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July 30, 2023

Experimenting with gel gloss

Here are three small practice pieces: two are on acrylic paper, the other is on some sort of cardboard stock. I added texture using the gel gloss which is white but dries clear. 

Trust me: It dries clear!

The square paintings were done in oil, limited to three colors each. My idea was that I would lay down the colors in a limited palette and then glaze it with additional colors once the paintings have dried. 

W+N Zinc white, W+N cerulean blue hue, Cobra naples yellow light

I am hoping that adding a yellow glaze will make the picture pop. Reflecting on my progress so far, I wish I had added more paint coverage, especially for the water. But it is what it is - adding more paint will just slow me down. I learned my lesson. There's always next time!

Cobra titanium buff, Cobra persian rose, W+N viridian 

The paint coverage is not great - I will be adding a brighter layer on top. The source photo was taken mid-day but the colors I picked out gave me a different result. Happy mistakes!

This last one was a hot mess. I figured I would paint in base colors only and leave the shading for the glazing stage. So I tried painting with acrylic on top of the gel and ... yeah. But not all hope is lost! I was very curious to see how glazing on top would bring back the shapes that got lost underneath.

It looks cool, but there is a lot going on, especially for such a small surface area. I am hoping to further define the scene once this layer has dried. I don't think I would consider taking this approach again unless it seemed appropriate. I do love the jewel-like depth offered by the gel gloss. There is an overwhelming amount of different acrylic mediums to try out and I'm trying to stay calm before I end up with 20 different gels and pastes.

General reflections

I am relying on the glazing stage way too much. I couldn’t help but get excited about the possibilities! But now I realize this should be saved for final touches on the topmost layers. If you only rely on glazing, the subjects don’t look as solid. When laying down colors they should be as close to the final color as possible. Glazing is for sfumato and other subtle shading techniques.

Another lesson: carve textures into the gel gloss, sparingly. It was a fun experiment. It works in certain contexts, like rough tree bark. I would save the toothpick for the painting stage. I liked carving out lines on the ruins painting. I like seeing the layer underneath. With the gel gloss it adds extra depth.

July 29, 2023

On to the next layer of glaze

The saga continues! For my next layer I added a glaze of ultramarine blue. I'm also working on slowly rainbowing up those whiskers. 

Added some yellow glaze to these. Not sure I'm liking how the ruins are coming out, but I can always counter the green with a layer of brown or red to balance it out. But after that I will leave it alone. It's just practice and doesn't have to be perfect.

For the eye, adding the yellow gives it an aged look, but I think it's cool. It almost reminds me of the yellowish greens you see in medieval art. I plan on making a few more touches to this eye before I'll call it finished. Now to wait for it to dry.

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Live, Laugh, Love

This is my canvas where I use up any paint I can't put back in the tube. I dislike wasting paint, so it has to go somewhere. There is no particular vision behind this one, just painting as I go. It's weird but I like it so far.

Cobra water-mixable paints

I got a few tubes of Cobra water mixable oil paint:

  • Titanium white buff
  • Naples yellow light
  • Naples yellow red
  • Persian rose

There is absolutely a difference from what I’m used to. These are much more buttery and rich than Winsor & Newton. The cobra paint is less viscous than W+N, and behaves more like acrylic paint. It does not spread the same as W+N. It takes thicker applications of paint, and more frequently too. The paint is textured, displaying the brushwork as if the hand had just lifted the brush off the canvas. I love the dynamic, lifelike movement of traditional art.

Left to right: W+N cerulean blue hue; W+N zinc white; Cobra naples yellow light

Because of Cobra’s paint properties, it encourages a more loose and expressive painting style. It also made me understand the importance of brushwork. Every single decision must be intentional and coordinated, for you cannot undo. If you keep going, you risk overworking it. So make sure that stroke counts.

For the ruins, I mixed Cobra’s Persian Rose with W+N’s phthalo green, and it produced a lovely range of colors. The use of a tone map made it much easier to place colors effectively. I am hoping to use these colors as bases to be mixed with other colors, or glazed over. These are nice paints and should be treated as such. 

