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3 Watercolor things you just learn by doing

Watercolor is my favorite medium. Sure, you can say I’ve never even dabbled in oils or acrylics, so I can’t really have an opinion, right?

You can say that. But I’m having too much fun to switch over right now. It’s like you fall in love with a musical instrument and call that instrument your favorite instrument, despite not ever touching the 1000 other instruments out there.

I’m not a likely watercolor evangelist. Usually when you think about watercolors, you think about Great Aunt Hilda who painted flowers and birds. While that’s great and all, that’s what almost everyone thinks of when they think of watercolors.

If I told you I painted nude women, you’d probably list watercolors dead last as the medium you’d think I’d use. But watercolors could surprise you. Some of us push watercolors past their limits, and our watercolors often don’t even look like watercolors.

The best thing about watercolor? The more you do it, the more you learn. And the more you learn, the more you can offer newer watercolor artists.

So here are three things you learn from just painting. As I’ve mentioned last year, I’ll do one of these articles at least every six months. (The possibilities are infinite).

Some colors are more opaque than others

Watercolors are always transparent and gouaches are always opaque, right?

Sure.

Well, not really.

Some watercolors are a lot more opaque than others. The general rule of thumb is that the darker the color, the harder it is to cover up. Black? Forget it.

That’s not always the case though. Hansa Medium Yellow by Daniel Smith does a great job covering up something else. You’d think, a yellow? In this case, yes.

It’s just one of those things you learn by working with the same colors over and over.

I’m not a hardcore brand stickler. I got my Daniel Smith, my Winsor and Newton, my Blick Artist paints, my M Graham, and most recently, my Sennelier paints. Love most of them except for an occasional color that has me scratching my head why they even made that. So far, I probably like my Sennelier the best.

But back to the point, you really need to paint with each color and learn everything about it, including its opaqueness. They vary between colors and even between each brand’s interpretation of that color.

How much water is enough and how much is too much

You could ruin a painting with too much water. You can also not get anything done with not enough water.

Where’s the happy medium?

That’s something that comes with time.

It also matters your painting surface. I absolutely love painting on watercolor boards because you can go absolutely crazy with water. The only drawback of a board is it’s easier to draw on watercolor paper. Other than that, you don’t have to worry about too much water.

With paper, you do. And 140 lb paper? Some is better than others, depending on the brand.

The lovely Allie
Allie

I haven’t used 300 lb paper yet. Just haven’t. I’ve even experimented with watercolors on wood before, but still haven’t gotten around to 300 lb paper.

Why? Who knows?

How much is enough and how much is too much is something you learn with time. I sometimes go too crazy for 140 lb paper. It’s one of my faults. I get so used to painting on watercolor boards that when I go back to paper, I often try to push the paper past its limits.

You don’t have to make this mistake. It’s just a personal thing. (I do the same thing with my musical instruments and cars too).

Muddiness

So many things can cause watercolor muddiness. I wrote an article on that awhile back but I really should go back and update that article.

Too many layers of paint can cause muddiness. Mixing the wrong colors together can cause muddiness. Heck, not changing your water often enough can cause it.

What is muddiness? You’ll know when you see it. And when you see it, you’re more often than not wanting to throw that painting straight into the garbage.

So just paint more. And take notes. Take lots of notes.

I have watercolor journals where I write down everything I learn. I also do my experimentations in them. Or on cheap watercolor paper.

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Drinker with a painting problem

Awhile back, I wrote about painting under the influence of absinthe. Except now, I do things differently.

Now, I light the sugarcube. It makes a lovely blue flame. And it helps break the sugar down better, giving the drink a richer flavor.

Highly recommend to fellow drinkers. I’ll have to post some videos of the absinthe in an upcoming post.

For now though, I just finished this lovely painting of Roxy. I call it Absinthe Girl and I imitated the absinthe color throughout the painting. I used a sort of monochromatic effect to give it that look.

I also sort of honored Mucha, who’s one of my all-time favorite artists. Except whereas he used a lot of oranges and reds, I went with greens. For obvious reasons.

Roxy as Absinthe Girl

Drinking makes you loose

Does an artist have to drink to be a good artist?

No.

But it sure helps.

Alcohol makes you loose. I get nice and loose and ideas just flow. Great for writers as the pen just moves when the writer pours himself some enjoyable bourbon over ice. Great for artists as the brush flows once the wine enters the blood.

Heck, look at all the great American writers who had drinking problems.

No, I don’t recommend getting yourself a drinking problem. But to completely deny that drinking had a role in the great American novel? Asinine.

I’ve painted four women now. Allie, Roxy, Sophia, and Jin. I’ve drank with all four of them. Well, of course not when Allie was pregnant or breastfeeding obviously.

