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Art with Erika

the journey of an artist – painting life with purpose

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erika alicia robertson

“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!

“Women and Wine Collection” – January 25, 2017

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!

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The first speed sketch (estimated sketch time: 15 seconds – if you’re curious, haha!)
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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…
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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.
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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.
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The first breakthrough for “Red Wine”.  This pose would stay relevant for the remainder of the project.
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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.
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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…
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.  
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The first digital sketch of “Red Wine”
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Adding more details
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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!
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Here are the final base outlines.  You can see why I got rid of the background….Everything gets lost in everything.  YUCK!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.  
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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.  
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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!
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The final outlines for “Red Wine”
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The final outlines for “White Wine”
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The final outlines for “Rose Wine”
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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……………..
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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!!!!
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“This just doesn’t look like it is going to be going in the right direction…hmmmmmm…….???  Something isn’t right.”
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“Dang it…this is so frustrating…frickin a…”
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“What am I going to do, now?”
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“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…”
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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…
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“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.
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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
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“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

“Healing” – January 22, 2017

A dear friend of mine reached out to me recently, in light of some hardships that she was dealing with in regards to her health.  She asked me if I would be able to draw her the concept of “healing”.  With her humble permission, she allowed me to post a step-by-step process of this painting.

I hope that this picture brings you joy and lifts your spirits, Tori.  I hope that you ask for help when you need it, that you will allow others to love you, and that you will also take the time to love and take care of yourself as much as you love and take care of others.  Trust in God. May he lift you up and comfort you; may he free you from worry and give you peace.  I hope that you get well, very soon.  

                                                                                  Love Your Friend,  Erika

The following is a Photoshop tutorial, using a twist on a new layering technique that I stumbled upon at the end of last year.  I hope you enjoy it.  Thank you for visiting, everyone.  And thank you again, Tori, for your permission to post.

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Sketching the rough outline.  I always start with a light blue brush and sketch out a few layouts and concepts.  This is a very organic process, but once I figure out the general layout, I need to get the lines as proportionate as possible.  This is probably the most important step, because if your drawing is “off” in the beginning, it will be very tough to fix, later on.
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I add a light wash to her skin and change the color of the outlines to match the wash.
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This is a rough hair placement.
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Her beautiful hair needed to be trimmed back, so that it didn’t distract from the balance of the whole portrait.  There will be a sense of “energy” coming from the palms of her hands, so I wanted her hair to react to that source instead of being scattered about the whole frame.
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I add in a background base and shadows.  I chose purple, with highlights of red and blue, to bring out the yellow and orange tones of her hair.  I want the background to be very dark and I want this piece to have a lot of contrast because…
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…I am going to add a focal point of blue-ish light in her hands to represent healing, calm, strength, and peace.  I am testing the color combinations to see if they balance, before proceeding with the drawing.  I also see if this is the exact concept that I want to move forward with.  I need to make sure the elements sit well, together, and sometimes testing is a good thing.
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I take away the blue highlights, so that I can fill in her hair to test its truer color against the background.
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I start to add skin tones and shading.
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Deeper shades and highlights are layered on each other, and facial details are added.
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The pastel strokes are smoothed out.  But, her skin is a little too pink…I need to fix it.  Her hair also needs to be brightened.
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An eraser is used to trim around her hair and body.  Skin and hair colors are balanced out and a lot of pink is taken away.
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The orange vibrancy of her hair is bumped up just a little to give more contrast against the purple/blue background.
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Hair strands are drawn and scattered about.  Texture is added to her hair to give a little more depth.
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A drastic last minute change put most of this piece in the shadows.  Because a lot of “light” is going to be added, at the end, having the darkness will create an intense dramatic effect.  I love that a sense of mystery is brought out in this step, also.  This will also bring the attention to her face and the light, first, as opposed to her figure.
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The light is added to her palms and engulfs her body and hair.
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More shadows, details, and depth are added before the final magical touches.  I love the rainbow of colors that appeared within her hair.  It was unexpected, but so beautiful!  Happy accidents, right, Bob Ross?
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I start with the darkest shade of color that was used in the focal light, which was light blue, and scatter magical dots all around her.  I make sure that the flow is balanced and feels right to me before adding the next layer of magic and healing.
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An off-white is used to highlight the magical pathways even more.  The off-white is still very bright next to the dark colors, but can be brought out just a little more…
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The foreground “magic” is highlighted with an opaque pure white brush, to add extra depth and pop against the purple background.  “Healing” – digital painting – Photoshop.  By Erika Robertson – 2017 – For Tori

“3 Day Novel Challenge” – September 7, 2016

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The best things are worth the wait…

Over Labor Day weekend writers from all over the world, published and unpublished, participate in one of the most heartfelt, stressful, and ambitious writing competitions of their lives:  the 3 Day Novel challenge.  With only an optional outline and character backgrounds, to shield and protect themselves, they walk out to the battlefield with the hope that they will return on Monday evening with the remains of a one hundred page novel.  It would be messy. It would be bloody.  It would have so many typos that the thought of having someone read it…—-shudder.  Who, in their right mind, would participate in such a self-mutilating, time sucking, caffeine-fueled weekend of torture? Yours truly, of course! (Those who know me shouldn’t expect anything less, by now.)

