Tag Archives: painting

Writing prompt: Blame someone else

Time: 10 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Blame someone else” (This list is an awesome source of completely silly prompts.)


The painting was covered in a thick layer of soot. I read the documentation. For years, it had hung next to a fireplace in a small poorly ventilated room. But the composition and the brushstrokes had the right look. My boss believed it was an authentic Vensammer. Tina the wonder employee, said that it probably wasn’t. When I cleaned this painting up, she’d see.

I looked at the painting for a while. It depicted a middle-aged woman sitting next to a young boy. In my mind, I guessed at the age of the painting and the techniques that would have been used at the time. Which paints would react to which treatments. If it was a Vensammer, we could auction it for twenty times what we bought it for.

I reached for the solvent, but instead I knocked it over onto the painting. I picked the painting up and tried to let it run off. If it had the proper oil finish, it would be okay with such a brief exposure. I turned the painting back over. It was not. Paint ran in ugly rivulets. Vensammer would never have been so reckless. It wasn’t a Vensammer. It was a worthless piece of junk that I had further ruined.

Quickly quickly, I dried the painting. I slid it back into the storage slot. I carefully redacted my name from the sign in list, and put Tina’s in instead. I took another painting that needed light cleaning and hurried off with it. No sir, I’d never touched that Vensammer.

Tina came in later. She studied the log; she seemed puzzled by it. I said nothing. She pulled out the faux Vensammer.

“Mert, what happened to this painting? I didn’t do this, I swear!” Her eyes were wide, pupils dilated.

The boss walked in. I suppressed a smile. “Is that the Vensammer?” she bellowed.

“Y-yes,” Tina stammered. “I can’t explain.” Tina stared at the painting, desperate. Then her face settled. “Wait,” she said. “Do you see this shape underneath this smear?”

The boss leaned in. She grunted.

“There’s another painting under here!” Tina cried. “And I’m even more certain the surface painting wasn’t a Vensammer.” She pulled out several tools and carefully set to work on the painting. “This shade of yellow… I bet this is an Artello!”

“An Artello! That’s better than a Vensammer!”


The beautiful Library of Congress

The Thomas Jefferson building of the Library of Congress is just across the street from the Capitol building in Washington DC. It may be the most beautiful building in the world. Completed in 1898, it is covered in sculptures and murals portraying gilded age ideals; one section of painting shows personifications of the various scientific disciplines from astronomy to biology.

If you are a fan of art nouveau works, as I am, the Thomas Jefferson building is almost overwhelming, draped from head-to-toe in exciting color and design. Below are just a few of the pictures I took. Additionally, the library houses several excellent rotating exhibits. DC has a lot of great institutions to visit, and Library of Congress should definitely be one you seek out.


Ceiling of the Great Hall


Skylights of the Great Hall


Looking across the Great Hall


Mosaic, Minerva of Peace, by Elihu Vedder

LOC-00753 LOC-00750

Playing with paint and color

For years, I’ve played with paint and markers and colored pencils. After taking tutorials this summer for Photoshop and illustrator, I was astonished at how much I learned in a short time, and how much I hadn’t known from years of aimless experimentation. I realized– I must have similar gaps and oversights in other self-taught areas.

So I am taking a watercolor painting class. I’ve learned a ton, had fun, and been inspired in other artistic endeavors as well. The excitement of this class has re-energized my work on a second set of fairy tales. And I just signed up for a pop-up book class in August!

Week 2: Painting with one color from a photograph. Focusing on value and texture and mark-making. Sometimes I’m afraid to take risks painting, where there isn’t an undo button and sometimes your choices just don’t look good. In these, I tried techniques involving gouging the paper, spattering the paint from the brush, and painting wet-in-wet.


Week 3: Still life. To start this painting, we painted the bright parts of the composition with a warm color (I chose the yellow on the tabletop though orange and red can be appropriate choices too) and the shadows with a cool color (a less intense version of the shadow under the bowl). Sunlight is warm compared to the cool shadows it casts, so painting these casts evoke such settings. Then the brighter colors go over these washes, with more illuminated regions taking warmer casts and more shadowed regions taking cooler casts.

fruit plate-small

Week 4: Still life (still in progress). In this painting, we chose another painting to emulate, and tried to style our still life after this painting. (I would post this image, but I really have no idea as to the copyright implications.) To emulate my choice, I 1) tried to keep objects as more simplified shapes rather than intricately detailed and 2) planned for certain regions to be brightly painted, and others to pull most of the paint off after I applied it. All the red in this image is bright as are the labels of the bottle and the box. The bottle glass and the bowl glass I washed out. To finish this piece, I still need to add a bit to the napkins and plate under the bowl. I want to do this with comparatively little paint, and to allow to the eye to fill in the negative space.

still life-small

Writing prompt: world build for an in-progress work

Time: 7 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts. This prompt is related to the prompt “a door that goes anywhere“.

