Fantasy Art

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Alive on Arrival

 I spent the first 50 years of this life waiting for life to begin.
Waiting for "Someday".
You know Someday?
That day when I'd be ready, when everything would come together and fall into place.  The day when I had conquered all of faults, all my fears,  all my weaknesses and failings.  When Someday came I'd be rich and successful, confident and healthy.
That would be the day.
Then my life would begin.  
Then I could start being happy.

My religion had taught me to expect a Someday both in this life and in the next.
If you work hard enough and try hard enough and pray hard enough then someday you'll get what you deserve.
It was both a promise and a threat.
Every breath, every action and every thought was never about today never about this life you're living right now, it was always about Someday.
The Afterlife, the “Great By and By” Heaven, Hell, Eternity.

Then one day my life ended.

My body didn't die my life just ended.
My back was broken, the economy was broken, my career was broken and my faith was broken.
I no longer believed in god when all of the major choices of my life had been predicated on belief.

My life was over and it had never even started.
Life was over, but I was still here.
STILL here?
I was HERE for the first time.
Because now there is no someday, no heaven no hell no future and no past.
For the first time in my life I'm HERE.
For the first time in my life it's TODAY.
For the first time in my life it's NOW.
This is not a fresh start or a clean slate or an exciting new chapter in my life.
I'm not a young person full of hopes and dreams, with my whole life ahead of me.
I'm an old man, broken and disillusioned.
It's not a new beginning, it’s an old, grimy, shabby,  second hand beginning.

But I'm here.  I'm here,  I'm here

Here I am...

Alive on Arrival.

Alive on Arrival 
Oil Paint on recycled wood 5' X 2' 

 This was the most spontaneous painting I've ever done.   I felt what I felt, saw the image in my head, stripped my clothes off, set up my camera and took the picture, printed it out and started painting all in one flow.
I often used to scoff at artists who claim that their work is an outpouring of their tortured soul, but this one came straight from my veins and out through my brush.

I know this sounds like a sad story and in some ways it is a sad story, but not entirely.
I can wish that I’d had these epiphanies while I was still young, but I didn't and there you are.
I won't go to heaven, nor will I go to hell, but I will Live the remaining years of my life.
I will never be forgiven, but I have acceptance and that is far better.

So I start now.  Sooner would have been better, but now is better than never.
I'm here, it's today, and I'm glad to know you.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Racial Bias in Art Contests?

The Muse
Oil Paint on recycled panel
2 foot X 6 foot

This painting fills me with a bizarre mixture of bitterness and pride.

It was for a contest hosted by a website devoted to fantasy illustration.  (wait have we been here before?)
A wonderful and generous supermodel who owns a prestigious art gallery gave us permission to use photographs of herself to be transformed into a piece of fantasy art.
Then the art work was to be be displayed in her gallery and sold to raise money for a charity.

Now think about this.  The gallery has to be emptied out, the walls prepared and new art hung up all at the owner's expense.
Then she would host an "opening" at the gallery, a party with wine and cheese celebrity guests etc. and leave all of the art on display for enough time to give it a chance to sell.  This is a very expensive thing to do, all at her own expense, no profit.
So logically what you want is as much art as possible and as high a quality as possible so that serious collectors would want to buy it and you'd raise a worthwhile amount of cash.

What did the website deliver?  First they culled the list of entries according to some undefined criteria.   Then they got some illustrators and art directors to judge the rest of the art on it's merits as a book illustration.  In this way they culled the pile down to a half dozen finalists.
Finalists for what?
The point was to fill a room not to select a winner or to hire an illustrator.  Granted there needed to be some vetting to keep amateur work out of the show, but other than that you want as many items to sell as possible.

Now I'm not the best artist who participated, and far from the best illustrator, so I'm not hurt to lose a contest.  If you enter contests you need to be ready to lose most of them.

    But almost all of the other entries were digital, they didn't even have a print made, how are you going to sell that?  And of the handful who actually painted something most of them were on paper and only 81/2 by 11"  Mine was an oil painting Six Feet Tall!  It would have dominated the room, it would been the focal point of the show.  In fact out of 70 or so entries it was the solitary entry that was appropriate for a gallery show.