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Filling in the blanks between the disasters
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The outline is complete, with detailed notes to reference via laptop on the side.  YES!

Preparing for the weekend was a little more involved than I thought it would be. For three weeks, I worked on creating the outline for the book based on the characters that I had come to know. The four days leading up to the competition would consist of plotting out my characters’ stories, page for page; I filled in little details, scenes, and kept track of the change in mood within each scene – there was a beautiful flow.  I displayed it on a massive cork board with index cards and pushpins, so that I could see the overall flow of the book. By the end of the holiday weekend, I would have a one hundred and ten page manuscript!  – At least, that is what I thought…

I stocked up on food, so that I wouldn’t have to leave the house.  Every minute counted, and wasted time at the grocery store or the nearest fast food joint, held the risk of ‘the loss of inspiration and flow’. I put away my phone, turned on the computer, and sat down to write on Saturday morning.

I had been waiting for this moment the better part of twenty years.

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I was too young to understand everything in the books, at the time, but I still read them…

My nose was always in a book when I was little. I was nine years old when I picked up Jurassic Park; after that it was The Lost World, and after that I would read The Andromeda Strain – all by Michael Crichton.  Reading made me want to write.

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The infamous “School Wars”
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Flashback to the 90’s!

When I was ten, Star Wars made its second appearance in the movie theater, and I wrote my first memorable book, School Wars.  It starred my classmates, and featured our teacher, Mrs. Kilbourn, as the tyrannical Gail Vador.  It was so popular that the summer school drama class asked me to rewrite it as a play and we performed it on stage.  It was my first taste of writing, and I loved it.

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The dedication and the opening sequence for “School Wars”
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My classmates – many are featured characters
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The stars of “School Wars” – brings back so many memories…

In seventh grade I tried to write my first novel, and failed. I was too young but that did not stop me from trying.  I still have the notes for each one of my friends who I turned into characters.  There was a lot of heavy influence from “The Outsiders”.  (S.E. Hinton was my favorite author at the time.)

In high school, I picked up my pen and paper, again. My English teacher was the one who mentioned that I had a lot of promise.  She loved my poetry and my short stories.  But, like all young writers, I lacked life experience and understanding. I hated hearing that it was too soon for me to write, because I wasn’t old enough, because I wasn’t seasoned enough. I wanted to prove her wrong. I was apparently accepted into a writing program (I found the letters, in the binder holding the research notes for my novel – I forgot all about it, until I stumbled upon them, yesterday) but I never followed through and I never even started writing anything – always stuck at writers’ block.  I knew that I had to put away my pride and accept the fact that I wouldn’t be able to write until I was older. I hated that stupid block SO MUCH!

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The notes from my fantasy novel – based in Ireland – I believe that I was 14 years old

When I was twenty, all of the extra-curricular activities I signed up for revolved around poetry, creative writing, and essays. One of our assignments was to write a scene, an excerpt from a book. We were required to share it with the rest of the class, and I got a lot of positive feedback and a lot of notes. I talked to my teacher after class one day to ask for her honest opinion about my writing. She said that the writing was pretty good, but that the characters were muddled and confusing.  She encouraged me to keep going, but told me that there was a reason why so many writers were older: they had more experience with life. They understood life just a little better. They understood people a lot better than a twenty-year-old did. At the time, I thought my writing was good. But, I listened to her words and took a hiatus from writing.  I would know when it was time…

The next decade of my life was consumed by my own personal development: acting and psychology, the art of understanding people, and the start of understanding myself and the people surrounding me.  My intuition and observation had always been prominent, but diving into myself had been the most difficult battle of my life.  When I was twenty-nine, I had a huge breakthrough, and it was at twenty-nine that I revisited my twenty-year-old self and re-read what I had written in that college classroom.

It was shit.

It was the smelliest of shits.  I couldn’t believe how shitty it was.  I closed the pages of the folder, and sat on my bed. I started to laugh. It was a horrible piece of literature. But, the fact that I could identify that it was a horrible piece of shit, and that I could break down the reasons why it was a horrible piece of shit, made me realize that I could be ready to start writing.  After twenty years in limbo, I was ready.

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The outline, broken down by page number, in all its theoretical glory

Fast forward to Labor Day weekend, 2016:

It is 8:30pm, on the evening of day two of the three day challenge.  I stare at the cork board, plastered with the pristine outline of my 110 page novel.  I look down at my laptop screen:  page 31.

It’s beautiful. Its margins are perfect, the whiteness of the double spaced ripples glisten over my eyes. It is page 31…but I’m only on page 12 of my outline.  Page 12.  Page 12 of 110.

It was 8:32pm, when I decided to concede.

I walked downstairs to the freezer, grabbed my pint of ice cream and a spoon, and turned on the next episode of Breaking Bad – season 2, episode 4 – what a kick ass show.

