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I’ll let you in on a secret

I’m going to let you in on a secret. I don’t know what I’m doing half the time.

Actually, half the time? Heh. That’s generous. Most of the time.

And I’m not talking about watercolors. I’m talking about life.

The thing is, neither does anyone else. We’re all just winging it.

Life doesn’t come with a handbook. You don’t get a set of directions to tell you to do this, then do this. And now? Do this.

You’re on your own.

And you know what? That’s OK.

Inner voice

You know that inner voice that talks to you? Some of us even talk back to it and have a two way conversation with it.

Well, mine used to be a complete asshole. It used to say things that you’d say to your worst enemy. And it will also fill me with doubt. I’d be scared to try something new because of that inner voice.

Well, I retrained mine. Mine is now a coach. And a friend.

It took years. We’re all at varying levels of functionality and dysfunctionality. I don’t think anyone’s 100% sane nowadays.

But once again, that’s OK.

Training my inner voice to be supportive was one of the greatest things I’ve ever done. Now, rather than making fun of everything I do, it tells me how I can do it. Like a coach. But, a real good coach. Like a Vince Lombardi or Phil Jackson.

Our brains are rewireable. We can literally program them to be good at the things we need to be good at.

Persistence, Habits, and Repetition

Everything becomes a habit. Habits don’t have to be a bad thing. For instance, I do a 5 minute sketch every single morning. That’s a habit. Once you start replacing bad habits with good habits, your life will get so much easier.

I changed my diet too. I only eat twice a day rather than three times a day. No snacking whatsoever. Someone brings donuts into work? No thanks. I’ll pass. I’ll only eat birthday cake if I really, really like the person. Otherwise, no thanks. I’ll pass.

Once you start developing good habits, you can literally be good at anything. I’m pretty good at guitar because I practiced at least an hour daily. When I was a late teen, all my other friends wanted to get drunk on weekends. Instead, I practiced guitar. Then, they wonder why I passed them all up within a year.

Everyone thought it was natural talent. Nope. Persistence and discipline.

We improve by developing skill sets

What would you say if I asked you “what are you good at?” Would you be able to give me a list?

Over the years, I’ve developed some life skill sets and got good at the important ones. I learned nutrition from a coach, weightlifting from a coach, home finance from self-help books, guitar from jamming with friends, and piano from a piano teacher. I got good at all those things.

You can learn from other people. Or books. Or nowadays, even YouTube.

When Allie approached me about taking my art seriously, I started off with colored pencils. I started watching people painting on YouTube. Oils and acrylics looked really cool. However, I live in a tiny ass apartment. I thought watercolors would be more practical. Thus, I decided to try watercolors and been in love with them ever since.

Selene Greek Moon Goddess
Allie posed for my Selene Gazing Upon Endymion painting

Life gets way easier once you have some skill sets

Life gets significantly easier once you’ve acquired some skill sets. I put health at the top, relationships second, and finances third. Once you get good at all three, you’ll have a pretty good life. Guaranteed.

I had to learn all that stuff on my own. Like I said above, I hired coaches for health. I learned about healthy relationships by watching functional people. You get treated by how much you allow. For instance, if someone treats you like shit, did you cut them out of your life? If not, why haven’t you already?

This isn’t a finance blog so I’m not going to waste time here, other than I learned that if you live within your means and put 10% of everything you make into your investments, you’ll be doing pretty well within a decade.

“But I want it now!”

Grow up. Life doesn’t work like that. You have to work for it.

I use finance as an example for that mindset because it’s the most obvious. That said, you can apply that to everything.

If you want to be a great artist, you’re not going to be selling a million dollar paintings in one year. You’re going to be busting your ass for at least a decade.

I’ve been drawing daily for almost a decade now. I’ve been playing guitar for over thirty years and piano on and off during that time.

And that doesn’t include drawing and doodling for decades before that. I used to make silly cartoons for friends of stupid shit we did. They’d laugh.

So the art was always there. I only decided to take it seriously this decade.

Keep going

So keep going. Develop the skill sets you need for what you want to accomplish.

We’re all just winging it in life anyways. If you’re actually good at the important things, you’ll do well in life. And that will significantly help your art by allowing you to focus on art rather than the world falling down around you.

