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Improve your drawing ability fast with 5 minute sketches

You’ve probably heard of Type A and Type B people. If you’re a Type B person, you can probably skip this article.

I’m classic Type A. There’s a deadline for everything. And when people walk slowly and get in my way, it drives me nuts! I’m very forgiving of older or injured folks. But young, healthy people who walk slowly and get in my way?

Everything I do, I do fast. If I don’t learn something fast, I get frustrated. That’s probably why I get frustrated learning foreign languages. I really struggle.

The good thing is the older you get, the more you learn to play to your strengths. Type A people get a lot done in life, then die young because we burn out and collapse. But, we’ve sure accomplished a lot!

Yeah, life’s a trade off. No such thing as a perfect life.

Anyways, drawing. Drawing is the root of all art. If you can’t draw, your art will suck. I detest Modernism as most of these people are hacks.

Sure, I love certain pop artists like Roy Lichtenstein, Gil Elvgren, Mel Ramos, and especially Frank Frazetta. That’s totally different. They actually had talent.

But the ones who just do abstract crap and can’t even draw? Those aren’t artists. They’re hacks.

5 minute sketches

So I do everything I can to be more like my heroes and less like those hacks. The best thing for me is a daily routine, which includes a 5 minute sketch as a warmup.

I take a picture. I’ve used a lot from Game of Thrones. This one is of Paulina Rubio because lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Spanish music, trying to regain the Spanish I used to know.

I love music. Paulina Rubio is a Mexican pop singer. A lot of her songs are actually pretty good. They make you want to get up and dance.

Plus, she’s hot, which definitely inspires me to draw her.

Paulina Rubio 5 minute sketch
Paulina Rubio 5 minute sketch

Was it any good? Of course not! It’s a five minute sketch. Had I had 15-20 minutes, it would be pretty good.

But that’s not the point of this exercise. The point is to increase your speed and efficiency. You learn not to waste time.

Does she look like Paulina Rubio? Sort of. Paulina looks way better than my five minute sketch. But that’s ok. Once again, it’s an exercise to improve your speed and efficiency.

Note the focus

Note what I focused on for this five minute sketch. Paulina Rubio’s three strongest characteristics are her eyes, her lips, and her hair. She’s known for her hair. How many pop singers have hair that can rival Paulina Rubio’s?

She also has the loveliest eyes and lips. I’m really going to emphasize them.

A year from now, my five minute sketches will look much better. I actually wish I had been doing this exercise all along. This is something I recently started doing.

But since you only got five minutes, focus on the characteristics that make the subject special, whether you’re painting a bowl of fruit, a seascape, or a person.

Super easy

Anyways, a 5 minute sketch is super easy. You set the timer on your watch or phone for 5 minutes. And then you draw.

You learn efficiency. You learn not to waste time. And you learn to just draw.

It helps your focus and your speed.

I like getting things done. It drives me nuts if at the end of the day, I feel like I haven’t accomplished something. That’s a horrible feeling to me. Guts me at the core of my being.

Yes, I’m classic Type A. Like I said, this article wasn’t meant for Type B people.

I sometimes envy them because they can do this thing called “relax.” That’s something I’m not capable of without a stiff drink.

Yeah, I’m flawed. But at least I’ll never lie to you.

Try it

Anyways, try it. 5 minute sketches. First thing in the morning. You wake up, grab a picture you like, set the timer for 5 minutes, and draw!

Then when the timer stops, you put the pencil down.

This is a lifelong thing that I actually love doing. A year from now, my five minute sketches will actually look pretty good.

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When in doubt, paint something beautiful

Opium Tales speaker girls

Jin and Allie are both beautiful women. If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you’ll know that I have two regular models – Allie and Roxy. And occasionally, I’ll work with another live model.

I strongly believe that artists need to work with live models. You simply don’t get everything you need from painting pictures. You want to capture elements of the model’s personality in your artwork.

I’ll even go one step further. I also believe you should know your models well. I don’t work with anonymous models. If there’s no relationship (platonic of course as I’m married), you’re not going to paint as well.

