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25 inspirations for the uninspired

We’ve all had those days whether you’re a writer, a composer, or an artist. You sit down. You got work to do. And nothing comes.

The muse has left the building and you’re badly trying to summon her back.

Well, my friend, fret not. What you need is a list.

This list will work for you whether you’re trying to compose that song that will make you famous or you’re working on the Great American Novel.

How to use this list

Here’s the trick. Actually take a pen and paper and write down the answers.

Every lyric you have, every word you write, every painting you paint, it all comes from your head. When you are uninspired, the problem revolves around the lack of communication between your brain and your medium. Your hands are the in between and once you start getting ideas to go to your hands, your inspiration will come right back.

Sound crazy? Actually, it’s not. It’s a mental block.

Try it. It’s a brain trick I’ve learned over the years. I guarantee it will work.

1.  Who is the love of your life?
2.  Who is the one that got away?
3.  Who hurt you the most?
4.  Who did you hurt the most?
5.  What did you want to be when you grew up?
6.  Who was your idol as a kid?
7.  Who was your idol as a teen?
8.  Who was your first crush?
9.  Who was your first kiss?
10.  Where were you when you had your first kiss?
11.  What was the most painful argument you’ve ever been in?
12.  Did it resolve?
13.  If it resolved, how? If not, why not?
14.  Who is the person who has passed on that you miss the most?
15.  What would you tell them if you’re allowed one more day with them?
16.  Where would you take them?
17.  Why is that place so meaningful to you?
18.  Whether or not you’re married, describe your dream wedding?
19.  Who will you want to be there?
20.  Who do you not want to be there?
21.  What happens to us after we die?
22.  Why is your best friend your best friend?
23.  What is something your best friend knows that nobody else knows?
24.  If you have unlimited money, describe your dream vacation
25.  If you have unlimited money, describe your dream home

Did you notice something about this list? It’s not a simple yes or no list. I made your brain wake up.

Now, you’re ready to write, paint, or compose the next big hit!

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Correcting watercolor mistakes with watercolor ground

If you’re wondering about correcting watercolor mistakes, look no further. Several wonderful companies have created a product called watercolor ground. You paint it on just like you’d used paint. But then, it actually becomes part of the paper and you can paint right over it.

Last night, I had a wonderful evening with the Mrs. We played a board game called Pandemic where you actually work as a team to save the world from pandemic diseases. You either save the world together or you both lose. It’s a cooperative board game, very different from most games.

Anyways, I had a lot of Scotch to drink. I like my Scotch. And I had the bright idea to ink some parts of my watercolor without penciling first. Yeah, ’twas dumb. But it happens.

Well, I inked the armpit lines in the wrong place.

No worries! I simply let the ink dry, then let the watercolor ground do its job.

correcting watercolor mistakes with watercolor ground
Allie posing as Marilyn

I took this shot before I added any paint so you can see my mistake. That’s how the watercolor ground looks like when it’s drying. It’s like white out for watercolors.

Correcting watercolor mistakes

If you’re wondering how to use it, it’s very simple. With the watercolor ground, you simply wet your brush and paint on the watercolor ground over the mistake. Note that it generally takes three layers of ground to cover the mistake completely.

Qor and Daniel Smith both make quality products. To be honest, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend one over the other. They both do a pretty good job at correcting watercolor mistakes.

Qor watercolor ground
Qor Watercolor ground is a pretty good product for correcting watercolor mistakes

That said, I would not recommend using watercolor ground on wood if you’re painting with watercolors. I can’t speak for you, but when I’m painting on wood, I want the wood to show through. The ground when it dries will look like blank watercolor paper.

Remember to wait 24 hours for it to dry. The first time I used it, I made the mistake of waiting only an hour and it didn’t dry completely. So some of it came off when I started painting. I made that mistake already so you don’t have to. (In other words, feel free to learn from my mistakes).

Also, some folks use watercolor ground to paint on weird surfaces. I’ve read about people painting on glass or metal after adding a few layers of watercolor ground. I haven’t tried that yet so I can’t tell you how well that works.

One last thing

Be sure to clean your brush thoroughly after the final layer of ground. Since it dries with the consistency of paper, I imagine it’s hard on your brushes.

