Try and try, and try, and try…again, and again, and again…… Ctrl+z, Ctrl+z, Ctrl+z,…Ctrl+z……Dang it!!!

It has been three long years since the concept of “Women and Wine” was doodled while sitting in my first apartment in LA.  What began as an evolution of rough sketches turned into a few years of tedious trials and errors.  Why?  Because I could not find the right medium for what I wanted to do.  Everything that I tried and tested seemed wrong.  Time and time, again, I would visit this project and scrap it.  I started with Photoshop – tried out a new comic book technique -, I moved into pastels, and went back to the computer again, and into acrylic paints on canvas….the cycle was never-ending.  There would be months, and sometimes periods close to a year, where I turned my back on the paints and mediums.  I was frustrated.  Nothing clicked, nothing worked…I wasn’t happy with any medium.  It all seemed unbalanced, the textures were just wrong…

It wasn’t until November 2016 that I was able to put a finished seal on this project, and it solidified my new art medium in Photoshop (and in perfect timing, right before my art show).  Not only was I able to pinpoint the new technique and exceed my initial vision, but I also found my calling in the art world through this project:  embracing the neutral beauty of diversity.  (I will touch on this in a future post.)

This is a collection near and dear to my heart, not only because of my love of wine, but because of the beauty of the physical differences among women.  There are three pieces in this collection; each one features a general grouping of wine (red, white, and blush/rosé – with their proper glasses, of course).  They also feature women of color: Asian, African American, and Persian (onlookers assume that she is white, but she is, in fact, Persian).  I am proud to say that most people had appreciative and very positive (if not, overwhelmingly positive) responses to the incorporation of colored women in the art.  My happiest moment was my last customer, who walked by with her mother, and did a double take.  She came back a few seconds after walking by the booth, and looked at the woman featured in “White Wine”.  “Oh my gosh!  Mom!  Look!  Look at this!  She has my hair!”  She paused, took in the painting, and after taking a breath she almost whispered, “Oh my gosh.”  She took her hands off of her mouth to rest over her heart, “I have never seen my hair in any kind of art, before.  That is my hair!  My hair looks exactly like this!  That’s my hair!…She is beautiful…”

This is why I create art: to touch people, to make them feel.  And it makes me so happy to be able to fill a much-needed gap in the art world that has been lacking for much too long.

Here is the tedious process that went through the creation of “Women and Wine”.  I hope you enjoy it!