“World-build for an in-progress work, specifically for a magic system”

The main character’s parents have a door that goes anywhere. Through his childhood, the character didn’t know about this door, and he only found out about it by accident when he did. His parents are unhappy about him finding out. They didn’t want him to know because they didn’t want him to follow their footsteps and do what they did.

The door can go anywhere. The parents use this to gather scarce and special materials from all corners of the planet for special paintings that have magical properties. A portrait of a person with the right ingredients can improve their health or maybe their fertility. A different portrait can sabotage their health, or make the stressed or unlucky. Without the door, obtaining the right materials in the right purities would be nearly impossible, but it’s still quite hard as you must have been to the location before. The parents apprenticed to learn these locations and materials.

Naturally enough, there are people who use the paintings to control and harm people, and people who use the paintings to help and enrich people, and these two groups don’t like each other. The character’s parents are the nice group, but each group works hard to maintain the secrecy of their identity, since then the opposition could paint a portrait of them.

The paintings need not be only portraits. A painting of a volcano with the right ingredients might increase the likelihood of an eruption or a painting of a plane with the right ingredients might increase the likelihood of a smooth flight. A painting of locusts could either increase or decrease the likelihood of destruction by them.

The parents don’t want the character participating because the good side has been losing, and their own health has been sabotaged. The bad side has a sense of honor, and doesn’t generally attack unaffiliated people, but if the character were to become involved, his health and safety would be vulnerable.

Nationality Rooms at the Cathedral of Learning

This weekend, I went to the Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh. Among other things, this gothic skyscraper contains 29 nationality rooms–each of these rooms is decorated intricately in the design of a nation. The first 19 were built between 1938 and 1957, with ten built since 1987. The Turkish and the Swiss classrooms were dedicated in 2012, and several more are planned. If you are in Pittsburgh and have any interest in craft or design, I can’t recommend visiting enough.

To visit the classrooms, you can check out a key at the desk, or take a tour with a guide. We rented a key. Visiting each room felt like a treasure hunt; each room was so different, and full of intense detail. Each room had special walls, windows, ceilings, chairs, lecterns, and chalkboards. Even the light switches and doors were in style. Many contain intricate wood or stone carvings, or genuine artifacts. Most were designed by architects of the country.

You can learn more on the University of Pittsburgh website about the nationality rooms. This page allows you to virtually tour each room.

The Chinese nationality room.

The Chinese nationality room, dedicated in 1939.

The Czechoslovak room, dedicated in 1939. This room contains a letter from the first President of Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Masaryk, to the students of the University of Pittsburgh.

The Czechoslovak room, dedicated in 1939, 8 days before the Germans invaded in World War 2. This room contains a letter from the first President of Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Masaryk, to the students of the University of Pittsburgh. His son, Jan, spoke at the dedication of the room, foreseeing trouble in the future. Page 4 of this document details the interesting connection between Czechoslovakia and Pittsburgh.

The Hungarian room was dedicated in 1939.

The Hungarian room was dedicated in 1939.

The Lithuanian room, dedicated in 1940. The walls are woven from linen in the "The Path of the Birds" design. Between the angular, abstract carvings and the painting and the walls, this was one of my favorite rooms.

The Lithuanian room, dedicated in 1940. The walls are woven from linen in the “The Path of the Birds” design. Between the angular, abstract carvings and the painting and the walls, this was one of my favorite rooms.

A detail from the Romanian room, dedicated in 1943. The style of this mural on the back wall reminded me of the opening of Beauty and the Beast.

A detail from the Romanian room, dedicated in 1943. The style of this mural on the back wall reminded me of the opening of Beauty and the Beast.

The Swedish room, dedicated in 1938.

The Swedish room, dedicated in 1938.

The Yugoslav room, dedicated in 1939. The carving in this room, called "notch carving" was simply amazing.

The Yugoslav room, dedicated in 1939. The carving in this room, called “notch carving”, was simply amazing.

The cathedral of learning, exterior.

The cathedral of learning, exterior.

The main hall of the cathedral of learning.

The main hall of the cathedral of learning.

The main hall of the cathedral of learning.

