Thursday, December 20, 2012

Take-Home Commissions & Happy Holidays

Convention season (for me) is officially OVER until March 2013. Allow me a sigh of relief:


Don't get me wrong, I love going to conventions and working tables. Love it. But it does wear me out, especially when there's travel and/or long hours involved. I'm ready to hibernate for the winter, but that doesn't mean things have slowed down in my studio. I need the help of my toes to count the assignments I had to finish before mid-December, and there's still a heavy handful of projects I'm working on through the holidays (one final is even due Xmas Eve). This has left very little time for blogging, or having an online social life at all, but I thought I'd take a quick break and show off a couple of the small commissions for Magic card alterations I had to take home with me from the StarCityGames Open Series earlier this month, because I think they're neat:

At the risk of getting flooded with requests for these, I've been dabbling in acrylic border extensions...

I've also bought an unprecedented number of extra-fine Sharpie markers for jobs like these... how am I just finding out that Sharpie released a limited edition 80's Glam color pack?!?! I had a set of crayola pens of the same color variety in the actual 80's. Memory lane, I am walking down you.

I expect I'll be pretty quiet for the rest of 2012, but I do want to share one more piece of good news... I just found out yesterday that a jury found me fit to show my work at the IlluXCon 6 Weekend Salon -the first of its kind- in Allentown, PA September, 2013. More news on that closer to the time, but I'm very happy to be accepted, and it will be a great motivator to keep oil painting with gusto.

I hope everyone has a cheerful holiday and best wishes as 2012 comes to a close!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Interview with StarCityGames [Video]

November. Was. INSANE.

I'm still catching up on email and work after that crazy brutal month, recovering from IlluXCon, hosting Thanksgiving, trucking across state lines to deliver a painting, and (probably most of all) devoting a lot of time to caring for my physically disabled mum-in-law while she visited from her assisted living home in NC.

Continuing the nutty trend, December kicked off with a bang, with a guest appearance at the StarCityGames Open Series: Baltimore. The SCG fellas were nice enough to tape an interview with me on Sunday. As a side note, this is the first time I can recall that I don't utterly hate the sound of my recorded voice; I attribute the random husky smoothness to exhaustion, so maybe I should avoid sleeping before I go on air from now on. Anyway, check it out:

Bonus! They did a similar interview with Noah Bradley, which was taped right before mine.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Gearing Up for IlluXCon 2012

It's less than two weeks away now... the fifth annual IlluXCon! Are you as excited as I am?

This year is a bit different for me, and I'll explain why. Unlike 2010 and 2011, I will not have a table in the main show. There are very good reasons for this, the main one being that I didn't try out for the main show. "Wait... what??" Yes, you heard me: I didn't try out. In late 2011, when IlluXCon announced they were officially going traditional-only, and everyone had to be juried into the show, I had to get honest with myself about my work. I've been a working illustrator for a few years now, but primarily a working digital illustrator. When I did a hard comparison between my digital and traditional work, I saw a big enough disparity in the quality that it bothered me, and I thought it would be best to spend part of my first year as a full-time freelancer working toward getting back into shape with oils.

Instead of trying out for the main show, I set a goal for myself to make 5 oil paintings to present at the IlluXCon Showcase, which is the one-night-only art extravaganza held at the Ramada hotel. Not just paintings for the sake of painting, but paintings I would be proud to put my name on and show off as a sample of my latest work.

I think I met that goal.

A couple weeks ago when I started planning my table display, I made a second big decision that will set 2012 apart- I'm only bringing traditional work. Digital artwork isn't necessarily verboten in the Showcase, but it's not part of Pat and Jeannie's vision, and it's unfair to collectors who want to buy originals to get them interested in what they don't want. Also, for the first time, I don't need to show it to feel good about my work. If I had had enough original oils the last two years, I'd have done this sooner, but I just didn't. In less than two weeks, you won't even see a print or postcard of a digital piece at my table. **SPOILER ALERT** Here's what that might look like:

I'll have 5 original oils, 3 of which are still for sale, as listed below:
Blue Flame, 2012, 16x22 in. | $1,200
Rush of Blood, 2012 | Sold
Tarzan: The Light of Knowledge, 2012 | Sold
Omens, 2012, 22x30 in. w custom frame | $3,200
Phial of Galadriel, 2012, 11x14 in. | $600

On the table I'll have a binder of original drawings, including richly-detailed preliminary drawings for four of the oil paintings listed above, priced between $150 and $300.

