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Mechanical pencils vs regular pencils for artists

I finally broke down and bought a mechanical pencil. No, I’ve never even used one. I’ve always just used regular pencils.

And you know what? There’s no way in hell I’m going back to regular pencils.

I got regular pencils all over the place. Hundreds of them. Yes, literally.

But, for when I do anything serious, I’m using mechanical pencils from here on out.

Mechanical pencils vs regular pencils

Mechanical pencils have some key advantages over regular pencils. First, convenience. You never have to sharpen a mechanical pencil.

Second, comfort. Regular pencils are made for bulk. They’re not uncomfortable since we’ve grown up using them.

However, once you’ve used a mechanical pencil, you’ll see exactly what I mean. A decent mechanical pencil is simply more comfortable than a regular pencil.

Third, even if you have a good pencil sharpener, you get to pick the tip size of the mechanical pencil. I intentionally pick 0.5. Personal preference.

The thing is, I’ll always have a 0.5 tip. With a regular pencil, it’s harder than hell to continually get the right size tip. Once again, that’s even if you have a pretty good pencil sharpener.

Plus, have you ever broken the tip off a regular pencil? Of course you have! You’ve done it way too many times. You’ll never have to worry about doing that ever again with a mechanical pencil.

mechanical pencils vs regular pencils
I finally bought a mechanical pencil

Why else it matters

Whether you do oils, acrylics, or watercolors, you’re going to be drawing a lot.

Heck, I’m always drawing. In fact, drawing is the most important part of pinup art anyways. And that’s what I do – fantasy pinup art. If I don’t get the drawing perfect, then it doesn’t matter what I do with the paint. It simply won’t look good.

That’s the thing. Why make it even harder on myself? I want to make things as simple as possible.

And with a mechanical pencil, that’s one less thing to worry about. I got the perfect tool for drawing that gets me the perfect lines. It’s the perfect precursor to inking my watercolors.

So yes, highly recommend. You won’t regret it!

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4 Random Watercolor Observations

Here are four random watercolor observations. I’ll probably do an article on random watercolor observations every three or four months. I’ll always add more as I learn more. As should you.

Paper first, paints second, brushes third

I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again. When budgeting watercolors, you need to spend your money first and foremost on good watercolor paper. I’ve had bad watercolor paper destroy otherwise decent creations.

The good news though was that this was early on. None of these paintings were good enough to sell anyways. But had I ruined a watercolor painting by using cheap watercolor paper today, I’d be bummed.

Second, you’re going to need at least professional level paints. Cheap paints have cheap pigmentation since they have to cut corners somewhere to make a profit. That’s the number one rule of business – make a profit. If you’re going to use high end supplies for your colors, you’re simply going to have to charge more. And vice versa.

You can fool buyers with cheap paints. But you won’t full yourself. You’ll find yourself doing a little bit extra work to make cheap paints behave the way you want them to.

As for cheap watercolor brushes, I got away with using cheap watercolor brushes until only a week ago. I’m totally in love with these good brushes now. No, I still don’t own elite end brushes (ranging over $100 a brush). But at least these intermediate brushes are a huge upgrade over what I had before.

You’re going to like more than one brand of paints

I started off with Daniel Smith paints. To this day, I love that brand.

But as time went on, I bought other brands here and there. I wanted to branch out. And you know what? As long as you’re not using the low end watercolor paint, you’re good.

random watercolor observations
The longer you paint, the more paints you’ll just end up with

I’ve come to love Winsor and Newton as well. Even Blick brand artist grade paints are quite good. I bought those because Blick had a sale at a price I simply couldn’t refuse. I had to try them.

For gouache, I’ve bought cheap gouache and it sucks. Big time. Then I decided to take gouache seriously and brought M Graham. I absolutely love those paints! They’re made with honey so you have to treat them slightly differently. You’ll see what I mean when you paint with them.

You’re going to throw some works away

If you want to get better at anything, not just watercolor, but anything, you’re going to have to take some risks. This applies to everything from art to sports to cooking to investing to anything else I can think of.

This is why I’m so adamant about having a watercolor journal. You could do your experimenting in that thing without breaking the bank.

Still, a lot of your works will suck. Even when you’ve been painting for awhile.

I say – keep going. Get them out of your system.

I also say to take risks. Lots of risks. Do things that are out of your comfort zone.