Under the cut is a practice painting of a nude figure.

July 28, 2023

Nintendo 64

 Messing around with colors on this scanned sketch. Here's the original drawing.

Admittedly, I like the first version better. The colors are more varied and fun. The other one looks too washed out, especially the screen. But I can still find ways to combine the best of both worlds. 

I don't know where this is headed or if I'll even finish it. My attention has been mostly focused on painting right now.

Elle and Winter

Brought home some old paintings from my parents’ house, and I’m debating what to do with them. One of which is this painting of Winter, one of two kittens I looked after in 2017. It’s a long story, but I brought Elle and Winter home from Seattle after visiting a friend, and eventually had to send them back about a month later. The friend ended up giving away the cats, and we aren’t in touch anymore, so I have no idea where these cats are now. But I miss them, man. I cried the day we sent them back to Seattle.

So, let's address the elephant in the room: this is not a great painting. 

But now the good news: I can see a tremendous difference in how far I’ve come since then. Why not paint over it to create a better, updated version? It would be, quite literally, a fresh coat of paint. I loved these little girlies and want to remember the time I spent with them. I want to display it on the wall, instead of finding it in a dark closet years later. But it has to be worthy of that privilege.

The point of no return!

This is a risky move. Once I start painting over the original picture, it’s lost forever. But if this works out, I would consider going over some other years-old paintings that are not very good. My policy is to not go over finished paintings - if it’s done, it’s done. But these are old-old, and I wouldn’t put them on display. So that’s my metric for deciding. I would love to go over my old Nikki paintings if I knew that I could pull it off.

Here's a digital artwork of Winter that I did about three years ago. 

And lastly, here are some photos of the dollies. I wonder what they look like now.

July 27, 2023

Ghost Trick tribute wip

I lost steam on this project. It looks fine, but certain things keep me from wanting to work on it. It annoys me that some characters are straight up copied from the game's sprites. I'm sure I can pull it off. Idk. I just work on things when I feel like it. That's one of the main reasons I stopped doing commissions.

I was going to finish the sketch in my sketchbook but I got frustrated and resorted to proceeding digitally. 

Soft gel gloss

I just got a jar of Golden acrylic medium soft gel gloss. Here is a brief demonstration video from the manufacturer.

I am excited to use this for layered applications of transparent medium. I did a test application of the gel medium with neon orange acrylic paint. I made sure there was texture! Because I applied so much, it will take 12 hours or more for it to fully dry. The gel is white in the jar, but dries completely transparent. The gel is used to extend colors since it is essentially paint without the pigment.

The gel dries clear - can you spot it on the left sheet?

Once the gel dries I want to glaze it with oil paint. I wonder if the peaks and valleys will cause more concentration of paint at the bottom. I am hoping I can use the gel’s transparency to achieve subtractive light effects.

My mind is buzzing with ideas. Could I use gel medium as a substitute for resin? I would love to do some mold casting, if it would work. I would love to do something like layered resin art, using acrylic gel medium. I don’t mind waiting for it to dry in between. I could add dried pressed flowers or other material to the gel.

Can I put the gel on acrylic or glass?  Imagine a lamp with a light that makes the picture light up. It could also look cool on a window as a mini stained glass piece.

How could I manipulate the medium once it’s dried? I wonder if I could carve up the peaks like rock crystal. Where’s my razor blade?

 - Update -

I love how it dries clear. My test application has dried, so I tried painting over it with acrylic, which didn’t seem to stick. Next, I tried glazing it with water mixable oil, which was more successful. The color I picked was alizarin crimson, because I figured it’d look good with neon orange underneath. And, well, it looks pretty gross. If I ever want to do a horror piece, now I know!

Next, I would love to try layering with transparent acrylic pigments. I am dying to know if I could put this in a cast mold. I also experimented with glitter and mica powder. The mica powder turned the gel fairly solid color, but I need it to dry before I can say for sure. If I could use this gel in a old, and mix it with  glitter or other materials, that could look super cool! I would need to use a very small application of pigment to keep the gel a clear consistency. The final layer would be oil paint, since you aren’t supposed to use the gel as a top coat (I have to look that up). I love the idea of using the gel as a 3-dimensional texture for my paintings. Nothing over the top, but enough to add character. I want my paintings to look clear and gem-like. In the meantime, I should revisit my favorite resin art videos on Youtube for inspiration. I’d love to add glitter. I wonder if I could mix this with ink? Just found this interesting blog post. 