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On Flamenco guitars, Mistresses, and the Spanish Inquisition

Pepita Godoy's mistress

It’s pretty sad that most Westerners know nothing about Western civilization. Schools nowadays are so much more into indoctrination than actually teaching kids anything useful.

Culture is everything. Well, not quite everything. You gotta know some math and science and other shit.

But as an artist, when people talk about culture, I’m happy.

So, let me tell you a personal story and a dangerous historical story and I’m going to combine the two where we meet.

First, the mistress and the danger

Back in the old days, artists often relied on patrons. Goya had several. One of whom doubled as a close personal friend of his – Manual Godoy, who later became Secretary of State, then the Prime Minister of the Spanish Empire.

Funny background – Godoy was a regular guy. But he was a damn good guitarist, fighter, and bullshitter. Those abilities got him far in life, and he eventually impressed the Royal Family. They liked him so much that he eventually rose to Secretary of State.

But, he had a problem. He was madly in love with Pepita Tudó. Which was fine, but for political reasons, he had to marry another woman.

He ended up having Pepita as his mistress and the affair lasted until his wife died, whereupon he married Pepita.

So decades before he finally married Pepita, he hired his dear friend, Francisco Goya (who I argue is Spain’s greatest ever artist) to paint Pepita nude.

The public saw the clothed version of that painting, seen above. The Spanish Inquisition however also came across the nude version of the painting and threw a fit.

Both Goya and Godoy were called before the Spanish Inquisition for some explaining to do. This could have been the end of Goya’s career.

Luckily, Goya was super smart. He pointed out the painting’s similarities to other works of art by other artists that weren’t so controversial. And he made the Spanish Inquisition look like a bunch of philistines.

To save face, the Spanish Inquisition called it off. Thankfully, that painting remains to this day and is now side by side with its sister painting in El Prado in Madrid. So yes, I’ve seen them both in real life. Pictures don’t do them justice. At all. You need to see them in real life.

Inspirations

After visiting El Prado in 2015, my wife and I went to the Gothic District in Barcelona. We saw a Flamenco group perform. 8 musicians. 3 dancers. A performance I’ll vividly remember until the day I die.

I stumbled across a luthier in the Gothic District in Barcelona and just happened to have a lot of money on me at the time. I got lucky. He had a bunch of violins, some cellos, and two Flamenco guitars in stock. I walked away with a Flamenco guitar and brought it back to the States.

Opium Tales flamenco guitar Pepita
Pepita – my Spanish guitar

What did I name her? Pepita. Of course.

The story didn’t end there

You probably already know the story of Goya. If not, here’s the summary. Goya went on to be the greatest artist of his day and lived so long that he got to see a lot of his paintings make it into the Prado. Imagine that!

As for Godoy and Pepita, happily ever after?

Not quite.

Pepita was more his fuck buddy. Yes, he was in love with her in the beginning.

But, he really fell in love with Queen Maria Luisa, the Queen of Spain, the wife of Charles IV, and the granddaughter of Louis XV. You may know Louis XV as the father of Louis XVI, the King who got his head chopped off with his wife Marie Antoinette.

Godoy and the Queen had a secret affair. Godoy died almost two decades before Pepita did and before she died, she painfully told a reporter that the Queen was the only woman he truly loved.

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Does your artwork have a common theme?

Does your artwork have a common theme? If so, great. If not, does it need a common theme?

Honestly, I like artists who are somewhat consistent. And I notice that when you could recognize someone’s work, it sells better.

So a partial answer to the second question – yes, if you want to sell it.

You should be able to recognize my artwork right away. It has a common theme to it. Sure, I do mostly fantasy pinups. But even when I’m not doing fantasy pinups, it still looks like something I did.

Speaker Girls pinup art
Allie modeled for both speaker girls

I’ve done the same theme twice in a row and will probably do it four or five more times in a row. I’m on a speaker girl kick. Why? Does it matter why? That’s what’s been motivating me recently, so I just go with it.

Also lately, I haven’t been doing that many full nudes. They’ve only been topless. I don’t know why that is. It just is.

I got a friend from Los Angeles coming over tonight. I see her once or maybe even twice a year.

She’s a professional model who’s getting more into business than modeling. Which is great. Let her go over all the bumps in the road so I could pick her brain and figure out where the bumps are. I actually am looking forward to her becoming successful. I take picking people’s brains very seriously. The more successful they are, the more I want to pick their brains.

