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Painting with honey watercolors, Part I

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I love M Graham gouache. But, for a completely different reason than anyone else.

I’m nearly blind. I literally need my glasses to find my glasses. Do you remember Velma from Scoobie Doo? If so, you probably remember when she’d lose her glasses. She’d be feeling the floor trying to find them.

That’s me. I can’t see shit without them. I have to feel around the house until I find them.

I cannot drive without my glasses either. No way. I’d kill somebody.

So, what does that have to do with watercolors?

Well, I also have the controversial opinion that high end watercolors are high end watercolors. I’m not a watercolor brand stickler. I’m not a brand stickler for anything though. Guitars. Cars. A good tool is a good tool. The brand is secondary.

Smell

So, going back to not being able to see shit, my other major senses are way better than the average person’s. It’s because I rely on them more.

No matter how beautiful a woman is, if she stinks, that’s three strikes. I can’t get past that.

And on the flip side, I love a good perfume. I only have two bottles of cologne – a Tom Ford and a Versace. Yes, they’re expensive but they make me smell good.

Likewise, a +1 to a woman who knows how to smell good.

Honey based watercolor and gouaches
Honey based watercolor and gouaches

M Graham gouache smells good. So, Blick stores had a killer sale on this French made Sennelier watercolor paints. They’re honey based. So what does Roman do? He buys them.

The next question – how do they paint?

Well, first I have to paint with them. Part II coming up in 30 days as I want serious time with them before an honest review.

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Can Pinup Art be considered High Art?

Where do we draw the line in what is Pop Art vs High Art? Can pinup art be considered High Art?

Serious question.

After all, look at a lot of the Post Modernist garbage. They consider that bullshit high art. And it takes a million times more talent and work to create pinup art than it does that crap.

For instance, can you seriously tell me that this crappy piece called We Are Not Afraid is better than anything done by Boris Vallejo, Mel Ramos, or Frank Frazetta?

We are not afraid – Philip Taaffe 1985

Frankly, I don’t really care for labels. When someone asks what kind of art I do, I tell them Fantasy Pinups. It’s just easier to classify but I don’t by any means believe in limiting yourself to one genre.

Favorites

One day at Barnes and Noble, my wife picked me up a book on Gil Elvgren. I’ve seen his works before. I didn’t know him by name though. My wife knew I liked pinup art.

At the time, I was into photography and shooting nudes of a friend of mine. Several years later, Allie approached me about modeling. Then Roxy did. And I turned from photography to painting.

So I decided to take that Gil Elvgren book seriously. And go back and study the others I really liked from Frank Frazetta to Olivia de Berardinis.

I imitated everyone the best I could until I started developing my own style. I also imitated the Pre-Raphaelites, a subset of Romanticism. They’re actually considered High Art.

Although my own work is Pop Art, I see no reason to move someone like Frank Frazetta into the High Art category. He’s definitely more talented than any Post Modern artist.

But alas, it’s all just labels anyways. It will be interesting to see what people two hundred years from now say. Maybe they’ll throw out all the Post Modern bullshit and buy Frank Frazetta and Olivia paintings for millions. Or at least, a man can hope.

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How important is watercolor paint brand?

mixed watercolors

So, how important is watercolor paint brand? Keep in mind, this is one artist’s opinion.

A lot of watercolor artists are brand sticklers. They’re convinced that brand X smokes brand Y. You’ll get the same thing with guitarists, car enthusiasts, and every other person who’s convinced their favorite brand is better than the competition.

You know what?

I don’t care. Seriously. I don’t.

I like Daniel Smith paints. A lot. I’ve even tried their luminescent paints. And I liked two of those and hated one of those, and was indifferent about one of those.

One day in Hobby Lobby, I really needed a few paints. They didn’t have Daniel Smith. They only carried Winsor and Newton and their cheap brand at the time. So, I tried Winsor and Newton because I didn’t want to waste time with student grade paints.