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Don’t skimp with cheap watercolor paper

When to use cheap watercolor paper

In the very beginning, I knew that I would paint ten throwaway paintings. When I say throwaway, I mean it literally. They sucked, and ended up in the garbage. So no, you’ll never see them. They’re in a landfill somewhere.

I bought ten sheets of cheap watercolor paper. It didn’t matter since I didn’t know the difference between cheap watercolor paper and the good stuff anyways.

Well, that ten turned into thirty. However, of the next twenty, some of them were actually good enough to give to friends. But none of those first thirty paintings are in the Opium Tales art store. I wasn’t quite ready yet.

Your first ten paintings

For your first ten paintings, you’re more than likely learning and/or experimenting. You already know they’re not going to be good. And yes, that’s a good thing. You have to start somewhere.

I wasn’t doing multiple washes and multiple layerings. I wasn’t doing any of the advanced techniques I do today. There was very little color blending.

I made a lot of mistakes. At first, I used way too much paint. At other times, I used way too much water.

The skin coloring especially was off. Later of course, I got really good at skin coloring. But back then, I painted both Allie and Roxy quite poorly.

When you get better

When you get better, you’re simply going to have to buy better paper. You’re going to be doing advanced stuff like painting multiple washes, wet on wet blending, and other advanced techniques. You’ll push the limits of the paper.

Today, I generally paint on either Arches paper or Blick watercolor blocks. Personally, I love both of them.

You’ll have a preference for paper. That’s personal. It may be completely different than mine and there’s nothing wrong with that. You and I are different people with different tastes.

But, you can’t use the cheap stuff any more. This is a perfect example. When not using a block, I have to tape the paper down or else it will buckle something terrible. I use a lot of water. I push the paper to her limits.

cheap watercolor paper may tear
Notice the tearing?

You can see in the image that the cheap paper actually tore. This is just plain masking tape. With Arches, you’re not going to have that problem. This is only a problem with cheap watercolor paper.

Two more problems with cheap watercolor paper

One, it puddles. The absolute last thing you want (besides a tear) is a puddle. Great way to ruin a painting. Good paper absorbs.

Of course you can still puddle if you’re using way too much water, but I can assure you after you finish your throwaway ten, you’ll learn not to do that. The cheap stuff will have much shorter limits than the good stuff though. That’s what I’m getting at.

And the second problem, I can’t tell if it’s the paper itself or the paint, but there were little crumbles in my water when I’d paint. I’m not a scientist and I don’t have a microscope, so I can’t actually tell what those crumbles are. I can’t tell if they’re the paint crumbling or the paper. Regardless, they’re pretty gross and not something you want in your painting.

I never had a problem with quality watercolor paper like Arches or Blick blocks. (Note that a lot of fans of Blick blocks actually think it’s a way more expensive paper that Blick gets as a discount since they buy such large quantities. Costco does the same thing with Scotch. If you drink Scotch, try the Costco branded Scotch. It’s actually something pretty good).

Archival quality

If you become a serious artist, you need archival quality. That means that the paper if properly taken care of will live hundreds of years after you pass on from this world. This is your legacy we’re talking about. You’re going to want archival quality paper.

Arches is archival quality. Since this is my name we’re talking about, I’m all about it. I want my art to last hundreds of years after my death.

So don’t be cheap when it comes to paper, my friends. Yes, in the very beginning, buy the cheap crap. But when you actually have your legacy on the line, be sure it’s archival quality paper.

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Music to paint to

music to paint to

What music do you paint to? And does music help set the mood for your painting?

Since I’m doing more fantasy pinup art, I like music that helps the setting.

I have eclectic tastes. They range from pretty heavy to pretty deep. But a lot of my music totally fits my paintings’ themes.

Heavy Metal is great music to paint to

“What? You paint to Heavy Metal?”

Of course I paint to Heavy Metal. What other genre even touches fantasy a fraction of what Metal does?

I paint a lot of fantasy femme fatales. Metal music totally fits the attitude that these bad girls have.

From the Golden Age of Metal, I love Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, etc. Recently, I like HIM, High on Fire, Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, and Nightwish.

