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Watercolors as therapy

I’ve never served in the Armed Forces and would never compare my measly life to theirs. That said, I’ve known several good folks who have served and seen how they use painting as therapy.

For instance, I met a UDT once who would paint islands from a plane’s view. At first, I didn’t know what they were. He actually had to tell me what they were before I knew what I was looking at.

Keep in mind, this was long before the internet. Now, we have images of everything everywhere.

All that said, I do run a ridiculously high stress level. Stress will kill you. Literally.

Now, I’m not a doctor, so take this next stuff with a grain of salt. That’s my disclaimer.

I believe that stress is a physical thing. Your body processes stress physically. When your liver can’t take all the stress, it sends it somewhere else.

Stress will lead to everything from ulcers to bad skin conditions. I had a skin condition that was so bad that I was literally bleeding randomly, and wasn’t safe to leave the house for several days.

Yes, I’ve healed since then, but that’s an example of what stress can do to you.

Watercolors as therapy

All painting is good. Watercolors may not necessarily be your cup of tea.

They are for me though.

Watercolors have a meditative quality to them. When I paint my ladies, I use layer after layer of paint. That has a calming, meditative effect on me.

Painting helped reduce my stress. Significantly.

Roxy and Allie as mermaids
Roxy and Allie as mermaids, work in progress

I’m currently waiting for the third layer to try. I got the timer set.

My wife and I just got back from a vacation in Central America and I took a lot of shots. You’ll be seeing Costa Rica and Panama in my paintings.

I photographed everything from flowers to monkeys to sunsets to jungles. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my DSLR camera. We saw wild macaws, parrots, and other gorgeous birds but with a cell phone camera, the pictures turned out horribly. I deleted those bird shots as they were unusable.

Regardless though, we took so many lovely pictures that I have a lot of reference photos. Now, the above painting (on a watercolor board), will feature a lot of what we photographed there.

The whole painting process reduced my stress levels big time. Painting is general is calming. And there’s nothing for me like painting layer after layer that you have to do from everything to painting skin color to skies and seas.

If you run a high stress level or if you have PTSD, I highly recommend watercolors!

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The supplies you’ll need to start with watercolors

If you’re thinking about starting with watercolors, there are two types of things you’ll need. You’ll need items you have to buy at an art store (or of course online), and items you can get elsewhere. The latter, you may already have.

So let’s go over these.

To buy from the art store

You’ll need three things – watercolor brushes, watercolor paper, and watercolor paints.

Can you use other types of brushes for watercolors? Sure.

But watercolor brushes are specifically made for watercolors. You’ll notice that watercolor brushes matter. Of the three though, they’re the least important expenditure. I’d suggest getting cheap watercolor brushes in the beginning if you have a limited budget.

Watercolor paper? Once again, start off with cheap watercolor paper. Your first ten paintings will be throwaway anyways. Watercolor isn’t an easy medium by any means.

And last, the paints.

I’ve seen artists get by with cheap watercolor paints and make some pretty cool stuff. The artist is more important than the tool.

As you get better though, you’re going to want better tools. It’s the same thing with anything.

For now, you’ll be fine with cheap watercolor paints. You’ll learn the difference as you go. It’s way more important at first to hone your technique than it is to use professional grade tools.

You may already have

You’ll also need pencils, erasers, a surface, jars, scratch paper, paper towels, a sponge, and clean water.

Kimchi jars are the perfect size for everything

Save your jars. My wife and I eat a lot of Kimchi. It’s supposed to be good for your gut flora. I actually like the taste too, especially the spicy stuff.

These jars are the perfect size for both storing your brushes and also for the water. You’ll need two jars for water. One jar, you use to clean your brush and the second one, you use as the final rinse.

Do both matter? Yes. Unless you want to have the previous paint in what you’re painting next. I’m very religious about rinsing from two jars.

Water obviously. Tap water does the trick unless you live in a place with really bad tap water. If so, you’ll have to buy water. You don’t want to have muddy watercolors.

Paper towels and a sponge. You don’t absolutely need a sponge. But now that I have sponges, I use them.

You use the sponges to get the perfect amount of water on your brush. Some artists also use them for effects (like clouds for instance).

You’ll use the paper towels for everything from cleaning up messes to more effects. Always keep paper towels handy. Murphy’s Law states that the one time you forget the paper towels will be the one time you really need them!

Scratch paper for testing colors. You’ll do so much work with colors. How much water you use changes the colors. Plus, you might do a lot of color mixing as well. You’ll need to test the results before they go onto your real painting surface.

Pencils and erasers obviously. You don’t have to, but a lot of watercolor artists will draw their ideas on the watercolor paper before painting. I actually ink my watercolors, but that’s after drawing with pencil first.

