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When painting pinups, the magic happens…

When painting pinups, the magic happens in the initial sketch. Once you get good at sketching, everything else just falls in place.

In the old days, artists took anatomy classes and dissected bodies. I won’t go that far. However, I strongly recommend that you know bodies very well.

I’m a damn good masseuse and also was a pretty good wrestler back in the day. Between massage and wrestling, I know what a body can and can’t do. I also know every muscle of the body, every tendon, every major bone.

I know both healing points and pain points. Before MMA was MMA, I wrestled NHB, which is no-holds-barred wrestling and would attempt to move my opponent’s body in ways that hurt enough for them to tap.

Why this matters

Alright, maybe you don’t want to get into wrestling. That’s totally fine. Not your thing.

Then get into massage. Know a body inside and out. Know how to heal a body. Masseuses also know pain points.

I’m almost blind. I’d much rather touch than look for obvious reasons. I see nothing without my glasses. You and I could be five feet away from each other and without my glasses, you’re blurry. I literally cannot tell you what you eye color is.

Of course anatomy classes work too. That’s why artists of the old days did them.

Live models

I strongly suggest live models. Yes, I wear glasses and yes, with my glasses, I can almost see as well as you can. My eyes are mostly correctable. Correctable enough for me to legally drive. And no, I’ve never caused an accident and I’ve literally driven over half a million miles.

I use two live models – Allie and Roxy. Both are dear friends of mine. For personal reasons, I don’t paint anonymous models. I feel like I have to be emotionally connected to my work for my work to be meaningful.

You don’t have to feel like this. Maybe I’m a weirdo. But that’s how I think. I’m emotionally connected to my work. I can’t put emotional investment in something that is anonymous, so my models either have to be close friends or lovers. That’s a hard rule for me.

Regardless, live models are great. You get to see how a woman sits, how a woman moves, how a woman stands, how a woman walks. You get to see all the muscles move exactly how they can move. And, you get to see the shadowing.

Shadowing is so important when drawing. It gives your drawing depth. And a lot of realism.

For painting pinups

You’re looking for beauty. Paint only the beautiful.

What is beautiful? You tell me. We all have different tastes. There are no right answers, and I can guarantee that if you find a model beautiful, someone else will as well.

But yes, drawing is where it’s at. When I first started painting, I listened to experienced artists. I listened to mistakes and regrets.

You know what stood out to me? I remember explicitly hearing some guy say that he wishes in the beginning he spent two hours drawing for every one hour painting. You know why? Because drawing is where it’s at, especially when painting pinups.

I start with a sketch

In this one, Allie posed. I sketched her. I sketch everything from the lines to the shadows. I’ll replicate the shadows in the sketch when I paint the paintings.

I don’t use any fancy pencils. I just use this pencil called America’s Pencil and it’s an HB2. That’s it, nothing fancy.

example for painting pinups
You can still see the pencil lines. I’ll usually remember to erase those before I start painting

This is also why I prefer using hot press watercolor paper. It’s personal preference, but for me, the sketch is the most important part of the process.

Painting is the easy part

I love painting. It’s the most relaxing thing I do. But, it’s also quite easy once you get the hang of it.

Yeah, exactly what that old timer said – spend twice as much time practicing drawing/sketching than painting. You’ll get the hang of painting much sooner than the drawing/sketching.

It’s especially true when painting pinups. When painting pinups, if the drawing is bad, the painting is bad. Period.

I make sure I nail the drawing first before I ink. I prefer inking with a very fine ink pen. My personal preference – Sakura Micron 005. You don’t have to use the same tools as we’re all entitled to our preferences. But that’s just what I use.

So if you’re a new artist, get really good at drawing. Everything else will fall into place. Don’t worry. You’ll get the colors and the painting picked up really fast. That’s the easy part!

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Did the Ancient Greeks see a mermaid? Brizo from Delos

Ancient Greek Goddess Brizo

How do legends start? They’re usually based on some kind of truth. Or what someone with a lot of charisma thought was the truth.

On the Ancient Greek island of Delos, women would leave offerings to a beautiful nude female creature that they called Brizo. They’d leave her offerings in exchange for her protection of their husbands and sons from the dangers of the seas.