And you know what? I loved Winsor and Newton!

Then one day, I was in Blick and they had a ridiculous sale on their store brand. From deduction, I knew Blick watercolor blocks were really something a lot more expensive that they bought in bulk. However, I won’t say the name. I know how they’re able to do it though. You buy something in bulk and make a deal with the company and they’ll let you slap your store log on it.

Costco does this. That’s why Costco brand Scotch is pretty decent Scotch. It’s really something higher end that they bought in bulk.

Anyways, Blick brand paints are also pretty good paints.

“So do you have a preference?”

Honestly? Not really. Yes, don’t buy student paints if you can afford to buy the high end paints. Student paints use cheaper materials and are watered down. You’ll find you’ll have less pigments with student paints. You’ll learn this the hard way.

Yes, you can still create excellent art (assuming you’re pretty good) with student paints. But, why do extra work?

I’m fine with any of those three that I’ve used so far. Sure, I’ll try others as well. As long as they’re the professional grade paints. I’d love to try M Graham watercolors for instance as I already happen to love M Graham gouache.

Now, if you really want to be a stickler, do the same painting twice, except do it with two different brands. Then actually get back to me and let me know which paint brand you like better.

I’ll be honest with you. I’m a horrible judge. You know why? Because I’m pretty adamant that good tools are good tools.

I could take a high end guitar from Paul Reed Smith, Ibanez, Schecter, Jackson, or a slew of other guitar companies and I’ll be more than happy to perform live with it. Exactly the same thing with watercolor paints.

Now, if this isn’t you, then you need to experiment.

But let me be clear on one thing – there are no right or wrong answers in any of this. Just preferences.

If you’re happy with a tool, feel free to fall in love with it and hate its competitors. That’s just not me.

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You really have to cake on black gouache

I made a mistake. I tried for the second painting of Selene, the Ancient Greek Moon Goddess, to use Moonglow watercolor.

She didn’t pop out. Rather, the painting looked, well, boring.

I knew I did a pretty good job painting Allie as Selene and I regretted wasting a painting. So, I tried to cover the moonglow up with black gouache.

The result? Kind of drab. Better, but still drab.

I was going to give up on this painting until I took another look at it and decided to really cake on the black gouache. See if I can rescue the painting.

You know what? It worked!

The Moon Goddess Selene, watercolors and gouache
The Moon Goddess Selene, watercolors and gouache

Now Selene really pops out because the black gouache looks like it’s in the background.

So, morale of the story. If you’re going to use black gouache, really cake it on. That’s three to four layers of black gouache to get it that dark.

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Making the Greek Gods cool again

I don’t like talking about politics and religion, but I’ve noticed that Western art and Western culture are severely lacking in schools nowadays. If it weren’t for Percy Jackson and the Olympians, I don’t think most kids would even know about the Greek Gods and Goddesses.

However, I don’t bitch. If I see a problem, I either do something about it (if it’s important) or ignore it (if it’s not important).

In this case, I’ll do something about it.

I started painting Greek Goddesses awhile back. Not the major ones, but more the lesser ones that nobody’s heard of. Like Brizo, the Ancient Greek Goddess of Sailors and Fishermen.

I’ll even give a background story about the Goddess. For instance, women on the island of Delos left offerings to a creature they called Brizo for good luck, so their husbands, sons, and other family members came home safely.

Ancient Goddess Brizo
Greek Goddess Brizo painted on wood

This creature morphed into a lesser Goddess. Brizo became the Goddess of Sailors and Fishermen for the Ancient Greeks.

More recently

I’ve talked about the importance of painting the same painting twice. For Selene, I’ll paint her a bunch of times since I really like the poses I’m getting with Allie. She’ll be posing for me later on today, but here’s the second one already.

Ancient Greek Goddess Selene
Selene

Selene is the Moon Goddess. She’s the daughter of Titans, the Gods before the Gods.

