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Have you ever questioned your artistic purpose?

Artists, writers, and other creative people – have you ever questioned your artistic purpose?

Why are you creating art or literature?

Now, it’s perfectly acceptable to say “I don’t know.” It’s also perfectly acceptable to say that you’re creating because your inner demons make you. You just let it all flow. That’s totally fine.

I’ve talked about artistic statements before and how important they are. If you’re planning on selling your art, it definitely helps to have one. For at least you’ll have a somewhat “elevator speech” when they start asking you all kinds of questions.

My purpose

I’ve pondered. I write the music out of love. But for my paintings, it’s something completely different.

Opium Tales Allie
Allie

I think the world today is too serious. Look around you. You’ll see a lack of something. You’ll see a lack of people really enjoying life.

They’re way too serious. Afraid of the world. Doom and gloom. They’re really living to get through life rather than to really live life.

Your average person walking downtown looks like they haven’t taken a good shit in weeks. And they also look like they don’t enjoy their jobs. Their family doesn’t like them. And they’re just going through the motions.

Why is this?

I think it’s twofold. You have a doom and gloom media. Doom and gloom sells. So that’s all they blast you with. All day long.

I turn off the news for weeks at a time. Most of it is meaningless drivel anyways. It’s always bad news because bad news sells. Imagine being bombarded by bad news all the time. Imagine what that would do to your psyche.

And the second? A lack of beauty.

That’s where I come in.

Beauty for beauty’s sake

My art aims for one thing and one thing only – beauty.

I got these two beautiful models that I work with on a regular basis and a few more models that I work with occasionally. They’re all beautiful. They all qualify to be my pinup models. I set high standards for beauty but also for personality. They have to be the right fit.

I create beauty. And I want my models to exude personality as I want to reflect it in my paintings.

Frank Frazetta did this very well. So did Gil Elvgren. And Olivia De Bernardinis. You get a little bit of personality with their beautiful paintings.

Beauty alone can make someone’s day significantly better. And better days mean more peace and less crime. I’m trying to do my part to make this world a better place.

Yes, seriously.

Opium Tales Roxy
Roxy

I don’t like cynicism

Cynicism is useless. It accomplishes nothing.

Sure, things don’t work off the bat most of the time. So, sit around and do nothing? That’s just stupid!

When I meet someone who’s cynical, they’re almost always lazy. They’ll tell you how something won’t work without even putting the effort needed to make it work.

This is most cynical people in a nutshell. They’ve bought into the doom and gloom media bullshit and they’re already defeated before they even put out the effort.

So, they expect you to feel the same way.

Well guess what? I don’t.

I’m living proof that you could have a great life starting from nothing. Yes, I started from nothing. I’m not going to go into my personal story that much because it’s personal. I’ll write an autobiography someday and publish it posthumously. I got too many demons that I’d rather the world didn’t know about.

So yes, my life didn’t exactly start off great.

But you know what? Fuck it. I’m going to live regardless. I’m not going to sit around and whine and feel sorry for myself. Rather, I’m going to create something beautiful. And I’m going to seek out beauty in this world because I’ve already seen there’s still plenty of it.

My music? It’s beautiful. My art? It’s beautiful.

I’ll also surround myself with people who aren’t cynical. Rather, people who are full of life. Who want to live. Who want to get the most out of life.

And that, my dear reader, is my artistic purpose.

What is yours?

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There is no negative correlation between beauty and intelligence

Opium Tales Allie and Roxy

This, my friends, is something that actually gets under my skin. We have a media that loves to play to people’s insecurities, and loves to bring down those who have it, whatever it is.

Jealousy, I can assure you, is a pathetic trait. It serves no purpose and accomplishes absolutely nothing. Jealousy is especially poisonous if you’re any type of artist. All it does is burn bridges. And you want bridges open, especially in a highly competitive industry like yours and mine.

Today’s media loves to promote a negative correlation between beauty and intelligence. They love to portray beautiful people as stupid.