All these bands have both lyrics and attitudes that totally fit my bad girls.

Non-Metal music that I love to paint to

Sometimes, I need something softer. For those moods, Loreena McKinnett, Blackmore’s Night, Enya, and random Celtic stations from the Internet radio do wonders for my paintings.

McKinnett and Blackmore’s Night especially. Their lyrics and moods are totally fantasy. For painting background music, they’re downright awesome.

Celtic music is great music! It’s just so alive. So real.

For random background music, I’ll take Celtic music above anything else. I’ve bought CDs from live Celtic acts we’ve seen anywhere from Celtic pubs to farmers’ markets. I don’t have a drop of Irish blood. But I sure love their music. (And their women!)

Classical music

And of course Classical music. Except I’m quite particular when it comes to Classical. I love the Romantic era. If you’re wondering who they are – Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner, Mendelssohn, Chopin, etc.

They all had themes and sometimes even the characters that I paint. I would have loved to have been alive back then and heard that music while the composers were still alive. Imagine being alive to see your heroes actually conducting their own music!

So what about you?

What do you paint to? Does your music fit your painting? Why or why not? And, does it make a difference?

Photo credits

Loreena McKennitt – performing at the InterCeltic Festival at Lorient, Brittany in August 2008. Photographed by Maelor
Blackmore’s Night – live at the Tarrytown Music Hall, October 2012. Photographed by Nsoveiko
Beethoven – Painting by Mähler, 1815
Judas Priest – Live in 2005 Moline, Illinois. Photograph by Zach Petersen
Tchaikovsky painted by Nikolai Dimitriyevich Kuznetsov

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Do evil witches throw the salt over their right shoulder?

If you’re not a Southerner, you may not get that joke. In the old days, salt wasn’t exactly cheap. So spilling the table salt wasn’t exactly a small deal.

Well, back then, Americans had tons of superstitions that we’ve eventually forgotten about. One of them was throwing salt over your left shoulder when you spilled the salt.

You see, everyone has a guardian angel on their right shoulder. This guardian angel looks over you and tries to prevent you from doing something naughty.

evil witches cast evil spells
Witch casting a Sleep spell

You also have a little devil on your right shoulder who tries to get you into trouble. Like spilling salt for instance. That’s why you’ll see a Southerner take a pinch of the salt and throw it into her little devil’s eyes, to teach that little devil a lesson.

Evil Witches are naughty

Well, we all know evil witches are naughty. I’m not talking about the good witches like your fairy godmother. I’m talking about the bad ones. You know, the ones that are trying to trick you out of your earnings, or even trying to trick your kids into their ovens.

Contrary to popular opinion though, bad witches don’t eat kids. They’re feeding their familiars. That’s another thing those old fairy tales get wrong.

Anyways, evil witches still like to eat. And they still have salt shakers on their tables.

evil witch casting spell
She’s the type of witch you don’t want to piss off

Do you think evil witches can be careless and accidentally knock over the salt? Why of course! Why do you think clever kids are always outsmarting them? They got their minds on too many things. (There might be a life lesson there for you and me).

So when an evil witch knocks over the table salt, they take a pinch and throw it over their right shoulder to teach their guardian angel a lesson. After all, why punish the one to help improve your naughtiness?

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Artists I like – John William Waterhouse

In high school, I listened to Heavy Metal music and also played Dungeons and Dragons. Back in those days, I hung out at the mall with friends and girlfriends. The mall had this one poster shop and I immediately fell in love with a specific painting.

I’d been doing physical labor on the side so I always had cash on me. I’m surprised nowadays that kids don’t go door to door asking to mow people’s lawns or pester people about possible work they could do for them. Like cleaning the gutters. Or even raking their leaves. I don’t know about you, but I loved having money as a kid.

Anyways, right on the spot, I bought that poster. I took it home and hung it up next to all my Heavy Metal posters. I thought it fit in well thematically.

John William Waterhouse - La Belle Dame Sans Merci
La Belle Dame Sans Merci (1893)

Cultured kid

No. I didn’t know who John William Waterhouse or the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood were. However even as a kid, I liked Tchaikovsky, Brahms, and Beethoven. (As an adult that changed to Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and Brahms).