As for your surface – I literally paint on the floor because I have a bad back. You may prefer an easel. Up to you.

Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll try to get back to you on a timely manner.

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Back from Central America cruise

Hello. My wife and I are back from a Costa Rica and Panama cruise.

It’s our fifth cruise, and first time doing Winstar. They have smaller ships – about 220 passengers plus crew. Much smaller than those large cruise ships that we’ve always taken before.

Not all our vacations are cruises. But my wife loves them so we go on them often.

My wife and I have a hard rule that every year, we have to leave the country to a country we haven’t been to before. This year started out with Costa Rica and Panama.

Costa Rica and Panama have gorgeous beaches and wonderful weather in January. I got a slight sunburn as I stayed in the water all day. I’m pretty dark so it’s not easy for me to get burned. I pretty much have to stay in the water all day.

But it’s hard not to. It’s so warm and lovely.

We saw dolphins, monkeys, sloths, toucans, parrots, and macaws. I didn’t bring a good camera. Just my cell phone. So these pictures aren’t great.

I’m more into having a good time anyways than taking pictures.

However, I did take a lot of jungle shots. I’ll be using them for my tropical mermaid paintings.

A monkey in Panama

So, I also learned a few things. Do you know the difference between African monkeys and South African monkeys? South African monkeys have prehensile tails, meaning that they can use them like an extra limb.

Pretty cool to see them doing it live. I didn’t get very close as these shots were taken in the jungle.

A Jesus Christ lizard in Panama

Do you know why it’s called a Jesus Christ lizard? This lizard can literally run across the water.

No, I didn’t get any video of him doing that. However, at least I got a picture of him chilling.

Jungle in Costa Rica
A pair of dolphins

All in all, had a great time. Definitely ate and drank too much. Looks like I’m going to have to hit the weights harder and incorporate some running in there to work some of that vacation weight off.

But, had a great time.

We finished the vacation crossing the Panama Canal. Highly recommend for people who like technology as for its time, it was an engineering miracle. France begun the work in 1881 but had to abandon it due to a high mortality rate for the workers. The USA took it over in 1904 and completed the work in 1914. The American Society of Civil Engineers lists it as one of the 7 wonders of the modern world.

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I enjoyed the Witcher

I don’t play video games any more. I used to love the old fantasy RPGs, especially the first Legend of Zelda, Heroes 3, and Myth 2.

But when I got back into music in 2007, I stopped playing video games altogether. Nothing against them. I just didn’t have time for both music and video games.

So, I didn’t know what the Witcher was until the TV show came out. I never read the books, but I heard the author is really cool and shows up to pop culture conventions.

I’m not one of those pop culture elitists. I’m not a snob. I just like what I like. The Witcher is a pretty good show.

I keep seeing it compared to Game of Thrones and that’s a really bad comparison. Apples and oranges. They’re both fantasy worlds. That’s where the similarities end.

The Witcher has a completely different mechanic. There are certain humanoid creatures that are created to be what they are. The Witcher is one of them. He’s made to be a Witcher.

And I also like how good and evil isn’t always predictable. You’ll see some characters change sides. I like that as it reflects real life.

Aesthetics

I’m an aesthetics guy. I’ve offended some people before because I put aesthetics above politics and people who obsess with politics get mad when I don’t play their game.

I’ve had female friends tell me that Henry Cavill is their main celebrity crush now because of the show. Good for him! I hated those Superman movies he was in. Saw them all and hated every single one.

But this series will salvage his career. He’s now primed to be the next James Bond. Will it happen? We’ll see.

There are a lot of boobs. No complaints from me. I love female nudity and honestly, wish that shows would have more of that and less graphic violence. I don’t like gore. When I watch a horror movie, I want my head played with, not my stomach.

Which leads to Anya Chalotra. She’s a babe. And she’s the perfect example of if you don’t have big boobs, lose the core fat. That makes her boobs “pop” and they look spectacular.

Several models I’ve worked with are exactly like that – very little core fat and not big boobs, but they really pop because of the lack of core fat. If you don’t know what I’m talking about and you’re a woman who’s interested in making that happen, talk to a personal trainer who also knows diet.

Other stuff about the Witcher

Alright. Some D&D people will hate me for this, but I’ll say it anyways. I don’t like Dwarves. They’re annoying. I didn’t like them in Lord of the Rings, in Dungeons and Dragons (I used to play AD&D v1 back in the 80s if you’re wondering), and I don’t like them in the Witcher.

Someone told me that in the books, Jaskier is closer friends with the Witcher. They have an awful relationship in the show. Not awful as in poorly done, but awful as in really dysfunctional.