How to develop a common theme

Who are you? No, not just your name. Who are you really?

If you can answer like this, then you need to do some serious soul searching. I highly advise you to take this seriously because potential buyers will want answers.

My name is Roman. I’m a Neo-Romantic composer and a fantasy pinup artist. Oh, you want to hear more about my art than my music? You’re interested in my art? Well, thank you.

Yeah, I call myself a fantasy pinup artist but I’ll go into more depth. You remember those planes in World War II? Remember they used to paint pinup girls on the planes?

I absolutely loved that style of art! But, I grew up in the 80s and got heavily into fantasy.

So, I thought recently why not combine my love for pinups with fantasy? Just imagine if rather than the usual pinup girls on those planes, they let me paint witches, mermaids, sirens, naiads, faeries, or succubi.

Know yourself

So that’s why I mean by knowing yourself. If you have to, make it conversational like I did.

My themes are very consistent. My artwork is very recognizable. That’s why I have no problems selling it. You either like it or you don’t. But you know I did it.

Good luck. And keep painting.

And, have something prepared when someone asks you “what’s your art all about?”

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When in doubt, paint dancers

There’s no such thing as too many paintings of dancers. Dancing is one of the most human things we do. I’m married. But if I were single, and I met a cute girl who couldn’t dance, I’ll give her the evil words. You know them – “let’s just be friends.”

That’s right. No matter how cute she is. If she can’t dance, I’m not attracted to her. Period.

Now, if she promised to take dancing lessons and showed vast improvement, then maybe I’d give her a second chance. But dancing is such a huge thing to this particular artist at least.

I’m a damn good dancer. I took Swing lessons and Waltz lessons. I’d love to eventually take Tango lessons as I think the Tango is exceptionally sexy.

Musically, I’m all about Ballet. Swan Lake is the greatest of all ballets. But everyone already knows that.

Allie and Roxy are both damn good dancers

Yes, it’s not just because we’re close friends. They’re also very good dancers. They both move gracefully and have peaceful faces when they dance. You could tell the passion when they’re dancing. It’s real. Not forced.

Yes, I’ve already said it many times, including recently in my 3 totally random artistic musings article. But I’ll say it one more time for the people in the back.

If I’m ever going to get a third model, she has to be a good dancer. No exceptions.

I specially look for gracefulness when looking for models. No, neither Allie nor Roxy are professional models. My friend Jin was the last professional model I used. I may use a few others I know back when I was more into photography than art.

But I actually don’t like using one-offs. For my style of painting, there needs to be an emotional connection. I’m a Romantic after all.

Dance silhouettes
Dance silhouettes (painted in gouache)

What about you?

What are you passionate about? And how do you work this into your art?

I strongly believe if you paint what you’re passionate about, you’ll never ever run out of ideas.

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Evil witches and their evil familiars

evil witches and their evil familiars

I’ve painted a lot of mermaids recently. I think I’m going to take a break from mermaids for awhile. I think it’s time to explore a whole new category of femme fatales. How about witches?

My prior witches were more sloppy than evil. Like the young witch who accidentally unleashed a poisonous snake.

This time around, I want evil. And not just the witches. How about painting some evil familiars to ride along with the witches?

Evil familiar tendencies

A lot of good witches like cats. That goes back, way, way back. Back in the Salem days, we had cats to get rid of the rats. They made great pets. They’re not only your pets, they also took care of a practical problem.

Now, I’m convinced that the whole reason for the Salem Witch Massacre had nothing to do with witchcraft and everything to do with inheritance. Some old ladies often live a real long time. And some would be inheritors are absolutely shitty people. I’m pretty sure you can put two and two together here. Yes, ’twas a conspiracy to get their land and/or money.

But let’s go back further and dive into the world of Medieval Fantasy, my favorite inspiration for art.

Whereas good witches often have cats or owls, evil witches prefer familiars that are a bit more “combat ready.” So evil familiars aren’t just a cunning evil creature that sits on your left shoulder (remember to throw your pinch of salt over your right shoulder when you’re an evil witch). They also have combat purposes. They have a mean bite. And worse.

Imps

Imps were human once. Damned to the fiery pits of Hell, an evil witch will often bring one back and use them as familiars.