But when drinking, words also flow. And as a Romantic, if there’s no bond between us, I’m not going to paint you. It’s that simple.

I’ve made one of my models cry once. Not in a bad way. Won’t tell you which one though. With me and Allie and me and Roxy, we’ve poured our hearts out so many times together. Both Allie and Roxy know things about me. Bad things. Things I don’t want the public to know.

I’m a flawed man. Deeply flawed.

But I don’t keep everything bottled up inside. I learned that’s when a man goes mad and kills somebody.

You gotta let it out every once in awhile.

When I was young, I used to wrap my hands, put the gloves on, put the mouthpiece in, and I’d punch a friend in the face as he punched me in the face. Afterwards, we’d get a drink.

Better than a therapist.

I’m too old for that now. Nowadays, I take a punch to the face and my face doesn’t heal. I used to be like Wolverine. I’d fall off a rock, lose some blood, and be cherry within a few days.

Nowadays? Nope. I take forever to heal.

So it’s booze and painting for me.

Booze helps that brush flow, like it helps the author’s pen.

I’ve been a whiskey guy for awhile. When I say whiskey, I’m good with Scotch, Irish whiskey, Bourbon, Japanese whiskey. All four are great. An old fashioned or a Manhattan for mixed drinks.

The absinthe thing is a recent thing. Didn’t like it the first time I had it.

Over a decade later though, I decided to give it another shot. And fell in love with it.

Anyways, that’s Roxy as Absinthe Girl. We had such a great time with that painting that we’re gonna do another one. And maybe a third and a fourth.

Who knows? I like to not have a plan. I just drink and paint.

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My top ten artists in order

Yes, I wrote my artistic influences last month. But I decided to put some order to it.

And note, these are my personal influences. Not necessarily who I think are the absolute best artists in the world.

For example, Judas Priest is my favorite band. Do they write the best music ever? Well…

I associate Judas Priest’s music with some of the best times of my life. Still, to this day when a day is really magical, I’ll often make it even better by adding some Priest.

Barry Bonds though was the more extreme example. When he retired, I stopped watching baseball altogether. I can’t even name five active baseball players now.

Yes, I get it that he was the heel. I take his side because very few people know the whole story. To make a long story short, he’s always been the media heel because he grew up hating the media.

He’s very close to his dad, who was often the media scapegoat. His father is one of those borderline hall of famers who for some reason, the media just hated the guy. So Barry hated the media back and refused to do interviews.

I’m going off on tangents here. The point is this – these are my favorites. I have mine. You have yours. And you know what? If you got a similar list, let me know! I’d love to read it.

Cutting down to 10

Cutting down to 10 was a serious challenge. My wife and I were at a wedding in Maui several years back, and took a bus to Hana. The men sat at the back of the bus and spent an hour arguing the top five basketball players of all-time.

We ended up with a list of 15 players who were the top five basketball players of all-time. And had the worst time trying to get ten of these greats off that list.

That’s the problem I have. I cut this down to 22 and feel absolutely horrible not including more in my top 22. Now pulling ten from this list?

Here’s my 22 list (in no order whatsoever):

Roman's 22 favorites

Every single one of those artists influenced my work. Bosch was my early high school favorite. Then I really started studying fantasy – Waterhouse, Vallejo, Frazetta, Elmore, and Rackham.

I went through a pinup phase – Elvgren, Bernardinis, etc.

I went through a Renaissance phase – Leonardo, Michelangelo, etc.

I went through a pure beauty phase – Bouguereau, Folero.

I’m not going to go through every phase I went through. But most recently, I bought a bunch of limited prints of Michael Cheval’s work. He’s still alive and I love his work since it’s out there, and combines a musical/dance element that I really like.

Ten

American pinup artist Gil Elvgren.

Why?

He’s the one I’ve been ripping off most recently.

I’ve painted four different women now – Allie, Roxy, Sophia, and Jin. All four women have flipped through my Gil Elvgren book.

Years ago, when I first started taking my drawing seriously (I had been a cartoonist before that), my wife surprised me with a Gil Elvgren book from Barnes and Noble. I started drawing girls from his book. And when my models come over, if I don’t have an idea prepared, they’ll flip through the book and mimic a pose they like.

Most of my drawings don’t turn into paintings. I end up using them either for scratch paper or to wrap around my porcelain watercolor palette (as I use the same paints over and over and don’t want to get dust in them).

I honestly don’t know how many of my paintings ended up with variations of Elvgren’s girls’ poses.

Nine

Pre-Raphaelite co-founder and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti married one of the most beautiful women in history – Lizzie Siddal. If you’ve heard my waltz Lizzie’s Opium Waltz, that’s about his drug addicted muse and later wife.

But it’s not about his deceased wife nor his other muses, as he had quite a few famous affairs in his lifetime.

