with Liam Neeson and was inspired by all the wintry landscape. And for some reason a unicorn came to mind. I can’t explain how these things happen since I don’t even know myself. lol That’s just how it came to me. And I decided to pair it with a pretty fairy, since I haven’t painted any fairies in a while. My Fairies Gallery is lagging behind, without a single painting from this year added to it. It’s time to rectify that. 😉

When I sketched this I didn’t really leave enough room for the background I had in mind. So I’m going to paint it a little larger than I originally planned to add some extra space for the snow and trees.  I took the scanned sketch into Photoshop and made a mock-up of the coloring I’m thinking of using for this. I don’t do this for every painting, but sometimes for ones I’m not entirely sure about or are a little more complex.
As I mentioned before, I want this to be a wintry piece, which considering it is about 100 degrees out today, sounds pretty great to me! Okay, so it doesn’t have to be winter, but I would definitely be happy with some nice Fall-like weather right now. And some RAIN too! We’re having a bit of a drought here in Michigan. Everything is so brown and ugly.  ANYWAY… the mock-up I did in PS is basically the direction I’d like to go with this. The colors with real paint will of course vary from this some, but it’s gives me a good idea how to proceed.  Hmm… I tend to work in blue a lot, don’t I? 🙂

I have no idea what I’m going to name this painting yet. I’ll give it some though as I work. Meanwhile, I welcome any suggestions.

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7/10/12:

I wish that I was further along with this painting, but I just couldn’t gather the energy to work on it much during our 2 week heat wave. I think my brain quit functioning for that period of time!  lol It was just way too hot. I have air conditioning, but it is old and just doesn’t do a good enough job when it gets to be over 95 degrees. It’s better than nothing, I’m sure, but it was still pretty miserable during the day.

Anyway, the heat finally broke this week and it has been a beautiful low to mid 80s. So time to get back to work. I made one disastrous attempt at this painting. The background turned out all wrong. So I’m trying a different approach.

I’ve actually managed to go this long as a watercolor artist without ever stretching my paper. I often work small enough that the paper buckling isn’t a problem, and when I have done larger paintings I’ve gotten lucky enough that any warping of the paper didn’t effect how the painting turned out. But this is the second time this year, where I’ve had a wash turn out awful due to the paper buckling and have had to trash the painting. So I’m finally caving and am going to stretch the paper for the first time with this painting. This was kind of a spur of the moment decision, so after soaking the paper in water, I stapled it to foam board. In the future, I will get something more substantial to attach it to. I have some hardboard panels, but I they’re too thin to put staples through and they’d be really hard to remove. So hopefully the foam board will do for now. I’ve read that gator board is a good choice so I think I’ll try that next time.

Once the paper is completely dry, then I’ll transfer the sketch onto it. I’m also going to put some masking tape around the edges for a clean line, though I know I’m going to trim off at least some of the border. In the future, I will leave a larger border too. This one is cut a little close. Oh well.  🙂

I just may update this tread with some more progress of this painting, so check back if you want to see it!

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7/11/12:

Well, I’ve learned that foam board is NOT a good surface to attach this to. It seemed like it was going to go well, but then I get up this morning and see that it curved the whole board as shown in the photo. I knew that it might absorb the water since the foam board surface is just paper, but I hoped maybe it would still stay flat because of the foam. No such luck.

So, I’ve started a new method. The thing is that I have to use materials that I already have right now. The craft stores I have around me (Michaels, Hobby Lobby) are pretty worthless for a lot of art supplies. They don’t have any kind of board that would be good for stretching and don’t even have gummed tape, which would be nice to try instead of staples. I usually order a lot of my art supplies online, but I don’t want to have to wait for them to arrive. I’ll get them for future use, but I want to get started on this painting now!

This time around, I’m going to try using a piece of hardboard that I have. The main reason I didn’t try this in the first place is that I would have to use heavy duty staples, which will be harder to remove, and that the board is only 1/8″ thick and my shortest staples are 1/4″.

I’ve solved the thickness problem by taping a layer of foam board to the back of the panel. This gave just enough extra thickness that the staples didn’t poke through the back.

After cutting the paper to the size I want it, I get a container of water and dip the paper in it for a few minutes. Then I lay it flat on the board and smooth it out with a paper towel, pushing all the excess water off of the paper. Once I’m sure that it’s flat and ready, I start stapling it down.

So, now I have it stapled down and am currently waiting for it to dry completely. Fingers crossed that it will work out this time!

7/11 Part 2:

SUCCESS!!

Ready to move on to painting!

…finally

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7/12/12:
 
Yesterday, I laid down the first washes of the painting. It seems as if it is going to work really well with the paper stretched! Pictured to the right is an example of the new wash/s beside my first attempt on unstretched paper. That is the version I threw away and started over. In some cases, I don’t mind some texture to the washes of paint, but in this case I don’t want anything like that.
So far it seems to be going well. I’ve built up the color so it is darker in the background behind them, leaving a lighter area where the moonlight will be shining through the trees a little.
Next I’m working on the trees in the background, starting with some of the more distant ones since they’ll be lighter.
I know that much of the foreground elements are going to be dark colors or black so I’m not concerned about painting over them now. Except for her skin, which has had masking fluid applied to it to protect it.
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7/17/12:

I pretty much have the background done now. I added the nearest, darkest trees. I made the branches a little denser than in the sketch. I also shaded the snow and defined the fairy and unicorn so that they’re easier to see when it come time to paint them in. I may think that the background needs more work once I get the foreground figures painted, but for now it looks pretty good.