Brizo the Goddess

She eventually became a Greek Goddess. To be exact – the Ancient Greek Goddess of Mariners, Sailors, and Fishermen.

Later on, Ancient Greeks used her in oracles and dreams as well.

But her primary role was protection of the men in the seas. Note that women worshiped her, not the men who she directly protected.

Delos

Of course, you can still visit Delos today. Very few people live there as it’s mostly archeological ruins. If you’re an archeologist or a history buff, you’ll probably love a boat ride and a day or two on the island.

We didn’t get a chance to go there when we were in Greece last year. We explored Olympia and some nice Greek beaches. If you ever go there, try the seafood!

Origins

Have you ever seen the original Star Trek series? Well, they had an episode where the crew encounter Apollo. Apollo turned out to be a powerful alien, not a God. But the Ancient Greeks also encountered him and with their knowledge for the time, it made sense that he must have been a God.

What about Brizo? Did the Ancient Greeks see a mermaid? Or, was it something else on a foggy day where two people saw something, then filled in the blanks?

I don’t know. I wasn’t there. That’s often how legends start though. They’re often based on something real.

Brizo the character

I’d love to believe in the existence of mermaids. Like Fox Mulder wants to believe there are aliens. Every time they’ve found a body or a skeleton though, it turned out to be a forgery.

So regardless, I’m going to use Brizo as a recurring character. Here’s the first in what will become many Brizo paintings.

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How to deal with distractions

how to deal with distractions

Distractions. Nowadays, it seems like we have more than we’ve ever had before.

Before, we had the telephone and the television. And that was it.

If nobody called and nothing was on TV, you got shit done. So much easier to have a creative mindset back then.

Note that I wrote this article mainly for fellow artists. But the same applies to anyone trying to get anything done. Are you overwhelmed by distractions? If so, I hope I can help!

Today

We got smart phones replacing the old telephones. I grew up well before text messaging. Kids would actually come over unannounced and we’d go play outside.

Then, we got social media. You know as an artist, you got things you want to accomplish. You go to check Facebook for ten minutes. Suddenly ten minutes becomes two hours and there goes your evening where you were supposed to get your art done.

What to do about distractions

It all comes down to discipline. I’d advise turning your phone off for at least an hour a day. In that hour, no social media either. Just straight up work.

Even an hour a day every day adds up. Double it and it’s even better. That’s when you get real results.

Yes I know you got a day job. When you get home, you’re tired.

Well, stretch and loosen up for ten or fifteen minutes and maybe even do 20 minutes of cardio, then get to work.

The artists who make it aren’t necessarily the most talented. They’re the most persistent. I’ve always argued that persistence trumps talent anyways.

So the best way to deal with distractions is simple. Schedule me time. Block it off. Shut off everything and in that hour or two, get to work.

Now if you’re one of those people who never get distracted, what’s your secret? I’d love to hear from you!

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Why I prefer hot press paper

blonde mermaid painted on hot press watercolor paper

Keep in mind, there is no perfect tool. There are no right answers. What works for you may not necessarily work for me. And vice versa.

I personally prefer hot press paper. Why? Because the beef of my art isn’t the colors. It’s the drawing under the colors. Hot press paper is the most smooth, and the easiest to draw on.

If you’re wondering the difference between the two papers, cold press paper has a bumpier texture. It’s slightly better for multiple washes. However, I paint my skin tones seven times wet on wet on hot press paper and don’t have any complaints.

Hot press paper rules for drawings

For practice sketching, I just used plain, cheap copy paper. Since I’m not going to do anything with those sketches anyways, I don’t care. They’re for practice, and if they turn out really good, I’ll give them to a friend. But when it’s time to actually paint, I’m using either Arches or Blick Premier hot press paper.

Note the most important thing here – it comes down to style. If you’re a pure painter, you’ll more than likely prefer cold press paper. Cold press paper is more popular. You’ll notice this when you go into any art store and actually count how much cold press is available vs how much hot press is available.

I’m not a pure painter. I do fantasy pinups. Stylistically, hot press paper serves me better than cold press paper.