So years later, I started studying Western art and Western lit. I knew what I liked. I knew what I didn’t like.

Modernism – you can have it. Looks more like something some pretentious jerk would do and think he’s better than anyone else because they didn’t “get it.”

Now the Pre-Raphaelites, I liked. A lot.

I also liked American pinup artists. More on them another day.

About John William Waterhouse

John William Waterhouse was late to the party. The Pre-Raphaelites had already broken up. But as a more Academic artist, he later fell in love with the Pre-Raphaelites’ works and adopted that style.

I’ll skip over his older style. It’s excellent. But I think his later style has way more emotion.

Waterhouse was born in Rome in 1849 but moved to England as a small child. His parents were already painters, so he grew up in an artistic household. He grew up sketching paintings in London’s great museums. In 1871, he entered the Royal Academy of Art.

I’m not going to do a formal biography. You can get that from anywhere. Rather, I’m going to focus on his works from his Pre-Raphaelite period.

What is the Pre-Raphaelite style?

The name “Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood” came from the great artist Raphael. Note the “pre” as they emphasized before Raphael. They hated Mannerism with a passion.

Their four doctrines were the following:

  • to have genuine ideas to express;
  • to study Nature attentively, so as to know how to express them;
  • to sympathise with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art,
  • to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parading and learned by rote; and most indispensable of all, to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues.

Now to them, Classicism wasn’t bad. It was just a different movement, based on the Classical world. The Pre-Raphaelites still picked up some of the characters and themes from Classicism. Which makes the differentiation confusing to the average art lover.

But let’s go there because I think it’s a perfect opportunity to see the difference between the Pre-Raphaelites and your day-to-day academic painter. Let’s say a Pre-Raphaelite and an academic painter both have to paint Aphrodite. The academic painter would paint Aphrodite in a stereotypical posed style with a posed background. The Pre-Raphaelite would make it look natural, or real, like you were right there seeing it happen. That painting would feel more alive.

Waterhouse’s style vs the other Pre-Raphaelites

Where Waterhouse differentiates from the others is in his Medievalism. That’s actually the Waterhouse I’ve come to know and love.

For the record, not all the Pre-Raphaelites went that route. Of the group, I favor the Medievalists. Personal taste.

Several of the Pre-Raphaelites did go the Medieval route. Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones started that branch. Waterhouse followed in their footsteps a generation later. I happen to love all three of their styles.

Medieval and fantasy characters

This is the John William Waterhouse that made me a fan. The Pre-Raphaelites often had Christian themes. Like I mentioned, some had Medieval themes. And some took a fantasy direction. They didn’t have concrete rules for themes, other than respecting nature, having a solid idea to portray, and being pretty fucking good as an artist. You couldn’t slap the label on if you were a hack.

Waterhouse is my favorite for the direction he took. I love his themes.

I first heard about the Lady of Shalott from Loreena McKennitt, of whom I’m a huge fan. When I saw the painting, I only saw a beautiful redhead as I was a kid. I didn’t know the meaning of it.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote the poem based on one of the Arthurian characters. Several of the Pre-Raphaelites were fans of Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Another thing I want to mention. Waterhouse is not only not one of the originals Pre-Raphaelites. He’s an entirely new generation adopting that style. He got into the style in the 1880s, long after the originals unofficially dissolved.

Also note that I argue Pre-Raphaelites were a subset of Romanticism. Some art historians agree with me and some don’t. Art historians are always arguing over semantics.

Since they loved nature, revered beauty and awe, and glorified Medievalism, they definitely fit within Romanticism. Those are some of the biggest tenets of Romanticism.

Anyways, let’s look at some of his fantasy characters. If you played any fantasy RPG, you’ll immediately recognize these creatures.

John William Waterhouse - A Naiad
A Naiad (1893)
Waterhouse - The Siren
The Siren (1900)
Waterhouse - A Mermaid
A Mermaid – 1901

If today, you know the difference between a Naiad, a Siren, and a Mermaid, chances are, you’re a fantasy gamer. Or you watch a lot of anime.