The main hall of the cathedral of learning.

Vironevaeh: Hiroshige Influence

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the paintings of Japanese artist Hiroshige. So I got inspired and tried my hand at something along those lines, something like a science fiction Hiroshige. The drawings are set in the world of Vironevaeh: Science Fiction Fairy Tales (which, btw, is free on iPad =) ).

The first, done in watercolor, shows the city of Vironevaeh on the North Bay with Mt. Viro-Vit in the background. The second is a tweaked version done in markers. The third is the linework for another, depicting a Vironevaehn holiday called Digurtian Day. The Digurtian Day celebration is labeled in Vironevaehn. Many of the Hiroshige paintings are labeled in Japanese, so it felt fun to channel that spirit.

Happy Friday! I’m off to the Virginia Festival of the Book!


viro-city-marker-smaller viro-digurtian day-medium

Zish and Argo Artwork

My biggest goal over the holidays was to complete painting for the Zish and Argo book. Last night I finished the last painting! Hooray! Champagne! Zish and Argo has 13+ full size color illustrations, painted in water colors. The picture below shows the ones I finished during the holidays. For reference, they are about 8 inches tall. In the next couple of weeks, I will pull together the art and put up book details. The featured image shows the tentative cover that I just finished as well.

Tomorrow I head back north to new projects and adventures.




A little on watercoloring

This week I am spending most of my time painting the line-art from The Galactic Adventures of Zish and Argo. One of the things I really like about watercolors is that they travel well. I’m on the road for the next couple of weeks, but it is just as easy to paint here as it is at home. A major reason for the portability is the type of materials I use. I bought a Windsor-Newton field box set several years ago, pictured below. At $50, you might experience a bit of sticker shock. I’ve only recently had to start replacing pans; it lasts and lasts.

I have used the liquid watercolors as well. I find I enjoy the quick set up of the solid colors. There is no need to dole out paint as you go, and you only use what you need. Plus it’s easier to travel with. The solid paints can still deliver good intensity and brightness. I roll all my brushes up in a bamboo case like this one, and then I’m ready to go anywhere and paint anything. If you have a pigment-ink printer, you can economize on your watercolor paper by selectively choosing what you print. I discuss that more in an old entry, here.

I read a watercolor book a few years ago that I found helpful as well: Watercolor Tricks and Techniques, by Johnson. If you are curious, it is worth a look.

So there are 13 paintings for the core of the Zish and Argo book. I have 7.5 paintings done, so I’m over halfway! The Robotoids say hello!!robot

Xmas from Zish and Argo

I began printing and painting the line work for The Galactic Adventures of Zish & Argo. Now that painting has begun, I hope to have the first book pulled together in a month or two. In the meantime, this project has been a source of great joy.

I have become fond of the characters, so I find myself doodling the pair engaging in a variety of activities. Happy holidays from Zish and Argo!


Getting creative with a printer

Last year I got a medium format pigment printer (epson r2000). With research, you can get a decent deal on these kinds of printers. I purchased mine for $300 (with rebate) while it now lists for $550 (but remember, the ink is always a swindle). If you know how to use color profiles and tune your screen’s color, these printers can be a ton of fun. Printing photos was the main motivation for my purchase, but the other less expected uses have been equally exciting.

Watercolor painting and pigment printing

Pigment inks are waterproof after they dry. Long ago I learned the hard way that normal ink jets are not waterproof. This feature of pigment inks has helped my watercolor process immensely. Now I can do line art on low quality paper. Then I scan the line art in and I can digitally fix it. This can mean a number of things: I can remove a badly placed stroke, or I can rearranged items in space. For the Zish and Argo stories, I did preliminary line art, and moved things to satisfy the needs of the page layout.

Once the line art is optimized, then I can print to the expensive watercolor paper. I probably only use half of my preliminary line art, which is an awful waste of premium watercolor paper. But now I can be efficient. Printing line art is additionally attractive because it uses little ink. Additionally, I can print several copies, and have several chances to get my work just right. I did the featured image art using this procedure.

Printing on fun materials

The printer can also print to some fun surfaces. It can print to basically anything you feed through it, like poster board, wood, foam board, canvas, or other sufficiently heavy fabric. Obviously, it can also print to any sturdy paper as well (I print frequently to drawing and watercolor paper).

I recently did my first project printing to canvas. I then used this canvas to cover a book, shown below. This canvas is also designed to stretch over a frame like any canvas.

Any additional ideas on creative printing? There’s nothing better than using a tool on hand in a different way.