The binder will also have large giclée prints of some traditional work; if you can't pick one up at the Showcase, they can also be ordered online from my store for the same price.

Something new that I'll be trying out is playing my Making of Omens painting video at my table (sans audio, so my table-neighbors don't go insane from hearing the same 10 minutes of sound on loop). For people who want to watch it after the showcase, I'll have little cards to take that have a QR Code on the back, that will link you directly to the video:

Lastly, I'll have the usual takeaways, in the form of business cards and postcards, all bearing images of traditional paintings from 2012.

None of this is to say that I'll be abandoning digital art- no, siree. I still plan to work both ways, but I'm hoping to continue focusing more on honing my traditional skills throughout next year. I'm really hoping that I might have a shot at the main show again when IlluXCon moves to Allentown- that is a great motivator.

Lastly, since I'll only be behind a table for one night, I'll get to go to some lectures and hang out this year! :) Looking forward to seeing you all very soon! Now, get back to work.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Voting for the "Illie" Awards ends tonight!

(File under Shameless Plug)

One of my paintings, Rush of Blood, has been nominated for an Illie Award, along with tons of other awesome works. Voting ends tonight at Midnight EST! The Illie Awards are presented by IlluXCon and the Illustration Exchange.

Visit the IlluXCon site to cast your vote.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

New York Comic Con!

Last week I had my first Comic Con experience!

I shared a table at New York Comic Con with my good friends Noah Bradley (left) and Marc Scheff (top) from Awesome Horse Studios. Photo courtesy of Irene Gallo.

I was going to write out a huge list of tips like I usually do, but our friend and left-hand booth neighbor Kiri Ø. Leonard beat me to it! And she did a great recap, with good advice for first-time exhibitors. Read about her 10 Things She Learned at NYCC.

Instead, I'm going to sum up the 4 day art extravaganza and share some personal experiences through the majesty of captioned photographs.

Every convention starts weeks or months in advance with good decent planning.
We discussed what we were going to bring and drew up a little table plan before the con... of course, we thought the tables were going to be 2 feet wider than they actually were, so our setup ended up being quite different.

Wednesday Night: I measure some foam core board in Marc's studio while Tim Paul makes custom wallets.
After arriving in NYC, we got straight to work making tiered foam board stands for our prints. Thanks for the idea, Tim!

Thursday Morning: We arrived at Javits Center, along with Marc's assistant Alex, and set up our display.

All done with setup! Posing at our table just before the doors opened on Thursday.
Sharing a 6-foot table among three people meant we needed to maximize our vertical space. We were guilty of a bit of "visual vomit" (too much disorganized clutter), but since we were treating the Con as a fun learning experience, we rolled with it.

Me and Noah looking suave and/or cheeky...

Sushi dinner with artist Kiri Ø. Leonard and art director Lauren Panepinto
Work hard, play hard. Just like any convention, evenings are for hanging out with friends and colleagues. Not pictured here: the alcohol.

Friday Morning: I pose next to Marc's banner with Kiri. The banners, much like the rest of our setup, were fastened together with duct tape and wishes.
I decided Friday was going to be dress-up day. Coincidentally I also had my best sales day... ha! Anyway, things got so hectic starting right after this photo was taken that we barely have any photo record of the next 48 hours. To paint a very small picture: Javits Center was PACKED wall-to-wall with attendees for the remainder of the con. The recorded numbers topped 116,000 for the whole weekend. WOW.

Saturday Afternoon: Posing with Dan Warren (center) and Dave Rapoza (far right) from Crimson Daggers.

Sunday, at last! And coffee. Delicious, delicious coffee.

All told, we had lots of fun and did well with sales. I'm really looking forward to the possibility of doing NYCC again next year!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sketch Night at the Society of Illustrators, NYC

Figure studies, 10/16/2012

If you're in NYC, you truly owe it to yourself to go to a Sketch Night at the Society of Illustrators. $15 gets you a 3 hour sketch session with talented models, really good live music, and a great atmosphere. Food, alcohol, and art supplies are also on sale. Sadly, I got on a train and left NYC only hours after the event concluded, but I'm certain I'll visit again soon...