I learned a lot about myself on Labor Day weekend:

I found out that I am a slow, but articulate, writer.

I found out that I pay attention to what my characters are telling me, which tells me that I’m heading in the right direction. (The moment you start trying to force your characters into situations instead of letting them lead you is the moment that you shoot yourself in the foot.)

I found out that if I decide to do this competition again next year that I will need to tell a much simpler story.

I found out that it takes much more than half a page to describe a scene. It takes at least one and a half, which turns my one hundred and ten page novel into a three hundred page novel. But I’m okay with that.

The most important thing I found out was that I do, in fact, love writing. Art has been an active part of my life for as long as I can remember.  I have been waiting to write for almost as long as I can remember. It doesn’t matter if anyone ever reads what I write. It doesn’t matter if I get published. It doesn’t matter if I submit my manuscript to anyone.  It doesn’t even matter if anyone knows that this is what I like to do.  All that matters is that I am enjoying this. I am cherishing the journey with each one of my characters, and thank God I didn’t sacrifice the quality of my characters, or my writing, so that I could bust out this novel in three days!  This is so much more fun than I could have imagined.  It has been worth the wait.

‘Til next time!

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“Just Keep Painting” – July 29, 2016

Without a solid plan, without a sketch to paper, I broke out my paintbrushes to experiment with a few different abstract techniques. I am still trying to discover my flavor as an artist in the abstract realm.

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The artwork basking in the sunshine

Anything can be used to apply paint to a canvas. It can be a blessing that glorifies your painting or some huge mistake that ruins your work. Using unconventional tools isn’t a rule made specific for abstract art; it can be used throughout every style of art and painting.

I didn’t get too crazy this time around, but I did use my hands as the primary tool for most of the following paintings. Utilizing traditional techniques helps create a solid branch to stand on when experimenting with new techniques.

Imagination can be an artist’s greatest weapon, but sometimes your hands don’t always do what your brain tells them to do…

There were a couple of paintings in this group that started out with a different end result in mind. They didn’t look ANYTHING like what I had imagined, but when I started to make mistakes, I kept going, I kept adding, and the results were so much more entertaining than what I had started with. Sometimes, making mistakes is a good thing. Sometimes, when you are trying to execute a solid idea, and it doesn’t come out right, and that is okay! Just paint over the canvas and start from scratch. This happened for me a few weeks ago, when I painted Envy, in the Seven Deadly Sins collection. Sometimes, you just want to keep going to see what will happen. Regardless of what happens, the artist should always keep these things in mind when diving into abstract art: balance, color coordination, and purposeful execution.

I NEED TO ASK A FAVOR FROM ALL OF YOU: Let me know what grabs your attention. Let me know what colors you like/hate, and give suggestions for alternative colors, if you want. Any and all feedback is appreciated, so much! I have a thick skin, so if you hate it, tell me. If you love it, tell me. If you think it is “just alright”, tell me. I don’t take it personal. Art is subjective, anyways.

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24″ x 36″ – Acrylic on Canvas
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11″ x 14″ – Acrylic on Canvas
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18″ x 14″ – Acrylic on Canvas

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12″ x 9″ – Acrylic and Mixed Media on Canvas

 

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30″ x 40″ – Acrylic on Canvas

‘Til next time!

“Lizzie” – July 20, 2016

My sister-in-law, Lizzie, asked me to paint something for her that was “Big!” and “Gold and Black!” and she wanted “Glitter!”  In my last collection “The Seven Deadly Sins” there was one painting that many people gravitated toward and that was “Greed”.  Lizzie wanted something that looked like “Greed” but without the yellow and white.  She just wanted gold…and glitter.

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Nes anticipating everything…2011
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Cabaret set painting, with Nes – 2011

I am not unfamiliar with large painting projects.  In 2011, my dear friend, Nes, and I were commissioned to paint the set of “Cabaret”, which was made up of many gargantuan rolling set pieces.  They were more like walls on wheels.

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Detail work for some “small” set pieces – Cabaret 2011

It was quite fabulous playing around with perspective and house paints.  Nes owns his own photography company, Fragoso Photography, in the San Jose Bay Area.  (You should really check out his work!  He does head shots, special events, holidays, and even product shots!  He is excellent!) 

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All the glitter!
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You can never have too many paint brushes!  (This is a fact…)

 

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The work space, in all its glory.

The canvas that Lizzie picked out was the largest one I had on hand, at 40 inches by 60 inches.  I prepped it with black gesso.

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“Lizzie” – 40″ x 60″- Acrylic and Mixed Media on Canvas – July 19, 2016

Here is the finished painting!  “Lizzie”.  What looks like black paint on the canvas, in the complete composition, is actually very dark purple.  Using subtle hints of complimentary colors works very well in this type of artwork.  It isn’t something that most people would be able to see, but if I had used flat black and just gold, the painting would have looked like it was missing something.

Small details bring a lot of character to artwork!  Remember, it is all about the little things!

