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Art with Erika

the journey of an artist – painting life with purpose

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“A Witchy Afternoon – 13 Lucky Friends” – July 8, 2020

This painting was the largest most time consuming piece I have ever worked on, mostly because it was a big experimental learning process for me. I took many short videos while drawing the little details, which can be found on the highlights section of my Instagram (right under my bio HERE)

My original inspiration came from the crows, my favorite birds, who caw and fly around my apartment on the daily. I love them so much, and wanted to create a happy scene with books, tea, and animals. I also wanted to challenge myself to create a complex fairy tale environment filled with small elements and whimsical characters. Most of all, I wanted to play with dramatic light and shadows.

First sketches of "A Witchy Afternoon - 13 Lucky Friends" - created in Photoshop using a basic round brush. By Erika Robertson, Art With Erika.
First sketches of “A Witchy Afternoon – 13 Lucky Friends” – Digital Painting

The entire painting is created in Photoshop, using only a basic round brush on a blank canvas. I will post a video of a walk-through of this painting from sketch, to color, to shading and highlights, and final touches later this week. It will be available on my Instagram and Facebook pages. But for now, I will be pointing out the small intricate details and all of the “Easter eggs” in final painting!

First off, all of the characters have names…

13 lucky friends name chart - art with erika digital painting closeups of characters.
“Nice to meet you!” – Meet the crew from “A Witchy Afternoon” – each one of the 13 friends have names and a story

Let’s start from the top:

Boo-Booo: named for any and all little spiders that make their way into my apartment. All of their names are Boo-Booo. THIS Boo-Booo loves plants.

Poe: a playful crow whose best friend is Niko the cat. They like to play hide and seek.

Allen: a snarky teasing fellow who is the most outgoing of the three crows. He likes to laugh at the cats when he is just out of their reach. What a teaser!

Edgar: the oldest of the three crows, and a most serious and educated creature. He loves to look over Eliza’s shoulder and read along with her.

Pluto: named for the famous revenge-seeking black cat in Edgar Allen Poe’s short story. You can’t tell, but Pluto also has one eye. They to hide in the curtains.

Edward: an upright and pompous cat who pretty much wants nothing to do with anyone unless its on his terms. He secretly enjoys unwelcome hugs from Eliza, though he would never openly admit it.

Binx: he loves to tease the crows and run around. Named for the boy-turned-cat in Hocus Pocus, Thackery Binx.

Sesame: this is probably my favorite cat of the bunch. Sesame loves to rub its face on Eliza’s foot. You can almost see a little drool coming out of its mouth. I love black sesame seeds in ice cream and Japanese desserts! YUM!

Nori: this sleepy kitty is up all night and snuggles up in the shadows all day. She has a bad habit of keeping everyone else up during the night. MEOOOOW! Named for the delicious dried toasty seaweed, used in Japanese cuisine. YUM YUM!

Twinkie: a super sweet loaf of a cat. He likes to bask in the strong afternoon sunshine.

Periwinkle: a trouble-maker to the extreme! She likes to mess around with the lace and curtains. Eliza has almost given up on trying to stop her at this point, but the china must be saved!

Niko: a friendly and happy cat who loves to play hide and seek with Poe the Crow. Sometimes you can find him curled up and taking an afternoon nap in the cauldron.

Eliza: a tea-loving, book worm of a witch. Her great-grandmother’s enchanted silver moon earrings are her favorite pieces of jewelry, and she is rarely seen without them on.

Closeup of Eliza the Witch inspired by Kiki's Delivery Service. Art With Erika Digital Painting.
Colors and design inspired by Kiki the witch – Reference photo

Eliza was the last element that I drew. I didn’t know how I wanted to design her until everything else came together. The first sketches looked so much like the profile of my mom, and I didn’t want to steer too far away from her complexion, because it made me happy that she showed up so conveniently. (Hi mom!)

I started with lighter skin, brown eyes, black hair, and lace sleeves. A dark purple jumper with silver buttons seemed instinctively fitting. Silver is a witch-preferred metal used for its connection to the moon. When I was done drawing the outfit the colors reminded me of the title character from Hayao Miyazaki’s film “Kiki’s Delivery Service”. How ironic! Kiki is a cute little witch! All that I needed to do was add a little red bow to Eliza’s hair to make the look complete. In the movie, dark purple is a traditional color that is worn by witches. I think it’s fun how my subconscious lead me here.

