Photoshop Painting #24: Yakuza


  •  I am playing a woman that is a member of the yakuza in Shadowrun. One of the problems I am having is finding good art to convey the tattoos that cover her (distinctive style). Mostly because photos of the types of tattoos are either from the back or are mildly NC17.
  • This woman is exactly what I was thinking in terms of hairstyle, glasses, and physique. However her tattoo work isn't extensive enough to be able to be seen under normal clothing. I was thinking something along the lines of this (Warning mildly NC17) for her tattoo work.

I grabbed this prompt because of the tattoos. First because I think yakuza-style tattoos are aesthetically neat, and second because I had a pretty good idea of which tool I could use to make them... and it was one I'd been looking for an excuse to experiment with!

The overlay setting for layers has a lot of possibilities for adding patterns and detail to simply painted surfaces without overwhelming the tone and shading of the surface they're added to. That plus a little warp tools is, as I thought, a great way to do tattoos! Particularly useful in this case, as yakuza tattoos often employ color, and the tone of that color needed to shift a bit to match the skin underneath.

I feel like I flubbed the face a bit, unfortunately. Straight-on is not a terribly friendly angle for my thick black line enclosed style.

Photoshop Painting #23: Mouse Druid

  • Name: Damian
  • Occupation: Druid, leader of the forest animals.
  • Notable Features: Grey fur, brown eyes.
  • Character's Race: He's a mouse.
  • Character's Equipment: He has a twig he uses as a walking stick/quarterstaff.

As I've shown before, I have a soft spot for mice. Maybe it was just too much Brian Jacques as a child. 

Art on the Rocks: After Action Report 2015

I fly to Marquette MI every year for Art on the Rocks. So I've gotten pretty good at getting all of my stuff to arrive there with a minimum of 'fold, spindle or mutilate.'

Step One: Jewelry rack and tub-o-extras, which covers tablecloths, empty cashbox, necklace racks, and most all things that aren't jewelry.

These are put in a standard 'frame' box and a regular cuboid box respectively. Since they are already 'hardsided' objects, I need to worry a lot less about damage in transit.

The jewelry itself comes with me on the plane. A giant bag of mixed metal seems like the kind of thing that would be stopped at security, but as it turns out they pass it on through without comment 2/3rds of the time. I feel safe.

And I'm sorry about this, but I have only a couple pictures from Art on the Rocks itself.

Why? As it turns out, the sun is a mass of incandescent gas, and standing out in it in the middle of the aisle to take a picture of my tent was not so much an option. The daytime temperatures where ranging from 85-90 degrees with clear skies, and I'm a big 'ol heat wuss.

Between that and actually being pretty busy (A large majority of what I sold this year was necklaces! Very unusual. Typically I move more earrings than anything else.) I only managed two 'sold item' shots. 

This very cute short silver dangle earring.

And this subtly curved-to-fit 4-in-1 V necklace.

And also, there were a lot of dogs.

Art on the Rocks 2015 is Coming

Consider this your one-week warning: Art on the Rocks is Coming!

This two-day outdoor show right on the shore of Lake Superior is a perennial favorite for me- and since I had to miss it at the last minute last year, I am particularly looking forward to this year. Not only because it's been a while, but also because I've had a whole year extra to make new goodies you guys haven't seen!

This year's theme is clearly sterling silver bracelets- I've been on a bit of a kick lately! Also be sure to check out my new purse offerings, and my recent 'lariat' experiments.

What's a lariat experiment you ask? Well, something like this.

See you Michiganders (and Michigeese) in a week!

Chill, Chat, Chew, and Chains- This Wednesday!

And the WJA

Present CCC & C!

