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7 tips for Pinup Artists

I’ve written before about what I look for in a Pinup Model. This article is slightly different. Rather, here are 7 tips for Pinup Artists.

I love pinup art. I always have and always will.

Among my favorites – Frank Frazetta (although he’s a Fantasy artist but his work overlaps with pinups), Olivia de Bernardinis, Gil Elvgren, Mel Ramos, and Luis Ricardo Folero (although once again, he’s a fine artist but his work precursors pinups).

I personally use watercolor and gouache for my pinups. You’re free to use whatever medium you want. Pinup art doesn’t have to be confined to a single medium. Heck, artists painted pinups on World War II planes for Pete’s sake!

So how can you make your pinups memorable? Well, here ya go.

The eyes are magical

Remember the girl who got away?

What color were her eyes?

Could you draw her eyes today, even if, heck, especially if you haven’t seen her in over a decade?

Allie, the blonde, and Roxy, the brunette are my main models. They’ve been modeling for me for a few years now. Recently, I’ve been working with Sophia as well.

All three of them have lovely eyes. Not only do they have lovely eyes; they know how to use them.

You, as the artist, need to know how to paint them.

Yes, stylistically, you can do eyes in any way you want. As long as they work.

But the key – make them look magical. The eyes are where it’s at and bad eyes will ruin an entire painting. Good eyes allure the viewer.

The lips

Second to the eyes? The lips.

A little trick? Have your models wear red lipstick.

You can never go wrong with red lipstick. It’s the standard for a reason. Men evolutionarily know that red lips are sexy. We’re sexually attracted to red lips. All women know that too. That’s why if there’s one piece of makeup above all else, it would be red lipstick.

Roxy has the best lips of anyone I’ve ever known in my life. No offense to anyone else’s lips. I’m just stating a fact. I absolutely love drawing her lips.

Allie also has nice lips. Allie’s a better model though. She knows how to draw attention to her lips as well as anyone.

I once asked Allie if she knew she was hot. She knows.

She also knows all these tricks. Heck, I should have just paid her to write this article. She knows this shit better than I do.

Belly dancing or Ballet

All dance is good. But if I can recommend two dances above all others for pinup art? Belly dancing or ballet. Belly dancing especially rules for pinups. Ballet though has the advantage of building muscle and grace.

A ballet dancer can do anything. It even translated well to the NFL. Ballet helped Lynn Swann make those insane acrobatic catches in the 1970s for four Steelers’ Super Bowl winning teams. He even has a Super Bowl MVP. How many wide receivers can you name with a Super Bowl MVP?

Herchel Walker’s ballet skills may have prolonged his football career. I’m willing to bet it helped Walker win his MMA fights (he’s 2-0 with 2 knockouts) in his mid-40s!

Does it translate well to pinup art? Of course! Muscle and grace. Holding that graceful pose. Like I said, a ballet dancer can do anything.

Opium Tales Roxy as Alicia
Roxy holding a belly dancing pose, modeling for a character named Alicia

Shapely models

Your models need to be shapely. Not fat. Not skinny. Shapely.

That means bust, hips, and waist need to be in the right proportions. We got our love of proportions from Ancient Greece and they haven’t changed. Marilyn Monroe would have made the perfect Greek statue.

My models have shape. I don’t have to exaggerate shit when I paint. I draw exactly what I see.

I may sound like an asshole saying this, but I’ll say it anyways. If you have to exaggerate a figure, then you’re better off looking for another model.

Pinups are not the same thing as figure models. Totally different. Figure models can have any figure. You paint exactly what you see as they hold a pose.

Figure models don’t talk. They just hold the pose forever and you draw.

In my book – that’s boring!

Yes, I’m painting live models. And you know what? We’re talking the whole time except when I have to draw their lips. Which leads to…


I will not paint someone who doesn’t drink.

I’ll say that one more time. I will not paint someone who doesn’t drink.

Drinking is a huge part of my life. Am I an alcoholic? No. But regardless, I drink. A lot.

The only time I don’t drink are the days I’m lifting weights (which is three or four times a week). The days I don’t lift, I drink.

And my models drink with me. Because alcohol opens up conversation better than anything else.

And conversation adds another dimension of pinup art that you can’t have with some shy, anxiety girl.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s extremely important to be open, friendly, courteous, and have fun when painting. If it ain’t fun, then why do it?

