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Painting on a watercolor board

Opium Tales watercolor board

Am I painting on a watercolor block? Or am I painting watercolor on wood?

The answer? Neither. I’m not painting on watercolor paper either.

What is it then?

It’s called a watercolor board, and I absolutely love painting on one! This specific watercolor board is made by Canson and it’s 16″x20″. It retails for $5.99 and it’s made in France. That’s as much as I know about it.

As for painting on it, I’m using both watercolor and gouache. It doesn’t suck paint. It doesn’t puddle either.

Best of all, I don’t have to prep it in any way. I just simply start painting.

Watercolor boards vs watercolor paper

Easy to draw on?

Anyone who’s been following my career knows how seriously I take inking. I think inking is absolutely essential for my brand of pinup art. And whereas it’s not as easy as hot press watercolor paper for drawing then inking, it’s not that much more complicated. I think it’s about as easy to draw on as cold press.

That’s not enough to make me not want to use on it. It just took awhile to get used to.

Quality of the surface

Someone was saying it’s really watercolor paper glued to a board. If it is, I can’t tell. It seems like it’s its own thing.

The board holds colors really well, just like a watercolor paper. But the biggest benefit of all is it’s simply ready to go.

I like the size. This one specifically is 16″x20″.

I haven’t used any other brands besides Canson, because that’s what the nearby store has. But this really does the trick. I don’t have to fight buckling.

Bucking watercolor paper will drive you nuts if you’re using a lot of water. And I use a lot of water. When I’m painting Allie or Roxy, I’m using seven layers of paint for their skin color. That’s the simple secret what gives them that soft look.

Mounting

I’m the wrong person to ask here. I’ve mounted watercolor on wood for most of the works I have for sale. But for this, it’s too thick to cut with with my X-Acto knife. Yeah, maybe I could, but I’d really have to work and I don’t want to do that.

So, so far, I’ve finished three paintings on this. The first one, I’ll give away because I don’t think it’s my best work by any means. It’s nice. But not up to par.

But the other two, I’ll get professionally mounted. Then I’ll put them up on the store.

So the answer – no, it’s not as easy as mounting watercolor paper because it’s really thick. You can’t bend the board without ruining it. You already know you can bend and fold watercolor paper (well, sort of – if you know what you’re doing). With the watercolor board, you’ll ruin it if you did that.

“Would you recommend it?”

Well, let’s just put it this way. I’ve done two of these in a row and I’m just about to go out and buy yet another board today. I’m also going to buy some absinthe and paint while on it. But that will be on watercolor paper and not the next board. I don’t have an idea for the next board. I just know I want to paint on it again.

Can you handle 16″x20″? It doesn’t fit on my wife’s art board though, so I’m literally painting right on the floor rather than on top of the art board.

Yeah, I know, I’m a freak. I don’t sit down while painting and paint on an easel like a normal person. I got a messed up back and painting on the floor is way easier for my back.

This is what happens when you play violent sports as a young person. It catches up to you. Not at all knocking them though. It’s why I’m so competitive today, which is a not a good thing for an artist, but a great thing! I see so many artists with loads and loads of talent who quit because they’re all butt hurt that they didn’t get famous overnight. But that’s another story for another day.

This one’s $5.99 retail. Try it out. It’s expensive for one’s daily habits. But considering I sell my works, I’d rather pay for something I want to work on.

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The Birth of Venus

The Birth of Venus. Why is this such an important painting? First, let’s look at who Venus is. Venus is the Ancient Roman Goddess of Love and Beauty. After all, what’s more important to an artist than love and beauty?

The Ancient Greeks and the Romans pretty much gave us Western culture. To this day, even though they’ve been gone for thousands of years, we have everything from political concepts to our concepts of beauty from them.

So as far as I’m concerned, the Birth of Venus is one of the most significant paintings ever painted. But which one? Which is the most significant Birth of Venus painting?

Alexandre Cabanel

You’ve seen Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. It’s all over prints, posters, and even was parodied on Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Don’t get me wrong. I love that piece too. But I really love Alexandre Cabanel’s Birth of Venus. The latter is an example of what I loved about 19th Century art.

Alexandre Cabanel's Birth of Venus
Alexandre Cabanel’s Birth of Venus

Painted in 1863, this painting is currently in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. When we hit Paris, I need to see this one in real life. Napoleon III bought it upon completion. I’m not going to get into the historical politics of the 19th century leaders, but I got to give them at least some credit – they had better taste than today’s leaders. (By far, but that’s not saying much).

You may love impressionism. I’m fine with that. I respect it as an art form. I’m just not a fan with it.

Cabanel hated it. He was at war with impressionism like I’m at war against Post-Modernism.

Anyways, yes, Cabanel hated the impressionists and since he was a Professor at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts, he did everything he could to keep them out. Which of course backfired miserably. But that’s another story for another day.