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Detail shot of a portion of the bottom of “Lizzie” – tons of speckles in between a little bit of glitter
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Detail shot of a portion of the top of “Lizzie” – more subtle speckles and some glitter!

When looking at this composition straight on, you can’t really see the small speckles of different shades of gold paint.  The glitter almost hides the “speckle” effect.

I was a little hesitant to add the glitter.  I was afraid that it would take away from the natural speckle effect of the painting, and a part of me still feels that way, but the glitter is a very fun effect.  I might try it out with some other pieces in the future.

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One more “painting” shirt to add to the collection!

With speckling comes a mess, and another ruined shirt, but it is welcome!  Sometimes artwork can be messy, which is why it should be done outside.  The natural light that you get from being outside in the sun (not direct sunlight, but overcast light or in the shade of a tree) really helps with color blending and the color choices that you make.  There are light bulbs that you can purchase that help with indoor painting.  But, many lights have a yellow tinge, or aren’t strong enough to project enough light throughout the room to reflect the true colors that you are painting with.  So, if you are picky about colors, make sure your work space is flooded with enough natural light…or just go outside and enjoy the air!

7
“Greed” and “Lizzie”

A week ago, I was convinced that my “Seven Deadly Sins” collection was painted on fairly large canvases that measured 24 inches by 36 inches.  They were large, but the canvas that I used for “Lizzie” was HUGE!  It really put size into perspective.  I found out that I really like painting abstract art on a grand scale.  Truly, it makes me want to re-paint the “Seven Deadly Sins” collection on these large canvases so that they engulf the viewer.  I’ll think about it…

8
I could barely fit this canvas in my car!  How am I going to transport anything larger than this?!

I am about 5 feet 9 inches tall.  Here I am standing next to this monster!  And I feel like it should be even bigger!

Ody thinks so too…

12
Contemplation…look at that intense focus…
11
His eyes match the painting so well!  Good job being the epic cat that you are, Odysseus.
9
DO THE ART!!!!

‘Til next time!

“Abstract Art: Part 2” – July 17, 2016

The Seven Deadly Sins ALL PAINTINGS

***The titles for the collection and each painting are listed below.  The end of this article also contains “behind the scenes” photographs.  Enjoy!***

This is part two of “Abstract Art”.  You can read “Abstract Art: Part 1”, here!  

The only requirement of an abstract artist is to make people feel.  An artist might touch a white canvas with shades of misty purple and powder blue to invoke the feeling of calm, or the thought of peace, or emptiness.  These critiques are welcome and subjective.  At this point, the artist has done his job:  their work is “good enough” to absorb into the public eye, so that they may “feel”.

If “White Fox in a Snow Bank” is deemed the title for the same piece then the interpretation changes.  The free-floating composition that was once left to graze the mind is placed in the artist’s mental gate.  It is a part of the experience that the artist wants to guide you though.  There are large debates in the art community in regards to titling works of art, and it is even more relevant in the abstract world.  I think that titling artwork has its place.  Sometimes, it is less appropriate.  But, this decision should be made by the artist and accepted as an element of the art itself.

The artist should title their piece if they do believe that it will “open the eyes” of observers and guide them, so that they may see clearer, and so that they may be able to further melt themselves within the piece.  If the artist believes that titling their work will hinder the excitement of feeling what is on the canvas, and if it is not specifically associated with any other relevant outside items, the work should not be titled.

In the case of my first abstract collection, I have decided to reveal the titles.  They are a group of actions and feelings and each one is a part of our lives, in one form or another.  The planning process was difficult, because researching the theme hit so many emotional nerves.  Focusing on the goodness of people can be refreshing.  Diving into the worst characteristics of humanity is gruesome, and those laced in what seems to be goodness makes one reevaluate their own nature.  Trying to create art that represented and embodied these feelings and actions was a challenging feat.

The only tangible pieces of research that were obtained for my collection were the assignment of colors and the order of their display.  At the time of their “creation”, each feeling had an official hue assigned to it.  Their order is from least to greatest.

I hope that revealing these titles will enhance your understanding of the collection, and maybe lift the curtain back so that you may be able to see.

Enjoy!

 

The Seven Deadly Sins ALL PAINTINGS

The Seven Deadly Sins
July 2016 – Erika Robertson
Lust
“Lust” – 24″ x 36″ Acrylic on Canvas – July 2016

Lust

Color:  Blue

A sin that is the perverted love of good things

Lust is extreme yearning.  Because it is the only sin that is shared with animals, and it is a sin of the flesh, it is labeled as the least of all sins.  It is more often labeled as a sin of perverse sexual desire, but it can be applied as a yearning for almost anything: lust for money, power, food, the latest iPhone, and so on.

