Landscape Commission

Colorado mountain winter landscape oil painting ©Jameson Gardner Art

This is the landscape I was working on a few weeks ago. The client was giving it as a gift, so I’ve held back on posting about it.

I started out with a few thumbnail sketches that I sent to the client. The bottom right was approved so I got to work.

Work in progress winter landscape oil  painting. Mountains © Jameson Gardner Art

I toned the canvas with burnt sienna. It’s one of my favorite colors, and it make for nice temperature contrast when you are painting a lot of cool colors over it.

Work in progress winter landscape oil painting. Mountains © Jameson Gardner Art

Work in progress winter landscape oil painting. Mountains © Jameson Gardner Art

I tend to paint pretty thin. I usually move across the painting filling in areas at medium finish and then going back over it for details. That, of course only works because I sketched in the composition first. When painting from life, it works better for me to bring the whole painting up together, rather than moving across it.

Work in progress winter landscape oil painting. Mountains © Jameson Gardner Art

Work in progress winter landscape oil painting. Mountains © Jameson Gardner Art

Work in progress winter landscape oil painting. Mountains © Jameson Gardner Art

Shipwreck Color Comp/Sketch

Man enters hulk shipwreck sketchThis was an idea I had for an image last night. If I don’t record the idea somehow, they don’t stick around. So, I made this little color comp. I just scanned a little sketch and added digital color.

It’s a guy climbing into the decayed hulk of an old shipwreck. I’m thinking there is something inside that he is looking for… maybe a beast. If I make this into a full painting I think I’ll have to give some clues about whatever is inside.

Art for Art’s Sake

I keep coming across the phrase “Art for art’s sake”. I don’t believe it one bit. At least not from the people who are saying it.

Yellow mixed media ash © Jameson Gardner Art

Usually, I hear the phrase used by acquaintances studying visual arts in the studio area. That means they are learning contemporary art—art that doesn’t have to look like something, but has a deeper message which gives it meaning and purpose… or it has no meaning which can also give it meaning and purpose.

I get the feeling that “art for art’s sake” is the way they dismiss the large number of people who don’t appreciate what they make. Basically, they are saying “It wasn’t made for you, so I don’t care what you think of it.” The phrase would tend to indicate that they don’t care what anyone thinks of it, because it was only made for the sake of being made, not for an audience—this is the part I don’t buy. If that is the case, why are they trying to get into galleries? Why do they want to have shows or take part in exhibitions?
They care an awful lot about what certain people think. But why do only certain people get to decide what good art is?
Not everyone will agree on everything, but if a work of art is really great, shouldn’t a lot of people be able to feel what you are conveying, and appreciate the skill with which you execute it?

Fine art sometimes seems like a snobby society where food that tastes like garbage is passed off as a sophisticated acquired taste. If you don’t like it, it is because you aren’t cultured. Well sorry. I’d rather have a gourmet hamburger than cheap caviar.

I am certainly not saying that all contemporary or non-representational art is bad. I’ve seen some pretty amazing things that didn’t look like anything, but those were the ones you didn’t have to be trained to appreciate. those were the ones where I didn’t feel like the artist was trying to convince me that there was meaning—I could feel it already there.

So, back to art for art’s sake. I realized a while back, that the only people making art for art’s sake are the ones that “Fine Artists” denounce as hobbyists. Art for art’s sake comes from people like Emily Dickinson, who produced nearly eight-hundred poems, only a handful of which were published during her life. I think the watercolor painting your aunt did of her cat would probably also qualify.

(If you were wondering, I am the author of abstract image featured above.)

Watercolor Girl in Dress

watercolored ink drawing of girl in medieval/ renaissance dress.

Yes, “Watercolor Girl in Dress” is a pretty lame title. But, it describes what I’m talking about.
I just finished this ink/watercolor project. This image was born from a combination of my love for the work of Arthur Rackham, which makes me want to do watercolored pen/ink, and the fact that my sister owns a cool medieval/renaissancey dress.
I started by shooting reference photos of my sister in the dress. We just tried different poses and I decided which to use later.