If you live in the extended Boston area and like making stuff with your hands, you should already know about Metalwerx. If you don't, listen up:

THIS WEDNESDAY, July 8th! There will be an open-to-the-public (entry is $10 for non-WJA members) tour of Metalwerx at 6:30pm led by Lindsay Minihan of both Metalwerx and the WJA. After the tour and a little intro to the programs Metawerx offers, I will be teaching a mini-class on making chainmail! We will be learning the incredibly versatile and classic byzantine weave. Kits to make earrings in aluminum are being donated by Metalwerx, and sterling silver will be available for purchase. Stick around afterward for snacks and conversation in the Metawerx courtyard!

Photoshop Painting Catchup #22: Female Satyr Bard

  • Name: Isicor
  • Occupation: Bard-in-Training
  • Notable Features: Slim (80 lbs), short (4'7") with brown eyes and short cream hair. Dark, slightly curved horns are placed above her forehead and are kind of close together. Part goat from the waist down; light brown fur and black hooves.
  • Character's Race: Satyr
  • Character's Equipment: Wooden lute and a backmounted long bow with quiver.
  • Character's backstory: A humble guardian of the forest looking for adventure in all the wrong places. Always carries her instrument.

I attempted an ambitious perspective... I didn't fail exactly, but I'm also not too thrilled with the finished product. I thought that the torso being partially obscured would help me (as that is the most difficult part to do correctly) but I think I just exchanged one problem for another- turns out that extreme perspective on musical instruments is pretty hard too! 

Also, the plaid wrap cloth is just not draping correctly, and it's throwing everything off. Not that I know how to fix it mind you, I can just see it. Which is a very frustrating stage of skill acquisition, but at least it's a step in the right direction. 

The composition is... well, it's a good try. The leaves were in interesting idea that I will probably revisit,  but the proportions on this page just didn't turn out the way I'd intended. 

Last thing: I really need to figure out how I want to depict strings on stringed instruments (and other filament type things, like whiskers) in this style. Because this isn't working. 

Photoshop Painting Catchup #21: Feral Elf Child

  • Name: Tiriel
  • Occupation: Feral Child, lurks about like a little ball of spite.
  • Notable Features: 3.5'-ish and sort of scrawny, but not dangerously so. Has bright, almost infernal orange eyes and long, straight black hair which is badly matted and likely has twigs and/or leaves in it. Also has a nasty scar on her neck, which may or may not be covered by her blanket-cloak.
  • Character's Race: Elf
  • Character's Equipment: A small satchel, clothes that look like they were made from a potato sack or other source of cheap cloth. A faded, holey old lavender cloak-type garment that was once a purple blanket, Tiriel has popped her head through one of the larger holes, allowing her to wear it as a cloak. A harness for carrying two potted treant saplings on her back.
  • Character's companion: Two potted treant saplings.

  • Character's backstory: Tiriel is a smallish elf-child who has been living in the Black Forest for almost as long as she can remember. Recently she has inherited the title of Foresty Hermit Person from its previous holder, who was a rather amiable druid-type chap. Since then, she's been doing things to help the forest recuperate from various problems it's been having. (treant depopulation, giant snails careening over to eat all the trees, skeleton infestation in one of the abandoned forts, brainworms EVERYWHERE, and other nonsense)

I have failed at painting little mid-stream waterfalls in the past, and while this one isn't perfect is is a massive step in the right direction. A big piece of the puzzle is letting go of what I 'know'- that water is blue; vs what I 'see'- which is that water is murky, and takes on the tonal range of the area it's in.

 I am also very pleased with the foliage, even if the tree-trunks ruin the effect somewhat. A light, middle, and dark green seem important to the finished product, as does the deliberate use of textured 'fuzzed' lines between the edges of colors vs sharp transitions.

I also love the baby treants. In my interpretation, they do the whole 'angel on one shoulder, devil on the other' routine.

Photoshop Painting Catchup #20: Wererat Bard

  • Name: He doesn’t remember his real name, is known as Hadden.
  • Class: Bard
  • Occupation: He and Odie, his orc companion pick up work where ever they can. Mercenary jobs, thievery etc. As they travel.
  • Features: 4’2’’ brown fur, scar under his left eye, still a young adult possibly in his 20’s. Wears worn leather light armour, with a red shirt
  • Race: His original race he can’t remember, but is content with his new form as a wererat and has no urge to discover his past.
  • Equipment: carries a dagger, a flute and 3 flasks on his belt.