It is the movement of lust, and the feeling of lust, in all of its smoothness and sensuality.  It can be the silk sheets of two lovers, or the smooth finish of the next unneeded electronic gadget.  Lust is the calm movement of desire, or the supple air of breath from a kiss that is wrong “but feels so right”.  Sleek, comfortable, and often described as beautiful.

gluttony
“Gluttony” – 24″ x 36″ Acrylic on Canvas – July 2016

Gluttony

Color: Orange

A sin that is the perverted love of good things

Gluttony is overindulgence.  It is consumption to the point of waste.  Society often pinpoints gluttony as “eating”, but the sin covers so much more ground.  Overeating, under eating, and purging, can all be labeled as gluttony.  It is hoarding money, wasting material goods or non-material items.  And as a whole, putting your desires and your needs above everyone else and their well-being.

It is too much.  It is abundance.  It is waste.  It is no coincidence that most food companies use a combination of yellow and red in their business logos.  Most fast food chains use these two primary colors because when they are seen together they trigger hunger on a subconscious level.  It is also no coincidence that gluttony’s color is the combination of yellow and red: orange.

greed
“Greed” – 24″ x 36″ Acrylic on Canvas – July 2016

Greed

Color:  Yellow

A sin that is the perverted love of good things

Greed is a sin that is linked to material possession.  People think of money, gold, wealth, and over-indulgence.  It is a sin of desire and cupidity.  A person can also be greedy in love, feelings, and actions.

In its purest form I saw greed as wealth.  It is yellow and gold, it is diamonds.  In our society wealth is beautiful.  More is better.  Greed is the finish line that no one will ever reach.  Greed only spends on  what it wastes.

sloth
“Sloth” – 24″ x 36″ Acrylic on Canvas – July 2016

Sloth

Color:  Light Blue

A sin that contains no love or is the deficiency of love

Sloth is to be “without care”.  It is the ONLY sin that revolves around a LACK of action.  It is the absence of interest.  Boredom, apathy, slow responsiveness.  “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

I do think that “Sloth” was the most curious and disconnected from the collection for the people who saw them face-to-face.  When displayed side by side, left to right, it is the center of the display.  It is also the most blinding with its foggy color, and confusing in its lack of movement.  It sits there, doing nothing, as if wandering through a mist.  The brush strokes are boring, lacking, lazy.

wrath
“Wrath” – 24″ x 36″ Acrylic on Canvas – July 2016

Wrath

Color:  Red

A sin of unnatural love that is directed toward a person in order to harm them.

Wrath is unbridled feelings of rage, anger, and hatred.  It is seeking vengeance.  It is the “love of justice perverted to revenge and spite”.  Anger, in itself, is not a sin.  Anger is a natural feeling, but it becomes a sin of wrath when it is directed toward an innocent person, when it is abnormally strong or enduring, or when it fancies overindulgent “justice”. (punishment).

It is decay, rot, death, and blood.  It is unfounded war.  It is unjustified death.  Wrath is an abundance of spilled anger.   It is the slitting of the throat of a lover, and it is the pools of blood in fields that were once green.  She yells at him.  He hits her.

envy
“Envy” – 24″ x 36″ Acrylic and Mixed Media on Canvas – July 2016

Envy

Color:  Green

A sin of unnatural love that is directed toward a person in order to harm them.

Envy is the second worst sin.  It is the result of pride, the greatest sin, becoming wounded.  Envy makes good things feel bad.  It lowers another person’s reputation.  It finds joy in another person’s misfortune.  It grieves at another person’s prosperity and causes sorrow and hatred.   “Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.” – Harold Coffin

If you want to know what your greatest desires are, pay attention to who you envy.  It calls into question everything that you think you are.  It exposes what you value and where your heart is.  You experience joy in another’s sorrow, and sorrow in their joy.  It is a never ending whirlwind of suffocation and destruction.  If you cannot prevail, and become better than the person who you envy, then you try to bring that person down to your level.  Envy is the great leveler.  It is wanting something you never had.

pride
“Pride” – 24″ x 36″ Acrylic on Canvas – July 2016

Pride

Color:  Violet or all of the colors

A sin of unnatural love that is directed toward a person in order to harm them.

Pride is the father of all sins.  It was known as the devil’s most prominent trait and is viewed as the “anti-god” state.  All other sin acts out because of pride (which is why purple is used in all of the paintings – what looks like black, in some of them, is purple).  It is the abundant admiration for one’s self.  It is failing to acknowledge accomplishments of others, and the twisted belief that one is better than others.  It is disconnected from people and reality.  Pride honors those that the WORLD sees as worthy.  It is hungry for attention, respect, and worship.  It searches for fault in others.

Pride is deceiving.  It is best at hiding beneath good qualities, such as humbleness.  It is the donation that you give that flaunts your name so the world may see your generosity.  It is the shy individual who is preoccupied with how the world views him, and what he will do when the spotlight is flashed on him.  It is the voice inside your head that says “I’m better at that than her”.  You don’t even have to speak; it is there.  It is self-centered love that sparkles and gleams behind tainted humility.  It is all about you.

***********************************************************************

A short glance behind the scenes:

7

8

1

A collection, like this, starts with notes and sketches.  What looks like random spots and lines and colors are planned movement and a combination of elements.  There should be cohesiveness in the painting.