I simply don’t like people who don’t know how to have a good time. I have nothing to do with them.

My friends are fun and we do fun things. I take my wife traveling. With my models, I’m drinking and we’re having conversation and often laughing just a little bit too much.

You can see how much fun I’m having in my actual paintings. It translates to my art!

Minimize attention to the nose

I strongly think you should minimize attention to the nose. The eyes, the lips, the facial structure, and the hair are the best parts of the face. The nose? Absolute worst part of the face.

At best, a girl can have a cute nose. But no one ever said “I like Jenny for her nose.” That has never happened in the entire human existence.

Heck, a lot of anime artists don’t even paint the noses. Their eyes will be huge. But noses? Very minimal. And exaggeratedly small.

Draw attention to the eyes, the lips, the hair, the cheeks. Minimize attention to the nose.

Have characters prepared

The best pinup models can play all kinds of characters, from femme fatales to damsels in distress. From seductresses to the secretary fling girls to naughty librarians.

As the artist, have exactly what you want prepared in advance.

My role is easy. I do fantasy pinup art. Sirens, mermaids, succubi, or whatever. I already have the roles prepared.

Practice all of these 7 things and your pinup art will stand out!

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3 side money tips for artists

We all know the obvious top three ways artists make money – selling paintings, teaching, and commissioned works. But we’re not talking about the obvious ways to make money for artists. We’re talking about side money. And more importantly, two of these methods will make you money in your sleep.

The beauty of two of the three of them is that you can upload them online and never have to do anything else other than collect money (assuming you’re either famous enough that people come to your page or you know what you’re doing when it comes to marketing). If you’re not famous yet, you’ll need to know a bit about marketing to actually make those specific two worth your time.

Online classes

I’m strong at A, B, and C, but weak in X, Y, and Z. However, I came across your website and saw that you have a course in Y. I really want to get better at Y. So I’m going to buy that course from you.

Online courses are where it’s at. I’ve taken quite a few. I’m currently taking Romanian lessons online. I’ve learned a lot of art tips and tricks from online videos or courses. And even books.

Whatever you’re strong at, have you ever considered an online course? You’ll have to know a little bit about lighting, sound, and video editing.

If any one of the three are bad (lighting, sound, or video editing), I’m going to be pissed and will never buy from that person again. However, if you’re teaching the subject matter well, and have good lighting, sound, and your video editing is decent, I may be buying a few more, or possibly even everything you have to offer!


The sound part is easy. Either have one of those mics you stick on your lapel or talk closely enough to the mic that you can record your sound loudly.

This is the part that I know well. You want to be able to record your sound loud.

From there, go to your computer and look for the specific mic. You’ll have a mic input setting. Talk as you’ll normally talk and check the mic settings. You want to record it loud, but not so loud that it “clips.” If it clips, it’s really bad because it will pop and crack when the person listens to it.

So you want to record it loud, but not too loud.

Also one hot tip – note how your s’s sound. I heard there is good de-essing software out there. That said, it’s much better to learn how to speak without smearing your s’s. If you do, don’t feel bad. Most speakers start off with bad s’s. It’s just something you learn with time.


This is my weakest of the three. I shouldn’t be giving advice here so I won’t.

Video editing

I bought Adobe Premier Pro. It’s a $20/month subscription and that’s probably too much for people who only use it occasionally. I actually do a lot of work with it so it’s worth every penny for me.

Sure, there are cheaper and even free options. I won’t cover those because I don’t talk about stuff I don’t know about.

But I can tell you a lot about Adobe Premier Pro. They’re always adding new features and it keeps getting better every year.

We use Adobe Premier Pro for editing
Example of Adobe Premier Pro – about to add a Dissolve (video transition)

I don’t use too many effects because it looks cheesy when people do. But it’s great for quick editing as well as you don’t want pauses or useless interjections. For instance, if you say “um,” “like,” or “and so” a lot, edit those out.

Not everyone’s a professional speaker. But with good video editing, you can certainly sound like one.

The more you record yourself…

The more you record yourself, the better you’ll get. You’ll learn to be fluid simply by doing.

Yes, it’s totally fine to be nervous at first. This may seem counterintuitive but I say power through it. If you have to, make 11 videos and throw the first 10 out.