Did you know that it's trivially easy to find reference pictures of rats playing musical instruments on the internet? Now you do.

Rat-ish proportions are odd. The torso is long relative to the limbs, and I found myself continually fighting my instinct to 'correct' the length of the legs. Also, the shoulders are much closer in to the body, so clothes and armor hang somewhat differently than on the comparatively broad human shoulder girdle.

Best part of this one: the armor. The leather flaps and rivets are detailed without being confusing, and it is concertina'd enough that I believe Hadden could scurry on all fours should the occasion demand it. Also I love the little belt-mounted thigh flaps! I'll have to remember that idea for later.

Photoshop Painting Catchup #19: Ifrit

  • Name: Ordos (last name pending)
  • Occupation: Dancer. Gets paid by dancing, and sometimes by being a companion for the night.
  • Notable Features: Small Stature, 5'9, very light weight, black eyes, fire hair, very good looking.
  • Character's Race: Ifrit
  • Character's Equipment: A Keen Scimitar, and light armor, carries very little to avoid harming his dance movements.
  • Character's backstory: This character dances at night in Taverns for some money, a few drinks, a warm bed to share, and a meal in the morning. He has a smaller stature, and a very nice smile, he has fiery hair, which changes in the wind or at will.

Overtly sexualized male characters are rare, so I pounced on this one. I like drawing me a sexy woman from time to time, and it's nice to keep the genders balanced. I also love that I managed to make him not classically attractive- his mouth and jaw are overlarge, his eyes small, his teeth a bit gappy. But the overall effect is that of an attractive man. I'm happy about this because it is much harder to draw unique as opposed to conventional beauty.

I really wish I'd given myself more time with the hair- I did it when I was already tired of the drawing instead of giving myself time to recover and take my time with it, and subsequently is the weakest part of what is otherwise a pretty fun picture. 

Spring Collection 2015

I meant to have this done by the *1st* of May, not the 21st, but I'll take what I can get!

There are several great items in my 'spring' lineup, but for the moment I want to focus on this one: Aluminum Interrupt Necklace with Green Pearls.

This necklace is actually about six months old. However, in the interim I have learned a very helpful little detail- my threaded beads look far better with the amendment of a single flattened link on either side. That little change bumped this 'meh' necklace way up into my 'wedding recommendations' list.

Lots of new things, necklaces, earrings, bracelets and even a headdress that are (vaguely) spring themed over on my etsy page. Check it out!

Art of Craft Show: Tomorrow!

I was actually *invited* to this show, based on the organizer seeing my work online. That's not only flattering, it's encouraging to know that people are finding me through digital means! 

Come on over if you're in the area- it looks to be a pretty diverse show!

Photoshop Painting Catchup #18: Punk


  • This character is Asian. She's got a light-weight frame, standing at what I'd imagine is close to 5'0.
  • Her hair looks something like this, jet black with a silver highlight. No piercings or gauges. Her eyes are a standard brown. She's got a bruise on one of her cheeks and a band-aid on her nose. On her face is a light scowl.
  • She's wearing a black blazer with the sleeves torn off so it's like a vest, but you can see the ripped cloth down to the upper bicep. Underneath is a t-shirt with a picture of a shark on it. She's got a studded belt on her tight fitting jeans dark blue jeans, and some aged looking High-top Converse-esque sneakers. On one of her wrists is a studded leather bracelet.

I'll be honest. I chose this one to draw because of the sneakers.

As I've mentioned before, I'm a sucker for a female fantasy character in a zero-drop shoe. So often female characters are put in tall heels for no reason, and it makes me mad because it's lazy and a disservice to the character. Some would wear heels, some wouldn't. It depends on the character. Don't do it just because 'that's what women wear, right?' or even worse, 'But flat shoes are haaaard.' Suck it up buttercup.

