Thursday, July 29, 2010

LoCura @Yoshi's

Out for an evening with the ladies. A few of the dancers I used to perform with at La Taza de Cafe met up at local cabaret lounge, Yoshi's. We went to see LoCura, an Oakland band with a mixture of Latin/Reggae/Flamenco.

I'm on a roll with getting some drawings in my travel sketchbook. Second time I've had a chance to do so in the past year. Danced a bit, and got to do a few scribblings in between when sitting down for breaks.

Yoshi's is a neat venue. Never actually been there before, even though I live 15 minutes away. Japanese restaurant in half of it, and the other part is a cabaret theater where they feature Jazz, and occasional other live entertainment.

This was an interesting tableau: as Melissa was introduced and stepped out to do a flamenco solo sans music, the band retreated off to the side. They clustered off at the edge, as engrossed as we the audience were with the delicate/powerful performance.

For the first few songs the open dance area below the stage was empty and silent, but by the end of the set it seemed that at least half the audience was down there dancing while the flamenco dancer spun up above them(us) on the stage.

SF Zoo

It has been far too long since I have been able to do some sketches on the move. In preparation for the next Dreamscapes book I went to the San Francisco Zoo last week, armed with camera and sketchbook, to gather a lot of reference material. I brought my little travel sketchbook where I like to do on site ink drawings. It's always a relaxing pleasure to do these.

As opposed to sketches that I do with the intent for finished paintings, these are more like gesture drawings. I don't use pencil at all (though I've taken a liking lately to doing a light scribble with a pale grey brush pen, and also for shadows), just straight to the page with pen. Not being able to erase forces you to commit to the lines, and really try to make each mark matter.

Some neat flowers:

Also, a very lovely portrait drawing (from one of my photos) from Kyra Kramer, age 6. (Thank you Kyra, I'm honored!!!)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tam Lin - The Faery Host

Tam Lin - The Faery Host
Size: 20x40 inches
Medium: Watercolors
Details: -here-
Prints: -here-

Gloomy, gloomy was the night,
And eerie was the way,
As fair Jenny in her green mantle
To Miles Cross she did gae.

At the mirk and midnight hour
She heard the bridles sing,
She was as glad at that
As any earthly thing.

-Child ballad #39A Tam Lin
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, 1882-1898 by Francis James Child

For more information on the full ballad, and other versions of it: -click here-

* * *

Phew. I can't believe how fast this painting happened. 6 days; though it was pretty much nose to the paper full time. Dana was such a sweetie to watch Claire and give me the chance to work on this. It was good to get a major painting out as I feel like I haven't had the chance to do that in a while and the itch was really building. Scanning this was no small task either. Even with my large format scanner, it took 7 passes that I had to stitch together!

I'll have full-sized limited edition giclees of this one in a month or two.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tam Lin - The Faery Host more progress

Another in-progress photo. Again, apologies for bad photo quality. Though this one at least I did during the day so there was better lighting.
Meredith asked me if I finished whole sections before moving on. Sort of. I finish tiny areas sometimes (like the little fairy figures, or the foxes), and other parts (like the background trees) I lay in base coats and go back to them as I develop those portions of the painting. I tend to jump around a lot to whatever section catches my fancy. In a painting this size I have a lot of room to jump around to!

Jumping around also helps to minimize waiting time if I have large areas that I'm waiting on to dry (i.e. the background). Instead of setting the painting aside and waiting, I can easily move onto another non-adjacent portion. Frequent technique question I get is, "How do you keep colors from all just blending together?" Easy, just don't paint next to a wet area unless you intend the colors to bleed. Although the skipping around is mostly random, I do generally move from the background up towards the foreground.

A couple reasons for that background->foreground order:

* To give distance, background elements are less crisp in detail. e.g. the spreading tree branches, wet on wet in some places to really let them fade out into the surrounding green.

* Easier to lay crisp edges of foreground elements on top of the background. Therefore I can kinda be messy about background stuff early on. Not too much since we are dealing with transparent watercolors, but some amount of leeway for messiness can be compensated for with lifting, or just by painting much more saturated foreground colors on top of.