Selene’s had flings with both Zeus and Pan, but her most famous fling is actually with a mortal. One day, she gazed down on Earth and saw a young shepherd that she fell in lust with named Endymion. She ended up begging Zeus to extend his life and she bore him at least 50 daughters, all of whom grew into beautiful women.

Different accounts differ on some of her other children. Some say that the infamous Narcissus was her son. I leave it up to the viewer to believe which accounts they want to believe.

Fun

I take artistic mindset very seriously. If you’re not having fun with your art, you’re going to quit. You could tell I’m having a blast. You can see it in my paintings.

Find something that you’re passionate about and paint it. I’m quite passionate about Greek mythology and high fantasy. I mix them both into my pinup art.

I aim for fun over high art. My music is high art. My painting? Fun. It’s pretty obvious. I don’t claim to do high art in my paintings. Rather, I’m a pop artist.

I’d love to be famous though. Actually have an influence over culture. And one thing I’d do? I’d make the Greek Gods and Goddesses cool again!

The Olympians and Hades

The Greek Gods overthrew the Titans, who overthrew the previous Titans. Long story. But at the very least, Zeus is the King of the Gods.

He is married to Hera, his sister, of whom he cheats every chance he gets. Zeus is the God of the Sky and Thunder. You’ll often see him throwing a lightning bolt.

Poseidon is God of the Seas and the brother of Zeus. He’s also the God of Storms, Earthquakes, and Horses. What do horses have to do with anything? Who knows? But you’ll sometimes see Poseidon riding a chariot pulled by a hippocampus.

Hades does not live on top of Mount Olympus, although I still have to mention him as he’s one of the most powerful of Gods. He is the oldest of the three brothers (Zeus and Poseidon) and together, they overthrew their father, the Titan Cronus.

Hades lives in the Underworld, often also called Hades. Hades got the Underworld, Zeus got the Skies, and Poseidon got the Seas when they overthrew the Titans.

Let’s revisit Hera. She’s the most powerful Goddess and the Queen of Olympus. She’s the Goddess of women, marriage, and childbirth.

Yes, the Ancient Greeks believed that the Gods and Goddesses lived on top of Mount Olympus. (And if you’re wondering, Mt. Olympus wasn’t successfully scaled until 1913).

Demeter is the Goddess of the Harvest and Agriculture as well as fertility and the sacred law.

The city of Athens is named after Athena. She’s the Goddess of War and Wisdom.

Apollo is supposed to be the best looking of the Gods. He also has the most titles. He’s the God of everything from Sun, Light, Oracles to Music and Knowledge.

Aphrodite is someone I paint a lot. Why? Well she’s the Goddess of Beauty. She also gets Love and Sexuality and is the most beautiful of all the Goddesses. So of course the other Goddesses are envious of her and they made her marry the ugliest of the Gods.

Artemis is the Goddess of the Hunt, Wilderness, and Wild Animals.

Ares is the God of War. “But I thought you just said Athena is the Goddess of War.” Yeah, Greek mythology is inconsistent. You’ll see a lot of overlap. You’ll also see that different areas favored different Gods and Goddesses. There’s a lot of inconsistencies. Just bear with me.

Hephaestus is the ugliest of the Gods and is married to Aphrodite. He’s the God of Blacksmiths and pretty much everything related to tools and crafts. He’s even the God of Volcanoes.

Hermes is known as the Messenger of the Gods and deals with everything from Trade to Thievery.

Hestia is the Goddess of the Hearth, and is a virgin Goddess.

And last, we have Dionysus, the God of Wine.

Under the Gods, we have all kinds of various creatures. The ones I’m most intrigued by are the Nymphs.

And last we have the Fates, which whatever they decide is what happens, whether the Gods like it or not.

This is a very brief summary of the Greek Gods and Goddesses. I left out all the Minor Gods and Goddesses, the Titans, the Demi-Gods, and human heroes and legends. I also left out the monsters.