Ophelia is a Shakespearean character and also a recurring character amongst the Pre-Raphaelites. Lizzie Siddal modeled for John Everett Millais back in 1852. Waterhouse painted this character three times.

Ophelia is a tragic heroine who you know is going to die when reading Hamlet. She’s fierce, independent, and quite intelligent, but there’s a sadness to her as we see her fate coming.

Or maybe we don’t. Maybe I’ve read too much into her. Regardless, those of us who love Shakespeare find her one of the more fascinating characters.

Obviously, so did the Pre-Raphaelites. Like I just said, Millais painted her back in 1852 using a lady I’m obsessed with, Lizzie Siddal, as his model. Dante Gabriel Rossetti used Ophelia as a subject for his art as well. A generation later, so did Waterhouse.

I liked all three of Waterhouse’s Ophelia paintings, but prefer his second for her beauty and the third for her emotion. The third, she looks like she’s about to lose it. Let me know which one you prefer.

Waterhouse's Ophelia 1889
Ophelia (1889)
Waterhouse's Ophelia 1894
Ophelia (1894)
Waterhouse's Ophelia 1910
Ophelia (1910)

Time frame

John William Waterhouse was born in 1849, when the Pre-Raphaelites barely started. So keep in mind, he adopted the style a generation after. He was far from one of the originals.

In fact, Waterhouse didn’t even paint in this style until the 1880s. So he was a Pre-Raphaelite from the 1880s until his death in 1917.

The Lady of Shalott

Do you know the story of the Lady of Shalott? It’s one of Loreena McKennitt’s most epic songs from her album The Visit, one of my favorites of hers.

The Lady of Shalott’s an Arthurian character, created by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in 1832. Some of the Pre-Raphaelites were big fans of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poetry.

Anyways, she’s a young noble woman imprisoned in a tower, another tragic character. She also dies tragically.

She’s told that if she gazes at Sir Lancelot, she’d be cursed. Some claim it’s a metaphor for suicide. Some say she’s defiant.

The poem explicitly states that she knows not what the curse may be. So I’m not sure where people get the suicide claim from.

Towards the end of the poem, she takes off in a boat towards Lancelot after seeing how beautiful he is. She of course dies on the route, but not before Lancelot and others see just how beautiful she herself is.

Waterhouse obviously saw her as a great tragic character to paint as he painted her three times.

The Lady of Shalott
The Lady of Shalott (1888)
The Lady of Shallot Looking at Lancelot
The Lady of Shalott Looking at Lancelot (1894)
“I Am Half-Sick of Shadows” Said the Lady of Shallot (1915)

Hylas and the Nymphs and 2018 British Censorship

In January 2018, the Manchester Art Gallery removed this gorgeous painting because it was offensive. Think about this for a second. You know how the Victorians were supposed to be sexually oppressed? Yet, what is normal to them is now offensive by today’s standards? Talk about sexually oppressed!

I initially wrote up a long rant about this. However, it was so laden with profanities that I decided to remove it. I value freedom and beauty above all else and have an absolute hatred of those who would attempt to ban either. We’ll just keep it at that.

Hylas and the Nymphs
Hylas and the Nymphs (1896)
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Seven color watercolor palette

7 color watercolor palette

There’s an old adage that you should be able to cut down to six colors if you had to. You know what? There’s no way I can. I need seven.

So I’m going to break the rules and cut down to a seven color watercolor palette. What’s in my watercolor palette? Keep reading and I’ll not only explain my colors; I’ll also explain my reasoning.

Now, if your subjects are different than mine, you’re going to use different colors. That’s just how it is. For instance, if you like painting flowers or birds, you’re not going to obsess over your human model’s skin and hair coloring. Likewise, if you’re painting deserts, you’re going to have desert colors.

Nobody is right or wrong. Colors depend on your subject. And also your style.

Watercolor palette for this pinup artist

I paint fantasy pinups. My main model is a blonde. My secondary model is a brunette.

I love painting them both. I just happen to paint Allie a lot more than Roxy since I see Allie a lot more.

