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Art with Erika

the journey of an artist – painting life with purpose

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“Angelica” – June 12, 2017

Thirty is a big year for many people. It’s a major turning point where we leave behind our ignorant twenties and start solidifying ourselves in the mold of adulthood. It is the beginning of many wonderful adventures, and from what I hear from older generations it is only the start of the best decades that lie ahead of us.  On May 27th I turned thirty-one, and I can say with full confidence, that thirty had been the most pivotal and rewarding year of my life. It was filled with a lot of heartache, depression, and turmoil that transformed into growth, forgiveness, confidence, and love. Twenty-nine was the year that I was found. Thirty was the year that I was smashed to pieces and made stronger through adversity.  I find that a lot of the people around me are following the same pattern.

A handful of months ago I was approached by a friend, and was commissioned to create a piece that embodied the woman who she aspired to be in the near future. “A woman who loves herself, a woman who is confident in her capabilities, and a woman who is open to what the world has to offer.”  She gravitated toward the “Rose Wine” painting that I did last year in the “Women and Wine Collection”, but she wanted a number of changes and additional elements:

Woman to be of average height instead of very tall

Darker skin tone

Squarer face

Medium length flowing curly hair (black with brown/red highlights)

Maxi dress with loose floral pattern and halter top neckline

Rose wine

Lavender and roses

A headband to represent an element of peace

Mint (color)

Background maroon, burgundy, or berry red

Confidence

Peace

Openness

I have to say that it was quite a challenge trying to balance everything out (but I really do love a challenge!)  To date, this is my favorite digital painting.  Thank you, Angelica, for setting up an incredible platform.  Without your inspiration, this would not have been possible.  Here’s to friendship, and a wonderful decade full of life, love, growth, and adventure!

Above is a slideshow of the step-by-step process, and below is the step-by-step process with descriptions for the making of “Angelica”.

01Angelica
Every painting starts with a rough sketch.  I like to draw over the original rough so that I can keep the livelihood of the lines.  Sometimes, when you re-sketch from scratch, the movement is lost and the drawing becomes too stiff.
02Angelica
I start with a blue pencil and sketch out the first roughs.
03Angelica
I create a new layer and re-sketch and fine-tune the lines.
04Angelica
The background will be very dark, and in order to balance out the colors properly, it is necessary to lay down the background so that I know how much the drawing will pop against it.  I almost never draw anything on a white background.  At the very least I use off-white or gray, so I can keep track of the whitest highlights of any piece.  You can’t see them as clearly if you are drawing on a white surface.
05Angelica
Because I am drawing a blush dress that transforms into rose wine, I change the hue of the blue lines to something that relates more to the final product.  It is very important that the harmony of the colors is generally figured out in the beginning of the painting, otherwise the final product could be unbalanced.  It’s much easier to fix these things in the beginning stages than to try to fix them when your painting is already finished.
06Angelica
My friend wanted “mint” incorporated somehow, and this step was more of a test to see if a mint colored dress would blend well as it transformed into a pink dress against a burgundy background.  So far, so good!
07Angelica
I add a peach tone to the pink and mint to warm up the painting.  I start filling in and layering the dress and wine to see where breaks and folds will happen in the dress and in the glass.
08Angelica
I layer more colors, and smooth out the dress.
09Angelica
As the dress transforms into wine, it becomes transparent, like liquid.  I erase the edges of the hemline, and the liquid that swirls in the glass.
10Angelica
I use the dark blush colors to shade in sections of the mint dress.  Using colors, as opposed to black and white tones, can bring more depth and life to a painting.  I also lay down the first layer for her skin to see the balance of color between the background and the dress.  The outline of the wine glass is created so that I know exactly where the edges of the dress need to hit and spill over.
11Angelica
I warm up the mint and blush wine up a little more with a yellow and peach shade, so that it is a little more balanced with the tone of the skin.  The wine in the glass is filled in.
12Angelica
The edges of the dress are finished with the beginnings of the splashes.
13Angelica
The edges of the dress and wine are layered.  Folds in the fabric and wine are given solid definition.
14Angelica
Because of the painting and layering from the last few steps, the see-through effect was lost a little bit, so I go over the whole dress and smooth out and inconsistencies and add the clear liquid effect throughout.
15Angelica
An explosion of droplets is scattered around the dress.  It’s here that I really start to feel the magic of the painting appear with all of the sparkles and glitter.  There is a lot going on in this painting but I have always been a “more is more” type of artist.
16Angelica
I start to work on her face and add the most difficult features: the lips and eyes.  I lay down a temporary “hair piece” for her, too, so that I can get a rough idea for her hairline against her features and skin tone.
17Angelica
There was a specific skin shade that was given to me to work with, so I color corrected the tone.  I also started layering and hammering out the details of her arms, neck and head.
18Angelica
Hands are one of the most time-consuming elements, for me.  After they were done, I went around the whole figure and highlighted her skin with a tough of “light”.  Her fingernails are painted pink.  (I love little details like this!)
19Angelica
A rose pattern starts out bunched closely at the top of the dress and cascades out into the pink wine.  There are a few bunches of roses that are barely visible in the pink liquid.  It is the little things that you don’t really see at first glance that bring a picture to life.
20Angelica
The hair is painted in, using many many layers and hundreds of pen strokes in various shades of brown, red, and almost black  (I think the only thing that is truly 100% black in this painting are her pupils).  At the end of it all the hair takes shape and looks like loose waves that spiral into ringlets.  Small strands wisp around her face, neck, and arms.
21Angelica
A crown of roses and lavender circle her head….but they are a little bit too large….
23Angelica
…so I shrink down the size of the wreath.  Her head is also a little too large and not proportionate, so I adjust the size ever so slightly.
24Angelica
“Angelica” – By Erika Robertson – Digital Painting – 2017 – Photoshop   –   My favorite part of painting is adding the finishing sparkles.  (Maybe because I know I am almost done, or maybe because everything starts to explode off of the page, little by little.)  It takes a long time, but the extra bump of life that the shimmer and glitter gives is extra special and adds so much magic.
25Angelica
Detail
26Angelica
Detail
27Angelica
Detail
28Angelica
Detail
29Angelica
Detail
30Angelica
Detail
24Angelica
“Angelica” – By Erika Robertson – Digital Painting – 2017 – Photoshop

“Sun & Moon” – January 26, 2016

I’ll keep this post short and sweet…

I present to you the Sun and the Moon:

sun-long-store
“Sun” – by Erika Robertson – 2016 – Photoshop
moon-long-store
“Moon” – by Erika Robertson – 2016 – Photoshop

Thank you so much for visiting!

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’til next time!

“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.

tori01rbg
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.
tori02rbg
I add a light wash to her skin and change the color of the outlines to match the wash.
tori03rbg
This is a rough hair placement.
tori04rbg
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.
tori05rbg
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…
tori06rbg
…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.
tori07rbg
I take away the blue highlights, so that I can fill in her hair to test its truer color against the background.
tori08rbg
I start to add skin tones and shading.
tori09rbg
Deeper shades and highlights are layered on each other, and facial details are added.
tori10rbg
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.
tori11rbg
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.
tori12rbg
The orange vibrancy of her hair is bumped up just a little to give more contrast against the purple/blue background.
tori13rbg
Hair strands are drawn and scattered about.  Texture is added to her hair to give a little more depth.
tori14rbg
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.
tori15rbg
The light is added to her palms and engulfs her body and hair.
tori16rbg
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?
tori17rbg
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.
tori18rbg
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…
tori19rbg
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

“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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