In D&D, Bards are super powerful. In this show, they’re pretty annoying. Or at least Jaskier is. I would have thrown fruit at him as well.

Magic

One of my absolute favorite things about the show is how they use magic. You have to source it from somewhere or else you take it from your own body and a powerful spell will literally dissolve you.

I love that! It’s funny because I remember Gary Gygax mentioning this in the old AD&D rulebooks.

You actually see witches dissolve when sourcing powerful spells from their body.

I also like the concept of chaos. Yennefer has a great story line – a hideously ugly child, hated by her step-father, and sold to a witch. The whole attempted suicide to one of the most powerful people in the world story line is downright awesome.

The Witcher himself

Geralt, the Witcher, doesn’t say much. He talks when he has to.

He follows a strict code but he doesn’t always win. That’s where it gets interesting. He has quests he has to perform but unlike the fairy tales, he doesn’t always fulfill them.

I don’t want to give too much away but that’s how the writers get around the whole free will problem. Geralt doesn’t really have free will like you and me. But that’s not a guarantee that he can do what he’s supposed to do.

That will make absolutely no sense if you’ve never seen the show. After you’ve seen it, it will make perfect sense.

How good is it?

It’s not rated that highly by the critics. But you know what? Screw them!

I know it’s the in thing to be nihilistic, cynical, and hating everything. I thoroughly enjoy this show.

Aesthetically it looks really cool. The characters are neat. And the one thing that will throw you off at first is that not all characters age at the same rate (due to magic).

Humans age as humans. But not all the characters are humans. And wizards and witches also age much slower than normal humans.

So the show covers a few generations and at first, the timeline can throw you off. Just keep watching. It will make sense.

I loved it. Not too often you’ll see a fantasy show that doesn’t suck. We have Game of Thrones and we have The Witcher. My wife likes Lucifer but I haven’t seen it. I also haven’t seen the new Dark Crystal.

I’m usually too busy for television and will only make time to watch a few NFL games and one series every once in awhile.

So in the past few years, I’ve only watched all the Game of Thrones, season 1 of West World, this, season 1 of Stranger Things (season 2 was so bad that I quit it before I even got halfway done), all 3 seasons of Roman Empire (loved it!), and that’s it.

So far, this is my second favorite after Game of Thrones.

Oh one last thing – those eels? Middle management in the corporate world.

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You don’t need that many watercolors

One of the many beauties of watercolors is that you don’t need to own that many watercolors. My palette only has 10 holes and I’ve never had a problem with that. Even paintings that look like I have tons of colors are only using the same colors with more or less water or painted with different strengths.

I’ve written about cutting down to only 7 watercolors. Some go down to 6. I like 7 because it’s a magic number.

I’ve also written about monochromatic exercises and why they’re important. You get good at monochromaticism and you’ll really be good with your colors!

Often less is more. The Japanese were the masters of this.

So it often is in cooking. So it often is in watercolors.

Less is more

Opium Tales - Mermaid Island
Mermaid Island – thanks Allie!

I used a lot of colors for this Mermaid Island painting, right? Actually, no. Both the sea and the sky are the same blue – Daniel Smith French Ultramarine. The greens for the trees and the hills? Winsor and Newton Olive Green. All the sand is one color as well – Sennelier Yellow Light, except the shadows are done with a mix of that and Winsor and Newton Burnt Sienna.

Super simple.

That’s yet another beauty of watercolors. You can get so many different colors out of one bottle of watercolor paint.

It’s all about knowing how much water to use. You do that with experience.

Just paint. I’ve always said the first ten paintings are throwaway anyways. That’s why I believe in experimentation.

Usually I paint with a plan. Sometimes I don’t.

The painting you see above was supposed to be a throwaway experiment. It turned out pretty good so I’m going to keep it and get it framed, then sell it.

Sometimes you get pleasant surprises like that in life.

Only 10 pots for my watercolors

I love my porcelain watercolor palette. I’ve used the same one since the beginning.

You could wash it in the dishwasher with your dishes. It’s porcelain, just like your plates.

However, it only has 10 pots. Some have 12, or even more.

But that’s ok. I don’t use all of them most of the time anyways.

In the far left pot, I have a mix of Burnt Sienna and Titanium White that I use for the main skin tone color. I keep reusing that mix until it runs out. Then I have to make another mix.

Right above it – Hansa Yellow Medium. I love this color. It also doubles for Allie’s blonde hair. To its right, it’s Burnt Sienna which I use for so many different applications.

To the right of that one – Perylene Red. Another one of my favorite colors. I use that one for so many different applications as well.

To the immediate right of the primary skin tone mix – Titanium White. Watercolor, not the gouache. I have the same color in gouache as well but I use the watercolor versions more often.