I appreciated Cabanel’s work immensely, especially this one. A long-haired red-headed Goddess who comes to life atop of waves. Nude with a body perfection. Of course she’s a Goddess. I’m blessed to have two models this beautiful that I work with.

I’m all about beauty. I’ve seen sunrises over the California coast, sunsets in Hawaii and the Caribbean, too many waterfalls to count. I love nature. I’m in awe of nature. But I still have to say that NOTHING compares to a beautiful nude woman. To even think a beautiful nude woman is obscene is an obscenity in itself. There is nothing obscene about beauty. Nothing. People who want to censor beauty are sick and twisted bastards and in my eyes, deserve to spend their last days floating on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Cabanel captured beauty. He captured it in such an intense way that his painting is magical. If you want to see real life magic, this is it, just like hearing real life magic is hearing a good rendition of something like Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony.

Other Birth of Venus paintings

Botticelli’s Birth of Venus

This infamous one was done in 1486 by Sandro Botticelli and commissioned by the Medici family. Another rant for another time – this is what’s wrong with today’s new rich. Back then, rich people had class and they had character.

Today’s? They do not appreciate art like they used to. They do not sponsor artists and composers like they used to.

This is the most significant of all the Birth of Venus paintings. It’s not my favorite. But it’s the most historically significant.

Sandro Botticelli - The Birth of Venus
Sandro Botticelli – The Birth of Venus

Anyways, I love Botticelli’s work. (Note the S Curve).

It’s great on its own, but my favorite Birth of Venus paintings were painted in the 19th Century. Cabanel’s is my favorite. That’s the one above Botticelli’s.

My second favorite is Bouguereau’s, which was created in 1879 and like Cabanel’s, it is at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris today. A friendly reminder to anyone who happens to visit Paris soon.

Bouguereau’s Birth of Venus

Bouguereau's Birth of Venus
Bouguereau’s Birth of Venus

Bouguereau gets it. He understood female beauty and female sexuality. He captured it perfectly in this one. I love everything about this painting, from the nymphs and the centaurs to the magical waters themselves. Plus, what these three paintings have in common is they all have gorgeous red-headed models. I’m not at all complaining.

There are others. But I just listed my three favorites.

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Do hard things

Allie x2 by a waterfall - work in progress

There’s a guy I follow on Twitter named Dennis. He’s an older gentleman. And he’s always doing something difficult for even a young gentleman. Something physical, but very difficult, even if he were young.

To me, that’s inspirational. And it totally applies to art.

Do hard things. Constantly.

You want to be improving. Here’s a work in progress of Allie posing under a waterfall. In real life, this was the latest live model sketch we did over the weekend with an old sketch of her. I’m constantly using both new sketches and recycling the old ones. I recycle the old ones since I’ve improved immensely since then. I want to give those poses proper credit.

As for the waterfall, that was kind of a fantasy waterfall based on some waterfall pictures I sliced together from Pinterest. No, this waterfall doesn’t exist, because it’s several spliced together.

I have no idea if it will turn out good or not. We’ll know in a few weeks.

Constant improvement mindset

I take artistic mindset very seriously. I strongly believe that the difference between artists who make it and artists who don’t comes down to mindset. Quitters never win.

But not quitting is not enough. You got to constantly push yourself. You can’t ever plateau and say to yourself “this is fine.”

Imagine Leonardo da Vinci or Pablo Picasso doing that. Yes, exactly. They never did.

You need to be improving. Constantly.

And sometimes, you really have to push yourself.

Recently, I learned how to make watercolor postcards. I wanted to do something special for my Grandma who’s turning 102 next year.

So I decided to use my artistic skills. Make something really personal. Something that other people can’t give her. Show her how special she is to me.

Grandma was a huge influence on me. She traveled the world. She wanted things done her way. That’s two things that rubbed off on me big time.

She was also a piano teacher in her past. I blew it when I didn’t take my piano lessons seriously. Now I have to do a lot of catch-up because I was totally into sports and totally not into my piano lessons as a kid.

Of course, not at all slamming sports. I’m glad I did them. But I really wish I practiced the piano too.

Where to start?

“So where do I start?”

Here’s the beauty to it. What’s hard for you may not be hard for me. And vice versa. I can guarantee that I’m better than you at five things. I can guarantee that you’re better than me at five things.

Nobody is the same. So this is on you.

What is hard for you? But don’t just do it because it’s hard. (Unless that’s how your brain is wired. In that case, do it!)

Do it because that’s what you need to improve.

I’m constantly trying to get better and better at water. I’m a water person. If you look at all my paintings, you’ll see that water is a big part of a lot of them.

Mermaids. Naiads. Selkies. What do they have in common? Water.

So what is your water? You tell me. Actually, tell me. Leave a comment below. What is your water? What’s a huge part of your art that you need to improve?

Tell yourself you’re gonna do it. And do it. Even if it’s hard. Heck, especially if it’s hard!

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On artists, entrepreneurship, and the old 9 to 5

Navigating your life as an artist

Here is something that artists ponder. But I’m sure there aren’t that many resources for them.