Keep reading to see what the gel gloss looked like after I painted over it. Warning: it is gross. Might make good Halloween decoration.

Adventures in glazing

The base colors consist of raw sienna and titanium white. I glazed over the painting with stand oil, which is much more viscous than linseed oil. Keeping the fat over lean rule in mind, it seems stand oil should be saved for the final layer, given its thick fat content. But for in between layers, I’ll stick with linseed oil.

Dante rainbow whiskers progress update

Dante is coming along well so far, and I always look forward to the next painting session. Now that the painting has dried, I can begin glazing. I added yellow to his eyes, ears, and profile contour.

For my first layer blue, I used phthalo green. For my next layer of blue glaze, I will need to decide if I use ultramarine or phthalo blue. I would like it to match the mini gouache painting as much as possible.

What I like about glazing is that you can wipe away the mistakes. Because it is on its own layer, it won’t affect what’s already dried underneath. I’m a patient artist. I can wait. It just gives me an excuse to work on something else. Always having something to look forward to is a great way to keep the ball rolling.

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July 24, 2023

Hyrule castle ruins - gate

Coloring practice on the ipad. I colored this sketch. It's far from complete and I didn't have any reference material. If I pursue this further I would probably just start from scratch. It's a rough practice piece just to get the hang of new techniques I want to try out.

I didn't use a reference for the colors, just the sketch itself. Pinning it here for future convenience. My main excuse is that I was lazy especially because I did this on my ipad which feels restricting enough. But the more noble excuse was the desire to imagine the scene from memory and the impression it left on me. Dude that is totally the reason I swear.

July 23, 2023

Cats on the bench

Colored a pencil sketch on my ipad during vacation, trying out the tonalist technique. It is working out well for me. I'm probably not going to finish this as I like how it looks as-is.

July 22, 2023

Green leaves

More toning technique practice and I love how it came out. This was digitally colored on my ipad using a scanned sketch. I did this on vacation so I needed to get my painting fix in even if it was digital. Now that I have learned a more efficient digital coloring technique, it makes ipad work much less tedious.

July 21, 2023


I rewound (rewinded?) my progress on this sunset and tried to keep it more faithful to the rough color version that I liked. Needless to say I like this version a lot better. It could use some more polishing, but it's just practice, so I don't feel like pursuing it further.

Painting practice

Some recent painting practice. The first is a blurry crying eye. The other is a cool picture I found on the internet in 2012.

First: I drew the sketch.

Second, I painted over it with transparent acrylic paint. (Learned this lesson the hard way... always check if it's transparent or opaque!)

I haven't fully grasped the concept of how underpainting works, but I still love how these came out. The joy of being an artist is knowing you can do whatever you want. When you are just doing art for fun, I don't think it matters to do things the "right" way.

My next step will be to glaze these paintings with color once they have dried. Which won't be any time soon, but I am so looking forward to it!

July 20, 2023

Painting cats

 Here are some small practice paintings of cats. Once this dries I want to experiment with glazing. 

This is the progress I've made on Dante. I used a lot of titanium white, so this bad boy won't be drying any time soon. But that just means I have something to look forward to!

I'm not liking the way I did his chest hair. Once I glaze this, it should be less creepy looking.

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July 18, 2023

Adventures in imprimatura painting

Today I practiced using raw sienna (similar to yellow ochre but more transparent) and titanium white. It got me thinking: couldn’t I use any pair of colors to tone my painting? Heck, I could use dioxazine purple and cadmium yellow if I wanted to. There are so many different combinations. Why stick with what the old masters liked? It’s good fundamental knowledge, but I am curious how I could take this in a different direction later on.