It’s about his art. Rossetti was heavily into Medievalism, as am I. He painted Arthurian characters as well as going through various periods after that period. Which is fine as I expect artists to continually evolve.

I actually like all the periods he went through. His artwork was so, well, Pre-Raphaelite.

I’ll eventually gun for that style as I get more comfortable with greens and reds. Not yet though. I have a long way to go with colors.

Eight

Austrian Symbolist painter Gustav Klimt.

Why did I put him so high?

Once again, colors.

His stuff is weird and totally not my style. But, I wish I had his commands of yellow and especially gold.

I actually always paint Roxy with a golden necklace and Allie with a golden double bracelet on her left arm. Both in honor to Klimt.

I want to get more comfortable with yellows and golds. Klimt commands those colors like Tom Brady commands a clock eating, wearing down defense drive.

I love gold. No, not the metal. The color.

Seven

Spanish Romantic artist Francisco Goya. This was one of my first articles after bringing this blog back from the dead.

It’s funny because I had two Goya periods in my life.

The first was as a child. I came across a Goya book. Thumbing through it, I jumped back and quickly shut the book when I saw Saturn devouring his children. Most disturbing painting I’ve ever seen.

Saturn’s eyes – pure madness, as he’s eating a dead child.

I couldn’t get that image out of my head, despite only seeing it for a split second. Years later as a teenager, I re-opened another Goya book, just to see that painting again. I had watched quite a few horror movies and had built a tolerance for that stuff. Also, I won a few fist fights recently and built a bit of a gut (not meaning the protruding kind, but gut as in tough stomach).

Yes. It was as disgusting as when I saw it as a child. Pure madness. So disturbing.

Then decades later, my wife and I somehow ended up in the upper middle class. My wife one day turned to me and said we should start traveling the world with all this money. No, we’re not rich, but we definitely feel rich after both of our respective childhoods.

2015, we found ourselves in Madrid and I got to see a lot of Goya’s paintings in real life. I’ll just say that the books don’t do a single one justice. You absolutely have to see them in real life to appreciate them. Not the same at all.

Goya is better than Picasso and anyone who says otherwise is plain out wrong. Not dogging Picasso by any means. We saw his museum in Barcelona and it was fascinating to see how Picasso evolved throughout the years. We even visited that God awful modern art museum in Madrid just to see Guernica in real life.

Yes. Picasso is great. Way better in real life.

Goya? Even better.

Six

How the hell did I rank Falero over Goya? Like I said in the beginning, this isn’t a list of who I think the best artists of all-time are. If it was, Michelangelo would be number one.

This is a list of my favorites. And I absolutely love Falero, despite not being able to find shit about the man anywhere.

All I know is he died at 45, he loved astronomy, and had good times with beautiful women.

My obsession with Selene? Who you think I got the idea from?

The way he paints women. Nobody paints women quite like Falero. I love how they’re almost borderline erotic. I’ve crossed that line a few times but you won’t see those paintings in my lifetime (and you’re going to have to wait a very long time as I’m planning on living a very long time).

Five

French academic painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

Live long enough and your style will go out of style. As exactly what happened with Bouguereau. The avant-garde (most of whom were pretentious douchebags) hated him towards the end of his life and Bouguereau was almost forgotten.

Until the 1980s when people actually started having taste again. Now, his paintings sell for an arm and a leg. As they should.

His work is excellent. It’s the same subject matter that I love to paint – Classical themes and beautiful women. I do either Classical or Fantasy themes and beautiful women.

He’s more realistic though. I’m more stylized.

Still, a heavy influence on me? Huge.

You’ve seen both Allie and Roxy imitating Baigneuse, one of his paintings. Well, the 1870 version.

Four

Fairies. Valkyries. Beautiful women. Edward Robert Hughes, English artist, part Pre-Raphaelite, part Aesthetics. Weird, huh? Almost sounds like an English version of me.

That’s why I put him so high on this list.

Also, he has a better command of blues and greens than I do. I especially love his blues but his greens with the lady visiting the fairies really ranks high up there for my colors paintings.

As you can tell, I obsess with colors. But as much as I obsess with them, I struggle. I struggle to get the same command of blues that Hughes does. He can take a painting and make most of it blue, and it will still be absolutely fascinating. And that girl with the fairies painting – mostly greens and it’s still absolutely fascinating.

That’s a great artist right there. Can take one color. Split it into variations. And cover most of the entire painting with it. Yet, it’s not in the least bit boring.

I love also how he combined his Pre-Raphaelite past (nephew of one of the Pre-Raphaelites) with the Aesthetics present.

Philosophically, I’m sort of an Aestheticist. I want to make the world a more beautiful place. So I create miniature worlds that mimic the real world while delving into fantasy realms. And above all, I make them beautiful. It helps of course to have beautiful models to mimic.