Royal Albert Old Country Roses tea set closeup of painting by Art With Erika
Royal Albert Old Country Roses Tea Set – Reference Photo

The tea set on the table is one of the more traditional designs from the Royal Albert Collection, called Old Country Roses. If you are a tea-goer it is likely you have come across this pattern much more than once. All I want to do is eat the goodies on the tiered stand. Traditional afternoon tea happens around four o’clock in between lunch and dinner. It is meant as a pick me up as dinner is eaten much later in the evening in many European countries. A pot of tea is accompanied by finger sandwiches, scones with cream and preserves, and dessert. YUM YUM YUM!

Closeup details of "A Witchy Afternoon" painting - reference photo by Art With Erika
A tiny green bag from a past life – Me as Johanna in “Sweeney Todd” 2010 – Reference Photo

There is an unassuming green coin pouch hanging on the coat tree, decorated with stars, moons and glittery designs. I had received this green velvet pouch as a gift when I was little, and started to use it as my wallet around 14 years old (because Harry Potter characters did the same! haha!) I brought it with me when my family vacationed in the UK that summer, and filled it with English coins from my adventure. It sat in my room for a long time, until 2010 when I was cast as Johanna in Sweeney Todd at Sunnyvale Community Theater. It was the single most influential experience I had on stage, and I walked away having made the most beloved family and friends. This was the last time I used the little green pouch, but it was a symbol of things that were near and dear to me. It was surrounded by a lot of happiness.

Reference photo and close up of a painting by Erika Robertson Art With Erika
Hello, mom! – Reference Photo

I struggled trying to come up with things to put in the picture frame. Initially, I had frames on the wall as well, but those were replaced with a hanging plant in the final painting. I’m happy for that choice. But, I like to add little meaningful details in as many places as possible, so I decided to use my mom’s photo for the frame on the little table. I miss her so much. She passed away in August 2018, and in October of 2019, we had her Celebration of life Service in Maine. This is the picture we used for her service. It was one of her favorites, taken when she was in cosmetology school. I love you mom! ❤

Closeup details of "a witchy afternoon" by Erika Robertson, digital painting, bookshelves with witch books.
Closeup of the bookshelves for “A Witchy Afternoon – 13 Lucky Friends”

The bookshelves hold so much detail and information and I am excited to break this down with you. That being said, I am going to close out this blog post right now and leave you with the remainder of the images that break down the shelves one by one. With the exception of Eliza’s red book, EVERY SINGLE BOOK is a real book that is either about witches, for witches, or has witches/wizards in them. I have referenced and written out the titles for the most relevant and available fiction books. Most of the others are reference books for witchcraft practices (non-fiction). Maybe you’ll be able to add some of these to your reading list!

And, if you are interested in purchasing a signed art print of “A Witchy Afternoon – 13 Lucky Friends” I am offering a limited edition batch right now in my store. (Original Print/First print has been sold) I have printed a few copies so far, and the print looks FANTASTIC and even better than on the phone or a computer. The printer I use captures every little detail and is printed on a 13 by 19 inch sheet of archival paper. It is made to fit a standard 12 by 18 inch matte opening, so that you can frame it easily.

If you aren’t already, please follow me on Instagram and Facebook, and stay tuned for some exciting new artwork coming soon!

Thank you and stay healthy and safe everyone!

Practical Magic, Good Omens, and Lives of the Mayfair Witches
Practical Magic, Good Omens, and Lives of the Mayfair Witches
Witch's Bible, The Penguin Book of Witches, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Brooklyn Brujas Series
Witch’s Bible, The Penguin Book of Witches, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Brooklyn Brujas Series
The Wiccan Prayer Book, Celtic Magic, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Bone Witch Collection, Witches of East End Collection, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond
The Wiccan Prayer Book, Celtic Magic, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Bone Witch Collection, Witches of East End Collection, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Harry Potter Series, Akata Witch Collection, Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit
Harry Potter Series, Akata Witch Collection, Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit
The Crucible, The Witches of New York, The Witches of Eastwick, The Wizard of Oz Collection, The Wicked Years Collection
The Crucible, The Witches of New York, The Witches of Eastwick, The Wizard of Oz Collection, The Wicked Years Collection
All Souls Trilogy, Witch Child Collection, The Witch's Daughter Collection, and The Witch's Trinity
All Souls Trilogy, Witch Child Collection, The Witch’s Daughter Collection, and The Witch’s Trinity
Afternoon Tea Witch inspired illustration, digital painting with themes of black cats, crows, tea, and books. A Witchy Afternoon - 13 Lucky Friends by Erika Robertson with Art With Erika.
“A Witchy Afternoon – 13 Lucky Friends” – Digital Painting 2020 – 13 by 19 inches

“Happy 50th Earth Day” – April 22, 2020

Happy 50th Anniversary on this beautiful Earth Day!

She has been around so much longer than any living thing, and I am so happy to be celebrating with cleaner skies, this year. I am paying tribute to our amazing Mother Earth with this painting.