...Well... I didn't even make the first cut, disqualified on the basis of...who knows?

So you know what happened?  NOTHING!  The show never took place.  How could it?  There was nothing to show.

But later I sold my painting for more money than I'd ever made on a single painting before and I've been selling book marks and prints ever since then so I'm making out OK on it.
But the biggest boost was when the model contacted me some time later to see if I still had it and said it was her favorite entry and she would have bought it if it were not already sold.  That was a huge compliment and it made me feel much better about everything.
I know I sound bitter when I talk about contests.   I'm really not bitter, I like all of the people involved and the website in question has done a lot of very cool things.

So the lesson?
There is no lesson, stuff happens, life isn't here to teach us lesson, but I don't think I'll be entering anymore contests if it's just  going to upset me.  I really shouldn't enter contests.

Many years before any of this happened I used to submit art for a lot of juried shows.  I was never chosen to be in a show and they never told us why.  If you were selected you got a letter if not you didn't.  Looking back I realize that my art wasn't very good back then and probably didn't compare well with the ones who were selected.  At the time I thought I was as good as anyone else, but that's typical of the young.
On one occasion I went to the show that I'd been rejected from just to see what made those guys better than me.  While I was there I met another young guy who was doing the same.  But the difference between him and me was that he had an ethnicity whereas I have none whatsoever.  So he maintained that he was rejected on the basis of his skin color.   I didn't recall being asked my skin color on the entry form, but I pointed out that I had also been rejected and I'm as white as they make 'em. He didn't actually use the expression "white privilege" I don't think that was in circulation at the time, but the gist was the same.  Basically I being white had the option of seeing things as having been fairly judged on the basis of some criteria, but he had no such option.  Everything that happened to him HAD to be on a racial basis there could never be another explanation.   And this is what makes me more privileged than him not what happens to us, our money or success  (I could tell by his clothes that he had more money than me) but the fact that I could experience fairness even in loss whereas he was denied that right.  He could knowingly experience exactly what I did at the same time for the same reason, but I was treated fair and he was abused.

I told all of the previous stories to make this one point.  Life is rarely fair, but it's also rarely personal, and even on the rare occasion that it is personal it's an individual who's being personal not society at large.  Society at large doesn't know you and doesn't care about you and this is a blessing.  If society cared about you it probably means you're a wanted felon in a nationwide manhunt or you have a bunch of money that every one wants a piece of.  Otherwise everyone is just getting through life doing what they do for their own reasons and sometimes that works out well for you and sometimes it doesn't but it's not personal.
So enter contests if you want to, but remember that the judges aren't thinking about you, your race, your career, your hopes and dreams, your gender, your orientation, or what a nice person you are.  They're thinking about what the art does for them personally and if that doesn't work out well for you or even if it does, it's still not about you it's about them.
  If you can handle that you can handle contests and if you can handle contests then maybe you can handle life.

Or maybe I'm all wrong.  Feel free to tell me so.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Bad Dwaggon!

Deepen the dark areas behind the figures and add a lot of brightness to the highlights and she's all done.

Bad Dwaggon!
Oil Paint on recycled panel 24" X 30"

 One of the more gratifying things about this picture is that I was able to re-use the entire image as a page in my coloring book.  Although I did give the elf girl a little more clothing.
I also offered the original painting as a pledge level during my Kickstarter campaign.  When the guy bought that particular level I found out that he lived in Phoenix but didn't have a car, he rides the bus to work and had no means of coming to get his painting  No problems, I packed the painting in the car, and picked him up after work and drove him and his artwork home.
This kind of thing helps me worry a lot less about failures such as contests which I have no reason to be entering in the first place.

You can find all six Gilead's Goblins Coloring Books HERE

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Pin-Up Part Three

  Adding a plant and a lantern adds greatly to the sense that we are now outside on the patio or courtyard rather than indoors.