Recently, I painted a gouache sunset. It was terrible. It ended up in the trash. If you saw it, you’d see why.

Did I learn anything from it? Of course!

Ironically, you often learn more from your failures than your successes. I’m not a psychologist, so I can’t tell you why that is. I just know that at least for me, it is.

The painting becomes the easy part

I remember when I first started painting, I read somewhere from a very talented old man watercolor artist that he wished he practiced two hours of drawing for every one hour of painting.

Now I get it. The painting becomes the easy part.

But drawing? You’re always having to hone those skills. Drawing really does take a lifetime to master.

At least once a week, I get together with my two models Allie or Roxy and do a live figure drawing. These live figure drawings end up in my pinup art. Actually, they’re the backbone of my pinup art.

Keep drawing every chance you get.

My wife and I went on a three week vacation recently and I took my drawing pad with me. Both Allie and Roxy did me a big favor and left me some nude selfies to work with.

Every day, we had at least an hour of downtime. I practiced my drawing and some of those sketches ended up in my art when we got back.

Your random watercolor observations?

Do you have anything random you could tell me? Or share with our readers?

Spill it! Would love to hear it.

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Too much thinking and not enough living

too much thinking and not enough living
Don’t forget to live

I’ve read Plato. And of course, studied Greek philosophy, Greek art, Roman art, etc. All that good stuff.

But, we can go too far. What if one would spend too much time reading and forgot to live? Didn’t Cervantes write a book about that?

I do think artists should put their work in. We should do our research. Know the past very well. Be able to imitate our idols’ works.

Definitely do all this, but don’t forget that if you really want to be a great artist, you absolutely positively have to live a life worthy of an artist.

What is a life worthy of an artist?

You’ve seen the stereotypes. Artists love passionately, often with reckless abandon. We either break hearts or let ours be broken. One or the other. Or both.

We live to live and love for the sake of love.

I just wrote on artists and suffering and I stand by what I said. Artists should feel something if they expect to produce great art.

The Pre-Raphaelites understood this. Maybe too well. Their love affairs were often scandalous, especially for the Victorian era.

Guilty of too much thinking?

Why do I even bring this up? Because, nowadays too many people live on their phones. When they’re not on their phones, they’re doing something else cerebral. For instance reading or playing videogames. Indoors and alone.

Nothing against any of that stuff. But what ever happened to living?

Heck, even when you go to a concert, you see people doing everything but watching the concert. What’s the point of even being there if you’re going to spend the entire time hiding behind a tiny little phone screen?

The artist needs to live

Artists of the past lived. I mean, really lived. They squeezed as much life as possible out of their years, even when their years were cut short.

Jimi Hendrix only made it to 27. But in those 27 years, he did way more living than ten or twenty random people you and I know combined.

That’s what I mean by living. Really living.

Leonardo was physically quite strong and even a competitive wrestler in his youth. We only know him as an old man.

Beethoven loved passionately and recklessly and to this day, nobody knows who his immortal beloved is. Historians list many women who could fit that role.

Have you been to Key West, Florida? Ernest Hemingway is honored there. For a very good reason.

Nobody could ever say that Hunter S Thompson didn’t live. Oh we know all too well that he really lived.

Yes, they all did their share of heavy thinking. I’m not at all against heavy thinking. By all means, think away!

But recognize there is such thing as too much thinking and not enough living. You have to leave the house and live, really live, if you expect to create art to write home about.

I mean, how many paintings of bowls of fruit do you think the public can stomach?

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“An artist has to suffer to create good art”

You’ve heard the cliché many times, that the artist has to suffer to create good art. You’ve seen the examples. How perhaps the greatest American novelist, Ernest Hemingway, suffered from lifelong depression and finally ended his life with a shotgun.

My favorite composer, Tchaikovsky, suffered from melancholia his entire life. And finally ended his life when the orchestra performed his magnum opus poorly and the critics mocked him.

Sylvia Plath, author of the Belljar, a book about a highly intelligent and talented girl who just completely mentally loses it. She tried to end her life many times, finally succeeding by putting her head in the oven leaving and behind a family.

You could hear Beethoven’s manic depression in his music. You’ll literally hear the manic and the depression in the same symphonic movement.

Edvard Munch, the artist who painted The Scream, said my fear of life is necessary to me, as is my illness. Without anxiety and illness, I am a ship without a rudder… my sufferings are part of my self and my art.

