Category Archives: Art

Twisted Tree Tattoo: Black and Gray and the Importance of Study


My most recent tattoo design request has come from a man with strong religious identity and a family he loves.

Naturally, he wanted a tattoo to reflect all these qualities. There were only 3 major elements to the tattoo that he wanted:

1. A cross-shaped tree or wooden cross; either way it should look gnarled and twisted up.

2. Carvings of his kids' and wife's initials into the cross.

3. An owl, because his kids love owls.

So right off the bat, it made sense to go with a tree shaped up like a cross rather than a wooden cross. Not only would the owl belong there, but it would allow me the opportunity to create the religious symbol he wanted in a subtle, natural way. It made the finished sketch look more interesting. Besides, it was also a fitting place to carve the initials into.

It took me much longer that I thought to fabricate a tree. Even after getting ideas from reference images, I couldn't help my obsessive need to make it every single chunk of tree unique. It was a fun exercise to “see” where the tree was on the canvas. I went with the flow of the random swipes of my stylus and then when it got to the details, I nitpicked. That's a fair balance, timeconsuming as it was.

Then came the owl… I'd never drawn an owl before and it's exactly this kind of general inexperience that is one of the reasons why I'm so glad for these requests…I wouldn't have just sat down someplace and tried to draw an owl for fun. I pulled up a few reference images of the horned owl specifically, because I asked my client if he had a preference for the species and he mentioned only this one. The usual process whenever you find yourself new to a subject is to find references (photos or in real life), do a few studies until you “know” this subject enough to create it on your own, then do exactly that. With the time constraint I was under, I could only do 1 study before diving into incorporating it into the design, but I definitely learned a surprising amount of information just from the one time.

For example, I had no idea horned owls had big, furry looking feet. I thought of lion paws as I drew those. I also realized just how complex the patterns of the feathers are on a single owl. This allowed me to have a bit of creative freedom to be abstract. I didn't need to copy it from a picture as long as I achieved the right textures for the right places. Just goes to show how important studying is.

Finally, the carvings. I had initially asked my client if he had any particular species of tree in mind, because depending on that the carving could have different characteristics, like color, fraying of the bark, etc. A maple tree carving would look different than a pine tree carving, which would look different from a birch tree carving, and so on. One will find that when they really care about the project, they will consider things like this to be important for the overall effect/look of the end result. He didn't have a tree in mind and the tree wasn't going to have leaves anyway, but I'm very glad I asked.

My client seemed very pleased with this, which only reinforces the idea of studying every subject that is new to me before I try to include it in and illustration/design. The more I study, the more I can commit it to memory and then be able to create it without the need for a reference. Quite an important investment of my time and effort if I hope to succeed as a freelance artist.



Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Pat Benatar Portrait


Inspired by the Legends of Rock competition on Sketchclub, I tried to find an artist that hadn’t been done yet. I was deciding between Ozzy Osbourne, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, and Steve Tyler originally. Even though at the time of this post some of these hadn’t been done yet, I guess my inner feminist was like, ” Hey! There were some pretty badass chicks back in the 80s you can pay homage to!”

Instinctively, I just went with Pat Benatar because I love “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”. I played that song on repeat almost the whole 5-6 hours it took me to paint this portrait of her (used a Google image of her as a reference).


Because I knew I wanted to record my sketch this time, it made complete sense to then use this hit song of hers as background music. It didn’t even occur to me that this was my first relatively successful portrait attempt either. It’s a pretty close enough resemblance, though her eyelids could have been a bit heavier. Still I’m pleased with my color choices (the 80s was such a wonderfully colorful time!) and the overall look of this. Even if this wasn’t Pat Benatar, it definitely screams “80s”.

Here’s the speedpainting video:



Undiscovered: Digital Landscape, Sunset, and Seascape Practice in one go!


Woo! Finished!

I liked this practice alot. It was a combination of landscape, seascape, and sunset practice for me. A daunting thing until I made the goal to incorporate a lot of color. Then the difficulty was making it look like a place you want to see.

I made this on my usual app of choice, Sketchclub. It got featured!!

I’ve also entered it in the Sunsets competition, which was so coincidentally going on at the time I was getting back to the WIP to finally finish it. Overall this pretty simple sketch took about 3-4 hours to do. I really wish I had recorded a time-lapse video for this one though.