Imps are cunning and conniving. They’re also stubborn, ruthless, cowardly, and completely self-serving.

evil familiars - imps

Imps were evil beta males. They got pushed around in life and when they murdered in their past human incarnation, they wouldn’t exactly do it in a confrontational manner. They feared direct conflict. When they had to do it directly, they made damn sure the odds were strongly in their favor.

You know the old stick versus carrot rule. As familiars, think in terms of two sticks for each carrot. You still have to carrot them since their sense of loyalty is already pretty bad. If you don’t, they’ll either take off or try to kill you in your sleep.

Baby dragons

An evil witch can live hundreds of years. Whereas a human usually dies in double digits, not an evil witch. They can get quite old.

However, dragons live in the thousands of years. We’re talking a whole different ballgame.

Baby dragons make wonderful familiars. The problem with baby dragons is that they’re very rare. Humans and dragons have been at war for forever, with humans in recent years coming quite close to causing dragon extinction.

Their natural habitat? Geez. It’s so small now that I’m not even sure where to find them.

You may be thinking how come humans got the upper edge on dragons, considering dragons are so powerful and so smart. Simply put, biology. Dragons take forever to mate. Dragon eggs only hatch under ideal situations.

But humans? Babies only take nine months to create and are combat ready in only fifteen or sixteen years! No way dragons could keep up with that.

If you ever see a witch with a dragon familiar, she’s on a whole different level of power. Cross her and she’ll not just kill you. She’ll take down your entire Kingdom.

Hellhounds

Some witches are so evil that they absolutely detest sunlight. No, they’re not going to exactly burn up and die like a stupid vampire. Rather, they’re at their best after the witching hour.

Those are the kind of witches you’ll find with hellhounds as familiars.

Hellhounds cannot come out in the sunlight. You’ll only encounter them at night. And if you encounter them, you’re in a heap of trouble.

If you see a witch with a hellhound as a familiar, you’re in a super duper heap of trouble. You got a serious problem.

Hellhounds usually signal death when a human encounters one. Generally, the Devil himself sends a hellhound after someone who sold him his soul. That cursed someone knows his time is short. And he’s on the run, for he knows when the hellhound catches him…

For a witch to actually raise one of these foul (and foul smelling) creatures as a pet? Well, she’s got to be more evil than your average evil witch. Plus, she more than likely doesn’t have a working olfactory sense. Did I mention that hellhounds stink?

Nightmares

There isn’t exactly one size fits all when it comes to evil witches. Whereas most evil witches are pretty good at direct physical confrontation, leaving their opponent either in tatters, turned into an amphibian, or burnt to a crisp, some work through other methods.

The kind of evil witch that has a nightmare as a familiar you probably could conquer in a physical confrontation. That’s not the problem.

Just don’t ever go to sleep. That’s where she’ll get you.

Nightmares cause nightmares. But a Nightmare’s nightmare is so powerful, it causes death. Yes, you’re literally scared to death.

So if an evil witch extorts you, it’s more than likely one of these witches. You have two choices. Either pay her off. Or, find her and exterminate her.

If you do the latter, you better find her location before you go to sleep. Once you sleep, she wins. You simply won’t survive an encounter with her nightmare familiar.

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Did the Ancient Greeks see a mermaid? Brizo from Delos

Ancient Greek Goddess Brizo

How do legends start? They’re usually based on some kind of truth. Or what someone with a lot of charisma thought was the truth.

On the Ancient Greek island of Delos, women would leave offerings to a beautiful nude female creature that they called Brizo. They’d leave her offerings in exchange for her protection of their husbands and sons from the dangers of the seas.

Brizo the Goddess

She eventually became a Greek Goddess. To be exact – the Ancient Greek Goddess of Mariners, Sailors, and Fishermen.

Later on, Ancient Greeks used her in oracles and dreams as well.

But her primary role was protection of the men in the seas. Note that women worshiped her, not the men who she directly protected.

Delos

Of course, you can still visit Delos today. Very few people live there as it’s mostly archeological ruins. If you’re an archeologist or a history buff, you’ll probably love a boat ride and a day or two on the island.

We didn’t get a chance to go there when we were in Greece last year. We explored Olympia and some nice Greek beaches. If you ever go there, try the seafood!

Origins

Have you ever seen the original Star Trek series? Well, they had an episode where the crew encounter Apollo. Apollo turned out to be a powerful alien, not a God. But the Ancient Greeks also encountered him and with their knowledge for the time, it made sense that he must have been a God.

