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How to deal with distractions

how to deal with distractions

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

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

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

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

Today

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

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

What to do about distractions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why I prefer hot press paper

blonde mermaid painted on hot press watercolor paper

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

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

Hot press paper rules for drawings

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

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

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

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

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

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

Negatives of hot press paper

It takes longer to dry

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

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

Washes are different

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

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

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

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

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

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

Try them both

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

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

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Artists I like – Francisco Goya

Francisco Goya - The Third of May

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

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

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

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

Francisco Goya

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

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

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

Style

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

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

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

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

Four paintings

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

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

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

La Maja Desnuda

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

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

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

Now, not only is it a great painting, this painting got both Godoy and Goya in trouble with the Spanish Inquisition. Sure, we laugh when watching Monty Python today about the Spanish Inquisition, but back then, it was no laughing matter.  The Inquisition made Godoy reveal the artist, who then had to explain why he painted the painting.

Goya got off on a technicality.  He explained that he was only following tradition and assured the Inquisition that he was not intentionally creating depravity.

Francisco Goya - La Maja Desnuda

Saturn Devouring His Son

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

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

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

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

Francisco Goya - Saturn Devouring His Son

The Family of Charles IV

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

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

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

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

Francisco Goya - The Family of Charles IV

The Disasters of War

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

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

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

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

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Why do people buy art?

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

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

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

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

Investors

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

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

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

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

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

Lovers

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

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

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

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

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

Trend setters

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

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

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

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

Businesses

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

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

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

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

Commissions

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

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

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

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

Friends and family

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

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

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Watercolor on wood vs paper

mermaid watercolor on wood

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

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

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

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

Watercolor on paper

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

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

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

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

Watercolor on wood

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

Bleeding

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

Watercolor on wood inked
Inked with Pigma Micron 005

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

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

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

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

Sucks paint

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

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

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

Light colors don’t show

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wet on wet

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

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

Heh. Catch 22. Good luck with this.

OK, I won’t be an asshole about it.

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

Waiting for the paint to dry to paint the next layer

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

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

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

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

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

Do not make mistakes

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

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

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

A few more notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preserving your piece

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

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







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Where I’ve been the past year…

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

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

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

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

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

My art and watercolor tips blog posts

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

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

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

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

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How I paint skin tones in watercolor

painting skin tones in watercolor

Not everyone who does watercolor paints people. However, for those who do, the absolute number one question is – how do you blend skin tones in watercolor?

Now here’s the answer you probably don’t want to hear. There’s more than one way to do it. Actually, there are dozens of excellent ways to do it.

Just like with music, I borrowed a lick or two from this guy and a lick or two from that guy. After borrowing licks, runs, and phrases from enough people, I ended up with my own style.

The same applies to painting. The more you borrow, the more you develop your own style. So read this article and take notes. Take what you want from my style and throw out the rest. You’ll end up merging a bunch of styles together anyways when you’re developing your own unique style.

How I blend skin tones in watercolor

I’m going to show two examples of how I blend skin tones in watercolor. One example painting I just finished. The other, I finished awhile back. I do like how both of them turned out.

Mermaids and witches. I have no idea why they dominate my artwork. That’s just how it ends up. The above is a mermaid painting I just completed. The below is a work in progress of two girls under a waterfall.

Opium Tales how I paint skin tones in watercolor example
Two blondes under a waterfall – work in progress


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

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

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

This method works for painting white people. To paint darker people, combine a nice red and a nice green about 50/50 to get a nice brown. You’ll have to lighten it or darken it to find that person’s average color. I personally use perelyne red and hooker green to get my browns. I happen to like those two colors and combined, they get an excellent brown.

Mixing skin tones in watercolor – the four colors

We have two primary colors for my model’s main colors – titanium white and burnt sienna. What are the other two colors? A red and a yellow. Personally, my red is perelyne red and my yellow is hansa yellow medium.