Hughes has one foot in one room and one foot in another. And manages to pull off both brilliantly.

Three

American fantasy artist Frank Frazetta. A consistent favorite throughout my lifetime. Growing up, it was Frazetta, Boris Vallejo, Larry Elmore, and Michael Parks who inspired me the most via the fantasy genre. But it was Frazetta who was the biggest of all of them.

That remained consistent throughout my life. My son even bought me a Frazetta poster as everyone knows how much I love Frazetta.

I’ve heard some rumors that Robert Rodriguez is doing to do a live action movie of Fire and Ice. Will it really happen? I hope so.

I definitely want to hit the Frazetta museum. He’s an American icon. From movie posters to album covers to comics to Conan to of course, his paintings.

If I ever painted heroic men, I’d frantically study Frazetta’s work. His painted epic men, unashamedly masculine.

His women? Shapely. In the Classical sense. Often either damsels in distress or armed and dangerous.

Two

Slavic Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha.

I went to an art gallery back in December and almost walked away with a Mucha lithograph. Sure, they’re expensive, but it’s fucking Mucha man!

Sure, I’m a Romantic first and foremost. But I also don’t believe in limiting yourself to one style. Art Nouveau is post-Romantic. And it’s a lovely art style.

Nobody did girls quite like Mucha. Sadly, it’s not what Mucha wanted to be known for. I get it though. The whole Slavic Nationalist movement. If you knew what was going on at that time, you’d know the importance of it.

Yes, he got interrogated and he eventually died in 1939.

But let’s roll back. Despite not being proud of the Art Nouveau era, that’s the era of his works that inspired me the most. The Mucha Girls.

Lovely, feminine, long hair, often red-headed. Often with flowers in their hair.

These girls were the epitome of what I’m currently gunning for. Allie and Roxy are Roman’s Girls and hopefully in the Afterlife, I’ll be able to drink with Mucha and have a few stories and laughs about our girls.

Alphonse Mucha - The Arts: Music
A Mucha Girl. The Arts – Music

I need more sales. The only thing that was keeping me back from buying that lithograph in December was finances. I’m still paying off my failed business that went under in 2017.

It’s been a fun three years since. But financially brutal.

I’m by no means perfect. A talented composer. A talented artist. A great husband and father. A trustworthy friend. An excellent investor.

But I can’t run a business worth a damn.

Had I not been paying off these debts still, I’d have more than one Mucha lithograph up in the house.

Mucha’s Girls mean the world to me artistically. I cannot overstate how much Mucha influenced my own works.

One

There’s only one above Mucha. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you already know who it is.

Pre-Raphaelite artist John William Waterhouse. I used to work in the mall. I was in Heavy Metal bands and had real long hair.

Certain jobs at the time wanted you to cut your hair. So I had to take what I could take. Physical labor jobs. And working at the mall.

My mall had a poster shop that had some real cool art. I specifically fell in love with one painting, which was everything I artistically believed in growing up. Fantasy, beauty, aesthetics, it had everything.

The piece?

Waterhouse - La Belle Dame Sans Merci
Waterhouse – La Belle Dame Sans Merci

Wait. Did I say piece?

I meant pieces. And…

Waterhouse The Lady of Shalott
Waterhouse – The Lady of Shalott

Everything about Waterhouse. His themes. His beautiful women. Fate. The works themselves. The backdrops. The settings.

Everything he did.

To this day, my favorite artist.

With each painting, I dare to do something new. Something that pushes me further along in my journey.

If there’s one artist I’d love to emulate more than any other, it would be Waterhouse.

This hasn’t changed since I worked in the mall and saw those two paintings.

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What you need to mat prints

This is the first blog post that I’m co-writing with my wife. After all, she’s putting it all together. I’m just supplying the artwork.

Quick background. Allie and I have been working on the game recently and Roxy and I have been cramming to get ready for a second show this year.

And the owner of the first gallery told me about selling prints. You just don’t make money selling your original paintings. Make sure you take really good pictures of your paintings before you sell them. If you absolutely have to, hire a professional photographer.

The owner said if you don’t, you’re leaving thousands of dollars on the table. And to most artists, thousands of dollars is nothing to scoff about.

What you need

The prints themselves

Let’s go over what you need to mat your prints. Of course you need the prints themselves. For the record, I do absolutely zero affiliate marketing on this website. If I endorse a product, it’s either because I personally use the product or you’re a personal friend of mine and I’m doing you a favor.

In this case, these are the same people I use. I happen to use Giclee Today because their prints look really good. I use their archival quality acid free paper, and it’s damn good print paper. Very good looking prints.

I strongly suggest though ordering only one of your first print at first because computers are computers. They don’t always exactly match what you’ll see in real life.

