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Art with Erika

the journey of an artist – painting life with purpose

“Semicolon” – June 21, 2017

“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you, and the sentence is your life,”

– Project Semicolon

A few years back a new trend started to show up across the Internet that showed pictures of tiny tattoos gracing the wrists and bodies of people who were not only brave enough to keep on walking their path of life, but who were brave enough to acknowledge and share their stories.  Depression, anxiety, postpartum depression, addiction, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, borderline stress disorder… These are only a handful of conditions that are accepted in today’s world, but they are still taboo amid conversation. These are conditions that we cannot see, unless we are acutely aware of the people around us, and even then our eyes can deceive us.

How many times have we heard the story of a person who was the topic of envious gossip, who wore the most beautiful mask for all of us to see, but who struggled with depression?  Or that unassuming person next door who seemed to live a pretty normal life apart from fighting with anxiety every day. Maybe the person is a cousin or brother or sister who approached you and said that they couldn’t figure out why they were sad, that they just were, and had been for a long time.  The journey can be confusing and frustrating for everyone.

Sometimes we see people walking through life struggling to see past a thick gray fog that billows around them.  Sometimes we don’t even know that anything is wrong. And sometimes the emptiness is so heavy, real, and painful… They are so alone that they can’t identify their place in this world. There are some people who even believe that the world would be a better place without them in it – that they are a burden to those around them.

From an outside perspective suicide can seem to come from a very selfish place. A lack of understanding and empathy can lead an outsider to feel hatred instead of love toward a person who was struggling with a very real set of circumstances. Just because one person has never experienced it, just because one person has never seen it, doesn’t mean that it is any less real. Whenever life is at stake, it would be a fool’s game to dismiss the cries of millions of people, who know the battleground firsthand, as folly.  Whenever one life is at stake, it would be a fool’s game to dismiss the cry of that person, who knows the battleground firsthand, as folly.

Project Semicolon was developed in 2013 and is a platform for people who struggle with mental illness.  It is also a place for people to gather who have lost a loved one, or who still have the blessing of being around their loved one, who struggles with mental illness. Although all mental illness doesn’t lead to suicide, it would be wise for us to become aware of signs of possible suicide, and to become more knowledgeable of the real aspects of mental illness and how it affects people in their everyday lives.

“Semicolon” was inspired by the people in my life who have been affected by suicide and thoughts of suicide.  I wanted there to be a sense of hope, love, and comfort in the painting.  There is a darkness to it, a blackness that embodies melancholy.  There are two versions of this painting, both male and female.  They have minimal features and no skin tone.  It was important for me to try and create as much of a neutral platform as possible, and be as inclusive as possible, though I know that there are many other versions I could draw in the future for people.  (This is a solid place to start, though).

The pointillism technique is symbolic of a period that is found at the end of a sentence – it speaks to the idea that life is indeed finite for all of us. The thousands of tiny dots create a gray figure who delicately embraces their life in their arms.  The sphere is their “period” that will rest at the end of their life sentence; they have made the choice to hold on to it.

A portion of the fabric of their life that has already been lived unravels from their calves and their feet.  It flows below them hinting at gray memories that they will leave behind.  The fabric of life clutches around their thighs and hips, with the hope of many bright and wonderful memories that lie ahead.  White from the fabric and the orb create a bright semicolon against the gray and black of the rest of the painting.

The quotes on both paintings start and end with an ellipsis (…) that represent the continuation of life on either side of that choice.  Their story isn’t over.

…they had a choice; they chose to live…

Thank you so much for visiting my blog.  Please take a moment to visit the Project Semicolon website, and take a look at the step by step making of “Semicolon” above.  Below are detailed pictures of both the male and female versions of “Semicolon” by Erika Robertson.

Take some time to tell the people around you that you love them.  Take an hour and listen to them.  Be compassionate, be loving, and try to understand each and every journey – don’t try to fix it – just listen.  Sometimes this is all we need.  You might help save a life.