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

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

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

Seven wet on wet layers

I get really soft skin tones by painting seven layers wet on wet. (I hope you’re using really good watercolor paper, because with cheap watercolor paper, you may be pushing it beyond its limits).

The first layer – I paint yellow for the highlights and I paint the main skin tone everywhere else. Then the second layer, the third layer, and the fourth layer, I paint the main skin tone everywhere.

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

  • Titanium White
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Yellow Hansa Medium
  • Perelyne Red

The gold

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

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

Little succubus sister
Watch out for the evil succubus!

There’s more than one way to do anything

You may try my techniques and hate them. That’s perfectly fine. Like I said before, sometimes different people’s techniques clash and don’t play well together at all. That’s part of being human. If my stuff doesn’t work for you, I’m not at all going to take it personal. However, if you may take one thing out of this entire blog post and run with it for the rest of your painting career, I’d be flattered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Watercolor and gouache are friends

mermaid using both watercolor and gouache

Watercolor and gouache are friends. They play nicely together.

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

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

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

Watercolor vs gouache

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

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

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

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

Which is better?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watercolor and Gouache both use the same surfaces

Both watercolor and gouache default to watercolor paper. A lot of folks swear by Arches paper. Myself included, but to be honest, most of the top papers are quite good. It’s just like Jimi Hendrix would still play a mean guitar as long as the guitar isn’t junk. Of course he’ll have his preferences.

The same goes for paper. I’ve combined watercolor and gouache on a lot of different papers and they play nicely together. I’ve even painted them both on wood.

For wood, gouache is even better than watercolor. One of these days, I’ll buy some high end gouache paints and do a straight up gouache painting on wood.

Until then, I can assure you that watercolor and gouache are friends. Use them each for their respective purposes, which generally comes down to how transparent vs how opaque you want to paint a particular part of your painting.

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When there are no heroes

This is the Finale of Princess for the Night. Part I of Princess for the Night is here

opium tales as was with Tonna, Isabella was brought in chains in front of the cave by the elders.

Cold, damp, and wearing a white dress that isn’t enough to keep her warm, she walks with her head down. Only unlike Tonna, she’s not thinking defeat. Rather, she’s focusing on what she needs to do.

As I’ve said earlier, her mother passed out. Her father lies in the barn unconscious with his front teeth knocked out. Her aunt though, her dear aunt, fed her some soup with some meat this morning to keep her warm and keep her strong.

Only her aunt knows. Her dear aunt.

One of the elders makes the mistake of looking her in the eyes. These elders have done this many, many times, and have become cold. But this one looks her in the eyes. And sheds a tear.

They know Isabella. They know her heart, her boldness, her compassion. They know that they’ll never see that again.

The elder wipes the tear and he and the others walk away as they finish chaining Isabella to the wooden pole in front of the dragon’s cave.

Focus

Isabella got very little sleep as she and her aunt worked over and over again the spell. The key to doing anything right? Repetition. Yeah, I know that sounds boring but it’s true. If you want to be good at anything, do the same thing over and over and over again until it becomes second nature.

You practice it in ideal conditions. Then you hope you can pull it off under stress.

Well, what can be more stressful than a giant monster coming to eat you? Especially when you know in graphic detail how the monster consumes its prey?

Isabella hears movement. She sees the beast slither out of its cave.

Not yet.

She sees the beast looking around. Then, the beast eyes its prey.

Not yet.

She sees the beast moving forward. Still too far away.

Not yet.

She sees the beast slithering forward. Then, the beast raises itself on its hind legs.

As practiced, the potion leaves her dress and goes up and up. With her hands tied, she has to do it entirely with her mind.

It does. The potion goes up and up. And the dragon opens its mouth. And the potion goes in his mouth and breaks.

Almost immediately, the dragon feels different. Instead of chomping down, the dragon eyes his princess. He lowers his head slowly. Down and down, all the way to the ground and looks at her.

Then the weirdest thing happens. A smile? Can a dragon really smile?

