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When Creatives Can’t Create

Are you a creative person? And are you going through a period where no matter what you do, it just plain out sucks, or you’re totally blocked?

Well, the good news is it’s the same problem. We can fix it.

The bad news? To quote RuPaul – supermodel? You better work!

That means getting out of the daily grind and changing some things up. Yeah, you’re burning the candle at both ends. Or the opposite. Nothing is happening in your life. Either way, same result. We need to fix that.

Explore life more

I know today is crazier than it’s ever been. I get it. Looking back, I’ve never seen people around here so miserable.

When I grew up, a lot of people would smile for no reason. I almost never see people smiling nowadays. Everyone looks like they’re either stressed out or zoned out. But no smiles.

So what do I suggest? Explore. Break out of the ordinary. Do something you don’t normally do. Go somewhere you don’t normally go.

Do you have a sibling you haven’t seen in years. Why not call them up and tell them you’re coming over? Or where does your best friend live? When was the last time you saw them?

You could always plan a vacation out of the blue. Go somewhere you haven’t been to before. You’re broke? Don’t worry. Check out some places close by that you can drive to. Get a cheaper motel if you have to. Heck, you can even camp if you’re totally broke. Just get out there and do something.

Sunset in Maui
A sunset in Maui

For years, my wife and I were too broke to do anything. It took years of budgeting and aggressive investments to get us into the middle class. When we finally made it, we decided to travel.

I can’t tell you how great this has been for an inspiration. After getting back from our now yearly vacations, I have so many ideas for paintings. And so many references as well.

Don’t be afraid to get hurt

Imagine your favorite song of all-time. Now imagine if you found out that it was all a lie. That the person who wrote the song never felt anything about anything and just computer generated the words.

Imagine how betrayed you’d feel that something you were so attached to was nothing but a lie.

Now, flip this around. Imagine that your favorite ten songs of all-time were totally real. You got the backstories to all of them. Wouldn’t that make the songs way, way more genuine? For me, it definitely would!

Same with art. You need to feel. I mean, really feel.

People who feel something – it shows in their art. The art looks totally genuine. Because it’s from the soul.

That’s how you create the best art. By feeling.

Those afraid of getting hurt will never get their hearts broken. But, will they be able to create art? Sure, but not good art.

A confession

I have a confession for you. I don’t like to talk about this because it makes me a bad guy. Unfortunately, it’s true.

All artists have had their hearts broken. In my case, I was the breaker. I had a perfect girlfriend who was super nice to me and treated me great. She went through a bad time period of my life though. My band was about to breakup and I felt my life was going nowhere.

I felt like a complete loser and I took it out on her. Why? Because she was there.

Eventually, she had had enough and cut me off and I made her one last promise that I’ll never ever contact her again.

She’s been the subject of over 20 of my songs. No, no exaggeration. I’m happily married now, but when I need to write something sad, I think back of her. That was almost 30 years ago.

Another bad thing – I’ve stayed in touch with most of my friends from the past. No, not Facebook. I don’t even have that. I mean real life. And I found out a few years ago that she went through a divorce and never had any kids.

Very sad. I really was rooting for her. Rooting for her was the least I could do.

Alas, that’s what I mean about feeling something. Don’t be afraid to get hurt.

Let the creative juices flow

For a songwriter it’s easy. You just strum chords on the guitar or play some chords on the piano and sing a melody that goes with the chords. A song will come.

You know why that works? You’re literally flowing. You’re letting your creative juices flow.

Now for writers, you start writing stuff. It could be random gibberish. It doesn’t matter.

Once the words start coming from your brain onto the paper (or nowadays, computer), your creative juices will flow and you’ll create.

Now as an artist, just start drawing something. It could be a picture from your vacation. It could be anything. Doesn’t matter. Just draw.

when creatives can't create
Fixing when creatives can’t create

The ideas will come. Lucky for me, I got two beautiful models I work with. Well, technically three now that Jin came by for a solid session. But really two – Allie, the blonde, and Roxy, the brunette. Half the time, they end up selecting the poses and I draw accordingly. Those drawings transform from beautiful young ladies into mermaids, femme fatales, dryads, sirens, selkies, succubi, or whatever. Since I’m letting the creative juices flow, it just happens.

It’s all about movement, my friends. Don’t stay stagnant. Rather, you need to move.

The physical movement for the creative types will cause the creative part of the mind to move as well. You simply use your creative medium. The guitar or piano for the songwriter. The typewriter or computer for the writer. Or the pencil or paintbrush for the artist. Move those fingers!