Then from there out, chaos. Could be anything.

You’ll see me do complicated paintings and still, I don’t use all 10 pots. Like we’ve discussed, you can get so many different colors out of one watercolor tube.

(Can you tell how much I love watercolors?)

Won’t be switching to oils anytime soon

Oil painting is supposed to be the epitome of painting. That’s what the majority of the Masters painted with.

But do you know what? There are things you can do with watercolors that you can’t do with oils.

Yes, I’m aware it’s the other way around as well.

But, for now? My wife and I live in a tiny ass apartment with a single bathroom. I literally paint on the bedroom floor.

We have no space. My models sit on the bed while I sit on the floor and draw them.

Or, I sit on the bed and they stand up.

We have no room. Which you know what? You can get away with that with watercolors. No other painting medium does tiny places as well as watercolors.

Also, no other medium does more with less than watercolors. This is a severely underrated medium.

I have a feeling that in the 2020s, I’m going to be one of the top evangelists of watercolors. I love these things! And I sincerely hope I can get you to love watercolors as much as I do.

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7 tips for Pinup Artists

I’ve written before about what I look for in a Pinup Model. This article is slightly different. Rather, here are 7 tips for Pinup Artists.

I love pinup art. I always have and always will.

Among my favorites – Frank Frazetta (although he’s a Fantasy artist but his work overlaps with pinups), Olivia de Bernardinis, Gil Elvgren, Mel Ramos, and Luis Ricardo Folero (although once again, he’s a fine artist but his work precursors pinups).

I personally use watercolor and gouache for my pinups. You’re free to use whatever medium you want. Pinup art doesn’t have to be confined to a single medium. Heck, artists painted pinups on World War II planes for Pete’s sake!

So how can you make your pinups memorable? Well, here ya go.

The eyes are magical

Remember the girl who got away?

What color were her eyes?

Could you draw her eyes today, even if, heck, especially if you haven’t seen her in over a decade?

Allie, the blonde, and Roxy, the brunette are my main models. They’ve been modeling for me for a few years now. Recently, I’ve been working with Sophia as well.

All three of them have lovely eyes. Not only do they have lovely eyes; they know how to use them.

You, as the artist, need to know how to paint them.

Yes, stylistically, you can do eyes in any way you want. As long as they work.

But the key – make them look magical. The eyes are where it’s at and bad eyes will ruin an entire painting. Good eyes allure the viewer.

The lips

Second to the eyes? The lips.

A little trick? Have your models wear red lipstick.

You can never go wrong with red lipstick. It’s the standard for a reason. Men evolutionarily know that red lips are sexy. We’re sexually attracted to red lips. All women know that too. That’s why if there’s one piece of makeup above all else, it would be red lipstick.

Roxy has the best lips of anyone I’ve ever known in my life. No offense to anyone else’s lips. I’m just stating a fact. I absolutely love drawing her lips.

Allie also has nice lips. Allie’s a better model though. She knows how to draw attention to her lips as well as anyone.

I once asked Allie if she knew she was hot. She knows.

She also knows all these tricks. Heck, I should have just paid her to write this article. She knows this shit better than I do.

Belly dancing or Ballet

All dance is good. But if I can recommend two dances above all others for pinup art? Belly dancing or ballet. Belly dancing especially rules for pinups. Ballet though has the advantage of building muscle and grace.

A ballet dancer can do anything. It even translated well to the NFL. Ballet helped Lynn Swann make those insane acrobatic catches in the 1970s for four Steelers’ Super Bowl winning teams. He even has a Super Bowl MVP. How many wide receivers can you name with a Super Bowl MVP?

Herchel Walker’s ballet skills may have prolonged his football career. I’m willing to bet it helped Walker win his MMA fights (he’s 2-0 with 2 knockouts) in his mid-40s!

Does it translate well to pinup art? Of course! Muscle and grace. Holding that graceful pose. Like I said, a ballet dancer can do anything.

Opium Tales Roxy as Alicia
Roxy holding a belly dancing pose, modeling for a character named Alicia

Shapely models

Your models need to be shapely. Not fat. Not skinny. Shapely.

That means bust, hips, and waist need to be in the right proportions. We got our love of proportions from Ancient Greece and they haven’t changed. Marilyn Monroe would have made the perfect Greek statue.

My models have shape. I don’t have to exaggerate shit when I paint. I draw exactly what I see.

I may sound like an asshole saying this, but I’ll say it anyways. If you have to exaggerate a figure, then you’re better off looking for another model.

Pinups are not the same thing as figure models. Totally different. Figure models can have any figure. You paint exactly what you see as they hold a pose.