Not that that’s all I’ll ever use. Sometimes, I’ll paint on wood or clay. But when it comes to paper, I’m using hot press.

mermaid drawing on hot press watercolor paper
Pigma Micron 005 on Blick Premier block 140 lb hot press paper

For my style, the drawing is my bread and butter. I’ll still need to do seven layers of wet on wet to make her skin smooth and lovely. But both Blick Premier and Arches hot press paper can take that much water, no problem.

Negatives of hot press paper

It takes longer to dry

Hot press paper takes longer to dry than cold press paper. I’m not a blow dryer guy. I go and do something else in between layers.

For cold press, I can usually start painting again in a half an hour. For hot press, I’ll wait at least 45-60 minutes between layers.

Washes are different

This isn’t necessarily a negative. Although since most watercolor artists start off with cold press paper, they’re thrown off by how hot press paper acts differently.

The colors on hot press wash off faster after multiple washes. Cold press papers tend to “keep” the colors more than hot press. This is neither here nor there. It’s just something to be aware of.

mermaid work in progress
Work in progress – after a few washes. Yes, my wife and I eat a lot of kimchi

That’s one reason why some folks with start off with cold press, try hot press, then move immediately back to cold press. They don’t like how hot press doesn’t keep the colors as well.

As with anything, you get used to how things work with the method you use the most. That includes the tools. You get comfortable with the tools you use the most.

I’m now more comfortable with hot press paper. I’ve adjusted accordingly, despite actually starting with cheap cold press paper (which I will strongly not recommend – another story for another day).

Try them both

I strongly suggest that you try them both and see which one you like better. You may completely disagree with me. Which is fine. You be you. You and I may have completely different styles, or may need different aspects from the paper. That’s part of art.

Try having a conversation with ten different people about what is the best car and you may get eight, nine, or ten different responses. Same thing.

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Artists I like – Francisco Goya

Francisco Goya - The Third of May

Francisco Goya isn’t my favorite artist of all-time. I’m writing about him first in my Artists I like series because he’s the very first non-American artist I studied in real life.

My wife and I have a hard rule. Every year, we have to leave the country to a country we haven’t been to before. Our bucket list includes travel and that means we must get to all 50 states and as many countries as possible before we die.

We hit Spain in 2015. We spent nine days there – six in Madrid and three in Barcelona. That’s it. We definitely need to go back. Two cities in nine days wasn’t enough at all.

While in Madrid, we hit every single major art gallery the city offered. Of course, the Prado’s the most important one. And the most important artist in the Prado?

Francisco Goya

Francisco Goya lived a very long time. Goya lived long enough to actually see his paintings in the Prado. How cool would that be to actually accomplish that while still alive?

It’s like that Queen song on A Night at the Opera. “On Friday’s I go painting the Louvre.” Despite hearing that song over a hundred times, I still laugh at that line. You don’t just paint in the Louvre. Just like, you just don’t paint in the Prado. You have to be on an immortal level of artistic success.

Now, I’m not going to go into his life. There’s a Wikipedia article for that. He lived from 1746 to 1828 if you’re wondering.

Style

Goya was a Romantic. I consider myself a Romantic as well. You might see my work and say “wait, that’s not Romanticism!” Well, you got me. I’m working backwards. First, I want to master the American pinup style before getting into true Romanticism.

Goya though was the real deal. He influenced so many people after him. I admire his work so much that I even watched that Goya’s Ghosts movie. No, it wasn’t as bad as the critics made it out to be. Apparently, the critics hate it.

Anyways, yes Goya was a Romantic. His The Third of May painting is one of the most powerful paintings ever painted. Period. It is often the example that an Art History professor uses when going over Romanticism.

I’ve seen it in real life, and pictures don’t do it justice! It’s so much more powerful in person.

Four paintings

I’m not going to go over his entire career. It was long, and Goya went through several huge evolutions. However, I do want to cover four paintings that mean a lot to me.

When studying an artist, I strongly suggest focusing on two to five paintings and really knowing them. It’s way easier than trying to grasp their entire body of work. If you can do the latter, more power to you. But, there’s so much really good art out there that I simply don’t have time to learn everything.