A mother cradles her children in her arms. Calm. Quiet. She grows. Flourishing green. She gives them flowers. Fresh air. They breathe with her. They try to love her in the way she has always loved them.

“Mother Earth” – Watercolor and Ink by Erika Robertson – Art With Erika

The original concept sketch came to me about a year and a half ago. I sat down to paint her this March but something held me back, so I waited. The painting was supposed to be of a woman holding only flowers. The idea for adding our blue planet and morphing her into Mother Earth came to me last week. I’m so happy with the result.

I have mini prints and 11″ by 14″ art prints available here, in my little store.

“Mother Earth” original concept sketch from Art With Erika – Erika Robertson

If you have been paying attention to the news, you have probably come across images and video of the clearing of smog and pollution in cities around the world because of the pandemic shutdown. It is astounding! I think that humanity needed a pause, and this pandemic, although horrible in many ways, is illuminating so many problems that were shoved in the back of our closets.

We already knew that we had pollution issues, but people were too worried about making green instead of preserving the green that ultimately preserves us. (Funny how Mother Earth’s trees also create that green money in our hands…) Instead of finding LARGE effective solutions, we decided to twiddle our thumbs and just live life and hope for the best. Companies and people aren’t quick to find solutions unless they can make money. Maybe if they get a swift kick in the behind they will react. I think that this pandemic is a wake up call. I hope it is.

I hope that a lot changes. (especially commuting…I am so tired of traffic, car accidents, and crumbling roads) A great deal of us live lavish lives and we don’t make any effort to understand the destructive footprints that we leave behind while walking through our daily routines. We become machines who work for machines, for a system that is failing us and failing the planet. We can do better.

But I have a sinking feeling that nothing will change. People are antsy to return to work for a paycheck (understandable), and this short pause that the whole world is taking is causing a lot of grief. Big unnecessary buildings weren’t created so that we could sit in our kitchens and work from home. That would be too reasonable. People don’t like change. Companies hate change. This reality is devastating.

Our one and only planet (and we have only one, people…we aren’t going to farm on Mars anytime soon) is trying to give us a look into another way of life. Steps in the right direction, though I prefer leaps, would be a wonderful turnaround from our toxic ways of living. But I think we are too far in, and we are too selfish to care.

I dream of a world where we walk hand in hand with nature, and we take care of her, the way we are supposed to. This doesn’t mean we have to live in the woods or in tiny houses. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to collaborate with nature as much as “other companies”.

How can you do better? Will you?

“The Codependency Dance” – November 15, 2017

Note: Narcissists and the codependents can be any gender. In a majority of cases narcissists are men who seek female codependent counterparts. For the sake of this article the narcissist will be referred to as “he” and the codependent will be referred to as “she”.  These labels are not intended to be limiting.

The world of psychology uses “the codependency dance” to describe the intimate relationship between two very broken, dysfunctional, opposing, but balanced people:  the fixer and the people-pleaser (the codependent), and the controller and taker (the narcissist) The destructive behaviors that each one has formed throughout their childhoods and into their adult lives seem to complement each other perfectly. The two of them mesh together in a seductive and dysfunctional dance where the codependent individual will give up her power and the narcissist will thrive on that control and power so that no one’s toes get stepped on.

The Dancers

Codependent individuals are enamored with the needs and desires of other people. They were groomed in their childhood to be servants and later in life they find themselves on a dance floor where they are attracted to people who are a perfect pairing for their submissive dancing style. They are natural followers, and most of them find narcissists extremely appealing because of their charm, confidence, boldness, and dominant personality.

The perfect dancing partner for a narcissist is someone who lacks self-worth, confidence, and self-esteem. A narcissist looks for a dancing partner who he can manipulate, so that he can control the dance. He looks for someone who has a warped sense of reality and codependent people fit this role perfectly.  Individuals who have grown up knowing who they are, who are confident in their capabilities, and who are strong-willed (or normally-willed) rarely stay with the narcissist long-term, because they are able to see the red flags of the narcissist’s selfish personality early on.  (ie: they don’t put up with crap, like gaslighting).

Codependent people confuse caretaking and sacrifice with true love and loyalty. They are dedicated to their partners but feel used, which makes them bitter later on.  Her hunt for love is ultimately an unconscious motivation to find someone who is “familiar”. (Familiar isn’t always good)  It stems from childhood trauma and the lack of healthy love, respect, and being cared for by adults.  She fears being alone and her compulsion to control and fix things at any cost motivates her. She is comfortable in her role as a martyr who is endlessly loving, devoted, and patient.  She dreams of dancing with somebody who loves her unconditionally.  She believes that she must sacrifice herself in order to obtain this love because it is the only way that she has ever known how to express love.

