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Music to paint to

music to paint to

What music do you paint to? And does music help set the mood for your painting?

Since I’m doing more fantasy pinup art, I like music that helps the setting.

I have eclectic tastes. They range from pretty heavy to pretty deep. But a lot of my music totally fits my paintings’ themes.

Heavy Metal is great music to paint to

“What? You paint to Heavy Metal?”

Of course I paint to Heavy Metal. What other genre even touches fantasy a fraction of what Metal does?

I paint a lot of fantasy femme fatales. Metal music totally fits the attitude that these bad girls have.

From the Golden Age of Metal, I love Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, etc. Recently, I like HIM, High on Fire, Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, and Nightwish.

All these bands have both lyrics and attitudes that totally fit my bad girls.

Non-Metal music that I love to paint to

Sometimes, I need something softer. For those moods, Loreena McKinnett, Blackmore’s Night, Enya, and random Celtic stations from the Internet radio do wonders for my paintings.

McKinnett and Blackmore’s Night especially. Their lyrics and moods are totally fantasy. For painting background music, they’re downright awesome.

Celtic music is great music! It’s just so alive. So real.

For random background music, I’ll take Celtic music above anything else. I’ve bought CDs from live Celtic acts we’ve seen anywhere from Celtic pubs to farmers’ markets. I don’t have a drop of Irish blood. But I sure love their music. (And their women!)

Classical music

And of course Classical music. Except I’m quite particular when it comes to Classical. I love the Romantic era. If you’re wondering who they are – Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner, Mendelssohn, Chopin, etc.

They all had themes and sometimes even the characters that I paint. I would have loved to have been alive back then and heard that music while the composers were still alive. Imagine being alive to see your heroes actually conducting their own music!

So what about you?

What do you paint to? Does your music fit your painting? Why or why not? And, does it make a difference?

Photo credits

Loreena McKennitt – performing at the InterCeltic Festival at Lorient, Brittany in August 2008. Photographed by Maelor
Blackmore’s Night – live at the Tarrytown Music Hall, October 2012. Photographed by Nsoveiko
Beethoven – Painting by Mähler, 1815
Judas Priest – Live in 2005 Moline, Illinois. Photograph by Zach Petersen
Tchaikovsky painted by Nikolai Dimitriyevich Kuznetsov

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Do evil witches throw the salt over their right shoulder?

If you’re not a Southerner, you may not get that joke. In the old days, salt wasn’t exactly cheap. So spilling the table salt wasn’t exactly a small deal.

Well, back then, Americans had tons of superstitions that we’ve eventually forgotten about. One of them was throwing salt over your left shoulder when you spilled the salt.

You see, everyone has a guardian angel on their right shoulder. This guardian angel looks over you and tries to prevent you from doing something naughty.

evil witches cast evil spells
Witch casting a Sleep spell

You also have a little devil on your right shoulder who tries to get you into trouble. Like spilling salt for instance. That’s why you’ll see a Southerner take a pinch of the salt and throw it into her little devil’s eyes, to teach that little devil a lesson.

Evil Witches are naughty

Well, we all know evil witches are naughty. I’m not talking about the good witches like your fairy godmother. I’m talking about the bad ones. You know, the ones that are trying to trick you out of your earnings, or even trying to trick your kids into their ovens.

Contrary to popular opinion though, bad witches don’t eat kids. They’re feeding their familiars. That’s another thing those old fairy tales get wrong.

Anyways, evil witches still like to eat. And they still have salt shakers on their tables.

evil witch casting spell
She’s the type of witch you don’t want to piss off

Do you think evil witches can be careless and accidentally knock over the salt? Why of course! Why do you think clever kids are always outsmarting them? They got their minds on too many things. (There might be a life lesson there for you and me).

So when an evil witch knocks over the table salt, they take a pinch and throw it over their right shoulder to teach their guardian angel a lesson. After all, why punish the one to help improve your naughtiness?