What about Brizo? Did the Ancient Greeks see a mermaid? Or, was it something else on a foggy day where two people saw something, then filled in the blanks?

I don’t know. I wasn’t there. That’s often how legends start though. They’re often based on something real.

Brizo the character

I’d love to believe in the existence of mermaids. Like Fox Mulder wants to believe there are aliens. Every time they’ve found a body or a skeleton though, it turned out to be a forgery.

So regardless, I’m going to use Brizo as a recurring character. Here’s the first in what will become many Brizo paintings.

,


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How I paint skin tones in watercolor

painting skin tones in watercolor

Not everyone who does watercolor paints people. However, for those who do, the absolute number one question is – how do you blend skin tones in watercolor?

Now here’s the answer you probably don’t want to hear. There’s more than one way to do it. Actually, there are dozens of excellent ways to do it.

Just like with music, I borrowed a lick or two from this guy and a lick or two from that guy. After borrowing licks, runs, and phrases from enough people, I ended up with my own style.

The same applies to painting. The more you borrow, the more you develop your own style. So read this article and take notes. Take what you want from my style and throw out the rest. You’ll end up merging a bunch of styles together anyways when you’re developing your own unique style.

How I blend skin tones in watercolor

I’m going to show two examples of how I blend skin tones in watercolor. One example painting I just finished. The other, I finished awhile back. I do like how both of them turned out.

Mermaids and witches. I have no idea why they dominate my artwork. That’s just how it ends up. The above is a mermaid painting I just completed. The below is a work in progress of two girls under a waterfall.

Opium Tales how I paint skin tones in watercolor example
Two blondes under a waterfall – work in progress


I primarily take two colors – titanium white and burnt sienna. I mix them until I get a nice light orange, matching Allie’s skin. Now if you look closely at someone, you’ll notice that nobody has just one color. You’ll see lots of colors.

The color you want to create is your model’s “average skin tone.” What the hell does that mean? Somewhere in the middle.

You’ll have to both darken and lighten it, depending on the lighting and shadows.

This method works for painting white people. To paint darker people, combine a nice red and a nice green about 50/50 to get a nice brown. You’ll have to lighten it or darken it to find that person’s average color. I personally use perelyne red and hooker green to get my browns. I happen to like those two colors and combined, they get an excellent brown.

Mixing skin tones in watercolor – the four colors

We have two primary colors for my model’s main colors – titanium white and burnt sienna. What are the other two colors? A red and a yellow. Personally, my red is perelyne red and my yellow is hansa yellow medium.

I use the yellow to mark what will later become highlights. I love the yellow effect. It shows through without showing through. You have to look closely for it to see it.

For the final color, I add a little watered down red to her cheeks. I use the same red for her lips to her cheeks. Except for her lips, it’s straight up red (not watered down). I love red lipstick on a beautiful woman. It pops out and really makes her smile/lips stand out. I love that.

For the witch, I used watered down red for her right nipple (you mostly don’t see her right nipple due Allie having really long hair) and also her fingernails. Allie has long, feminine fingernails. I love those. Now my wife does too after seeing Allie’s nails.

Seven wet on wet layers

I get really soft skin tones by painting seven layers wet on wet. (I hope you’re using really good watercolor paper, because with cheap watercolor paper, you may be pushing it beyond its limits).

The first layer – I paint yellow for the highlights and I paint the main skin tone everywhere else. Then the second layer, the third layer, and the fourth layer, I paint the main skin tone everywhere.

For the fifth layer, I paint the skin tone for the non-shadowed areas while painting slightly watered down burnt sienna on the shadowed areas. For the sixth layer, I smear the regular color all over her and drop a little watered down red for her cheeks. Finally, for the seventh layer, I paint straight up titanium white all over her to even out everything and smooth out both the lightened areas and the shadowed areas.

  • Titanium White
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Yellow Hansa Medium
  • Perelyne Red

The gold

This may sound weird. I use gold watercolor ground for the gold. Why? Because it gives it a 3D effect. Just in case you don’t know what watercolor ground is, let me explain. Watercolor ground is not exactly paint. It’s material you put over something like glass, metal, or plastic, then you let it dry. Then you can paint over it, so you can literally watercolor over glass, metal, or plastic.