Codependency dance - RBG - square - low res 2

First Dance, Honeymoon, and Return Home

In her eyes, at first sight, the narcissist is the embodiment of Prince Charming. He woos her and caters to her every whim, makes her feel like she is the center of the universe, pours out excessive expressions of love (love bombing), and he does his best to figure out what it is she likes and what she is looking for in a mate so that he can wear that mask for her, in the beginning. 

The honeymoon phase of the relationship lasts anywhere from a handful of weeks to about six months (but for more experienced narcissists, they could keep up the act for years) and after this threshold is approached the good graces of the narcissist start to dwindle swiftly. Complements and catering to his new love have been replaced with gaslighting and correcting, and she takes the criticism because she believes that he loves her and that he knows what’s best for her. If she argues with him, he will convince her that she is wrong, and because of her weak self-esteem and trust in him, she will slowly start to adopt his mindset and become the image that he wants her to be. She holds on, hoping for things to get better, and hoping for things to go back to the way that they were before; she hopes that after a period of time her partner will finally start to understand her real needs instead of critiquing her over and over again. She doesn’t know that he doesn’t have the ability to truly empathize with people. She has been trained to withstand the pain, and to power through, like she did when she was growing up. Her whole dysfunctional life has led her up to this dysfunctional relationship and she executes it beautifully.

In a sense, the narcissist is never completely whole without a partner to dote over his every need. As she is compulsively corrected by him, she starts to become a memory of herself for the sake of him, their relationship, and for her own survival. Any deviation from his plan is met with aggression and sometimes violence. His partner, always seeking the love that he had given her at the start, is forever confused. She doesn’t know what is false or what is true anymore. She will believe cunning lies that come from his lips, because he is a master gaslighter who is able to whip up verbally abusive concoctions that cause her to believe that she ‘needs to be corrected’.  The narcissist will isolate her, and start to cut her off from the rest of the world, including her own friends and family. She will become completely dependent upon him for every need, and she clings to him for safety.

Her gauge of reality is so warped that she wouldn’t even know what to do without him because she has completely lost herself and her ability to make decisions without his direction. She doesn’t want to make him angry by moving in any direction other than what he has designated for her. She will adopt the image of the type of woman he is attracted to, she will eat like him, she will absorb his political and religious beliefs, she will consult him on what she should wear, how she should talk, what job she should take, what she should and shouldn’t approve of, what friends she should have, what family members she can’t be around, how she should be in the bedroom, and how their home should look. She becomes a tool for him to use, so that he can create an environment for which he can impress people, not an environment where she will feel comfortable.

 

Codependency dance - RBG - square - low res 1

The Breakup

Narcissists are rarely faithful to their partners. If the relationship does not end with the narcissist cheating on her, and leaving her, it usually ends when she starts to discover her real self, and when she starts to find her own independence.  He needs to be with somebody who obeys him at all times.  Unfortunately most codependent people are deep into a dysfunctional relationship when their eyes start to open. She fell in love with an image all those years ago, but that image that he presented to her was not a real person. During a break up, and throughout her relationship with him, she mourns the loss of this image. She confuses the image with the abusive person.  The breakup will be a vicious battle between the functioning, healthy, and newfound realizations of her personality and the manipulation and tyranny of the narcissist. When a breakup finally happens, the narcissist will never provide closure and draws out the breakup as much as possible.  Stalking is not uncommon, and could continue for many years down the road.  Most narcissists like to keep tabs on their former partners.

Codependent individuals desire balance and harmony, but they typically fall for people based on initial attraction, and unfortunately this initial attraction is most prominent with narcissists because of their charm and boldness. If she finds herself without a partner to dance with, she doesn’t wait for somebody who is healthy, but she jumps into another dance, usually with the same type of person. Loneliness is too much for her to bear. She will continue dating the same type of person over and over again, and endure the same kind of abuse, until she realizes that she is a broken person and that she needs to fix herself. Until she learns that she is the root of all of her own problems, that she is the one who chooses abusive partners because of her own brokenness, and until she heals herself, she will keep on dancing the same dysfunctional dance.  The cycle continues until it is broken (and it usually continues for decades, through generations of family members).

His Crap and My Choice

This codependent woman was me.  As I said before, I grew up in an extremely abusive home, and the adults in my family did a fantastic job at raising me to be an excellent codependent woman.  They taught me the turns, the dips, and the footwork, so that when I became a young adult and ventured into the dating world, I would know how to dance with narcissists.  I would be lying if I said that I never enjoyed the thrill of each one of them in the beginning.  Each one was a ‘love-bombing’ prince and I was a lonely princess.