Until recently, I haven’t touched any of my personal projects. It’s nice to come back to it and get this kind of appreciation. I definitely feel more comfortable with creating timelapse videos as well, so I will be posting more links to my YouTube channel as well. Good stuff!


DIY Boots Color Upgrade


In recent years my twin sister has been indulging her once suppressed passion for boots. We have way too many, and that's coming from someone with her own collection of shoes piled up in the closet. She has boots in all kinds of colors, fabrics, styles…you get the idea. And yet when I looked at her array of boots I realized she still had too many sensible-colored boots. My creative beast stirred…

I mean look at how plain these look! It's begging for a color upgrade!

So I approached her with this idea to add a pop of color to her black boots. She jumped up and said, ” I want that metallic blue color you have!” This is why I love her. So here's how I accomplished this:

Stuff You Need:

A pair of boots with a heel that isn't covered in fabric (stacked heel or stiletto)

Artist's Tape (anything low-tack to keep from damaging the boots)

A bottle of acrylic paint (any color you like really, but if you can find that exact color in a spray can, I'd get the can for easier application)

A paintbrush (if you choose to hand paint like I did)

A can of glossy or satin finish acrylic sealer

Alcohol swabs for priming and clean-up

Paper towel (helps with masking)



Step 1

Tear up small pieces of artist's tape and overlap them over the boot, making sure to mask off the heel. If you plan on spray painting, you can put a plastic bag over the whole boot except the heel, then tape it down.

Step 2

Wipe down the heel with an alcohol pad. This is just to clean the surface before you start painting.

Step 3

Not only does it look nice, but applying tape over the very bottom of the heel where the tread sits is practical. There's really no point in painting this part.

Step 4

Start painting! This is the color I went with. I just squeezed it onto a notepad and went my brush a bit before application. You want to make sure you pick a color that is opaque, not transparent (or you'll be painting forever). This is where you can get creative. I went with a solid blue, but you can actually mix in glitter, add decals, or get some other colors and paint on patterns or textures.

Step 5

Apply a few thin coats, leaving time for them to dry before adding the next one. What I then did after about 2 coats is slowly and evenly apply a thicker layer for the more solid appearance. I didn't want streaks, but you could easily accomplish this if you wanted the look…in multiple colors…whoa!

Ahem, tangent over…

Here's the opacity you should end up with:

This next part is tricky…

Step 6

Spray painting would have made this part a bit easier, as you can probably achieve a good coating quickly enough that you can remove the tape while it's wet and get a clean line. This isn't so with hand painting. You will need to slowly and carefully remove the tape. You can put a straight edge against the heel as you remove the tape to minimize any peeling.

Even if you peel off a bit of paint, I've found a quick touch up with the brush blends right in, no muss no fuss. You may also face the issue of paint leaking underneath the tape. I certainly did. Which is where the alcohol pads come in. It will wipe right off if your boot's made of leather. If it's suede or some porous or soft fabric you will have to be more careful and delicate. A little warm soapy water will definitely help no matter the fabric.


Step 7

I could have left the heel as is. But I wanted shine! So I decided to use an acrylic sealer with a gloss finish.

I masked the heel again once the paint was completely dried. Since it's a clear glaze, I just used paper towel to generally cover the boot.

Go to a ventilated area and spray lightly over the whole heel. If you get too heavy on the application, it'll drip.

See the difference?

The sealer is a lot easier to wipe off, especially with a wet paper towel used right away.

The finished result?

Yeah!! Worth the effort, for sure!

I hope this post inspired you. I had a lot of fun doing this, and it certainly won't be my last little project either, so stay tuned!


#AtoZChallenge: Plumbers, Passions, and Paychecks


Depending on your school of thought, you may or may not already know what I’m getting at. Either way, just bare with me.

It all started with The Cosby Show. I’ve been sick for almost a week now and so I was vegging out in front of the TV watching some episodes with my dad. We happened to be watching an episode that really resonated with me but bugged my dad. It was the one where the family scrambles to find a plumber to fix what Cliff tries to fix himself, to their utter terror. They call in a team of young people who all went to Princeton with the eldest daughter, called the Home Healers. They all had gone to school for degrees that didn’t serve yhem in their roles for their chosen career. Naturally Cliff (and my dad) was confounded by this and so talked to the girl in the group about it.

