Painting in 7 Easy Steps

Bear with me: this is a constant gripe of mine. Still, whenever I see something like this going on and get annoyed, I remind myself how much more I’m learning by not giving in to the photocopy machine ethos, and I feel a bit better (not that it will last when my result slip comes back with a ‘C’)

I have no issue with photo reference. I think photography is an amazingly liberating and helpful tool for all kinds of artists. What I do dislike is copying the photo blindly without taking into consideration the intent of the piece.

A Recipe for Instant Art

You will need:

  • A camera, preferably digital
  • An overhead projector (optional)
  • Models (optional)
  • Lights (optional, strongly encouraged)
  • Pencil (2B) or thin vine charcoal
  • Paint (oil is best to ensure the final work has an artsy flair)
  • Support (canvas preferred)

Preparation Time: 1 day ~ 3 weeks


  1. Come up with a concept, and shoehorn it into a contemporary context – preferably one which you have easy access to (e.g. your messy kitchen).
  2. Draw three thumbnails and pick the one you like most.
  3. Scout for a location and conduct a photo shoot. If you considered lighting in step 2, arrange lights as necessary prior to shoot and do not experiment with lighting once shoot has commenced. If done correctly, you should leave with precisely one sharp, well-focused image.
  4. Make A4 print of image. If using a digital camera, be sure to print with an office color laser printer and ensure that a strange color shift is present before proceeding to next step.
  5. Proceed to paint image onto support. A paint-by-numbers approach is especially useful. Cropping is allowed but only use if absolutely necessary (e.g. you have ordered the wrong size of canvas). Take care to copy your photograph slavishly and always draw contours, not three-dimensional forms! Remember to follow the colors of the photograph as closely as you can. Doing otherwise diminishes the verisimilitude of your final piece.
  6. Allow painting to dry. In the meantime, you should write an artist’s statement about the painting. Include two or more of the following words/phrases for maximum impact: “mimetic”, “built environment”, “contemporary”, “disengagement”, “appropriation”, “question”, “social mores”.
  7. Exhibit and win awards at contemporary art shows.

The following steps can be performed between steps 4 and 5. They are optional, but they will shorten the preparation time drastically, especially if you are not a skilled draughtsman.

  1. Make print of image onto projector slide.
  2. Project image onto canvas.
  3. Using pencil or charcoal, carefully trace outline of photograph – including highlight and shadow areas – until you have something that resembles a contour map.
  4. Seal line drawing to avoid accidental smudging while painting.

Common Problems

Q. I started painting, but realized that I don’t have a good ‘feel’ for my subject. Should I do some studies to familiarize myself with it?

A. Resist the temptation. Extraneous studies will only slow you down. If producing the painting for school examinations, you may be required to produce studies; in this case, avail yourself of a lightbox. Remember the Golden Rule: copy contour, don’t think about form.

Q. I’ve started analyzing the scene I’m painting! I’ve come up with ideas for lighting and edge treatment to convey the forms and concepts more clearly (I think). Should I still follow the photograph?

A. Yes. You do not want to waste all the effort you have put in so far.


Wallpaper Pack: Vaarsuvius

All right, I lied. I’m not releasing two versions.

Vaarsuvius Wallpaper Pack

Current version: 1.0.1

The following are wallpaper-sized versions of a simple illustration I did over the past few days. The character featured is Vaarsuvius, elven mage of unidentifiable gender from Rich Burlew’s webcomic The Order of the Stick. Available in 2 versions each for standard 1024×768, 1280×960 and widescreen 1280×800, 1600×900.

Release notes

  • Fixed unclear collar. Thanks to Glass Mouse for pointing it out.


  • Initial release.

Known bugs (spoilered)

  • Hair
  • Highlights on skin (they don’t look good – but thanks anyway, Dispozition)

Special thanks

Glass Mouse, Dispozition, Kaytara, Zanaril, EvilDMMk3, half-halfling, Mercenary Pen, Irbis, zyborg, TheArsenal (?), licoot, Discord, Veros, Kumori_Ekisu, Lira, TheSummoner, Herpestidae, Serpentine.

Oil Paints!

Oil paints!

I was going to post this on SIGMA+ but after considering that this blog has been post-less for so long I’m posting this here first, then crossposting to S+.

So, yes, oil paints. I got 5 colors today, from the student Winton range by Winsor & Newton (slightly cheaper than the Artist’s Oil Colour range, and all colors cost the same).