So now let’s do colors. I wrote an article on how I paint skin colors awhile back. I use Titanium White and Burnt Sienna as my primary two colors. For my secondary two colors, I use Hansa Yellow Medium and Perylene Red. All Daniel Smith. That’s because Daniel Smith is what I’m used to. I also like how big and vibrant that brand’s colors are.

That’s four colors right there. I need all four of them for skin colors alone.

If you look closely at your model’s skin, it’s not one color. You have everything from shading to bruises/scars to veins to birthmarks to moles, and everything else. But, I don’t go into super detail. I’m aiming more for beauty. I’m a pinup artist after all, not a super duper realist.


That shade of yellow also doubles as Allie’s hair color.

Speaking of hair, Roxy’s a brunette. I won’t include a brown in my seven color watercolor palette, but more on that in a bit.


I paint a lot of mermaids, so I’ll need some kind of underwater blue. My favorite blue I’ve found for water so far? French Ultramarine. I absolutely love that color!

I use that color both for water and also for eye color. For blue eyes, it’s the best.

That’s now five. Two more to go.


Yes, you can get a green from mixing yellow and blue. But, I really like Hooker’s Green. It looks fabulous for green eyes when slightly watered down. It also makes brown when mixed 50/50 with Perylene Red. I use that brown for Roxy’s hair. She’s got gorgeous long dark brown hair in real life. I hope she keeps her hair long forever. I have a thing for long hair.

And for number seven – Rose of Ultramarine. Yes, you can get a purple from mixing blue and red. But, this is a special purple. A more rose purple, except it looks like something you’ll see underwater.

It’s the main color I use for mermaid tails. Also, I love using it in my witches’ skirts. I worked it in to most of their skirts.

For black, you can make a real nice watercolor black with yellow, blue, and red. You use a pinch of yellow with a healthy mix of both blue and red, and you’ll end up with a deep black. It’s like a purple black. Real nice looking color.

If I had more colors to work with

I use gold in most of my paintings. Long story short, I bought gold watercolor ground, having no idea what watercolor ground was at the time. So here I am with this big jar of gold. So I decided, I needed to use it.

Then and there, I decided that Allie’s characters will always get a double golden bracelet on her left arm and Roxy will get a gold necklace. In real life, Roxy wears a lot more jewelry. But I wanted to use that gold, so that’s what I decided I’d do.

When I get a third model, I’ll probably give her gold somewhere else. Like maybe a gold headband or golden rings. I haven’t decided yet. Whatever it is, it will have to fit her personality. But that’s in the future.

I’d also get a real black. I hate mixing black. It’s actually hard to replicate. Although yes, that black I mix is nice, it’s never the same twice.

I don’t need a pink since I get my nipple pink from watering down the Perylene Red. That’s one of the magics with watercolors. Water itself actually changes the colors.

What would you use?

If you had an evil witch who broke into your home and had a wand to your head, and said that she’d turn you into frog if you didn’t get rid of everything but seven colors, which seven would you cut down to? And, could you do six? I’d really, really have a problem cutting down to six. But since she has a wand to my head, goodbye Rose of Ultramarine.

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There’s a Hellhound on my trail

hellhound on my trail

Hellhound on my trail. Some of you will know that as a Robert Johnson song from the 1930s.

Ah yes. The Mississippi Delta Blues. That’s where it all came from.

But who was Robert Johnson and did he really sell his soul to the Devil? Well, I can only tell you the legend.

The Crossroads

Historians aren’t sure which crossroads in Mississippi they referred to when Robert Johnson encountered a large black man who tuned his guitar for him. Suddenly, Johnson went from being a mediocre guitarist to the greatest bluesman of his day.

The Devil supposedly also gave him power over the ladies. Too much in fact. So much that it literally got him killed, no matter which legend of his death you believe.

Hellhound on my trail and foreshadowing

Johnson wrote a lot of interesting songs. If you’re wondering, no, I can’t play Johnson. I’m actually quite bad with the acoustic guitar. I only play electric guitar and piano.

But yes, I did study Robert Johnson. Had to. Historically he’s one of the most important figures in American music.

If you listen to the song Hellhound on my trail, it foreshadows his upcoming death, and how he wanted to be with a certain woman. Who was that woman? Who knows?