Monday, October 1, 2012

"Sherlock" Pencil Studies

(Pencil studies of actor Benedict Cumberbatch in his role as Sherlock Holmes, from video stills.)

This is post 1 of 2 that I want to make about Sherlock Holmes.

First off, I want to say that I've become extremely enamored with the BBC TV series Sherlock. I didn't think that any moving picture re-imagining could beat out Basil Rathbone's portrayal in the black and white 1940s films, but here we are, and I stand humbly corrected.

Not only is Sherlock a beautifully crafted and enjoyable show to watch, it's also brought a brilliant actor into the American spotlight, and to my attention (or more importantly the attention of my pencil). I could study his face and its myriad expressions all day.

There's a lot to learn from sketching actors, even from photographs, but it's wonderful that nowadays HD video is so widely available, too. Where photos are often posed, a paused video frame gives you the opportunity to capture a more naturally expressive moment on a character's face. Every observation and pencil mark from this kind of practice gets stored deep in our memory, and we access it later while making new drawings, without thinking of it consciously.

Please enjoy these practice sketches, and my small tribute to a new favorite TV series. Now go scour YouTube for your favorite actor or actress, and find a nice place to pause and sketch.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Magic Card Art: Tavern Swindler

*Note: post updated on Oct 1, 2013*

Card Name: Tavern Swindler
© 2012 Wizards of the Coast

Gatherer Link:

Medium: Digital
Original Art Available? No
Artist Proofs Available? Yes

Artist Notes: I actually went to a Return to Ravnica pre-release with a couple friends, and didn't immediately mention to anyone that I worked on the game. One of the game shop regulars came over while I was building my deck, and noted that I had set aside a Tavern Swindler. "You should totally put that in your deck." he insisted. "Really?" I asked. "[lol] no, that card is complete shit!"

Yes, he was talking about what the card does, not the art, BUT there's always that moment of disconnect before silencing my inner critic.

Original comments from 9/24/12: If I had this one to do over, I would change the costume. The art order called for an unguilded female with cloak and gloves, but looking back I think I made her a little too standard-spooky and not quite Magic-y enough. Hey, I still dig the dripping candle wax. Overall, that's one of the downsides about having to wait a year before showing off these card illustrations- sometimes a year is long enough to second-guess your original choices. Hopefully it won't diminish the fun of using the card in play. Was it heads or tails?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Painting Process: The Making of "Omens" [HD Video]

Yesterday I posted this painting. Today I want to show you how I made it.

Why make a video?

The answers because I could, and for fun bubble up to the surface, but of course there's more to it than that. For one, it was an educational process for me. To be able to go back and review high definition video gave me a rare glimpse at both the good and bad habits I've cultivated over the years. It was worthwhile in critiquing what I need to keep doing or change to make better paintings in the future.

Most of all, I wanted an opportunity to invite a wide audience into my studio to see how I make paintings, so they could appreciate not only the finished original, but the whole process. If you're a professional or serious student looking for an instructional video about oil painting, this is not that video. There are plenty of others out there that do a more in-depth job, like Dan Dos Santos's "Warbreaker" video, and Donato Giancola's "The Mechanic" and "Joan of Arc" videos. Theirs certainly inspired me to film myself, but where theirs go into extreme detail, mine is an easily-digestible ten minute overview. My hope is that it's accessible and fun to watch for artists and non-artists alike.

Is the technique demonstrated the best one for everyone to use?

It's one road of many you can travel to make a painting, and it just happens to be the way I'm currently making paintings after several years of instruction and experimentation. It's important to remember, though, that even when you've found methods that work for you, it's still a good idea to try new things and challenge your idea of what's conventional often.

If you have any questions about the video, please feel free to leave a comment. I hope you enjoy it!

Since a few people have asked, I also created original music for the video, and (because I'm nice and music is just a side hobby) you can download each of the 3 tracks from the video here. The tracks were created using FL Studio 9. Yes, that is me singing in track 3. Enjoy!