Now it is time for the fun part… painting the fairy and unicorn! I know I’m going to start her skin next. I’m not sure if I will finish her completely before moving on the the unicorn or work on them both at the same time.

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7/19/12:

I did quite a bit of work on the fairy! I hope to get this done in the next couple of days. I’m pretty happy with how it’s coming along so far. 🙂

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*UPDATE* 7/22/12:

Finally Finished!
I’m happy to say that I finished this painting last night and am really happy with how it turned out. It could be my favorite that I’ve done this year! :)After finishing the painting, I had to remove it from the board. Since this was my first time stretching my watercolor paper and I had to use heavy duty staples, I wasn’t sure how this would go. I just knew that I had to proceed very carefully! The first step was to remove the masking tape. That went well and left a nice clean border around the painting. My main concern was getting the staples out without hurting the painting.

The staples came out easier than I thought they would. I used a pair of needle-nose pliers and gently pried them each out. As long as I could get the pliers under the the staple, they wiggled out pretty easily. A couple of them gave me problems, and I was a little nervous about my hand slipping and accidentally gouging the paper. Luckily it was a success in the end and I got them all out. Next time, I’m definitely going to try a different method of securing the paper down, but the paper turned out so smooth that it is worth the trouble of stretching! The final thing that I did was to trim off the edges that had the staple holes, leaving about a 1/4″ or so border.
So here is the finished “Midnight Travelers” (thanks to fellow artist, Wendy Fowler, for suggesting the title!)
8.5 x 12″ Watercolor and white goauche. Prints available on my website HERE
Details:


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Steampunk Assassin WIP

I showed this sketch in my last post and mentioned possibly showing some of the progress, so I’m starting a new post all about this painting. I will be updating this post as the painting progresses so check back if you want to see it’s progress.

So far, I’ve pretty much done background work. I just started the skin earlier today, and plan on doing more tonight. I haven’t gotten far enough with that to show pics yet, so back to the background work.

My first step is to transfer the sketch to the watercolor paper. I do this using graphite paper and tracing over the sketch. Once that is done, I tape it down to a board with masking tape. Next is my ALL time favorite step (being very sarcastic here), applying masking fluid to the foreground parts that I don’t want painted yet. I really hate using masking fluid. I used to completely avoid it but over the last few years I’ve come to realize that it is a necessary evil because my backgrounds turn out so much better when I can just paint carelessly over the foreground. I think in one of my old tutorials, I even mention how I use it as little as possible. But methods do change over time. The yellow tool you see in the picture next to the masking fluid bottle is what I use to apply it. It’s a cheap plastic sculpting tool I got at Michael’s a while ago when I was trying out polymer clay, which I had no talent with so didn’t pursue for very long. lol But it works great for MF and it peels right off it afterwards, so no more ruined brushes!
I next start painting the background. I’ve decided to paint it as a rusty, riveted steel wall. I’ve found that since I got my Kindle Fire around Christmas, that it is really handy for looking up reference pictures while painting! I don’t have to waste time and paper printing them out and this takes up very little room propped up in the corner of my table.  🙂
Now, I have the background basically finished. Once everything else is done, I may think it needs something else done to it, but for now it seems done. Next is my second favorite part (more sarcasm here), removing the masking fluid. I don’t always have to use quite as much masking fluid as I did in this painting, but this is a 8.5 x 11″ painting and she takes up most of the paper! So it took a while just to get all this off. I use and eraser and just lift it off.
Fun!…………..NOT
Eventually she is masking fluid free! But a lot of the lines lightened with the removal of the MF. Not as bad as the picture looks, but still quite faded.
So I went over the lines with a light blue/gray paint, and also cleaned up around the outside of the figure where the MF bled outside of the lines.
Now that she is cleaned up, I’m ready to continue onto the skin. I’ll add more pics and progress once I get there. 😉
 
 
 