The same goes for music, but that’s another story for another day. So I’m going to select four paintings that mean something to me, other than The Third of May, which everyone’s already seen.

La Maja Desnuda

In English, the Nude Maja. This one’s too shocking for its time so it had to be kept in private. It’s currently in the Prado. But it used to be kept privately by Goya’s friend Manuel de Godoy, who more than likely commissioned it of Godoy’s mistress. Godoy was Prime Minister of Spain.

Anyways, I love how sexual it is. It’s not just some generic nude, which I find more often than not boring. I like my nudes to have something more to them.

This one is beckoning. You almost wonder if Goya hit it as well as Godoy.

Now, not only is it a great painting, this painting got both Godoy and Goya in trouble with the Spanish Inquisition. Sure, we laugh when watching Monty Python today about the Spanish Inquisition, but back then, it was no laughing matter.

Francisco Goya - La Maja Desnuda

Saturn Devouring His Son

I was a strange kid. I could tell you every single recent NFL score and every single major career stat off the top of my head. As a kid, I won my father’s football office pool a bunch of times. Against full grown adults.

I also knew all about the Greek Gods and Goddesses. I knew all the major ones and their histories.

This painting freaked me out as a kid. I always imagined that Saturn swallowed them whole. I never imagined Saturn (I knew him as Cronus) eating them like this.

Now in real life, this is even more disturbing. Part of Goya’s Black Period.

Francisco Goya - Saturn Devouring His Son

The Family of Charles IV

King Charles IV commissioned a lot of work from Goya. He and his family loved Goya, obviously.

Goya was neat for his day. Rather than painting the ugly members as beautiful, he painted them exactly as he saw them. For some, that was a big no no.

That’s why I only paint beautiful women. I can’t make someone ugly beautiful. Cursed by Goya? Who knows.

You have to see this in real life. It’s magnificent! It takes up an entire room.

Francisco Goya - The Family of Charles IV

The Disasters of War

This isn’t one painting. Rather, it’s 82 prints done between 1810 and 1820. They’re some of the most brutal pieces of art ever devised, resembling something off a Cannibal Corpse album cover rather than something you’ll find at a museum.

I’m not going to post any of them. I’d much rather you do the research yourself, and also study the history of them. It’s of utmost importance that humans learn from history so they don’t repeat it.

Yeah, you’ve heard that saying a million times. But, does anyone ever practice it?

Goya wasn’t the first artist to have political motivations in his works. But, he’s definitely one of the best. These pieces were so powerful that he had to publish them posthumously for his own safety.

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Why do people buy art?

Have you ever asked anyone why they bought art? I don’t mean in a negative way, like “why the hell would you buy that?” I mean, ask them sincerely why they purchased that particular piece of art.

You’ll be surprised at the responses you’ll get from art buyers.

You pretty much have two types of buyers. Some buyers buy completely on a whim. Then the second group actually went looking for the art.

From those two types of buyers, you have overlapping subcategories. I say overlapping subcategories since they don’t necessarily fit into the two primary groups.

Investors

I wish I remember which member of Motley Crue invested in art. I remember the days when a google search actually brought relevant data. Nowadays, you search for an answer to your question and you get a bunch of bullshit.

Anyways, I remember reading about one of the members of Motley Crue who would buy hundreds of thousands of dollars of art every year. And then proceed to have art auctions. And actually make a lot of money!

Yes, you can buy art as an investment. Of course, keep the pieces you’re in love with. But part with the rest.

An up and coming artist may slaughter the stock market. Whereas a good stock investor will make 10% or more a year, art can go up infinitely.

I recorded two songs with David Lichtenstein. His father Roy had a painting sell for $56 million, another sell for $95 million, and another sell for $165 million. Imagine if you owned any of those paintings! So far, seven of his paintings have sold for over $10 million.

Lovers

Ah, one of my favorite words. I’m a hopeless romantic. I think all good artists are.

Some folks just love collecting art. They fall in love with a piece of art. Then they buy it.

