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Creator Spotlight: Urban Arkanum

Despite how we are portrayed in movies, we artists do not exist inside a vacuum. Often, we are surrounded by other creative individuals whose work inspires and encourages us to be our greater selves. We discuss concepts, techniques, and tools. We critique each other’s work. Artists have the ability to look at styles completely different from our own and have those styles inform how we approach our newest project.

I have long been a lover of comic books. I see them as the perfect marriage of the written word and the image. A beginner in the art of sequential storytelling myself, I am intrigued by those who are able to blend story and art so seamlessly. I have recently joined a group of such individuals who create comics and graphic novels. Their tales range from sci-fi to slice of life, fantastical to personal.

And then there’s Urban Arkanum. When the owner and founder Anubis Heru-Cole and I met, he was pushing his clothing line: ancient Egyptian symbols emblazoned in gold and silver on t-shirts and hoodies. As we got to know one another, he shared with me his plans to write a graphic novel. It would be an Afrocentric fantasy story about kings and gods. Of course, I was intrigued. This is not the kind of story I usually come across in my perusal of bookstores and comic shops.

The world is falling apart. A massive horde of genetically engineered creatures systematically stalk and terrorize the people of the planet.  Their only aim seemingly, to hunt and kill every last hue-man. Fortunately the powerful Kingdom of Avaris has the military might to thwart this evil menace.  But there is more at stake, environmental weather anomalies have begun to surface and cause substantial damage to the planet.  A young prince and three unlikely heroes must join together to find an ancient artifact that can bring balance back to their world. In the midst of conflict and danger lurking around every turn, will they find the artifact in time?

Don’t miss the action packed Sci-fi/Fantasy Acid of the Godz, created by Anubis Heru and Theo Wilson. Comic book Illustrated by Ryan Best.

I am happy to report that not only is the project underway, it is gorgeous! Check out the pages below and follow Acid of the Godz on Facebook and Instagram.

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Teaching at Girls Inc.

New Year

Happy new year everybody! I know, it’s already been a month since the year started. I just been so busy working on projects, I’m only now finding time to gather my thoughts. I would love to show you what I’ve been working on but I want to make sure I respect the privacy of my clients.

Teaching at Girls Inc.

What I can share with you is something I’ve been waiting months to do. I have moved my Women Behaving Badly paintings to Girls Inc. of Denver, where they will hang until March 3rd. When I started this series I wanted to inspire young girls with the deeds of the women who have helped to shape our society. I wish I’d had these women as role models when I was young. Now the students of Girls Inc. can see these paintings every day and read about the lives of these amazing women.

Classes

In addition to showing my work in their halls, I’m also teaching three classes a week at Girls Inc. These classes are combination of history lesson and art lesson. I begin by walking through the halls with the girls, looking at the paintings and telling each woman story as I know it. Then we had back to the classroom to review and I find out which woman inspires each girl and why. I ask if there’s anyone else they find inspirational and take note of their responses.

The younger girls are given handouts of women they can research for their own paintings. The older girls get to do independent study of woman of their choosing . I asked him to tell me a story. By day 3, we take a break from academics to do art class. The first day is all about collage where I teach about technique as well as ways to think about color, shape and subject matter. The next day we do some acrylic painting with the same ideas in mind. These will be the key elements of their final project.

The last two classes are where we put it all together. Each girl is given an 18″ x 24″ wooden board to work on and is given the task of telling the story of the woman she is selected through image, word and color. I want them to work on wood so that they see it as a final piece, not just another throwaway school project. I wanted to feel special.

The Final Product

Over the course of eight weeks, I will have worked with second grade through fifth grade. The third-grade class is already finished and the fifth-graders are halfway through. At the end, we will hold an exhibition showing off the girls work to family and friends.

I am loving this opportunity to work with young girls and to hear from them what traits they admire most in the women they’re learning about. I love their openness, their enthusiasm and their spirit of exploration. I can’t wait to see what the next five weeks will bring.

Third grade collages
Third grade collages
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The Last Painting of the Year

Happy New Year everybody! That’s it, 2016 is over and it’s time to ring in 2017. It has been a wild ride, full of ups and downs, pleasure and pain, happiness and sorrow. As we move into this new year, it helps to reflect, but let’s not forget to look forward.

This is the time of year to set goals. January is when we change the things we don’t like about ourselves and improve upon those things we love about ourselves. I have never been good about making and sticking to resolutions. I find that plans have a way of changing or falling through if there is no accountability.

The thing that works for me is setting a theme for the year. Last year’s theme was “Growth”. I worked to grow my business and grow the relationships most important to me. I think this year’s them will be “Learning”. There is so much information that I put into my head on a regular basis, but to be honest, it doesn’t all stick. This year, I want to be more intentional with my learning so that I actually retain the information I take in.