As it happened, I had to muck with colors with a few of them after seeing the initial prints.

If you need to muck with the colors, you can use Photoshop or you can use The Gimp. Sure there are other software products out there but those are the main two.

Then once you get the colors to how you like them, order in bulk since you get a discount when you do that.

The matting

Make sure you get the right size matting for the prints. For instance, all the matted prints you’ll find on my website are 8″x10″ prints. So I got the matting for 8″x10″ which comes out to be 11″x14″. You also lose half an inch in borders.

We bought complete mat kits from Golden State Art. I’m sure they have wonderful competitors out there that also produce quality products. These just happen to be the ones we use.

I’m the type of guy who once I start doing things one way, I’ll keep doing that. Same with product use. I like the product so I’ll simply continue using it.

Anyways, they offer the complete matting set. Even comes with the clear bag. Plus they claim to be environmentally friendly, which is a bonus if that is a concern of yours.

Putting the pieces together

Now, you have the matting set and the prints. That’s everything, right?

Wrong.

You still need the tape. And we also use these corner things to keep the prints in place.

First, the tape. Scotch has a tape gun called the Scotch Advanced Tape Glider. You’ve all heard of Scotch tape. Same company that makes Scotch tape. Scotch also makes a double sided tape that fits in that gun.

When you buy the gun, it comes with two extra rolls of that tape. You’ll eventually have to buy refill rolls. You’ll know the tape because you already have two rolls of it.

As for the corners, we use Archival Polyester Framers Corners from Lineco (lineco.com). They’re pretty cool because you can slip the print in and out before taping the matting pieces together. They’re great because they make things easy to line up. My wife said that with them, you’ll need less tape too.

Note – I strongly believe in products that make your life easier. The less work I have to do, the better. I want to be drawing Allie and Roxy, inking the drawings, and painting them, not wasting time and banging my head against the wall trying to put mats together. Thus, highly advise not skipping purchasing these corner things. You don’t absolutely need them but my wife says it makes the process way easier.

Now, I hate to say this, but I’m an honest guy and I don’t want to screw you up. This article is only an article. I’m only telling you what you need to buy.

You really should watch a howto video or two on YouTube to really know how to do all this. It’s a complicated process the first time. But once you get it, you get it.

My wife only screwed up the first one. Then after that, she said it’s easy. It just takes a lot of work. And a lot of patience.

She does all the matting. She’s good at putting stuff together. This type of work makes me say bad words, so I’m glad someone else is doing it.

That’s all the pieces you need. Until you mail it.

Mailing it out

Here’s the fun part. You also need mailers. Note that the whole shebang we made is 11″x14″ so you have to buy mailers that are bigger than 11×14. You can’t buy the same size. You’ll ruin the plastic covers if you try to cram the matted prints in. Leave some space.

You also have to buy something sturdy enough to protect your prints.

I haven’t fallen in love with anything yet. I’ll update this article once I find a product I absolutely love. Right now, trying a few competing products and I’ll have to ask my customers what they like the best.

Unfortunately, as folks who have sent out feelers know, your customers usually don’t respond to you unless there’s a complaint. So since there hasn’t been one yet (knocking on wood), I’m assuming things are good.

Be sure to write DO NOT BEND on both sides of the packaging too. You can include a business card or a handwritten note. Or something neat. You don’t have to but it’s a nice gesture and some folks will appreciate that.

Check it out

So here is a completed piece.

This is from Waterfall Girls:

Opium Tales Waterfall Girls
Waterfall Girls – matted and in a plastic wrapping

The matting company’s complete set also comes with that plastic wrapping, which is nice. It keeps fingerprints off the print before it gets to your customer.

This is especially important because when you’re selling at an art show or an art fair, you’ll have a million people flipping through your prints to find the one they like. Not everyone has clean hands.

Anyways, let me know if you have any questions.

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I decided to make a game

One of the regular things I do for fun – I’m in a Euro board game group. We meet once a week and play games.

Unfortunately for me, the guy who runs the group likes to play a new game every week. I don’t. I like playing the same 10-20 games over and over again.

If you don’t know what a Euro board game is, let me explain. You probably already know American board games like Monopoly, Risk, Life, or Sorry. They’re based off of luck and once you get the basic strategies, you’re mostly counting on good luck, generally from dice rolls, from there on out.

Euro board games do their best to take luck out of the equation. Or at least limit it.

My favorite game is now considered a Euro classic – Agricola. You’re a Dutch farmer in I think the 1600s. You need resources like wood, clay, and stone to build everything from your home to fences.

You grow crops and breed animals. One catch – you also have to feed your family. Whereas the more kids you have, the more victory points you have at the end of the game, but also the more food you’ll need to feed your family.

And if you don’t feed your family, you get begging tokens, which will count against you at the end of the game.