Imagine, you are young. You know you’re an artist. But you have to make a decision.

You have to decide which route you will take. Will you brave it out and shoot for entrepreneurship? Or will you pursue a 9 to 5 job and continue to do your art on the side, hoping that you’ll have a piece or two that can propel you into full-time art some day?

Or, you can do something that advances your art career. You can manage art galleries, teach art in high school or college, or even online. Meanwhile, you still do your own art.

Every single one has advantages and disadvantages. And to make this article more complete, I need to tell you my past so you know where I’m coming from.

I am a highly successful 9 to 5 worker and investor. I’ve twice failed to start creative businesses.

But, I haven’t given up on entrepreneurship. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.

Learning from failures

I once got up to $54k in credit card debt because my last business failed so badly. I didn’t want to get a formal business loan since I didn’t want anyone to have any control over me. My train of thought at the time – credit cards are anonymous.

Was it stupid? Looking back, probably yes. But I went in knowing the risks and fell flat on my face.

I almost have those loans paid off. No, I’m not struggling at all. I have the cash to pay them off. But I like keeping six months of cash at all times just in case. Once again, that’s just me.

I know there’s an accountant reading this right now thinking “what an idiot!” But that’s how I think. I absolutely have to have a cash reserve at all times.

And yes, this is my second business that failed. As the saying goes though, fail better.

Opium Tales is my third business, started on January 1st, 2019. The first one ironically also involved the name opium tales. But as the name of the television program, not the name of the business. (That company was an entertainment production company). I tried to get funding for the business and only ended up with debts.

“Then why be an entrepreneur?”

The freedom

Why did I choose to be an entrepreneur? Because of the freedom. That’s why most entrepreneurs decide to go that route. You are your own boss. Or they can argue your customer is. Or in my case, the networks I was trying to pitch my television show would have been.

Let’s hypothetically say my television company succeeded. I wrote the entire first season. Total freedom.

If the ratings went well, I’d have complete freedom to write the second season any way I wanted. That would have ruled!

If the ratings went ok, to get more money, I’d have to compromise. The episodes that went well, I’ll have to continue writing more along those lines. Even if I absolutely loved the episodes that didn’t do well, the people giving me money will say “no, you can’t do sequels to those ones” or “you can’t write them in that style.”

So yes, if you’re kicking ass, you’re your own boss. If you’re not, you have to answer to your customers.

Stop lights and traffic jams

On a lesser note, this country still pretty much drives to work. Sure, some cities have decent public transportation systems. The majority don’t. So, you spend time in traffic.

I worked at one place that took 90 minutes on the average day to get home. And I lived less than 10 miles from my job. Imagine what that did to my car. Heck, imagine what that did to my back!

If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ll read about other people in traffic jams. Sucks to be them.

Assholes at work

I’ve worked in companies where everyone was cool. OK, I exaggerated. I worked in one company where everyone was cool. One. Over 20+ years in the corporate world and one company had everyone cool.

You know what happened? The company was so good, that someone bigger came along and bought us out. Then we all got laid off.

I got a severance out of it. Yay!

Sadly, I haven’t had a single job since where everyone was cool.

If you’re an entrepreneur, the only asshole you have to deal with is yourself. But if you like yourself, you like who you work with.

Well, sort of. You have to deal with your customers, your suppliers, the shipping people, accountants, lawyers, your press people, and a slew of others. Sort of. You do get to choose all that stuff. If they’re assholes, go straight to their competitors and give them your business.

Still better than dealing with assholes at work.

Once you’re established

Also, once you get established, the only one who can fire you is you. Once established, you really have to screw up to lose your revenue.

9 to 5 people have to worry about losing their jobs. You don’t. You got yours as long as you want to do it.

Also, the upside is endless. You can go from six figures to seven figures in a year.

Good luck making seven figures at the good old 9 to 5. Once your salary starts increasing fast, your head is on the chopping block when the company takes a downturn.

I once got laid off because the company lost their main client and they took one look at my salary and thought to themselves “Roman needs to go.” I was making too much. Not to me of course. To them.

1984 at work

Orwell was right. But the year was wrong. It’s more like 2048.

Every year, we head closer to 1984. And it’s actually quite sickening.

Every year, we have to add one lie to our daily corporate vocabulary. And these aren’t minor lies. They’re pretty big lies.

I can’t even talk about them. I’d lose my job. And I still need it for another year or so.

You know the phrase as political correctness. The folks who think political correctness is another term for friendliness are the problem.

It’s not at all about being polite. It’s all about censoring thoughts.

Freedom is like the whole crab in pot analogy. If you boil the water, the crab will immediately jump out. However, if you heat it up slowly, you’ll kill the crab.

Same thing with Freedom. Take them all away all at once and you’ll have a bloody revolution and the people who caused it will more than likely lose their heads. Let 1984 seep in slowly and you’ll have a global dystopia.