There are two legends of his death. One, he flirted with a married woman. So her husband gave him a bottle of poisoned liquor. Johnson was unaware that man was her husband.

Supposedly, Johnson’s buddy knocked the bottle out of his hand and scolded him to never drink a bottle that he didn’t open. So already being drunk, the husband gave Johnson another bottle and Johnson drank it, felt sick, and died a day or two later.

Robert Johnson - Hellhound on  my trail
Robert Johnson not too long before he died in 1938 at the age of only 27

Now the other legend is that a white doctor examined his corpse and said that Johnson died of syphilis.

Either way, Johnson’s womanizing got him killed. Literally.

“What is a hellhound?”

A hellhound is a dog that tracks a damned man. Once the dog catches the damned man, the man dies and the Devil gets his soul.

Johnson was always on the run, knowing it was only a matter of time before the hellhound would find him.

I use a hellhound in my evil witches and their familiars series. It takes a very powerful witch to be able to summon a hellhound and actually somewhat control it. Hellhounds are straight from Hell, and are immortal. The Devil uses them to track down people when their time is up. The cursed man runs, but the hellhound will always eventually catch him.

Other Faustian legends

Robert Johnson wasn’t the only great musician who supposedly sold his soul to the Devil for musical greatness. Niccolò Paganini supposedly did as well.

Niccolò Paganini
Niccolò Paganini supposedly sold his soul to be the greatest violinist of his lifetime

Paganini wrote the 24 Caprices which are now standard for violinists. For his time though, he was head and shoulders above his competition.

Legend has it that Paganini sold his soul on a Devil’s Bridge, an ancient bridge in Europe. So interestingly, we have a crossroads and a devil’s bridge.

He was too a womanizer and it was said that his playing actually made beautiful women faint. And quite wet. How much of that is true and how much is a legend? Who knows?

He became quite famous in the 1820s and was even honored by the Pope. But, he too developed syphilis. Unfortunately, doctors didn’t know shit about anything back then and gave him mercury and opium to treat the syphilis. You could guess what happens next.

Paganini died in 1840, although there was no talk of a hellhound stalking him. Just rumors of him selling his soul earlier to become the greatest violinist of his day.

Robert Johnson and Niccolò Paganini weren’t the only two musicians to have sold their souls to the Devil for greatness. They’re just the two most famous.

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Sometimes our modeling sessions are random…

And sometimes our modeling sessions are planned.

Allie and Roxy have both been with me since the beginning. They’re both very different models.

The funny thing is, neither of them started off as models. It just happened that way.

I’m in fact the only person they model for. We’re friends that turned into models.

Both love modeling

Despite what some people tell you, women love to feel beautiful. It’s a great feeling. Just like a man likes to feel manly. If he’s not strong, there are other ways to be manly. Like building a successful business for instance. Or writing the Great American Novel. What could be manlier than writing a novel under the influence of copious amounts of Scotch and tobacco that generations later still gets assigned in college?

There are moments when we’re in a zone. Where the modeling sessions turn out perfect. Where I can get three or four worthy paintings from one session.

It’s a great feeling indeed. We both know it. We both can feel it. It would be the equivalent of when a band executes a song in the studio and they know that that’s the one.

Allie from one of the more random modeling sessions
I turned this pose into a mermaid

Allie warmed up to modeling faster. When Roxy did, she really did. But she didn’t warm up as fast as Allie did.

Almost all my paintings though are of Allie because Roxy’s hard to get a hold of. I don’t take it personally. That’s just how she is. If you knew her personally, you’ll understand.

Allie’s very dependable. And predictable. She’d probably make a kick ass accountant.

Sometimes I have an inspiration

Sometimes before the modeling session, I’ll have an idea where we want to go. Like the upcoming one with Allie, we already planned witches. She’ll have evil faces and evil gestures prepared.

I’ve got my evil witches and their evil familiars series started already. I just finished the second painting. But I need two more.

The imp was the easiest one to do. So many ways to draw an imp. For this one, the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz were my inspiration. I remember seeing those as a kid and they scared the hell out of me.

What a thing to be scared of! Evil flying monkeys? Yeah, they scared me big time.