Not all of the men that I have dated have been narcissistic. I have dated a number of young men who have been absolutely pleasant, wonderful, and kind.  They were people who I took for granted because of my own brokenness.  I didn’t know how to love with proper boundaries and I still feel guilty for the pain that I had caused.  For that, I am sorry.

As for the three who were narcissistic, I don’t feel guilt except for the damage I did to myself.  I can’t feel guilty for men who had knowingly abused me and “debated with me” about the justifications for their actions.  I have been manipulated, I have been brainwashed, I have been made to feel like the scum of the earth, I have been the punching bag for their failings, I have been hit, I have been sexually assaulted, I have been verbally abused, and I have been mentally abused.

Sometimes, people are dealt crappy cards.  Crappy things happen to awesome people.  No one can control everything that happens to them, but, each of us has control over HOW WE REACT to the crap that is thrown at our feet.  We can either choose to step in it, or we can choose to walk away. 

Two years ago, a familiar pile of abusive crap was thrown at my feet.  I was tired of the same dysfunctional patterns, but I didn’t know why they were happening to me.  I was angry with my unhappiness and empty romantic relationships.  I confided in my friends who turned around and told me that I was my own problem.  THAT made me angry, but they were right.  I realized that I had dated a string of abusive people, but that I was also in control of my own narrative, and that because I was in control that it was my fault for making the choice to step in the crap in the first place.

So, I took a good, long, glaring look at that smelly, steaming piece of rancid crap at my feet.  Then I mustered up the courage to look up into his proud ‘know-it-all’ face.  And for the first time in my life, I made the choice to walk away from the abuse.

The first step to recovery is realizing that there is a problem…

But, breaking up with a narcissist is not something that you just do, either…

Codependency dance - RBG - high res
“The Codependency Dance” – 2017 – Digital Sketch – Photoshop – Erika Robertson

“The Narcissist’s Family” – November 13, 2017

Note: This article uses male gender pronouns for “the narcissist”.  Both men and women can be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but it is more common in men. To read more about NDP click here. 

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a parasitical disease that affects those especially close to the narcissist.  His uses his suave and charming personality mixed with cunning manipulation in order to move around pawns in a game whose only objective is to glorify himself, the gamekeeper.  There are small moments when the narcissist’s mask falls off around friends, acquaintances, and family, usually in a spurt of anger or debate where personal offense has been taken.  But generally speaking, the only people who will see the real narcissist without a mask will be those who are a part of his innermost circle.

Who is in this innermost circle?  They are the people who he believes that he owns (this ownership can be conscious or subconscious).  His roommates and close friends rarely come close enough to experience consistent abuse because he can separate himself and take breaks from his act.  But long-term lovers, spouses, and children become the most valued pieces in his collection because he sees each one of them, especially his children, as an extension of himself.  He interacts with them frequently.

In a healthy household, parents will raise their children to become confident, independent, and healthy adults.  No household and no parent is perfect, but healthy children develop a balanced sense of self and their relationships evolve with the adult figures in their life.  This is not the case with a narcissist’s family.

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A narcissist’s only mission in life is to paint a grandiose representation of himself to the world.  And because the narcissist sees his spouse and his children as an extension of himself he trains them and uses them as a status symbol beneath the guise of a loving and caring family.  The most important thing to a narcissist is to maintain the image of success.  If you are part of his family you will be given a role to play and it will be your responsibility to act your heart out in public. There are only two rules in the house of a narcissist’s family:

  1.  the narcissist needs to always come first
  2. the image of the narcissist and his family must never be limited by the needs of the spouse and their children

Every spouse and child is assigned a role by the narcissist himself.  These roles include the golden child, the scapegoat, and the invisible child.  Over a period of time the children adopt secondary roles that include the hero/responsible child, the caretaker/placater, the mascot/clown, and the mastermind/manipulator.  Children may end up adopting one or more of these roles, and roles can switch multiple times over the course of one’s life, depending upon how the narcissist feels and how he measures that child against the others. He also weighs them with consideration to personal goals at any given moment.

The bottom line is that a narcissist would rather gloat about himself to try to impress a stranger rather than be loved by his own family.  All the while, his children, forever starving for love, bend over backwards to try to scrounge for breadcrumbs of his approval.  In public they wear the happy masks that he has made for each one of them.  