These people often have so much art that they have to end up taking a piece down in order to put the new piece up. There’s literally no room on their walls.

I love meeting people like this. They’re passionate about not only art, but also life. You could see the smiles in their eyes. They’re fun to talk to, fun to be around. If I could pick one type of person to hang with, it would undeniably be them.

What motivates them? I have no idea. I wish I had that much enthusiasm! These are my favorite people in the world.

Trend setters

This may have a negative connotation but it really shouldn’t. Some folks love to predict trends. Others set them.

Artists create art. However, if there’s nobody showing it off, then the art will eventually disappear and the artist will be forgotten.

Trend setters find a style they love. Then they push it out to the world.

This is yet another reason not to hate your competition. Imagine, you and someone with a style similar to yours getting both picked up by the same trend setter. You not only both make money, you both make the news. The trend setter helps you both succeed. Then, you’ll see other artists try to emulate you both, only further enhancing your artistic portfolio since a collector will often look for influences.

Businesses

I’ll never get picked up by a business. They’re not my market. Yes, you guessed why. I don’t have anything that’s necessarily safe for work. Unless you work in the Playboy Mansion.

I don’t like “business art” anyways. It’s more often than not sterile. It looks like business art.

In these parts, business art tends to be politically correct. “What’s the latest virtue signal? We need to display that!” That art more resembles a bad parody of itself than real art.

Disney though has some pretty good art up. Yes, I know it’s cool nowadays to hate on Disney. But whenever I see their art they got up, I have to compliment the artists. I say this because I wish other companies would recognize the importance of real art, not the sterile shit that most have hanging up.

Commissions

From the Renaissance to the 19th century, artists depended on commissions. Rich people commissioned artists. That’s just what they did.

Rich people back then were cultured. They often spoke tons of languages and could play musical instruments. They knew, and loved art. So much different than today’s rich people, especially the Silicon Valley stereotype.

The Medici’s funded the Renaissance. Tchaikovsky had Madame van Meck. Goya had Charles IV. I’ve seen the infamous picture of that royal family in real life. Oh, and Tchaikovsky was the very first person to play in Carnegie Hall.

Classy people commission art. They’re some of my favorite people as well. It’s one thing to take a family photograph. You really want to have style? Have your family painted.

Friends and family

And lastly, you have people who know the artist personally and have strong relations with them. They’re the easiest to sell to since they know firsthand the motivations of the artist.

I won’t go into details here as I’d be stating the obvious. You know the artist. You may have even commissioned the work yourself.

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Watercolor on wood vs paper

mermaid watercolor on wood

Watercolor on wood. It just sounds cool. However, if you don’t know what you’re doing, it will end up a disaster.

I’m assuming you’ve already painted watercolor on watercolor paper (which is made from acid-free cotton, not regular paper). If you haven’t, watercolor paper is what most watercolor artists paint on most of the time.

Some of us love to experiment on different mediums for whatever reason. I’m one of those people.

I’ve now painted on watercolor paper, clay (a product called Aquabord), and wood. I won’t go into clay in this article. But I will give you some differences between watercolor on wood and watercolor on watercolor paper.

Watercolor on paper

This is your generic watercolor painting. I don’t want to spend too much time on this because I assume you’ve done this many, many times. This article is written for people who have already painted on paper and want to experiment on wood. But if you’re wondering what to start out on, I’ll give you a few paragraphs.

Watercolor on paper is as generic as it gets. Good paper absorbs washes beautifully. It also takes in your colors as you expect them to.

I always paint with a blank piece of copy paper on my right side and when I mix colors, I try them out first on the copy paper. Those colors will be very close to what you’ll see on the watercolor paper. Not exact, but close enough.

You’ll also get used to drying times. You have to wait until one layer is dry before moving onto the next layer. You’ll need to know terms like “wet on wet” and “wet on dry” at the very least to be a decent watercolor artist. You’ll be using both.

Watercolor on wood

Now, this is where it gets tricky. Assuming you’re used to painting on watercolor paper, wood is, well, weird.

