Monday, December 21, 2009

Painting in progress for Beautiful Grim

Visit for information about the Beautiful Grim art auction; hosted by fellow Northern Virginian Daarken and his friend Leif Jeffers, proceeds will go to helping pay medical bills for Daarken's girlfriend, Cat, after her treatments for breast cancer, and any remainder will go toward breast cancer charities.


**UPDATE, session 2**

Since the underlying theme of the auction is human endurance, I decided to stem off of a theme from my Trial by Water series; to me, water's effect on its surroundings represents the trials of everyday life, and is frequently a vision in my nightmares. But more than fear, these paintings are about being resilient and learning to live with conflict and hardship put upon you by outside forces you cannot control.

I think the idea of Beautiful Grim is incredible, and is not only going to benefit Cat, but is bringing the whole fantasy/game artist community together for a good cause. Above is the start of my entry into the auction/show. Started just this weekend, I'm about 12 hours into the actual painting (not counting the 9 hours for sketching, shooting reference, more sketching, prepping the surface, etc.) The final size is 24"W x 18"H, oil on illustration board.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The "Virtual Studio" Concept Using Google Technology

A very exciting and useful thing happened last week: A small critique group got kicked off when my long-time friend and fellow illustrator Joe Wilson decided to use Google's new technology, Wave, to follow in the footsteps of the mega-pros, and create what they call a "virtual studio."

I was going to make a lengthy post about it, but my fellow Wave-er Mike Sass beat me to it: His post sums up what I'm sure all of us are feeling.

Aside from the technology coming in very handy for a critique format, the specific blend of people we have at the moment has a uniquely awesome chemistry. We have folks from lots of different areas of illustration, including books, games, and comics, and with varying levels of experience, as well as different strengths. We all have a couple of things in common, too: We're all very driven and talented, and above all else: we're so much fun.

I like the fact that I can give advice on texture and lighting, and in the same keystroke get help on poses and composition. I'm very excited to see how all of our work will collectively improve over the next several months. You can't get an education this good in school.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

New Website: The Evolution of

New look, same great taste.

I've used my online portfolio as an excuse to tinker with web design for several years, before doing web design as my day job. I put up my first art site in 2005 under the domain (my maiden name). Unfortunately there was a random DNS error coupled with a hard drive crash, and the site was only up a mere three weeks before plunging into web limbo. If I remember correctly, the layout was mostly greys with some curly-cues around the edges (to cover for the fact that I didn't have much work to show yet). Despite the design blunders, the real issue it had was that it was trying to accomplish too much. There was a separate page for illustration, design, photography, and music (don't ask). People would ask, "so, what is it you do, exactly?"


Moving right along to 2006, I designed the first illustration website I wasn't embarrassed to show anyone, mostly. I had only done a couple of table sites at this point, using what was popular in band sites at the time as my guide... remember the days of teeny tiny websites that floated in the center of a black page. Yes, that.

Well, for the first time I had what seemed like enough art to call a portfolio, however no one could find what they were looking for with the little 50x50 px icons. We live and learn.


Next up is the site I put live January 1, 2008, which is what I've used to represent my art on the web until earlier this afternoon.

While definitely stronger than the 2006 iteration, I've always felt it was a little too much. Too wordy all over, for starters. I realized I don't need a bio, so much as I need a PR statement. If people are interested in my life story, they can read my blog, but most people visit a portfolio site to look at the portfolio. Also it was a royal pain to update without a CMS.


And finally, we have the new 2010 edition of! I always tell people web design is an organic process, as websites grow and change over time. So for 2010 I lumped together all my knowledge from my design job, my former art sites, and advice from art directors and artists, and came up with a very clean, simple layout that will hopefully do what I need it to do.

My portfolio hadn't been pruned since 2007, so I did get rid of a lot of older work (maybe a bit too much, but I'll start here). My ideology is that an online portfolio should reflect the leather book you showing to people at reviews. Blogs and external portfolio sites are a great dumping ground for everything you've ever done, and your portfolio site should reflect your best work.