Now as an entrepreneur, you don’t have to deal with this bullshit. And if you think it isn’t bullshit, watch Mad Men and as dysfunctional as it may seem to you, there’s a reason why millions of people watched that show. We could be normal humans back then! Imagine what that would have been like.

Benefits of the 9 to 5

When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re the lead money guy, the lead press guy, you’re the everyday worker, and you’re the CEO. You’re even the guy who takes the garbage out and waters the plants. You’re pretty much responsible for everything. You need to know how to do pretty much everything.

Unless of course you’re swimming in money and can outsource a lot of the work. But, let’s be real. Most of us aren’t exactly in that boat. Most of us start with rowboats with the bargain brand oars.

Sure, you work from home if you’re an entrepreneur. But, your home is also your work. For better and for worse.

Most of us 9 to 5 folks leave our job at the job. We log off and go home. That’s it.

Sure, some of us have to work after hours and on weekends. Most of us ditch those jobs as soon as we possibly can though. Great way to burn someone out.

Steady income

Expect to have some time where you don’t make anything as an entrepreneur. How much is “some time?” Well, on average, it’s two years.

Some folks can make money right away. Most don’t. Most starve for at the very least the first six months.

With a 9 to 5, you get a paycheck. You know the paycheck is coming. It’s steady.

This alone is why the vast majority of us are 9 to 5 folk. You’re guaranteed a steady paycheck. (That is, until they decide to replace you).

It becomes the Devil you know. Plus, everyone else is doing it. Right?

Slow path to entrepreneurship or cold turkey?

Then there’s the third group. You have a day job. You do it because you’re addicted to this thing called being able to pay bills. It’s a nice feeling – being able to pay bills.

But, you’re not fulfilled. You know in your heart, you’re an artist, not a dentist. You just need to get out there.

So what do you do? You practice your art every chance you get. You smile when you’re working on that bratty kid’s teeth and remind him that he needs to actually brush them daily. I know, weird concept, right? Why won’t these kids brush their teeth? Why won’t parents remind them?

Soon, that won’t be your problem any more. You’ll be painting full-time.

The thing is, you know the transitional period could take years. You’ve heard of it happening, and both times you knew someone who made the transition, they did it cold turkey.

But you make a lot of money. So what do you do?

You’re scared. You got house payments. You got two kids who are about to start college soon.

Time will go by. You’ll get old sooner than you realize. And you know it.

Cold turkey?

You know a former accountant and a former real estate agent who both did it. They’re now full-time artists.

They both tell you the same thing. You need to commit then burn every single bridge so you can’t go back.

What if you fail? You’ll lose your house. And gasp, your kids will have to take big fat student loans.

But you don’t know a single person who successfully transitioned over a long period of time. That’s because we all know the truth. Once you’re addicted to steady income, it’s almost impossible to get off that addiction.

The only way is cold turkey. You know that. I know that. Both your former accountant friend and your former real estate agent friend told you this. Like a million times.

Are you going to pull the trigger?

Final thoughts

As of today, I still have a day job. Both businesses I started failed. Both were art related. And both left me with a lot of debt.

I paid off the first one. I’m still paying off the second one. There’s an old saying though that the average successful businessman failed four times before he created his winner. I’m currently batting zero for two.

I met a lady who successfully transitioned from a corporate job to an entrepreneur. Yes, those people exist.

However, most successful entrepreneurs burned their bridges and jumped straight in the water. Or at least the ones I’ve interviewed.

I only know that one exception. One out of many.

What should you do? You know you better than I know you. Are you happy at your 9 to 5? Do you have the stomach to be an entrepreneur?

Serious questions.

Then there’s the other set – the ones who do art for a living but not their own art. Art sales. Art promotion. Making art for a corporation. Teaching. Graphic design work. Etc.

If you are satisfied doing that, I suggest you keep doing it. If you’re not, then consider entrepreneurship. It’s risky. But what’s the saying about risk and reward?

I don’t have the answers. I’m happy at my 9 to 5. But it’s not my dream job by any means. I’d rather be composing music and painting Allie and Roxy full-time. My mind wanders elsewhere in meetings. Some days, I’d love to just sleep in and wear sweatpants all day long.

Expiration dates

So I’ve committed to a date. All debts will be paid off. Then bam! “Here’s my two week notice. Where am I going next? No, there is no next. I’m going all in in art.”

You can do something like this. Have an expiration date. Commit to it. And burn every bridge so you can’t go back.

Is it a good idea? For me, it’s the only way. I’m addicted to those paychecks and if I don’t go cold turkey, I’ll never be a full-time artist.

Once again, I can’t speak for you. But I’m showing my cards here.

Choose wisely. And remember – failing won’t kill you.

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On Pinups and the S Curve

You’ve seen it before. Actually, if you’ve done pinups, you more than likely already done it many times.

The S Curve was first used in the West by the Ancient Greeks. Here’s The Venus de Milo by Alexandros of Antioch. The statue depicts the Goddess of Beauty – Aphrodite herself.