Download: Omens Soundtrack 01 | LENGTH: 1M 09S
Download: Omens Soundtrack 02 | LENGTH: 3M 54S
Download: Omens Soundtrack 02 | LENGTH: 3M 20S

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

New Oil Painting: "Omens"

Oil on illustration board
22x30 inches

Omens is a personal painting about seeing visions of bad things to come- protecting oneself from being swallowed up by darkness.

A shot of the original graphite/white charcoal/india ink drawing.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a special treat: I'm going to show you exactly how this was painted...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My Art Studio Workspace, 2012

Last year I made a post with a photo of my art studio. A few things have changed since then. My online pal Kiri O. Leonard made a post on her blog about illustrators' studios and workspaces, and prompted me to take some updated (and better) photos. Here is the result:

Just for fun, the following are some things I'm giggling about while reading the descriptions of the previous post:

1. I can't believe last year I only had TWO convention tubs in the closet.

2. It's weird to look back at my bookshelf circa 2011 and still see any space for books. I've since obtained a second bookshelf that's partially out of frame to the right. It's completely full now, too.

3. #6 "Drafting table, on loan from my dad until I get my own" .... ha ha ha, riiiiight.

4. The old computer hasn't moved to my husband's office. It's moved about 18 inches to the right, and down to the floor. It's very slowly making its escape.

Monday, July 30, 2012

"The Seclusium of Orphone" UPDATE

You did it!

Thanks to your generous support, the role-playing adventure The Seclusium of Orphone has reached its funding goal and will go forward! I'm very excited to get to create illustrations for this project, to accompany the writing of Vincent Baker.

There's still time (less than 48 hours!) to help fund these other adventures:

Now to get down to business!

(See previous entry about The Seclusium of Orphone)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Magic Card Art: Sublime Archangel

Card Name: Sublime Archangel
© 2012 Wizards of the Coast

Gatherer Link:

Medium: Digital
Original Art Available? No
Artist Proofs Available? No (Sold out)

Artist Notes: Because of its playability and mythic rare status, this has been my most popular card with Standard players to date.

The art brief itself was one of the most challenging I've received thus far, involving the archangel standing atop a pillar high in the air, observing a destroyed burning city below. My initial sketch had to be revised, because the head of the weapon I drew for her too-closely resembled a symbol from a previous set (I was still fairly new to the game here), and the city going up the hill had some wonky perspective going on:

An early sketch, showing the different weapon and background © 2012 Wizards of the Coast

Since the card's release, I've had a dozen or so ideas of how I'd rework the composition and the character if I had it to do over again (that's the beauty of a challenge), but the artwork has been pretty well received, and I'm grateful for that.

Signed cards by mail: closed at this time.

***LAST UPDATED FEBRUARY 19, 2015*** (previously updated September 2013)

I apologize for the inconvenience, but I can no longer sign cards by mail or take orders for proofs and sketches by email. I am humbled by the amount of people who want to collect signed cards, and I always appreciate the inquiries, but simply cannot keep up with the volume of requests. I am currently trying to get a store set up where proofs and other original art items can be ordered, but fulfilled through a third party service. Much appreciation for your understanding and patience!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Help raise funds for "The Seclusium of Orphone"

Art director & game guru James Raggi (who I've worked with previously on projects like the Lamentations of the Flame Princess box art and Isle of the Unknown) is doing a series of IndieGoGo campaigns during the month of July, to fund several new adventures. If The Seclusium of Orphone reaches its funding goal in the next 30 days, I get to create art for it!

Go check it out.

You can see all of the adventures here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Lessons from the 2012 Illustration Master Class

It doesn't matter where you are in your career, practice level, or mindset, there is truly something for every artist to take away from the IMC. This was only my second year in attendance at the Master Class, and even though it went very differently for me than last time, it was just as magical and brilliant. The faculty outdid themselves with more incredibly informative lectures, demos, and priceless one-on-one assistance with students' paintings. And being surrounded by so many creative and beautiful people for a week left me feeling super-inspired, yet again.