There are different combinations of colors, but why stop there: why not do more complicated colors? Mixing a new color for the white, like light blue. Or, a large painting that uses a wider range of tones. The most prominent subject gets the lightest highlights, background objects in shadow get something darker. 

Does it HAVE to be toned in oil paint? Why not tone it with acrylic? Especially if it’s covering a large surface. I want to try the toning technique with layers of color mixed with primer. Each primary color gets its own layer. They stack up to produce a natural and realistic light. I could tone the canvas with acrylic paint like yellow, brown, or green; then do the imprimatura with a dark oil paint color like burnt sienna, payne’s gray, etc. Then for the opaque light color use titanium white or naples yellow. 

I want to paint so many different things using this technique. How would it look on a realistic portrait? A while back, I tried to paint some nude figure studies with unfortunate results. When the lighter paint dried, it started to crack. I am hoping that the imprimatura and sfumato technique works out much better, especially since it is effective for painting realistic flesh.

I really hope that my painting practice takes me somewhere great. I am excited for all the possibilities ahead. Character art? Flowers, landscapes, animals, and objects? I could paint on a large surface that immerses you in the scene. Beatrice would look Bea-utiful in this technique! Maybe this is what I needed all along!

Black cat with rainbow whiskers

I did a small painting in gouache to help me figure out the colors. Plus, it makes a cute little picture on its own. 

What this idea means to me: Dante would make the perfect model for this artwork. He has very long whiskers.

Brainstorming thoughts

  • Most suitable medium: Digital, but I ended up taking the traditional route this time.
  • The whiskers look like rays of light coming from a lamp or a shining crystal

Visual inspiration:

  • Houseki no Kuni fanart: they always do the shiny rainbow thing
  • Louis Wain: he always drew cats from the same angles. I particularly like his profile views of cats. My composition makes reference to his solo cat portraits.

July 17, 2023
I have decided to make this into a painting on a flat 9x12 inch canvas. I did a small practice painting in gouache and am very excited about the colors and composition that I chose. This idea combines the ammonite composition with the rainbow whiskers.

I am going to apply the imprimatura technique. Once it has dried I would like to glaze it in layers using the sfumato technique. This involves diluting the paint with linseed oil. This is a slow process as the painting must be completely dry.  I was looking at this video from the Old Master’s Academy for ideas.

July 18, 2023
I tried out the imprimatura technique and it was very fun. I used burnt umber, raw umber, and raw sienna. These pigments dry quickly, making it good for underpainting. There are some mistakes, but I am sure they can be fixed.

Before I get to the glazing stage, which I am very curious to try out, I need to actually paint on the canvas. My plan is to give it a crystalline appearance. Dante’s fur will be a deep, rich black, with definition focused on his radiant and colorful whiskers. Or should I start glazing right away? I want to see how the blue hue mixes with the underpainting for a more solid black. I will most likely use phthalo blue, but prussian blue might work too. My mind is buzzing with ideas.

July 17, 2023

Why Am I Like This

So far, so good. I'm not too big on the colors, but  this can easily be fixed.

Looks much better now. It's more soft and atmospheric and I love the colors because it is most faithful to the reference photo. This is by far the superior version.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. I kept going when I should have stopped. I do think this looks cool, but it bothers me how different it looks from the previous version. Not only does it look overworked, but the colors are muddy and it looks like an overexposed photograph. Hardly resembles the source photo in terms of colors (which was what made me fall for it to begin with)

It was at this point that I realized the battle was lost. 
It's just like with this artwork that got overworked to death. One thing I've started doing is saving milestones of progress. If I wanted to, I could go back to #2 and fine tune it again without all the weird changes I made.  Honestly, I might go back and do that. I really liked where it was headed and it hurts to see it go to waste if I give up here.

July 16, 2023

Pratica d'imprimitura

I went through some old family photos and bookmarked the ones that stood out to me. Because many of these photos are not in color, they make good practice for underpainting and focusing on compositional elements. Plus, the lack of context makes them more intriguing to me. Who took these photos? Who are the people in the pictures? 

My mom's side of the family was Italian. Maybe that's where I get my artistic sensibilities from.