I got pretty good at speaking on camera simply by doing it tons of times. I’d cringe though if I didn’t delete my first twenty or thirty videos and someone somehow got a hold of them and played them. They were bad! But like I just said, you learn by doing.

So try it. Think of some area you totally kick ass at and make a course showing exactly how you did it. Make sure the course is so good that you feel that it provides value to your customers. Don’t make a course just to make a course. Provide value.

I already have some ideas for online courses for next year. Right now though, I’m scrambling to get ready for a project so my online courses are a smaller priority.


You have a collection of works. Have you ever thought of photographing your works and selling them as books?

Even better – you can sell them as eBooks.

I write all these fantasy short stories. I thought to myself “Roman, why don’t you illustrate them and sell them?”

So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

You could do the same thing. If you’re not a writer, find a writer to work with and illustrate his or her works. Make an offer that works for both of you. If that person is broke, work for a percentage of profit. That will give you some incentive to let everyone you know know about the books as well.

Win/win. That’s how I like to think. I like to see my friends succeed too.

Contract work

I’ve done commissioned work. Same thing. Except online.

You can sell your labor on sites like Fiverr or their competitors. Frankly, I’m too busy to do something like that. But you may have some extra time. If you do, it might be a good way to make a few extra bucks.

Honestly though I don’t think it’s worth it unless you’re just getting started or you’re flat broke. Online contract work is a lot of work for not that much money. Unless you can get a contract through an established company or someone with a good net worth.

So consider those three possibilities. I’m definitely going to do the first two next year in addition to continuing to sell paintings and take commissioned work. Artists should be busy!

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You can teach yourself how to draw

At the age of 42, I still got intimidated by the drawings parents put on the fridge that their bratty kid did. Yes, those brats were more talented than I was.

But, I finally said to myself I wanted to learn to draw. I was sick of being outdone by children. Yes, I was that bad!

So I scoured the internet for help. I came upon this one lady artist who said that if you can’t draw, draw lines and circles an hour every morning until they look good.

It took me over a month. Every day. First thing in the morning. Well, actually third thing in the morning. Coffee first, then guitar, then lines and circles. Over and over again, lines and circles.

This is key. If you can’t draw lines and circles that look good, you need to continually draw lines and circles until they look good.

Yes, that sounds boring as hell. Did I say it would be easy? I don’t remember saying that.

If you’re serious about learning how to draw, then don’t be a whiner. Just do your lines and circles over and over again until they look good. Heck, you might be able to do it in less than a month.

Step two

OK, you’ve had your coffee and spent the past month drawing lines and circles. And now they look good. Now what?

Excellent! You can move on to step two.

Buy yourself a notebook and some pencils that fit your hand comfortably. I used to used American made #2 pencils. I’d also buy those erasers that you put on top of pencils.

Then, I just drew everything and anything. That tree looks nice. That mountain is pretty cool. Hey. I like that cloud.

Then a friend will come over and I’ll ask her to smile and I’d draw her for a bit.

This year, I switched over to mechanical pencils. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you draw. Constantly.

While inside the house, I practice drawing on cheap copy paper. It’s great for drawing practice. And it’s cheap.

Outside the house, I bring a notebook and a pair of pencils everywhere. I never bring my mechanical pencil to anyone’s house though. I’m weird – very attached to that pencil.

Practice will give you technique

I draw exactly what I see. And constant practice gave me all the technique I need.

My wife retired this year. So in celebration, I took her on a Caribbean cruise.

I wake up before she does so before she woke up, I’d do my walk around the ship, then find a quiet place to draw. Every single day, I drew, even on vacation.

All you need is a sketchbook, pencils and an eraser. If you’re old school and using regular pencils, you’ll need more than one as the tip will always break off at the worst possible time.

I’m an extrovert and I love going to bars and talking to random people. Great place to bring your sketchbook.

I’m married, but if I were single, I’d bring my watercolor journal to a bar. Just start drawing in it.

People are curious. They’d want to see your work. You’d have completed watercolor doodles as well as the incomplete penciling you’re working in now. Would be a great way to meet chicks.

Opium Tales - Sophia, Allie, and Allie work in progress
Sophia, Allie, and Allie work in progress

How good do you want to get?