Imagine what that statue must have looked like back in the day. No pieces broken off. Fully painted. (Yes, those statues were painted).

The Greeks were the masters of beauty. So much that even today thousands of years later, we’re still taking notes. Heck, right now, you’re reading this article that I wrote in 2019 on something that was literally made several thousand years ago. We share their standards of beauty even to this day!

Venus de Milo by Alexandros of Antioch
Venus de Milo depicts the classic S curve

If you don’t know what the S curve is, just imagine your model’s body making an S. You can clearly see the S in the statue.

The S curve is pleasing to the eyes and could never be overused when it comes to pinup art. If you’re working with a newer model, make sure she knows how to contort her body into a lovely S shape. If she doesn’t, then it’s your job to teach her.

Experienced models will know this, especially ones who have modeled for pinup art. Experienced models know that this is the most beautiful curve on the planet. They’ll readily be able to get into poses that emphasize this curve.

Roxy and the S Curve

Roxy is my brunette model. She’s great to work with. She has a pretty face and a most lovely, shapely body. When she curves into an S, we have absolute perfection.

Here’s a classic example. Note how much the curve resembles Venus de Milo. Roxy did this without even any instruction. She just did it.

Opium Tales Roxy and the S Curve
Roxy knows how to model the S Curve

Note that you can do this sitting down (look for Bettie Page for instance) or standing up. I’m a huge fan of Gil Elvgren’s work. A lot of his models were really good at both sitting S curves and standing S curves. Or he was good at instruction. I’m assuming it’s a bit of both.

Let me know if you have any questions. If you want to study this further, look up Bettie Page images and also Gil Elvgren images. Specifically look for those curves in the pictures. You should be able to see them right away.

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DIY Watercolor Postcards

You have an old friend. Or an older relative.

You used to exchange letters. Now you don’t.

Email made everything easier. Too easy. Nobody writes letters anymore.

Well, I got a solution for you. You know how to do watercolors, right? Otherwise, you’re in the process of learning watercolors. That’s why you’re here. I have a watercolor blog and I write everything from how I do skin tones in watercolor to painting watercolor on wood.

Or this could be your first time here. In that case, hi, my name’s Roman and I do fantasy pinup art using a combination of watercolors and gouache.

But let’s get to something really fun. Let’s give that old friend or old relative something to remember. Something to treasure. Something that nobody else knows how to do.

Let’s make DIY watercolor postcards

Easiest thing in the world. You’ll only need your watercolor supplies you already have. You could use pretty much any sized watercolor paper. 140 lb is a perfect thickness for postcards.

This is where it gets super duper simple. I love using 7″x10″ paper:

  1. Whip out your ruler
  2. Measure to get to the middle
  3. Draw a line in the middle with your pencil
  4. You now have two watercolor postcards!

Yes. It’s that simple.

Paint on one side. On the other side, measure once more half and draw a line with pencil. So, on the right side, you’ll stamp and address it. On the left side, you’ll write what you need to write.

Please see IMPORTANT note below if you're using postcard stamps

And of course, sign it “With love, (your name).”

Oh. Don’t forget to stamp it or else the post office won’t deliver it. They’ll be pleasantly surprised to see something done by hand explicitly for them. That’s above and beyond what anyone else does.

You’re now their favorite!

Ideas

Play to your strengths. Except, I’m not exactly going to send a nude pinup postcard through the mail. So, here’s a quick bird I did for Grandma. She loves birds.

DIY watercolor postcards bird
140 lb watercolor paper is perfect for DIY watercolor postcards

Oh, did I mention, Grandma is turning 102 next year? How cool is that?

You can do birds, flowers, dragons, whales, fish, people you know, places, dogs, cats, horses, unicorns, fairies, a vase with several flowers, a country house, a castle, or even a musical instrument. The possibilities are endless.

Since these are small works though, keep it simple. I’d keep it to one item and a lazy background or none at all.

DIY watercolor postcards back
The US Postal Service has some good looking stamps. Your words go on the left, address and stamps go on the right

IMPORTANT!

There actually is an official size for postcards. I like using 7″x10″ blocks because they’re easy to work with. But, when you split two postcards out of a single watercolor paper, you’ll have to use the standard (full postage) stamps. You can’t use postcard stamps.

These are the rules straight from the USPS site:

  • Rectangular
  • At least 3-1/2 inches high x 5 inches long x 0.007 inch thick
  • No more than 4-1/4 inches high x 6 inches long x 0.016 inches thick

The thing is, I don’t care. We buy standard stamps by the boatload and have zero postcard stamps.

If all you have are postcard stamps, you’re simply going to have to follow their rules and measure accordingly.

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How to fix mistakes in watercolor

How does an artist fix his or her mistakes in watercolor? Well, I got good news and bad news.

First, the bad news. You sort of don’t.

Well, not entirely. But this isn’t a medium like digital art where you can simply fix it digitally. It’s a bit more involved than that.