Sound fun? Well, to me it’s a blast.

At the end of the game, if you’ve won, you did a lot of smart things. If you lost, you generally know what you did wrong. From there, you can strategize what to do better next time.

My game

So my game will incorporate a lot of strategy. You’re dependent on certain factors in order to build something else. And timing will play a big part in it.

I don’t expect it to sell tons of copies. This is my first go.

Now, keep in mind I wrote articles before on making side money as an artist. This venture is a great way to get my art out there.

A lot of these Euro games actually have pretty good art. I played one last year where you had to gather bird eggs and the one who had the best collection won the game. I forgot what it’s called, but it was a damn good looking game.

When I saw that, I immediately thought “I should do that.” But I forgot about it.

Suddenly last month, the idea popped back into my head. Why not make a game? I’ve been playing in this group for a decade now. I’ve played over a hundred different Euro games. I know what works and what doesn’t.

Playability is huge. So I’ll game test it a lot before actually producing it.

I also have to test the mechanics. I might have to fool around with the numbers until I get them to work.

And it’s funny how your goals change. I wrote an article on what I plan on accomplishing in 2020 last year, and I had no idea I’d be doing this.

That’s yet another reason why I think some goals should be somewhat fluid. More on that another day though.

Anyways, I’ll post some screenshots when it starts getting close. I’ve playtested it a bit and it still needs a lot of work. I’m also trying to see how many players I should make this game for. So far, it works with two.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, yes. Both Allie and Roxy have already modeled for characters in the game.

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“Who are your artistic influences?”

The Ancient Greeks of course started the ball rolling. They’re pretty much responsible for Western culture.

Then you know what came next. The Romans conquered them and borrowed their culture.

Rome fell. We had the Middle Ages.

Whereas a lot of history happened in the Middle Ages, art took several steps backwards. Their paintings looked, well, funny. No perspective. People almost as tall as the castles they’re defending.

The Italian Renaissance (and also giving credit where it’s due – the Flemish) brought it all back and then some.

So my first chronological influences were Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Hieronymus Bosch. In high school, the Garden of Earthly Delights was my favorite painting. I was stoked to see this painting in real life in 2015. It’s currently in the Prado in Madrid.

Hieronymus Bosch - The Garden of Earthly Delights
The Garden of Earthly Delights

I of course also studied the Italian Renaissance masters. But to be fair, I studied them because I had to. They’re not my favorites. Just like me and Baroque music. It’s great. I’ve hit those books hard. But my heart is elsewhere.

I’m a Romantic

For me, Romanticism is where it’s at.

Romanticism defined simply – humans became too logical, too stoic. And forgot how to be human. So, let’s bring back awe, wonder, mysticism, love, and passion – the things that make us human.

More specifically, I absolutely loved the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Especially John William Waterhouse.

When I worked in the mall after high school, we had a poster shop. I was already heavily into fantasy imagery. And I saw Waterhouse paintings. I immediately knew, that’s where it’s at.

Yes, if you know this part of art history, you’ll know Waterhouse became a Pre-Raphaelite after the original band already broke up.

Doesn’t matter. I’m not too hung up on labels. I will say though that the Pre-Raphaelites are a subset of Romanticism. A lot of art historians would agree with me.

Waterhouse - La Belle Dame Sans Merci
Waterhouse – La Belle Dame Sans Merci (1893)

If I had to pick a second of the Pre-Raphaelites, it would be Edward Robert Hughes. Although he too came by after the original band broke up and he was already drifting into the next style I like…

Beauty for beauty’s sake

I’m also a huge fan of beauty for beauty’s sake. I don’t need to make a political statement.

And you know what? Maybe that is my political statement. Beauty for beauty’s sake.

This world has so much cynicism, so much pessimism, and we’re really trying to push the lie nowadays that obesity is beautiful. Yeah, makes no sense, but that’s what the Post Modernists (my enemies) are pushing nowadays.

Hughes falls someone into that, although he also did the fantasy worlds that I absolutely love. John William Godward, a Classicist, overlaps into that as well.

If I had to pick a favorite of the beauty for beauty’s sake artists though, I’d take Bouguereau.

I wrote an article awhile back on The Birth of Venus. You’ve seen Botticelli’s version a million times. You may or may not have seen Cabanel’s, which I think is spectacular. My favorite though is Bouguereau’s.

Bouguereau painted for the sake of beauty. No deep meaning. Just straight up beauty. And beautiful his worlds were.

And I also have to give a nod to Luis Ricardo Falero who not only painted beauty for the sake of beauty, but also threw in fantasy.

Speaking of fantasy

As previously mentioned, Waterhouse, Hughes, Folero, all painted fantasy themes. For pure fantasy though, if you’re a fantasy nut, there’s no way you haven’t seen the work of Arthur Rackham. He did the fantasy illustrations for a lot of fairy tale compilations. He even did Alice (of Wonderland fame).

