Monday, February 28, 2011

Bridge of Wings - Weaver Girl - sketch

Next painting. I took on this Chinese story about a decade ago. Revisiting it, as I have been meaning to do for a while.

Here's the old version, dug out of the archives....

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Keyword Sketch Cards, & Oakland appreciation

clockwise: empty, outdoorsy, eternity, bats, sorrow, soul
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It's called Oakland, but we actually have a whole lot of redwoods here too. I've wanted to go hiking for a week, but it's just been rainy and drizzly lately. Had my opportunity today when the sun broke through the solid gray screen of clouds. Hetaded up the road to Joaquinn Miller preserve, just around the corner from where I live.

I don't take advantage of its proximity often enough, and I was reminded of this as I started down one of the trails and that spicy scent of redwood quickly enveloped me. The recent rains were evident in the lushness of the undergrowth, the damp pine needles underfoot, and the verdant draping of moss along the tree trunks.

The trails closer to home (across the street) are a bit inundated with alien species (blackberries and ivy), but higher up on the ridge, it's mostly native plants.

Claire got impatient about a mile along the trail, so we had to turn back at that point, but it was nice to stretch my legs.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Forgotten Bells of Ys

Medium: Watercolors
Size: 12x17 inches
Detail closeup views -here-
Prints and original for sale -here-
Pencil sketch -here-

The sailors and fishers have seen the gilt shadows
stretching proud arches upon the glass seas;
and I have heard echos of eons dead bells
drifting in tides of ghost melodies.

There are many legends of vanished cities, sunk beneath the hungry ocean waves. One of the most famous was the beautiful city of Ys, off the coast of Brittany, in the Bay of Douarnenez. There was once a King of Brittany, named Gradlon. He fell in love with a druid woman, a Queen of the North, the sorceress Malgven. Together, they slew her husband, and took his magical horse Morvarc'h who could fly across the shifting seas as upon land. The lovers fled back to Gradlon's lands. Their journey across the seas took so long, that Malgven grew pregnant, and gave birth while still in transit. Their daughter, born on the shifting ocean waves, was named Dahut.

Malgven died in the birthing, but to honor her, and as a gift to his daughter, King Gradlon built the most glorious and beautiful of cities. There were great white temples to the old gods, fantastic towers and spires and palaces. These were all built below the sea level, and protected from the deadly waters by bronze walls and a gate, to which Gradlon held the only key. He named this city Ys, and its beauty was to be rivaled by no others.

Dahut grew to be a lovely young woman, doted on by her father, but she reveled in debauchery. Ys was transformed into a haven for her wicked ways. Each night, she took a new lover, and in the morning had him executed. One day, a strange knight, clad in red armor came to Ys, and Dahut was smitten by him. He convinced her to acquire the key to the city gates to satisfy his whim and prove her love. In drunken giddiness, Dahut crept to her sleeping father's bedchambers that night, and lifted the key from the chain around his neck. She brought it back to the red knight, triumphant; but the knight turned out to be none other than the devil!

The gates to Ys were opened, and high tide and storm that had been raging all the while, came crashing through the bronze doors, flooding the city. Gradlon awoke and instantly knew what had happened when he found the key missing. He raced through the palace to his magical steed Morvarc'h, flying up above the waves that quickly were enveloping Ys in their saline embrace.

When he caught sight of Dahut, he pulled her up behind him on Morvarc'h, attempting to fly away, but time and again she kept slipping, and Morvarc'h struggled to stay above the clawing waves. A Saint appeared to Gradlon, telling him, "You must abandon the demon who sits behind you." Gradlon resisted, but eventually Dahut slipped from his grasp, falling back into the ocean, where she was transformed into a mermaid, forevermore to swim among the ghostly bells of Ys.

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What seems a very long time ago, back in 1998, I did a painting on this theme. I was not yet working in watercolors back then. Digital was my main medium. Here's a little glimpse of one of the (really bad!) pieces I did back then. So...uh...yeah...I think practice every day for over a decade has paid off.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Inking tools, and newest assortment of pens (art-geeking)

I'm often asked what I use for my ink drawings.


Strathmore Bristol board, smooth, 300 series, is my preference, for ink. They also have a rough version, which works fine for ink too, though it has a tiny bit of tooth that shows up when scanning. So if you want a nice clean scan, the smooth is better. (Rough works great for pencils, however).

This bristol board is what I use for drawings like the ACEOs that I've been doing lately, as well as larger pieces like these:

I usually buy an 11x14 inch pad of it, and cut down sheets to whatever sizes I need. When working, I find it best to tape the piece of paper down by the corners to a masonite board to protect the edges, and also for ease of transportation and comfort when drawing. That way I can work while lounging on a couch, with the board on my lap, instead of always at the desk! Or at a convention table. Or in bed.

For my travel sketchbook, I have currently been enjoying Hand Book Artist Journals. Mine is a 6x6 inch square journal, with nice heavyweight sheets. They're thick enough to use brush pens and not have anything seep through to the back. It is cold press, so does have a bit of a tooth, but that makes it suitable for pencil as well, if you choose.

I also sometimes pick up sketchbooks with a neutral color base, and that makes for extra fun with being able to build up darks, or lights (with the use of white gel pen).