Not much to talk about here artistically, this one is well within my comfort-zone. But the shadow came out particularly well (blurred edges seem to matter) and the shark shirt was pure fun. 

Photoshop Painting Catchup #17: Theva Nemmonis


  • I just created a new character to play D&D with some friends for the first time in 25 years and am quite excited. I will be playing a female dragonborn paladin. She is 6'5" and about 265lbs with white/silver scales. She was a soldier for about 8 years before her clan got wiped out and now she is looking for payback...I looked for images on the web but most are of male dragonborn and higher level with fancy armor and weapons. And while I will eventually want something like that I figured I should have something that is appropriate for her current state at level 1.
  • She wears chain mail armor that while well worn, is kept in meticulous condition. She has a greataxe that she uses as her primary weapon and a warhammer for fighting from horseback (she also owns a horse)....She also carries with her a dagger that her first kill had on him as well as a war banner from her clan that is old, worn, and torn. Of course she also has the usual equipment (backpack, bedroll, saddle, saddle bags, etc).

This drawing was pure fun. Part of that was of course that I enjoy the hell out of drawing Dragonborn, and part of it was the challenge of figuring out how to put a Dragonborn on a horse.

A big difficulty with drawing mounted figures is getting the legs to plausibly wrap around the ribs of the horse without looking too long, too short, or extremely stiff. Make that figure Dragonborn, and suddenly you can add digitigrade legs and big toe claws to your list of difficulties!

Reference material pro-tip: Need to draw a mounted figure brandishing a weapon? Polo.

This also earns its place among my favorites because of the brilliant conversation I had with the Prompter about the final image. She liked it, but was the tiniest bit disappointed....

Prompter: 'That's pretty awesome! I think you captured pretty much exactly how she would react to an attack, charge in with weapon drawn. I love the look on her face too, even the look on the horses face matches. The only thing that conflicts with my mental image is that since she has a 20 STR and is 6'5" I just envisioned that her weapons would be a bit oversized and look more menacing looking, though the warhammer you drew is exactly what your typical one would look like. But that is just a minor thing. I love it and thank you!!! 

Me: 'I imagine she's a bit disappointed about the size of her hammer too! :D But this one works, which is all level 1's get most of the time. After she adventures a bit, she'll get a shinier hammer. :) She'd also like a bigger horse while she's at it. This one is tall enough, but tires too quickly. (Theva's not a featherweight.) She'll get a proper warhorse eventually.'

Prompter: 'Perfect response. :) Thanks again! And yeah, I was gonna badger the DM for a warhorse instead of a regular one, but then I saw how much they cost and figured it would be a lost cause. Only problem I have now is waiting until we play again...'

Photoshop Painting Catchup #16: Master of Scrolls


  • Agard walks the halls of the cloister library, hunched and wrinkled, his gold-tipped quill raised over the ancient tome he carries in his other hand. His long, greasy, gray hair lays in tangles at his shoulders and his bushy grey beard is a mess, hygiene is a small price to pay for learning.
  • He's draped in a ragged, grey cloak with a white tunic and brown tunic. A series of pouches around his belt carry tucked away scrolls and vials of ointments and inks to maintain the aging pages of the books he tends in hopes that they can outlive even him.

This is the most 'character' driven illustration I've done to date. I always try to find a pose that at least compliments who the character is, but interesting visual details usually lead the way. However in this case it was much the other way around: this pose isn't about showing the visual details, clothes, and character inventory. This is much more of a portrait.

I'm intimidated by the idea of drawing age wrinkles, beards, and scraggly hair, so I stayed in my familiar thick-lined black-and-white territory for this one. Heavy shadows definitely help with wrinkles, it makes the judgement call on what lines will and will not show easier. Thankfully I also had an excuse to put him in a fundamentally shapeless robe, which takes quite well to this style.

I am less than thrilled with the hands. The fundamental positioning is actually quite good, but I failed somehow with the thick line technique. I think I might have been better served showing more age details on the hands, but I'm also not sure how to do that without overdoing it. Something to chew on. 