Also, you can use watercolor ground to fix mistakes, but I don’t necessarily recommend that either. When you paint over watercolor ground, you still see it. Watercolor is transparent.

Unless, you hack it by putting a little bit of similarly colored gouache directly over the watercolor ground, then painting with watercolor on top of the gouache. That’s a hack. But it works. And it’s also a lot of work and easy to screw up.

So that’s the bad news. Then what’s the good news?

Well, there are a few things you can do still. Keep reading.

Water down the mistakes

My favorite thing to do is water down the mistakes. Look closely. You’ll see I painted over the lines. But, it’s OK. It actually gives the painting character.

example of how to fix mistakes in watercolor
Look closely at the white. Most watercolor artists don’t mind as it gives the painting character

I’ll explain what I did.

Make sure you got all the paint off your brush. Then, have a piece of paper towel handy. This is where you don’t want to use the bargain brand paper towel. I found that there are paper towels that are downright shitty. Buy the good stuff.

Tear off a strip of paper towel and have it handy. Now with only water on your brush, water down the mistake while quickly wiping the water with the paper towel.

Do this enough that the mistake becomes to watered down that it’s no longer a problem. I’ve found two times is enough.

Note that if you also do the next step, you still may want to do this step.

Paint over them

As I just mentioned, you probably should water down the mistake before painting over it. That would make it a lot less noticeable.

Now that it’s nice and watered down, simply paint over it. You may have to layer a few times to cover it. Also note that the stronger the color (generally darker, but not always), the more work it takes to paint over the mistake.

I’ve done this so many times that you won’t even notice when I’ve done it. You get good at this technique simply by doing.

I strongly advise you to paint every chance you get. It’s experience anyways that makes you improve.

You’ll have your share of mistakes. And that’s OK. They happen.

Just get good at cleaning them up well enough that they’re not that big of a deal. Don’t be a perfectionist either. Perfectionism doesn’t have much place in watercolor. Watercolor is a different beast entirely. You pretty much let the water do its thing.

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I always paint the same painting twice

Over the years, I’ve developed certain habits that really helped me out in life. There’s an old saying that you can’t get rid of a habit. Rather, you need to replace it.

You’ll be successful in life if you develop good habits. Keep in mind, habits don’t have to be a bad thing. Unfortunately, the word habit has a negative connotation. If you have a habit of putting 10% of every paycheck into an investment account, over a period of twenty years, you’ll have a decent sized chunk of money. That’s an example of a good habit.

Another good habit would be waking up and going for a walk. Imagine if you did that every day. For one, you’d be in pretty decent shape. For another, I bet you’d be happier than the majority of your peers.

When my wife and I went on an Alaskan cruise, I’d wake up at 7AM every morning and immediately walk around the ship twice. Some lady in her 70s every morning would pass my ass up. And I walk pretty fast so that’s doubly saying something.

I got a chance to talk to her one day and you know what? She loved life! I mean, really really loved life. Surprise surprise.

Painting the same painting twice

I always paint the same painting twice. I have an idea. Then, I execute it.

If it turns out fantastic, I’ll keep it and paint a similar painting. If it turns out awful, I’ll paint it one more time. Unless it’s not the execution that failed. If the idea itself was awful, I’ll scrap it and call it a loss.

I’ve heard successful football teams will run a play until the defense figures out how to stop it. Then, they’d change it to something else and keep trying different plays until they found one the defense struggles with. And once again, they’ll start running that play until the defense figures out how to stop it.

Same concept? Well, similar at least.

Of course I don’t ever want to be boring either. So I’m going to mix it up a lot. I’ll do two with water at night. Then do two straight ones in a cave. Or something like that. You could change the setting, the time, the colors, the subjects, the theme. There’s really no limit to what you can do in painting.

Here’s an example of two paintings that turned out good

These paintings are pretty much the same painting. I painted the first one of Roxy and liked it so much that I wanted to do the same painting with Allie. Same colors. Similar concept. Different models. But let’s be real – it’s almost the same painting.

I painted Midnight Bather first. I loved how it turned out. So, I decided to paint the same painting again, but adding a volcano. I also changed how the moonlight reflected off the water.

Priestesses of Pele is physically bigger. And it’s a better painting since I got more comfortable with both those brand new colors (to me) and the concepts.

The Mucha homages

I’m doing this again with my homage to Alphonse Mucha. I’m a huge fan of his Mucha Girls paintings. I actually love Art Nouveau. It had a look to it, so natural, so real. Art Nouveau intentionally mimicked nature and you’ll see flowers and leaves and twigs everywhere throughout their art.

Antoni Gaudí and Alphonse Mucha are my two favorite Art Nouveau artists. My wife and I got to see a lot of Gaudí’s works in real life in Barcelona, including his infamous Sagrada Família. We didn’t go inside though because the line was ridiculously long that day. I know that would almost sound like sacrilege to some folks, but if you knew my personality, you’d know how Type A I am. I can’t stand still for that long.