Figure models don’t talk. They just hold the pose forever and you draw.

In my book – that’s boring!

Yes, I’m painting live models. And you know what? We’re talking the whole time except when I have to draw their lips. Which leads to…

Alcohol

I will not paint someone who doesn’t drink.

I’ll say that one more time. I will not paint someone who doesn’t drink.

Drinking is a huge part of my life. Am I an alcoholic? No. But regardless, I drink. A lot.

The only time I don’t drink are the days I’m lifting weights (which is three or four times a week). The days I don’t lift, I drink.

And my models drink with me. Because alcohol opens up conversation better than anything else.

And conversation adds another dimension of pinup art that you can’t have with some shy, anxiety girl.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s extremely important to be open, friendly, courteous, and have fun when painting. If it ain’t fun, then why do it?

I simply don’t like people who don’t know how to have a good time. I have nothing to do with them.

My friends are fun and we do fun things. I take my wife traveling. With my models, I’m drinking and we’re having conversation and often laughing just a little bit too much.

You can see how much fun I’m having in my actual paintings. It translates to my art!

Minimize attention to the nose

I strongly think you should minimize attention to the nose. The eyes, the lips, the facial structure, and the hair are the best parts of the face. The nose? Absolute worst part of the face.

At best, a girl can have a cute nose. But no one ever said “I like Jenny for her nose.” That has never happened in the entire human existence.

Heck, a lot of anime artists don’t even paint the noses. Their eyes will be huge. But noses? Very minimal. And exaggeratedly small.

Draw attention to the eyes, the lips, the hair, the cheeks. Minimize attention to the nose.

Have characters prepared

The best pinup models can play all kinds of characters, from femme fatales to damsels in distress. From seductresses to the secretary fling girls to naughty librarians.

As the artist, have exactly what you want prepared in advance.

My role is easy. I do fantasy pinup art. Sirens, mermaids, succubi, or whatever. I already have the roles prepared.

Practice all of these 7 things and your pinup art will stand out!

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3 side money tips for artists

We all know the obvious top three ways artists make money – selling paintings, teaching, and commissioned works. But we’re not talking about the obvious ways to make money for artists. We’re talking about side money. And more importantly, two of these methods will make you money in your sleep.

The beauty of two of the three of them is that you can upload them online and never have to do anything else other than collect money (assuming you’re either famous enough that people come to your page or you know what you’re doing when it comes to marketing). If you’re not famous yet, you’ll need to know a bit about marketing to actually make those specific two worth your time.

Online classes

I’m strong at A, B, and C, but weak in X, Y, and Z. However, I came across your website and saw that you have a course in Y. I really want to get better at Y. So I’m going to buy that course from you.

Online courses are where it’s at. I’ve taken quite a few. I’m currently taking Romanian lessons online. I’ve learned a lot of art tips and tricks from online videos or courses. And even books.

Whatever you’re strong at, have you ever considered an online course? You’ll have to know a little bit about lighting, sound, and video editing.

If any one of the three are bad (lighting, sound, or video editing), I’m going to be pissed and will never buy from that person again. However, if you’re teaching the subject matter well, and have good lighting, sound, and your video editing is decent, I may be buying a few more, or possibly even everything you have to offer!

Sound

The sound part is easy. Either have one of those mics you stick on your lapel or talk closely enough to the mic that you can record your sound loudly.

This is the part that I know well. You want to be able to record your sound loud.

From there, go to your computer and look for the specific mic. You’ll have a mic input setting. Talk as you’ll normally talk and check the mic settings. You want to record it loud, but not so loud that it “clips.” If it clips, it’s really bad because it will pop and crack when the person listens to it.

So you want to record it loud, but not too loud.

Also one hot tip – note how your s’s sound. I heard there is good de-essing software out there. That said, it’s much better to learn how to speak without smearing your s’s. If you do, don’t feel bad. Most speakers start off with bad s’s. It’s just something you learn with time.

Lighting

This is my weakest of the three. I shouldn’t be giving advice here so I won’t.

Video editing

I bought Adobe Premier Pro. It’s a $20/month subscription and that’s probably too much for people who only use it occasionally. I actually do a lot of work with it so it’s worth every penny for me.

Sure, there are cheaper and even free options. I won’t cover those because I don’t talk about stuff I don’t know about.

But I can tell you a lot about Adobe Premier Pro. They’re always adding new features and it keeps getting better every year.

We use Adobe Premier Pro for editing
Example of Adobe Premier Pro – about to add a Dissolve (video transition)

I don’t use too many effects because it looks cheesy when people do. But it’s great for quick editing as well as you don’t want pauses or useless interjections. For instance, if you say “um,” “like,” or “and so” a lot, edit those out.

