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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
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27Angelica
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28Angelica
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29Angelica
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30Angelica
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24Angelica
“Angelica” – By Erika Robertson – Digital Painting – 2017 – Photoshop

“Going Fishing” – June 26, 2016

***A walk through tutorial for “Going Fishing” is below!  Enjoy!***

going fishing final
“Going Fishing” – Photoshop – June 25, 2016

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:

1

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.

2

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.

3

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.

4

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.

5

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.

6

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.

7

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.

8

I printed out the drawing and took a look at it with fresh eyes.

9

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.)

10

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.

11

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!

12

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.

Print

After I finished highlighting the drawing I added a little sparkle to the central elements of the drawing.

14

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.

15

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.

‘Til next time!

going fishing final

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