The thing is, when you use the ground for paint, it gives it a little bit of a 3D effect because it sticks out a little bit. I love that!

Little succubus sister
Watch out for the evil succubus!

There’s more than one way to do anything

You may try my techniques and hate them. That’s perfectly fine. Like I said before, sometimes different people’s techniques clash and don’t play well together at all. That’s part of being human. If my stuff doesn’t work for you, I’m not at all going to take it personal. However, if you may take one thing out of this entire blog post and run with it for the rest of your painting career, I’d be flattered.

I’ve also heard some watercolor purists poo poo on the idea of using white watercolor for anything. Whatever. I don’t like rules.

I actually love mixing with titanium white. You get really weird mixes with it.

I initially tried getting skin tones with red and yellow. However, that combo caused me to throw out a lot of paint before getting the right formula.

With titanium white and burnt sienna, it’s very simple. Take the white, add some water, and add a little bit of burnt sienna until you get the right mix, depending on how light or dark your model is.

I like simple. Simple is good. Even better than simple? Easy to replicate.

When I run out of the mix, I don’t have any problem replicating the same colors, despite mixing colors being one of the hardest things to master in watercolor.

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Watercolor and gouache are friends

mermaid using both watercolor and gouache

Watercolor and gouache are friends. They play nicely together.

Actually, gouache is a type of watercolor. You’ll hear some people refer to gouache as “opaque watercolor.” That’s because, that’s exactly what it is.

You’ll also hear purists who believe you should never use gouache. Or, use one or the other and not combine them.

I think purists are nuts. That comes down to pretty much everything. I don’t believe in rules, only suggestions.

Watercolor vs gouache

Yes, gouache is actually a type of watercolor. But to make it easier for me to explain, I’ll differentiate them and call them two separate things.

Regular watercolors are transparent. What does that mean? It means you can see through them. They do a terrible job at covering up whatever you painted over.

That’s actually a good thing if you want to layer. That’s how I get such lovely skin tones. I layer wet on wet seven times.

On the other hand, gouache is opaque. What does that mean? It means it covers up whatever you painted on. It does a terrible job of layering.

Which is better?

It totally depends on the application. Most of my paintings are 99% watercolor with 1% gouache. This painting however has more gouache than I generally use.

The fish, the white sparkles in Allie’s eyes, and the bubbles are gouache. Everything else is watercolor.

You see how I get them to play nicely together? The gouache also looks like it’s on top of the watercolor.

Whereas I use Daniel Smith and Windsor and Newton watercolors, I use the cheap ass gouache. That’s because I don’t use gouache enough to notice the difference between brands. The cheap ass stuff works fine for what I do.

When somewhere down the road I’ll start using more gouache, I’ll more than likely start buying the more highly recommended brands.

If you’re going to layer a lot, use more watercolor. For an application where you want to just paint it once and you want the color to behave exactly as you painted the first time, use more gouache.

Watercolor and Gouache both use the same surfaces

Both watercolor and gouache default to watercolor paper. A lot of folks swear by Arches paper. Myself included, but to be honest, most of the top papers are quite good. It’s just like Jimi Hendrix would still play a mean guitar as long as the guitar isn’t junk. Of course he’ll have his preferences.

The same goes for paper. I’ve combined watercolor and gouache on a lot of different papers and they play nicely together. I’ve even painted them both on wood.

For wood, gouache is even better than watercolor. One of these days, I’ll buy some high end gouache paints and do a straight up gouache painting on wood.

Until then, I can assure you that watercolor and gouache are friends. Use them each for their respective purposes, which generally comes down to how transparent vs how opaque you want to paint a particular part of your painting.

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When there are no heroes

This is the Finale of Princess for the Night. Part I of Princess for the Night is here

opium tales as was with Tonna, Isabella was brought in chains in front of the cave by the elders.

Cold, damp, and wearing a white dress that isn’t enough to keep her warm, she walks with her head down. Only unlike Tonna, she’s not thinking defeat. Rather, she’s focusing on what she needs to do.

As I’ve said earlier, her mother passed out. Her father lies in the barn unconscious with his front teeth knocked out. Her aunt though, her dear aunt, fed her some soup with some meat this morning to keep her warm and keep her strong.

Only her aunt knows. Her dear aunt.

One of the elders makes the mistake of looking her in the eyes. These elders have done this many, many times, and have become cold. But this one looks her in the eyes. And sheds a tear.