I like to do greenery in a warm brown first and then add green on top of that later.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Pin-up Part Two

I wasn't able to finish this in time to enter the contest because I was still doing a lot of sign work at the time and paying work had to come first even though this kind of thing was a lot more fun.  So I missed my time window while painting ...a window.  Then the painting was put aside and languished out in the woodshed for a few years.
Taking time away from my own work is another reason why I probably shouldn't enter contests. 

 Finally I decided to dig it out of the shed and finish it.
The first thing I wanted to change was to lighten it up.  The whole picture just transformed into a much more lighthearted and fun experience once it's outside in the sunshine instead of in some dark dreary dungeon.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Pin-Up Contest

I started this painting as part of a contest on a website about fantasy illustration.  (Wait a second have we had this conversation before?)
The idea was to look at some pin up art from the 50s and make a fantasy image with the same feel. For some reason there was a lot of pin-up art depicting scantily dressed women scolding some cute little animal like a cat or dog so I drew a little elf warrior girl scolding a baby dragon.
It was a fun project which appeals to my all-in-good-fun attitude towards fantasy and towards pin-up art, but I wasn't able to finish it in time due to prior commitments.
This was as far as it got at the time.

Friday, August 19, 2016


A few years ago there was a contest on a fantasy illustration website.  The contest was a conceptual design challenge to "Re-think the Owlbear".  Owlbears are a so called fictitious monster that is described in the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual as a bear with the head of an owl.  People thought that sounded silly and wanted a different explanation for this creature and its nature.  Well it is silly.  Owlbears as I'm sure you know are quite common in the Prescott National Forest in central Arizona and are not a bear at all, but simply a very large flightless owl.   Which if you've ever read much about owls makes them a great deal more terrifying than a silly old bear.  The wings have evolved into a forelimb for walking, but are equipped with a rake of claw-like feathers which can do devastating harm to enemies or prey.

Wildlife painting can be dangerous at the best of times, but this piece was particularly hazardous to produce.  Nice hike though, you can see Thumb Butte in the background, a landmark of the Prescott area.

So did I win the contest?  Nope, I wasn't even considered.  The guy said to me "That's too many claws."  I said "They're not claws they're feathers"  he said "Yeah, but why so many claws?"
...I shouldn't enter contests.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Selling Art and Aluminum Cans

Well well well what do we have here? Another hands in the air glam-pose? Just what I always wanted! That's OK I'll fix it somehow.
Even though it was just a 3 minute gesture sketch I really liked the rhythm of the pose all except for that hand on her head. Maybe if I'd given her a hat and had the wind blowing so it looks like she's keeping her hat on and her skirt down, but I didn't think of that. Maybe next time, I'm sure there'll be a next time. This is the same model who did the same hand-on-the-head thing in my earlier post "posing naked on a crocodile".   It seems to be a pet peeve of mine, but that's the beauty of it, it's my art all I have to do is change it.

So I changed it.  In this case I didn't come up with a clever solution, I just deleted it.
Notice her dress has some more of those swirly patterns like I showed yesterday.  I like recycling things it's a theme in my life.  

When I was a kid I gathered aluminum cans to sell. It was my first source of income and my first taste of financial independence. I did it again recently when money got tight. It's not a bad choice if you're out of work, you can be your own boss and set your own schedule. You probably can't make it work if you are homeless and pushing a shopping cart, but if you have both a bicycle and a car with a bike rack you can make at least equal to minimum wage. Carry your bike to street corner, ride around picking up cans. Deposit the bags in the car, ride to another street corner and do it again until the car's full then go cash in. You're limited only by your own speed and determination.
In fact as unglamorous as it was it was still an easy fit for an artist because I could choose not to do it anytime I wanted and pick it up again any time I wanted so there was no threat of getting fired or losing clients like you'd have in most lines of work.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What to Draw when there's Nothing to Draw

Sometimes when I want to draw I have no ides about what to draw.  Nothing comes to mind at all, so you know what I do then?  I draw.  Anything, anything at all just get the pencil moving.  These moments often begin with making a frame around the edge of the page or just doodling in little spiral patterns.  I have hundreds of them and harbor no fear but what I'll put them to use some day.