They are indistinguishable from me, and their destruction would destroy my art.

Vincent van Gogh suffered from mental illness his entire life. No, he did not cut off his ear to give to Marilyn Monroe. He had already ended his life in 1890, decades before Monroe was even born. (Note that some historians do believe he was murdered and his death is still up for debate).

Ernest Hemingway - the artist has to suffer
Hemingway’s passport photo. His granddaughter, the lovely Margot, also ended her life

I personally loved the works of John William Godward, but he ended his life as Picasso was already on the rise and the art world was not big enough for both of them.

The list goes on and on

I could keep adding to this list, but I’ll probably bore you. We all know most of the greats suffered from depression. Many even ended their lives because of it.

So the eternal question goes – does the artist have to suffer in order to create great art?

The artist has to suffer

I strongly believe that art is feeling. If you don’t feel, you cannot create art. Whereas stoicism is great for philosophy, accounting, and stock and real estate investing, you’re simply not going to create great art being a stoic.

No offense to your accountant of course. I’m sure she’s a lovely lady.

But to feel requires pain. The most empathetic folks you’ll ever meet have suffered and will help absorb your misery since they’ve gone through something similar enough that they can relate.

Those folks are wonderful people. They create great art. And they’re way more likely to take their lives than your accountant.

(If you’re an accountant who also uses your right-brain quite well, you’re definitely an exception, a rare person indeed).

I love a good happy song as much as the next sappy guy. But the ones that really hit you. You know they’re the sad songs, right? Even Elton John sings about that. They say so much, right?

The same goes for music. But alas, music is the soundtrack for a painting anyways. Mussorgsky showed us that with his Pictures of an Exhibition. And speaking of suffering, he died at the young age of 42 as he slowly killed himself via alcohol. Yet in his short life, he left behind some beautiful pieces.

Don’t be afraid to feel

Too many folks are afraid to get hurt. I say if you’re an artist, then get hurt. That pain can go straight onto the canvas. Or straight into a song. Either way, that’s when artists create their best works.

Nobody ever wants to buy the work of someone with an easy life. No. They want to know you bled for that piece of art you produced. I’m not talking about some moronic pop song. I’m talking about real art.

Like Prince’s magnum opus Purple Rain, an album about the love of his life – Vanity, a girl he never could have.

Or how Freddie Mercury loved recklessly, leaving behind a trail of broken hearts. (While leaving his own empty).

And we all know Beethoven had his immortal beloved, who still to this day remains a mystery. Last time I checked, historians think she’s one of four different women.

Whereas Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living, he’s talking about philosophy. Let’s take that phrase and turn it into something for artists. The heart that’s never been broken cannot produce great art. How’s that?

Agree? Disagree?

Why?

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Finally got decent watercolor brushes

I don’t have money coming out of my ears. That’s why I have to budget my watercolor supplies accordingly.

I’ve had awesome paper, awesome paints, but very cheap brushes. I’ve been able to get away with cheap brushes for only so long. The current painting I’m working on, I’ve had enough.

I finally saved up enough money to get decent brushes. And you know what? I’m loving it!

I’ll readily admit that decent watercolor brushes are the least important of the big three expenditures. I strongly suggest that if you only have money for one, get good paper since cheap watercolor paper should only be used by students. Good paints are the second most important expenditure.

But decent watercolor brushes do make a difference.

What makes a good watercolor brush?

In the whole scheme of things, what actually makes a good brush? Its looks?

Of course not. I don’t think anyone would care how it looks.

How it fits in your hands?

Now we’re getting closer. That matters. But it’s not really what we’re going for.

How the paint leaves the brush onto your painting surface?

Bingo! That’s the most important aspect when evaluating the top tier brushes vs mid tier brushes vs low end brushes.

Tips

The tips matter. Big time.

You’ll immediately notice that you can actually use the tips more and they’re more accurate. Before I had decent watercolor brushes, I had to continually switch to my small brushes for fine details.

Now I don’t. I’m using the larger brushes for pretty much everything. That’s one way you can tell an experienced watercolor artist – they prefer their big brushes. I’ve talked to some old time watercolor artists and that’s all they use.

I personally do a lot of fine detail. I’m really loving not having to use the small brushes so much. It may not sound like a big deal until you’re under a time crunch.