I would include the photos here, but I haven’t asked her permission to show them—they look a lot like the drawing, only more photographic.

Work in progress shot of drawing girl in medieval/renaissance dress

Using the photos for reference, and having found a hairdo on pinterest that I liked, I made a pencil drawing on watercolor paper (Arches).

Work in progress shot of drawing girl in medieval/renaissance dress

I inked the drawing with a Pentel brush pen (I like the thin black pocket version best). I used to use a nib pen for stuff like this, but you can get really great lines and variety with these pens without having to dip or clean.

Work in progress shot of watercolor girl in medieval/renaissance dress

For the next stage I use watercolor techniques, but with acrylic gouache. The result is very watercoloresque but once it’s dry, the acrylic polymer sets and it won’t run if you rewet it. As you can see, I forgot to stretch my paper before I started painting. It buckled quite a bit and I had to soak and dry to flatten it when I was done painting.

Work in progress shot of watercolor girl in medieval/renaissance dress almost finished.

finished ink and watercolor drawing painting of girl in medieval/renaissance dress.

Once finished painting I photographed it because my scanner is tiny, and overlaid a some handmade textures using photoshop.

I suppose I could just paint my textures right on the paper, but I like to be able to play around with the layers until I find how they work best. I also like to preserve the original the way it is.

Hope you enjoy. I’ll be selling prints on Etsy.

Animated Snow

So, animated gifs have been around for a long time. I’ve seen weird little cartoon people and cats falling off of chairs, but recently I’ve seen a few gifs that were a little more artistic. The idea of a looping image created purely for aesthetics was novel to me, and I had to try it out.

This is an image from one of my recent adventures that those who follow my blog will recognize. But you couldn’t really see the snow that was falling in the original. So, I added falling snow as a looping gif. Nothing amazing, but kind of cute.

falling snow with tree and water droplets gray/blue animated gif

I’m considering making short loops like this using my dimensional illustrations, maybe even a little stop-motion.

From Mind to Paper: Thumbnail Sketches

pen and ink

Anyone who has taken illustration classes has probably been expected to conform to some sort of process involving  thumbnail sketches. Thumbnails are small preliminary sketches that communicate the gist of an idea. I think sometimes students feel like the only purpose of thumbnails is to figure out an idea and if they are already thinking of something awesome it is an unnecessary step. Well, I am a believer that there is more to it than that.
In my experience both as an illustrator and as a graphic designer, translating an idea from your mind to your paper or design isn’t always as easy as it seems. When I worked for the BYU Universe, sometimes my coworkers would ask me to take a look at designs that they felt were struggling. I told them to explain to me what they didn’t like about it. The response usually included something about how the idea in their head had been significantly more awesome than the version they had actually produced. Of course, we would proceed to discuss the specifics of what was falling short, but I think problems like that could be avoided with a little more work on the front end.  The purpose of thumbnails is to avoid errors in translation from mind to paper. Figure out what is important about the idea. Figure out what compositional elements can convey the important things and what can create the right feel. And remember, if the composition works small it will work large.

You might have a specific image in your head, but until you draw a little version of it, you aren’t going to realize how vague your imagination can be sometimes. Don’t forget the golden rule of creativity either: Your first idea usually isn’t your best idea. I think I’ll write more about that later… but for now, use thumbnails to try some variations, chances are they will get more creative and interesting as you go.

Thumbnails can also convey the gist of your idea to a client before you get too invested. I think most illustrators and art directors are on-board with the process of approving thumbnails, sketches/comps and then the final piece. Thumbnails can work for a lot of other people too though. Landscape commission, or portrait? Show the client a little sketch before you spend a ton of work on it. Thumbnails for graphic design could save some hassle too. My coworkers and I used to complain about all the changes for which our boss or clients would ask. Sometimes I think we were totally justified, but other times we probably could have avoided it by sending them a sketch of what we were thinking.