Such doodling led to this painting.
You see three layers of spirals in this painting.  Spirals carved into the stone, the red spirals partially contained inside the frame and partially escaping it.  And her hair and feathers twirling in front of those.

Temple Dancer
Oil Paint on Plywood 
48 inches by 24 inches
I have an aunt who was trained as a temple dancer in Thailand when she was small.  She gave me little figurines of dancers in exotic costumes which fired my imagination and sent me studying the ancient history of that region mostly looking for art and costumes.  While this costume is my own invention it somewhat evokes the style.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Not Perfect but Better

OK so I didn't like the arm in the air pose because I thought it looked silly.  The big challenge is to come up with a position the arm could be in without changing the height of the shoulder too much because then you're re-drawing the entire upper body.  So I actually drew her arm through the middle of the body with vine charcoal because it erases so easily and brought the hand out in this position.  This was after a couple failed attempts to have her holding a knife behind her back or holding something up up in the air.  That's why there's all that gray shading back there just to get hide all of those lines.
So I like this a whole lot better than I did before, but still not as well as I wish.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Pin-Up Pose

Oh look another hands in the air pose!
Again I wouldn't mind at all if I were not attempting to make some kind of narrative image out of it.  So I really can't complain in life drawing class because that's not the aim of anyone there except me.  It's a very pretty pose and if I were just painting pin-up art it would work nicely for that.
Pin-up art is fine, but the world has plenty of pin-up artists we'll get by if I do something else.

So I made a costume and I like it a lot, but that right arm just looks weird.  Perhaps I can dream up something clever to do with that.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Hands Up!

Normally you can't accuse me of lacking imagination, but I'll confess I just don't know what to do with these hands-up poses.  It's fun to draw, but it doesn't look like anything other than posing.  I suppose she could be stretching or fixing her hair?

Wow that right arm was way too long!  Never hesitate to erase your mistakes no matter how good a job you did on it.  Don't allow yourself to become so invested in your past efforts that you let them hold you back.  If it's wrong now then get rid of it.  This also applies to drawing.

The outfits these folks wear might remind you of temple carvings from India, Thailand or Cambodia.  They are more decorative than functional.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Like a Paper Doll

So here she is all costumed up which was fun, but I can't imagine using this sketch as the basis of a painting because it's just so ...posey.   Is that a word?  Apparently not, anyways it doesn't tell a story it just says "Look at me I'm a model!"  But it's a great posture for conceptual design work, fashion design etc.  Just like a Paper Doll.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Glam Pose

This pose has many things to recommend it.  It's a pretty straight up pose that's useful to the beginner who's still learning proportions and doesn't want to wrestle with complex foreshortening or confusing angles etc.  This model is probably the prettiest girl I've ever met and she has a terrific body which is shown to full advantage here so it's nice to look at.
On the other hand it's a little glam-shot for my tastes.  It looks a lot like a swimsuit catalog pose which there's certainly nothing wrong with but such things are readily available for free so why would you pay a model to do it?
On the other, other hand, I'm the only one in the classroom who wants to take these drawings home and make fantasy art out of them, everyone is there for their own reasons and I have to respect that.  ,,,so I'm told.

3 minute gesture sketch

I am a lucky man to have such a pretty model willing who's to be photographed so I was able to continue working on this at home.  Same sheet of paper just a lot of refining of the sketch.
 I know people who could do this on expensive paper and take it to an almost photographic level of finish.   Could I?   I really don't know, I've never had any desire to try.  I'd either like to fix it to the point that it's ready to be a painting or just play with it like a paper doll and design a costume for her.  Like I say we all have different goals there.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


This dress is nothing but a lose piece of cloth.  what makes it work is the body underneath.
What makes it sexy is her careless disregard for modesty.  We just saw her naked in the last image, but now we want to peek under that skirt again.