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“Semicolon” By Erika Robertson – Digital Painting – Photoshop – 2017 – (Female with text)

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69 - FINAL WOMAN W-O TEXT
“Semicolon” By Erika Robertson – Digital Painting – Photoshop – 2017 – (Female without text)
68 - FINAL MAN
“Semicolon” By Erika Robertson – Digital Painting – Photoshop – 2017 – (Male with text)

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67 - FINAL MAN W-O TEXT
“Semicolon” By Erika Robertson – Digital Painting – Photoshop – 2017 – (Male without text)

“Champagne” – June 15, 2017

Not long after I moved down to Los Angeles, four years ago, I broke out my sketchbook and walked through some evolving ideas that turned into the “Women and Wine” collection.  As I was doodling page after page of crappy thumbnails, my brain stumbled upon the idea of collaborating women, fashion, and cocktails.  My first scribbles were of women standing next to over-sized glasses of alcohol wearing beautiful dresses. The thumbnail sketch for “Champagne” featured a woman whose dress turned into bubbling liquid in a shimmering flute. From there, the collection of three women named for white, red, and rosé wines took shape and was finished in the fall of 2016.  I decided to revisit my original inspired sketch so that I could bring “Champagne” to life.

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I enjoy the idea of collaborating my old profession, costume design and fashion, into my artwork. Over-exaggeration, extravagant elements, and lots of little details thrill me to no end.  It’s an unfortunate thing that I don’t have the finances or the time to create costumes, as many of them cost well over $1000 in materials to create – and I am an all or nothing kind of person with those projects.  But, my newfound love of painting in Photoshop has proven to be more than satisfactory.

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I enjoy painting and drawing in raw media but more often than not, a lot of very tiny detail is lost within pen scribbles and paint blotches, unless the canvas is over-sized. (And I don’t have room for that in my 200 square foot tiny space.) What I love most about Photoshop is that I can achieve an incredible amount of fine detail that would have been impossible to achieve if I had tried to paint the same thing on the canvas. A lot of my costuming in the past was consumed by rhinestones, bead work, and the tiniest of details. In person, you could see the fine elements on the costumes themselves, but the artwork that went along with them (the concept sketches) were not as exciting. (At least, not to me).

“Champagne” features an abundance of small detail. From her strands of hair, to her delicate jewelry, and the shimmer and glimmer of champagne and chiffon, this painting embodies a subtle strength and definitive elegance.

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It is a wonderful feeling to be able to see the improvement in my artwork as I complete each piece. The digital learning curve is starting to straighten out, and I feel that each project that I take into my hands becomes a new favorite of mine.

Above is a video featuring a slideshow of stills from start to finish for “Champagne”.  Below are select step-by-step stills and close-ups along with walk-through descriptions and notes. (You will be able to see the detail better on this blog post, as opposed to the video, but the video is fun, too!)

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit my blog!  I hope you enjoy reading about and watching “Champagne” as much as I have enjoyed creating her.

‘Til next time!

 

 

