Mermaid Painting

I’m the type of fellow who can get bored doing the same thing for too long. I also find when drawing or painting that a frustrating problem is easier to solve if you let it sit for a bit and come back to it. You can look at it with a fresh eye and you’re less likely to make stupid decisions when you’ve cooled off a bit. So, while painting the clipper ship commission that I posted about recently, I also started working on a mermaid as a way to take breaks.

Mermaid on rock in surf ©Jameson Gardner 2014

It wouldn’t be much of a break from oil painting if I started another oil painting. So the mermaid would be watercolor (sortof). I’d been meaning to order some Arches paper from Utrecht, but not knowing I’d want to start this painting until the day of, I wasn’t in a hurry and didn’t have any suitable watercolor paper. So, I just did the drawing on a sheet of regular drawing paper. I wanted to show a moment of decision when the mermaid, having received a potion from the Sea Witch that will make her human, resolves to use it. It is a big decision that will require sacrifice and provide an uncertain future, so, it is supposed to look a little ominous and she a little melancholy.

I got my reference from the great and vast internet. Usually for something like this, I’d prefer to shoot my own reference, but I didn’t plan this in advance, and had to settle for Pinterest and google. That can, of course be risky if you don’t play it right. Just yesterday, I was dropping off a painting at the Harris Fine Arts Center at BYU, and among some works hanging there, I assume from a freshman drawing class, I noted an image that I have definitely seen before, probably in National Geographic (it kind of destroys your credibility as an artist when it looks like you just copy other peoples photos). That being said, I’d be very surprised if you could correctly identify any of my internet reference sources. That isn’t just because my sources are obscure, but because when I create a piece I have an idea, and usually thumbnails or sketches of what I want. Then if I can’t shoot my own reference, I look for images that can inform my work and fill in the details I need. I usually use reference from the internet to help me accomplish a piece I’ve already planned, I don’t plan a piece based on the reference I find.

While drawing I ran up against another little quandary. I haven’t ever imagined that mermaids would actually wear clothes. They are fishfolk and fish don’t have a lot of use for clothes. I also felt that adding shells or something like that would automatically introduce her into our system of morality. And wearing only shells she’d probably fall nearer the skanky end of that spectrum. Initially I imagined that I’d just use the age old tactic of long hair to cover her chest. I tried it and didn’t like the result. It kind of ruined the balance and composition. So, I finished the drawing with the hair on only one side. When I was done, I asked my wife what she thought. She said she liked it, but pointed out that even if they don’t worry about clothes in mer-culture, there are kids from human culture, who’s parents are deciding what values of modesty etc. to teach them, who follow my instagram and other social media. That was a valid point. I gave in and determined to do two versions. The authentic mermaid version, and the approved for all audiences version. I traced her torso and added shells on a separate paper, intending to paint those as I painted the main image and digitally combine them later.

Mermaid on rock in surf ©Jameson Gardner 2014

When the drawing was done I mounted it on a panel using matte medium. I painted several layers of transparent washes until I came to a point where I was of two minds. One of my minds said “I like this, it is kind of high key, but you should keep it.” my other mind said, “If you are going to put that on your blog or website, people will want deeper values and more contrast.” Lucky for me, modern technology lets me have my cake and eat it too. I photographed it, and continued painting digitally so that I could keep the original how it was.

Mermaid on rock in surf ©Jameson Gardner 2014

When I digitally paint into a traditionally started piece, I tend to use similar methods to the traditional medium I started with. In this instance, that meant several additional transparent layers.

Being finished I’m glad to have all three versions—the original, the digital and the digital with shells. Hope you enjoy it too.

Mermaid digital color sanshells squish2 blog

Mermaid digital color detail blog

Watercolor Girl in Armor

I just wanted to draw something the other day. So, I found some reference of a face and did a little drawing.  Just plain faces are great, but I have a tendency to want to add swords, bows or laser cannons to a lot of the things I draw. So, I put this girl in a suit of armor. I liked it. and I decided to watercolor it.

Watercolor painting of girl in armor by Jameson Gardner Art.

Luckily, I had done the drawing on Arches 88 a fairly hefty printmaking paper. Unluckily, I hadn’t done it on watercolor paper. I did scan it and try printing the drawing onto watercolor paper. It worked fine, but the only watercolor paper I had laying around was some of that cheap stuff that you buy in a pad at the craft store. I don’t believe that more expensive is always better… but in this case it is. Cheap watercolor paper has this weird artificial tooth that feels like it has been stamped on.

I opted to just try painting on the original drawing. I tested the corner of the paper first, and I’m glad I did. it sucked up the water and pigment like a rookie camel at his first oasis. This printmaking paper has no sizing (the stuff they put in paper that makes it less absorbent) and that wasn’t going to work for me. I ended up coating the paper in acrylic matte medium, which rendered it significantly less absorbent. I did the coloring with Acryla gouache handled watercolor-style. You can do all the same kinds of washes, but it won’t lift of bleed once it dries.


Preliminary drawing for watercolor painting of woman in armor by Jameson Gardner Art.

Drawing for watercolor painting of woman in armor by Jameson Gardner Art.

I tried to design armor that would look elegant, but functional. We have a surplus of  warrior women wearing armor or outfits that reveal all but the most vital areas and protect none of the vital organs. This is my take on Women’s armor.

Progress shot watercolor painting of woman in armor by Jameson Gardner Art.

All in all, I was relatively pleased.

 

 

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.

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