Cover Painting – Avatar

Purple Dragon 4 brightened

 

I just completed this cover painting for the eBook I mentioned before.  I did this mostly with watercolors but also some supplemental colored pencil.  If anyone wants to know about the book, they can just go to the main Subversive Art site and there’s a dedicated page, or here’s a link to the blog entry.

Spirit of St Louis – Chalk drawing

Spirit at night 1500.png

Here’s a chalk drawing I did of the Spirit of St Louis at night.  The original is very monochrome but I love how the blues came out in the photo.

I’m not one to make Charles Lindbergh into a villain, or an anti-Semite, or anything else he was not.  He was a very intelligent, innovative, multifaceted person who was woefully oversimplified by the media.

This drawing was done on black mattboard with square hard chalks and a little white acrylic paint pen.  Mattboard, by the way, especially the deep black stuff, makes a great surface for chalks.  I was thinking about this quote from his autobiography about the first Atlantic crossing:

 

By day, or on a cloudless night, a pilot may drink the wine of the gods, but it has an earthly taste; he’s a god of the earth, like one of the Grecian deities who lives on worldly mountains and descended for intercourse with men. But at night, over a stratus layer, all sense of the planet may disappear. You know that down below, beneath that heavenly blanket is the earth, factual and hard. But it’s an intellectual knowledge; it’s a knowledge tucked away in the mind; not a feeling that penetrates the body. And if at times you renounce experience and mind’s heavy logic, it seems that the world has rushed along on its orbit, leaving you alone flying above a forgotten cloud bank, somewhere in the solitude of interstellar space.

– Charles Lindbergh, The Spirit of St Louis, 1953

Adventures with Etsy

I’d meant to open an Etsy shop for a long time, and finally got around to it. I’ve used eBay before with some success, but I know people who use Etsy and seem to do pretty well.  One friend of mine at least partially replaced his income from a job he previously had, so he didn’t have to go back to work as fast when he was laid off.

I do have my own website for commissions and art prints, but I’ve realized that what I really need is exposure, and I wanted to take advantage of Etsy’s customer base and visibility.   Since Etsy specializes in handmade items and vintage items, it is perfect for me.

First, I love the price of a listing. 20 cents is good, and even if I have to pay that again every time I have to relist, which is every three months, I find it more than reasonable. It’s certainly better than the percentage taken in most places.

Second, I like the flexibility of things I can offer. I can put up a set of 5 cards, an original watercolor painting, and digital downloads of hand drawn maps, vintage jewelry, and a really neat crystal cluster. I see other folks selling all manner of things, everything from home furnishings to vegan deodorant.  I found the listings easy to create and there’s plenty of support for sellers.  Etsy will use some of the money they make to buy Google ads and such, I’ve actually seen traffic to my shop from those.

Third, the interface is nice and clean and it’s easy to find things. That’s important, both for buyers and sellers. Products look good, I don’t find the site too cluttered, and the individual shops have lots of room for personality.  I can put up multiple pictures of a listing, be creative about my descriptions, and have a ball making a cool looking shop.

I’ve only made three sales but they amounted to about fifty dollars.  Now that I’m branching out into adult coloring pages I think I will start selling more.  Some people even sell their books on Etsy!

A few tips:

Try to list a couple of things every week, at least.  That will keep people looking at your site.

Give lots of good description on your listings and take good pictures.

Make sure you fill out all the information on your shop – let people know who you are and why they should buy your products.

If you have any questions or need help or support, drop me a line and I’ll be happy to tell you what I know.

If you want to try Etsy out for free, follow this link to get forty free listings.  No strings attached, you just have to be new to Etsy.

 

 

Choosing Colors

 

While this is considered an absolute rule by many artists, especially painters, I consider it more a helpful hint and something to try.

The idea is to use a limited palette of colors to create a unified look. Pick three colors that represent the majority of items in your work, plus black and white, and only use those three colors (and the colors that can be mixed from them) to do the whole piece.

It’s easier than it sounds. For example, a forest painting might be done entirely with a yellow, a deep green, and an umber. Or a seascape might be a deep blue, a deep green, and a purple. In watercolors, usually this means picking three tubes of pigment and just using those. This really does help avoid the problem of the painting looking too busy or garish.  I’m sure we’ve all seen a painting that just uses two many colors!

I’ve been told by an old watercolor painter that this is an absolute rule except in the case of city scenes, but I am not willing to be quite that rigid about it.  Still, choosing two to three colors and using them and their mixtures can make a really nice, unified looking piece.

The Class Every Artist Should Take

I would call this class “Studio Skills” and it would be a basic prerequisite for any art program.

You see, I managed to complete a four year art degree without knowing proper brush care, how to approach a gallery if I wanted to hang my work, or the best way to handle watercolor paper!  I realize that I didn’t get a painting degree, but it was Interdisciplinary Visual Arts and as such that assumes a basic grounding in several kinds of art. A class covering basic studio skills wasn’t even offered!  Would you believe that?  In order to learn those things, I would have had to take classes in each individual type of art to learn these kinds of things.