Another thing this site doesn't have that the last one did is a place to buy prints of my work. People did sometimes contact me about prints, but everyone seemed to want custom sizes or surfaces, so offering up the standard sizes ended up being more of a hassle than it was worth.

I'm keeping the tutorials section in hopes of adding to it over time, and because enough people have told me it's a useful resource. The blog feed is now condensed into titles in the lefthand column, but there's also a link to my physical blog in the main navigation, and an RSS subscription button for the google reader types.

I'm very curious to see how this new site performs over the last one, because I'll undoubtedly want to upgrade it again before long.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

New painting & other news

Just to catch up on some non-Illuxcon related news, I'm honored to have received word that four of my pieces have been selected for inclusion in UK-based Art Squared's book, Digital Painters 2, offered through Rage Publishing. The book features fine color reproductions of the work, as well as inspirational commentary from the artists.

Also, the cool kids over at Ninja Mountain put up a podcast wherein Jeremy McHugh interviewed a bunch of artists from the con including myself, and (in no discernable order) William O'Connor, Larry Elmore, Matthew Stewart, Michael Whelan, Joe Wilson, Laura Diehl, Chris Burdett, Piya Wannchaiwong,
Ryan Yee, and Aaron B Miller.

Currently on the easel, "Watchful Ranger" work in progress:



Friday, November 20, 2009

Illuxcon 2009 - Friday Evening, the 13th

Friday night was awesome.

I remember coming back to our hotel room at 2 AM and saying to Laura, "That. THAT is Illuxcon."

The evening began (after our naptime and sketchbook run) at Le Bistro, which was a new addition to the 'campus' since last year. I thought originally that no one in Altoona ate food, because last year it was impossible to find a restaurant in the whole downtown area... but really they're just hidden, and it was kind of Pat and Jeannie to reserve one.

We had some coffee and had good conversation with Scott Greig and Mike Sass- two very nice guys formerly from BioWare, who were visiting all the way from Canada. They told us stories about making video games back in the Baldur's Gate era (which admittedly was an awesome time for PC games). My favorite was the description of how models were textured in the days of yore; often they were limited to four textures per character, so an eyeball texture was sometimes stretched out over the limbs to simulate muscle.

We didn't really do much sketching, but judging from the crowd's fervor in the other room it was very very fun.

Afterward we crowded outside for Vincent Villafranca's live bronze pour:


Joe Wilson made the comment, "man, I can't even pour gravy that accurately."

The next part is always my favorite: the bar.
No, I'm not a huge drinker, but there's a lot to be said about meeting people with a drink in your hand. Fantasy artists are ridiculously nice people, and approaching them isn't hard anyway, though it's always nice to have a little extra bit of social lubrication.

Laura and I had a couple 'DS duels' where we traded her NintendoDS back and forth, making little paintings on the program Colors. Not so much a duel as a collaboration, but everything sounds better with 'Versus.' Eventually this ritual involved other artists. Laura even posted some of them on her blog!

I think the biggest significance about what Pat and Jeannie have done with Illuxcon, is that these events serve as a reminder to all of us that the community is still strong. You have the formal show and lectures, but you also have an open-format window of time to just talk to people- something you don't get every day in such a small field.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Illuxcon 2009 - Thursday the 12th/ Friday the 13th

Although it was fun going solo to the first Illuxcon, I think I prefer traveling with a group. This time I brought not only my husband, Brendan, but my illustrator pal Laura and her b/f Koz. We all shared a room at the Ramada to cut down on cost a bit, and used Laura's truck to load all our artwork.

(Koz & Laura in our hotel room, Thurs, Nov 11)

I knew it was going to be a great weekend going into it, but I was also excited about some of the new programming and artists. After getting into town, we stopped by the show, and wow. It was a bit overwhelming, honestly - it's not a show you can do in just an hour. You have to take it in in pieces, or else you'll miss a lot.
So we retreated to the bar. There weren't a whole lot of people there on Thursday night yet, but it was relaxing to grab a drink before turning in.