Back to these two homages, you could tell the second one is better than the first. I looked at what I got right and duplicated it. Her face in the first one is slightly hard. I did a few changes in the second one to soften her face. I wanted her to be really pretty like Mucha Girls.

Dissecting old songs

I still practice guitar every day. I love picking up my guitar and just playing.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot of cover songs and also wrote a lot of my own. This morning, I started playing a song I wrote back in 1992. It’s not a good song. It has some good parts, but it’s not a good song.

But, I’ve ripped out the good parts and put them into other songs.

You’re allowed to do that with both music and art. Take what’s good from your previous works and recycle them.

You’ll see a lot of artists doing just that. They’ll have a piece of a painting where you’ve seen that same thing in another work of theirs. Or five.

There’s nothing wrong with using a good idea multiple times. Like Goya went through his black period. Picasso went through his blue period which was nearly monochromatic.

I do the same with paints. I’ll use the same colors multiple times in a row.

Luckily for me, Allie and Roxy have very similar skin tones. In fact, I don’t even change the mixes. I’m using the same skin tone mix for both of them. That’s the commonality you’ll see in all my paintings. (Well, there’s more than one, but that’s one of them).

Also, Allie always wears two gold 70s Wonder Woman styled bracelets on her left wrist in my paintings and Roxy always wears a gold necklace, usually with a gem. I’ve adopted those two things as simply part of my style.

If you don’t know what to paint next..

So if you don’t know what to paint next, try painting a previous painting. Make a goal that it needs to be better than the previous one.

Chances are, you’ll improve upon it. For one, you’ve already done it so you already know you’re capable of doing it. For another, you can do a quick glance at the painting and see what you’d like to improve the second time around.

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Where to start with art

Opium Tales paints a Mucha Girl

I’m going to let you in on something deeply personal.

I’m an extrovert. I’ve never had a problem performing music live. That’s my strength. I loved working a crowd back when I was in bands.

But art? I really struggled since it’s a more personal thing. It’s an alone thing and I don’t have a crowd to work.

So I started off quite shy about my art. Which, you’d think it would be the other way around. No, for me, there’s safety in the crowd. There’s no safety in being alone.

But I did know where to start with art. Because I did exactly what I did as a musician. Keep reading.

Start simple and get good at basics

Basics is where it all begins. That counts for anything. You want to learn a foreign language? First, learn to count to ten. Then add words.

For art, you learn to draw. Draw everything. If you have friends who will pose for you, draw them. If not, enroll in a figure drawing class.

But before we even get to drawing people, you draw lines and circles. You draw lines and circles over and over again since everything in the world is a line or a circle. Or some combination of both. Once you get good at lines and circles, everything else becomes easier.

Lines and circles are like scales to a musician. You see musicians warm up with scales before they perform somewhere.

Well, get really good at your lines and circles.

Copying your favorites will help when you start with art

For my style, I’ve studied primarily Gil Elvgren, because he’s my favorite of the pinup artists.

That’s the thing though. If you want to learn to play a musical instrument in a pop band, you learn covers. The same applies for art. You copy your favorites.

I’m currently copying Mucha for practice. Huge fan. I absolutely love Art Nouveau since I think it was one of the last good styles of high art.

So just like learning cover songs for musicians, draw then paint your favorite painters. You’ll find that you’ll learn really fast this way.

Now, I could do a carbon copy of this Mucha painting, but rather, I’m going to do a Mucha in my own style. So here one is. A fun exercise.

It’s totally up to you how much you want to copy your idols or how much you’ll mimic your idols in your own style. Just like your favorite bands when they do cover songs. Do they try to do a carbon copy of their favorites? Or do they play their favorites in their own styles?

Mucha’s just an example. For all I know, your favorite artist could be Matisse or Michelangelo. Which means paint them instead.

By copying your favorites, you’ll be able to pick up some of their techniques and also practice to their style. Which leads to…

Develop your own style

This takes time. Everyone’s a lot less original than they think they are. I developed my musical style by learning covers of everyone from Judas Priest, Prince, ABBA, Journey to Slayer. Yes, I can play a wide variety of music. But then again, I like a wide variety of music.

When I started getting more heavily into orchestration and Classical composition, I studied scores of Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner, Mendelssohn, and Ravel.

The same concepts apply to painting. Paint a wide variety of painters that you like and you’ll end up developing your own style. We’re all a hodgepodge anyways of various flavors you’ve met throughout your life.

Our personalities reflect that as well. We steal a little here and a little there. Think about the sayings you’ve adopted over the years. Think about who you stole them from. Plus, you’ve probably made up a few yourself. That’s what I’m getting at.

The same applies to art. You take a little from here, a little from there, then sprinkle in a little of your own soul.

Practice every chance you get

Now the absolute most important thing of all – practice, practice, practice. First thing I do when I get out of bed – I grab my mechanical pencil and an eraser and just start drawing.