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Artists are like Lesser Gods

Artists are like Lesser Gods, creating worlds that peoples will remember hundreds of years after the artist’s death. How many little girls have spent years in the worlds of Tchaikovsky? In the Nutcracker or Swan Lake?

How many smart high school kids got stoned and talked about visiting Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights? Or Boris Vallejo’s fantasy worlds? Or my favorite 20th century artist – Frank Frazetta. He created so many beautiful but dangerous worlds in his lifetime.

Heck, look at Luis Ricardo Folero’s works. I borrowed a lot from him.

Long after the artist dies, his legacy survives. Some for hundreds of years. The greatest ones longer. Imagine how long we’ll still study Leonardo and Michelangelo.

This was meant to inspire you, not just to create, but to create worlds. Memorable worlds.

Muses

How many muses will be remembered hundreds of years after your death? And do you ever wonder if all the stories of the Ancient Greeks were modeled off of real people?

Lizzie Siddal was the muse for several of the original Pre-Raphaelites. I even wrote an orchestrated piece inspired by her death.

Will I ever get famous? And will they remember Allie or Roxy? Or both?

Opium Tales Roxy
Roxy done earlier today with a Pilot Precise V5 Rolling Point Pen over a pencil sketch

Keep all this in mind when you create. Are you painting for fun? Or, are you painting for a legacy?

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Spanish Painter Luis Ricardo Folero

Luis Ricardo Falero Moon Nymph

It’s important to know what you like, for it will be those people you’ll be stealing from. Most folks would rather say “inspired by” but I prefer honesty. When I like something, I steal.

I steal so much from so many different sources though that you cannot even tell I stole from anyone. That’s how you properly steal.

Musically, I’ve stolen from everyone from Tchaikovsky and Beethoven to Judas Priest and Dimmu Borgir to Loreena McKennitt and Blackmore’s Night to Queen and Prince. For painting, you can simply look at my artists category. I’ve stolen from all of them. Plus add the 20th century American Pinup artists and the Art Nouveau artists in there too.

I’m stealing from Luis Ricardo Falero

I love Falero’s work. I’m going to have to do some digging for a proper biography on the man. Wikipedia barely has a page. Other websites have less. I can’t even find a biography on Amazon. I could probably do hours of research and barely get a paragraph or two more.

So, I’ll give you the quick rundown. Luis Ricardo Falero was a Spanish painter who was born in Granada, Spain in 1851. They don’t even have his birthday.

His parents wanted him to pursue his original career in the Navy. He didn’t. He went to Paris and studied art, chemistry, and engineering, and of course settled on art. Falero loved astronomy and his love for it showed up in some of his works.

He got Maud Harvey pregnant when she was 17. She was originally his housemaid, then model. She sued him for paternity payments and won, but he died that year in 1896 at the age of 45.

No details of his death other than the hospital he died at. That’s all I got. Funny – I’ll actually ask you. If you know more about the man, please enlighten me. I can’t find shit about him other than this.

Falero’s style

Now of course I can talk about his style and why I like him. He was into mythology, nude women, and fantasy. Exactly my favorite three subjects. Thus, I loved his work already.

Falero painted with oils on canvas.

Vision de Faust (or Witches Going to their Sabbath) 1878
Vision de Faust (or Witches Going to their Sabbath) 1878

I love how his women have a realism to them. Like they can almost come out of the painting. He paints with such depth that you almost have to check your face to see if you’re wearing 3-D glasses.

Anyways, enjoy Luis Ricardo Falero’s work. And let me know if you like it or not. I’m interested in your thoughts, even if they differ from mine.

The Balance of the Zodiac
The Balance of the Zodiac
Luis Ricardo Falero Witches Sabbath
Witch
The Nymph from Luis Ricardo Falero
The Nymph from Luis Ricardo Falero
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5 things to know before starting watercolors

You know what? Before I started watercolors, I was already working with Allie. I was heavily into colored pencils.