A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for the Realistic Portraits course with Jason Seiler on schoolism.com. Just doing the first couple of lessons has showed me where I have become complacent with my art. Doing the assignments will (hopefully) make me more deliberate with my artwork and help me improve my skills. With any luck, that deliberateness will leak into other aspects of my life, making me a better person as well as a better artist.

What is your theme for the new year? I’d love to hear what motivates you!

Harriet Tubman watercolor study.
Eye watercolor study – my last painting of the year
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Working with Clients – Portrait Commissions

I haven’t done a process post in a while, so here goes. This piece is for a client of mine who has commissioned a few paintings over the years. She always sends me high quality photos, which I appreciate. Blurry or low resolution photos always make my job more difficult.

tinas-grandkids-mock-upIn any case, I started with this photo here. I took it into Photoshop for a little pre-treatment. The first order of business was to crop the photo to the size of the final painting, making sure I was pleased with the placement of the boys within the frame. I then blurred out the background so that they really stood out.

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Once I completed this mock up and got approval from my client, I sketched in the figures. Next, I went to work on the background. In order to simulate the blur effect in Photoshop, I utilized the wet on wet technique. With a brush loaded with clean water, I soaked the whole background area. Then I got some pigment on the brush and started dropping in color. Because the paper was already wet, the colors began to run into one another, causing them to blend smoothly.

After I was satisfied with the background, I moved to the foreground. You may have noticed this ugly greenish-grey on the boys’ shirts and hat. That is masking fluid, used to preserve the white of the paper. It also allows me to freely paint large areas of color without having to paint around small details. I built up the folds of the shirts to my satisfaction before removing the fluid.

Although white, there are still some shadows in the numbers and logos on their shirts, so I added these with some bluish-grey. I have also done some significant work on the older boy’s face.

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When I got close to done, I sent a photo of the painting to my client. She felt that the legs in the background were distracting, so I got rid of them. I darkened the background while I was at it, using the darkness to cut out the younger boy’s hair. I sent a photo to the client again and she pointed out that I had aged the older boy too much with heavy shadowing on his nose and around his mouth.img_20161122_153522

Back in Photoshop, I applied a black and white filter to the original photo. This helped me to examine the shapes more closely and discover where I had gone awry. I changed the nose and adjusted the mouth while I was at it and sent it off to the client. This time she loved it.

This is how I work with all my clients. I take pains to make sure they end up with the painting they want. The process is fastest when the reference is clear. If you would like to commission a portrait for the holidays, place your order by December 13th. If you live outside of Denver, allow time for shipping. Click here to order.

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SOLD!

Good morning all! I thought I’d share with you some pieces I no longer have because I sold them last night. If your favorite is not on this list, come see me at Mini Comic Con at the Sam Gary Branch Library. I will be there today from 10am to 4pm.

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The Dream Client

Many freelancers like to talk about their nightmare clients, those people who seem not to know exactly what they want but will happily tell you that you’re doing everything wrong. These folks have little respect for the time and effort you are exerting on their behalf. They ask for re-dos and redesigns of work you both approved but balk at the extra fees you charge for that extra time.

That’s one end of the spectrum. The other end is the Dream Client. The Dream Client knows exactly what she wants and communicates  it well. She is open to your input, but will not blindly follow or reject your suggestions. If, during the creation process, she sees something she doesn’t like, she lets you know and is specific about her needs. This client has great respect for your time and for your skill. She won’t haggle over the price of your work or drag her feet when it’s time to pay.

Best of all, Dream Clients come back for more.  Not only do they purchase from you again and again, they tell their friends and bring you more business. I am so grateful for all of the Dream Clients I have so far. I hope to find many more.

If you are interested in becoming one of my Dream Clients, I am taking orders for the Holidays. Be aware, if you or your loved one lives outside of the state of Colorado, allow for shipping and place your order before December 6th. If you are in the Denver Metro area, you have until the 12th to order.

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Life Drawing – Practice, Practice Practice

A couple of weeks ago, I ran into my friend Mike Rosenbaum, a caricature artist here in Denver. He and I had gone to school together, but haven’t hung out in a long time. We immediately made plans to catch up. He told me about this life drawing session at the Lakewood Cultural Arts Center, so we headed over there on Thursday.

Life Drawing in a Nutshell

If are an artist and you have never been to a life drawing session, I highly recommend that you go regularly. I hadn’t gone in over a year, but it came back pretty quickly. Different sessions have different formats, but the basics are:

  1. Short gesture drawings, usually 1-five minutes per pose
  2. Longer poses, about 10 minutes or so
  3. Slightly longer poses 20-30 minutes each. Here the model is usually seated or reclined, though some will stand.
  4. Long poses of 40 minutes to 2 hours. For the longest of these, the model will take a break at the halfway point to rest, then resume the pose to the best of his/her ability.