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Artists I like – John William Waterhouse

In high school, I listened to Heavy Metal music and also played Dungeons and Dragons. Back in those days, I hung out at the mall with friends and girlfriends. The mall had this one poster shop and I immediately fell in love with a specific painting.

I’d been doing physical labor on the side so I always had cash on me. I’m surprised nowadays that kids don’t go door to door asking to mow people’s lawns or pester people about possible work they could do for them. Like cleaning the gutters. Or even raking their leaves. I don’t know about you, but I loved having money as a kid.

Anyways, right on the spot, I bought that poster. I took it home and hung it up next to all my Heavy Metal posters. I thought it fit in well thematically.

John William Waterhouse - La Belle Dame Sans Merci
La Belle Dame Sans Merci (1893)

Cultured kid

No. I didn’t know who John William Waterhouse or the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood were. However even as a kid, I liked Tchaikovsky, Brahms, and Beethoven. (As an adult that changed to Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and Brahms).

So years later, I started studying Western art and Western lit. I knew what I liked. I knew what I didn’t like.

Modernism – you can have it. Looks more like something some pretentious jerk would do and think he’s better than anyone else because they didn’t “get it.”

Now the Pre-Raphaelites, I liked. A lot.

I also liked American pinup artists. More on them another day.

About John William Waterhouse

John William Waterhouse was late to the party. The Pre-Raphaelites had already broken up. But as a more Academic artist, he later fell in love with the Pre-Raphaelites’ works and adopted that style.

I’ll skip over his older style. It’s excellent. But I think his later style has way more emotion.

Waterhouse was born in Rome in 1849 but moved to England as a small child. His parents were already painters, so he grew up in an artistic household. He grew up sketching paintings in London’s great museums. In 1871, he entered the Royal Academy of Art.

I’m not going to do a formal biography. You can get that from anywhere. Rather, I’m going to focus on his works from his Pre-Raphaelite period.

What is the Pre-Raphaelite style?

The name “Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood” came from the great artist Raphael. Note the “pre” as they emphasized before Raphael. They hated Mannerism with a passion.

Their four doctrines were the following:

  • to have genuine ideas to express;
  • to study Nature attentively, so as to know how to express them;
  • to sympathise with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art,
  • to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parading and learned by rote; and most indispensable of all, to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues.

Now to them, Classicism wasn’t bad. It was just a different movement, based on the Classical world. The Pre-Raphaelites still picked up some of the characters and themes from Classicism. Which makes the differentiation confusing to the average art lover.

But let’s go there because I think it’s a perfect opportunity to see the difference between the Pre-Raphaelites and your day-to-day academic painter. Let’s say a Pre-Raphaelite and an academic painter both have to paint Aphrodite. The academic painter would paint Aphrodite in a stereotypical posed style with a posed background. The Pre-Raphaelite would make it look natural, or real, like you were right there seeing it happen. That painting would feel more alive.

Waterhouse’s style vs the other Pre-Raphaelites

Where Waterhouse differentiates from the others is in his Medievalism. That’s actually the Waterhouse I’ve come to know and love.

For the record, not all the Pre-Raphaelites went that route. Of the group, I favor the Medievalists. Personal taste.

Several of the Pre-Raphaelites did go the Medieval route. Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones started that branch. Waterhouse followed in their footsteps a generation later. I happen to love all three of their styles.

Medieval and fantasy characters

This is the John William Waterhouse that made me a fan. The Pre-Raphaelites often had Christian themes. Like I mentioned, some had Medieval themes. And some took a fantasy direction. They didn’t have concrete rules for themes, other than respecting nature, having a solid idea to portray, and being pretty fucking good as an artist. You couldn’t slap the label on if you were a hack.

Waterhouse is my favorite for the direction he took. I love his themes.