Photoshop Painting Catchup #15: Dragonborn Cleric

  • Character is male Dragonborn Cleric of Bahamut. He is silver but has suffered severe burns over most of his body. One eye is sightless. Uses a staff to aid in walking because left leg is missing, replaced by silver prosthetic.

Several fascinating challenges in a very short description! Scales (okay that's hard) burns (difficult) prosthetic leg for a digitigrade critter (WTF that's hard).

I admit that on the scales I had an unfair advantage– I spent several years in highschool embarrassingly fixated on drawing dragons. I'm comfortable with scales.

Next– The burns. They rank second hardest rather than hardest only because I used lots of filters and things rather than drawing it by hand, which is my eventual goal. So I coped out a bit. I'm not thrilled with the result, however they are the best burns I've ever drawn so I'm dealing with my disappointment. 

And the kicker– the prosthetic leg. When I was first conceiving of this drawing, I had assumed I would draw one of those Blade prosthetics. Unfortunately as I was doing my research I learned that those are specific to running, and are actually pretty crap as a general purpose leg-replacement. So I needed to find different reference material, and modify it heavily to suite a digitigrade posture. This was harder than expected because so many of the modern above-the-knee replacement legs are made to look like, well, legs. Less helpful as reference material. 

Artistic notes:

The background is the most interesting thing to me here. Now mind you, I don't like it. It looks fake and tacked on and weird. I think using a preset brush to do the grass was a mistake, the pebbles did not work the way I was hoping and the flat gradient background makes it look like a soundstage.

But it was all the good kind of mistake. I *understand* why it didn't work, and I have some pretty good ideas about what to do next time.

Photoshop Painting Catchup #14: The Duck Wizard


  • Name: Oliver Drake
  • Race: Duck. I'm thinking Mallard, but if you think a different breed would work better go for it.
  • Height: 10", Weight: 2.4 lbs
  • Outfit: Wizard hat, goggles and spell component pouch.

I'd try to explain this one, but there really is no explanation beyond the prompt. Because isn't that enough?

But in talking with the poster, some interesting details came out. It seems that the duck-wizard has a familiar. And it's a cat. Who has to carry Oliver's component bags.

And does the cat hate that his master lives in a swamp? Why yes, yes he does.

Some design notes: The center of gravity on waterfowl gives them a very particular stance and sway that is just a pleasure to draw. They stand a little like some physical comedians do–like you'd better keep an eye on them or you might miss the punchline. Of course this wobbly body feel is in sharp contrast with their heads, which are held with catlike poise and dignity at all times. And nothing is funnier than a ridiculous character that takes themselves too seriously.

 I did totally forget about the goggles on Oliver in the second painting, but it's easier to read his facial expression (such as it is, with a beak) without them. 

I threw in some details on the cat that I thought were interesting, and relevant to character-building: He's a polydactyl, and his tail is a little... short.

Artistically, the most interesting thing here for me is the shadows in the second painting. Shadows have always been difficult for me, so I tried out something new this time: I simply duplicated the character color layers and distorted them. This isn't a perfect solution, but it's far better than drawing the shadows by guesswork!

Just for fun (and because I don't think I show enough of my process sometimes) here are some other sketches of Oliver- no digital manipulation other than bumping the contrast a bit. This is pretty much what my pencil drawings look like.

Photoshop Painting Catchup #13: Plate


  • White hair, shoulder length, hangs straight, green eyes

  • Plate-Mail in a metallic color, dark cloak, no helmet, hood optional

  • Young-looking face, neutral expression ideal

  • Weapon of choice: Greatsword, disproportionately larger than she is.

Okay, so my choosing this one out of the stack of character requests was a no-brainer. My mother had completely white hair from essentially the time I was born. (No, it wasn't my fault. Pretty sure.) So a young regular human woman with long straight white hair is going to get my attention.

And they wanted an oversize sword. Swoon.