We woke up early on Friday and ate complimentary breakfast at the hotel so we could get down to the Heritage Center early. Our first stop of the day was the Art of Self Promotion roundtable discussion, with Boris Vallejo & Julie Bell, Donato Giancola, Ruth Sanderson, and Jeremy Caniglia. I agree with Boris that the audience-led conversation careened into tangential territory (talking about rights management and contracts) instead of focusing purely on getting your foot in the door, but there was a lot of useful information nonetheless.


One of the more notable parts of the discussion was Donato's demonstration of how 50% of your marketing will typically be for naught, while the other half might get the attention you're after; he demonstrated this concept by showing the audience two dollar bills, then tearing one into smaller and smaller pieces, representing how no matter how much you spend you'll get about half a return on your investment. He also brought along a portfolio he made out of two heavy steel dinner platters, which was... totally fun.


One of the more surprising things to hear was how much was mentioned, since previously I'd been under the impression that their printing was slipshod. Ruth and at least two others during the convention mentioned it as a cheap alternative to fancy offset printing for producing show books.

After that we sped over to room 003 and listened to Caniglia's History of Fantasy Art talk. This program was less interactive, but very informative. I felt bad bringing Brendan to this one since art history isn't easy to relate to if you don't have an art background, but he was a trooper. I thought the speech started out very strong, with Jeremy giving background on himself and tying Renaissance & Romantic art into modern fantasy themes. I wish that there had been a little more variety in the contemporary art parallels made, but after all there are time limits, and he did a great job for the time allotted.

After that, (ok this is mildly embarrassing) we all went back to the room to take a nap. At least the others did. My heart was moving at hummingbird speed from all the excitement, so while I tried to rest a little I couldn't stop fidgeting. After that was over, Laura, Koz, and I headed over to Target to buy sketchbooks (I told you this was embarrassing!) and then to Le Bistro for the Reception, Sketching, and live bronze pour...

To be continued...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Illuxcon 2009 - A (very) Brief Overview

It's good to be home, but I have to say that this year's Illuxcon was one of the best weekends I've had in my life. A huge thanks to Patrick & Jeannie Wilshire for hosting yet another amazing event.

I'll probably map out my whole experience day-by-day, but overall, I learned (or reaffirmed) a few important lessons:

1. Carry your portfolio with you at all times, including to restaurants and the bar. Illux is full of opportunities to look at amazing work both in- and outside the actual show, so take full advantage of every opportunity to make yours available. Likewise, if an illustrator does NOT have his or her portfolio, it's ok to scowl at them disapprovingly.

2. Buy a portfolio with removable pages (or bring an Xacto knife with you). Chances are your book will need surgery after the first several reviews, and there's nothing worse than playing doctor using the wrong tools.

3. Charge your camera battery. One of my biggest hopes for next year's con is that someone else will take over my photo-snapping responsibilities. I do like taking photos, but it's kind of frustrating to break character while waiting for a prosumer Nikon to FOCUS. Also, everyone seems to have a better camera than me... hmm...

4. Go to as many lectures as possible. Bonus points if you can somehow be in 3 places at once!

5. did I mention that thing about bringing your portfolio everywhere?

Now I mentioned to a few folks that I was thinking of creating a Flickr account for people to post up their post-con artwork (or rather, the paintings inspired by the 'Illuxcon experience'). And so I actually did! Come join here:
My studio floor is a mess with business cards, so if I met you you'll be getting an email from me to that effect.

More details to come- Back to work!!!!

(my silly mug @ the Saturday showcase... good times)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Illuxcon 2 is NEXT WEEK!!!!

SO EXCITED. I even made a little postcard holder out of scrap moulding. :)

Hope to see even more folks there than last year! I'll be there the full four days this time, so come find me at the Ramada hotel bar any evening and we'll talk art.

Monday, October 5, 2009

In the Mirror...

A quickie I did yesterday for Imagine FX Q&As, upcoming issue 51:

I'm always amazed by how long it takes me to write tutorials and answers to art questions. It almost takes me longer than doing the work itself. I guess it's sort of like typing or playing piano - you do it for so long you can't remember where the keys are unless you're touching them.