I first heard about the Lady of Shalott from Loreena McKennitt, of whom I’m a huge fan. When I saw the painting, I only saw a beautiful redhead as I was a kid. I didn’t know the meaning of it.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote the poem based on one of the Arthurian characters. Several of the Pre-Raphaelites were fans of Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Another thing I want to mention. Waterhouse is not only not one of the originals Pre-Raphaelites. He’s an entirely new generation adopting that style. He got into the style in the 1880s, long after the originals unofficially dissolved.

Also note that I argue Pre-Raphaelites were a subset of Romanticism. Some art historians agree with me and some don’t. Art historians are always arguing over semantics.

Since they loved nature, revered beauty and awe, and glorified Medievalism, they definitely fit within Romanticism. Those are some of the biggest tenets of Romanticism.

Anyways, let’s look at some of his fantasy characters. If you played any fantasy RPG, you’ll immediately recognize these creatures.

John William Waterhouse - A Naiad
A Naiad (1893)
Waterhouse - The Siren
The Siren (1900)
Waterhouse - A Mermaid
A Mermaid – 1901

If today, you know the difference between a Naiad, a Siren, and a Mermaid, chances are, you’re a fantasy gamer. Or you watch a lot of anime.


Ophelia is a Shakespearean character and also a recurring character amongst the Pre-Raphaelites. Lizzie Siddal modeled for John Everett Millais back in 1852. Waterhouse painted this character three times.

Ophelia is a tragic heroine who you know is going to die when reading Hamlet. She’s fierce, independent, and quite intelligent, but there’s a sadness to her as we see her fate coming.

Or maybe we don’t. Maybe I’ve read too much into her. Regardless, those of us who love Shakespeare find her one of the more fascinating characters.

Obviously, so did the Pre-Raphaelites. Like I just said, Millais painted her back in 1852 using a lady I’m obsessed with, Lizzie Siddal, as his model. Dante Gabriel Rossetti used Ophelia as a subject for his art as well. A generation later, so did Waterhouse.

I liked all three of Waterhouse’s Ophelia paintings, but prefer his second for her beauty and the third for her emotion. The third, she looks like she’s about to lose it. Let me know which one you prefer.

Waterhouse's Ophelia 1889
Ophelia (1889)
Waterhouse's Ophelia 1894
Ophelia (1894)
Waterhouse's Ophelia 1910
Ophelia (1910)

Time frame

John William Waterhouse was born in 1849, when the Pre-Raphaelites barely started. So keep in mind, he adopted the style a generation after. He was far from one of the originals.

In fact, Waterhouse didn’t even paint in this style until the 1880s. So he was a Pre-Raphaelite from the 1880s until his death in 1917.

The Lady of Shalott

Do you know the story of the Lady of Shalott? It’s one of Loreena McKennitt’s most epic songs from her album The Visit, one of my favorites of hers.

The Lady of Shalott’s an Arthurian character, created by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in 1832. Some of the Pre-Raphaelites were big fans of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poetry.

Anyways, she’s a young noble woman imprisoned in a tower, another tragic character. She also dies tragically.

She’s told that if she gazes at Sir Lancelot, she’d be cursed. Some claim it’s a metaphor for suicide. Some say she’s defiant.

The poem explicitly states that she knows not what the curse may be. So I’m not sure where people get the suicide claim from.

Towards the end of the poem, she takes off in a boat towards Lancelot after seeing how beautiful he is. She of course dies on the route, but not before Lancelot and others see just how beautiful she herself is.

Waterhouse obviously saw her as a great tragic character to paint as he painted her three times.

The Lady of Shalott
The Lady of Shalott (1888)
The Lady of Shallot Looking at Lancelot
The Lady of Shalott Looking at Lancelot (1894)
“I Am Half-Sick of Shadows” Said the Lady of Shallot (1915)

Hylas and the Nymphs and 2018 British Censorship

In January 2018, the Manchester Art Gallery removed this gorgeous painting because it was offensive. Think about this for a second. You know how the Victorians were supposed to be sexually oppressed? Yet, what is normal to them is now offensive by today’s standards? Talk about sexually oppressed!