Not everyone’s a professional speaker. But with good video editing, you can certainly sound like one.

The more you record yourself…

The more you record yourself, the better you’ll get. You’ll learn to be fluid simply by doing.

Yes, it’s totally fine to be nervous at first. This may seem counterintuitive but I say power through it. If you have to, make 11 videos and throw the first 10 out.

I got pretty good at speaking on camera simply by doing it tons of times. I’d cringe though if I didn’t delete my first twenty or thirty videos and someone somehow got a hold of them and played them. They were bad! But like I just said, you learn by doing.

So try it. Think of some area you totally kick ass at and make a course showing exactly how you did it. Make sure the course is so good that you feel that it provides value to your customers. Don’t make a course just to make a course. Provide value.

I already have some ideas for online courses for next year. Right now though, I’m scrambling to get ready for a project so my online courses are a smaller priority.

eBooks

You have a collection of works. Have you ever thought of photographing your works and selling them as books?

Even better – you can sell them as eBooks.

I write all these fantasy short stories. I thought to myself “Roman, why don’t you illustrate them and sell them?”

So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

You could do the same thing. If you’re not a writer, find a writer to work with and illustrate his or her works. Make an offer that works for both of you. If that person is broke, work for a percentage of profit. That will give you some incentive to let everyone you know know about the books as well.

Win/win. That’s how I like to think. I like to see my friends succeed too.

Contract work

I’ve done commissioned work. Same thing. Except online.

You can sell your labor on sites like Fiverr or their competitors. Frankly, I’m too busy to do something like that. But you may have some extra time. If you do, it might be a good way to make a few extra bucks.

Honestly though I don’t think it’s worth it unless you’re just getting started or you’re flat broke. Online contract work is a lot of work for not that much money. Unless you can get a contract through an established company or someone with a good net worth.

So consider those three possibilities. I’m definitely going to do the first two next year in addition to continuing to sell paintings and take commissioned work. Artists should be busy!

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Self-improvement goals for 2020

No matter who you are, you can always get better. You’ll notice that successful athletes do better with certain coaches than others. A good coach gets the best out of his players.

The same goes for real life. I’ve always hired coaches to help me with life. I hire coaches for everything from weightlifting to diet. I also hire people to do the things that I’m weak at.

Knowing yourself is powerful. You get to know what you’re naturally good at. What you’re naturally bad at. And what you can improve.

Contrary to what a lot of people believe, I don’t believe in wasting time at what I’m naturally bad at. I feel like it’s simply a waste of time. Especially if I don’t like doing it in the first place.

Now my natural strengths? I believe in playing to my strengths.

Tom Brady is a pocket passer. He’d get killed if he tried to be a mobile quarterback like Lamar Jackson. So he plays to his strengths. He stays in the pocket.

The same thing with life.

Artistically, what am I good at? Still life? Hell no! I hate that stuff to begin with so I’m not even going to bother.

I like women

I like women. I play to my strengths. Sunday, I’ll work with Allie. She’ll be topless, looking out in the distance. I’m going to paint her as a Siren, you know, the femme fatale Siren?

Roxy is currently busy. I haven’t worked with her in months. Great news for her, but I’m supposed to keep it private. She’s still one of my besties and if you’re wondering what happened to her, she’s doing fantastic.

So in the meantime, I hired Sophia to replace Roxy temporarily. And you know what? Sophia is such an awesome pinup model that it won’t be temporary. I already know I’ll work with Sophia for years. She’s cool AF in real life! I didn’t expect her to be this cool.

Once again, play to your strengths. I do fantasy pinups because I love fantasy and I love women. Strengths plus passion equals long-term success.

That doesn’t just go for art. That goes for everything.

If you find out what you’re really good at and you feel passion for it, you will kick ass. Guaranteed. You may even reach the upper 1% of the field. But you’ll reach at least the upper 10% and that’s enough to get paid doing it. No matter the field.

Goals

Some folks love to set New Years Resolutions. Some don’t.

Either way is fine.

I’m constantly setting goals. I don’t care what time of the year it is.

But for 2020, I already have some goals set. I have a certain financial goal that I want to meet. I also already paid for a vacation to see two new countries that I haven’t been to yet. My wife loves traveling and she got me into it as well.

I’m also learning Romanian. I was speaking Spanish last night with my buddy’s girlfriend and I blurted out loud “damn, I wish I spoke Romanian as well as I do Spanish.” Yeah. Definitely need to study more.

Musically, I’m going to release Volume II. If you haven’t heard it yet, definitely give Opium Tales Volume I a listen. It’s only $5 and I’m very sure you’ll like at least one song in there. I wrote two dance numbers, two waltzes, and one ballad. All orchestrated.