Morning routine always helps

I’m extremely predictable. Every morning, you know as soon as I wake up, the coffee brews. It magically happens. I drink a cup and immediately do 50 push-ups, 25 body weight squats, hold a plank, then start to draw. I stretch when I remember. That’s admittedly not as often as I should.

The whole thing about drawing every morning, it really helps. If I can’t find anything to draw, I do an image search for Game of Thrones. I can always find the best images that way. Beautiful women. Dragons. Exotic landscapes.

Every morning, I get my warmup drawings in. And needless to say, I’ve improved way faster than I thought I ever would.

Same thing if you’re a musician. Start off every morning with coffee and practice. (If you don’t drink coffee, how in the world do you wake up?)

Do these four things my friends and things will just work out. A consistent morning routine. Physical movement. Feeling something for someone else. And exploration. I listed them backwards this time but the point is to remember those four magical ways to get yourself into a creative mindset.

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Most artists who fail don’t fail due to lack of talent

I know I’m going to offend a few people by writing this article. I’ve been buying art for quite awhile now and I have amassed quite a collection. Some of it is actually worth something. Some of it we bought because we just like it and want it up on our walls.

The thing is, artists are a weird lot. Most artists are just like musicians. They think they can write some songs and everyone will magically discover them.

Hate to break it to you. That’s exactly not the case. Your audience doesn’t have to look for you. Rather, you have to look for your audience. You have to do the work, not them.

Whereas Walt Disney gets all the credit since he had the big vision, he’s lucky he had his brother Roy to handle the sales, marketing, and finances. Unless you got a promoter, you’re simply going to have to do your own promotion.

I’ve seen so many artists with gobs and gobs of talent fail and quit, then go back to doing a job they hate. Meanwhile, their art collects dust and ends up in a landfill.

The hands down most naturally talented artist I’ve ever known hung himself. You’ll never know his name because he killed himself and his parents keep his art for obvious personal reasons.

Most artists who fail fear…

Most artists who fail fear the sales and marketing side of art. Or, they’re in denial that it’s important.

Once again, your audience doesn’t have to discover you. You have to discover them. It’s your job to find them, not the other way around.

most artists who fail
Most artists who fail don’t fail due to lack of talen

Of course, get really good at what you do. Don’t produce complete shit and expect it to sell like hotcakes, even if you have the best promoter in the world. It still has to ring a bell with someone. It still has to touch someone. In other words, put your best foot forward and hide your mediocre stuff.

Don’t worry, we all produce mediocre stuff. Pick your top five bands of all-time. How many of them produced excellence in every single album? Two? One? Zero?

The thing is, until you build your audience, you can’t show your mediocre stuff. More on that later though. Let’s get back to the topic at hand.

Talent and self-promotion

Talent refers to innate ability. Some artists have it. Some artists don’t.

That said, some artists have so much passion that they end up passing up artists who have natural talent. I’ve seen this happen in real life. There is something to be said about work ethic. If I were running a company, I’d rather hire someone with a solid work ethic. There’s a reason for that.

How does that apply to art? Well, for the artist, you have to have a bit of both. Whereas talent is innate, laziness will get you nowhere.

And that ties into self-promotion. Artists have to get over themselves. You need to realize that your artwork may be downright awesome, but if nobody knows you exist, you’re simply not going to sell your art.

That’s where self-promotion comes in. You have to figure out a way to self-promote without sounding desperate. There’s a line in there. You learn it by interacting with people. Read their faces. Are they interested or are you turning them off?

These are all things you learn with experience. Artists should know the sales and marketing side.

What are you doing for sales?

Are you selling at an art fair? Do you have a pretty nice webpage? Are you in an art gallery? Or an art auction? Do you have a distributor?

I sincerely hope you have at least one of these and whichever one or ones you pick, you’re good at. The good news is you only have to be good at one. I got a chance to attend a selling lecture from a successful artist who makes a lot of money. She has a shitty website, but her sales skills are top notch. It doesn’t matter that her website is garbage. She sells in person and shows you her value immediately.

There’s more than one way to sell your art, my friends. This is good news. Find the route you’re best at and go that route.

What are you doing for promotion?

File this one under marketing. How do people know you exist?

I’ve done sales before so I do talk to people about my art. People who matter. People with money who buy art.

Don’t waste your time with people who don’t buy art. It’s like if you write Country and Western music, don’t go to a Goth show and expect to sell your CDs. You need to go to a Country and Western club.