Bonus: some quick digital studies from the photographs. The two on the left have context: The seated man is my great-grandfather, Attilio. The seated girl is my grandfather's sister Mary. I never knew any of them except my grandfather who lived until 2012. We like to think they were waiting for him.

July 15, 2023

Glittering eye

A small experimental eye I painted. The scanner didn't pick up some of the colors but it still looks cool. But you should see it in person!

July 14, 2023

Hydrangea heart with bee

 Oh she came out so cute, I love her!! I have this hanging up on my bedroom wall. 

Link lifts the Master Sword

A gouache practice painting. The size is roughly 5x7 inches on bristol paper. I mostly wanted to experiment with how different colors interact with each other, especially the green. This isn't my best work but I had a lot of fun with it and paves the way for future artworks to come. That is what it's all about!!!

July 11, 2023

Pink hydrangea heart

This was painted on 6x8 inch hot press watercolor paper.

What went right?

  • It took excessive reworking but the heart finally looks pink. I like how it looks with the other colors I chose.
  • Layering certain colors on top of each other. Pale mint is a wonderful base for light green and leaf green. It makes me wonder what other color combinations are out there.

What went wrong?

  • Used crappy washi tape. It was all fun and games until it was time to peel it off the paper. There is significant tearing at the top, and the tape tore off paper everywhere it covered.
  • I am not a fan of the way the sparkly gel pen was used here. I shouldn’t have used it for outlines. It would look great for small details, but not outlines. It doesn't show up in the scan, at least.
  • Didn’t consult the reference photo much, resulting in a lot of guesswork.
  • Frequent reworking. I became increasingly agitated and listless. “Wait, I can fix this! Just one more thing!” 

What should I do next time?

  • Stick to base colors as if coloring digitally. Much like drawing, focus on the main idea first and indulge in details later. Approaching this like my other paintings will not work here. The paint needs to be laid down in layers. Start with the base colors. 
  • Take a break from hydrangeas and re-evaluate how I approach them, because this isn’t working.
  • Experiment with color layering to see who plays well together and who doesn’t. Much like with markers, certain colors work well together. If you put the wrong color on top it will look bad.

July 6, 2023

Castle town ruins

Here is the finished painting. It is just a practice piece, so I didn't want to overwork it. I am fairly happy with how this came out color-wise. The goal was to maintain the wacky N64 colors established in the previous update. 

Next time I would like it to be more textured. I have been doing more art in traditional medium, and the difference in approach is throwing me off. Now I ask myself what digital art can do that traditional can't, and vice versa. I want to make the most out of whatever medium I use.

Castle Town Ruins work in progress

 I want to document how I approached this in case I feel like revisiting the process.

Original sketch in pencil

First, map out the values. Keep everything as simple as possible and resist the urge to add detail.

Next, map out the hues. I referred to the in-game screenshots, yellow and magenta. Much like with the values, this should be as simple as possible. The hue should cover the entire shape to account for its space and mass.

Combining the hue layer with the value layer gave me the shades of yellow and magenta that I wanted. It is such a dark shade of yellow it is essentially a sickly green.

Underpainting: Circular rainbow prism pattern underneath (going for that Erin Hanson look)

Then, I painted OVER the sketch for optimized coverage. The base colors were sourced from combining the hues and values mentioned above. This is how I would approach it if it were a physical painting.

Just for funsies, I moved the painting layer under the sketch to get the lines back. The result surprised me! This is something you can’t do with traditional. I would have to go over the drawing again to keep the lines.

Where do I want to go from here?

I want it to look like Van Gogh, but I also want to keep the grungy, cartoonish N64 graphics that I accidentally ended up with. Spooky, stylized, and colorful.

Here is the original color scheme I would have used. It doesn't excite me that much, although I do like the overall mood. I am hoping to combine this with my more prefered version of the colors.

I learned something important from adding touch-ups to old artworks: only make small changes. They will add up over time while still honoring the spirit of the original. The goal is to keep the foundation that made the picture special in the first place. 

No color filters. 

No lowering layer transparency or it will become muddy and lose focus. 

Make every decision meaningful and intentional.