Tahitian Women on the Beach, 1891 -Henri Paul Gauguin

There were some good points on both sides: why go to a school, not to mention an expensive one, only to not utilize the education you received there? On the other hand, how many greats were there that wouldn’t have been great had they stayed in their fields for the rest of their lives? Examples used were Gandhi, Gauguin, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. They had all studied one thing and ended up pursuing something else. My dad couldn’t have wished more to jump into the TV and tag team with Cliff to bombard that girl with questions and arguments. He settled for mumbling quite loudly, “stupid” and “that’s no good!”

Ever the pragmatist.


By the end of the episode, though, Cliff had to apologize to the group for harrassing them like he did. They were very professional and apparently did an amazing job.

Which brings me to the second “p” word: passions. It’s not enough by itself for someone’s success, but it’s a pretty heavy contributor. It’s what keeps you going, after all! For example, my passions include art, food, and writing amongst other things. I think about one or the others all the livelong day. I can’t wait to get a hold of my pen and paper or ipad and have at an idea. Do you know how amazing it is for me to share these passions with you and everyone else I know? That alone is compensation enough! And yet, there is the real world to consider…

This kid isn’t working…is he?

” It’s fine to have hobbies, but to make a living out of it? Foolish!” My dad says. He says it because he doesn’t believe the pay from such a life is worth the time. Not when you have a family or lifestyle to support. And he knows that I want to have a family one day. My paychecks have to count.

But you know…sometimes there’s a feeling I get that tells me I can be very successful freelancing and blogging. If I keep at it and manage my time; if I continue to provide my creative services on Fiverr, exposing my talents to the right people and getting opportunities from there while also gaining more and more experience; if I take the time to also work on my jewelry and writing skills…how could I not be successful? How can anyone not be successful financially when they match their efforts with their talents and fuel them with their passions? It’s just a matter of taking the dive, right?


#AtoZChallenge: O is for…


Why didn't I think of this sooner? I'm kicking myself!!

The app I've been using the most for my work has a text brush, for when I need to add text to my paintings. I don't use it much. Yet, it hit me today…why didn't I just try a nice quick sketch, using the letter of the day as the brush?! Oh, the hassle I've been through!!

Eh, well. You live and you learn. Now, I'm ahead for next year lol! And maybe now I can catch up a bit faster.

If you've seen my other work, you know I could have pulled off a realistic or surrealistic painting of an octopus, but given my recent epiphany, I tried to accomplish a quick and understandable sketch of an octopus. Took me less than 30 minutes. Not the worst job I've ever done.

It's interesting the amount of texture in here just by painting with the letter “o”. In fact, I'm pretty sure you can get it with any letter of the alphabet, and even that will vary by the font you use. My font choice was based on the “o” looking like the octopus' eyes. Then I just went with it the rest of the way. I didn't really need to add tentacles either, there was so much texture. And the bubbles? Quick and painless. The only place where I didn't paint with the text brush was when I was applying color to the body, but then I went right over it with more text to get the texture back.

Definitely a new favorite brush now! Didn't think to use it outside the original purpose…I'm ashamed.


#AtoZChallenge: Landscapes


This is another WIP.

I think one of the biggest challenges for me is landscapes. Especially when they’re just playing the backdrop for the main objective. By themselves, it takes hours. Hard to believe when you look at the final product.

I can’t say I am very interested in landscapes that have very little going on in terms of color or complexity, like a snow or desert scene. I find myself more interested in tropical, mountain, or even swamp scenes as a result. Which brings me to this piece I’m working on. It’s like another piece I did where it was a place I wished really existed. So what you’re looking at is a place I’ve imagined in my mind to be a place that makes you feel warm and comfortable. Sit and feel a light breeze over your skin and hair while the sun sets in a far away place. Colors you didn’t think were there are there now, but only until the sun has gone down entirely.

I guess I’ve been missing Hawaii. It may very well be the inspiration here. If you’ve ever been there you probably see what I’m talking about.

I’m trying not to go into a whole lot of detail. I want to get better at making up a decent, believable enough landscape in as little time as possible. So far I have this clocked at an hour and a half.

I’m clearly taking liberties with color here, as I usually do. Pretty happy with it so far. Stay tuned!