You could even preview the whole Princess for the Night song and a sample of Lizzie’s Opium Waltz if you’re wondering what to expect. On your laptop, they’re on the right column. On your phone, go to almost the bottom of this page.

I’ll release one more EP next year with new songs. Same singers.

Artistically, I want to get better at ink. I’m going to release an eBook of my short stories with brand new illustrations. Most of them will be ink only. A few will have watercolors. I’d love to get better at ink.

You get better by doing

This applies for everything. You get better by doing.

The absolute best thing I could do for my art is to get even better at drawing. I love the way I draw women now. But you know what? I could get better at backgrounds. I could draw better trees and better rocks.

There’s always some aspect that you can get better at.

I also want to get better at marketing. I haven’t sold enough of my EP to break even yet. I’m paying real orchestral musicians. Damn good ones. But as expected, good orchestral musicians cost money. And I’m still in the hole.

I need to learn to market my music better. It’s good music. I’ve yet to have anyone tell me they didn’t love at least one song. So far, I’ve heard Princess for the Night, Lizzie’s Opium Waltz, and One More Serenade are everyone’s favorite songs on the EP. I got people emailing me about the songs. I absolutely love hearing what they have to say!

But marketing? Still could get way better. I want to hear Princess of the Night blasting in a dance club. Until then, my marketing isn’t good enough. It’s a damn good dance song and deserves to be danced to.

What about you?

What about you? What are your goals for 2020?

Did you meet your expectations for 2019? I certainly did. I loved 2019 and will look back fondly on this year.

But I know what I could have done better and I’ll be doing those things in 2020.

It’s important to think what you could have done better. Then, you need to act. You can’t just make a list of things to improve then not do it.

Good luck in 2020. May next year be spectacular for you!

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Are we having fun or what?!

Opium Tales dragon riders

When was the last time you had genuine fun doing your art? When was the last time you looked at your art and started just laughing hysterically? I mean, not at it of course but with it?

This last piece, I couldn’t stop laughing. You have three distinct girls. The serious down to business one, the one who’s aloof, and the one who’s late to work and putting on her makeup while in a vehicle. Well, on a dragon.

I showed it to some friends and they laughed as well. Unfortunately, some girls do that and drive at the same time. A big no no. They could end up killing someone.

But on the back of a dragon? That’s totally OK.

We’re definitely going to work with Sophia again. She’s exactly what we look for in a pinup model. She has the personality, the attitude, and the body for it. She’s great to be around and she drinks whiskey, which in my book is a huge bonus. I may offend some folks here, but in my book, whiskey > everything else. Combined.

The other two girls? Allie and Allie. Allie in real life is a blonde. Since I see her at least once a week, I use her both for blondes and redheads. I’ve used Jin as a redhead before too.

I simply don’t have a true redhead model and honestly, red is my favorite hair color. Always has been and always will be. I even married a redhead.

Fun

I’ve also talked about beauty for beauty’s sake and how I don’t like cynicism. We live in very cynical times. You look around you and everyone looks like they’re either going to cry or blow their brains out.

So many zombies walking about. It’s just sad.

We’re all going to die. Yeah, I try to be healthy. Sure, I drink too much but everything else? I’m very healthy. Work out at the gym. Eat right.

That’s why fun is one of my artistic goals. My paintings are fun. They’re not so serious.

My music? Serious. Very serious.

Well, lyrically I’m having fun. But the music itself is very serious. Trying to do a modern version of Romantic era Classical music.

Need to live before we die

The meme has a woman assisting a dying man and desperately yelling to a professional looking man with a briefcase – “are you a doctor?”

The man in the briefcase says “yes. I have a PhD in Philosophy.”

The woman says “please help! This man is dying!”

The Philosophy guy says “but did he really live?”

Yes. It’s a silly meme. But how true is it really? Have you truly lived?

I can honestly say yes.

That doesn’t mean by any means I’m ready to die now. I still have decades more of living to go.

But I can honestly say that I’ve truly lived and you can see it in my art.

Serious exercise – you’re an artist or you’re training to be one. Or you wouldn’t be reading this article.

Have you really lived? If you can’t positively answer that with a straight face, then what do you need to do to change that?

I strongly believe that artists need to live. Truly live to create good art.

My favorites – Alphonse Mucha, the Pre-Raphaelites, Frank Frazetta, they all truly lived. And you can see it in their art.

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You can teach yourself how to draw

At the age of 42, I still got intimidated by the drawings parents put on the fridge that their bratty kid did. Yes, those brats were more talented than I was.

But, I finally said to myself I wanted to learn to draw. I was sick of being outdone by children. Yes, I was that bad!