I initially wrote up a long rant about this. However, it was so laden with profanities that I decided to remove it. I value freedom and beauty above all else and have an absolute hatred of those who would attempt to ban either. We’ll just keep it at that.

Hylas and the Nymphs
Hylas and the Nymphs (1896)
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Seven color watercolor palette

7 color watercolor palette

There’s an old adage that you should be able to cut down to six colors if you had to. You know what? There’s no way I can. I need seven.

So I’m going to break the rules and cut down to a seven color watercolor palette. What’s in my watercolor palette? Keep reading and I’ll not only explain my colors; I’ll also explain my reasoning.

Now, if your subjects are different than mine, you’re going to use different colors. That’s just how it is. For instance, if you like painting flowers or birds, you’re not going to obsess over your human model’s skin and hair coloring. Likewise, if you’re painting deserts, you’re going to have desert colors.

Nobody is right or wrong. Colors depend on your subject. And also your style.

Watercolor palette for this pinup artist

I paint fantasy pinups. My main model is a blonde. My secondary model is a brunette.

I love painting them both. I just happen to paint Allie a lot more than Roxy since I see Allie a lot more.

So now let’s do colors. I wrote an article on how I paint skin colors awhile back. I use Titanium White and Burnt Sienna as my primary two colors. For my secondary two colors, I use Hansa Yellow Medium and Perylene Red. All Daniel Smith. That’s because Daniel Smith is what I’m used to. I also like how big and vibrant that brand’s colors are.

That’s four colors right there. I need all four of them for skin colors alone.

If you look closely at your model’s skin, it’s not one color. You have everything from shading to bruises/scars to veins to birthmarks to moles, and everything else. But, I don’t go into super detail. I’m aiming more for beauty. I’m a pinup artist after all, not a super duper realist.


That shade of yellow also doubles as Allie’s hair color.

Speaking of hair, Roxy’s a brunette. I won’t include a brown in my seven color watercolor palette, but more on that in a bit.


I paint a lot of mermaids, so I’ll need some kind of underwater blue. My favorite blue I’ve found for water so far? French Ultramarine. I absolutely love that color!

I use that color both for water and also for eye color. For blue eyes, it’s the best.

That’s now five. Two more to go.


Yes, you can get a green from mixing yellow and blue. But, I really like Hooker’s Green. It looks fabulous for green eyes when slightly watered down. It also makes brown when mixed 50/50 with Perylene Red. I use that brown for Roxy’s hair. She’s got gorgeous long dark brown hair in real life. I hope she keeps her hair long forever. I have a thing for long hair.

And for number seven – Rose of Ultramarine. Yes, you can get a purple from mixing blue and red. But, this is a special purple. A more rose purple, except it looks like something you’ll see underwater.

It’s the main color I use for mermaid tails. Also, I love using it in my witches’ skirts. I worked it in to most of their skirts.

For black, you can make a real nice watercolor black with yellow, blue, and red. You use a pinch of yellow with a healthy mix of both blue and red, and you’ll end up with a deep black. It’s like a purple black. Real nice looking color.

If I had more colors to work with

I use gold in most of my paintings. Long story short, I bought gold watercolor ground, having no idea what watercolor ground was at the time. So here I am with this big jar of gold. So I decided, I needed to use it.

Then and there, I decided that Allie’s characters will always get a double golden bracelet on her left arm and Roxy will get a gold necklace. In real life, Roxy wears a lot more jewelry. But I wanted to use that gold, so that’s what I decided I’d do.

When I get a third model, I’ll probably give her gold somewhere else. Like maybe a gold headband or golden rings. I haven’t decided yet. Whatever it is, it will have to fit her personality. But that’s in the future.

I’d also get a real black. I hate mixing black. It’s actually hard to replicate. Although yes, that black I mix is nice, it’s never the same twice.

I don’t need a pink since I get my nipple pink from watering down the Perylene Red. That’s one of the magics with watercolors. Water itself actually changes the colors.

What would you use?