The Roles Cast by the Narcissist

the narcissist's family - RBG square low res 1

The Enablerthis role is usually played by the spouse (or a daughter). She does the narcissist’s bidding and plays nice in order to gain approval from the narcissist.  She orbits around when she is not helping him. Her life revolves around fulfilling every need of the narcissist. This is a role typically filled by a codependent individual, who grew up in an abusive home, and whose sense of self revolved around giving up herself in order to win love and favor from people around her. There are many cases where a codependent spouse realizes the error of his or her ways after being married to a narcissist for so many years. She comes to a breaking point and realizes the damage that has been done to the children because of her own irresponsibility and her own brokenness. But when that moment of realization hits, she can do nothing but sit back and watch her damaged children perform for her abusive spouse; she can only hope that her children will discover their own brokenness much earlier than she had.

the narcissist's family - RBG square low res 2

The Golden Child she is assigned her role according to her gifts and talents. This role could be set aside for the first or second child but as the narcissist’s children are born, or as his children leave the household, the role can shift to other children. This child is given special treatment and the narcissist seems to value this child the most. He will train this child so that she can act out the perfect masquerade of his perfect parenting. Most of the time the child will become a clone of the narcissist, adopting his beliefs, habits, and if this child stays in this role for their entire adolescence, it is likely that this child will also become a narcissist. But if the role ever shifts and the golden child is “demoted” (even if she is tossed in and out of the role) it is likely that the child will develop codependency, instead. Because the narcissist and the enabler put this child on a pedestal they also form a different bond with her than with the rest of the children.  Her siblings become jealous of the special treatment that she has been given, but in the long run this could be the most damaging role among the children. It will be harder for her, as an adult, to separate herself and find her true self apart from her parents. She becomes an extension of their relationship and the most puppet-like of the children.   Unless she is able to acknowledge the abuse and heal from it she will keep running in unfulfilled abusive circles, searching for love and fulfillment, but always falling short.

The Scapegoatthis child is the one who can do nothing right. They are labeled a “bad seed” and tend to be the most outspoken of the children with a “look at me” persona. The narcissist will use this child as a punching bag, and they will be the recipient of the most abuse among the children. The scapegoat and the golden child seem to be at odds with each other most of the time. The children understand that the narcissist’s affections are given ‘freely’ to the top performing child, so the scapegoat tries to dethrone the golden child in order to win the love and affection of the narcissist, unaware of the toxicity of the coveted role.  The scapegoat is most likely to develop a sense of self and awareness, but it will be damaged. They will probably be successful and independent later on in life, driven by a need to succeed and to prove themselves worthy of love, but they will still need to address the childhood trauma that went on in their household in order to heal from the abuse.

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The Lost Child/Invisible Childhe receives no praise and no blame from the narcissist. In the narcissist’s eyes, there is “no use” for him.  The lost child becomes very independent, isolated, and lonely. A lot of the time they do become self-sufficient but they fall prey to emotions of unworthiness and they constantly feel unloved throughout their lifetimes. These children are most likely to develop depression or substance abuse addictions.

The Secondary Roles Taken by the Children

The Hero/Responsible Child – most of the time this is the older sibling, but not always.  This child takes on a perfectionist nature at a very young age and develops a “responsible parent” role.  She is a true mask of a narcissistic family. She suppresses her emotions until she cannot feel them at all, she is extremely insecure, and she drives herself compulsively from one achievement to the next.

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The Caretaker/Placater – she is the emotional rescuer of the family. She manages and shuffles around the ever changing moods of the family by listening, supporting, nurturing, and counseling. She is a very sensitive creature, calm, and understanding in nature. Although she tries to fix everyone around her, she seeks no emotional support for herself. She doesn’t know how to take care of herself, she only knows how to focus on everyone else. She is a people pleaser. Her self-worth is defined by what she can do for others. She gives love but she doesn’t know how to receive it back. She is only comfortable giving she is not comfortable receiving and as a result she will push away love. As she grows into adulthood she finds that her job is to fix and save people from themselves. She turns into a ‘grade A’ codependent person, whose relationships become one-sided, toxic, and abusive. She becomes a doormat for people and will usually choose a career in the caring profession.

The Mascot/Clown – this role is usually adopted by the youngest member of the family. He is responsible for the emotional well-being of the family but through the use of humor as opposed to care taking. He puts on a comedy show to divert the pain in the family. He is usually a happy-go-lucky person and a very likable individual who can make others laugh but who finds it difficult to make himself genuinely happy.  He will usually suffer from depression. Because he is constantly putting on a show he doesn’t really develop any sense of authentic self and he struggles with feelings of emptiness and loneliness.

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The Mastermind/Manipulator – he is sinister, selfish, and abusive. Paired with the golden child the role, the mastermind and manipulator will turn into a narcissist. He is driven by entitlement and coerces people through manipulation.  He is sneaky enough to operate just below the radar and he uses the dysfunction and the rest of the family to his own benefit. He intentionally creates conflict among family members to get what he needs and what he wants. He knows how to put on the charms and can manipulate even the adults in the family. He can also take on the quality of a sinister jokester, echoing the words “What’s the matter? Can’t you take a joke?”