So I scoured the internet for help. I came upon this one lady artist who said that if you can’t draw, draw lines and circles an hour every morning until they look good.

It took me over a month. Every day. First thing in the morning. Well, actually third thing in the morning. Coffee first, then guitar, then lines and circles. Over and over again, lines and circles.

This is key. If you can’t draw lines and circles that look good, you need to continually draw lines and circles until they look good.

Yes, that sounds boring as hell. Did I say it would be easy? I don’t remember saying that.

If you’re serious about learning how to draw, then don’t be a whiner. Just do your lines and circles over and over again until they look good. Heck, you might be able to do it in less than a month.

Step two

OK, you’ve had your coffee and spent the past month drawing lines and circles. And now they look good. Now what?

Excellent! You can move on to step two.

Buy yourself a notebook and some pencils that fit your hand comfortably. I used to used American made #2 pencils. I’d also buy those erasers that you put on top of pencils.

Then, I just drew everything and anything. That tree looks nice. That mountain is pretty cool. Hey. I like that cloud.

Then a friend will come over and I’ll ask her to smile and I’d draw her for a bit.

This year, I switched over to mechanical pencils. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you draw. Constantly.

While inside the house, I practice drawing on cheap copy paper. It’s great for drawing practice. And it’s cheap.

Outside the house, I bring a notebook and a pair of pencils everywhere. I never bring my mechanical pencil to anyone’s house though. I’m weird – very attached to that pencil.

Practice will give you technique

I draw exactly what I see. And constant practice gave me all the technique I need.

My wife retired this year. So in celebration, I took her on a Caribbean cruise.

I wake up before she does so before she woke up, I’d do my walk around the ship, then find a quiet place to draw. Every single day, I drew, even on vacation.

All you need is a sketchbook, pencils and an eraser. If you’re old school and using regular pencils, you’ll need more than one as the tip will always break off at the worst possible time.

I’m an extrovert and I love going to bars and talking to random people. Great place to bring your sketchbook.

I’m married, but if I were single, I’d bring my watercolor journal to a bar. Just start drawing in it.

People are curious. They’d want to see your work. You’d have completed watercolor doodles as well as the incomplete penciling you’re working in now. Would be a great way to meet chicks.

Opium Tales - Sophia, Allie, and Allie work in progress
Sophia, Allie, and Allie work in progress

How good do you want to get?

Now, shading is a different story. You can easily learn how to shade via a YouTube video or a $20 book. I personally love Dover Publications because they’re cool people and have lots of art instruction books that are good.

However, I don’t shade when I draw. I do all my shading via watercolors. Plus, I never know where I’m going to put my light source until I start the painting.

Perspective? Once again, you can learn Classical perspective from a Dover book. They have books that go into intricate details.

I’ve even met hyperrealism artists who taught themselves how to draw. If you don’t know what hyperrealism is, the art literally looks like a photograph. You have to do a double take to realize it’s not.

Working with live models

If you got the money, I strongly suggest you hire live models and paint them. You can teach yourself anatomy.

I have an advantage over most artists. I used to both fight and do massage.

Fighting will teach you the body like nothing else will. I did both Muay Thai and wrestling, so I know how to really hurt someone.

No, I’m not a tough guy any more. I’m old and slow. But the knowledge is still there. I can tell you every major muscle group and I know anatomy quite well. I know which way to bend limbs if I had to break one. I also know what parts of the body will buckle with a good knee or an elbow.

I also learned how to heal. So I literally know the body hands on. If you don’t want to go to a live dissection, I strongly suggest massage class as an alternative. You get to know every muscle group, how they move, how they feel, what looks healthy, and what needs hands on love.

This translates very well to art. By the time I started using live models, I already knew the body quite well.

When I had the falling out with my previous model, Allie actually offered to model for me. Then Roxy did. So I have two very close friends modeling for me. Plus, I occasionally use other models.

I’ll see Sophia again next week. That’s her in the front of what will be a dragon. Three girls on a dragon? Why not?

Are you having fun or what?

I strongly think that once you get past that boring ass lines and circles stage, you should be having fun. I never drew the banana, apples, and grapes in a bowl. Boring as hell.

I feel like once I got past the lines and circles stage, I earned the right to enjoy drawing. Not make it an exercise.

So of course I choose live models. And fantasy art because I love fantasy.

You and I are not the same people. Find what you love to draw. And draw it.

You should never get tired of drawing if you’re drawing what you love. And I guarantee that if you keep drawing what you love, you’ll eventually get really good at it. Talent only means you have to put in 10% less hours than the rest of us. That’s all it means.

So don’t ever use lack of talent as an excuse. I don’t buy it.