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Art with Erika

the journey of an artist – painting life with purpose

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

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

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

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

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

First off, all of the characters have names…

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

Let’s start from the top:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you and stay healthy and safe everyone!

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

“Champagne” – June 15, 2017

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

61

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Til next time!

 

 

55FINAL
“Champagne” – By Erika Robertson – Digital Painting – Photoshop – 2017

01
Original thumbnail sketch for “Champagne” from 2013 (It’s been a long time!)

05
First sketch following the flow of the original drawing.  But it isn’t looking too great…I need to change the angle of the body.

06
Much better positioning of the body, but some adjustments still need to be made.  The flow is really sloppy right now.  It needs to be more straight forward and confident.

07
This positioning is much better.  There is also a great balance of straight and curved edges which makes the foundation interesting.  I love the straight line on one hip that contrasts with the heavily curved hip on the other side.

09
I re-draw the left arm to bring a little more life and purpose to the angles of the arm.  I didn’t like the way the hand cupped over the hip.  The fingers grazing the waistline give it a little more tension.  I also adjust the size of the figure and the glass flute.

13
The background is black, so I lay the color down.  I know I will love the contrast of the glitter and champagne colors against the dark background.  I also change the color of the lines of the figure to something closer to a flesh tone.

15
I play around with the idea of draping fabric that circles around the glass, as well as arm jewels.  All of these elements mimic the shape of the champagne glass and I work with trying to find a solid balance of all of the accessories before moving forward.  It’s important to plan out your steps as much as you can before proceeding, otherwise you will have to edit TOO MUCH later on.  Plan in the beginning and save time later on.

18
Since the glass is a solid object that doesn’t move, and since the figure is emerging from it, I finalize the outline of the glass right now.  It will not change at all, save some minor reflections, and this way I can build the rest of the painting up around it without worrying about it.  I start to lay down color for the figure.

19
Shading and layering the basic lines of light and shadow.  The main light source is going to come from above.

23
I add the facial features, as I think they are one of the more difficult parts to balance out.  I try to do the more difficult elements first, so that they don’t weigh on my mind and seem so daunting.

24
I smooth out the skin and adjust the color to make it pop a little more.  I want a darker skin tone, but not too dark.  Something that will look beautiful against the gold of the dress.

25
One of the last things that I do, before trimming the boarders of the figure, is to highlight the skin with a white light brush.  It makes everything pop a little more, and it is nice to have that reflective look of the light bouncing off of the skin.

26
I erase the edges and make them crisp!  But, I trimmed off a little too much and made her TOOOOO thin….I don’t like it.  (She is already skinny enough and I don’t want her to look unbalanced)

27
This is much better.  Now, I need to work on the hands….One of my least favorite parts…….

28
I haaaate drawing hands and feet (which means I should probably draw them more…)  They just take a long time to do, and I used to actually draw blocks for hands or hide them behind the figure.  But, they are so expressive and such an important piece to most of my work, now.  They can add or take away so much in a painting.  I highly recommend them, even though they do take a long time to draw.  🙂

30
I lay down the color for the hair and placement for the bun.

31
I paint color upon color, and strand upon strand, layer after layer.

32
I add more detail and a splash of light to her hair.  I think I used about 10 different shades of brown and black to get the richness that I wanted.

34
I thought I wanted a “light-filled” champagne liquid in the glass, but it looked like it was too much, so I decided to go with a “see through, against the black” look, instead.

36
I add just the slightest hint of champagne color to the edges of the glass, and add the bubbles.  I had always been fascinated by champagne bubbles, as a kid.  I loved how they started out so tiny and concentrated only to float straight to the top of the glass in little lines.  (Fun fact:  Champagne was my favorite smell when I was little.  I used to ask my mom if I could sniff her glass of champagne when she would order it on that rare occasion.)

39
The dress is going to be a see-through jewel-encrusted chiffon.  I add the base layer of the dress to the figure and blend it into the champagne.