01
The first speed sketch (estimated sketch time: 15 seconds – if you’re curious, haha!)
02
More concept sketches.  I wanted to incorporate costume and fashion design in here, somehow, but I also wanted to combine the women a little more with the wine, instead of having the glasses and the figures standing side by side.  That is when I decided to put her inside the glass…
03
These are the first roughs of the concept of the evening dress flowing into the wine, and possibly becoming the wine…the evolution has started.
04
How much of the wine did I want to be “dress” and how much did I want the dress to be “wine”?  I had to play around with the balances a little more, do get a good “weight” between the woman and the wine glass.  How dramatic did I want the gown, too?…maybe less drama would be more, in this case.  If the dress is too busy, it will distract from the subject matter, and I didn’t want the focal point to be the dress.
05
The first breakthrough for “Red Wine”.  This pose would stay relevant for the remainder of the project.
06
Roughs of possible layouts for “rose” and “white” wines.  I like the different angles of the women, and the use of the scarf to balance out the weight of the wine splashing from the glass.
07
I had to decide if I wanted the ENTIRE glass in the picture, or if I wanted a closeup with the stem cut off.  I really did want to keep the whole glass, but there would have been a lot of dead space at the bottom of each painting.  I could either fill it with background or adjust it and zoom in to focus on the ladies a little more.  Decisions, decisions…
08
The first concept for the collection was very detailed and complicated.  It wasn’t until I started drawing it out on the computer that I decided to scrap it, completely.  It involved three different backgrounds (ocean, vineyard, and city) with three times of day (evening, twilight, and daylight), with the three kinds of wine.  The colors might have played off of each other, well, but it was just too busy.
09
Here is where the ethnicity of the women started to come into the picture.  Ultimately, their diversity would be the focal point that would scrap the busy and colorful backgrounds.  Their beauty and strength in just being “them” brings enough energy to the table without the distracting backgrounds.
10
It is so interesting to look back and see how I changed out some elements and switched details around.  At first, I had the poses for white and rose wine switched around.  I’m glad with the final decision I made.  There was also debate as to the angle of the wine glass, and if it should stand straight, or come into the frame at an angle.  The slanted glass gives the whole picture more energy.  In the end I propped the glasses upright, and the only movement in the paintings came from the ladies.
11
Here are the final quick sketches for the placement and balance of the paintings.  This is where I decided to switch the poses of the white and rose wines.  
12
The first digital sketch of “Red Wine”
13
Adding more details
14
You can see that I didn’t put away the busy background, just yet.  There are some curtains, and a picture of LA in the back.  The picture is used so I can see the balance of the elements behind the window.  There is just so much going on!  TOO MUCH!
18
Here are the final base outlines.  You can see why I got rid of the background….Everything gets lost in everything.  YUCK!
12a
At the end of all of that I was left with this outline!  I loved it, and held onto it for a long time.  But, something was not right…I just couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  I also didn’t feel good about drawing in Photoshop, so I tried to visit my roots in painting to see if that would turn out a little better.
20
I had to figure out the color schemes and what to do with the background.  To the right, you can see the colors of the wine painted on plastic sheets; This is a good way to test the paints and different possible background combinations before committing to canvas and wasting all that material.  A good thing to stock up on are paint chip cards from the paint store.  It makes figuring out color combinations a lot easier when you can see them together to start. Something was wrong with the paint, so I went back to Photoshop…and I couldn’t figure out what to do with the background.
21
Revisiting Photoshop…This is a technique used by a few comic book artists that I follow.  You block out your base colors, and overlay it with a shade and then start to highlight and in order to bring the light colors through the dark mask.  As soon as I got the mask on the red wine I knew that I didn’t want to use this technique…SCRAP IT!  NEEEEXT!!!!  I also HATED the background.  It was okay-ish (not really) for the red wine, but the rose and white wine would have clashed with it.  If I was going to do a “plain” background I wanted to make sure to do something cohesive so that the three paintings looked good together, side by side.  I wanted the backgrounds to be the same, also…but figuring out the color scheme that worked well with red, rose, and yellow, on top of the skin tones, was maddening.
19
So, back to the outline.  I looked at it, again, and I still wasn’t happy with it.  Something wasn’t balanced and I couldn’t figure out WHY.  Turns out it was the scarf.  (stupid, stupid scarf!)  It was too long, too dramatic.  The eye went to the scarf before anything else, and I didn’t want the scarf to be the first thing people saw.  I spent so much time drawing that stupid scarf only to erase it.  But, I am SO glad that I did.  I also decided to straighten the glass at this point, instead if having it leaning off at an angle.  This way, all of the energy is in the wine, the scarf, and the lady.  
22
Once I fixed the scarf, I sketched out the white wine and rose wine.  I printed out the images and took a look at them side by side.  I made adjustments.  “Red Wine” was WAY too thin, so I thickened out her waist, hips, and arms.  
23
I gave “White Wine” a little more of a booty bump.  I didn’t want to fill in her hair, yet, because I would be doing that later.  At this point I decided that I was going to transfer these drawings to canvas and finish them in Pastels!!!  I loved the idea of having a “chalkboard effect” on top of a black canvas!  Onward!
24
The final outlines for “Red Wine”
25
The final outlines for “White Wine”
26
The final outlines for “Rose Wine”
27
These are soft pastels!!!  I spray painted a canvas with chalk spray….but this didn’t work out…….DANG IT!!!!  It just didn’t look right at all…..MOVING ON!!!!…..maybe if I paint…..again……………..
28
This is as far as I got with the painting….just the bottom coats for each one of them…………then I scrapped it, again…….STILL NOT RIGHT!!!!
29
“This just doesn’t look like it is going to be going in the right direction…hmmmmmm…….???  Something isn’t right.”
30
“Dang it…this is so frustrating…frickin a…”
31
“What am I going to do, now?”
32
“Moving on……sorry painting…………………..I can already tell that you just aren’t the right medium for this project…I’ll have to brainstorm, again…”
33
BACK TO THE COMPUTER!!!!  Layer, after layer, after layer, are blended and smoothed out.  I used the same drawing technique seen in my step-by-step of “healing”, only with a lot more layers.  I was really happy with the way that this one turned out.  That is, until I did the next one…
34
“White Wine” was the second painting that I finished, and it was the piece where I had the biggest breakthrough with my digital drawing technique.  The skin was smooth and vibrant, the hair and textures were exactly what I wanted.  I moved on to the “Rose Wine”, which was just as vibrant and smooth and beautiful as “White Wine”, but when I opened “Red Wine” again, after having had such a phenomenal breakthrough, I was less than thrilled.
35
She looked like a corpse, especially next to the other two.  I brightened her skin, smoothed it out and re-painted her.  Her hair was darkened and a lot more life was given to the painting.  I was so happy to finish this project!  It turned out even better than I had imagined it would!
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“Red Wine” – by Erika Robertson – 2016 – Photoshop
rose-wine-rbg
“Rose Wine” – by Erika Robertson – 2016 – Photoshop
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“White Wine” – by Erika Robertson – 2016 – Photoshop
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“Women and Wine” Collection – by Erika Robertson – 2016 – Photoshop