Why colored pencils? I have no idea. I wanted to get better at drawing and regular pencils seemed boring to me. Or something like that.

It’s funny because now, I love regular pencils. Well, to be precise – mechanical pencils. But back then, I simply wanted some kind of color.

Enter watercolors. I wanted to try them out. So I looked at watercolor message boards and read what people said. And, I took the advice seriously.

So this article is part their advice which turned out to be true and part my advice. I’ll specify which is which.

Draw two hours for every one hour of painting

Their advice. And, the old man who said this was right.

Painting is the easy part. But if you can’t draw, your paintings will suck anyways. Unless you’re doing paint by numbers, which I assume you’re not doing.

So simply draw two hours for every hour of painting. And I’m not kidding. Painting really is the easy party. You’ll agree with me within a year, assuming you’re practicing daily.

Cheap watercolor paper sucks, but…

This is one I learned the hard way. Cheap watercolor paper sucks. But, your first 10-20 paintings will suck anyways. So you might as well use cheap watercolor paper.

You’ll learn the difference between cheap watercolor paper and good watercolor paper. That said, not in the beginning. You won’t notice.

Another thing – if you’re lucky, you’ll catch decent watercolor paper on sale. Plus, I’m not too far from a Blick store. Their generic is affordable and rumors are it’s actually a high end British brand. I wouldn’t be surprised as their generic is quite good.

I happen to use their generic blocks a lot. I love them. And I’m too lazy to stretch my watercolor paper. Thus, the Blick blocks.

Save your jars

Nothing more annoying than not having clean jars. My wife and I eat tons of kimchi. We save all those jars. She washes them at least twice though before using them for watercolors. You don’t want your brush to smell like kimchi.

I try to have at least four clean at a time. It sucks to have no clean jars and an inspiration. For of course, you need water to paint as it’s watercolor after all.

It’s called watercolors for a reason

You’re not going to have total control over watercolors. If you go into it with the mindset that you can control the water and get the water to do everything you want, you’re only going to get frustrated.

I’ve said before that watercolors aren’t for everyone. It takes a certain personality to love watercolors.

I’m a water person. I absolutely love water.

I’d love nothing more to be in the Caribbean right now with some beautiful women, drinking a nice cocktail.

If you’re totally unable to let go, you won’t like watercolors. Water has a mind of its own. Water wants to do what it wants to do. You have to be comfortable with water doing its thing.

So there will always be at least part of your painting that will have some randomness to it.

Yes. This will bother some people. A lot. I get it. And if you think it will bother you, you’re probably better off with another medium.

If you’re not having fun, you’re going to quit

I paint whatever I want. That’s how I ended up doing fantasy pinups. I paint exactly the type of painting I want to hang up in my office.

Now if you see painting as a chore, you’re only going to get frustrated. And you’ll eventually quit.

This is supposed to be fun.

Now on the other hand, if you absolutely love it, nobody could stop you from getting good. Seriously. You’re going to get good at it.

You’ll find yourself thinking of ideas and painting way longer than you expected to. You’ll get lost in the work. The hours will disappear and you’ll forget about other things.

That’s all a good thing. Unless of course you forget to pay the bills and they shut off the lights on you.

I’m either drawing or painting every single day. Even on a cruise ship, I bring my drawing pad and while everyone else is sleeping in, I find a nice quiet place and draw Allie and Roxy. They always send me selfies right before a vacation so I have them on my phone. And I just draw straight from my phone. It’s great practice!

But yeah, that’s how it will be. You’ll find yourself doing art every chance you get. You’ll find yourself in a coffee shop drawing random people. Then you’ll catch yourself drawing your coffee and you won’t even notice you just did that.

You’ll go on a date and draw your date on your napkin. And you’ll see something outside and you’ll start thinking about how to get that exact same color from the paints you have.

You’ll see a chance for painting and art everywhere you go.