Bleeding

Wood bleeds a lot. Not every watercolor artist inks. However, I always ink. If you use ink, keep in mind that wood really bleeds a lot. You’ll want to use a thinner ink pen/brush. Here, I’m using a Pigma Micron 005, which is very thin.

watercolor on wood - inking
Inked with Pigma Micron 005

You can’t ink too slowly or else it will bleed all over the place. You’ll need to get confident with your lines.

After you’ve inked, keep in mind that watercolor bleeds with paint as well. Whereas with paper, you can make mistakes, you can’t make mistakes with wood. Good luck trying to get your mistake out. The paint will bleed into where you don’t want it to bleed, then stain. You’re more than likely not going to be able to cover up that stain.

To anticipate the bleeding, you’ll need to know which way the wood flows. Look closely at the lines in the wood. Know them well.

Also, know exactly how wet your brush is. The more wet, the more bleed. For fine details and edges, you almost want to dry brush.

Sucks paint

Is the price of paint an issue for you? I’m not saying this to be an asshole. I’m saying this to be a realist. If you’re broke, keep in mind that you’re going to go through a lot of paint. You simply need more paint than you will with paper.

watercolor on wood - you'll use way more paint
Water finished – this was a lot of paint!

You see that blue for the water? That was a shitload of paint. That’s enough paint for at least three or four watercolor paper paintings. No, I’m not exaggerating.

Light colors don’t show

You’ve more than likely learned the rule to never, ever go dark to light. You always want to paint light to dark. Right?

Well, that is correct for paper. However for watercolor on wood, it’s different.

Allie has light skin. When I first painted her skin color, it didn’t show up at all. This was exactly the same paint I just mixed for my previous painting on paper.

So, I did a cardinal sin. I mixed a darker paint, then went dark to light.

It worked perfectly. Whereas you never, ever want to do this on paper, you may have to do this on wood for the lighter colors.

Yes, the darker colors will show through as watercolor paint is very transparent. However, do you want the darker colors to show through versus having nothing show up at all? I’ll take the former.

Wet on wet

Here’s where it gets weird. You’re used to painting wet on wet and everything working well on paper. Well guess what? On wood, your water just got sucked into the wood. You’re going to need more water.

But then, if you use too much water, your paint will bleed all over the place and ruin your painting. But if you don’t use enough water, your wet on wet won’t be a wet on wet.

Heh. Catch 22. Good luck with this.

OK, I won’t be an asshole about it.

You need to do this carefully. Wet on wet still works with wood. You just need to figure you’ll need more water, but you have to be very careful about bleed.

Waiting for the paint to dry to paint the next layer

This is one thing I absolutely love about wood. Whereas it doesn’t per se dry faster. In reality, it sucks the paint so you can paint the next layer sooner. You save time painting on wood.

Also, layering looks really cool when you do this. The wood isn’t necessarily dry, but the previous paint layer has been sucked in enough that you can put the next paint layer over it.

I can’t speak for you, but I’m a classic Type A person. I’m extremely impatient. I have to be doing something at all times.

This is one of the reason I love painting on wood. Some folks use hair dryers to speed things up. I don’t own a hair dryer, so in between layers on watercolor paper, I go play my guitar.

For wood though, the wait is very short. For paper, I wait an hour between layers. Watercolor on wood though, I wait about ten minutes. Yes, it’s that fast between layers.

Do not make mistakes

I said this before but it needs repeating. Do not make mistakes when painting on wood.

You can pretty much fix most mistakes when painting on paper. On wood though, good luck. Bleed is harder to cover up and wood is unforgiving for mistakes. They’ll be noticeable.

I’d only recommend wood for someone who’s confident in their ink and their brush strokes.

A few more notes

I love drawing on wood. It looks really cool. I need to say this again because it’s really, really important. Watercolor on wood looks really cool! (Isn’t that why artists do anything anyways?)

I pencil before I ink. The pencil erases similarly to paper. Actually, it erases better than a lot of watercolor papers.

Wood being not white though, you’ll have to look more closely at the pencil. It hides more with the coloring of the wood. That often means either penciling with more force or penciling more than once.

Once I got the ink down though, the ink busts through. It looks great.