3

Here is some of the aftermath of Wrath.  The trees suffered a little with all of my gashing and slashing movements.  (It was a lot of fun though.)  I might have shared a hand-full of orange paint with the neighbors when I was working on Gluttony, too…woops….

2

Here they are sitting out to dry, with Greed.

9

I struggled the most while trying to capture Envy and Pride.  I wanted their flow to relate to each other more than between the others.  Envy is pride that has been broken.  And pride is the root of all evil and all sin.  It is fitting that when most people look at Pride, they see the universe.  And isn’t that the point?  I was very happy with the response to the piece.  I felt like I did my job, as an artist.

4

Envy was the most difficult.  It’s okay to make mistakes!  How many times was the Mona Lisa re-painted?  (too many!)  I scrapped the first version of Envy, and painted over it.  The flow wasn’t right and the colors were not what I had envisioned, and the texture I wanted was non-existent.  When it comes to artwork I rely heavily on instinct.  If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

5
Envy – the one we won’t talk about……
6
When all else fails, start over!

I had to sit down and try to revamp what I had wanted.  I tried salvaging it, at one point, but it got to be too much.  When all else fails, paint over it and start over!

ody
This fat!  Odysseus.  Aka: Ody

Sometimes you need a little helper to motivate you and keep you going.  This is one of my helpers, Ody.  (Short for Odysseus).

envy
Envy – the final version

After all was said and done, I was very happy with the result.

Thank you for joining me on my first journey through abstract art!  I hope that you were able to open your eyes a little, like I did, and expand your understanding of the strange and subjective art style.  I hope that you pick up a paint brush and try some, yourself!  I promise that you will have a lot of fun!

The Seven Deadly Sins ALL PAINTINGS
“The Seven Deadly Sins” – Erika Robertson – Acrylic and Mixed Media on Canvas – July 2016

‘Til next time! 

“Abstract Art: Part 1” – July 13, 2016

***My first abstract collection is below!  “Abstract Art: Part 2” will contain the tutorial and titles for the compositions.  Enjoy!***

I FUCKING HATE ABSTRACT ART!

I was never certain when my loathing for the style started.  It had always been the primary scent of who I was as an artist: anything but abstract.  I do know that my hatred solidified when I was in college and I remember the precise moment in all of its disgusting and jealous glory.

One of my teachers had the class travel to the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in San Francisco.  Our assignment was to evaluate our favorite piece of art and our least favorite piece of art.  I couldn’t tell you what my favorite piece of art had been, but without taking a millisecond to recall, I could tell you what my least favorite exhibit was.

One would think that the ordinary plaster-white toilet would have taken the prize for first  worst place, as he basked in the museum lights, and grinned with pompous arrogance.  Fuck that toilet!

toilet

I walked into a huge room, and looked to my left, and to my right.  The canvases were about five feet wide and eight feet long.  Two were spaced the same distance apart from each other on all four walls, and all of them were painted a familiar elementary school crayon color:  pumpkin orange, cherry red, cobalt blue, lemon yellow, royal purple, emerald green, fucking black, and fucking white.  (The last two aren’t even colors!)  I walked around with my mouth dangling.  They were PLAIN SOLID COLORS!  No texture.  No hint of any character, except maybe in their massiveness and hue, or lack of hue…did the artist even PAINT the white canvas?!  This artistic experience got so much better, though.

In the center of the room sat a lazy cement block.  From the top of that lazy cement block a thick metal rod grew like a flower stem that was on the verge of wilting.  A natural sponge, the size of a small watermelon, had been dipped in cobalt blue paint.  It was quite apparent that this poor blue sponge had lost all faith in life because he decided that he had no choice but to impale himself on the top of that metal rod.  Thus, the art exhibit was complete.  Fuck that blue sponge!

Needless to say, the nature of my essay was not uplifting.

My next huge run-in with abstract art punched me in the face two years ago at the Getty in Los Angeles.  I walked into a room that hosted one of Jackson Pollock’s famous compositions.  It plastered the museum wall and beckoned all living creatures in the general vicinity to come and share in its narcissistic breathing room.  My first thought was “it’s so big!”  My second thought was “why do people think that this is good?  It’s just paint that’s splashed and twirled on a board.  Yeah, it’s big.  But, why do people like this?!”  I wandered through the rest of the museum and left in a rage as Pollock pricked his untalented needle fingers into my brain.  FUCK FUCKING POLLOCK!

pollock

WHY IS ABSTRACT ART SO GREAT?!

During my journey in “all things art”, I made the decision to explore the abstract world; I tried to figure out what made this sloppy, child-like, finger painting so lovable and mesmerizing to millions of people.  There had to be something that I was missing.   As I absorbed the characteristics and commonalities that the most famous abstract pieces were composed of, my respect for abstract painting started to take shape.  When I started to paint, I understood and appreciated the style.

So, what made good abstract art?