55FINAL
“Champagne” – By Erika Robertson – Digital Painting – Photoshop – 2017
01
Original thumbnail sketch for “Champagne” from 2013 (It’s been a long time!)
05
First sketch following the flow of the original drawing.  But it isn’t looking too great…I need to change the angle of the body.
06
Much better positioning of the body, but some adjustments still need to be made.  The flow is really sloppy right now.  It needs to be more straight forward and confident.
07
This positioning is much better.  There is also a great balance of straight and curved edges which makes the foundation interesting.  I love the straight line on one hip that contrasts with the heavily curved hip on the other side.
09
I re-draw the left arm to bring a little more life and purpose to the angles of the arm.  I didn’t like the way the hand cupped over the hip.  The fingers grazing the waistline give it a little more tension.  I also adjust the size of the figure and the glass flute.
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The background is black, so I lay the color down.  I know I will love the contrast of the glitter and champagne colors against the dark background.  I also change the color of the lines of the figure to something closer to a flesh tone.
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I play around with the idea of draping fabric that circles around the glass, as well as arm jewels.  All of these elements mimic the shape of the champagne glass and I work with trying to find a solid balance of all of the accessories before moving forward.  It’s important to plan out your steps as much as you can before proceeding, otherwise you will have to edit TOO MUCH later on.  Plan in the beginning and save time later on.
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Since the glass is a solid object that doesn’t move, and since the figure is emerging from it, I finalize the outline of the glass right now.  It will not change at all, save some minor reflections, and this way I can build the rest of the painting up around it without worrying about it.  I start to lay down color for the figure.
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Shading and layering the basic lines of light and shadow.  The main light source is going to come from above.
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I add the facial features, as I think they are one of the more difficult parts to balance out.  I try to do the more difficult elements first, so that they don’t weigh on my mind and seem so daunting.
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I smooth out the skin and adjust the color to make it pop a little more.  I want a darker skin tone, but not too dark.  Something that will look beautiful against the gold of the dress.
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One of the last things that I do, before trimming the boarders of the figure, is to highlight the skin with a white light brush.  It makes everything pop a little more, and it is nice to have that reflective look of the light bouncing off of the skin.
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I erase the edges and make them crisp!  But, I trimmed off a little too much and made her TOOOOO thin….I don’t like it.  (She is already skinny enough and I don’t want her to look unbalanced)
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This is much better.  Now, I need to work on the hands….One of my least favorite parts…….
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I haaaate drawing hands and feet (which means I should probably draw them more…)  They just take a long time to do, and I used to actually draw blocks for hands or hide them behind the figure.  But, they are so expressive and such an important piece to most of my work, now.  They can add or take away so much in a painting.  I highly recommend them, even though they do take a long time to draw.  🙂
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I lay down the color for the hair and placement for the bun.
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I paint color upon color, and strand upon strand, layer after layer.
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I add more detail and a splash of light to her hair.  I think I used about 10 different shades of brown and black to get the richness that I wanted.
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I thought I wanted a “light-filled” champagne liquid in the glass, but it looked like it was too much, so I decided to go with a “see through, against the black” look, instead.
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I add just the slightest hint of champagne color to the edges of the glass, and add the bubbles.  I had always been fascinated by champagne bubbles, as a kid.  I loved how they started out so tiny and concentrated only to float straight to the top of the glass in little lines.  (Fun fact:  Champagne was my favorite smell when I was little.  I used to ask my mom if I could sniff her glass of champagne when she would order it on that rare occasion.)
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The dress is going to be a see-through jewel-encrusted chiffon.  I add the base layer of the dress to the figure and blend it into the champagne.
40
I was going to draw the shawl in the same way as I drew the figure (layering and then erasing the edges), but I decided to change my method…
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I referenced the original rough outline of the chiffon fabric that was sketched out in the beginning.
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On a different layer, I start drawing the back half of the shawl.
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I want the shawl to be very very see-through, so I start taking away color until I find my “happy place” and am satisfied with the see-through effect.
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On a separate layer I do the same with the front of the chiffon fabric.
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And I erase the layer until I am happy with how it looks.
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Jewels are so satisfying to paint.  Thousands of little dots give the illusion of chains or jewels draping from her arms.  The design isn’t planned out, but an art deco theme emerges with each strand that I add.  I usually let intuition lead me with details like these.  I feel like I am summoning Erte.
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I finish the other jeweled sleeve.
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The longest strand in the back was a little too wide and it didn’t look like it was falling properly, according to the weight of a chain of that size, so I fixed it.  I also added four more strands to the back to balance out the area.  I want the busy work to be on the arms, though.
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The rest of the gold shimmer is added to the dress and the chiffon fabric.  Hair jewels wrap around her head and connect to the back of a simple minimal earring.  (I really love this element)
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White shine is added throughout the painting on the jewels.
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Finally, the shine of the glass is added along with a sparkle on her lips and eye.
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Finished detail of “Champagne”
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Finished detail of “Champagne”
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Finished detail of “Champagne”
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Finished detail of “Champagne”
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Finished detail of “Champagne”
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Finished detail of “Champagne”
55FINAL
“Champagne” – By Erika Robertson – Digital Painting – Photoshop – 2017

“Angelica” – June 12, 2017

Thirty is a big year for many people. It’s a major turning point where we leave behind our ignorant twenties and start solidifying ourselves in the mold of adulthood. It is the beginning of many wonderful adventures, and from what I hear from older generations it is only the start of the best decades that lie ahead of us.  On May 27th I turned thirty-one, and I can say with full confidence, that thirty had been the most pivotal and rewarding year of my life. It was filled with a lot of heartache, depression, and turmoil that transformed into growth, forgiveness, confidence, and love. Twenty-nine was the year that I was found. Thirty was the year that I was smashed to pieces and made stronger through adversity.  I find that a lot of the people around me are following the same pattern.