Cadmium Red Hue (slow drying)
I was trying to decide between Pale Red, Indian Red (both of which are oxides, so they have a more rust-like color), Permanent Alizarin Crimson and Cad Red Hue for reds. I’d read that something called Venetian Red is well suited to a limited palette like what the old masters used, and that the closest substitutes here would be Indian Red, followed by Light Red. But then another source said P. Alizarin Crimson was very common on many artists’ palettes. I felt it was a bit too pinkish, but what do I know, really? Anyway finally I read Cad Red was more versatile so I got that.

From the online Winton color chart:

Light Red Indian Red Permanent Alizarin Crimson Cadmium Red Hue

Burnt Sienna (medium drying)
This was originally Payne’s Grey, until I read online that Burnt Sienna is dead useful.

Titanium White (medium drying)

Cadmium Yellow Pale Hue (slow drying) 

French Ultramarine (medium drying)

W&N have also got a series called Artisan Water Mixable Oil Colourwhich I was quite interested in, because I don’t really like dealing with solvents. I couldn’t find it at Art Friend though (or maybe I saw and forgot). Speaking of solvents, I picked up a jar of Low Odor Thinner (Daler-Rowney), left it on a shelf while I went to swap Indian Red for Cad Red Hue, and forgot to buy it.

I also saw W&N’s oil “canvas” (actually just textured and treated paper) pads. A pad of 10 sheets costs about $13, so I decided to just use my existing acrylic pad (20 sheets for the same price). As far as I could tell the difference is in the finish of the paper – oil pads feel a bit more like canvas, they do feel a bit like cloth – whereas D-R’s System3 pad looks a little bit smoother and glossier.

The staff at Art Friend sucked today. Maybe they were hungry (I went around noon). The weekend people are much better.

“an anime girl in a cloak” – my D&D bard (?)

Human Bard: Hello World!

Click for slightly larger image available on Flickr.


This is supposed to be my bard for a campaign I’m applying for. The character is female but if you removed the braid this could probably pass off as male…?

You would not believe the amount of time I spent on this picture. It’s only about 10cm wide but I redid it like twice or something…and I just realized that her [his?] left hand is a lot bigger than the right hand. Aaand I don’t know what direction hir body is facing either. In fact the whole thing is screwed goddamnit

I actually draped my specs’ cleaning cloth onto a mannequin and taped it together as reference for the cloak. First time I’ve drawn fabric with reference. Unfortunately the cloak on her right side looks like it’s made of cotton now, while the left side feels more like heavier, velvety fabric. Oops.

Pencil, useless tortillions, more than 90 minutes (!), colorized in Photoshop.

I also went poking around my stats today (haven’t done that in a long time). Weird referrer terms:

  • an anime girl in a cloak
  • nobody fail language arts
  • wordpress piano-black extract
  • fake star trek free pics
  • toyota camry lineart
  • mahou no stage fancy lala wallpaper
  • marsha haha

The Tragic Tale of the Holga and I

I went out for a little gallivant on the 18th with The Holga (I am considering giving it a name, as I often do with my possessions) and took some photos. At least, that’s what I planned to do. In a way, I did, but it wasn’t quite what I had in mind.

I spent 20 minutes trying to figure out how to load the film. Then I asked my mum to help me, and she spent 15 minutes doing that. Basically I couldn’t manage to get the tabbed bit (the “leader”, I think)  at the front to stay in the take-up spool properly. But it got loaded in the end. The numbers in the little red window at the back were upside-down though…I’m not sure if that’s supposed to happen.

Afterwards (“afterwards” is an acceptable variant of “afterward”, Firefox, no matter what you tell me. In fact, my dictionary defines “afterward” as Am E AFTERWARDS) I took the roundabout way to the field near Holland Link. And I had just taken a photo of some rich person’s really cool sidewalk-lining flower plantation, crossed the road, when it rained. If you have never been to Singapore then you will not understand the way rain happens here. Simply put, rain just happens. There is no gradual build-up in intensity, no warnings (you might get lightning, if you’re lucky). You just get drenched and then it stops (the same way, it’s like there’s an on/off switch for it in the heavens) and you’re left wondering what the blazes just happened and why your clothes and hair are all wet.

I did get to see these really cool god rays coming up and out from behind a cloud though. Very nifty.

Speaking of which, the shutter seemed to be permanently set to Bulb mode though I set it to Normal. But it worked when I tested it without the film inside…

To top it off I put in ISO 100 film = totally underexposed? Either that or I accidentally exposed the whole roll when loading. Oops.

I also went to the Botanic Gardens at night, and discovered that my hands are very shaky indeed.