Now, shading is a different story. You can easily learn how to shade via a YouTube video or a $20 book. I personally love Dover Publications because they’re cool people and have lots of art instruction books that are good.

However, I don’t shade when I draw. I do all my shading via watercolors. Plus, I never know where I’m going to put my light source until I start the painting.

Perspective? Once again, you can learn Classical perspective from a Dover book. They have books that go into intricate details.

I’ve even met hyperrealism artists who taught themselves how to draw. If you don’t know what hyperrealism is, the art literally looks like a photograph. You have to do a double take to realize it’s not.

Working with live models

If you got the money, I strongly suggest you hire live models and paint them. You can teach yourself anatomy.

I have an advantage over most artists. I used to both fight and do massage.

Fighting will teach you the body like nothing else will. I did both Muay Thai and wrestling, so I know how to really hurt someone.

No, I’m not a tough guy any more. I’m old and slow. But the knowledge is still there. I can tell you every major muscle group and I know anatomy quite well. I know which way to bend limbs if I had to break one. I also know what parts of the body will buckle with a good knee or an elbow.

I also learned how to heal. So I literally know the body hands on. If you don’t want to go to a live dissection, I strongly suggest massage class as an alternative. You get to know every muscle group, how they move, how they feel, what looks healthy, and what needs hands on love.

This translates very well to art. By the time I started using live models, I already knew the body quite well.

When I had the falling out with my previous model, Allie actually offered to model for me. Then Roxy did. So I have two very close friends modeling for me. Plus, I occasionally use other models.

I’ll see Sophia again next week. That’s her in the front of what will be a dragon. Three girls on a dragon? Why not?

Are you having fun or what?

I strongly think that once you get past that boring ass lines and circles stage, you should be having fun. I never drew the banana, apples, and grapes in a bowl. Boring as hell.

I feel like once I got past the lines and circles stage, I earned the right to enjoy drawing. Not make it an exercise.

So of course I choose live models. And fantasy art because I love fantasy.

You and I are not the same people. Find what you love to draw. And draw it.

You should never get tired of drawing if you’re drawing what you love. And I guarantee that if you keep drawing what you love, you’ll eventually get really good at it. Talent only means you have to put in 10% less hours than the rest of us. That’s all it means.

So don’t ever use lack of talent as an excuse. I don’t buy it.

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What I look for in a Pinup Model

Jin n Tonic and Allie

I primarily use two models for everything – Allie and Roxy. Allie is the blonde. Roxy is the brunette. Both of them are some of my closest friends on the planet.

I worked with Allie throughout her pregnancy and regret never doing a pregnant painting of her. I really should have, just to do.

She’s already looking great, despite her baby being born earlier this year. How did she recover that fast? I’ll leave that a secret, just in case Allie wants to write a book or sell a course.

Seriously. I should encourage her to do just that.

Occasionally, I’ll use other models. I’ve use Jin n Tonic before a few times now. Jin modeled both for my selkie painting and also for my homage to Mel Ramos.

As we speak, I’m taking a break from finishing up Alicia, a character from my Humpty Dumpty story. Roxy modeled for this one, and I’m going to sell it in an eBook form since it will have a shitload of illustrations, mostly really cool doodles.

If you’re wondering how to find pinup models, that’s an entirely different topic. I actually put a paid ad out. This isn’t my ideal way to find them though as I like to know people really well. I knew Allie and Roxy before they were my models and I knew Jin from working on music videos before from a failed band.

This weekend, I’m working with two new models. If they’re the right fit, I’ll keep one or both of them. If not, then I’ll keep looking. I want to have more than two regular models to work with. Of course nothing against Allie and Roxy, they’re the best, but for variety’s sake. I simply can’t have the same two women for every single character I come up with.

Fit – Can she be a Muse?

More than everything else combined – fit. We have to get along. And she’s got to fit the part.

Getting along is huge. I’m an artist. I’m probably more emotional than most. Some people I love to death. Some people, I’d never work with again.

I’m very loose. I don’t like structure. I don’t like rules.

If you come into a relationship and immediately lay down your laws, I’m going to roll my eyes and it will be a one time thing.

However, if you’re super cool, I’ll be more than happy to work with you for years. I’m like a dog. The people I like, I like forever.