A handful of months ago I was approached by a friend, and was commissioned to create a piece that embodied the woman who she aspired to be in the near future. “A woman who loves herself, a woman who is confident in her capabilities, and a woman who is open to what the world has to offer.”  She gravitated toward the “Rose Wine” painting that I did last year in the “Women and Wine Collection”, but she wanted a number of changes and additional elements:

Woman to be of average height instead of very tall

Darker skin tone

Squarer face

Medium length flowing curly hair (black with brown/red highlights)

Maxi dress with loose floral pattern and halter top neckline

Rose wine

Lavender and roses

A headband to represent an element of peace

Mint (color)

Background maroon, burgundy, or berry red

Confidence

Peace

Openness

I have to say that it was quite a challenge trying to balance everything out (but I really do love a challenge!)  To date, this is my favorite digital painting.  Thank you, Angelica, for setting up an incredible platform.  Without your inspiration, this would not have been possible.  Here’s to friendship, and a wonderful decade full of life, love, growth, and adventure!

Above is a slideshow of the step-by-step process, and below is the step-by-step process with descriptions for the making of “Angelica”.

01Angelica
Every painting starts with a rough sketch.  I like to draw over the original rough so that I can keep the livelihood of the lines.  Sometimes, when you re-sketch from scratch, the movement is lost and the drawing becomes too stiff.
02Angelica
I start with a blue pencil and sketch out the first roughs.
03Angelica
I create a new layer and re-sketch and fine-tune the lines.
04Angelica
The background will be very dark, and in order to balance out the colors properly, it is necessary to lay down the background so that I know how much the drawing will pop against it.  I almost never draw anything on a white background.  At the very least I use off-white or gray, so I can keep track of the whitest highlights of any piece.  You can’t see them as clearly if you are drawing on a white surface.
05Angelica
Because I am drawing a blush dress that transforms into rose wine, I change the hue of the blue lines to something that relates more to the final product.  It is very important that the harmony of the colors is generally figured out in the beginning of the painting, otherwise the final product could be unbalanced.  It’s much easier to fix these things in the beginning stages than to try to fix them when your painting is already finished.
06Angelica
My friend wanted “mint” incorporated somehow, and this step was more of a test to see if a mint colored dress would blend well as it transformed into a pink dress against a burgundy background.  So far, so good!
07Angelica
I add a peach tone to the pink and mint to warm up the painting.  I start filling in and layering the dress and wine to see where breaks and folds will happen in the dress and in the glass.
08Angelica
I layer more colors, and smooth out the dress.
09Angelica
As the dress transforms into wine, it becomes transparent, like liquid.  I erase the edges of the hemline, and the liquid that swirls in the glass.
10Angelica
I use the dark blush colors to shade in sections of the mint dress.  Using colors, as opposed to black and white tones, can bring more depth and life to a painting.  I also lay down the first layer for her skin to see the balance of color between the background and the dress.  The outline of the wine glass is created so that I know exactly where the edges of the dress need to hit and spill over.
11Angelica
I warm up the mint and blush wine up a little more with a yellow and peach shade, so that it is a little more balanced with the tone of the skin.  The wine in the glass is filled in.
12Angelica
The edges of the dress are finished with the beginnings of the splashes.
13Angelica
The edges of the dress and wine are layered.  Folds in the fabric and wine are given solid definition.
14Angelica
Because of the painting and layering from the last few steps, the see-through effect was lost a little bit, so I go over the whole dress and smooth out and inconsistencies and add the clear liquid effect throughout.
15Angelica
An explosion of droplets is scattered around the dress.  It’s here that I really start to feel the magic of the painting appear with all of the sparkles and glitter.  There is a lot going on in this painting but I have always been a “more is more” type of artist.
16Angelica
I start to work on her face and add the most difficult features: the lips and eyes.  I lay down a temporary “hair piece” for her, too, so that I can get a rough idea for her hairline against her features and skin tone.
17Angelica
There was a specific skin shade that was given to me to work with, so I color corrected the tone.  I also started layering and hammering out the details of her arms, neck and head.
18Angelica
Hands are one of the most time-consuming elements, for me.  After they were done, I went around the whole figure and highlighted her skin with a tough of “light”.  Her fingernails are painted pink.  (I love little details like this!)
19Angelica
A rose pattern starts out bunched closely at the top of the dress and cascades out into the pink wine.  There are a few bunches of roses that are barely visible in the pink liquid.  It is the little things that you don’t really see at first glance that bring a picture to life.
20Angelica
The hair is painted in, using many many layers and hundreds of pen strokes in various shades of brown, red, and almost black  (I think the only thing that is truly 100% black in this painting are her pupils).  At the end of it all the hair takes shape and looks like loose waves that spiral into ringlets.  Small strands wisp around her face, neck, and arms.
21Angelica
A crown of roses and lavender circle her head….but they are a little bit too large….
23Angelica
…so I shrink down the size of the wreath.  Her head is also a little too large and not proportionate, so I adjust the size ever so slightly.
24Angelica
“Angelica” – By Erika Robertson – Digital Painting – 2017 – Photoshop   –   My favorite part of painting is adding the finishing sparkles.  (Maybe because I know I am almost done, or maybe because everything starts to explode off of the page, little by little.)  It takes a long time, but the extra bump of life that the shimmer and glitter gives is extra special and adds so much magic.
25Angelica
Detail
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30Angelica
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24Angelica
“Angelica” – By Erika Robertson – Digital Painting – 2017 – Photoshop