If you had an evil witch who broke into your home and had a wand to your head, and said that she’d turn you into frog if you didn’t get rid of everything but seven colors, which seven would you cut down to? And, could you do six? I’d really, really have a problem cutting down to six. But since she has a wand to my head, goodbye Rose of Ultramarine.

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There’s a Hellhound on my trail

hellhound on my trail

Hellhound on my trail. Some of you will know that as a Robert Johnson song from the 1930s.

Ah yes. The Mississippi Delta Blues. That’s where it all came from.

But who was Robert Johnson and did he really sell his soul to the Devil? Well, I can only tell you the legend.

The Crossroads

Historians aren’t sure which crossroads in Mississippi they referred to when Robert Johnson encountered a large black man who tuned his guitar for him. Suddenly, Johnson went from being a mediocre guitarist to the greatest bluesman of his day.

The Devil supposedly also gave him power over the ladies. Too much in fact. So much that it literally got him killed, no matter which legend of his death you believe.

Hellhound on my trail and foreshadowing

Johnson wrote a lot of interesting songs. If you’re wondering, no, I can’t play Johnson. I’m actually quite bad with the acoustic guitar. I only play electric guitar and piano.

But yes, I did study Robert Johnson. Had to. Historically he’s one of the most important figures in American music.

If you listen to the song Hellhound on my trail, it foreshadows his upcoming death, and how he wanted to be with a certain woman. Who was that woman? Who knows?

There are two legends of his death. One, he flirted with a married woman. So her husband gave him a bottle of poisoned liquor. Johnson was unaware that man was her husband.

Supposedly, Johnson’s buddy knocked the bottle out of his hand and scolded him to never drink a bottle that he didn’t open. So already being drunk, the husband gave Johnson another bottle and Johnson drank it, felt sick, and died a day or two later.

Robert Johnson - Hellhound on  my trail
Robert Johnson not too long before he died in 1938 at the age of only 27

Now the other legend is that a white doctor examined his corpse and said that Johnson died of syphilis.

Either way, Johnson’s womanizing got him killed. Literally.

“What is a hellhound?”

A hellhound is a dog that tracks a damned man. Once the dog catches the damned man, the man dies and the Devil gets his soul.

Johnson was always on the run, knowing it was only a matter of time before the hellhound would find him.

I use a hellhound in my evil witches and their familiars series. It takes a very powerful witch to be able to summon a hellhound and actually somewhat control it. Hellhounds are straight from Hell, and are immortal. The Devil uses them to track down people when their time is up. The cursed man runs, but the hellhound will always eventually catch him.

Other Faustian legends

Robert Johnson wasn’t the only great musician who supposedly sold his soul to the Devil for musical greatness. Niccolò Paganini supposedly did as well.

Niccolò Paganini
Niccolò Paganini supposedly sold his soul to be the greatest violinist of his lifetime

Paganini wrote the 24 Caprices which are now standard for violinists. For his time though, he was head and shoulders above his competition.

Legend has it that Paganini sold his soul on a Devil’s Bridge, an ancient bridge in Europe. So interestingly, we have a crossroads and a devil’s bridge.

He was too a womanizer and it was said that his playing actually made beautiful women faint. And quite wet. How much of that is true and how much is a legend? Who knows?

He became quite famous in the 1820s and was even honored by the Pope. But, he too developed syphilis. Unfortunately, doctors didn’t know shit about anything back then and gave him mercury and opium to treat the syphilis. You could guess what happens next.

Paganini died in 1840, although there was no talk of a hellhound stalking him. Just rumors of him selling his soul earlier to become the greatest violinist of his day.

Robert Johnson and Niccolò Paganini weren’t the only two musicians to have sold their souls to the Devil for greatness. They’re just the two most famous.

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Sometimes our modeling sessions are random…

And sometimes our modeling sessions are planned.

Allie and Roxy have both been with me since the beginning. They’re both very different models.

The funny thing is, neither of them started off as models. It just happened that way.