So don’t underestimate what a Thumbnail sketch can do.


Thumbnails can convey the gist of something even when they are really tiny. All of my thumbnails included here are 2″ tall or smaller.

Preliminary sketch for illustration from Tremsin and the Firebird

Thumbnails can be used to jot down ideas for characters or objects too, not just entire compositions.

masked villain, comic book

Building a Website From Stone

The point of my website is to market hand-made traditional and dimensional illustrations—real things with real texture and dimension. So, I decided to drop the digital, though custom, typography from my header and replace it with something that would emphasize my brand. I thought it would be cool to make it out of stone.

Ok, I don’t actually know anything about carving stone, but I do know how to make faux stone. So here is what I did:

Weathered stone tablet for Jameson Gardner Art and Illustration

The first step was to carve it from styrofoam. High density foam works best because it holds the little details better, but I actually just used some foam that came in a box of shelves.

When the styrofoam was carved I covered it in a thin layer of plaster of paris, enough to protect the foam from solvents and to give me something to carve the type into, but thin enough to preserve some of the details carved into the foam.

work in progress

I then chiseled the type into the plaster.

work in progress

And covered it with a stone texture spray that I picked up at Home Depot. It comes out a variegated grey, and provides a pretty good texture, but it sure doesn’t look like believable stone until you do some painting by hand. I used acrylic washes to finish it off.

work in progress

Of course, photographing it in the right light and separating it from the background are necessary too.

Tremsin and the Firebird Illustration

Mixed media with watercolor and digital painting of Ukrainian, Cossack fairytale


This is the second image of Tremsin and the Firebird. The other showed when he found the feather, this one shows when he sees the bird itself for the first time. The story has some really classic parts that make you say “What….?” I recommend taking a look at this version of the text online.

The process for this image was the same as the first. Thumbnails, then bigger sketches, then shooting reference and composing it to match the drawings. After that it was drawing, inking and painting. the Final touches are reductions from several handmade textures overlaid digitally.

Prints of this and others are for sale on my Etsy shop!

thumbnail sketches with prismacolor pencils on toned paperSketch on toned paper with prismacolor pencilsWork in progress on watercolor and ink painting

The Mountain Mouse

I read a great post on MuddyColors by Lauren Panepinto. Muddy Colors is a Science-Fiction/Fantasy Art blog with contributors among the most renowned in that genre. Lauren’s post described some of the pros and cons for illustrators and other artsy folk living in the city vs the country. She mostly focused on possibilities for networking (which is very important). I think Lauren’s posts are always insightful, but she did mention that she was born in New York City and spent a lot of her life there. I think that may be the reason she didn’t list nature as one of the pros of living outside the city.

I think for many people it isn’t so easy to decide if you are a town mouse or a country mouse.  I spent  and enjoyed some time living in Kiev, but as someone who’s grown up in the shadow of the Wasatch Mountains, I would certainly not trade the inspiration of nature to live closer to more Art Directors.

For example, I woke up yesterday to falling snow and thought I’d go take some photos. I wound up halfway up a mountain waiting for the fog to clear so I could take a picture of a bush, and wondering if there was a less break-necky way down than the way I came up.

To each their own, but I think I’d rather break my neck in a canyon than in a taxi.

Mountain in falling snow, fog and cliffs

A couple of the shots from yesterday’s adventure.

Bush on ledge in falling snow

Etsy Opened and Coupon

Now that I have a little more time on my hands, I’ve finally been able to open my Etsy shop. I’ve started listing prints there but it’s hard to know which images will most interest people, and how much people would pay. I’d love to get feedback on both of those things. Check out the shop at Etsy. There is also a link in the blog menu.

To accompany the opening of my shop I’m giving you all 10% OFF. Just enter the coupon code from below.