* Speaking of saturation, since I was lazy and decided to skip doing color roughs, I really have very little idea about where I'm going with this piece for colors. I wanted green woods, so that part is a semi-gimme. And so it's been easier (brainless) to proceed with the each [choices] first. The more defined color choices have been put off so far. I'm still not sure whether I want that large foreground tree on the left to be reddish-brown, or purple-black. But by painting the colors that I'm certain of first I can narrow the possibilities for the uncertain areas gradually until the choice becomes much easier. A kind of organic process of elimination.

Closeups on some of the foxes I got to today!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tam Lin - The Faery Host some fuzzy in-progress shots

Got more painting done than I would have thought today. I suspect not being able to get on the internet would have something to do with that productiveness.... Anyway, this is way too big to do any in-progress scans. I don't intend to tackle scanning it again (after that initial sketch scan) until it's complete. But since I had several requests for photos, here are some badly lit, fuzzy photos.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Beginnings - Learned? Self-taught?

The question is often posed whether I studied art somewhere or was self-taught (and if the former, what suggestions and recommendations I can offer). The answer to that always seems rather complicated. I took many art classes all my life, whenever the opportunity presented itself. If I had the option for an ~art class~ or ~something else~ I invariably chose the art. Electives throughout middle and high school. Summer courses. And when I was at University of California in Berkeley from 1994-1998 studying Computer Science, I did also snag an art degree as well (more on that later).

So I've always had a creative background and exercised my drawing and painting skills. I feel that all of that laid the groundwork for basic concepts that I take for granted these days - like color theory, blending, perspective, composition. If it wasn't exactly focused or intense studies of any of these, it was at the very least an understanding and integration of the vocabulary of art into the way that I think. You don't ever think about learning to speak your first language - it just happens as you develop; I feel that way about art and how the concepts of color and light are simply a part of how I think.

My painting style today was not the result of any dedicated course of study, nor reference to technique books. I never sat down and specifically took any class on watercolors or illustration. In this way I do feel that I am self-taught. But to use that term "self taught" seems to deny the wealth of disparate experiences and backdrop of artistic expression that guided me to evolve and grow as an artist.

I was at University of California in Berkeley from 1994-1998, studying Computer Science and doubling in Art. I'm frequently asked by students if they should consider going to Berkeley for Art. I didn't even go to Berkeley for art. I went there for their wonderful Computer Science program because at that time I had every intention of following a sensible career course and entering the workforce as a software programmer. I had been convinced by the time I entered college by various high school career advisers that making a living with art was a hopeless endeavor. My choice of school was purely to get myself an education with good career options (also I did grow up with a computer-geek father, and so I actually do enjoy programming). Art would be side hobby.As I mentioned earlier though, I was always picking up art classes on the side when opportunities arose. I began taking so many art electives that I eventually decided to simply double major.

What kind of art classes were these though? Certainly nothing of the sort you would expect from seeing my art these days. I spent those four years smashing bottles and gluing them back together, throwing paint and drips onto canvases, digging through junkyards to put together found-object art installations.... It amazed (and saddened) me to find how quickly freshmen learned to look at any work that was remotely representational and say with a faint sneer to their voice, "It looks illustrational." (Which was the worst possible thing imaginable!) I found it ironic that in the name of being open-minded and accepting of all forms of Art, they immediately shut out so many possibilities, and closed their thoughts to a whole arena of expression. I was disappointed, but determined to make the most of the experience, and not to close my mind to these more abstract forms of art. I threw myself (and my paints) wholeheartedly into it. (Incidentally, we were not allowed to use watercolors in any of the classes. It was deemed "an illustrator's medium").

And then in my spare time at night after my assignments were done, I did illustrations ("illustrational!!!!") for various Fanzines. I can't even remember the names of all of the fanzines any longer, except for one Moonlight Masquerade. They were distributed by snail mail. No ezines yet in those days. Labors of love!