I usually prefer spiral-bound sketchbooks, so that the pages can lay perfectly flat. And while Hand Book journals are not, it still does flatten reasonably well. The other advantage to non-spiral binding is that the pages don't get as mangled when the book is tossed haphazardly into your backpack or purse. With spiral-bound books, I usually hand-construct a protective little box that the book can slide in and out of quickly, out of scrap mat board.

* * *

Here's my main and basic drawing tool, Hi-Tec-C gel pens:
I first found these during my brief stint in Japan back in 2001, and instantly fell in love with them. When I got back to the US, the only place I was able to find that sold them were local chain Kunikuniya stores (selling Japanese books and stationary) in Japantown. I was lucky enough to have that close by. Though later I found them online as well, and now I usually buy them from my favorite pen-site,

The ink flows very smoothly. They come in dozens of colors (though I mainly stick to sepia, black, and brown). My preferred thickness is 0.3, which is a very nice and fine line. Occasionally I use some of the bright colors to accent paintings, blending the ink out with a wet brush. The painting on the right here, "Potential", is one example of such. I used red hi-tec-C gel pen for that really shockingly brilliant red of the butterflies, and blended with a wet brush while the ink was still wet, so that it melded with the watercolors.

* * *

New acquisition, Kuretake Fudegokochi Brush Pen - Gray Ink:
My father-in-law sent me this link to a review of this pen a couple weeks ago. As luck would have it, I was in need of a new brush pen, since the old one I've been using was running rather dry. I really like this one, though it's rather firmer than I was expecting. Though if you press hard, you can get a slightly wider line. It is water soluble, so fades out nicely if you take a brush of clear water to it. It's also not as light of a grey as I hoped for though, so I still need a secondary brush pen of some lighter shade.

* * *

Another new acquisition, Kuretake Brush Writer Blendable Color Brush Pen - Light Grey:While I like the Kuretake Fudegokochi Brush Pen, I absolutely love this one. Its tip is much more of a real "brush", and so you can get a nice variety of strokes with it, and can really lay in a light grey wash or thin detail lines quite easily, with a fluid and organic grace. And they come in so many different colors (24)!

The only downside is that it's rather spendy. $7.50 for one pen. I'll have to see how long the ink in this lasts to decide whether its worth it to continue purchasing them.

Though I've usually stuck to black, this time around I picked up a sepia (mostly because hi-tec-C has a new sepia color as well!)

I like to have a very light grey brush pen for gradual shading, and sometimes for "sketching" (before applying darker tones), and a second brush pen of a much darker shade for bolder lines and shapes.

This pen has a very fine point, but the brush allows for thicker lines quite easily as well.

* * *
And finally, Uniball Signo White Gel Pen:
I did a post a while back about the uses of white gel pens for painting. You can find that post -here-. I also use them with ink, when working on neutral tone paper. The shadows get worked in with the greys and blacks, and the highlights can be pulled forward with white gel pen.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Forgotten Bells of Ys Sketch

Next up. Maybe I can get this painted over the long weekend.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Keyword Sketch Cards

Felt it was time to change things up a bit. You might have observed that in this and the last installation of keyword cards and aceos, that I've started incorporating grey brushpen into the mix as well.

Clockwise: Enchanter (aceo), solace, Oya, cricket, patience, hope, panda, growth

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Climbing the Dragon Gate

Climbing the Dragon Gate
Medium: Watercolors
Size: 12x17 inches
Prints and Original available -here-
Detail closeup views -here-
Original sketch available -here-

In Chinese and Japanese legend the lowly carp spends its life trying to swim up the Yellow River. At the source of the river is a great roaring waterfall. If the koi were able to swim up that waterfall, it would be rewarded and transformed into a dragon. Thus, the koi is a symbol of personal advancement, perseverance, determination in the face of impossible obstacles, and inner strength. The journey of the carp to become a dragon was a metaphor for young scholars passing the Chinese state exams and become a mandarin.

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Dana is amused by this painting. He says it looks like all the carp are saying, "HORRAY! You made it!!! Go go dragoncarp!!!"

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tea Misadventures, and Carp

My choice of "favorite tea mug" bears an unfortunate resemblance in shape and size to my paint-water-bowl.... That's just asking for trouble.
And that's NOT a pretty blue glaze on the paint-bowl. It's "clear" plastic. It has been my painting companion for 10+ years, following me from my brief stint in Japan. It has acquired some permanent layers of color on it now due to periodic uses on non-water-soluble mediums, and sometimes glue, that have sealed the dried watercolors in.

And a peek at how the latest dragon painting is coming along. I got a lot of the water done today, and started on some of the koi.
Rather woozy now though...still sick, and while the cold medicine is working wonders for my poor runny nose, it's really doing a number on my ability to focus and coherence....

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"Climbing the Dragon Gate" Sketch

Final sketch ready to be painted.
The legend of how a carp must swim up the Yellow River and be transformed into a dragon.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Snifflings and Dragon Sketching

In between sniffling and sneezing with the latest cold I've landed, sketching for the next painting. Third installment of Dreamscapes is coming along quite well though. All the step-by-steps and text is done. It's just a few chapter introductions left, and a couple of showcase pieces (of which this will be one).

2011 has so far been "The Year of Being Sick". It seems that our little household has perpetually had at least 2 members being sick ever since January 1st.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Keyword Sketch Cards

clockwise: devotion, stars, moon, isis, foxcub, foxes