You know what? That’s all lies. Beautiful people on average are actually smarter than average as there are genetic reasons for human preferences.

I’m married now but if I were young and single, I’d be looking for a smart woman because I want smart kids. And I’d be looking for a beautiful woman because I want beautiful kids.

I had absolutely no problem finding both qualities in the same woman. So many examples in real life of smart, beautiful women. I had a lot of opportunity. And I got one.

Why are they doing this?

There are two types of people who love to promote this myth. And you guessed it – one from each gender.

You got men who are bitter towards women. Yes, you can use the word misogynistic if you’d prefer. And you’d be correct. They are bitter for whatever reasons. A horrible relationship with their mothers. Bad luck with women. Whatever the cause.

So, rather than look inside and see what they could improve, they blame women. And make statements like if she’s beautiful, she must be stupid.

Then, you got the women who hate other women. Yes, I’ve met plenty of these in my lifetime. In fact, I’d argue that there’s more misogyny amongst women than there is amongst men. But I could save that for a later post. Let’s not go off on a tangent here.

You got women who are short in the looks department. So rather than do the work required to improve, they make statements that beautiful women are stupid.

Allie and Roxy are both above average in intelligence

Now, I’m not saying this because they’re my buds. But it’s true. Allie and Roxy are both above average in intelligence. They just happen to both be beautiful.

My wife too is both beautiful and intelligent. Does she get shit for it? Of course she does!

It amazes me how insecure others are. Rather than trying to raise their own value, they’d rather cut others down.

I don’t get it. I’m far from perfect. But, I’m always trying to get better.

Whatever my flaws, I either accept them or work on improving them. The last thing you’ll see me do is try to bring someone else down because they’re better at something than me. That’s just dumb. If anything, I’d want to hire them to teach me how to improve that area.

So yes, I’d go far as saying that the average beautiful woman is actually smarter than average.

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Fantasy inspirations are unlimited

Are you a fantasy artist or a fantasy writer? And you’re wondering what to do next? You’re trying to write or paint but drawing a blank?

Well, worry no more. Bookmark this article and you’ll never run out of ideas again.

Characters

First, let’s talk characters. You have your lead character and your secondary characters. Are they human? What about the secondary characters? They don’t have to be human as well. They could be a humanoid race like elves, fairies, dwarves, goblins, orcs, ogres, genies, pixies, mermaids, giants, trolls, or even Gods, Goddesses, or Demi-Gods. Or the son or daughter of a God or Goddess.

Heck, they don’t even need to be humanoid. They could be dragons, unicorns, or even talking animals or familiars. Keep in mind that certain creatures can take forms of humans. I’ve even painted selkies before.

Quests

Now that you have your main character and characters, you need a reason for the story. What are they doing?

A common theme I’ve seen recently is a “bad creature” trying to be good and fit in with society. For instance, an ogre who’s now a good cop. Or an orc detective.

Sometimes, a race splits and you have to correct it. Like a race of elves goes totally evil and you need to rein them in.

Or, the old rescue mission. Rescue the princess from a dragon sacrifice? There’s been plenty of that in the old days. Why not do it again?

I know my son likes that Goblin Slayer cartoon. That’s a great one. People think goblins are easy. Until, they try to do it themselves. I could come up with three or four similar themes immediately.

Rescuing a thing. Or else. Something if not discovered in time will blow up a city. Some powerful artifact might fall into the wrong hands.

A bad guy needs to be reasoned with. Or slain. Something really big is at stake.

Settings

This is easy. You’re creating a fantasy world.

Simply take settings we have here. And exaggerate them.

The seas. The forests. The deserts. Mountains. Hills. Caves.

I’ve recently ventured into Sci-Fi territory. Except using Ancient Greek Goddesses. Why not?

The only limits in a fantasy world you have are the ones you give yourself. You’re literally allowed to do anything in the fantasy realm. That’s why it’s called fantasy. Your fantasy world gets to break all our earthly rules.