That whole experience has shaped my opinion of art school. I believe that the most vital key to making your way into the world as an artist is not found in any class. I'll grant that there are many classes and schools out there that are vastly different from my personal experience; but courses can't put the drive to create art in your heart. And daily practice - forcing your eyes to see and your hands to understand how to make that translation from eye to mind to paper, is better than any teacher.

Even as my Berkeley graduation date approached, I still thought that I would be a software programmer, art hobbyist; but I distinctly remember when that changed in my head. I had just returned from a career fair, talking with recruiters from all kinds of tech companies. This was at the height of the dot-com BOOM! Programmers were in such high demand that some companies were offering bonuses to students to leave their studies and just come to work now. I had many promising leads.

All that evening I found I was inexplicably depressed. I couldn't understand the cause of it, for my prospects were looking fairly good. It was only when I realized that though I did enjoy programming, I did not want to do it for a living; that I wanted to draw and paint. Art was vital to my happiness and I couldn't conceive of it being secondary any longer. With that realization I took a few days to weigh my options and finally formulated a plan. I would take a software position, and the relative comfort and security of that job would allow me to have the funds to pursue art. It would afford time to put together a portfolio and seriously explore avenues. I had only begun to go to some of the local smaller conventions. I wanted to travel further afield to some of the larger shows I had heard of (GenCon! Dragoncon! Comic-Con!) The programming knowledge came in handy in that I was able to get started right away with writing my own website. Nifty programs that helped non-programmers create webpages were another thing that didn't really exist yet at the time.

.to be continued. Getting towards the midnight hour!

(Part 2 - Continuation of this thread can be found -here-)

Keyword Sketch Cards

Going out this Friday:

Tam Lin - The Faery Host ginormous sketch

Sketch for this piece is done at last. It's huge, barely fits on my desk. 40x20 inches. This will be the largest watercolor I've ever done (I have done bigger acrylics back in my college days, but never something with this much fine detail).

I don't usually do color roughs but I think for this one I might do a bit of color prep just because it's too big to wrap my head around with choosing colors on the spot.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Last Embers

Medium: Watercolor
Size: 7x10 inches

and when the flame flickers, flares, and fails;
who will be the one to bear the last spark from its grave?
an ember of divinity,
it dares to wink and flash:
a thought
a wish
a promise made
a fragment of the sun
a transcendental aspiration
an incidental inspiration

* * *

I had some time today, and I felt the itch to paint. I haven't had the opportunity to paint something new in far too long. What I really wanted to work on was my Tam Lin series; however I want to start on the central main panel of the faery court for that first, to get the color palette set before doing the smaller side panels. And that unfortunately is being held up by my 30x40 inch illustration board not yet arriving from That should be showing up on my doorstep tomorrow (crossing fingers) and then I can get started on that final sketch!

At any rate, with the drive upon me, I dug around for something that I could do in a day. I can't concentrate on more than one painting at a time, and I know that as soon as my board arrives tomorrow I want to get started on that one. So it had to be something I could finish today. I found this sketch lying around in my drawer. It's been taped to the board and ready to be painted for months now but for some reason kept getting sidelined. It was originally an alternate pose for "The First Star".

Small, relaxing, and fun to do. Last few paintings (the myth and magic ones I've been posting lately are chronologically out of order here so they don't count) have been purple/green/orange tones. So, some variety here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Llewellyn's 2011 Astrological Calendar

2011 Calendar now available for sale on Shadowscapes!

40 pages, 12x12 inches. This calendar is jam-packed with astrological information to plan the year wisely. You'll find horoscopes, best days for planting and fishing, rewarding and challenging days, and travel forecasts by Bruce Scofield. There's also an astrology primer to help beginners use the vast amount of astrological data contained within. Comprehensive and practical, with original artwork by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, the creator of the Shadowscapes Tarot, it's easy to see why Llewellyn's Astrological Calendar is the best-known, most trusted astrological calendar sold today.