Plus, plate (particularly when I can flout the boobplate convention) is just fun. I revisited an older style for this, heavy black lines with grey shading. It felt...easy. Which means if the point of picking up these requests is to grow and learn, I probably shouldn't do this too often.

Design notes: 

I did some shadowing on the figure, but looking back it's far too subtle so the overall effect is pretty flat. I would have been better off either not shading at all, or shading a lot more emphatically. I need to remind myself to be brave!

I am very happy with the face and hair. The hair is modeled pretty closely on my mother's hair, so it's no surprise I understood how that should work. But the face is different- using thick, blobby lines like this and having it come out well means I've reached a different level of understanding how faces are put together.  (Why? If thin lines are a bit off, it's less than perfect, but still looks like a human face. If big blobby lines are a bit off, the character looks like a muppet.) I think the main thing I've become comfortable with is how extreme the shape difference should be between the sides of a face. Not only should right and left eyes  never be mirror images, features that we would assume are bilaterally symmetrical such as the two sides of the jaw may not even look like they belong on the same head. And that's more than okay, that's correct.

Photoshop Painting Catchup #12: Skyfire


  • Skyfire resembled a normal blink dog, but as we're almost epic level, he's partially fused with a dead deity's (homebrew deity called Set-Osir, a good-aligned death god associated with the moon, and appeared to his people as a ghostly white jackal.) power. His fur is now glowing white with a full silky tail, with bright blue eyes. He wears a long silk-like scarf that is flame-colored. Skyfire is very kind and gentle and caring, and like all blink dogs, he's lawful good.

I'm going to share something unsurprising with you: I love animals.

I particularly love dogs. I've spent a lot of time with them, and I've come to the conclusion that they are a species full of zen masters.

Sure, there are some anxious ones, and some needy ones. But if their needs are met, and they aren't damaged by circumstance, they have an amazing ability to both live in the moment and draw happiness from simply existing.

With Skyfire, I knew that I somehow needed to convey that lesson-by-example, that joy, that dogs are trying to teach us all the time. Because it is the kind of lesson a god of death would try to teach.

And on a practical level, I was intrigued by the challenge of drawing a character that is a light source. (The requestor mentioned in discussion that the character's 'glow' had occasionally been a problem during gameplay–makes it hard to hide!) I had to think ahead of how that would work, but I think I nailed it: Ferns behind and under him are lit, and the ones in front of him are no more than silhouettes.

What I did not nail was the scarf. I wanted it to feel a little heavy instead of gauzy, but it came across stiff instead. I clearly have to work on draping, and research how that works with different weight fabrics.

Photoshop Painting Catchup #11: Cacia


  • Name: Cacia Martinus-Laurel
  • Occupation: Bounty Hunter
  • Race: Sabei - basically anthropomorphic wolves (like wolfkin).
  • Notable Features: 22 years old, 5'9" with an athletic build. Her appearance is based on the red wolf: thick russet-colored fur with brown and black patches on her face and tail and gleaming orange eyes.
  • Equipment: Wears light grey carapace armor under a half-sleeve leather jacket with navy cargo pants. No shoes. She wears fingerless spiked gauntlets, keeps a highly advanced plasma pistol in a holster on her belt, and carries a glaive.

Anthropomorphic animal warriors are always a good way to get my interest–put her on a space station, and you have my attention.

love this background and setting. I've shied away from doing gritty machinery before, but this time I decided to find some reference material and go for it. I am slowly learning that the details of the machinery are important, but the color palette and shadows are the key. And I can do color and shadows.

In retrospect, do wish I'd toned down her armor shine a bit more, or at least roughed it up. Every time I use the dodge tool, I wind up with this problem- patches of what looks like over-exposure.

Having the character stepping through a submarine-style hatch really sets the scene, and conveys the claustrophobic feeling I imagine one would have on a spaceship. Which also gives me a nifty excuse to not have to draw her glaive. She's smart enough not to bring a swinging weapon into a tight space!