Well, “anything goes” in art.  Art is subjective, on all levels.  Just because one person likes one style of art doesn’t mean that the next person will feel the same about that style.  But, what is consistent across the board, for all good art, is the presence of technique. It is the purposeful application of texture, balance, layers, color compatibility, and the formation of emotion.  These categories are all present in good abstract art.  What looks like paint splattered on a canvas is coherent.  Every stroke and detail should be intentional in its thought.  With that being said, famous art isn’t always good art.  There are many famous singers who cannot sing well, but they are marketable. Marketability and talent aren’t one in the same.

What looked like blobs of paint colors on a canvas, in Pollock’s painting, were actually layers of compatible colors.  They were applied with different tools, in different paint weights.  They ended up creating a mishmash of artistic patterns that were executed by the trained, seasoned, and unique movement of Pollock’s arm and body.  No artist can replicate another artist’s work without fault, because so much of the character of an artist’s composition comes from unique body movements.  No two people move in the same way.

When I look at Pollock’s work, now, I can see the glory behind the artist.  He was talented and created with purpose.  I can see which colors he started with, what weights the paints were, what kind of tool or surface he might have used to create that kind of stroke with that specific paint color, and in what way he moved his arm based on the splash angles and how the medium hit the canvas.  What I didn’t know, until a few weeks ago, was that most people don’t know how to dissect a piece of artwork and analyze the details.  But, that didn’t matter.  Breaking down the technicalities of a composition was a great skill to have, but I was missing the whole point of abstract art:  subjective emotion. 

I decided to whip up a collection of seven abstract paintings.  Painting a landscape or cartoon characters that formed a story was talented in one way.  Painting subjective emotion, was talented in another way.

The following collection of paintings is displayed in order.  I would like to invite you to analyze and try to figure out what they are.  In my next article, Abstract Art: Part Two, I will reveal the titles for the pieces, as well as the intense planning process that was built up behind their execution.  There is so much more to abstract art than meets the eye and I would like to challenge all of the critical purists to explore the medium in the same way that I did.  Doing so might end up killing the pride that has clogged your arteries due to your fattening arrogance.  And you might have a little fun in the process.

‘Til next time!

Lust

gluttony

greed

sloth

wrath

envy

pride

24″ x 36″ Acrylic and Mixed Media on Canvas – July 2016

Titles of pieces and collection to be revealed in “Abstract Art: Part 2”

 

“The Mighty Mini Marshmallow”- June 28, 2016

***A walk through tutorial for “The Mighty Mini Marshmallow” is below!  Enjoy!***

mini mighty marshmallow final
“The Mighty Mini Marshmallow” – Photoshop – June 27, 2016

It’s about the little things…

My first pen sketch was of a single tree branch.  I used black to emphasize the shadows of the branch and twigs, red to emphasize the shadows of the berries on the branch, and a touch of green on top of the red for a little more shadow.  From a distance, it looked like a simple branch scattered with berries.  It WAS a simple branch scattered with berries.  But, when my college teacher took a closer look, he asked me, “Do you know why this is so good?”  I shook my head.  I didn’t really think about why I did certain things in my artwork at that time, I just did them according to what I felt was right.  He continued, “It’s because of the eye candy.”

‘Eye candy’ was a term that my teacher used to describe the subtle and unnoticeable elements of a drawing that brought it to life.  Without these elements the piece would be good, but it would fall flat and taste stale; Eye candy gave the composition a playful and entertaining aura.  It was the “random” swoop of purple in the shadow of a golden pear, or it was the messy hatched bundle of lines in the shadow of Superman’s face.  Eye candy gave the drawing personality, but not in a distracting way.

There were dots in my branch.  From a distance these dots looked like solid lines.  In reality, they broke up into pinpoints that came together to form a “line”.  Green pen created shadows on the edges of the berries; they were also made from dots, and from a distance, they looked like brown lines.   If I had used brown or black to shade the berries, instead of layering the green within the red, the berries would have lost their vibrancy.  If the dots had been drawn as thin lines they would have been too harsh, the composition would have lost its delicate flavor, and an observer would probably look at the drawing and think that it was nice, but that something was not right.

Eye candy is what separates good artists from great artists.  Being a great artist is about detail.  It is about listening to your intuition when it says that something minuscule is missing.  It is about shading that strawberry with a swoop of purple, green and yellow, and not just black or brown.  It is about dots that don’t seem to matter, layer upon layer of colors that don’t even look all that different, and the tiniest textures of paint that only a few people will be able to point out – if they take the time to look up close.  Most of the time, they won’t, and that is quite alright.  It’s about the little things…

I hope you enjoy the walk through for “The Mighty Mini Marshmallow”!

drawing1

Sometimes the biggest surprises come in the smallest packages.  My sketching started with the tiniest, squishiest, and most unassuming of characters:  a mini marshmallow.  It was not just a regular marshmallow, but a mini marshmallow.  It was tiny, and cute, and the smallest of all of the marshmallows.  I like cute…

drawing2

I thought it would be ironic if he was a super hero.  He seemed to be the opposite of everything that a super hero embodied, and he could be a great foundation for an uplifting children’s picture book story!  (It is the field I am aiming for, so I ran with it).  I added a cape and an “M” symbol for his costume and drew a scribble of light beaming from behind him.  I would pretend that this was the cover of the picture book.  Because he was a superhero, he needed to be more than just a mini marshmallow, so his title leveled up to “The Mighty Mini Marshmallow”.