Close up #1: [link]
Close up #2: [link]

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"Cruciata Navaar" for Sinister Adventures

This one was SO much fun. Read more about the character here at the SA website: The character designer and art director Nick Logue's ultra-descriptive character studies are some of my favorites to work from - in fact, he does half my work for me by creating such vivid imagery with his writing. We did a few snippets together last year, and I hope to have the pleasure of painting many more.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Return to Neverland WIP - collaboration with Aaron Sikstrom

Pan? Wendy? A jealous mermaid? What could possibly be cooler subject matter for a collaborative effort? A few weeks back I got a very nice email from Aaron Sikstrom ( asking if I'd be interested in doing a piece with him. At the time neither of us knew the other had an affinity for Peter Pan mythology, so it was quite a nice surprise when I first saw the sketch he provided for me: [link].

As the painter/colorist, I thought the otherworldly lagoon-light would make a great contribution to bring out the magic of the story. There's still a fair bit of work left to be done, but it's really shaping up.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Exotique 5 & Getting back in the saddle...

I got the good news this morning that Half her Heart made the cut for Exotique 5!! This is not just "everyday cool" but also gratifying since I very much had Exotique in mind when creating the piece.

As for my absence lately, my father in law passed away at the end of July, so it's been very hectic at home. I'm just now getting my artistic affairs back in order from the brief hiatus (including road trips to Iowa and North Carolina). As I get older I realize that interruptions in my workflow are harder to bounce back from. I think tonight I'll require extra coffee to get something done for a Friday deadline!! It's good to be back.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Week In Review...

Thus concludes another busy week! On Monday I learned that Half Her Heart has made it to the final judging for possible inclusion in Exotique 5... fingers are crossed on that one. I'd really like to make the cut for at least one book this year. I finished up a logo project on Wednesday, which will be followed up by a set of illustrations starting this weekend.

Last night I spent a totally awesome 40 minutes on the phone with a cool author about his swords & sorcery book cover while he simultaneously basted a chicken. Normally I'm apprehensive about working directly with authors, but this is one of those unique match-ups that (so far) almost seems too functional to be true. Needless to say, I'm excited about reading the chapters he sent over and starting on the sketches.

During my down time, I've been overcoming some frustrations and personal challenges with the client-artist relationship schema. For example, I work for a marketing company all day, so I have an engrained urge to marketing-direct my clients, sometimes without them asking. I need to stop doing that, unless they ask. While some people are completely open to it, some people aren't. And at the end of the day it's their project and they'll do what they want with it, even if their aesthetic choices aren't what my training would call the 'best' choices. Sometimes you just have to separate yourself a few degrees from the work to stay sane. There's a mantra in there somewhere... hopefully I'll be able to elaborate when I've put all my thoughts in order.

Signing off. Have a great weekend! -CS

Thursday, June 25, 2009

ImagineFX Magazine #46 - coming next week!

Tune in next week for IFX #46, and check out my "grunge" workshop! I've even put some DVD assets out there for everyone to share. The whole issue has "gone goth," so I think I might make a pot of ultra-black coffee and puff on a clove while enjoying this issue...

Read Beren's post, via the iFX forums

Speaking of grunge, I took some great photographs of my father-in-law's house last weekend. It's reminiscent of what I imagine a nuclear test site would look like after 30 years of nature taking over. No doubt some of those textures will be showing up in new artwork.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

ArtOrder Vampires Challenge

I don't normally work in pure black & white, but that was the nature of the "Vampire Challenge" recently posted on ArtOrder. It's been a while since I've participated in a short-term challenge, too. And winning isn't everything; I entered more for my own edification and practice. I'm looking forward to seeing the other artists' renditions. Enjoy.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

2D Artist Magazine #41

I'm a little late on this one, but Half Her Heart's Duet is available at higher-than-normal resolution in the Gallery section of 2D Artist Magazine's May issue! There's some awesome artwork and content in this e-zine. I particularly enjoyed Ivan Kashubo's sketchbook, and the speedpainting article...

You can purchase the mag through the website, or download a free "lite" version as a .zip file.