The other thing is some wood requires sanding. All wood requires cleaning. Before painting, clean your surface with a moist cloth before you even start drawing on it.

And lastly, I mentioned that for watercolor on paper, I test the colors with a piece of copy paper first. You’re simply not going to get the same colors on wood that you will get on paper. Colors look different on wood. If you’re a color purist, you might want to stick to paper.

Conceptually, it feels more like you’re staining the wood than painting. You’ll know what I mean when you start painting on wood.

Preserving your piece

When you’re finished, it’s going to look different than watercolor paper. You can still see the wood. Which I absolutely love about it.

I use a real thick coat of varnish spray. I let it dry overnight, then I put two generous layers of wax finish over it. Between the varnish spray and the wash, your watercolor on wood painting should last hundreds of years if taken care of.







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I’m back

If you’re wondering what happened to me after I finished the Princess for the Night short story last year, I got heavily into art. I haven’t written a single piece of fiction since January of last year when I finished up that one. So, this blog will have a dual focus now.

I’ll still write my fairy tale style fiction. But I’ll also use this blog to sell my art. I’ve always been an artist. I just never took it seriously. That all changed when I started becoming close friends with Allie.

We knew each other, but not that well. Then, it was she who suggested that she model for me. The rest is history.

I now have some of the artwork for sale on the front page. Allie models for most of it. I also use another friend of mine – Roxy. I haven’t seen Roxy in a few months now. She’s quite moody. So we might be seeing almost all Allie from here on out except when I paint Roxy based on my old sketches of her.

No, we didn’t get in a fight or anything. If you know her, you’ll understand. She goes through her phases where you just don’t hear from her.

My art and watercolor tips blog posts

When I get inspired for the next short story, I’ll write again. Nothing’s been coming. In the meantime, I do want to keep this blog active.

I actually love writing. Back in high school, everyone else seemed to view writing as a chore. I didn’t. I fucking loved it!

So far, I got a post on combining watercolor and gouache and a post explaining how I get my skin tones in watercolor. I haven’t tried oils or acrylics yet.

I love watercolors so much though that I more than likely won’t be trying those other two mediums any time soon. Check out my artwork when you get a chance. And if you like it, please buy it. I don’t bite.

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How I paint skin tones in watercolor

Mermaid Allie

I’m going back to my old method of painting skin tones. On another site, I talked about how I used to get skin tones in watercolors. I love to experiment and sometimes, my experiments don’t go too well.

But that’s the thing. If you’re going to be a great chef, you’re gonna burn some cakes. The same goes for any art form.

Heck, Robert Rodriguez said that everyone’s got six bad movies in them. It’s just best to get them out.

Well, I screwed around with some other methods of painting skin tones. I tried using more cool colors for shadowing and ended up with a disaster. My girl took two extra layers of paint to not look like a zombie.

You see, we all do things differently. If you take someone else’s method and try to apply it to your own, it may work. Or it may turn out to be complete shit. That’s even if their method works for them. Your techniques and their techniques may simply be incompatible. And there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s just how it is.

My new vs old way of painting skin tones

OK, I explained this earlier but wanted to give yesterday’s example. Here’s the full piece.

pinup witch
Allie summons a snake

I primarily take two colors – titanium white and burnt sienna. I mix them until I get a nice light orange, matching Allie’s skin. Now if you look closely at someone, you’ll notice that nobody has just one color. You’ll see lots of colors.

The color you want to create is your model’s “average skin tone.” What the hell does that mean? Somewhere in the middle.

You’ll have to both darken and lighten it, depending on the lighting and shadows.

Now the method that I tried doing from someone else involved adding either a blue or a gray for shadowing. Using someone else’s watercolor technique, I’m sure that would work great.

However, I do layer after layer of wet on wet. That means you’ll get a lot of blues (or grays) over the rest of her body where it doesn’t belong. That’s what created the zombie effect.

So it’s back to my original method with only four colors and no cooling effect for shadowing.

The four colors

We have two primary colors for her main colors – titanium white and burnt sienna. What are the other two colors? A red and a yellow.

I use the yellow to mark what will later become highlights. I love the yellow effect. It shows through without showing through. You have to look closely for it to see it.