Rewetting your brushes

The other thing with the better brushes. I don’t have to rewet good brushes as often. They retain their wetness longer.

Is this a big deal? Once again, to a beginning watercolor artist, not so much. To an artist under a time crunch? Yes.

You want time savers. Plus, it’s annoying when you have to keep repeating brush strokes because your brush sucks.

What I got

Blick carries a lot of good products. I enjoy shopping there.

Their mid-range generic brushes are actually quite good. One day, I’ll buy the top tier brushes. I’m just not there financially.

It’s like Costco’s generic brand Scotch is actually quite good. It’s more than likely one of the higher tier single malt labels, but bought in enough bulk that they got a decent price on it and could relabel it as Costco brand.

finally have decent watercolor brushes
I finally have good watercolor brushes and a huge upgrade to what I had before

Same thing with Blick. Their watercolor paper is actually one of the better papers. I actually use it or Arches. I enjoy Blick’s hot press white when I’m doing pure pinups.

That’s what I’m getting at. So it more than likely is a higher tier brand that Blick bought in bulk and can sell for a decent price. I think I only paid around $25 a brush.

Like I said, when I have more money, I’ll buy the top tier. But for now, these are pretty good brushes and a huge upgrade over what I had before.

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Artists need repetition to be successful

Artists need repetition if they’re going to produce good art.

I don’t mean painting the same thing over and over. I also don’t mean painting in circles.

Think of it this way. When you meet a musician, she warms up by practicing her scales over and over again. Her playing becomes more fluid the more she practices.

It’s the same concept with artists. You’ll need to draw constantly, sometimes the same subject dozens of times before they look like they should.

If an artist isn’t willing to do that, she probably won’t ever amount to anything.

I didn’t put anything for sale until…

I didn’t put anything up for sale until I painted 100 paintings. By then, I got pretty good with each brush stroke. I nailed my techniques.

Of course, I’ll always be learning. Learning takes a lifetime. But, I’m already good at my own style of art.

From there, I’ll start expanding my style.

I recently started dabbling in monochromatic painting for instance. But being aware how much artists need repetition, I still practice my bread and butter on a daily basis. My bread and butter is painting Allie and Roxy.

We have constant modeling sessions. I’ve occasionally used other models besides them, but they’re some of my besties and it’s way better to use someone you’re comfortable with, especially if you’re pouring your heart into your work. They know exactly what I’m aiming for, and the posing comes natural.

What does “artists need repetition” mean for you?

What’s your bread and butter? What are your musical scales that you warm up to? I already told you that mine are figure drawing, based off of live models. I draw the first thing every morning right after I make coffee. What about you?

artists need repetition example
I’ll explain my mistakes in this one below

In the above painting, I made two major errors. This one is not for sale, despite the drawing being really good.

I overestimated two things in this painting – how the black would cover and also how her yellow hair would cover. You can plainly see that I did a bad job with her hair. There’s way too much white in there.

Also, this was before I started using gouache. Now, I use black gouache when I want black. I found that my style calls for both watercolor and gouache at the same time. I usually use them approximately 60/40 respectively.

But getting back to the subject, this painting was before my 100th painting. It’s an “undergraduate” mistake. Nailed the drawing. Nailed the expression. I really liked the hand and the wood wand. But that weak black and the spotty yellow killed an otherwise pretty good painting.

So don’t get frustrated

So my friends, don’t get frustrated. Just keep painting. You’re only just beginning until you’ve had 100 paintings.

I know that sounds like a lot. If you’re just starting, you’ll get there. And you’ll be very glad you did. People who’ve been doing this for awhile are laughing to themselves, probably thinking “100 paintings? That’s nothing!”

You’ll see what I mean that once you reach that point, you stop making undergraduate mistakes.

Repetition, my friends. Keep painting!

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Why I don’t take my Instagram account too seriously

Yes, I have an Instagram account. No, there are hardly any followers.

I don’t take it seriously. At all.

When you start a blog, you should ask yourself why you’re starting it. Do you write because you simply enjoy writing? Are you planning on making money with your blog? Or are you doing this to meet a certain type of person?

I write to sell my art. I also enjoy helping others. Most of my articles are helpful in one way or another. I’ve written about everything from painting skin tones with watercolor to painting watercolor on wood to explaining the difference between a warm color and a cool color.