Monday, June 8, 2009


About two years ago, Dan Dos Santos invited me to a party in Brooklyn at Donato Giancola's house. It was an experience that changed my life, not just in terms of networking with veterans of the fantasy/sci-fi illustration field, but because when I walked in that door, I didn't know I wanted to be an illustrator yet, and walking out I was certain that's what I wanted to do. I'd admired a lot of these guys since I was a teenager, but my artistic plans had been all over the map. Until I discovered there really IS a group of people out there who are like me, and they showed me what I needed to do.

Last week I got an email from Scott Grimando about this year's gathering, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity.

It was great to reconnect with folks I hadn't seen in a while - Kristina Carroll ( is an awesome up-and-coming illustrator and total sweetheart. Also Zelda Devon and Kurt Huggins ( who I met at Illuxcon last year. I also got a chance to meet some new folks like Ruth Kim ( and Robert Brown ( All great stuff worth checking out!

One of the highlights of the evening was having a conversation with Gregory Manchess about his current re-working of an illustration featuring a certain famous (or infamous?) pirate.

So in conclusion, it was another awesome night. And totally worth braving bus travel. It also made me realize how far I've come in 2 years. I'm hoping I can keep up that pace in the next two.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

W.T. Woodson Alumni Art Show - June 2

Yep, next week I'm showing work at my high school's Alumni Show. According to one of the art teachers, I'll be the oldest one showing. Ack! If you're a Woodson grad or just want to come for the heck of it there will probably be free food, and the new art wing they built is a friggin huge and amazing sight to behold.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Art Remixes

(Click to enlarge)

I just had to redo the mer-people! I got a lot of good critique on the original version of this piece, and decided to act on it. Honestly the original was done as figure practice— not sure why I took it seriously enough to ever post it anywhere, but by putting the mer-folk in a new context I think I really made this work. I've gotten even more good input on this in the and crit forums since yesterday, which I'll carry on into my next onslaught of work.

Also last week I reworked the 2007 painting Shall we Count His Rings?):

(Click to enlarge)

Digital Art lecture & demo at WT Woodson High

Last week I got a great opportunity to visit the digital art/animation/AP portfolio prep classes at WT Woodson (my old high school) and give a slide presentation and digital painting demo to the students.

The first part of the lecture was focused on how I got started; My teacher, Donna, even had some [embarrassing] examples of digital artwork I did when I was in her classes for effect. Then I talked about some of my methods, and about the business side of it all. We're business card-carrying members of society too! Tell your parents we're like lawyers and executives, only way more fun.

I think the demo was much more interesting. I let the students pick the subject and they said "people!" so I borrowed one of the students.

This is the 10 minute portrait doodle that ensued:

Meanwhile, I've got all my tips turned in for an upcoming Imagine FX article, along with my bio, headshot, 5 pieces of recent work. Their latest issue is on the gaming industry, and I have a business card in my pocket which Donna gave me for the game studio EA/Mythic. It's down the street from our apartment. I'm thinking of calling them and scheduling a review or something, if they're interested in working with contract artists.

I've got to draw line art for a "Professor Gizmo" today at the office, who I imagine is a steampunk wizard chemist guy. We'll see what the client actually says.

And lastly, here are some macros of me reaching for my coffee mug during the school presentation, courtesy of Livejournal user oldsmobile_mike.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Well, I guess I'll start with the bum news.
-My inclination about Spectrum this year was correct - I didn't make it in. But I'm not at all surprised by that. I wasn't really feeling like the work I submitted from '08 was on par with what I could have accomplished, or what came immediately after the deadline. So, I will try again this year. Won't hear about Exotique until June or July. It would be nice to get into just one book this year.

Now, on to the awesome stuff!
-First, I just got an email from ImagineFX (best fantasy/digital arts magazine ever) asking me to contribute some work & artist tips. I'm extremely excited about this!

-Also, on May 4th I'm taking a blast into the past— I'm going back to my high school to talk to my old art teacher's AP Studio & Digital Arts classes. Has it really been 8 years since I graduated? There's a lot I want to talk about. I love inspiring young artists, as hard as it can be to reach them sometimes.

-And speaking of high school, I've been invited to participate in WT Woodson's first annual Alumni Art Show in their new Gallery wing. Kids these days don't know how good they've got it; gone are the days of two stuffy art rooms competing for space in the chorus & band hall.