For the final color, I add a little watered down red to her cheeks. I use the same red for her lips to her cheeks. Except for her lips, it’s straight up red (not watered down). I love red lipstick on a beautiful woman. It pops out and really makes her smile/lips stand out. I love that.

For this particular piece, I used watered down red for her right nipple (you mostly don’t see her right nipple due Allie having really long hair) and also her fingernails. Allie has long, feminine fingernails. I love those. Now my wife does too after seeing Allie’s nails.

Anyways, so the first layer of highlights is yellow and I paint the main skin tone everywhere else. Then the second layer, the third layer, and the fourth layer, I paint the main skin tone everywhere.

For the fifth layer, I paint my skin tone mixed colors for the non-shadowed areas while painting watered down burnt sienna on the shadowed areas. For the sixth layer, I smear the regular color all over her and drop a little watered down red for her cheeks. For the seventh layer, I paint straight up titanium white all over her to even out everything and smooth out both the lightened areas and the shadowed areas.

The gold

This may sound weird. I use gold watercolor ground for the gold. Why? Because it gives it a 3D effect. Just in case you don’t know what watercolor ground is, let me explain. Watercolor ground is not exactly paint. It’s material you put over something like glass, metal, or plastic, then you let it dry. Then you can paint over it, so you can literally watercolor over glass, metal, or plastic.

The thing is, when you use the ground for paint, it gives it a little bit of a 3D effect because it sticks out a little bit. I love that!

There’s more than one way to do anything

You may try my techniques and hate them. That’s perfectly fine. Like I said before, sometimes different people’s techniques clash and don’t play well together at all. That’s part of being human. If my stuff doesn’t work for you, I’m not at all going to take it personal.

I’ve also heard some watercolor purists poo poo on the idea of using white watercolor for anything. Whatever. I don’t like rules.

I actually love mixing with titanium white. You get really weird mixes with it.

I initially tried getting skin tones with red and yellow. However, that combo caused me to throw out a lot of paint before getting the right formula.

With titanium white and burnt sienna, it’s very simple. Take the white, add some water, and add a little bit of burnt sienna until you get the right mix, depending on how light or dark your model is.

I like simple. Simple is good. Even better than simple? Easy to replicate.

When I run out of the mix, I don’t have any problem replicating the same colors, despite mixing colors being one of the hardest things to master in watercolor.

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Watercolor and gouache are friends

mermaid using both watercolor and gouache

Watercolor and gouache are friends. They play nicely together.

Actually, gouache is a type of watercolor. You’ll hear some people refer to gouache as “opaque watercolor.” That’s because, that’s exactly what it is.

You’ll also hear purists who believe you should never use gouache. Or, use one or the other and not combine them.

I think purists are nuts. That comes down to pretty much everything. I don’t believe in rules, only suggestions.

Watercolor vs gouache

Yes, gouache is actually a type of watercolor. But to make it easier for me to explain, I’ll differentiate them and call them two separate things.

Regular watercolors are transparent. What does that mean? It means you can see through them. They do a terrible job at covering up whatever you painted over.

That’s actually a good thing if you want to layer. That’s how I get such lovely skin tones. I layer wet on wet seven times.

On the other hand, gouache is opaque. What does that mean? It means it covers up whatever you painted on. It does a terrible job of layering.

Which is better?

It totally depends on the application. Most of my paintings are 99% watercolor with 1% gouache. This painting however has more gouache than I generally use.

The fish, the white sparkles in Allie’s eyes, and the bubbles are gouache. Everything else is watercolor.

You see how I get them to play nicely together? The gouache also looks like it’s on top of the watercolor.

Whereas I use Daniel Smith and Windsor and Newton watercolors, I use the cheap ass gouache. That’s because I don’t use gouache enough to notice the difference between brands. The cheap ass stuff works fine for what I do.

If somewhere down the road I’ll start using more gouache, I’ll more than likely start buying the more highly recommended brands.

If you’re going to layer a lot, use more watercolor. For an application where you want to just paint it once and you want the color to behave exactly as you painted the first time, use more gouache.