Time commitment vs performance

I enjoy maintaining this blog. Whether or not I sell as much as I’d like to, I’m still keeping the blog.

Instagram on the other hand takes a commitment. I simply don’t have time for every social media platform. I don’t even have a Facebook account. Last time I was on Facebook, my friends and family would argue nonstop about politics. It was the biggest waste of time of any social media platform. By far.

For Instagram to actually work for me, I need thousands of followers. That takes a lot of time and effort to build that much of a following.

Blogging alone already gets reads. I’d much rather spend my time blogging and making sure these articles are quality articles that actually benefit people than growing an Instagram following.

Suspended accounts

I personally know several models who have had their accounts suspended. Some for no reason at all. Instagram just does that.

They’d have to go through all that trouble to build their followings back. That’s something I’d hate to have to go through.

With a blog, it’s here. I have a backup service just in case I do something really stupid by accident. It backs up my account daily. At worst, I lose a day.

I used to use paid models. Now, I just use my friends Allie and Roxy for all my fantasy pinup art. I’ll still use an occasional paid model when I’m going for something completely different. Jin was the last paid model I used.

A lot of these models have had problems with their Instagram accounts. Which is terrible because they rely so much on them for their businesses. Modeling is their job.

Imagine having your primary source of meeting new clients suddenly suspend you for nothing. Plus, since most of my artwork are nudes, I’d probably be in danger of suspension more than the average person.

So no, I won’t be taking my Instagram account too seriously any time soon. I haven’t posted in almost two months. I should post something as I’ve done a few paintings since then. However, I’m quite indifferent to it.

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Fantasy inspiration could also come from real life

Fantasy inspiration could also come from real life. It doesn’t have to be totally random.

We’re not rich. I drive a piece of crap car with tons of miles and a big ass dent that I never fixed. We live in an apartment barely bigger than a shoe box.

Every dollar I get, we spend on travel. And travel is where it’s at for fantasy inspiration.

Of course my models, Allie and Roxy, model for me in real life so I get their poses down. But then I turn them into femme fatales. I get that list from historical fiction since for my fantasy inspiration, I want to be somewhat historically accurate. Well, mythologically accurate. (Is that a real term?)

Traveling for fantasy inspiration

You don’t always have to go far. We had some really cool caves about an hour from our old condo. Of course, I took tons of pictures as I knew I’d end up drawing them.

But if you live in Europe, you’re blessed. You got all these buildings you can use for dark fantasy. Disney probably got half his ideas on a European vacation. I have no idea where Frank Frazetta got his ideas from though.

Romania has Dracula’s castle and it’s a great resource! Sure, it’s super touristy now. But you can take lots of pictures, then let those pictures inspire you when you get back home.

Europe has great architecture for fantasy inspiration
Some architecture in Brașov, Romania

Pretty much every country in Europe has magnificent castles, cathedrals, and other architecture you could use for fantasy. I just picked Romania since we were just there.

Nature

Whereas Europe has the really old architecture, America has nature, and tons of it! The West Coast, the East Coast – tons of scenery. Montana has breathtaking mountains. Nevada and Utah have magical deserts for days.

Arizona’s got the Grand Canyon. So many states have magnificent forests you could use.

You already know I’m leaving out a lot and there’s no way I could make a comprehensive list of every awesome spot for fantasy inspiration in America.

Mexico has tons of cool spots. They had both the Aztecs and the Mayan civilizations who both built some pretty spectacular sites that you could still visit to this day. Same with Central America, although we haven’t been there yet.

For tropical fantasy, if you’re rich, there’s the South Pacific. If you’re not, there’s Hawaii. I’ve done a tropical mermaid before. I drew the background inspired by our trip to Maui. We haven’t been to the South Pacific yet.

You also already know I’m leaving out a lot of countries. We only got the travel bug recently so there’s so much more world we have to see.

And let’s not forget Alaska and Canada. Two places with endless unspoiled nature.

People

Some artists could draw human or humanoid subjects without a model. I’m definitely not one of them. I need Allie and Roxy for reference. I hired Jin n Tonic one time too. She’s super nice. But Allie and Roxy are local and we’re really close friends as well.

If you can afford it, you can always hire professional models to work with. If not, ask your friends. A lot more people want to be in paintings than you realize.