I’m in fact the only person they model for. We’re friends that turned into models.

Both love modeling

Despite what some people tell you, women love to feel beautiful. It’s a great feeling. Just like a man likes to feel manly. If he’s not strong, there are other ways to be manly. Like building a successful business for instance. Or writing the Great American Novel. What could be manlier than writing a novel under the influence of copious amounts of Scotch and tobacco that generations later still gets assigned in college?

There are moments when we’re in a zone. Where the modeling sessions turn out perfect. Where I can get three or four worthy paintings from one session.

It’s a great feeling indeed. We both know it. We both can feel it. It would be the equivalent of when a band executes a song in the studio and they know that that’s the one.

Allie from one of the more random modeling sessions
I turned this pose into a mermaid

Allie warmed up to modeling faster. When Roxy did, she really did. But she didn’t warm up as fast as Allie did.

Almost all my paintings though are of Allie because Roxy’s hard to get a hold of. I don’t take it personally. That’s just how she is. If you knew her personally, you’ll understand.

Allie’s very dependable. And predictable. She’d probably make a kick ass accountant.

Sometimes I have an inspiration

Sometimes before the modeling session, I’ll have an idea where we want to go. Like the upcoming one with Allie, we already planned witches. She’ll have evil faces and evil gestures prepared.

I’ve got my evil witches and their evil familiars series started already. I just finished the second painting. But I need two more.

The imp was the easiest one to do. So many ways to draw an imp. For this one, the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz were my inspiration. I remember seeing those as a kid and they scared the hell out of me.

What a thing to be scared of! Evil flying monkeys? Yeah, they scared me big time.

For the second painting, I did the evil witch and her nightmare familiar. I painted her with red hair. She looks more creepy than beautiful, which is great! It’s good to mix things up. I’ve done straight beautiful for too long.

Quick background – the evil witch with a nightmare familiar is the worst in combat. They attack you in your dreams. Not directly.

Special moments

The very last time I saw Roxy, she was really getting into her poses. I got some spectacular sketches from that session that I’ll turn into paintings later.

It was a special moment. There I was with pencil in hand and she was in front of me, fully nude except for her jewelry. Roxy loves her jewelry.

It felt so right. Every pose she did looked cute.

She has a huge smile with each one. She may have even laughed a little.

It’s hard to get Roxy to laugh. It’s hard enough to get her to smile. Roxy’s a totally different kind of girl. More serious, straight up.

When I said Allie would be a good accountant, I didn’t mean the boring ass accountant stereotype who never leaves the house and just crunches numbers. I’m talking more about responsibility, dependability, and memory, who will every once in awhile let loose big time. Allie has all in boatloads.

femme fatale castle on fire
Femme Fatale burning down the castle

Roxy though is so different. There’s a sadness to her, which I secretly find intriguing. I hope she’s not reading this and mad at me. But I promised I’d never use her full name anyways. It’s not like there’s only one Roxy in America who’s a brunette with long hair and a killer body.

I do miss that girl big time. She sent me a text last week that she misses me. But no word when we’re going to get together next.

That’s her to a T. Uncertainty ought to be her middle name.

That may be why I treasure time with her so much. I see her so rarely.

I don’t show my sketches

My sketchbook is mostly notes. I never learned to shade correctly. My shading almost looks childish.

When I actually paint, I keep the sketch by my side when I’m painting so I can see where to put the shadowing. I also note where and how the muscles move. And where I can see traces of bones and tendons through the skin.

My painting is better than my sketching. My outlines however look pretty good. I’ll share those. But you don’t get to see my shading techniques until they’re translated into paint.

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Artists I like – Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein

Awhile back, I talked about how I recorded two songs with David Lichtenstein. It’s funny. I’ve always thought it must be tough being the child of someone famous. You’re always living in their shadows.

People will often compare you to them. For instance, I’d hate to be Walter Payton’s or Barry Sander’s sons. I of course wish them the best and hope they’re happy. But could you imagine what it would be like if your father was arguably the best player at his position of his generation? People will compare you, whether you’d like them to or not.