I’ve seen a lot of overweight pinups. That’s the new thing nowadays. Love your body no matter what.

More power to you! Seriously. If you’re happy being you, I’m happy for you.

But, I’m not going to work with someone without the body shape I like. I like a woman with more 1950s curves. Like Bettie Page. Or Marilyn Monroe.

Sure, not everyone can have a body like Marilyn Monroe. Allie and Roxy both do though. And Allie just had a baby.

I’m an artist, not a doctor. But, I lost 15 pounds by cutting carbs and eliminating processed foods entirely. If you go through our house, we have pasta, rice, and everything else will spoil. We eat mostly meats, fruits, and veggies.

No more sugars. The only sugars we get are from natural foods, like apples, bananas, grapes, etc. We also try to eat organic when available and free ranged meats when available. Our eggs are all either organic or at least free range.

Once again, I’m not a doctor. But, I myself lost a lot of belly fat by changing my diet.

Every once in awhile, we’ll order a pizza. I’ll only eat cake if one acquaintance of ours makes it. Her cakes are the best cakes I’ve ever had in my life. She’s a friend of a friend, and super talented. She even used to do sculpture and I really hope she gets back into it.

If it’s not her cake, I don’t eat it.

And yes, I drink alcohol. But no more beer for me. Usually whiskey or red wine.

Proud of her femininity

Femininity has power. A lot.

Wars were fought over beautiful women. Cleopatra. Helen of Troy. Then, you got your femme fatales that bring men to their doom because we simply can’t resist their beauty.

The pinup queen knows this. She wields her femininity with great power. It translates well to the canvas, or in my case, the watercolor board.


Pinup models are pinup models. They’re not shy, although sometimes they’ll play that role for certain poses. But no, they’re not shy.

They’re by no means socially retarded. In fact, they’re social creatures. You know they’re there. Which leads to…


The very first time I saw Jin in real life, she was singing karaoke in Vegas. And you know what? Everyone in the whole fucking room was paying attention.

She wasn’t even dressed up. She was wearing street clothes. Yet, she had this presence that despite not looking that much like she did in her pictures, I knew that had to be Jin.

Most pinup models I’ve known drank. Not a requirement, but it’s part of the culture. For obvious reasons, Allie can’t drink too much just yet but she promised that when her kid is old enough to leave him with her parents, we’re getting plastered together.


And speaking of presence, whether you believe in aura or not, I’ll mention it. Good pinup models definitely have an aura. Olivia de Berardinis is so good as an artist that you could practically feel their aura from her paintings. Olivia is who I want to be when I grow up.

Can play different roles

If you look at pinups from the Golden Age of Pinups, they play different roles. Sometimes, the pinup model plays the shy girl. She’s often embarrassed or in a compromised situation.

You’ll also see her play the femme fatale. Or, she’ll play a seductress for the sake of seduction, without luring the everyday man to his doom.

Opium Tales Roxy

She could play the party girl or the naughty housewife. These are just examples. The thing is, my ideal pinup model can play multiple roles and pull them off well.

What I don’t want

I can’t play poker. If I have a good hand, you’ll know it. If I have a bad hand, you’ll also know it.

I’m an open book. And I like people who communicate.

I don’t like soulless people, people devoid of life. Whether you believe in Heaven, reincarnation, or absolutely nothing, you get one shot at being you. I can’t speak for you, but I’m going to make the best of my shot.

More than half the models I’ve ever worked with didn’t have that pizazz. They weren’t full of life.

They simply went through the motions, and that was it.

That is exactly what I don’t want.

I want someone who loves being that character. The way Allie or Roxy models is the best. They really get into it. We got music going on and they don’t even have to fake their smiles. They love doing it.

I’ve worked with models before that once they’re done smiling, they go right back into a dead face.

Pardon my French, but fuck that shit! I don’t work with those models ever again. It’s a one-time thing.

We have to connect

Also, we have to connect. If there’s no connection between me and you, I don’t want to work with you ever again.

It’s just like I had one corporate job in my entire life that I absolutely loved. You know why? Because several people I worked with connected. I’m still friends with those people. Actually, one of them, we were just over at his house for a wine tasting.

We argue art all the time. Often agreeing though. Like for instance, his favorite band is The Cure. I liked what is now called “Dad Metal” from that time period but I still loved the album Head on the Door.