40
I was going to draw the shawl in the same way as I drew the figure (layering and then erasing the edges), but I decided to change my method…

41
I referenced the original rough outline of the chiffon fabric that was sketched out in the beginning.

42
On a different layer, I start drawing the back half of the shawl.

43
I want the shawl to be very very see-through, so I start taking away color until I find my “happy place” and am satisfied with the see-through effect.

44
On a separate layer I do the same with the front of the chiffon fabric.

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And I erase the layer until I am happy with how it looks.

46
Jewels are so satisfying to paint.  Thousands of little dots give the illusion of chains or jewels draping from her arms.  The design isn’t planned out, but an art deco theme emerges with each strand that I add.  I usually let intuition lead me with details like these.  I feel like I am summoning Erte.

47
I finish the other jeweled sleeve.

48
The longest strand in the back was a little too wide and it didn’t look like it was falling properly, according to the weight of a chain of that size, so I fixed it.  I also added four more strands to the back to balance out the area.  I want the busy work to be on the arms, though.

52
The rest of the gold shimmer is added to the dress and the chiffon fabric.  Hair jewels wrap around her head and connect to the back of a simple minimal earring.  (I really love this element)

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White shine is added throughout the painting on the jewels.

55FINAL
Finally, the shine of the glass is added along with a sparkle on her lips and eye.

56
Finished detail of “Champagne”

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Finished detail of “Champagne”

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Finished detail of “Champagne”

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Finished detail of “Champagne”

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Finished detail of “Champagne”

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Finished detail of “Champagne”

55FINAL
“Champagne” – By Erika Robertson – Digital Painting – Photoshop – 2017

“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.

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

 

Thank you so much for visiting my blog!

Have a wonderful day!

“Balance & the LPH Breakdown” – January 26, 2017

The lady in the fur coat…she was my first lady that I sketched out.  She was supposed to be only a test, but she turned into a finished piece.  I call her “Balance”, now.  But, she used to be “Harmony”, and before she turned into a solo painting, she was the first of a trio of paintings.  At the last minute she would be replaced for my first show, back in November 2016.

balance-store
“Balance” by Erika Robertson – 2016 – Photoshop

She is drawn in black and gray and influenced by Erté and Edward Gorey.  The anatomy of the piece was inspired by the yin-yang, by harmony.  Here is the outline:

PLH – my abbreviation for “Peace, Love, and Harmony” – is a collection that started with this yin-yang inspired painting.  “Love” was pieced together using the combination of hearts, diversity, showgirls, and dramatic feathers.  It was the second completed painting in the collection.  Here is a breakdown of the 5 heart outlines (can you see them?):

love-store
“Love” – by Erika Robertson – 2016 – Photoshop

love-red

The last painting in the collection was “Peace”.  I do find that this one is a little harder to comprehend than the other two in the collection.  Many assume that the ladies are lovers, and they very well might be (that is up to the viewer to decide, I am only the artist).  The idea was that their bodies and flowing dresses would create a peace sign.  I am happy with the final product, but do understand that the anatomy of this piece is a lot more abstract than I intended it to be.  Here is the outline for the peace sign:

peace-store
“Peace” – by Erika Robertson – 2016 – Photoshop

peace-red

When I was done with “Peace, Love, and Harmony” I opened the files up, side by side, and felt an instant sense of irritation.  “Peace” and “Love” looked like they were a part of the same collection, but “Harmony” was so dark, she had ZERO color, and she was alone and creepy…I didn’t like that she clashed so much in her solidarity and in her anatomy/color scheme.  So, I decided to re-draw “Harmony”.

I changed name of the black and white painting to “Balance”; she is currently featured as my only solo painting and she is my FIRST painting featuring one of my ladies.  It all started with her:  the lady in the fur coat.  