Today, you can promote online. You have social media. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be on all of them. Find the one or two that you find actually getting results and get really good at them. There are no wrong answers. We have different personalities so what works for me might not necessarily work for you and vice versa.

I have an online store. It’s been open since January. It’s already getting some traffic because I’m currently working with two traffic coaches. Yes, not everyone can afford to do that. I get it. But you can still learn how to generate traffic through other means. You can buy books or courses. Or you can figure out how to do it yourself.

Regardless, take the marketing side seriously. Unless you have someone else handling for you.

Artists who fail don’t take sales and marketing seriously. Artists who succeed do. Be the latter.

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How to write a memorable artist statement

artist statement
How to write a memorable artist statement

If you’ve ever been to an art gallery where paintings are for sale, you more than likely saw an artist statement before. They’re the pieces of paper by the artwork that tell something about the artist and his or her intent.

Artists may ask if they really need one. They may question its relevance.

That’s totally fine. But think of it this way. How well do you know yourself? Do you know why are you an artist in the first place? And if anyone asks, how will you respond?

Think of it like an elevator speech without a 30 second time limit. You can make it as long or as short as you like.

However, not everyone who buys art wants to read a book. They’re coming for the art.

Who is it really for?

You can use your art statement to better know yourself and your purpose. You also use it to differentiate yourself from other artists when applying for a gallery.

“But my art speaks for itself.” I’m sure it does. Remember though art gallery owners are sales people. They may or may not be artists themselves. So even if it’s only a 5% importance thing, that’s still 5%. You want to create an air of professionalism and competence. At the very worst, a good artist statement will appeal to those art gallery owners. Keep reading.

“So what do I write in an artist statement?”

Make it reflect yourself. Are you whimsical? Make it whimsical. Do you love painting the Scottish lochs? Well, tell me, the buyer, why your paintings of Scottish lochs are different than your competitors.

I’ve bought a lot of art over the years. We have so much art that most of it is in storage. We will keep our favorite works and resell the rest.

Buyers buy art, and the hardcore ones often want to know something about the artist. I can tell you a lot about Olivia de Berardinis and Craig Tracy. I haven’t even met either of them.

So yes, an artist statement is important and it should be easy to find online. I had no problem finding the links for either of those two artists I just mentioned.

Make it memorable

Are you a good writer? If so, you already know how to make something memorable.

The problem is a lot of people, even damn good writers, have problems writing about themselves. They’ll expose their soul through particular characters in their fiction but when you ask them directly who they are, they often freeze.

Hot tip – if you’re one of those people who has trouble writing about yourself, then write in the third person. You’re totally allowed to do that!

Yet another reason to have an artist statement prepared.

Make it reflect yourself. If you have to, start off with a short biography. You’re divorced, remarried, and have two kids? That’s great. Put it in there. You love dogs? Well, what’s your favorite breed? Put that in there too.

You had the most romantic time of your life in Venice? That’s great. I like Venice. So does that rich old lady there who buys art. Hopefully she’ll read that line.

My son served in the military. A lot of art buyers have also served. You can bet your ass that’s in my artist statement.

Commonalities my friends. Become relatable.

Your process and your materials

You will find a lot of people find the art process fascinating. You don’t have to discuss your process. Some people love to keep how they did their works a secret. That’s perfectly fine.

But, I can guarantee you that someone will ask. You have the choice of discussing your process or keeping it a secret. Totally up to you.

If you do, make it interesting. Don’t just say “I paint with brushes I like.” Make it interesting.

Art geeks may ask which tools you use. Or even what kind of materials. You can mention that. You can even mention why you choose certain materials over others. Some people love to hear stuff like that.

As an art buyer, I hear those conversations all the time. Totally up to you though if you want your process and your materials in your artist statement.

The art

Now, talk about the art itself. That’s a pretty amazing painting of a lady’s nose. But why did you paint a lady’s nose?

You can talk about your muses. You can talk about your influences. So much could go here.

Maybe you paint because you have chronic pain and art is the only thing you can do to help you focus away from it. Tell me more.

Or maybe your past haunts you and you paint it for therapy. I met a UDT once. Very few people will know what a UDT is. Anyways, he painted islands from the air. They were awesome.

This was 30 years ago but had I met him today, I’d love to interview him and help him with his artist statement. I’m sure I could help him make it fascinating.

Memorable and relatable. You’re human. So is that guy with the big wallet who wants to buy a painting or two. Sure you have a 20 year old beat up car and he drove here in a Ferrari. But did you know his grandma was the biggest influence on his life?

You have commonalities with everyone, even if it looks like on the outside you come from different worlds.