Now that I'm almost back into the real-life routines of doing my own laundry and cooking my own meals, I've jotted down my top 5 lessons from this year's Class:

1. No matter how good you get, you will always face challenges. After my last post talking about the creation process of my Tarzan painting, I got a fair number of responses from people who were glad to hear that I had to overcome doubt and other obstacles to make it happen, because my struggles validated theirs. It's tough to imagine people you look up to struggling, but would you believe that Greg Manchess doesn't just make a great painting every single time, either? The IMC faculty members were each generous in sharing their personal stories of triumphing over stuck points in their work. I think it's good to have heroes, but also to remember that no one is immune to the same challenges you're facing.

2. Story comes first. This is a point I've ignored too often in the past, and I know many others are guilty as well. The temptation to just paint pretty shiny things has sometimes taken priority over storytelling, and I haven't spent adequate time thinking about what my characters are doing, what they want, what they need, who they are, etc. If you want to do more than simple character portraits forever, you're going to need to tackle this one, and tackle it hard. If you're illustrating for a book, read the whole story if it's available. Act out what your characters are doing. Get involved in the story. I really pushed this with the Tarzan assignment, and as a bonus, I finally understand that if your concept is great, people will forgive an errant brush stroke or technical misstep here and there.

3. You don't need to tell the whole story on the cover. One of my favorite quotes from this year came from art director Irene Gallo (Tor Books). She posed the question to students, "If the whole story is on the cover, why would anyone want to read the book?" What this means is that when we're illustrating covers, we need to choose one good moment to paint, not try to cram too many characters or actions into one picture. I think a good editorial test might be to explain to an imaginary person what's going on in your scene; if you're compelled to say and-then-this-happened too often, you might want to take something out.

4. Don't rush. I made little easel cards bearing this slogan, as a reminder to myself and others to take care and have patience with the paint. "But Cynthia, what about deadlines?!" Yes, if you're a freelance artist, there will be times when you have to pull all-nighters or work more expeditiously than others. But the rest of the time, step back and assess your work for a few minutes. Savor it. Take care with it. Speed is a nice skill to have, but craftsmanship is almost always more important than production time.

5. Make art for you. Wait, wasn't this lesson #5 from last year? Yes! But it's a great lesson and bears repeating. It's taken a whole year to start sinking in for me. While it would be nice to be able to paint whatever we want all the time, most of us working illustrators will need to split our time between commercial jobs and personal pieces. "Commissions will pay the bills. Personal projects will give you a career." While that may be true, the more you can make ALL of your work personal, even the commercial stuff, the better off you'll be in terms of feeding your soul and having a great portfolio. If you don't love your work, it shows. It's so important to connect to everything you paint, whether that means inserting a specific theme you enjoy into every piece, or using someone you like as a model, or using your favorite medium. Figure out what works for you, and do that.

A heartfelt thank you goes out to everyone involved in making the event happen! Happy painting, everyone.

Read last year's list: Lessons from the 2011 Illustration Master Class

Monday, June 18, 2012

"Tarzan: The Light of Knowledge"

Here it is! My finished oil painting from the 2012 Illustration Master Class:
Tarzan-The Light of Knowledge by Cynthia Sheppard
Click to enlarge

...And if you think this painting came easily, it didn't. Here's the full story:

Out of about 7 assignment choices, I chose to illustrate Tarzan. It's the centennial anniversary of Edgar Rice Burroughs' original novel Tarzan of the Apes, and having grown up with the Johnny Weismuller Tarzan and Greystoke, I thought I was set to start working on thumbnails, so I did. Then, about two weeks before the Master Class, Noah Bradley mentioned how different the original story was from the movies, and I decided I needed to read the book. It helped me understand the character so much better, and I did some more thumbnails:

I fleshed out 3 of the thumbnails, and the overwhelming response from my critique group each time was... "these are terrible." Sometimes honesty is easier to swallow than others- this was one of those times when it wasn't. I hadn't slept well in two weeks, as I was under a lot of pressure to meet a giant pile of deadlines before the Master Class. At one point I actually broke down and cried. Finally, my good friend Marc Scheff got on Skype with me and gave me a pep talk. For some reason when he said "be yourself," it just made sense...