That’s where we start to venture into the 20th century. If you’ve been over at my house, you’ll see Frank Frazetta posters up. Yeah, I know. Those are supposed to be for high school kids. Well, I ain’t taking them down.

Frazetta is hands down my favorite 20th century artist. When I get around to doing male heroes to go along with my hot chicks, I’ll borrow from Frazetta. A lot.

I was heavily into fantasy in high school. I know that was a long time ago for me, but it played such a role in my life that it imprinted the later years. I’m one of those weird kids who actually liked high school (but absolutely loved junior high!), and have so many fond memories that I have anchored in my mind.

So everything from the imagery to the music is anchored in my brain. It makes it easy for me to paint because of this. I simply take old ideas and make them my own. Or come up with some original ones (which are often subconsciously based off of something in the past).

It was actually junior high when I first started getting into fantasy. But in high school, I did a lot of physical labor and could actually afford to feed my fantasy habits.

Pinups

Which leads to pinups. Olivia de Bernardinis is my favorite living artist. Frazetta was until he died recently. Now, Olivia is all we have left of artists I absolutely love.

She’s amazing. Super talented. My newest model, Sophia, looks like an Olivia model. I told her that the first time I met her and she was flattered.

If you don’t know who she is, definitely look her up.

For straight pinups though, Gil Elvgren. My favorite pinup artist. Nobody did the S Curve quite like Elvgren. In fact, I’ve had Allie, Roxy, Sophia, and Jin all model at least one pose from that Elvgren book my wife bought me from Barnes and Noble years ago.

The 40s, 50s, and 60s had a lot of wonderful pinup art. You saw pinup art on our World War II planes. Now with the world turning politically correct, we won’t see those on military planes any more.

Which is a shame. These brave men often die for our country and can’t put a pinup girl on a plane? Absurd.

In the 50s and 60s, Elvgren and others had good careers painting for ads. Yet another thing killed by political correctness. These ads would be considered offensive today.

Other 20th century art I like

I’ve mentioned before how much I hate Post Modernism. I don’t like Modernism either, but Post Modernism is pure crap.

Luckily, there still was good art created during the Modern era. I love Art Nouveau. Alphonse Mucha especially. Some day, I’ll own a Mucha. One of my life goals.

And, I have to specifically name Gustav Klimt. He does wonders with golds and yellows.

All my paintings of Allie have her wearing a double gold bracelet on her left arm. All my paintings of Roxy have her wearing a gold necklace.

That’s a direct homage to Klimt.

So there you have it. Yeah, I have a long history of artistic influences and a pretty good variation of styles.

If I had to declare a style, I’d say fantasy pinup. I do pinup art because Allie and Roxy are two of my besties in real life. Allie pushed me into taking my art seriously and Roxy followed suit.

Fantasy because I love fantasy everything. I used to play Advanced Dungeons and Dragons v1 back in the early 80s. I love Heavy Metal music from the 80s as well, especially the ones who dealt with fantasy themes before Metal split Glam vs Thrash in the mid-80s.

For video games, my favorite games of all time were Legend of Zelda, Heroes 3, Myth II, Kohan, and Majesty. Yeah, they all go back a ways because I haven’t played video games in a long time. But I still have great memories playing those games.

For books, I love Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series. They’re a long series of books featuring Harry Dresden, a wizard in Chicago who starts off sloppy and broke and evolves to be one of the most powerful creatures in the realm.

As I’ve enjoyed The Witcher, I’m really hoping another TV show series, comes out for the Dresden Files. They had one in 2007 and 2008 but it got cancelled after one season. I heard it wasn’t bad. It just didn’t take off.

I love the way Butcher writes. His main character, Harry Dresden, is very relatable. He screws up a lot at first and half the time, he has no idea what he’s doing. He ends up winging a lot of his life. Which I often feel like I do the same.

That’s the other thing – you can be influenced by pop culture. And that’s not a bad thing.

I don’t think artists have to be snooty. If you look at all my influences, they’re a combination of both high art and pop art anyways.

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Roman’s Tchaikovsky Top 10

Peter Tchaikovsky 1874

You hear me talk about Beethoven often. But it is Tchaikovsky who is my favorite. Aesthetically, nobody can touch him.

The very first time I heard his 6th, I was 17 years old. And I thought to myself “this is the greatest piece of music ever written”.

My opinion hasn’t changed. But it was his suicide note. I can’t listen to it more than once a year.

Too much emotion. Too tragic.

And Serenade for Strings? Listen to it with your lover. If this doesn’t lead a passionate moment, you’re with the wrong person.

Tchaikovsky melodically is in a class by himself.