It’s your job after all. Sure, you may have a day job. But I’m the type of guy that at the office, if I’m not friends with my co-workers, then I’d rather work elsewhere. Yes, this totally matters to me. Just as much as the work I’m doing.

On painting something beautiful

Now to the main point. I’m a totally different person than the kid I was growing up. My morals are entirely different. My goals are entirely different. Even my outlook is entirely different. We’re two completely different people.

However, the child got one thing right. I’ve always believed that we should do what we can to make the world more beautiful.

Everyone has different gifts. When I get more money, I’m planting trees. I freaking love trees, especially oaks. As a young adult, I’d go up in an oak tree for peace of mind and just sit there and think.

Now as an older adult, I’ve developed the ability to paint over years of drawing over and over again. I started off drawing lines and circles until they looked like lines and circles. And from there, I started drawing women.

The first model I worked with no longer models. I actually knew Jin before I met either Allie or Roxy. But Jin lives in Los Angeles so I only see her once or twice a year.

Anyways, my gift is persistence. I kept drawing until my drawings started to look good.

So now, I’m fulfilling that childhood goal of adding beauty to the world. I’m painting beautiful women in fantasy backgrounds.

So if you’re wondering what to paint, paint something beautiful. A beautiful scenery. A beautiful tree. Animals. Women. Whatever. Find something you find beautiful and just paint. Add some beauty to the world. Future generations will appreciate it.

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Homage to Mel Ramos

I’ve been in tons of bands. No, none you’ve ever heard of. The most money we’ve ever made a night was a whopping $43, that we had to split between four people. Yay!

In other words, we starved. But that’s the fate of 99.99% of bands. They starve. Then they break up.

However, I learned a lot. We did covers of some excellent songs – Megadeth’s Holy Wars, Led Zeppelin’s Rock and Roll, Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, Ozzy’s Mr. Crowley, the Ramones’ I Wanna Be Sedated, Slayer’s War Ensemble, Iron Maiden’s Aces High. Tons more. I’m not going to list every cover song I’ve ever performed live.

I will say that nothing teaches you an instrument faster than copying your heroes.

The same goes for painting. I do homages every once in awhile. For instance, I did my own version of an Alphonse Mucha painting back in June. This time around, I’m copying the style of Mel Ramos.

You’ve seen Mel Ramos’ paintings

If you don’t know him by name, you’ve seen his paintings. He’s done everything from superheroes to naked girls in martini glasses. He’s a fellow pop artist.

Yes, I’m a pop artist. Not a fine artist. Musically, I’m venturing towards real Classical music. But my art is for fun. I love doing it. It’s therapeutic.

But that’s the route I’m going down and I’ll probably always stay there artistically. I simply like it.

Mel Ramos was a Californian pop artist who was also influenced by Gil Elvgren. Elvgren influenced most of us pinup artists either directly or indirectly. It’s just like every American guitarist borrowed from people who borrowed from people who borrowed from people who imitated that strip of land in the Deep South that created the Blues.

I’ll do an homage to Elvgren later. For now, here’s my friend Jin modeling for my homage to Mel Ramos. He did a whole series of these keyhole pinup paintings.

Homage to Mel Ramos
Homage to Mel Ramos

And yes, if you’re wondering, her body really is that lovely in real life. I painted exactly what I saw.

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Honing the painting process

Process is what separates the amateur artists from the professional artists. You’ll see a professional artist with an excellent process. It will look fluid and easy reproducible.

But the question is – how did they get to that point? And how long will it take?

Just paint. You learn by doing.

This picture may look funny to you. But it’s after years of honing the painting process. And note, it’s not just years. It’s actually hours. Someone who spends one hour a week painting for ten years will look like an amateur next to someone who paints five hours a day five days a week for only two years.

Do the math. You’ll see how much more the second artist paints than the first artist.

honing the painting process
A new Speaker Girls painting in progress

I’ve written before on how I get skin tones in watercolors. Well, here’s a perfect example of my process in action. I paint seven total layers. The fifth one always looks the funniest because this is where I add the darker tones.