He nudges her lightly with his head, then raises his head to bite.

But no, not bite her. He bites the chains. Isabella is free.

When your world is up in flames

She doesn’t run. Rather, she comes forward and kisses the dragon on his leathery nose.

The dragon once again lowers his head and Isabella climbs aboard his neck. She’s never felt anything like this before – a connection to a beast. And, the mightiest of all beasts.

The virgin sacrifices end now, and to be sure, Isabella knows that some people are going to have to die.

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Some day a hero will make it right

This is Part VIII of Princess for the Night. Part I of Princess for the Night is here

humpty dumpty opium tales she looks into her Aunt’s crystal ball, and sees her hero, the one she would some day marry, the one who loved her, the one who would avenge Tonna’s death and free these villages from the curse once and for all, running. Running, with a panicked look on his face, without a sword in hand. Running as fast and as far away from the village as he can.

So much for a hero.

So much for true love.

So much for…

“This may seem crazy, Isabella.”

Isabella stares forward with a blank look on her face.

“Isabella. Pay attention.”

Isabella turns and faces her Aunt.

“This may seem crazy, Isabella, but it’s the only chance we got. Remember the love potion you made?”

“Yes. And no, I’m not going to waste it on that pathetic-”

“No. I hope that coward dies. I got a better idea.”

A little telekinesis

Early the next morning, as planned, Isabella’s aunt slipped the bottle into her dress. Isabella only had to keep her cool under duress. No big deal, right? You only have a ten ton beast that could bite an armored warrior in half with one bite that wants to eat you. Then of course, the potion is made for a human. Will it work on a dragon?

Who knows? It’s all we got.

Avery’s miles away by now and nobody else wants to risk their life and the lives of all the local villages for a single girl. Every year, the same thing. A virgin girl in a white dress sacrificed to the dragon. One life in exchange for thousands.

Cowards. All of them.

No time to judge though. Must focus on the task at hand.

This year as every year, the girl, chained to the same post in front of the dragon’s cave. Cold and damp, her shivering alone made her spell casting even more difficult. Never mind a giant fire breathing flying reptile will soon be expecting a feast.

Oh, I’ve already made that point. Well, I’m going to make it again to really hammer into your head how hard it is to cast this spell.

You cannot lose focus. You cannot lose concentration. Telekinesis is one of the more difficult spells to cast in ideal situations.

You know what makes it even worse? Your hands really make spell casting more simple. Even better than your hands? Something concentrated. Like a wand for instance.

Well, she didn’t have a wand. And her hands were tied above her head in a cold iron chained grip. So she couldn’t exactly use her hands to cast this.

Only her mind. And what makes this even worse? She had to have her eyes open. Isabella couldn’t close her eyes or else she’d have no idea where that bottle would go, even if she somehow managed to cast this spell under these conditions.

The dragon

And so the elders secured her in place. And walked away like the cowards they all are.

Like Tonna’s parents, Isabella’s parents couldn’t come to say goodbye to their daughter. Her mother collapsed in the morning and her father raged with a pitchfork. It took half a dozen men to finally subdue him and knock him out. Knocked out some of his teeth in the process too.

Yes, he loved his daughter. And yes, if he could, he would have stopped this. But now he lays knocked out, bleeding, and missing his front teeth in the barn. Oh, he also shat his pants.

Sorry. I probably should have spared you that detail.

Anyways, the dragon. Yes, maybe it’s due to the timing, but the dragon doesn’t come out until all the elders were out of sight.

Isabella rehearsed the spell many times with her aunt. However, it’s all easy under ideal conditions. When you didn’t have a gigantic fire breathing flying reptile that can bite you in half with one bite slithering towards you.

Yes, Avery described Tonna’s death in brutal detail to Isabella. So Isabella now knows what would happen if she fails to cast this spell.

Or, if she succeeds in casting the spell and the potion simply doesn’t work. Don’t think for a minute that that hasn’t crossed her mind.

The Finale of Princess for the Night