I couldn't shake the feeling that Jane was a weak character, and that Tarzan was more than just a vine-swinging brute. So I threw all those ideas out and strayed from the assignment a little bit. The language acquisition parts of the story were some of my favorites, and some of the most telling about the capabilities of the Tarzan character- they were the most unbelievable passages, but it's a fantasy story, so there always has to be some suspension of disbelief.

So I made this pencil drawing of an adolescent Tarzan learning to write 12 hours before I left:

Anyone who has attended or heard about the IMC knows that on Day 1 everyone breaks into groups and puts their drawings up on a wall for the faculty to critique. I personally love this format, and coming with a more finished drawing this year gave Julie Bell, Donato Giancola, and Brom a better opportunity to give me solid advice. Donato in particular suggested that instead of making Tarzan's gaze on the book the main focus, I redirect the focus to the hands. He mentioned that they were the strongest storytelling element, and I felt he was exactly right.

After the crit, I took some visual and written notes in my sketchbook:

So by Day 2 of the Master Class, I had a solid to-do list. I put tracing paper over my original drawing and transferred the information I wanted to keep, shifted the composition a bit, and penciled in some changes. Next I transferred my revised drawing to my illustration board with a sheet of graphite paper, and sealed it with acrylic matte medium:

I stayed in the studio till closing time on Day 2 to finish an acrylic underpainting. At this point I hadn't 100% figured out my color palette, so I stuck with a monochromatic raw umber underpainting to block in the basic values.

Photo by Irene Gallo

I started painting in oils on Day 3, when I was confident in the strength of my underpainting. Dan Dos Santos and Aaron Miller broke me of a bad habit I've had for a long time- instead of being impatient and starting by painting the figure, I began with the background. "Save the dessert for last," Dan said, and yes, he was right:

Photo by Rebecca Yanovskaya

The experience as a whole wasn't just educational and fun, it was also very validating. Not only did the faculty give me some killer advice along the way, but hearing directly from people like James Gurney and Boris Vallejo that my work was going well- you can't ask for a better feeling than that.

Day 4:

Technique-wise, there are a few things I would do differently next time- I would spend more time gathering reference photos (instead of calling people over to my easel and making them hold still, heh), and I'll try to get my values in oil correct earlier on instead of relying so heavily on glazing after the fact. Still, one of the biggest takeaways from this IMC was the emphasis on storytelling over technique. It was a takeaway from last year's IMC too, but it took a year for it to really sink in for me. I became confident, finally, that as long as my concept was solid, I could get away with a missed brush stroke here and there. Also it became ever clearer that loving a piece makes a huge difference. I'm inspired to do more passionate personal work, more than ever. I'll talk at length about that in my next post...

Enjoy the painting, and thanks again x1000 to Rebecca Guay, the faculty, and the volunteers for putting on another amazing IMC!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Decompressing from the IMC

After arriving back in DC around 4:00 AM this morning on a delayed train, I feel like I could nap for a solid year, but I'm still totally glowing with excitement from the past week at the Illustration Master Class in Amherst, Mass.

It'll take me a little while to compose my thoughts and photos from the IMC, so in the meantime, here's a quick watercolor pencil sketch I did of Dan Dos Santos during one of his painting demos:

Tomorrow I'll be posting my finished Tarzan painting, along with a boatload of process shots, so stay tuned! :)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

DCArtNews review of my Artomatic exhibit

I almost never do art shows that aren't tied to the fantasy art world, so it's extremely rare that someone unfamiliar writes about my work. I was both surprised and pleased to be included in F. Lennox Campello's tongue-in-cheek review of Artomatic over at DC Art News. He's written up a quick synopsis on a bunch of new artists and categorized them by what awards they ought to win, if there were awards for things like "Best Image of Dicks," and "Best Gay Use of Star Trek Imagery."

I evidently won the "Ignore the Subject Matter and Look at the Painting Skills Award"
"Cynthia Sheppard on the 8th floor displays superb painting skills. I actually like the subject matter, but I know that most of you pansies won't. In any event, this is a master painter working as an illustrator (I think), but still a really good painter."
(link to the full review)

I take this review as a sizable compliment on my technical abilities (thanks DCArtNews!). Of course, some of my pals were incredulous that people still don't associate illustration with painting mastery. Others wondered what I'm showing that could possibly be bad enough to ignore. There are a couple of bloody vampires, so I guess the squeamish might not like it. And one butt crack, but I hardly even count that as nudity. Still, I'll accept "really good painter" in any context.

