Monday, August 31, 2009

Zodiac - Cancer

Medium: Watercolor
Size 10x14.5 inches

for Llewellyn's 2011 astrological calendar

The crab, water, nurturing, the reflective surface of water, focus on the family, protective, sensitive.

Here we are, the first of 12. At last, after all that sketching, I can get down to the painting. It's a relief. I haven't had the opportunity to really paint since before Gencon, and it feels like forever since I've had a chance to take the brushes in hand.

Somehow I'm still in green mode, but that will change soon enough as I get to the fiery and air elements. I was actually toying with the idea today of (after finishing the 12 and cover for this calendar deadline) going back and doing second male (or female) versions of each of the signs. Because 12 paintings isn't enough, and I have to go and double it...yeah, 78 pieces for the tarot has made me a sucker for more pain I guess.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Monterey Bay Aquarium

A bit of late August heat spell hit the past couple of days. As if to remind that summer wasn't ready to lift its grip yet despite what had been for the most part a remarkably cool season this year. I had been slowly mucking about in the garage and basement attempting to clear out some semblance of "clear space" among the piles of boxes and packing materials to make room for the shipment of books I'm supposed to receive this coming week. The upside of hiding in the dusty basement is that it's actually many degrees cooler than the oven the house turns into on sunny days. Dust? or Heat? Take your pick.

So it was with not a small amount of relief that I hopped into the car with Dana yesterday for our trip down to Monterey that I had planned with my brother and his wife a few weeks ago. We couldn't have picked a better day for several hours in an air-conditioned car and an outing to a breezy seaside town, and the special exhibit "The Secret Life of Seahorses."

I managed to get many good reference photos for my upcoming zodiac paintings as well during our aquarium excursion. Jellyfish and crabs and fish! Great for Cancer and Pisces.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Zodiac - last 6 sketches

...and the rest of them.

Eager to start painting these on Monday!




Monday, August 24, 2009

Zodiac - 6 sketches ready to paint

I usually like to work on one painting at a time, from sketch to finish. My mind focuses on the image better that way, because even as I work on the sketch I start getting ideas for the color schemes and for little bits and pieces I want to incorporate when I get to the painting part.

Unfortunately, when working for a client, I don't always have that luxury. Sometimes I'll work on sketches for multiple clients at once, since the response time of ADs can vary, and the sooner I get approval for a finalized sketch, the sooner I can start painting it, in my own time.

Since this project is on a deadline, I don't want to waste days sitting on a sketch and waiting for the art director to get back to me about the pieces one at a time, so I have to work on several sketches in parallel. This art director was out of town for a few days, and I managed to make my way through 6 finalized sketches (all ready to go on the illustration board and set for painting).

I'm thinking that since I've gotten this far, I might as well finish sketching all 12 of them, and then I can settle into the painting part next week. The sketching is the hard part of a piece. It is the phase that I find most draining, because I have to actively brainstorm, think about composition, placement, and anatomy. Once an image is laid out, the painting almost happens by itself, even though it takes longer. It's meditative in a way.





Gemini (was worried my male/female twins here wouldn't pass the AD approval, but yay it did!)


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Shadowscapes Tarot Cover Preview

I got a preview of the Shadowscapes Tarot cover today, from Llewellyn. Exciting that the designers are finally getting to work on it! They chose the Queen of Swords image.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Zodiac - Cancer In Progress

Progression for Cancer.

When I first get a description for a piece, I start with sketches and thumbnails. In the case for this zodiac series, I was given a series of keywords and colors. I like working with this kind of very loose guidance for a commission because it leaves me free to come up with my own connections to the concepts. In this case: the crab, water, nurturing, the reflective surface of water (for the colors), focus on the family, protective, sensitive.
* * *
Once I have a basic sketch worked out, and the composition pieced together in Photoshop, I send it off for approval from the art director. When I get the okay, then I start to flesh out the details and correct anatomy with references if needed. In this case the latter required looking up pictures of seagulls, crabs, and lotuses. When I do the first concept sketches I don't worry so much about the accuracy of things like that, wanting instead to capture the flow and mood of a piece.
I picked up a couple of Audubon books for fairly cheap the other day from Costco with great references for all sorts of birds and animals.

Though of course the internet never fails for image references as well.

* * *
Transferred to the final painting surface (Strathmore 500 series illustration board), I refine the details even more. By flipping the image back and forth several times during process, it allows you to get a fresh perspective on the composition and work out any imbalances that might otherwise be overlooked. Working on a piece for too long, everything starts to look right. Flipping also helps for spotting strange anatomy flaws. When working with a symmetrical (or even semi-symmetrical) piece, looking at it in reverse is extremely useful.
All set for painting now. Just awaiting the final okay from the art director!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Gencon Exhaustion & Etsy Update

Whew, back from Gencon. Pretty exhausted now, but it was a good weekend. Thanks everyone who stopped by the booth!

I was introduced to the art of Omar Rayyan, who was the guest of honor this year. A different approach to the application of watercolors from my own with a whimsical fairytale touch. Which he somehow managed to maintain even when he painted gritty or bizarre subject matter.

Just this very quick update before I go crawl into and fall unconscious in bed (MY bed! It always feels so good to be home after a trip). But I wanted to post a bunch of things on Etsy. So here they are:

*14 new original paintings available* - these were the pieces that I did for White Wolf's Mage Tarot a while back. The Cups suit. Prices range from $125.00 - $275.00

*a bunch o' pendants* - new designs and old. As always, if you ever see a design I've sold in the past that you like, I'm happy to recreate it. $25.00 each.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Zodiac Scribblings - Virgo & Libra

Another two. 5 more to go! More to come after I get back from Gencon next week.