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French Ultramarine, Indigo, and Payne’s Grey

I’m sharing with you one of my watercolor secrets. If you want to get that magical nighttime look, I simply use these three colors – French Ultramarine, Indigo, and Payne’s Grey.

But since I’m painting on a watercolor board this time around, I’m going to go through a lot of paint. You need to really layer it on there.

I like alternating the surfaces. Sure I usually paint on watercolor paper, sometimes even on wood. But recently, I’ve been painting on a lot of watercolor boards.

Anyways, about those colors. Let’s examine each one.

French Ultramarine

I’m not a brand stickler. Some stores around here are heavy into Daniel Smith. The closest one to me prefers Windsor and Newton. Whatever. I think good paints are good paints. Both brands have wonderful versions of each of the three colors. And they’re not the only brands, just the most accessible where I live.

French Ultramarine is a deep blue when not watered down. You can water it down to make it a weaker blue. In this case, it’s on there pretty thick. Very little water. You can see how deep it is.

If you’re wondering, French Ultramarine is made by grinding up lapis lazuli, a beautiful blue rock, into powder. During the Middle Ages, it was the most expensive pigment, even more expensive than gold.

For our purposes, it’s the deep blue layer, the lightest of the three but still plenty dark. To get that white moon reflection, I simply take a piece of paper towel, wet it, and wipe away a little bit of the paint.

Indigo

Have you ever played that board game Puerto Rico? If you have, you know indigo is one of the things you trade. You may also know indigo as the dye for your blue jeans.

Indigo comes from plants. Nowadays, a lot of it is synthetic but back in the day, it came from plants.

For colors, it’s almost halfway between purple and blue. It’s another rich blue color.

Once again, I caked it on there as I really like the color. It can get quite dark when caked on. That’s about four layers of paint on there.

Opium Tales - Aphrodite and mortal friend
Aphrodite and mortal friend

Payne’s Grey

What’s Payne’s Grey? It’s a super dark blue/grey color that artists often use when they don’t want to use black.

William Payne was an English watercolorist. He invented Payne’s Grey and his works were already forgotten in his lifetime. Unfortunately for him, he’s best known for inventing that color, rather than his works.

For my purposes, it’s a dark color that’s not quite black. I love black, don’t get me wrong. But I only use true black for black purposes. In my opinion, Payne’s Grey goes better with Indigo and French Ultramarine than black does.

The girls

Both girls are Allie. I wrote up the backstory of the painting and will post it once I get this thing framed. This is Aphrodite and a human friend, visiting Greece in 2019. No, no place like this exists exactly as in the painting. I simply took a bunch of pictures that we took from Greece a few years back and combined them on a magical island. Yes, those trees as well are from Greece.

I wrote up a whole article on how I get my skin tones in watercolor. So you’re really not seeing too many colors here. You’re seeing the colors for Allie and those three colors mentioned above. That’s it.

I rarely go crazy with colors in watercolor. Usually, I keep to seven colors a painting.

The stars? Gouache.

And one more thing. Let’s talk about color theory. You’ll notice the girls “pop out” a bit. Ultramarine blue, indigo, and Payne’s grey are all cool colors. The girls are mainly warm colors. So by theory, they should pop out.

Do they? I think so.

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I suck at pottery

Ever have one of those wine and painting courses? Well, I haven’t.

However, I’ve had wine and pottery. Yeah, wine wasn’t included. Should have been though because my pottery probably wouldn’t be this bad.

But, like anything else, you get good by doing.

I did pottery when I was a little kid. My parents enrolled us in summer courses where we learned everything from pottery to photography. I got pretty good at photography. Even learned how to break open a film canister under a special thick black blanket and put it in one of those film things that you dip in the solution that processes your film.

Film? Yes. That’s right. I was really good in the darkroom.

All those dodge and burn things you young ones do in Photoshop? I did that stuff in real life. With film.

But pottery? A completely different beast.

So, decades later, I did the pottery thing. And it turned out, well, crooked.

But, it’s absolutely perfect for my watercolor brushes!