Be yourself. I’m sure the art buyer and you have overlap. And you even have overlap with that art gallery owner who asked to look at your artist statement.


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How to mount watercolor paper on wood

Do you need to know how to mount watercolor paper onto wood

The good news – it’s easy. The bad news – it’s time consuming and a lot can go wrong. But don’t worry, we’ll walk through the process step-by-step.

Afterwards, we’ll tell you how to preserve your watercolor painting. That’s another article though. I’ll put the link at the end of this article as well.

(Note that this works for both watercolor and gouache, assuming you’re using watercolor paper).

The benefits

After you mount watercolor paper on wood, assuming you’re using a cradled piece of wood, it’s already ready to hang up. You can decide to frame it later. Or, you can hang it up as is.

Either way it’s going to look great. Some folks prefer art framed. Some don’t. It’s personal opinion.

When it’s finished, it will look like this. I used my leather couch as the backdrop.

mermaid after I mount watercolor paper on wood
Mermaid pulling her hair back

Item list

You’ll need the following tools:

  • Something to cut the paper on (I simply use a real large cutting board)
  • An X-Acto knife
  • Cradled wood so it could be hung up immediately
  • An adhesive
  • sandpaper
  • An old brush

The cutting board, you can pick up at a garage sale or a secondhand store. You probably don’t want to use the one you’re eating from. As for the brush, either use an old one or a cheap one. This brush won’t be usable for painting any more. You might already have sandpaper lying around.

For the other items, you can buy them from Amazon. Here are the links if you don’t have these supplies already:

Planning

There’s an old saying in carpentry. Measure twice, cut once. You only get one chance at this so you have to make it right.

You’re going to cut your painting and you may lose an inch of margin. I’ve already planned out in advance as I’m actually painting, so I don’t lose anything of value.

You should actually measure with a ruler your painting area vs the piece of wood you’re going to put it on. You’ll have to do this if you decide to frame it anyways.

So have a plan in advance where you’re going to make the cuts. It will save you heartache in the future.

Measure

OK, the fun part. Measure the wood vs measure what part of the painting you’ll be keeping. Note that when I actually make the cut, the painting is already glued to the wood. But I know in advance what I’m keeping and what I’m losing.

This is a very important step. Do not neglect this. You may lose a piece of your painting that you’re emotionally attached to if you don’t plan and measure correctly.

For instance, for a 9″x12″ painting, you’re probably going to buy the 8″x10″ piece of wood. You’ll be losing one total inch horizontally and two total inches vertically. Or vice versa, depending on whether your painting is landscape or portrait.

Clean, then glue the wood

Before I even glue the wood, I make sure it’s pretty clean. You don’t want dirt or dust interfering with the glue. After all, you’re an artist and you want this piece to last for hundreds of years. I can’t speak for you, but I take that mentality quite seriously. I assume you do too.

adhesive used to mount watercolor paper onto wood
I use this as the adhesive and you see the wood in the background

Now, I assume you already know in advance where you’re going to cut. So now glue the wood. I use an old paintbrush.

Very important! Err on the side of too much glue rather than not enough. Trust me on this one. Nothing more annoying than the next day to see a corner pop up because you didn’t use enough glue.

Make sure the edges are glued well. Also make sure you’ve glued the corners well.

What’s the brush for?

The brush is to even things out. If you have way too much glue, you’ll see a little glue bump in your painting after it’s glued and dried. Whereas this may not be a big deal to some folks, it may drive you nuts. Thus, the brush.

So be sure to brush it down and even it out. Make sure there’s an even layer of glue throughout the wood. And do this relatively fast as we’re dealing with glue.

Stick the painting on

Fun part. I hope you planned well.

This is where you actually stick the painting on the glued wood. Like I’ve mentioned already, you’re going to lose the parts of the painting that don’t fit on the wood. We’ll be cutting them off with your knife.

Once you’ve stuck the painting on the wood, make sure it’s on there well. This is where I hope you’ve had preschool experience. Remember preschool?

This isn’t a joke. A lot can go wrong at this stage. If you’ve never had preschool, you should practice gluing paper onto something else. And once again, this isn’t a joke. You can ruin your painting at this stage. You only get one chance to do this.

You’ll need the painting to stick for the next few hundred years. We’re using pretty good adhesive. This is what professional artists use, and it’s the right formula that it won’t damage your watercolor paper either.

The cut

You’ll need to let your painting dry overnight. I put the painting on a wood table and put heavy books over it because I want the gluing stage to work. I’ve made the mistake once of not gluing a corner correctly. Note, once. I’m telling you this so you don’t make the same mistake.