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Painting with honey watercolors, Part II

One thing about being an artist – your opinions will change. You’ll have your favorites. And something else will come along and you’ll end up liking it even better.

We are constantly evolving. Constantly. All of us.

Not too long ago, I wrote an article on how important is watercolor paint brand. Well, I’ve already changed my opinion since then.

This shit will happen to us. We’ll like something. And like something else just as much. Then, suddenly fall in love with something and realize those two previous things just weren’t as good.

I now like Sennelier watercolors more than Daniel Smith, Winsor and Newton, or Blick’s artist brand. Just my personal opinion, but one formed after serious time spent painting.

Smells better

I’m probably one of the only people you’ll ever meet who even cares about this one. Regardless, I’ll say it anyways. As I’ve previously discussed, I’m nearly blind and it’s made my other senses way more sensitive. I absolutely love the smell of both Sennelier watercolors and M Graham gouaches, both made with honey.

You use way less paint

I ended up getting a Sennelier travel set. They come in smaller tubes than I’m used to buying.

But that’s OK.

I’m no scientist, but I’m obviously using less paint when using honey based watercolors. These tubes are going to last much longer than the non-honey based watercolor paints.

This is a good thing since I’m painting constantly. Sure, they cost more. But considering how well they spread, I have a feeling the cost is really a wash.

Mixes easier

I’m one of the rare watercolor artists who really don’t mix that much. The only time I’m mixing a lot is when I get my skin tones with watercolors.

That said, I made a new batch of skin tones. And you know what? Super easy to mix! Way easier than the other paints I’ve used.

After five layers of paint - all Sennelier watercolors
After five layers of paint – all Sennelier watercolors

Learning curve

Well, not everything is a-ok. It’s a bit of a learning curve to use these honey based paints. I’m used to using the other ones and the washes are a bit different. The mixes are a bit different.

How I paint skin tones is a bit different as well. The burnt sienna really pops through. I do something that you’re not supposed to do with watercolor. You’re supposed to paint light to dark. Well, for layer five, I do a burnt sienna layer. Then paint my skin tone layer over that layer twice (for a total of seven layers).

The burnt sienna really shows through with the honey watercolors. Way more than when I used the non-honey watercolors.

As I’ve mentioned – a bit of a learning curve. I simply learned to use less burnt sienna with the honey watercolors then I’ll use with the non-honey watercolors.

Also, you’re going to have to clean your brush a little bit better. You know how you swirl it around in your jar? Well, expect to do it a bit longer. Not too much. But it’s noticeable. This for me is by no means a deal breaker. I don’t mind at all.

Colors?

Daniel Smith wins with total colors. I’m still going to buy DS’s luminescent watercolors. I especially love that blue one that I always use. It’s great for mermaid tail blends and for eye colors. Nothing like luminescent blue eyes in my fantasy world pinup girls.

I’ve heard some people say that the honey based paints are bolder. Honestly? Hard to say. Daniel Smith has some bold colors as well. Winsor and Newton appear more subdued and old fashioned to me. I do love those both though for those specific reasons. Sometimes you want bold. Sometimes you want subdued.

So honestly, I don’t really have a preference when it comes to colors.

What wins me over is I’m just having so much fun with these. It’s like when I got a Paul Reed Smith guitar. I loved my Ibanez and my Schecter already. But the PRS was just better. Why? Because of intangibles.

You may look at the intangibles I’ve listed and think I’m off my rocker. That’s totally fine. I may be nuts. But, I do make some pretty good pinups.

Selene's Rangers - Guardians of the Moon
Selene’s Rangers – Guardians of the Moon

This is Allie in all three poses. Mostly Sennelier watercolors and M Graham gouaches, but with Daniel Smith’s Moonglow for the moon (I love that color) and Daniel Smith’s luminescent paints for a lot of the rocket. I also use Daniel Smith’s Rose of Ultramarine for their eye shadow. I’m really fond of that color.

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Similar poses for the win

Every morning, I do a quick five minute sketch. This is one of the best things an artist could possibly do to improve his or her technique.

