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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
***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!
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!
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!
24″ x 36″ Acrylic and Mixed Media on Canvas – July 2016
Titles of pieces and collection to be revealed in “Abstract Art: Part 2”
***A walk through tutorial for “The Mighty Mini Marshmallow” is below! Enjoy!***
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”!
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…
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”.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
***A walk through tutorial for “Going Fishing” is below! Enjoy!***
A year ago I started to explore the field of digital art. Comic book cover artists and cartoon animators made a gateway that had the possibility of using my artwork on a fresh, more vibrant, and true platform. It was a perfectionist’s medium that combined the cleanliness of pen with bold colors, and the flexibility to hit the delete button without a trail of evidence.
When I was young, my father taught me how to draw in basic pencil. We started with lessons in shading and perspective. He crumpled up a piece of white paper and drew every bend and fold of the white ball. It was the ultimate test in still life. I learned to hate still life, because there was no life. There was an undeniable beauty in luscious landscapes and vibrant bowls of the most delicious fruit, but still life left me feeling drained and dull.
Three-dimensional cubes and circles learned to stack together and turned into cheetahs, Shamus, and people. Everything that I drew revolved around movement and life. I liked animals and people. I liked adding eyeballs to inanimate objects so that they became creatures with stories to tell.
Pencil upgraded to the prism of colored pencils, with the occasional vacation to water color and oil paint, and even pain-in-the-butt dry pastel – but only once because it wasn’t pretty.
In college, one of my first art courses was taught by a seasoned animator, who introduced me to the extreme value of black and white. I experimented in charcoal, but found serenity in the detail and absolute commitment of black pen. The dim gray lines of my pencil started to evolve into black ink on the plaster white paper and made the perfect foundation for colored pens, vibrant pencil, watercolor, acrylic, and gauche. All of my fashion sketches, throughout college, were a compilation of pen and watercolor.
Art school didn’t teach me how to draw, but my instructors hammered out my shortcomings. Before, my hands that I drew were always too small, my people were stiff and my movement wasn’t fluid. They taught me how to bring life to my art. More important, they taught me the ins and outs of Photoshop and Illustrator.
I began to research comic book cover artists, and absorbed their techniques in line work and coloring. I watched hours of tutorials on YouTube, and embraced the flexibility of drawing from scratch and improving the cleanliness of my art. Here is a walk through of my first computer composition:
To start, I opened a new file, in Photoshop, that had a resolution of no less than 300 dpi. My canvas was 11 inches by 8.5 inches (standard size of a piece of paper, just to make things easier for me to print, if need be). I started a layer titled “rough sketch” and worked in a blue pen color so that when I traced over it with black, the color didn’t blend into one another.
I didn’t know what I wanted to draw but had started with a little cat body, and it morphed into a cat squatting next to a fish bowl. I brought the idea further. I thought it would be cute to have the cat use his tail as a device to try to catch a fish in a bowl. The basic body and anatomy of the little cat was built beside a fish bowl and dragged to the corner of the canvas so that I could start sketching out the fish.
I like cute and animated. I love fish with big eyes, and I wanted this fish to be surprised at the sight of whatever was dangling off of the tail of the cat. I didn’t want the fish to look directly at the cat, but I wanted him to have a “What the hell is that thing? It doesn’t look good,” expression. I gave him big eyes with small pupils for surprise and fear, and drooping fins for a sense of limp shock and hopelessness.
I had a difficult time sketching out the anatomy of the tail. I wanted the fins to be an extension of the feelings that were dawdling through his little head, but I also wanted the tail to float. Trying to find that perfect balance took a little time because there were so many options. Body composition tells a lot about a character.
After I completed a rough drawing of my fish, I shrunk it down, and placed it in the bowl. I added foliage, a little castle, and the base for the sand and rocks. At first, I had the fish facing the cat, looking up at the hook, but something didn’t feel right. Sometimes you have to dive into the psychology of your characters.
If I had been this tiny fish, I would not have been looking at the hook dangling above, I would have been scared out of my mind and staring into the two huge eyeballs that were looking at me from outside of my bowl. Screw that hook! Who cares about the hook?! But, if I had no clue that the cat was there, and my back was to him, it would make sense that I would look at the dangerous shiny thing that started descending into my fish bowl. For this reason, I flipped the fish around and changed the placement of the pupils.
Once I had my foundation rough sketch finished, I created a new layer titled “final outline”. I sketched out the final lines for my drawing, and changed anything that needed changing along the way.
Line weight can bring a lot of life and depth to the composition of a piece. Traditionally, skinnier lines are used in the background of cartoons, and thicker lines are used in the foreground and around the main figures. Because my cartoon was all one layer, I didn’t have to worry so much about line width except to accentuate certain materials, such as the glass of the fish bowl, or the fur tufts of the kitty cat. When I finished the drawing, I found that the lines for the fish were too thin compared to the cat, so I thickened them up slightly.
I printed out the drawing and took a look at it with fresh eyes.
I made sure to sign it and date it. — So many artists have incredible signatures in the comic book world – they are like little pieces of art. I need to work on mine and make it more personal. (My real signature looks worse than a doctor’s… that isn’t an exaggeration; one of my teachers lectured me in college for my shitty signature. I’m working on it.)
I made new layers and mapped out the base colors. I used the darkest shade of the color that I was going to use for each section. If the fish was going to be a light orange, I would find the darkest shade of that orange and color him in. Rarely is white ever used in its purest form and black isn’t used except for pen work. For the fish’s eyes I used a khaki/tan color for the base because I wanted this color to be the darkest shadow of his eyes.
Here is a screen shot of all of the base colors, without light. Again, these were the darkest parts of the characters and objects. The most important part of this step was to make sure that the colors balanced well with each other. It was time to bring some life into this cartoon!
The only color I used to bring shade and light to this drawing was white. That’s it. I went across each section and made each color brighter and brighter using the white pen tool. I wanted the fins on the fish to be transparent, and I erased a small section of the bottom of the tail to make it look like it got thinner. Here is a detail shot of the fish! If there had been a background you would have been able to see it a lot better. It really is all about the small details, though. I added texture and lines to the eyes of the cat. This was the only time that I used any additional color, and not just white.
After I finished highlighting the drawing I added a little sparkle to the central elements of the drawing.
I wanted people to focus on the hook, the eyes of the fish, and the eyes of the cat, so I brought a little light to these areas, and I also added some white whiskers.
The finishing touch was to add a little reflection on the fish bowl. There is the slightest hint of blue within the fish bowl, to give the illusion of glass and water. The addition of a little of the cat’s reflection, as he pushed his face against the bowl, gave a little breathlessness to the piece. I think it might be my favorite element. It is barely noticeable, but it gives so much in a subtle way.