So here is my suggested curriculum, and this would be a basic course  offered to all art students.

A good Studio Skills course would include: Brush and tool care.  How to get the most out of your brush or other art tools.  How to properly sharpen art pencils, pastels, watercolor  pencils, etc.  It can be harder than it looks.

How to prepare materials.  How to stretch canvas, tape watercolor paper, gesso surfaces, etc.  Identification of paper sizes and types.

Studio care.  Cleaning and maintaining the art space.  Basic safety regarding hazardous materials.  Use of ventilation.

Recognition of art materials.  Brush sizing, canvas sizing, and tool uses can be confusing and people need to know about it. The opportunity to try different materials to see the difference would be appropriate here.

Presentation of your work.  How to prepare it for sale or display.

Marketing and promotion.  This would include how to talk to art studios and museums, best methods of contact, dos and don’ts for contacting other artists, and publication requirements.

Put simply, no art student should graduate with an art degree without knowing something about how to present their work to best effect, and no one should be allowed to graduate if they don’t even know how to market themselves.   Keep in mind that my nationally recognized university didn’t have anything even close to this.  Studio skills might have been taught piecemeal in the individual art classes but in many cases, it was assumed that you already knew this stuff.

If someone is in a computer art program, or sculpture, or ceramics, they could have a similar basic skills course. Much of it is universal to all artists. In fact, a basic skills course would be good to have in any field of study – too much basic knowledge is assumed by teachers and sometimes never acquired.

Want to try the materials I use?  Check out Dick Blick.com!

Pastels

Along with general tips on making art, I like to introduce different art materials. Sometimes, even if we are experienced artists, we will still benefit by trying new things.  So today, it’s pastels!

Pastels come in several types. There are the oil pastels, which are pigment with an oil base. There are the chalk pastels, which have a drier, more powdery texture. There are also soft pastels that come in little tubs and you put them on with sponge or swab.  You can get pastel pencils too, which are encased in wood.

Paper for pastels should be stiff, at least partly rough, or even sanded. It can be fun to use fine grit sandpaper! You can also use stiff matting board, or light cardboard. The tooth, or roughness, of the paper has a big effect on how your lines look.

For blending, you can use a paper stump, or your fingertip. It’s important to make your blended areas thick and smooth, if you want to avoid patchiness.  An old grungy kneaded eraser can erase with chalk pastels. A latex fingertip cot, used for protecting cut fingertips usually, is good to protect your skin and makes cleanup easier.  There’s my tip for the day!

DickBlick.com has an awesome range of pastels at good prices.

Interesting Angles

 

It’s a simple idea, yet powerful.

If you are drawing, photographing or painting a particular subject, consider a different angle other than a simple straight on view. For a portrait, try it from one side or the other, tilt the head slightly, etc. When depicting a scene, consider a low angle, or maybe even an overhead angle. Think of ways to add interest. The more interesting a picture looks, the more likely it is to stand out in the crowd. Too many people pick a centered straight on view for a portrait rather than a three quarter view, that can look flat and uninteresting.

Different angles can also help convey mood and enhance your message.

Drawing: Woman on Beach

Moonlit Beach web

 

She watches the waves roll in, night wind kissing her skin. The stars shine bright in the sky overhead. Is that a shooting star? Or is that her ship, coming in on its final orbit? She’d thought to steal a few minutes of relaxation between battles, a well earned night of rest, but she senses it will be over all too soon.

The wind plucks at her hair and she moves to rise as a particularly bright streak cuts the sky. That was no meteor.

Observation: The Artist’s Eye

If you are a representative artist, observation is the key to everything. If you take pictures, look at your subject from all possible angles. See things others might miss. If you draw or paint, pay attention to where the light falls, where the shadows lie, how the colors change in your subject depending on when you look at it.

Try different ways of looking at an object, too. Blur your vision and look at the masses, the major areas of color or form. Look at a tiny area of it. Try tracing just the outline of an object, to help you look at the negative space around it. Maybe even pull out a magnifying glass.

For example, take a look at this photo.  Can you tell what it is?  You could make it into water, or fabric, or a landscape, or take it as it really is – sun shining off cat fur.

How you see is as important as what you see!

Consistent Lighting

 

Whether you are drawing in chalks or graphite or pastels, painting, or doing pen and ink, pay attention to where the light falls. It can really make or break a piece. When you look at anything, look at what is dark, and what is light, and pay attention to where the light is coming from. Make it a habit to notice.

Before you begin a scene drawn or painted from imagination, decide where the light is coming from. You can create a lot of drama and interest this way. You can convey mood, too, by deciding the type of lighting. Is it strong? Even? Shadowed? Diffuse? What color of light? Golden sunlight of late afternoon? Bright white of an office? Colored, as from stained glass? Soft and diffuse, as from a cloudy day?

Decisions like these can be a great way to add life to your work!