The next morning, grab your painting. It should be glued on the wood well. Congratulations! You’ve been successful at the hardest part. However, before we pop open the champagne, we still have to make the cut.

This is where I hope you’ve had high school art. If you’ve never used an X-Acto knife, you need to practice first. Don’t take this step lightly because if you screw up the initial cut, you better be really good with sandpaper.

Now put the painting face down onto your cutting surface. Cut with your X-Acto knife around the edges, as close to the edge as you possibly can. Once again, if you’ve never used an X-Acto knife before, practice on something that isn’t important first. You get one chance to do this.

Once this is done, simply sandpaper the edges and it’s ready to be preserved. Oh, wipe away the dust with a soft brush. I assume you already have plenty of those.

After you mount watercolor paper on wood

You’ll now need to preserve your watercolor painting. I wrote a separate article for that since I don’t like to cram too much information into one article. I don’t know about you, but my head hurts if I get too much information. That’s why I like to break things down.

After I’ve preserved my paintings, I make a cold, hard decision. If it’s an A, I put it on the store. If not, I give it to a friend.

I sincerely hope this helps and let me know if you have any questions.

Please note that as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This is as absolutely no cost to you, and helps keep my bills paid. I will never recommend a product that I do not use myself.

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What is a Selkie?

Life is funny. I had Jin N Tonic over last night modeling for me. I let her choose three poses straight from Gil Elvgren, of whom I’m a huge fan of.

She choose her three poses, and I drew them straight onto the watercolor paper.

In three hours, we ended up with pretty solid sketches for 7 paintings. I already finished inking one and got a lot of it done.

Anyways, after the modeling session, the three of us went out for Moroccan food. They had two damn good belly dancers there, including one who won the Best of Bay Area competition.

So back to the painting I started, I had already started painting it when my wife said “that reminds me of a selkie.”

Immediately, I changed the tone of the painting. I drew a seal skin on the rock by the nude woman since she had just changed out of it.

“So what is a selkie then?”

My bad. Let me rewind.

A selkie is a Scottish legend of a seal/woman creature who can change into either form. When she sheds her seal skin, she becomes a beautiful nude woman. Then she puts it back on and becomes a seal.

Now, if a man is bold enough, he can attempt to steal her seal skin and she will be a woman forever. Then, he could woo her into marriage.

Yes, quite different from my normal femme fatale female creatures. This one isn’t one. She’s not going to trick you or kill you. Rather, she’s one you have to trick then woo.

It’s also interesting that the Scottish believe killing seals is bad luck. That may or may not be tied to the legend of the selkie. Or, there may be some overlap.

Selkie statue in Kalsoy, one of the  Faroese islands
Selkie statue at Mikladalur. Photo by Siegfried Rabanser

So going forward, I’ll be painting several selkies. Jin was wearing a red wig. She’s really into wigs.

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you’ll know my main two models are Allie and Roxy. I’ve known Jin for a few years now and I finally got around to painting her.

When you see the red-headed selkie paintings, they’re neither Allie nor Roxy. These ones are of Jin.

And now that you know what a selkie is, if you’re a Dungeon Master, definitely use one in your campaigns. Most people have never even heard of them.

Or if you’re an artist or a writer and have no idea what to paint/write about, there you go!

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How to avoid muddy watercolors

So you need to know how to avoid muddy watercolors? Well first off, what is muddiness?

It’s one of those you’ll know it when you see it issues. Muddiness looks like, well, mud all over your watercolor painting. Once your watercolor painting becomes muddy, it’s time to throw it out.

“Seriously Roman?”

Yes, seriously.

A lot of things can cause muddiness. Unfortunately, there are too many to list. But at least I can give you the main reasons so you can learn how to avoid muddy watercolors.

Change your water often

I have two jars – one for the first rinse and one for the final rinse. When changing between colors, make sure you use both jars. Then, when the first jar has too much paint, change it.

Not changing your water often enough can contribute to muddiness.

Paint either totally dry or wet to wet

This is counterintuitive in a way. But if you want to avoid muddy watercolors, it’s something you need to learn to do.

Either paint wet on wet or wet on completely dry. Don’t half ass this.

What I mean is you either need to paint wet on wet or you have to wait until the paper is completely dry before you continue. When the paper is in that in between state is when you’re going to have the problems.

Using cheap paper

It’s funny. Awhile back, I wrote about several reasons not to use cheap watercolor paper. And you know what? I mentioned all these reasons, but forgot to include muddiness.