David though went an entirely different route. He got into music instead. He’s got a fat studio in Oakland, and if you’re recording any music and can afford that studio, you may want to look him up. Super nice guy!

I knew Roy Lichtenstein from Houston

I don’t remember the gallery name. But the very first time I saw his work, I admired it. No, not loved it. Admired it. Two completely different feelings.

I admired his work because it’s so grand. The cover image is of Roy Lichtenstein back in 1967. Credit to Eric Koch for Nationaal Archief for the photograph.

Anyways, it’s grand. It’s big. And it works.

Some folks hated it as pop art. I get it.

But, it works. Photos don’t give it justice. You have to see it in person.

I’ve seen a lot of art over the years. I’ve also bought a lot of art over the years. I forget almost everything I’ve seen. I’ve even forgot about pieces I’ve purchased. If I remember your work, that’s a huge compliment. I’ll always remember Lichtenstein’s work.

The big bucks

It’s funny. I’m always hearing from kids that their parents try to discourage them from taking art seriously. I think that’s the most stupid thing you can do to your kid.

So you’re worried about money? Well, hate to break it to you. Unless you’re a nurse or a doctor, there’s no job security. Even highly coveted jobs now may become obsolete in a decade or two. You might as well do something you love.

But then, to rub it in their faces, I talk about how I recorded two songs with David Lichtenstein. And I tell them how much their paintings are worth.

Masterpiece recently sold for $165 million. That makes six paintings over $40 million. That’s a lot of money.

Not that I’m even trying to make that much. Yeah, I hope after I’m dead, my paintings go for insane amounts. I’m just throwing that out there. I’ve seen the featured painting in real life. So yes, in this Artists I like series, I definitely want to throw Roy Lichtenstein’s name in the ring.

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Evil witches and their evil familiars

evil witches and their evil familiars

I’ve painted a lot of mermaids recently. I think I’m going to take a break from mermaids for awhile. I think it’s time to explore a whole new category of femme fatales. How about witches?

My prior witches were more sloppy than evil. Like the young witch who accidentally unleashed a poisonous snake.

This time around, I want evil. And not just the witches. How about painting some evil familiars to ride along with the witches?

Evil familiar tendencies

A lot of good witches like cats. That goes back, way, way back. Back in the Salem days, we had cats to get rid of the rats. They made great pets. They’re not only your pets, they also took care of a practical problem.

Now, I’m convinced that the whole reason for the Salem Witch Massacre had nothing to do with witchcraft and everything to do with inheritance. Some old ladies often live a real long time. And some would be inheritors are absolutely shitty people. I’m pretty sure you can put two and two together here. Yes, ’twas a conspiracy to get their land and/or money.

But let’s go back further and dive into the world of Medieval Fantasy, my favorite inspiration for art.

Whereas good witches often have cats or owls, evil witches prefer familiars that are a bit more “combat ready.” So evil familiars aren’t just a cunning evil creature that sits on your left shoulder (remember to throw your pinch of salt over your right shoulder when you’re an evil witch). They also have combat purposes. They have a mean bite. And worse.


Imps were human once. Damned to the fiery pits of Hell, an evil witch will often bring one back and use them as familiars.

Imps are cunning and conniving. They’re also stubborn, ruthless, cowardly, and completely self-serving.

evil familiars - imps

Imps were evil beta males. They got pushed around in life and when they murdered in their past human incarnation, they wouldn’t exactly do it in a confrontational manner. They feared direct conflict. When they had to do it directly, they made damn sure the odds were strongly in their favor.

You know the old stick versus carrot rule. As familiars, think in terms of two sticks for each carrot. You still have to carrot them since their sense of loyalty is already pretty bad. If you don’t, they’ll either take off or try to kill you in your sleep.

Baby dragons

An evil witch can live hundreds of years. Whereas a human usually dies in double digits, not an evil witch. They can get quite old.