The new “Harmony” took longer to draw than all of the others combined.  I knew that I wanted to feature two women that were intertwined in some way – one with light skin and one with dark skin, as I wanted to continue the theme of diversity and equality throughout all three paintings.  There were so many overlapping pieces.  The biggest challenge was bringing out the skin tones of each lady against the backgrounds of the skirts.  The hats and feathers helped so that they wouldn’t get lost against the colors of the fabric.  A yin-yang is still used as the base for this piece.  Here is the outline:

harmony-store
“Harmony” – by Erika Robertson – 2016 – Photoshop

harmony-red

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit my blog!  xoxoxo

“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!

01
The first speed sketch (estimated sketch time: 15 seconds – if you’re curious, haha!)

02
More concept sketches.  I wanted to incorporate costume and fashion design in here, somehow, but I also wanted to combine the women a little more with the wine, instead of having the glasses and the figures standing side by side.  That is when I decided to put her inside the glass…

03
These are the first roughs of the concept of the evening dress flowing into the wine, and possibly becoming the wine…the evolution has started.

04
How much of the wine did I want to be “dress” and how much did I want the dress to be “wine”?  I had to play around with the balances a little more, do get a good “weight” between the woman and the wine glass.  How dramatic did I want the gown, too?…maybe less drama would be more, in this case.  If the dress is too busy, it will distract from the subject matter, and I didn’t want the focal point to be the dress.

05
The first breakthrough for “Red Wine”.  This pose would stay relevant for the remainder of the project.

06
Roughs of possible layouts for “rose” and “white” wines.  I like the different angles of the women, and the use of the scarf to balance out the weight of the wine splashing from the glass.

07
I had to decide if I wanted the ENTIRE glass in the picture, or if I wanted a closeup with the stem cut off.  I really did want to keep the whole glass, but there would have been a lot of dead space at the bottom of each painting.  I could either fill it with background or adjust it and zoom in to focus on the ladies a little more.  Decisions, decisions…

08
The first concept for the collection was very detailed and complicated.  It wasn’t until I started drawing it out on the computer that I decided to scrap it, completely.  It involved three different backgrounds (ocean, vineyard, and city) with three times of day (evening, twilight, and daylight), with the three kinds of wine.  The colors might have played off of each other, well, but it was just too busy.

09
Here is where the ethnicity of the women started to come into the picture.  Ultimately, their diversity would be the focal point that would scrap the busy and colorful backgrounds.  Their beauty and strength in just being “them” brings enough energy to the table without the distracting backgrounds.

10
It is so interesting to look back and see how I changed out some elements and switched details around.  At first, I had the poses for white and rose wine switched around.  I’m glad with the final decision I made.  There was also debate as to the angle of the wine glass, and if it should stand straight, or come into the frame at an angle.  The slanted glass gives the whole picture more energy.  In the end I propped the glasses upright, and the only movement in the paintings came from the ladies.

11
Here are the final quick sketches for the placement and balance of the paintings.  This is where I decided to switch the poses of the white and rose wines.  

12
The first digital sketch of “Red Wine”

13
Adding more details

14
You can see that I didn’t put away the busy background, just yet.  There are some curtains, and a picture of LA in the back.  The picture is used so I can see the balance of the elements behind the window.  There is just so much going on!  TOO MUCH!

18
Here are the final base outlines.  You can see why I got rid of the background….Everything gets lost in everything.  YUCK!

12a
At the end of all of that I was left with this outline!  I loved it, and held onto it for a long time.  But, something was not right…I just couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  I also didn’t feel good about drawing in Photoshop, so I tried to visit my roots in painting to see if that would turn out a little better.

20
I had to figure out the color schemes and what to do with the background.  To the right, you can see the colors of the wine painted on plastic sheets; This is a good way to test the paints and different possible background combinations before committing to canvas and wasting all that material.  A good thing to stock up on are paint chip cards from the paint store.  It makes figuring out color combinations a lot easier when you can see them together to start. Something was wrong with the paint, so I went back to Photoshop…and I couldn’t figure out what to do with the background.