Yes, you’re way more likely to have muddiness problems with cheap paper than with quality paper. But keep reading. Cheap paper is only one culprit.

Reds, greens, and browns

It’s these three colors you have to be careful with. It’s actually quite funny. Mixing some of nature’s most natural colors give you the best chance to get a muddy watercolor painting.

Well, call me Captain Obvious then. Obvious, but often forgotten.

Cheap paints without enough pigment

In my post about budgeting watercolors, I mention some of the downsides to using cheap paints. To make a profit, they got to cut corners somewhere, so they’ll often use less pigment.

Not enough pigment and you’ll end up with too much smear and not enough paint. Well, take one guess what that leads to.

So like I’ve said, this is by no means a complete list. However, these are your main reasons. Not changing your water often enough, painting with the wrong amount of wetness, cheap paper, natural colors, and cheap paints.

Oh, and before I forget, I better give you the sixth. Not knowing when to quit. Sometimes, artists keep on piling on more paint and that will muddy the painting. Sometimes, you need to just call it done. Don’t totally overdo it.

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Qualities of good pinup art

I’ve been studying what good pinup art is for awhile now. Although I’ve been studying the Pre-Raphaelite masters like John William Waterhouse lately, I’ve always been a fan of good American pinup.

American pinup artists during the so-called Golden Age of Pinups made their money in ads. The ads only had a few seconds to catch the reader’s eye. They had to really stand out.

Those ads would be called sexist today so we don’t see them anymore.

Which is sad because it hurt both the models and the artists. A lot of them were actually pretty good.

Post Golden Age, my favorites were Frank Frazetta and Olivia. I was a huge Frazetta fan. I even enjoyed that movie Fire and Ice he did with Ralph Balski.

But what makes good pinup art?

Good pinup art is of course subjective. You and I may prefer entirely different artists. And that’s perfectly ok.

But all good pinup art has most or all of these qualities.

The women are either sexy or gorgeous

A dear friend of mine years ago scolded me for calling her cute. “That’s something you say to a child.” We were dressed up to go out, and she was wearing a lovely long, black dress.

She wanted me to call her either beautiful, sexy, or gorgeous. Grown up women words. After all, she was about to turn 20. (This was decades ago).

So yes, there’s a difference between cute, beautiful, lovely, striking, sexy, and gorgeous. John Updike explained why striking is a backhanded compliment at best. You’ll never hear me call a girl I find attractive “striking.”

Now sexy or gorgeous, that’s the essence of good pinup art.

Lighthearted

Pinup art often has a bit of humor to it. It’s lighthearted. If you look at Gil Elvgrin for instance, a lot of his models get accidentally partially disrobed. It’s cute.

It doesn’t take itself too seriously. I’ve worked with two models since I started painting. We’re always having a good time. The modeling sessions are never tense.

When I get a third model, she has to laugh. I don’t want a cold model with no feelings. She’s got to be human.

A celebration of femininity

In these parts, girls are taught that femininity is a weakness. That’s got to be the dumbest belief on the planet. Men have started wars over beautiful women. Femininity is something to be proud of, not ashamed of.

From Elvgrin to Olivia, you could tell how much the artists absolutely love women. Frazetta loves women. He was an old school family man who died married to the same woman forever.

If you’re a misogynist, you cannot produce good pinup art. You just can’t. And yes, this includes women who secretly hate women. It will show in your art.

Seduction

Here’s a hot tip. The majority of folks who buy pinup art are either men or women who pick it up for their husbands. My wife bought me a Gil Elvgrin book back while I was still learning to draw.

The art had to catch your eye. Right away.

Since a lot of these early ones were ads, they only had a few seconds to make a man want to read them.

Frazetta’s art ended up on a lot of book covers. Sometimes men would buy the book for the cover and not even read the thing.

Olivia made a pretty good living selling her art to men’s magazines. Online killed off men’s magazines but Olivia to this day has a rabid cult following.

What do all her models have in common? They’re deeply seductive. Olivia gets it. She gets it so well that she’s famous around the world for her pinups. You’ll know her work in seconds.

That’s what I’m focusing on

You learn what works by simply looking what works. I’ll happily list my influences. Only Olivia is alive today.

Those qualities are the very qualities I emulate. I sketch with live models, then transfer my work into paint.

Both of my models are drop dead gorgeous in real life. They’re head turners. Jaw droppers. Whatever the phrase is now.