1

I started with a fresh Photoshop document at 300 dpi and worked with a blue pen to sketch out the rough drawing of the marshmallow.  It was important that the first sketches had solid proportions and that the movement was what I wanted in the marshmallow and the cape.  It was at this stage that foundation for the rest of the drawing would be built.  If the foundation was bad the final drawing would be bad, too!

2

I lightened the opacity of the blue sketch and created a new layer so that I could draw my clean black outlines.  I wanted thicker lines to surround the cute marshmallow because he was my main point of interest.  (My secondary points of interest were the cape and the “M” symbol.)  I also wanted to emphasize the placement of the shadows using different line weights on the marshmallow.  I made the lines just a little thicker around the backside of his lower body.

3

4

Once the boarder was drawn for the “M” symbol, I used the blue pen, on a separate layer, to sketch out the rough lines for the “M” in the center.

5

This project was a good exercise in simple line weight logistics.  Foreground objects, such as the front section of the cape, would have thicker outlines than objects that were in the distance, such as the back section of the cape.  I also used thinner lines to de-emphasize certain elements, like the “M” symbol; I wanted the focus to be on the marshmallow, initially, not his costume.  Once I was happy with the line weights I started to color him in!

6

I used the wand tool and filled in all of the colors on different layers, so that highlighting them and shading them would be easier.  These base colors were the “medium tones.” (Not the brightest and not the darkest shades).  If I wanted a bright red cape, I would use a handful of shades darker than bright red, so that I could highlight it and make it pop with the bright red, later.  This technique gives a little more depth to the drawing.

7

Before I started shading and highlighting the marshmallow, I dropped some color into the background so that I could weigh out the true tone of the marshmallow’s colors against something other than white.

I was so excited, because I already had a slight learning curve in my shading technique!  For my first digital drawing “Going Fishing” I used the shadow colors as the base colors for the cat and fish.  I took an opaque white brush and brightened up the whole drawing in a multitude of swoops and layers.  I wanted to try something a little different for the marshmallow, this time around.

8

For each shaded section, I grabbed the base color and made it a few shades darker.  I colored everything that had a hint of shadow touching it.  I repeated this but picked out a slightly darker shade and colored the darker parts of the shaded areas.  I never used black, but only dark colors, and only with an opaque brush at about 15% most of the time.  I used this same technique for the highlights but transitioned into lighter colors.  The background was layered with more color and an opaque “off-white” brush added bursts of light behind the marshmallow.  A halo of glory, in the slightest tinge of orange and yellow, was added around the outline of the Mighty Mini Marshmallow.

9

At this point, I saved my drawing as a jpeg, and brought him into Illustrator.  Photoshop was wonderful for drawing, but it was a horrendous program to use for anything related to fonts and text.  (If you ever have to add text to a photo project, do it in Illustrator, lest your letters be pixilated.) I typed out the title of my would-be children’s book, and set out all of the different fonts that caught my eye.  Once I found a few, I looked at them on the drawing to see if the feel of each one matched the feel of the composition.  Fonts tell a story all their own.  Picking the wrong font (or combination of fonts) can make or break your product.  Picking the right fonts can bring closure to a piece.  Once I found one that was the essence of what I was aiming for, I tested out some colors

Color can be just as important as the font itself so be aware of the balance of the anatomy of the text, your product, and the message you want to convey.  Because this font was for a would-be children’s book I decided to go with something that was cute, but strong, like the Mighty Marshmallow, and I chose a color that emphasized the marshmallow, and not the font.

10

Red is an eye-catching color, which is why so many magazines and companies have red labels and titles.  When “The Mighty Marshmallow” title was red, I found that the eye went to the title of the book cover, first, and not to the drawing of the marshmallow.  When the title was blue, my eye went to the marshmallow, and then scanned the rest of the space to see what this marshmallow was all about.  It’s the little things that make a big difference, and if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.  That being said, a publishing company might want to use the red title, because it does draw so much attention and catches your eye while it floats in a sea of children’s picture books throughout Barnes and Noble.  For this project I liked the blue a lot more because it wasn’t distracting.

I surrounded the blue font with a boarder of “gold” that matched the marshmallow costume, and rearranged the letters and font so that they weren’t so static; it needed to be fun!  I played around with the size of the words.  I made “The” (an insignificant word) small, and “Mighty” large, next to a smaller “Mini”, and separated the “Marshmallow” from the adjectives to bring a little more emphasis to the rounded composition of the layout.

I had so much fun whipping up this little character, and as I did, I could see this a small glimpse of this cute story come to life.  Maybe I will have a chance to work on developing it, later on.  We shall see!

Thank you for visiting!  I hope you enjoyed my mini marshmallow walk-through! 

mini mighty marshmallow final

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