To see the 12 images included in the calendar, -click here-

When purchased from Shadowscapes, the calendar cover is autographed by Stephanie, and you will also receive a bonus 5x7 inch mini-print/postcard of "The Queen of Spades Sends Her Regards"

Monday, July 12, 2010

New (Old) art from Myth & Magic

Some pieces that I did last year. They've been hiding until Myth & Magic was published. I wanted to save some things to be surprises! Also, question to those of you who have had a chance to peruse both my Dreamscapes books. IMPACT is interested in me doing a third book, this time concentrating on creatures. Are there any specific techniques you would be interested in seeing me address in this next book?

Heart of the Wood
8x10 inches
This dryad was based from one of my favorite ink drawings a couple years ago!

Fiery Glory
8x10 inches

The Selkie
8x10 inches

Wings of the Night
8x10 inches

Friday, July 9, 2010

Tam Lin - The Faery Host sketch

Several sketchbook pages of figures cobbled together digitally to get this composition. Fiddling with the size of the figures to get the right perspective and how they overlap and fit together to make an interactive whole.

Then taking that initial thumbnail of the entire composition that I did last week, blowing it up real large and adding these figures. Complicated compositions like this make me really glad to have the aid of digital tools.
At this point I'm pretty satisfied with how it all meshes. I can print this out and transfer it as a more polished, detailed, and finished sketch to the final painting surface. This is still a very rough stage. 30x40 inch illustration board hasn't arrived in the mail yet, so it'll be a while before I can finish the transfer.

To give you an idea of all the different parts that were manipulated together:
Usually to much lesser extents, this is generally how I design all my compositions during the preparation phases.

Keyword Sketch Cards & Order Update

Next batch of special editions. Unfortunately these, as well as the ones from 19.jpg that I posted last week will not be shipped just yet. I just reordered more decks and am waiting for Llewellyn to ship them. I don't know if it might take a while or not as they mentioned that it is in its second printing right now! It does mean that I'm temporarily halted on the waiting list as well. Thanks for everyones' patience!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tam Lin - The Knight Sketch

Finalized sketch for the third panel (10x20 inches), of Tam Lin. The background is meant to be a rough-ish mirror to the first panel of Janet; and the central image in between the two will be of the Fairy host riding through the forest.

Thanks ladies of #LesFantastiques, and Sandra for inspiration and suggestions on this sketch!

One more sketch to go before I start painting this series. Looking forward to it because so far I'm excited with how these two sketches have turned out.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tam Lin - Janet Sketch & Roses

Finalized sketch for the first panel (20x10 inches). I think I might actually sketch all three out before starting to paint. The central one will take a while as I'm going to make it quite large...20x40 inches. That would make it the largest watercolor I've ever done if I pull it off. Just ordered the illustration board from an hour ago, since the largest I usually keep around here is 20x30 inches.

Some thorny inspiration and references from the Berkeley Rose Garden this past weekend:

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tam Lin Scribblings

During my brief trip to and from Colorado last week I got some sketching time in on the airplane and in the evening. A story I've wanted to approach for a long time is that of Tam Lin, stolen away by the Queen of Faery, and saved from a fate of being the faery tithe to Hell by the love and strength of Janet. Listening to Tricky Pixie's version of this old ballad revived my old interest in doing a painting on the theme. In fact I decided to do a triptych - the left panel being Janet in the woods, the central image of the faery entourage at Miles Cross on Holloween, and the right of Tam Lin. So far only some rough sketches for the first two.

First sketch for Janet. Like the face and expression, but not too excited about the pose. Too..."standard fantasy woman".
Another go at it. Playing with background as well. Still not satisfied. Looks too static and pretty like an Art Nouveau poster.
Ah ha. Got it finally. Used the head/face from the first sketch.
Thumbnail for the composition.
Blending in some of those background elements from the second sketch. Visited the Berkeley Rose Garden this past weekend and got lots of reference photos of rose bushes and tangled thorny vines to use for this!
For the second panel, thumbnail of the composition.
First pass for a sketch of the faery queen.