They know Isabella. They know her heart, her boldness, her compassion. They know that they’ll never see that again.

The elder wipes the tear and he and the others walk away as they finish chaining Isabella to the wooden pole in front of the dragon’s cave.

Focus

Isabella got very little sleep as she and her aunt worked over and over again the spell. The key to doing anything right? Repetition. Yeah, I know that sounds boring but it’s true. If you want to be good at anything, do the same thing over and over and over again until it becomes second nature.

You practice it in ideal conditions. Then you hope you can pull it off under stress.

Well, what can be more stressful than a giant monster coming to eat you? Especially when you know in graphic detail how the monster consumes its prey?

Isabella hears movement. She sees the beast slither out of its cave.

Not yet.

She sees the beast looking around. Then, the beast eyes its prey.

Not yet.

She sees the beast moving forward. Still too far away.

Not yet.

She sees the beast slithering forward. Then, the beast raises itself on its hind legs.

As practiced, the potion leaves her dress and goes up and up. With her hands tied, she has to do it entirely with her mind.

It does. The potion goes up and up. And the dragon opens its mouth. And the potion goes in his mouth and breaks.

Almost immediately, the dragon feels different. Instead of chomping down, the dragon eyes his princess. He lowers his head slowly. Down and down, all the way to the ground and looks at her.

Then the weirdest thing happens. A smile? Can a dragon really smile?

He nudges her lightly with his head, then raises his head to bite.

But no, not bite her. He bites the chains. Isabella is free.

When your world is up in flames

She doesn’t run. Rather, she comes forward and kisses the dragon on his leathery nose.

The dragon once again lowers his head and Isabella climbs aboard his neck. She’s never felt anything like this before – a connection to a beast. And, the mightiest of all beasts.

The virgin sacrifices end now, and to be sure, Isabella knows that some people are going to have to die.

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Young love

This is Part II of Princess for the Night. Part I of Princess of the Night is here.

opium tales avery swings the wooden practice sword and Umfrey easily blocks it.

“You’re telegraphing, Avery. I saw where the blow would land before you even got close to me. Try again.”

Yes, a prodigy with a sword, but still young. Nobody becomes a master overnight. Prodigies just speed up the years.

Umfrey is middle-aged. And huge. And has real life battle experience. Avery won’t be a squire under him. However, the Lord had Umfrey initially train Avery because Umfrey’s technique is top notch.

After about twenty more attempts, Avery finally whacks Umfrey on the arm.

“Ouch!” Umfrey smiles. “Well done.”

Repetition. The same exercises over and over again until everything is right.

First, you master the footwork. If you have bad footwork, Umfrey tells his student, you’ll never be a good fighter.

That night

Isabella waits for her parents to sleep. Then sneaks out the window. Avery waits for her by the twin birch trees.

She runs almost full speed into his strong arms and they kiss passionately. She then looks deeply into his eyes. He returns the gaze and concedes a smile. “Yes, you are more beautiful than Tonna.”

“But she’s prettier.”

“But she’s stupid. Stupid people do stupid things. And ten years from now, I can assure you that you’d be significantly more beautiful. Plus look at her ass. Do you think I want to be squeezing that ass ten years from now?”

Isabella laughs. Avery gives her another smile, then initiates another passionate tongue kiss.

Ah, the feeling of young love, when it’s just passion. Before it turns into need then companionship. That’s why it’s so much more fun to write about.

“You need to get some sleep. You got more training tomorrow and Umfrey is mean.”

“He’s not mean. He’s strict. Big difference.”

“He seems really mean.”

“That’s because he doesn’t want me to die in combat. Good war teachers aren’t nice. They’re strict. I need to learn to do things right.”

“Can’t he be nicer?”

“I don’t want him to be nicer. I want to learn how to fight. He’s teaching me war, not etiquette. That’s another guy.”

“But seriously Avery, you need to sleep.” This time, she initiates the passionate kiss. And breaks it off. Turns around and starts rushing away. And turns around one more time to blow him a kiss with the most heartwarming smile you’ve ever seen. Then lifts her dress so it won’t drag on the ground and rushes quickly back climb the tree to get back inside her window.

Avery watches every step she takes with intense pleasure. “Some day that beautiful girl will be my wife,” he says to himself with a confident smile.

Part III of Princess for the Night is here