My goal is simply to produce good pinup art
My fantasy pinups range from classic silliness to downright sexy to femme fatale and you can tell I love boobs

They also know how to be sexy. But in our sessions, we’re lighthearted. When the sessions begin though, they know full well how to pose sexy.

And last but no way the least, I absolutely love femininity. I’ve always been a sucker for a beautiful girl. If you could convey that feeling into your art, you can produce good pinup art.

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Three free mermaid templates

Every once in awhile, you design something but you don’t really like the end result. This happens to me all the time.

I drew up these three mermaids but the actual paintings were less than satisfactory. So, I’m giving away the templates as templates.

They’re PDF files, so all you have to do is print them out. Color them. Practice with them. Or, you can even put some watercolor paper through your printer.

OK, I’ve never done the watercolor paper through the printer before. I have no idea how effective that is. However, I’ve heard quite a few people have done that before.

Regardless, use them anyway you want. Just if you end up selling them, please give me credit for the drawing. You did everything else.

I don’t want any money. They’re yours. I just want credit for the drawings. I did use real live models for these.

mermaid01.pdf

mermaid02.pdf

mermaid03.pdf

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Budgeting watercolor – Most important expenditures in watercolor

There’s always that guy. He’s got thousands of bucks laying around and expects everyone else to have money for expensive equipment. Then of course, he plays holier than thou when some of your equipment is less than gold plated.

Well, I’m not that guy. I realize people have budgets. (I’m definitely with you there). That’s why I write articles like “the most important expenditures in watercolor.”

So, I’m going to prioritize things. I have no idea what your budget is. I’ll just state my argument for the most important expenditure in watercolor. Then, I’ll say what the second most important is. Then, I’ll list the next one. And so on.

That way, you could decide by your budget what you’re going to spend money on.

Also, feel free to disagree. I’m not Michelangelo. I’m just a guy who sells pinup watercolor paintings on the side. I still have a day job.

But, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a guy who loves watercolors as much as I do. That’s my authority right there.

I absolutely love them! Every single day, I wake up early and paint. Then, I rush home and paint. On the weekends, I paint. Actually, you’re simply not going to find someone who loves watercolors more than I do.

Expenditures in watercolor in order

Paper

There are only two times I will suggest that you get cheap watercolor paper. When you first start out. And, for your watercolor journal.

When you first start out, you don’t know what you’re doing and you’re going to throw away the first ten paintings anyways. So that doesn’t matter.

As for your journal, nobody’s going to see it besides you. That’s where you do your testing, your experimentation, and also where you take a shitload of notes. My journals actually have more text than paint. I’m always writing in them, describing in detail what to do and what not to do.

But when you first get serious with watercolor, you will need real paper. This isn’t an option.

Cheap paper is cheap paper and it will ruin your paintings. If you have to spend money on one expensive thing and only one expensive thing, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any artist who uses watercolor who would argue with me. Everyone agrees with me for a reason. Cheap paper ruins your work.

Almost everyone uses Arches and it’s for a damn good reason. It’s the standard archival quality watercolor paper.

Arches is not the only archival quality paper. It’s just the one everyone uses. I strongly suggest starting off with that paper when it’s time to get serious.

You may end up liking other papers better. That’s totally fine. Everyone has personal preferences.

But, nobody dislikes Arches. At worst, they say they prefer X brand because of Y quality.

Paints

Of the expenditures in watercolor, paints rank second. Cheap paints use less pigment and are often less quality controlled. Here’s the thing – if you want to make money selling a product, you have to charge more than it costs to produce the product.

If you sell a high end product, you can charge a lot. However, if you’re trying to sell a cheap product, you’re going to have to cut corners to make a profit.

With cheap paints, they’re using less pigment. That’s how they make a profit.

You can get by with cheap paints and only the high end watercolor snobs will know the difference if you’re really good. Quality paints are not as important as quality paper. But they’re still important. But once again, if you’re good, you could fool most people with cheap paints. Most people can’t tell the difference.

I swear by Daniel Smith and Winsor and Newton paints. Both brands kick ass. I have no complaints with either brand. In my personal opinion, Daniel Smith paints have a more modern edge to them. Winsor and Newton paints look like they’re from the 1800s. That’s just my personal opinion, but I’m a guy who has lots and lots of paints.

For gouache, I’m falling in love with M Graham. They simply make pretty freaking good gouache.

I can’t suggest low end paints because I’ve never used them. I only suggest products that I’ve used.

Brushes

Brushes are not the most important expenditures in watercolor
We use used Kimchi jars for both our brushes and for the watercolor water

I have a confession to make. I use archival quality paper only and only really good paints. But my brushes are the store brand. That’s where I cut the costs.