From there, I just draw the pose. Then later, I’ll get an inspiration and suddenly, Allie will be a witch or Roxy will be a mermaid. It just happens.

You might want to look into cosplay. You’ll find a lot of people are heavily into it, and will more than likely model for you. Cosplay would be great for fantasy. They already have the outfits! You just need to draw then paint them.

These are all just quick ideas. I’m sure you can come up with a lot more. I’ve intentionally left out a lot. It’s up to you to fill in the rest.

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On Monochromatic painting and how it will help your technique

Monochromatic painting is a technique where you only paint with one color. It began with the avant-garde movement as a new way to express your artwork.

Now to be clear, I’m not an avant-garde artist. Regardless, it’s a technique I’ve incorporated because it forces you to get good with the colors you’re using.

I’ve talked about cutting down to seven and even six colors before.

This, is extreme. You’ll only be using one color.

Now if you think that’s an exercise in futility, don’t worry, I’ll hold your hand through the whole process. That’s why I did the drawing for you. All you have to do is print it out and copy it accordingly.

Note that this monochromatic painting exercise isn’t limited to watercolors. That just happens to be the painting medium I use. You could use this with acrylics or oils as well. However for this exercise, we’ll use watercolors. I’m an artist who uses exclusively watercolors and gouache.

Monochromatic painting print out

This is a PDF file so you can simply print this out. You can either copy it to watercolor paper, or stick your watercolor paper into the printer and print it directly onto the watercolor paper.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD PDF

Note that I don’t own a copier. However, I’ve seen others do this so I know it’s possible.

For oils or acrylics, copy it as best as you can. We’re focusing here on technique, not necessarily making a carbon copy of what I drew. You’re going to put your own spin on it anyways.

Choose a color

Now for the fun part. You get one, and only one color to work with.

I’m choosing red because why not? I’ll paint the sky red, the shadows a little less red, and where the moonlight hits even less red.

We do this by watering down the red. It’s still the same tube of red. If you’re using oils or acrylics, simply add a little white to the color you chose and even more white for the real light parts. It will be similar to the “watering down” technique in watercolors.

If I were actually selling this painting, I’d use Moonglow. It’s a Daniel Smith color that’s one of my absolute favorite colors to work with. But, I don’t want to use Moonglow for this exercise since I use it a lot in my professional works.

Keep in mind, you don’t have to use red. You could use blue, gray, purple, green, or whatever. This exercise isn’t about the color. It’s about how to use it.

Your monochromatic painting palette

You get one and only one color. In watercolors, you simply change the color by adding more or less water.

You can do this in a variety of ways. I’m sure you can do it by watering down the red in various palette reservoirs.

I simply do it by instinct. I’ve painted enough to really love using my water jars and adding more or less water to my brushes, and also painting with water. I water down the red straight from the watercolor paper.

But do this in the method you’re most comfortable with. After all, there is no absolute right or wrong way to paint. What works for you is the right way to paint.

For oils or acrylics, you’re on your own. I haven’t used them, but if you’re reading this, you’re smart, so I’m sure you can figure out how to pull this off.

The Moon

Note your light source – the moon. It’s nighttime. You have a castle, a sky, and a moon.

One of the beauties of watercolor – you get white by empty space. You’ll learn to love this technique the more you use watercolors. You have to plan in advance where you don’t want to paint.

You can do the same on your white canvas if you’re oil or acrylic. Simply don’t paint there.

For this exercise, we’re not painting the white parts of the moon. The crevices, we’ll paint lightly. For the deeper parts of the crevices, we’ll paint a little bit darker. Let’s give the moon some depth.

The sky

For the sky, we’ll simply use a simple red wash, with some added water. It will be thick and rich red so it will be darker than the castle.

If you want clouds, you can make them by grabbing a paper towel and dabbing the still wet paint to create clouds. I didn’t do this, but if you want to try it, go for it!

I’ll strategically add water here and there to make the sky more “interesting.” You can do a consistent wash or do it like I do. Either way is totally up to you.

The castle

I’m a dark fantasy artist, usually using femme fatales as my subjects. That’s why my castle is so twisted and weird. This castle cannot exist in real life. It will obviously fall down.

But, it’s fantasy. With fantasy, you don’t have to follow the laws of physics. Since wizards and witches break them all the time, as an artist, you get to break the laws of physics as well.