“The Narcissist’s Family”

My piece is called “The Narcissist’s Family” and it was important to me to try to capture the feeling of being a game piece in a narcissistic family unit.  Children will grow up not being able to measure feelings in a healthy manner, or they develop a numb persona.  Sadness and depression will develop later when they are aware enough to piece the abusive puzzle together.  The golden child is brought into the limelight alongside the narcissist, with help from the enabler whose eyes are finally starting to see the truth of her lifestyle and her role in the abuse.  She wonders if it is too late.  She wonders what will happen to her children and to herself.  She wonders if there is any hope for healing and happiness.  The rest of her children will shuffle around in the shadows and wait for the beckoning calls of the game-keeper narcissist that shift at a moment’s notice.  As long as his family plays each part perfectly they will be okay.  They just need to avoid any action or phrase that will tarnish the image that he works so hard to maintain.  

It is rare for a narcissist to raise another narcissist. There have been theories that have been thrown around about narcissists breeding people who are equally as abusive, but studies show that if you have been raised by narcissist you’re much more likely to develop codependency. A narcissist’s upbringing is centered on the idea of selfishness, and in his adult life he will search for people to aide him in building his grandiose pedestal.  A codependent’s upbringing is centered on the idea selflessness, and in her adult life she will search for people to pour out her love to, in hopes that she will be loved in return with that same sacrifice that she so foolishly gives.  When the two get together, it seems like a perfect partnership at first glance.  To onlookers they are glorious, beautiful, and perfectly balanced.  But, when one partner only gives and the other only takes, the fairytale love story falls into the cauldron and transforms into a poisonous apple…

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“The Narcissist’s Family” – 2017 – Digital Drawing – Photoshop – Erika Robertson

“The Codependent” – November 9, 2017

My newest piece is called “The Codependent” and it is my interpretation of the feeling of the destructive mindset that I had developed in my childhood.  My codependency reached its peak when I turned twenty and it continued along a steady path for ten years.  It is the reason why I didn’t draw or paint for over a decade.  It is the reason why I had jumped from one abusive relationship to the next.  It is the reason why so many people had seen me dive into one career and then turn around to venture into another.

What is codependency?  In a nutshell, it is the unhealthy reaction to the fear of not being loved.  Those of us who grew up in an abusive household (a parent with substance abuse, verbally abusive adults, neglectful ‘role models’) find ways to cope with the trauma and form unhealthy reactions and habits based on that abuse that help us during that moment, but the habits follow us into adulthood.  Many of us become caretakers for irresponsible adults (you would be surprised at how many nurses and psychologists are codependent). Or we become people-pleasers who try to win the love of parents through accomplishment, or we try to find ways to help or fix people in our circle who are struggling with their own battles.  But codependent people aren’t able to find a healthy balance between living for themselves and living for others and they end up developing an unhealthy relationship pattern.

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“The Codependent” – 18″ by 12″ – Digital Drawing – Photoshop – Erika Robertson

 

What was codependency for me?  I grew up in a very abusive home, and for me codependency was trying to reach perfection in order to win approval and ultimately love from the adults in my life.  In my mind, if I didn’t do everything perfectly, if anything was lacking, then they would love me less.  My young mind fed off of the comments and opinions of adults in my life as I searched to fill an impossible void.  Because I wanted to feel that I was enough, it became hard for me to say “no” to anyone even when I was uncomfortable, which would later become a huge problem when I started dating.  I learned to discard myself in order to blend in with them and please them (FYI it doesn’t work).  Their thoughts and opinions became mine and I sought out their approval for even the smallest choices even when it came to choosing a place to eat dinner – it sounds ridiculous but it is the truth – I didn’t want to do anything that would make them feel that I was ‘wrong’ or ‘less’.  It was a life that felt like a never-ending feeble walk on a trail of broken glass.

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What we learn in childhood follows us into adulthood and each unhealthy pattern of affection starts with a single horrible life-changing event (I can trace most of my unhealthy habits back to a single incident from my youth). When it came to romantic relationships (any relationships, let’s be honest), I couldn’t set boundaries for myself,  I didn’t know how to express what I wanted because I didn’t even know what I wanted to begin with, because what I wanted was whatever THEY wanted.  When making ANY choice one question came to mind “Will so-and-so like this?”  In essence, I became whoever I thought my significant other wanted me to be, because that is what I did with my family, for fear of rejection.