The same goes with my pinup models. No connection, no workie again.

I’m a Romantic after all. I have to feel something. If I feel nothing, there is no art.

It’s just like when I play music. Sure, I read sheet music. But when I play, it’s not just notes. I’m playing from my soul.

So that’s what I’m looking for. I give people chances and see if they’re a good fit. If not, I don’t work with them again and I actually don’t bother painting them. They stay as sketches and that’s that.

About the image

That’s Jin (initially wearing a black wig but I changed it to red) and Allie in a watercolor painting I did for a friend. That painting is not for sale.

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Technique over Tools

A good artist will produce better art with cheap crayons than a bad artist with the absolute best oils, acrylics, or watercolors. That’s just a fact. You know it. I know it. Everyone knows this.

Just like give a guy like Carlos Santana or Jimi Hendrix a cheap guitar and have him battle a newbie guitarist. We all know who we’d rather hear, even with the cheap guitar.

That said, we’re all searching for the right tools. Watercolor artists are the craziest. We’re always looking for the right surface, whether it’s painting on wood, the best paper, or even experimenting on canvas (yes, the watercolors will slide right off so you’ll have to use some watercolor ground). We’re always looking for the right paints, the right brushes, etc.

The same goes with guitarists. Sometimes you’ll see a guitarist who falls in love with one guitar and uses it forever. Like Brian May of Queen or BB King with Lucille.

Usually though, guitarists try out every guitar and amp they could get their hands on.

Technique is more important than tools

That said, sure it’s fun to play around with new tools. But the art comes down to you. Are you any good? What can you produce?

That’s where I strongly suggest that you put the time in.

Art is just another craft. The more you work with leather, the better you get at working with leather.

The more you work on your art, the better you get on your art.

Sure, having nice tools helps. However, you simply acquire them over time.

Besides, you’ll find that the more known you get, the more people will give you their stuff to try, or even pay you to use their stuff.

My newest

I love quality watercolor and gouache paints as much as the next artist. Still for me, good paints are good paints. So far, I love M Graham gouache and I love Daniel Smith and Winsor and Newton watercolors the best. I have Sennelier watercolors coming in the mail simply because I want to try painting with honey based watercolors.

This latest piece though is with the first three I mentioned. I’ve gotten to the point where I could make good paintings even with cheap watercolors and mediocre paper. Sure, I’d rather have the good tools. But like this whole article is about – technique over tools.

A good artist with cheap tools smokes a bad artist with the best tools. We all know this.

Selene and Hecate
Selene (Moon Goddess) and Hecate (on the asteroid)
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Can Pinup Art be considered High Art?

Where do we draw the line in what is Pop Art vs High Art? Can pinup art be considered High Art?

Serious question.

After all, look at a lot of the Post Modernist garbage. They consider that bullshit high art. And it takes a million times more talent and work to create pinup art than it does that crap.

For instance, can you seriously tell me that this crappy piece called We Are Not Afraid is better than anything done by Boris Vallejo, Mel Ramos, or Frank Frazetta?

We are not afraid – Philip Taaffe 1985

Frankly, I don’t really care for labels. When someone asks what kind of art I do, I tell them Fantasy Pinups. It’s just easier to classify but I don’t by any means believe in limiting yourself to one genre.


One day at Barnes and Noble, my wife picked me up a book on Gil Elvgren. I’ve seen his works before. I didn’t know him by name though. My wife knew I liked pinup art.

At the time, I was into photography and shooting nudes of a friend of mine. Several years later, Allie approached me about modeling. Then Roxy did. And I turned from photography to painting.

So I decided to take that Gil Elvgren book seriously. And go back and study the others I really liked from Frank Frazetta to Olivia de Berardinis.

I imitated everyone the best I could until I started developing my own style. I also imitated the Pre-Raphaelites, a subset of Romanticism. They’re actually considered High Art.

Although my own work is Pop Art, I see no reason to move someone like Frank Frazetta into the High Art category. He’s definitely more talented than any Post Modern artist.

But alas, it’s all just labels anyways. It will be interesting to see what people two hundred years from now say. Maybe they’ll throw out all the Post Modern bullshit and buy Frank Frazetta and Olivia paintings for millions. Or at least, a man can hope.

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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.