Develop a morning routine. This is especially important for when you want to start with art. By developing a morning routine, if you have a day job, you’ll already accomplish something towards your passion before you get to work. Your day will be that much better.

Imagine doing this for twenty years. Just imagine how awesome you will be at it!

Art is a long term process, my friend. It’s not at all overnight. There’s no such thing as an overnight success in anything. The saying goes that an overnight success means they busted ass for seven years preparing for that moment. Yes, seven years. And that’s because they for one busted ass, and for another, had a very strong support network.

So practice every chance you get. I don’t paint on vacation. Rather, I bring a drawing notebook. And I draw first thing in the morning and whenever we get downtime. Even on vacation. I love drawing.

And remember – to start with art

to start with art
Apply this to anything you want to accomplish

To start with art, you just have to get started. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Buy pencils and erasers and get to work. You’ll find the more time you spend doing your art, the faster you will improve.

I strongly think the word talent is a bunch of bullshit. All talent means is you have to put in 5% less work than the average Joe or Jane. Super talented folks have to put in 10% less work. You still have to put in the work.

And by the way, I’m no longer shy about my art since I’ve been getting better. I know I’ve developed my own style. Either you like it or you don’t. I don’t mind if someone doesn’t like it because we all have different tastes. For me though, I know it’s good. And my wife and both of my models think it’s good. And that’s all that matters.

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How to store watercolor paints

How to store watercolor paints if you paint often. This is not for someone who wants to store their watercolor paints long-term. You’ll have to find another article on that.

I’m not that guy since I’m always painting.

I want to keep this short. And I also want to write for a narrow audience. If you’re like me – you’re always painting, then this article is for you.

I draw every single day. Even on vacation, I’m drawing.

When I’m back, I’m still drawing, but even more. Then of course painting every single chance I get.

In the palette

How I store watercolor paints in the palette is very simple. When they’re wet, dust falls in them. You obviously need them uncovered when you paint. But as soon as you finish painting, cover them up with whatever you have available. I practice drawing so much that I have a lot of extra drawing practice papers laying around. That’s what I’m covering my palettes with (as shown).

Most of your plastic palettes and many of your metal palettes already have covers. I use only porcelain palettes. I cover them with paper.

how to store watercolor paints
Of course, don’t let it show like this. I’m just showing the palette underneath

Your main enemies are dust, dirt, and hairs. Once those get in the palette, you might as well wash off a layer. Or if it’s not worth saving, then wash off all the paint from your palette and try again. And watercolor paints aren’t exactly cheap. Plus, it’s just morally wrong to waste, even if you can afford to.

I’ve used the same mixes for literally weeks. I’ve never had any problems doing this. But then again, I’m painting every chance I get.

I only have two models – Allie, and Roxy. Allie’s the blonde and Roxy’s the brunette. Their skin colors are almost exactly the same. So even if I’m alternating painting them, I’m still using the same skin color mix. I’ll use it for weeks and it won’t be a problem.

I also keep a mix of Roxy’s hair color. I get her hair color by mixing 50/50 Perylene Red with Hooker’s Green. Since I don’t like to do things multiple times, I make a decent sized mix and leave it in the palette until I run out.

You really can keep your paints in a palette for a long time, assuming you’re painting often. Just keep your palette covered when you’re not painting.

What about pets?

We have a dog. You may have dogs or cats. Both have fur. And for some odd reason, their hairs always end up in your paint. So definitely keep those palettes covered. I guess that’s one advantage of having a pet snake.

We don’t have one of those because I don’t know anything about snakes. The one time I drew a snake, I just grabbed some random pictures of snakes and combined them. It’s a weird hybrid snake that doesn’t exist anywhere in this world. I do fantasy pinups anyways, so my animals don’t have to exactly exist.

Of course keep the paints away from your pets. Some pets love to get into things. My dog luckily knows not to touch my watercolor stuff. She’s very smart and just knows. She also instinctively knows when we’re playing a board game not to step on the board or even the pieces, even though we play on the floor.

But what about mold?

What about it? Like I said, this article is if you’re painting all the time. Mold takes awhile to develop. You’re not going to get mold if you’re painting daily and washing out your palettes every once in awhile.

That may be different if you’re in a tropical country. If so, please comment below with your mold experience. I’m all ears, and you’ll be doing other readers a favor. Where I live, it’s dry enough that if you’re painting often enough, you never have to worry about mold.

The tubes

I keep my tubes away from sunlight. I keep them in a plastic container in my room. We never let the temperature go above 78 degrees in the summer and never let it go below 60 in the winter. My paints seem to last forever that way.

Just make sure you remember to seal them after pouring out some of your paint into your palette. You don’t want to leave them open. Unused paints will sometimes dry out. If they do, you have to add water to the palette and mix it up well. It’s a lot of extra work.

And that’s it. You should have no problem storing your paints as long as you keep the tubes closed and your palette covered. (And you actually paint and not leave them untouched for forever).