For the second painting, I did the evil witch and her nightmare familiar. I painted her with red hair. She looks more creepy than beautiful, which is great! It’s good to mix things up. I’ve done straight beautiful for too long.

Quick background – the evil witch with a nightmare familiar is the worst in combat. They attack you in your dreams. Not directly.

Special moments

The very last time I saw Roxy, she was really getting into her poses. I got some spectacular sketches from that session that I’ll turn into paintings later.

It was a special moment. There I was with pencil in hand and she was in front of me, fully nude except for her jewelry. Roxy loves her jewelry.

It felt so right. Every pose she did looked cute.

She has a huge smile with each one. She may have even laughed a little.

It’s hard to get Roxy to laugh. It’s hard enough to get her to smile. Roxy’s a totally different kind of girl. More serious, straight up.

When I said Allie would be a good accountant, I didn’t mean the boring ass accountant stereotype who never leaves the house and just crunches numbers. I’m talking more about responsibility, dependability, and memory, who will every once in awhile let loose big time. Allie has all in boatloads.

femme fatale castle on fire
Femme Fatale burning down the castle

Roxy though is so different. There’s a sadness to her, which I secretly find intriguing. I hope she’s not reading this and mad at me. But I promised I’d never use her full name anyways. It’s not like there’s only one Roxy in America who’s a brunette with long hair and a killer body.

I do miss that girl big time. She sent me a text last week that she misses me. But no word when we’re going to get together next.

That’s her to a T. Uncertainty ought to be her middle name.

That may be why I treasure time with her so much. I see her so rarely.

I don’t show my sketches

My sketchbook is mostly notes. I never learned to shade correctly. My shading almost looks childish.

When I actually paint, I keep the sketch by my side when I’m painting so I can see where to put the shadowing. I also note where and how the muscles move. And where I can see traces of bones and tendons through the skin.

My painting is better than my sketching. My outlines however look pretty good. I’ll share those. But you don’t get to see my shading techniques until they’re translated into paint.

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Artists I like – Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein

Awhile back, I talked about how I recorded two songs with David Lichtenstein. It’s funny. I’ve always thought it must be tough being the child of someone famous. You’re always living in their shadows.

People will often compare you to them. For instance, I’d hate to be Walter Payton’s or Barry Sander’s sons. I of course wish them the best and hope they’re happy. But could you imagine what it would be like if your father was arguably the best player at his position of his generation? People will compare you, whether you’d like them to or not.

David though went an entirely different route. He got into music instead. He’s got a fat studio in Oakland, and if you’re recording any music and can afford that studio, you may want to look him up. Super nice guy!

I knew Roy Lichtenstein from Houston

I don’t remember the gallery name. But the very first time I saw his work, I admired it. No, not loved it. Admired it. Two completely different feelings.

I admired his work because it’s so grand. The cover image is of Roy Lichtenstein back in 1967. Credit to Eric Koch for Nationaal Archief for the photograph.

Anyways, it’s grand. It’s big. And it works.

Some folks hated it as pop art. I get it.

But, it works. Photos don’t give it justice. You have to see it in person.

I’ve seen a lot of art over the years. I’ve also bought a lot of art over the years. I forget almost everything I’ve seen. I’ve even forgot about pieces I’ve purchased. If I remember your work, that’s a huge compliment. I’ll always remember Lichtenstein’s work.

The big bucks

It’s funny. I’m always hearing from kids that their parents try to discourage them from taking art seriously. I think that’s the most stupid thing you can do to your kid.

So you’re worried about money? Well, hate to break it to you. Unless you’re a nurse or a doctor, there’s no job security. Even highly coveted jobs now may become obsolete in a decade or two. You might as well do something you love.

But then, to rub it in their faces, I talk about how I recorded two songs with David Lichtenstein. And I tell them how much their paintings are worth.

Masterpiece recently sold for $165 million. That makes six paintings over $40 million. That’s a lot of money.

Not that I’m even trying to make that much. Yeah, I hope after I’m dead, my paintings go for insane amounts. I’m just throwing that out there. I’ve seen the featured painting in real life. So yes, in this Artists I like series, I definitely want to throw Roy Lichtenstein’s name in the ring.