And speaking of the show, I need to go get dressed because tonight is "Meet The Artist Night!" Check out the How to Talk to the Artists page that the Artomatic folks sent around; I realize that as a commercial artist I'm more accustomed to talking to the public than many of my visually-inclined cohorts, but I still got a chuckle at the advice "This is not the time to play the shrinking violet." I only wish they'd added a bullet point for "no sudden moves."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Phial of Galadriel

Some red wine, a thunderstorm, and the framing of a newly finished painting. That's what I call a nice evening.

"Phial of Galadriel" 2012, oil on paper, 11x14.

The paint looks smooth from a distance, but up close it's very rough. There are about 6 layers of paint in most areas, some fingernail marks here and there, and brush texture from the priming of the surface underneath the oils.

And finally, there exists a photo of me in the studio! Complete with my favorite coffee mug.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Artomatic opens tomorrow!

Every year or two, a collective of 1000+ artists takes over a local building that's slated to be torn down, and turns it into a temporary art gallery, with everything from paintings to sculptures, installation art, photography, fabric, jewelry, and more. It's called Artomatic, "DC's largest creative event," and I'm very excited to be participating for the first time this year.

This year's event will be held at 1851 S. Bell Street, Arlington, VA 22202, directly opposite the Crystal City metro station. The show officially opens tomorrow, Friday, May 18 @ 6 p.m. Check here for all visiting hours. I'll be there for the opening, and on various nights throughout the show, including Meet the Artist Night from 7-9 p.m. on June 2nd.

It's near impossible to see the whole show in a single day, so you might want to plan on coming more than once. If you want to find my exhibit space, here's a map. I'm on the 8th floor near the men's room:

(click to enlarge)

And here's a photo of what my section of wall looked like during setup, so you know you've found the right spot:

If you're in or around DC, come check it out!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Random beauty in the studio

I spend most of my time in my studio, but sometimes fail to notice some of the little uncontrolled things that make it feel like home to me. Little things like these old mason jars that I've been using for oil mediums:

I caught a quick glimpse of this old turp jar on my windowsill in the sunlight.

Ah, my most often-used medium jar. I actually try not to dab my paint on the edge of this one and contaminate it too much, but habit gets the better of me.

This jar of linseed oil is so old that it's taken on a life of its own. Believe it or not it's still perfectly good medium, once you bust through that dried layer.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sketching at the Museum of Natural History

I had a chance to travel down to the Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC and do a little sketching today.

Panthera pardus (Leopard), *note: it was super crowded, so I didn't draw all the spots.

Plesippus shoshonensis (Prehistoric Horse)

Newspaperus readerus (Guy on the metro reading a paper)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Magic Card Art: Rush of Blood

Card Name: Rush of Blood
© 2012 Wizards of the Coast

Gatherer Link:

Medium: Oil
Original Art Available? Painting SOLD | Drawing SOLD
Artist Proofs Available? Yes

Artist Notes: This was the first (and as of this entry, only) card I finished fully in oils. Another sort of breakthrough card for me, in terms of how I work and approach characters. I'm fairly certain that during this painting I realized I love painting hands. It was one of the better things I accomplished altogether in 2012, but unfortunately the card itself wasn't very interesting or powerful. Rats.

Preliminary drawing (sold)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Magic Card Art: Exquisite Blood

Card Name: Exquisite Blood
© 2012 Wizards of the Coast

Gatherer Link:

Medium: Digital
Original Art Available? No
Artist Proofs Available? SOLD OUT

Artist Notes: This card was one of those where I could see a tiny glimmer of a breakthrough in the evolution of my art style. Not that all of my previous cards were "bad" per se, but this was the first one where I'd taken more time and exercised patience, instead of taking shortcuts and rushing to meet the deadline. During all of these early cards I was still working a full-time job as a web designer while freelancing as an illustrator for a handful of companies, so finding time was always a major obstacle.

Here's a link to the step-by-step post I made on digitally-painting the hand: