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Art with Erika

the journey of an artist – painting life with purpose

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“Semicolon” – June 21, 2017

“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you, and the sentence is your life,”

– Project Semicolon

A few years back a new trend started to show up across the Internet that showed pictures of tiny tattoos gracing the wrists and bodies of people who were not only brave enough to keep on walking their path of life, but who were brave enough to acknowledge and share their stories.  Depression, anxiety, postpartum depression, addiction, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, borderline stress disorder… These are only a handful of conditions that are accepted in today’s world, but they are still taboo amid conversation. These are conditions that we cannot see, unless we are acutely aware of the people around us, and even then our eyes can deceive us.

How many times have we heard the story of a person who was the topic of envious gossip, who wore the most beautiful mask for all of us to see, but who struggled with depression?  Or that unassuming person next door who seemed to live a pretty normal life apart from fighting with anxiety every day. Maybe the person is a cousin or brother or sister who approached you and said that they couldn’t figure out why they were sad, that they just were, and had been for a long time.  The journey can be confusing and frustrating for everyone.

Sometimes we see people walking through life struggling to see past a thick gray fog that billows around them.  Sometimes we don’t even know that anything is wrong. And sometimes the emptiness is so heavy, real, and painful… They are so alone that they can’t identify their place in this world. There are some people who even believe that the world would be a better place without them in it – that they are a burden to those around them.

From an outside perspective suicide can seem to come from a very selfish place. A lack of understanding and empathy can lead an outsider to feel hatred instead of love toward a person who was struggling with a very real set of circumstances. Just because one person has never experienced it, just because one person has never seen it, doesn’t mean that it is any less real. Whenever life is at stake, it would be a fool’s game to dismiss the cries of millions of people, who know the battleground firsthand, as folly.  Whenever one life is at stake, it would be a fool’s game to dismiss the cry of that person, who knows the battleground firsthand, as folly.

Project Semicolon was developed in 2013 and is a platform for people who struggle with mental illness.  It is also a place for people to gather who have lost a loved one, or who still have the blessing of being around their loved one, who struggles with mental illness. Although all mental illness doesn’t lead to suicide, it would be wise for us to become aware of signs of possible suicide, and to become more knowledgeable of the real aspects of mental illness and how it affects people in their everyday lives.

“Semicolon” was inspired by the people in my life who have been affected by suicide and thoughts of suicide.  I wanted there to be a sense of hope, love, and comfort in the painting.  There is a darkness to it, a blackness that embodies melancholy.  There are two versions of this painting, both male and female.  They have minimal features and no skin tone.  It was important for me to try and create as much of a neutral platform as possible, and be as inclusive as possible, though I know that there are many other versions I could draw in the future for people.  (This is a solid place to start, though).

The pointillism technique is symbolic of a period that is found at the end of a sentence – it speaks to the idea that life is indeed finite for all of us. The thousands of tiny dots create a gray figure who delicately embraces their life in their arms.  The sphere is their “period” that will rest at the end of their life sentence; they have made the choice to hold on to it.

A portion of the fabric of their life that has already been lived unravels from their calves and their feet.  It flows below them hinting at gray memories that they will leave behind.  The fabric of life clutches around their thighs and hips, with the hope of many bright and wonderful memories that lie ahead.  White from the fabric and the orb create a bright semicolon against the gray and black of the rest of the painting.

The quotes on both paintings start and end with an ellipsis (…) that represent the continuation of life on either side of that choice.  Their story isn’t over.

…they had a choice; they chose to live…

Thank you so much for visiting my blog.  Please take a moment to visit the Project Semicolon website, and take a look at the step by step making of “Semicolon” above.  Below are detailed pictures of both the male and female versions of “Semicolon” by Erika Robertson.

Take some time to tell the people around you that you love them.  Take an hour and listen to them.  Be compassionate, be loving, and try to understand each and every journey – don’t try to fix it – just listen.  Sometimes this is all we need.  You might help save a life.

70 - FINAL WOMAN
“Semicolon” By Erika Robertson – Digital Painting – Photoshop – 2017 – (Female with text)

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69 - FINAL WOMAN W-O TEXT
“Semicolon” By Erika Robertson – Digital Painting – Photoshop – 2017 – (Female without text)
68 - FINAL MAN
“Semicolon” By Erika Robertson – Digital Painting – Photoshop – 2017 – (Male with text)

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67 - FINAL MAN W-O TEXT
“Semicolon” By Erika Robertson – Digital Painting – Photoshop – 2017 – (Male without text)

“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

“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

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