After over a hundred paintings, only now can I tell you that cheap brushes act like cheap brushes. That said, they’re a pretty good weak link. Nobody, not even the top of the top watercolor snobs, could tell you which brushes you used by looking at your paintings.

So brushes are the perfect place to cut costs if you had to cut costs.

However, when I make a little bit more money, I’m going to reward myself with some good brushes. I can’t recommend which ones because I’ve only used the cheap ones.

Miscellaneous

I use Kimchi jars for my water. You could use spaghetti sauce jars, or jelly jars, or whatever.

If you’re flat broke, you can use jar lids for your mixing palette until you can afford a real mixing palette. I know that sounds lame, but I know what it’s like to be flat broke and have to make due with what you got available.

I do buy good paper towels as paper towels help you rescue mistakes. Bad paper towels suck. I learned that one the heard way. They don’t absorb enough water and if you have a bad spill, you’re going to wish you bought good paper towels.

I use plain old masking tape when not painting on a watercolor block. Regular masking tape works great as long as you’re not painting on cheap watercolor paper. It will rip cheap watercolor paper. From experience.

You don’t have to buy expensive/fancy masking tape.

So there you have it. If you only have money for one expensive item, buy good watercolor paper. If you have the money for good watercolor paper and good something else, reward yourself with good paint. And if you’re rich, buy good brushes as well.

Actually if you’re rich, please buy my paintings so I can also have good brushes.

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You need a watercolor journal

You should have at least one watercolor journal.

I’m not going to get into which watercolor journal is better. To me, it’s an exercise in absurdity. I’ve rarely seen anyone sell their journals. Rather, most of us use them either for traveling or experimentation.

Travelers may want something like a decent pouch or other features. To be honest, I’m the wrong person to ask here.

When I travel, I get heavily into drawing, not watercolor. When I first started watercolors, I heard from an old man that he wishes he spent more time drawing. In fact, he said that he should have spent his first year drawing two hours for every hour painting.

That stuck with me. Painting has always been easier than drawing. So I focus on drawing. The painting for me is easy.

A Watercolor journal for experiments

You’re going to make a lot of mistakes. That’s a good thing. Show me someone who is perfect and I’ll show you someone afraid of taking risks.

If you’re going to get better at anything, you have to take risks. That goes from everything from life to sports to art.

A watercolor journal gives you the cheap opportunity to take risks and not cry about ruining something you spent a lot of money on.

Strathmore makes pretty cheap journals. I think I bought mine on sale at the art store for under $5. Moleskin makes ones that are a little bit more expensive. But still, wrong mindset to even think that way. You’re saving money by making your mistakes in a watercolor journal rather than the real deal.

That’s what I’m getting at. Do your experiments there. Make your mistakes there.

For instance, I talked about testing inks in a journal. Also, I do my initial mixing in a journal first. I learned how to make black, brown, and pink in a journal. Black is a mix of blue and red with a little yellow. Brown is red and green, about 50/50. I make my pink by watering down red.

Whereas a watercolor journal may not necessarily have high end watercolor paper, it’s still watercolor paper. Since I’m using the thing for experiments anyways, I’m not doing the seven layers of wet on wet I do for skin tones. It’s always simple stuff.

I even test colored pencils with watercolors in the journal. One of these days, I’ll incorporate colored pencils more. I rarely use them, despite having some pretty decent ones.

The funny thing though – my journal literally had more words than paint. I’m always writing detailed notes for everything I try in that thing. Makes a great reference for the future.

One more thing. You know how watercolors are transparent and gouache is opaque? Well, some colors are more transparent than others. Some mixes will become somewhat opaque. You can learn this cheaply in a notebook rather than learning it the hard way on a real painting.

Definitely get one. It will save you money, and also may prevent a bit of heartbreak. So much better to ruin a page from a journal rather than the real deal.

Featured product:

watercolor journal
My journals are almost all experimentation

Strathmore 400 Watercolor Journal

Please note that as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This is as absolutely no cost to you, and helps keep my bills paid. I will never recommend a product that I do not use myself. In this specific case, this may not necessarily be the best watercolor journal out there, but it’s great for experimentation which is what I use it for as it’s “good enough” and it’s super cheap.

“What’s the difference between a watercolor journal and a watercolor notebook?”

Nothing. Those terms are used interchangeably. They’re both watercolor books that artists use for either outdoor painting or experimentation. Or both.

Some people like the term journaling. Some people like the term note-taking. They mean the same thing in this context.