“Faith, Hope, and Love” – April 1, 2017

“And now these three remain:  faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”

1 Corinthians 13:13

It’s been a while since I have finished something a little more complicated, but I’m so happy with this piece.  I’m still trying to find my style, which is a frustrating evolution, but I know that over time something will solidify.  I love drawing realistic people, but I am working on simplifying my fashion ladies and experimenting with “flat” brushes.  I had to re-draw this one, because the first time around the skin was so detailed with highlights and shadows that it overwhelmed the piece.  The flat minimally shaded women stand out a lot more and blend in so well with the rest of the piece.  It’s just so colorful and sparkly!

Faith is blue.  Hope is green.  Love is pink.  Each lady holds two jeweled strands that belong to her, highlighted by either pink, green, or blue jewels.  If you look carefully you can see colored stones throughout each strand that are shared with the woman beside her.  For example, Love (pink) and Hope (green) are sharing two green and two pink jeweled strands; in this way all of them are connected to each other.  The height of each lady is representative of her hierarchy; Love is the greatest of the three.   Wisteria represents eternity and drapes itself around stone pillars.  The purple of the wisteria matches the amethyst stones that hang at the end of each jeweled strand which promote peace and balance.

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“Faith, Hope, and Love” – By Erika Robertson – 2017 – Photoshop Digital Painting

 

Thank you so much for visiting my blog!

Have a wonderful day!

“It’s Okay… – Daily Doodle” – March 6, 2017

It’s been a tough couple of weeks.  Mom had to stop her chemo after a month because she came down with a severe flu…She isn’t doing well and it is hard to lift her spirits, sometimes.  Not a very happy doodle, today, but this is life, with all of its ups and downs.  I know God is with us, and knowing that makes all of this easier, but it doesn’t make it easy.

Sometimes you just need to give yourself permission to cry…

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“It’s Okay…” – Daily Doodle – 2017 – by Erika Robertson – Photoshop

“Unchi – Daily Doodle” – February 23, 2017

A little doodle of some doo-doo, today.  🙂  I’m having a lot of fun with these quick sketches.  I hope you are, too!

….these colors remind me of thin mints……I need my girl scout cookie fix!

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“Unchi” (“Poop”) – Daily Doodle – By Erika Robertson – 2017 – Photoshop

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“Tree Hugs – Daily Doodle” – February 22, 2017

Trees love hugs, too.    🙂

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“Tree Hugs” – Daily Doodle – By Erika Robertson – 2017 – Photoshop

#treehugger #treelover #hippie #trees

Thank you for visiting my blog!  ❤

“Breadcrumber – Daily Doodle” – February 21, 2017

I’ve been a little lazy with the doodles!  But here is a new one for you!  Enjoy!

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“Breadcrumber” – Daily Doodle – By Erika Robertson – 2017 – Photoshop

#breadcrumbing #breadcrumber #lifelessons #art #bread #factsoflife

Thank you so much for visiting my blog!  ❤

“Just a Taste…” – February 17, 2017

Here’s a little taste of my current project.  Since this collection is going to be 12 pieces it is going to take a little longer, so I’ll entertain you with little snippets here and there in the meantime.  🙂

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and follow me on Instagram.  

Thank you so much for visiting my blog!  Have a great day!

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A small snippet from the first piece of twelve.  Medium is Photoshop.
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First rough for the second drawing.

#brownisbeautiful

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