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4/26/12:
So, moving onto the skin now, I began by filling in all the skin with a flesh-toned mixture of burnt-sienna/burnt umber. In the second two pictures shown above, I’m am adding some shading and shadows with various mixtures of burnt sienna/ultramarine blue. And in some of the darkest areas I used payne’s gray, to bring in a little of the background colors.
I wrote a tutorial/walk-through for my painting “Fairy of the Spring Bloom,” which can be read HERE. This tutorial is from 2008, but I still work in much the same way. Especially for skin tones. I paint almost exclusively on hot press watercolor paper now, which is completely smooth and much easier to get little details on and also use with colored pencils. Sometimes I don’t use colored pencils at all in a painting. But I think that with all the details and the size of this painting, that I probably will in her clothing and hair. Colored pencils add some different textures to a painting too, which will be nice with the different materials in this painting.
The colors for the skin tones do vary depending on the colors being used in the painting, though I usually do start off with the basic burnt sienna/burnt umber flesh tone. Colors for the shadows and highlights are what change. This painting and my 2008 fairy painting just happen to both use bt. sienna/BU, and ultramarine. But the ultramarine can be swapped for greens or purples, depending on the painting. For example, my painting “Lilac” used more purple tones in the shading, and “Woodland Magic” used green tones.
The pictures below show the same basic process shown above only with the face, which I give a lot of attention to since I feel that it is one of the most important parts of a painting, if not THE most important part.
After the shading is done (at least for now), comes a very important part of the skin tones. As of right now, the skin is kind of cold, dull and lifeless. If you look skin tones, they usually have some red/pink tones to it and some yellows. Adding these colors to the skin really breaths some life into it. For my older fairy painting I used alizarin crimson for the red tone because it is a more cooler, pink leaning red. That made sense for that painting since she was surrounded by pink cherry blossoms. It worked to bring some of that pink into her skin.
But the color scheme for this painting is much different. A lot more neutral tones will be used in this paintingPerylene Maroon is a color that I most often use. It is a nice deep reddish-brown. It seems to work great for skin tones!  I used that for this painting and some Yellow Ochre for the yellow tones.
I was concentrating pretty hard while working on the face, so I didn’t take many progress photos. Sorry about that! I saw some little anatomy type issues while painting that I worked to fix as much as I could. Like making sure the eyes are level and sized right. Eyes are so easy for me to have one a little off, so I really try to make sure they are as right as possible. I narrowed her chin out a little and also her mouth by like a millimeter. It’s so small you probably won’t notice.
Despite all that, the face is one of my favorite parts! I love working on the makeup and watch as she comes together on paper.
I’m fairly sure that the face will need some more shadows, particularly near her forehead, but I think that I will move on to her clothes now and then come back to that. It is often easier to tell if the skin needs any more work once the clothes and hair are filled in.
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4/27/12:


Now, I’ve started on the clothing.  I began first by filling in most of the base colors. This also included filling in behind the lacy part of the fan lightly with the colors that will be seen through it.  I think that I’m still going to have to darken the part of her dress that is behind the fan.

In the second picture, I’ve colored the brown leather of her corset, gloves and choker with colored pencils. Next time I work on this, I have to finish the gold buckles and fasteners and detail the teal insert of her corset… Then onto the fan! 🙂


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4/29/12:

This time, I started with the gold/brass buckles and details. I shaded and highlighted them making them look more shiny and real. I also filled in the teal panels of her corset with colored pencil so that the coloring is smoother and now I can add the pattern back into the fabric.

Using colored pencils again, I drew the pattern back onto the fabric.

Now I can finally move onto the fan!

I began by filling in the main colors of the fan… the gears and the lacy interior. I was originally going to make the gears silver or steel gray coloring, but I decided that the fan would be much more striking if it was brass/gold too. The lace of the interior section is going to be black so I filled that in with a transparent layer of paint, and painted the gears a golden color.

I used ink to draw in the frame (?) of the fan. I’m not sure that’s what it’s called but that’s what I’ll call it. 😉  I used ink because after filling the area in with paint, I couldn’t see the lines anymore, so I basically had to redraw them. This was a lot easier to do with a ruler and ink pen than with paint and brush. And faster too.  I also found later that this was nice for darken the area further. I didn’t have to worry about the lines disappearing.

After darkening the panel with another layer of paint, I drew in the lace detailing.  I also used an ink pen for this and it was so much easier and faster! I’m glad that I thought to do it that way this time.  I have used paint for things like this in the past and it does take quite a bit more time.

I got a bit carried away while working on the rest of the fan, and I didn’t take any more pictures until I was done. I detailed and defined the gears of the fan, and added the little bit of blood along the edge. I also added a little highlighting to the frame of the fan.

Next I can move onto the hair and hat. Then probably some finishing touches and she should be done! So when I update this next it should be with the final stages of the painting and the finished product. 🙂

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*NEW* 4/30/12:

I begin the hair by outlining around the edges with a small paint brush. I also outlined the hat since I intend to work on this at the same time. Before filling in the hair with paint, I added the details to the angel wing charm.

Next, I fill in all the hair and hat with dark brown paint. I let that dry completely.

Then I detail the hair and hat with colored pencil. I used several different shades of brown colored pencils for this and and a light tan color for her blonde streaks. I use Prismacolor pencils, so I used dark brown, dark umber, sienna brown and I did some dark shading with indigo and a little black. The highlights were done in ginger root and light umber and some shine added with white.

I used the same browns to color the hat.
I didn’t take anymore photos, but I used black painting to fill in a transparent wash for the veil of the hat, and I added some detailing with white colored pencil.  Then I painted the larger feather of her hat a teal color to match her eyes and corset.

Having all her hair done, I decided that her face need a little more shading added, so I went back and darkened around her forehead and the right side of her face. With all that done, I then believe that she is finished!

Details:
I hope that you enjoyed seeing this painting come together!! Prints of her are now available on my website HERE
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