For painting, you want to get the castle to look three dimensional. You do that with shading. The parts that are shaded from the moon obviously should be darker. The parts lit by the moon get a lighter shade of the color you chose.

The mountain

Same concept with the mountain. It should be darker than the castle, and the parts that are shaded from the moon should be really dark.

I want to get that road looking a little lighter than the rest of the mountain. I want it to pop forward a little bit. Let’s make this as three dimensional as we possibly can.

An example of a monochromatic painting
A monochromatic painting, using only red

Your results

After you’ve finished this exercise, you should be totally comfortable with monochromatic painting. You might have to do the exercise twice or even three times.

I actually incorporate dualchromatic (two colors) painting into a lot of my pieces. I’ll use Moonglow and Black as my two colors. But I’ll use other colors for the subjects.

By doing this, it makes the subjects really pop out. You have some cool colors for your dualchromatic work, and warmer colors for the subjects.

Plus dualchromaticism is great for dreams. I love to explore dreams a lot, especially when there’s a succubus or two involved.

That’s just an example of how you can use monochromatic painting in real life. Well, sort of. I cheat and use two colors. I’m sure you catch the drift though.

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Why a porcelain watercolor palette is better

When it comes to palettes for watercolors, I prefer a porcelain watercolor palette. But a caveat. I don’t paint when I travel.

When I travel, I take a sketchpad with me. I sketch only. A porcelain watercolor palette won’t be ideal for travel purposes. If you got my luck, you’d get an angry baggage handler who will throw your suitcase as far as he possibly can and crunch! So much for that gorgeous piece of porcelain.

However, it rules for at home use.

I won’t get into plastic watercolor palettes because for one, you shouldn’t be using them unless you’re so broke you have to beg to eat. Seriously. They’re garbage. They bead something terrible and after a lot of use, they stain. At worst, plastic watercolor palettes should be a last resort.

So, in reality, we’re really talking about a porcelain watercolor palette vs a metal watercolor palette. But I’m not about to get into a squabbling match with metal watercolor palette lovers. I think both camps can agree to just thumb our noses up to those plastic palette people and be done with it. Rather, I’ll just argue why you should get yourself a real nice porcelain (also called ceramic) one.

Colors are exactly as they should be

Why do we paint in the first place? It’s because we have something to convey. And when it comes to watercolors, you want to get the most out of your colors.

For this, a porcelain watercolor palette rules over all else.

You pour some paint from your tubes into the palette and they paint exactly how you want them to paint. The next day, they’ve dried and you simply re-wet them. No extra steps are needed. They will perform the same way the next day. And the day after that. And the day after that.

Cleanup is easy

Porcelain doesn’t stain. When you clean it up, it looks brand new. After you’ve painted over a hundred paintings, it still looks brand new.

You can even clean it by putting it in the dishwasher. Yes, I’m quite serious. I’ll wash it though under the heavy cycle since I’m not into eating my watercolors and I’m washing it with other dishes. It’s just like a ceramic dish. You know why? Because it is!

Porcelain mixes perfectly

You’ll find that plastic beads something terrible. For mixing, porcelain is where it’s at.

Sure, I’ve heard you can “treat the plastic.” I don’t want to treat the plastic. That’s one more extra thing I have to do. I’m too lazy to stretch my watercolor paper. Do you think I want to treat some cheap plastic palette?

You don’t lose anything when you mix with porcelain. You get exactly what you get. And when the paints dry, all you need to do is re-wet them.

So easy. After all, we want simple. We want our tools to behave exactly as they’re supposed to behave because the artist is supposed to do the thinking, not the tools. They’re supposed to do their jobs.

porcelain watercolor palette
Working on a Selkie painting

Above you see the next morning. The paints dried from the night before. All I have to do is re-wet the paints and I’m ready to get back to work.

If I remember correctly, that palette went through the dishwasher a few nights before. Look how brand new it looks. That’s after literally over a hundred paintings and it still looks brand new.

I’ll have that thing until I either lose it or one of my students drops it (I only drop my phone, never my watercolor equipment). And you know what? It will still look brand new after it goes through the dishwasher.

The above palette is the one I used to get Roxy’s hair for a previous painting. (She’s my brunette model).

(Also about that image, you probably don’t want to share two colors you don’t want to mix in the same well like I do. But I live dangerously!)