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Many codependents take on “giving” careers, and they are typically very nice and likable people, but they can be control freaks.  If things are out of place they freak out, or if people aren’t doing what THEY want, they freak out.  They are amazing planners, but burn themselves out because of a lack of trust for other people.  They are guarded but at the same time might be lenient with boundaries in other respects.  (For me, I was guarded socially, but lenient romantically).  They have a hard time saying NO to people and if they do they feel guilty.  They take on work-loads that might be too much for them to handle because they are subconsciously seeking fulfillment in the form of love and appreciation from their peers.  They worry about hurting other people’s feelings, at the expense of their own.  They are givers in relationships, sometimes to the point where they lose themselves (because they can’t say NO).  They are also controlling in their relationships because they feel that “if people just did what I wanted, then they would be happy and I would be happy, too.”  They can be manipulators who just want what is best for others, but who intrude in order to feel accomplished, to win love, or to keep themselves safe from harm.

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For me, codependency felt like I was putting on a show.  I felt like I was forcing myself to smile or to be the person who I thought everyone else wanted me to be.  I tried to control the way people thought about me.  I tried to convince people that I was good enough to love by turning myself into what I thought they wanted.  I thought that they tied strings to me and that they had been pulling at me when in fact it was me who had tied strings to them, and it was me who was vying for their love.  I didn’t know that I was in control of my own life, that these choices that I made were MY choices and not theirs.  I was the one controlling the strings all along and that this was my show played out for me…not for them.  (Though, some abusers would have you believe otherwise…)

It is hard for many codependents to release themselves from the “victim mentality” and take a look in the mirror to see that the root to all of their problems with intimacy, love, and personal fulfillment lies within their own reactions to the people around them.  It is hard to come to terms with the idea that your life is horrible because of you, and no one else.  Horrible things happen to good people, yes, but it is our reactions to those events that define who we are, not the event itself.  When I was being abused I went back for more, thinking that things would change, and that decision to go back and ‘fix things’ was my choice.  ‘Fixing myself’ was my choice.  There would be people who continued being abusive, but how I reacted to the abusive people in my life was my choice.

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Two years ago I pinpointed that I was codependent.  It took a year for me to get through a 12 step recovery program, and it was the most painful transition of my life, but it finally set the stones for me to travel down a clear road.  The last year of my life has been filled with so many challenges, breakdowns, discoveries, and so much healing, and I know that I am better for all of it.  For the first time in my life I have set healthy boundaries, and I have started to discover who I am.  I have started to state my truths instead of allowing people to walk on me and make decisions for me.  I have started to care less about people’s opinions and have started paving my own road.  I have come a long way, and feel that the worst is behind me because I can see clearly now that the fog has lifted.  I will always have more to learn but my mind has been re-wired and I feel that life is so much simpler and happier without the baggage.

Art has been the most difficult outlet for me to re-wire because my mind automatically asks “what would be popular and what would everyone else like me to draw?  Will people like this?” as if it will gain the favor of people.  It won’t. Most of what I had created in the last thirteen years had been because of my insecurities about the opinions of the abusers around me.  I hadn’t been able to pick up a pencil for ten years for fear of rejection and fear of a lack of perfection.  I didn’t even know what I wanted to create, anyways because everything I did was to make others happy at the expense of myself.  I think about it and become a little sad because I wasted ten years of my life, but at the same time anything that I would have created wouldn’t have been from me and for me, anyways.  And as an artist what is the point in creating if you can’t even stand by your own work with the confidence that it is a reflection of yourself?

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Someone told me recently “you should just draw what you want to draw” but it is easier said than done for me.  Every project is a personal challenge, but as I sit down and discard perfectionism, fear of rejection, and doubts, I start to discover myself for the first time in my life.  It’s uncomfortable, but it’s getting better.  I feel that I am at a stable enough place to start sharing my journey.  It starts with my codependency, but it is made into a new kind of more powerful poison when mixed with a special type of parasitic abuser.

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“The Codependent” – Digital Drawing – Photoshop – Erika Robertson

“Inktober Slideshow” – November 4, 2017

Here’s a 1 minute slideshow of days 1 to 31 of Inktober.  One drawing a day, 31 days, Halloween and horror themed, black and white awesomeness.  If you want to read more about each drawing you can take a look at the Inktober post from a few days ago.  Thank you so much for following me on my creative journey, and have a nightmare-filled weekend!

– sweet dreams-

“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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“Semicolon” By Erika Robertson – Digital Painting – Photoshop – 2017 – (Female without text)

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

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“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.

15
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.

24
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.

25
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.

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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A crown of roses and lavender circle her head….but they are a little bit too large….

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…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.

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“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.

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Detail

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“Angelica” – By Erika Robertson – Digital Painting – 2017 – Photoshop

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