I’m now offering my art prints for sale, and if you’re interested, click on the above hyperlinked banner to go straight to the art descriptions page and instructions on how to order. But this is a blog post, so I want to get a little more cas (casual, pronounced “kage,” where “ka” is like “cat” and “ge” is pronounced like “george” omigod why am I taking so much time and text explaining something so stupid) and ramble about that process.
The above banner thing was totally just for fun, to amuse myself. I didn’t bother following any art composition principles, other than, well, the one I made up myself, which is “more is more.” =D Every single feature you see in that banner comes from the illustrations for the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, The Revelation (my name for the third edition of SKT).
This blog post is just to share some of the behind-the-scenes art journeying.
Over on Instagram I had polled my friends to help me decide whether to offer the one on the left, which for easy reference sake we’ll call daytime kitsune, or the one on the right, aka night-time kitsune. As you can see on the shop page, I ended up offering both.
Yes, yes, I know– ultimately, creative direction is up to me and I don’t or shouldn’t look to others. But then, that stance doesn’t make a whole lot of constructive sense either. In art school, for example, you’re constantly getting your artwork critiqued. You have to present your work to your classmates, who stand around and tell you everything wrong with it, or how you could do it better, and what they think of your work. And yeah, in theory you’re supposed to be evolving your creative direction based on the insights you’re collecting from art critiques.
I don’t have art school, but I have Instagram. Hehe. So that’s where I get my art critiques, and I’ve found it really useful. Of course you get the outlier nutjob not-helpful-at-all negativity, but so what?
With my kitsune art print, I ended up deciding on offering both, because I don’t think one is fundamentally better than the other. They’re just different flavors and will appeal to different sub-groups.
The other print I’m offering two versions of is Kuan Yin– eyes open and eyes closed. =)
If you want to talk old school classical depictions of Kuan Yin, there’s no arguing that the one on the right is the way to go. You’re just not going to see the left version of Kuan Yin in traditional religious art.
But times change, cultures shift, and how people best interact with divinity changes. There is an immediate closeness between you and the Kuan Yin depicted on the left.
I decided on offering both versions rather than choosing between the two for a final one because the open eyes one is about how people today might best connect with imagery of Kuan Yin while the closed eyes one is about honoring Asian tradition.
Also, once I decided to do art prints and actually test-printing the illustrations to look at on paper at 8.5″ x 11″ size, I started seeing more and more imperfections.
Above left is the Lady of the Ninth Heaven with my hand-drawn eyes in ink. That’s basically what she looked like on physical paper, drawn, after I scanned in the black and white line work. That’s done with a 0.8 mm ink tip on regular white paper, which will incur a little bit of bleed. In other words, it’s hard to get the most perfect, clean line work, because as soon as your pen tip touches the paper, there is going to be slight bleed where the ink spreads through the fibers just a touch.
To the right above, I’ve digitally fixed up the details for her eyes. With digital painting, bleed is no longer an issue. If my brush tip is intended to mimic a 0.8 mm tip, I’m going to get a 0.8 mm line, no bleed.
You’ll also notice a big difference in the sky pattern. To the left, I created a seamless blue-dotted tile pattern and then painted the sky with that blue-dotted tile pattern. The end result is unnaturally even, as you can see. So over to the right, I went in manually to add various lines and translucent-blue color layers to replicate a more natural, impressionistic hand-drawn effect.
Here’s another example from the same art print. The top version above shows the original line work for the left hand I drew and scanned in. At the actual physical size that the black and white illustration was in, it looked fine, in context. But once you’ve added color and you’re trying to present it as a standalone art print, it wasn’t good enough. Hence the digital re-draw to a closed fist in the bottom version.
Again, above left you can see my original line work with a physical 0.8 mm tip ink pen. To the right, I cleaned up the lines with a digital pen tip and added shading with a digital airbrush. (I also fixed her uneven jaw line. Originally in tarot card size and when she was just a secondary detail in the background of the card, the uneven jaw line wasn’t a big deal in context, if you noticed it at all. But now that she’s front and center in a standalone art print, it is a big deal.)
When your intention is a large-scale project like a tarot deck with lots and lots of cards (meaning lots of illustrations), I’d overlook these little details and just focus on big picture composition.
But when I went to create an 8.5″ x 11″ art print, suddenly what was good enough for one tarot card in the whole deck was not good enough for a standalone art print.
Now, in terms of where I am in my art study journey, how I look at art has changed.
Before, when I studied a work of art as a casual admirer of art, I was more interested in attaining an understanding of the what. Now when I’m studying a work of art as an art student trying to learn how to do the thing, I’m studying the work of art for the how.
The above is a close-up snippet of an oil painting hung in my home. Honestly, before when I looked at the art, I just thought, “oh, wow, pretty!” Now, as someone learning how to art, when I study this detail in the work, I’m deconstructing the application of white and various tonal values of gray for achieving that translucent crystal chalice effect.
After studying how the masters paint grass in an impressionistic style, I tried to mimic it digitally. Above is a zoom-in of “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” (1886) by Georges Seurat.
Above you see one of my first and early attempts at it, after studying Seurat. What you see above was done 100% digitally.
Below, I’ve been practicing the technique for a couple of cards and trying to find my own voice, so that I can evolve beyond just straight-up copying Seurat’s style.
Granted, I still have a long ways to go, but I think at least these snapshots show I’m improving in the right direction.
A really interesting (I think) phenomenon is how wildly inconsistent my style is right now. And I don’t quite know how to reel it in and make it more consistent.
When everything was done by hand, with a single tool, and only that tool, all within the span of 30-some odd days (I’m referring to the first edition of SKT), consistency in style wasn’t hard at all. It was effortless.
But now that I’ve gone digital, it’s crazy hard to keep the style consistent.
The above shows my revision of the figure in the Seven of Orbs. I then scanned her in, cleaned up some of those extraneous lines to prep the image for digital coloring.
The above right shows the point I got to working on her nose before I realized, wait, what’s happening here, and abandoned that path of coloring altogether to try again.
See, before I didn’t know how to draw noses. So nobody in my illustrations had a nose. There were just a few lines to give the impression of a nose. Then I kinda figured out how to draw noses via digital drawing. I mean, my technique is still a work in progress, but at least people can now have noses.
The problem is now I’ve given her too much nose for the style of my illustrations. I went in with way too much shading, giving it more depth than my established base line, which is a more naive art style. (Naive art, I’ve come to learn, more or less means you’re not drawing realistically or proportionately.)
Just compare the aesthetic direction the nose is going in with the jaw line, the headdress, etc. Even the closed eyelids. Argh!
So I stopped, took a moment to breathe and reflect, and asked myself, what the heck am I doing here. What’s happening.
Plus, I need to pause deck working for now anyway to produce, package, and mail out the art prints. Thank you, by the way, for those of you who’ve purchased art prints! It’s an incredible show of support and patronage, and it means the world to me! ❤
Oh, and because I want to show off what took me quite a little bit of time to make, here’s an artsy but probably-longer-than-it-needed-to-be video introducing you to my talismanic art prints.