-Last week I was asked to submit a "Making of" tutorial for the latest piece to It's Art Magazine, which I did, and they're including me in their upcoming Masters Edition.

So all in all things are going smoothly with exposure at the moment. I need to get back to the drawing board, though.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Thursday, April 2, 2009

New Painting Featured in It's Art Magazine

In addition to a Choice Award on, Half Her Heart's Duet is also a front page feature for the next week on It's Art Magazine and they're going to have a tutorial for it I'm creating available online. :) I'm really excited about all the fervor this one's generating; it feels like a few very important doors have been opened in terms of artistic exposure.

I didn't realize until I physically wrote out my to-do list just how much I have on my plate right now, so it was good to spend some downtime last night sketching out thumbnails for new projects.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

CG Choice Award

My newest piece Half Her Heart's Duet won a CG Choice Award late last night! I'm absolutely thrilled, and very grateful for all the positive response.

Shortly after that news, I received a very nice note from Paul Hellard (from Ballistic Media) encouraging me to submit this piece to their book, Exotique, which focuses on digital character art. Aside from the story, the thought of creating something better for a Ballistic publication was A HUGE part of what drove me to do this piece, especially after hearing I'd missed the boat on Exposé 7 last week. When you fall off the horse, you get back on, right?

I think this is all a good sign...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Half Her Heart's Duet

There's so much I could say about this piece. I'm really satisfied by it. I feel like in the end there's a rich story that comes through, and makes me want to see more of what's beyond the fence.

My husband was responsible for some of the symbolism, like the burning sheet music, and the shape of the instrument - he saw what I was working on at the start when it was just a lass and an amorphous instrument, and I was kinda stuck on where it was going and asking around for ideas. He sent me an excited email detailing the life and times of our red-haired protagonist, and some of the imagery really stood out for me - "...she's an only child, no older brother to take over the farm when her dad dies, or to keep the family name. She's been trying to adapt for so long, and in this moment she's wandered off to have a moment to herself, in her nice dress instead of her daily farm clothes." I changed some things around, then he'd make new suggestions, and in terms of idea exchange it was a really fun process.

Technically I think this one is worth a look, too. I took much longer to consider certain elements than I normally do, and I switched up references a couple times. For example, the hands I originally had drawn in looked too stiff to be holding an instrument properly, so I had to change that. I'm really trying to get better about making decisions like that that benefit the final image, especially because when you work with photo references there tends to be an instinct to let the photo dictate what ends up in the final piece.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Exposé 7 - the Verdict

(click to enlarge)

Well, even though One For The Past made it to the final round of judging, I got the word today that it won't be appearing in the book.

Back to the drawing board.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Thursday, February 5, 2009

OZ Collectible Card Game update

Orion's Bell sent out a letter to the artists today letting us know the project is on hold indefinitely for budget reasons.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Exposé 7

I decided to submit a couple of my newest pieces to Exposé 7, which is a lot like Spectrum but entirely digital art. I'm kicking myself for finishing Hollow Where We Wandered AFTER the Spectrum deadline - it kills me to think that I have to wait another year for that chance with it, but I also trust that I can make some even better work in the interim. I'm feeling pretty inspired right now, maybe even a little on the crazy side.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hollow Where We Wandered

(click to enlarge)

Back Story: There's this place that's magical; it doesn't matter what your particular experience may have been there, but to the folks who felt it at one point or another it was undeniable. When I heard it might be (or was) getting bulldozed for construction, I had a vivid and very emotional nightmare about it. It was like watching someone's heart beating slower and slower, the pulse of the ground and the trees and the blue flowers slowly dying off. Hollowed.

I went back there last year because I had to know if it was true, and while I'm still told that a portion of the woods was cut down, the place that was closest to my heart and strongest in my memory was alive and well. Still, the thought of that being gone -permanently gone- is devastating.

I guess the moral is to beware of taking for granted that what you love will always be there.

Illuxcon 2 Video Trailer

I am SO going again next year, and will actually make it a point to stay the whole 4 days, instead of the abbreviated 'hey I have to go to work on Friday and leave from there because I don't have any paid leave left' malarkey.