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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

Happy Accidents – June 21, 2016

The most tremendous obstacle that an artist may have to overcome, in order to start any project, is fear.  The fear of your own perfection and your own expectations, the fear of other people’s expectations, the fear of failing, the fear of success and the trail that you must create to withstand the journey, the fear of not completing anything and the simultaneous fear of completing something so that people may critique you and everything that you are.  An artist’s fears can be the endless fog that hides them from the world and buries their creativity in the catacombs of their mind.

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I unveiled a graveyard of petrified oil paints from my last canvas painting in 2002.

The last time I touched a paint brush to a canvas was fourteen years ago.  The last time I finished a personal art project was when I graduated from college nine years ago, and most of my portfolio was dictated by classroom requirements.  I knew my capabilities and I knew my weaknesses and strengths in art, but the last time I gave myself the chance to create anything for myself was in high school.

The enemy that I had learned to kill, and would continue to kill, day after day was my pre-perfectionism.  It made up the stitches that held my procrastination together.  Instead of diving into a project, I would busy myself by making plans for the next project; I would sketch out an abundance of nonsense while brainstorming, I would try to pinpoint the perfect medium for the perfect project, and calculate the perfect size canvas.  I would fail to see any of my brainstorming make it to a canvas.  There was always something else to do and something else to finalize before creating the final piece.  There was fear that my own standard would not live up to my expectations; it turned into a vicious circle of doubt that looked like a snake eating its own tail.

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A rough pencil to pen landscape sketch of my work-in-progress children’s picture book.

Two years ago, I started to write the first draft of a children’s picture book.  I wanted to find a way to promote my artwork and maybe dive into writing.  I got stuck in the swamp of the writing process, and I am still stuck.  Instead of waiting for a “good enough” draft to round itself out, I decided to sketch out the world where my story took place.  I had a lot more experience in art than I did in writing.  I only began writing when I was about nine and I have just dabbled in it from time to time.   It made sense to start in a place that was familiar to me.

I started watching Bob Ross on Netflix, a few weeks ago.  He was mesmerizing and it was helpful to absorb his laid-back mindset when it came to painting.  Landscapes were a great place to start because, unlike painting people or animals, the artist could make up things as they went and “happy accidents” could easily turn into the most surprising details of a painting.  Nothing had to be planned out and nothing had to be perfect.  Three days later, I retreated to my room to paint, and everything went wrong.

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My messy pallet for this painting.

The wet-on-wet painting technique that Mr. Ross used was a medium founded in oil paint and not the acrylic paint that I sprawled on my canvas.  At first, my sunset had been dancing around with its bright colors and buttery yellow had started blending into creamsicle orange and blushing rose.  After five minutes, the paint and retardant that I had prepped on the canvas, had started to dry, and my pink haze turned into a streak-infested, blood-soaked, disgusting mess that looked like a massacre.

It was around that moment that my mom hollered at me from the bottom of the stairs and said “Are you painting, Erika?!  Can I see what you are doing?!”

Horror, dread, doubt, and fear took over every millimeter of my face and body.  I took a deep breath, “Uhhh.  Not right now!  I’ll show you in a little bit.”  Happy accidents, happy accidents, happy accidents…

I stepped back and took it all in.  “The Massacre”.  I was going to fix it.  I threw blue and white onto the canvas to see if the sky was even salvageable.  Everything happens for a reason.  In hindsight, a sunset in the sky would have been too overbearing above the colors of the bright flowers that had scattered themselves along the grass and the hills.

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16×20 acrylic on canvas – June 16, 2016

Two hours later, the flowers bloomed on the canvas.  A little beehive from my would-be-children’s-book made a home on an unassuming tree branch, next to a little stream.

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The cute little beehive

This was my first acrylic painting, so I had to give myself credit for that.  After two and a half hours, I had created a landscape that I was proud of.  After a fourteen year absence from painting on canvas, this was the result.  It didn’t have to be perfect.  I had fun.  And the most important thing was that I was happy with it.  Onward!

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