However, dragons live in the thousands of years. We’re talking a whole different ballgame.

Baby dragons make wonderful familiars. The problem with baby dragons is that they’re very rare. Humans and dragons have been at war for forever, with humans in recent years coming quite close to causing dragon extinction.

Their natural habitat? Geez. It’s so small now that I’m not even sure where to find them.

You may be thinking how come humans got the upper edge on dragons, considering dragons are so powerful and so smart. Simply put, biology. Dragons take forever to mate. Dragon eggs only hatch under ideal situations.

But humans? Babies only take nine months to create and are combat ready in only fifteen or sixteen years! No way dragons could keep up with that.

If you ever see a witch with a dragon familiar, she’s on a whole different level of power. Cross her and she’ll not just kill you. She’ll take down your entire Kingdom.


Some witches are so evil that they absolutely detest sunlight. No, they’re not going to exactly burn up and die like a stupid vampire. Rather, they’re at their best after the witching hour.

Those are the kind of witches you’ll find with hellhounds as familiars.

Hellhounds cannot come out in the sunlight. You’ll only encounter them at night. And if you encounter them, you’re in a heap of trouble.

If you see a witch with a hellhound as a familiar, you’re in a super duper heap of trouble. You got a serious problem.

Hellhounds usually signal death when a human encounters one. Generally, the Devil himself sends a hellhound after someone who sold him his soul. That cursed someone knows his time is short. And he’s on the run, for he knows when the hellhound catches him…

For a witch to actually raise one of these foul (and foul smelling) creatures as a pet? Well, she’s got to be more evil than your average evil witch. Plus, she more than likely doesn’t have a working olfactory sense. Did I mention that hellhounds stink?


There isn’t exactly one size fits all when it comes to evil witches. Whereas most evil witches are pretty good at direct physical confrontation, leaving their opponent either in tatters, turned into an amphibian, or burnt to a crisp, some work through other methods.

The kind of evil witch that has a nightmare as a familiar you probably could conquer in a physical confrontation. That’s not the problem.

Just don’t ever go to sleep. That’s where she’ll get you.

Nightmares cause nightmares. But a Nightmare’s nightmare is so powerful, it causes death. Yes, you’re literally scared to death.

So if an evil witch extorts you, it’s more than likely one of these witches. You have two choices. Either pay her off. Or, find her and exterminate her.

If you do the latter, you better find her location before you go to sleep. Once you sleep, she wins. You simply won’t survive an encounter with her nightmare familiar.

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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 mixed martial arts were actually called 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.  They know what hurts and how to alleviate some of that pain.  If you think you can apply this to your artwork, well my friend, you’d be 100% correct!

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 have the reflexes of a cat.

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.

Should you be friends?

Honestly? I think it helps.  When sketching either Allie or Roxy, there’s often magic in the sessions.  We joke and laugh and smile a lot.  Makes the sessions easy.

More importantly, we’re all loose.  Pinup art is supposed to be loose.  It’s not supposed to be uptight.

If you’re doing pinups, you’re not painting two bananas, an apple, and a bunch of grapes in a fruit bowl.  You need to make the painting look alive and that means your model should be relaxed.  And more importantly, comfortable with you.

Does she have water? Has she eaten? Is the room too cold?

Paint only the good poses

I’ve taken two semesters of photography in high school and one in college.  Unfortunately, a lot of photographers are dorks.  These guys get a woman naked and don’t know what to do with her.

It shows in their photography.  Whereas, here you got a woman with a beautiful body and the pose is downright awful.  “What are you doing?”

Same thing with painting.  This is yet another reason I think you should be at least friends with your model.  You have an emotional connection.

“Hips out to the right. Just a little more.  Now back straighter.  There you go, baby! You’re gonna knock ’em dead!”

And remember – positive reinforcement.  Don’t be a jerk or else they won’t want to work with you again, even if you’re friends.  (And you may not be friends for much longer).

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.


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!


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.