Sketch for Virgo:
Sketch for Libra:

Monday, August 10, 2009

Zodiac Scribblings - Gemini

A few more sketches. It was hard to motivate myself to get much sketching done today because it was so hot! I wanted nothing more than to stretch out on the couch with the fan next to me and a tall glass of icy water, and maybe snooze a bit. But I'm trying to keep myself to an early schedule for the next couple days because I leave for Gencon on Wednesday morning, in Indianapolis, and I'll have to be getting onto that earlier time zone. Might as well stick with the hours I've been doing lately and make things easier for myself.

Going to try and get all 12 sketched out before I start painting. Partially because for now I'm still awaiting feedback from the art director, so I can't really proceed anyway. But also because the deadline for the cover piece comes first, before all the interiors! Marketing department needs a cover to start advertising as soon as possible. This makes things a bit tricky for me since it means I have to figure out the gist of all 12 paintings within the next two months so that it can be incorporated into the cover.

Dreamscapes 2 had a similar situation, where the cover was required far in advance of the interior material. That was easier to deal with however because the cover didn't necessarily have to reflect the interior pieces, just to encompass the general theme.

* * *

1st sketch. Toyed with it a bit. Might use it someday for something else, but it wasn't really calling to me for this.

2nd sketch. Liking this one much better. Hopefully the art director does too.

Had to modify the format of the image a bit too from the sketches I did the previous few days, as my contact initially forgot to mention that the pieces didn't take up the full page area. The right margin of the 12x12 inch calendar is needed for all the astrological information.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Zodiac Scribblings

It's always fun to embark on new projects. The current one will be a zodiac series that Llewellyn has commissioned me for, for their 2011 astrological calendar. I've always wanted to do a zodiac series, so I'm eager to get going on this.

As with the tarot, the challenge is to try and find my own approach to images that have been rehashed over and over by so many artists. Maintaining the meaning and symbology while applying my own touch.

Some of the early designs I've got simmering in my sketchbook:

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Size: 14x20 inches
Medium: watercolor

From the moment I saw this banyan tree while hiking in Hawaii I knew I had to paint it. It was tangled around an enormous boulder in the middle of a stream. The roots draped down around the curve to settle in a living curtain of verdant green and brown, and the canopy stretched out to fill the empty space of the sky.

I'm always drawn to the ancients of the woods, whether they are my own familiar oaks and redwoods, or denizens of stranger paths. When coming across these twisted elders in the wilds, it is easy to understand animism, for how could something so glorious and unique not have a spirit?

In progress shots:
Part 1
Part 2

Monday, August 3, 2009

Offerings in progress part 2

Snarled roots and figures hidden among the spirals of the foreground. The progess after one day's worth of painting. I've started to lay in the base colors for the upper areas too with a wide flat brush. It's a mixture basically of whatever greens and purples I had on my palette. I'm not too particular about the exact shade, as I'll be working up the layers on top of this to define the color. Mostly done with the lower areas, though need to paint the figure and lily pads still. I'll probably leave that til the end so I can figure out what color she needs to be. At this moment though I'm thinking bright monarch butterfly colors.

I continue to layer in green mixtures to to the upper corners to build up the color intensity. Also, the interaction of the layers helps to create textures even before I start to paint in leaves purposefully. It becomes a mixture of purpose and randomness.

I don't really work on any one specific area at a time. I kind of jump around in the canopy to wherever I feel like painting for a while, as the textures emerge.

Darkened the golden tones in the middle area as well, the better to pull out the contrast of the light around the figure and in the water.

Hope to finish this off tomorrow!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Offerings (i.e. "Big ole tree ball") in progress

Well I'm always of the mentality that my ink drawings are finished pieces. And I'm not breaking from them -- they are finished pieces in themselves. But sometimes (more and more lately) I find myself using them as springboards for paintings as well.

So here's a piece that will be based on the recent ink drawing "Offerings". It's a big tree full of twists and crooks and curves! I can never resist those!

Starting with the rough pencil sketch on my usual favorite, Strathmore's 500 series illustration board, about 20x14 inches. It takes quite some time to sketch this out on a larger scale. All the twisting roots of the banyan tree -- I want to maintain the freshness that the original drawing had, and it's an easy thing to lose when re-drawing many times over.

* * *

Two lazy days of sketching later (I figured I was entitled to distractions after having worked hard all of last week at Comic-con), I'm ready to start painting.

Sometimes an inspiration for a piece comes to mind complete with color and lighting. It's nice when that happens.

This is not one of those times. Scratching my head to figure out what colors I want to use for this, and the only thing I do know for sure is that I want the upper tree areas to be mostly monochrome. I'm torn between shadowy eldritch purples, or mossy mysterious greens.

Greens win out. Did I mention I'm stuck on Greens these days?

Besides, my palette is full of random green mixtures at this point, after my last couple of paintings, and it would be a shame to waste.

* * *

Moving along the foreground. Keeping a golden glow to the area around the figure, and down into the waters, but the rest will be deep greens. First layer of purple and viridian green on the lower right area, then once that dries, filling it in with abstract textures. I don't really bother to sketch it all in beforehand. That much pre-planning would make the painting phase itself boring. I like to see what just evolves under my brush as I go.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Lots o' Tarot Stuff

So first off, The Art of Shadowscapes Tarot is now available for pre-order. You can find that here.

Secondly, as if that wasn't enough Tarot yumminess, here's something that I did for White Wolf about a year and half ago, that they finally released (and thus I am released from holding the art secret). From the Mage Tarot, in which they had 5 different artists - one for the majors, and one each for the suits. I was assigned Cups.

I'll have these originals up for sale on Etsy. Probably after I return from Gencon.

Mage Tarot images copyright White Wolf.