You get good at drawing at a decent pace. The timer is brutal. As it should be. No forgiveness. No mercy.

You get good at managing your time with the pencil. You simply learn to not waste time.

This ends up applying to other things as well. You’ll notice you’ll find your more efficient at other aspects of your life.

Gratitude

But, I also want to mention, I also start off mornings with gratitude. I say what I’m thankful for.

And this morning? Allie.

Allie is a rock. She’s very reliable. Very responsible.

If you haven’t been reading this blog, long story short, I’m married with an adult son. But I have two models that I use regularly. Allie is the blonde and Roxy is the brunette.

I see Allie more than twice as much as Roxy though. Allie is way more reliable.

Similar poses

Anyways, every week, we look for poses. And sometimes, we’ll do a similar pose.

Yes, I’m a fantasy pinup artist. But lately, I’ve been doing a lot of space themed ones. Coming up, I’m working on a larger painting called Selene’s Rangerettes – Defenders of the Moon.

Sounds cheesy? It’s supposed to. It’s an homage to that old sci-fi except this time, with the women naked. Because I’m a pinup artist first. Every once in awhile, I’ll do something outside of the fantasy realm.

Selene is the Ancient Greek Moon Goddess. I’ve painted Allie modeling for Selene several times now.

Selene Greek Moon Goddess
First time painting Selene
Second time painting Selene
Second time painting Selene

So I painted those two similar poses. And you know what? I’m getting more and more comfortable with those poses.

Try it! Hopefully you have a reliable model you can work with.

Not gonna stop

After I did that last one, I did the one listed in my latest blog post about how technique is more important than the tools you’re using. And now I’m doing yet another one – that Selene’s Rangerettes.

When it comes to ideas, why not take something old and make something new out of it? Do you think the Greek Gods and Goddesses still do all the same stuff they did 500 years BC?

I’m doing Selene’s minions with rockets and laser guns. Because, why not?

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Technique over Tools

A good artist will produce better art with cheap crayons than a bad artist with the absolute best oils, acrylics, or watercolors. That’s just a fact. You know it. I know it. Everyone knows this.

Just like give a guy like Carlos Santana or Jimi Hendrix a cheap guitar and have him battle a newbie guitarist. We all know who we’d rather hear, even with the cheap guitar.

That said, we’re all searching for the right tools. Watercolor artists are the craziest. We’re always looking for the right surface, whether it’s painting on wood, the best paper, or even experimenting on canvas (yes, the watercolors will slide right off so you’ll have to use some watercolor ground). We’re always looking for the right paints, the right brushes, etc.

The same goes with guitarists. Sometimes you’ll see a guitarist who falls in love with one guitar and uses it forever. Like Brian May of Queen or BB King with Lucille.

Usually though, guitarists try out every guitar and amp they could get their hands on.

Technique is more important than tools

That said, sure it’s fun to play around with new tools. But the art comes down to you. Are you any good? What can you produce?

That’s where I strongly suggest that you put the time in.

Art is just another craft. The more you work with leather, the better you get at working with leather.

The more you work on your art, the better you get on your art.

Sure, having nice tools helps. However, you simply acquire them over time.

Besides, you’ll find that the more known you get, the more people will give you their stuff to try, or even pay you to use their stuff.

My newest

I love quality watercolor and gouache paints as much as the next artist. Still for me, good paints are good paints. So far, I love M Graham gouache and I love Daniel Smith and Winsor and Newton watercolors the best. I have Sennelier watercolors coming in the mail simply because I want to try painting with honey based watercolors.

This latest piece though is with the first three I mentioned. I’ve gotten to the point where I could make good paintings even with cheap watercolors and mediocre paper. Sure, I’d rather have the good tools. But like this whole article is about – technique over tools.

A good artist with cheap tools smokes a bad artist with the best tools. We all know this.

Selene and Hecate
Selene (Moon Goddess) and Hecate (on the asteroid)
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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.