10. Romeo and Juliet Overture 1880

You have heard the Love Theme from this ballet numerous times as it has been adopted into pop culture. The whole fantasy is brilliant, having been rewritten numerous times. Had this been written by any other composer, it wouldn’t have been so far down on the list. But you know how much I love Tchaikovsky.

9. Sleeping Beauty 1890

Still a beautiful ballet, this one falls behind Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.

The music is gorgeous. My dream of course is to see this in St. Petersburg. I’ve seen the local ballet perform it and it was quite lovely.

8. 1812 Overture 1880

Being a Metalhead, you’d assume I’d rank this one a lot higher. I love it, don’t get me wrong. But doing a Tchaikovsky top 10 isn’t easy – he wrote so many great compositions.

One thing that makes me proud about being American is we have adopted this piece for July 4th. I couldn’t tell you how many times and in how many cities I’ve seen this performed. Some of the orchestras were mediocre, but regardless, they’d pour their hearts into the performance and it showed.

7. Serenade for Strings 1880

I adore this piece, and I’m sure a lot of people would say I overrate it. I don’t care. Show me a composition along these lines this that is more beautiful. You can’t.

If this doesn’t make you want to dance, you may be missing your soul. I also had gone so far that I used this as a test to gauge if a woman was worthy of my love. I’d play the Waltz (the second movement) and if she found it boring, we were through.

Yes, I’m quite serious. I won’t apologize for having high standards and I refuse to fall in love with a philistine.

6. Symphony No. 4 1878

I absolutely love the Finale but the whole symphony is quite good. Dedicated to his patroness and best friend Madame von Meck, purists would argue it had weak parts.

I’d counter that those parts are what helps it stand out. As much as Tchaikovsky wanted to be Western, he also wanted to be Russian. If that doesn’t define Romanticism…

One thing I especially liked was that an American critic called it too Russian and “semi-barbaric.” One of these days, I’ll do a write-up how Russian Romanticism was a precursor to Metal and of course this symphony would be an example.

5. The Nutcracker Suite 1892

We all know how gorgeous the Suite is. You’ve heard it many times, even if you never looked for it.

I find it fascinating that despite being an intensely patriotic Russian, two of Tchaikovsky’s pieces have a huge influence on American culture. Every Fourth of July, we get to hear the 1812 Overture. And every Christmas, we get to hear the Nutcracker.

4. Swan Lake Ballet 1876

My favorite ballet. If you’re young, you probably know this ballet from the movie Black Swan. Of course, I won’t thumb my nose up to anyone who knows it that way – it was a pretty good movie. The ballet itself is chocked full of delicious melodies.

We’ve seen this ballet twice live now. I’d love to see it in Russia.

Musically, the best ballet ever written.

3. Piano Concerto No.1 1875, 1888

I’m a lucky man. I got to see the great Van Cliburn perform this on his comeback tour. The best piano concerto ever written.

The main theme is one of the most lovely themes ever written. However, Tchaikovsky barely does anything with it. It only appears a few times. That said, there’s so much excellent content in this concerto that it doesn’t need to keep coming back.

2. Violin Concerto 1878

As depressing as his Sixth Symphony (the Pathetique) is, this piece is joyous. Which is ironic considering he was writing it while recovering from his famously disastrous marriage. Contains one of the best melodies ever written. If that melody doesn’t move you, you have no soul.

One of my Grandfathers only loved Jazz. He hated rock and roll with a passion. He didn’t like Classical music at all. And when he heard Heavy Metal music for the first time, oh boy. He had nothing good to say about it. At all.

However, he still loved this piece. It was the only Classical record he owned.

1. The Pathetique 1893

Best piece of music ever written. Period. Peter Tchaikovsky killed himself nine days after its first performance. I have a minority opinion (although you will hear other Historians agree) that this piece was a suicide note. It’s hard to listen to and I only listen to it on special occasions.

I’m not the only one who said it. For the record though, I said it immediately upon hearing it, and I thought it before I read other critics say it. Yes, as a teenager, I came up with that thought independently.

Definitely give it a listen and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Was this piece a suicide note?

Regardless, it’s the most tragic piece ever written. The fade out at the end is hard to listen to. It sounds like a slow, lingering death, like Tchaikovsky had been dying inside for months and finally decided to commit and end it all.

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Watercolors as therapy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watercolors as therapy

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

They are for me though.

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

Painting helped reduce my stress. Significantly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The supplies you’ll need to start with watercolors

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

So let’s go over these.

To buy from the art store

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

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

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

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

And last, the paints.

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

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

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

You may already have

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

Kimchi jars are the perfect size for everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Back from Central America cruise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A monkey in Panama

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

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

A Jesus Christ lizard in Panama

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

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

Jungle in Costa Rica
A pair of dolphins

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

But, had a great time.

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