Once the seventh layer is down, it will all make sense. And it will look fantastic.

This is the thing though. If you want to build a painting process, you need to paint.

You could study textbooks. You can watch videos on painting. You could read every blog post on the planet on how to paint. But your painting is going to look like shit until you actually start painting a lot.

This is a serious problem with smart people. Smart people think too much. Too many smart people try to overthink anything.

Then some average guy comes along and passes them up because Mr. Average was busy doing.

You learn by doing

Action matters. Sure, it’s nice to read up on the right way to do it. But to really know the right way? You got to actually do it.

I’ve made several huge changes since I started painting. I developed the skin tone process by complete accident. I was trying to copy someone else and found that I couldn’t stand the way they did it when I actually tried to execute it. Sure, theirs looked fantastic. But when I tried to copy their methods, my pinup girls ended up looking like zombies, not hot chicks.

So I developed my own method.

The second major change – I originally used pencil. But pencil doesn’t look as cool as ink. Now, I take inking my watercolors very seriously. I think nothing looks quite like ink. I like how it makes my pinup girls pop.

Now, I’m only using my own methods as an example. Note that I’ve changed. I’ve tried out different things until I found out what works better for me.

You’ll end up doing the same. Just keep painting. The more you paint, the more you’ll hone your process. And the better your process will get.

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When in doubt, paint dancers

There’s no such thing as too many paintings of dancers. Dancing is one of the most human things we do. I’m married. But if I were single, and I met a cute girl who couldn’t dance, I’ll give her the evil words. You know them – “let’s just be friends.”

That’s right. No matter how cute she is. If she can’t dance, I’m not attracted to her. Period.

Now, if she promised to take dancing lessons and showed vast improvement, then maybe I’d give her a second chance. But dancing is such a huge thing to this particular artist at least.

I’m a damn good dancer. I took Swing lessons and Waltz lessons. I’d love to eventually take Tango lessons as I think the Tango is exceptionally sexy.

Musically, I’m all about Ballet. Swan Lake is the greatest of all ballets. But everyone already knows that.

Allie and Roxy are both damn good dancers

Yes, it’s not just because we’re close friends. They’re also very good dancers. They both move gracefully and have peaceful faces when they dance. You could tell the passion when they’re dancing. It’s real. Not forced.

Yes, I’ve already said it many times, including recently in my 3 totally random artistic musings article. But I’ll say it one more time for the people in the back.

If I’m ever going to get a third model, she has to be a good dancer. No exceptions.

I specially look for gracefulness when looking for models. No, neither Allie nor Roxy are professional models. My friend Jin was the last professional model I used. I may use a few others I know back when I was more into photography than art.

But I actually don’t like using one-offs. For my style of painting, there needs to be an emotional connection. I’m a Romantic after all.

Dance silhouettes
Dance silhouettes (painted in gouache)

What about you?

What are you passionate about? And how do you work this into your art?

I strongly believe if you paint what you’re passionate about, you’ll never ever run out of ideas.

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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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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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Mechanical pencils vs regular pencils for artists

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

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

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

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

Mechanical pencils vs regular pencils

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

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

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

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

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

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

mechanical pencils vs regular pencils
I finally bought a mechanical pencil

Why else it matters

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

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

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

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

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

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Artists need repetition to be successful

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

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

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

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

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

I didn’t put anything for sale until…

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

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

From there, I’ll start expanding my style.

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

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

What does “artists need repetition” mean for you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

So don’t get frustrated

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

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

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

Repetition, my friends. Keep painting!

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On Monochromatic painting and how it will help your technique

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monochromatic painting print out

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


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

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

Choose a color

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

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

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

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

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

Your monochromatic painting palette

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

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

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

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

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

The Moon

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

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

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

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

The sky

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

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

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

The castle

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

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

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

The mountain

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

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

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

Your results

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

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

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

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

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