Drawing transparent fabric is as easy as this;
1. Draw the figure, no erasing.
2. Draw some lines and shading for the dress.
3. Go over the raised portions of the cloth wherever there are folds and wrinkles with a white chalk

Monday, August 8, 2016

What's Underneath

What's Underneath

Even if a model is dressed it's best to draw them roughly as though they are nude at first.   Get the proportions in, all the big shapes and the shadows, then pay attention to the small details like clothing.   Because that's all clothing is is small details.  There's no difference between a bare leg and a leg wearing pants except a few creases and a seam.  You can draw a form and then add fabric to it, but you can't draw a piece of fabric and then add form to it.  Form is at the beginning.

It's like the graphic designer who is told by his clueless boss "here's this thing we made.  Now throw some creativity on it before it goes out the door."  If the project wasn't creative from the outset then it can't be made creative at the end.

Friday, August 5, 2016


You may have realized by now that these posts are not in chronological order.  That's due in part to the fact that my image files are not arranged in any kind of chronological order.   Also my life didn't exactly happen in chronological order due to going back and forth between dimensions via the basement door.  I was in fact born in my late forties, but that's another story.

This is one of my oldest life drawings.  I know it's old because I remember thinking how fat this guy was.  Now I look at it and think "Man I wish I was that skinny."

It's also one of the first drawings that I transformed into a fantasy art piece so it stood as a sort of proof of concept to me.
Here's this not very interesting sketch of a not very good looking guy that now looks like it could turn into something pretty cool.  It would take tracing over it a couple times before I'll be happy with what little shows of his anatomy plus the design of his weapons and armor and the critter he's riding.  But still there's the beginnings of a story here, a sense of an adventure about to unfold.  I like that and I'm going to keep it and re-work it even if it's not a great drawing yet.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Leopard Girl

After this painting sat against the wall of my studio unfinished for months I've decided to rethink the whole thing.  I'm going to complete it in oils and go for a very different feel.  The old version is colorful, but harsh and cold, I want something warm and cozy and inviting.
Constantly dissatisfied I re-paint every little element of this painting several times each.
Finally it was finished and I loved it so I hung it on the wall until I started wanting to take it down and fix this part and that part.  Fortunately someone bought it before I gave in.
Leopard Girl
48" X 18" oil paint on recycled plywood

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Other Reference Photos

Sometimes it's fun to draw or paint from a different source such as an old movie still or some photo off of the internet.
The goal in this case is not to copy that image because the world is full of "Fan Art" that copies stuff. The goal is to use that image to springboard off of and ultimately create something entirely new.
I don't know what movie this is from, if you know please comment on it and I'll credit it here.

 I'd like to show you the original pencil sketch from this, but I seem to have lost it.
I'm not really careful about keeping my sketches in good condition, it's the painting I care about.
I was still in the middle of that period I've spoken of before where I was transitioning from a sign painter to a fantasy artist.
This painting has a lot of bright color, a border and abstract shapes in the background.  Many people said it was pretty, but it just wasn't doing it for me, I was starting to demand more realism from myself.
This is all water based house paint up to this point.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Translucent Dresses

Undressing women with my eyes and dressing them back up again with my pencil.
In summertime the hills of Barankur are a riotous display of wildflowers, green grass and berries of every hue.   With flame red hair and skin as white as a unicorn's mane ladies come to fill their baskets with the fruits of the forest.  Colorful, translucent dresses like this one are favored when they trouble to wear anything at all.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Drawing Nudes from a Photo Reference

Working from a photograph I'm able to correct and refine all the things there was no time for in class. Notice especially her left leg and how long I made it in the gesture, also I put the foot on all wrong. Clearly I wasn't even looking at the model when I did that.
One of the most common mistakes that artists can make in a life drawing class is that they don't look at the model.  They start drawing, then that part of their brain that thinks he knows what he's doing and doesn't takes over and you find the student hunched into his drawing with his tongue between his teeth never looking up just drawing from his imagination.
 I can be critical, I've done it.
Cameras usually distort the body by creating a fish-eye effect at the center of the lens.  If I'f started this sketch with a photo and a blank sheet of paper it's likely I'd have made her torso too long because the camera did.  It looks fine on film, but it would look terrible in a drawing.  Luckily I already had a sketch to kind of define my parameters for me so I didn't go too far off once I started working from the photo.