The session I went to last week had about five 1-minute poses, five 5-minute poses, one 10-minute poses and four poses that were between 20 and 30 minutes long. One minute per pose is a harrowing pace if you’re not used to it. It is, however, essential. If you can figure out the pose at one minute, with 20 or 30, you will have so much more time to work in the details. This makes it all worthwhile, to me.

The Results

Below are the drawings I did last week. One is missing because I gave it to the model. Sometimes they will take art in lieu of tips, though tips are encouraged as well.

Thanks for stopping in! Don’t forget that this Saturday is the Meet The Artist reception for Women Behaving Badly at the Blair Caldwell Library. I will be there from 2:30 -4:30 pm to answer any questions you have about the art and the series.

Upcoming Events

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A Custom Portrait for Someone You Love

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Fixing Some Glitches

 

Hey everyone,

I’ve been a bit infrequent with my posts of late, but for good reason! First, I have moved. My wife and I have finally given up our nomadic lifestyle and have actually signed a lease. Since her job takes up the lion’s share of her time, it was my duty to step up and get this place organized. I feel so domestic: cooking, cleaning, decorating… it’s been good times. But, it has also taken me out of the studio a bit, so I haven’t been drawing or posting much. 

Time to get back in the saddle! I have been trouble shooting some glitches in my website that you may or may not have noticed. The mobile menu had WAY too many items in it for a while there, so now that’s all fixed. I have also finally got my Instagram feed working properly. Most of my random sketches, drawings and works in progress go on Instagram first, and I realized that I was leaving you blog readers out of the loop. Having the feed connected to my page will allow you to see what I’m doing in between big projects.

New Products!

Over the last few weeks, I have been uploading some of my older ink drawings to the web store. These original works in pen and ink are available for sale in the store. They represent the middle/low price range of my artwork. If you are into the nerdy side of pop culture like Firefly, Doctor Who and Supernatural, you are going to dig these. Each one is done old school style in pen and ink, meaning I actually dipped a nib into India Ink to make marks on paper. It takes a steady hand and enough patience not to splash ink around. I love the challenge of the medium and I hope that love and care shows in each line. Check out the shop or follow this link to take one home.

Buy Original Ink Drawings


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Postcard Prints. Decisions, Decisions…

Good afternoon everyone! I’m planning on getting some postcards printed out to sell in the Helikon shop and I’m not sure which designs to choose. Since it’s still Inktober, I’m going to bring back some of my older ink pieces. The next few blog posts will be a choice between two pieces at a time. Whichever images get the most votes are the ones I’ll print out on the first run. These cards will also be available here on the website for $5 each.

If one of these images doesn’t make the cut, but you really, really want one, please let me know and I’ll do a special order just for you.

This first one goes out to you Supernatural Fans. Which Castiel should I print?

Upcoming Events

  1. Women Behaving Badly at the Blair Caldwell Library


    October 26 @ 8:00 am5:00 pm

Buy an Original Painting

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Inktober – Let’s give this a shot

Good afternoon everyone. My apologies for not writing yesterday. I had to run a BUNCH of errands which kept me out of the studio for half the day. I want to talk to you a little about Inktober.

This is actually the first time I’m participating and I’m kind of excited about it. Inktober is basically a challenge for the month of October in which participants have to do one drawing, in ink, a day for 31 days. Since starting to paint more seriously a few years back, I had stopped using my pens. I miss them, though. SO, I’m taking this challenge as an opportunity to hone those skills again.

I had already started doing small ink drawings as this month began, so this is perfect timing.

And as a reminder, I’m hosting the final panel discussion at Coffee at The Point, featuring Women in the Arts. It starts tonight at 6. I’ll see you there!

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Tiny Drawings

Hi Guys. I was at a bit of a loss for what to talk to you guys about, so I just started sketching. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. Whenever I’m stuck, I just pull out these small 2.5×3.5 in. pieces of scrap paper and start drawing. I have this mirror above my drafting table which I have been using to practice drawing my own facial expressions. This is a new thing for me, so there aren’t many just yet.

As many paintings as I have done over the years, I have actually fallen out of the practice of drawing with structure in mind. When creating a portrait, you can either focus on the light and shade to create the illusion of three dimensionality, or you can focus on the structure. Obviously, you need both to create a realistic rendering, but what I’m saying here has to do with the way the mind sees form while drawing.

I have been focusing on the light, color and shade. That means that I’m good at recreating a specific image. What I am starting to practice again is focusing on the structure. I break each shape down to its basic components so that I understand the underlying structures. This will allow me to draw any face from any angle without needing a specific reference. I have only practiced this off and on since graduating from art school. Consider me in the on again phase now.

I want to take my work from copy to invention. With my Women Behaving Badly series, I have been great about inventing the board shapes as well as the backgrounds, but I could push the envelope much further on the portraits themselves. I’m always working to improve. How are you improving yourselves? I’d love to hear from you.

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