During my Patreon break, I shared some of my favorite level ups from my art journey from the past 20 years on social media. I’m compiling these 10 pieces here for posterity! This started as the Share10 Challenge where I was challenged by Elisabeth Alba to share 10 works for 10 days. Instead of tagging someone else each day, I chose to challenge anyone who sees my post to also do the same. Share 10 of your pieces and tell us about them!
I went with a theme of sharing 10 pieces that I felt were level ups in my skill level and represented a milestone in my development. With that in mind, let’s explore these milestones!
DAY 1 – “Dreaming Butterfly”, 2001.
Tabletop RPGs have been such a HUGE part of my path as an artist. Before I ever had a ‘professional’ vision for myself, I had characters who helped inspire my first forays into amateur drawing and writing. They drove me to develop my skills as a young artist with character art and short memoirs.
Aurora here became an unofficial mascot for my high school self way back when I was immersed in Shadowrun. I created this piece in color pencil in a flurry of inspiration to her very sad and dark story, a young writer’s first foray into traumatic character pasts. Needless to say, I worked out so emo feelings with this phase!
Aury might make a comeback some day in new stories, but this old portrait represents a milestone in my color pencil skills and a young artist’s new dedication to storytelling that has made this piece a classic among my fans, despite how old it is.
DAY 2 – “One Winged Angel”, 2002.
Sephiroth stands as one of the prolific villains of Final Fantasy 7, the game that also acted as my first real exposure to a Japanese RPG. It captured my imagination in a way that few things had up until that point! And so this piece came into being, a fangirl’s dedicated expression to the infamous moment of Sephiroth peering through the flames at Cloud.
Created in color pencil, which was my favored media at the time. I really pushed myself to capture the drama and the gore (something that felt absolutely scandalous for me to draw at the time).
But then this image shot up in popularity on DeviantART and I had my first taste of DeviantART fame! It was a wild ride back then when I was just getting my start selling my Fan Art at cons.
Nowadays, I don’t do much Fan Art anymore, but I’ll always remember the passionate fervor I had at the beginning of my path as an artist. Fandoms helped me grow in skill and ambition.
DAY 3 – “Blacksent”, 2006
Way back when I was a young and bright-eyed college student, Mick LaFlamme hired me for my first ever book cover job for he and Michael Poe’s Fantasy novel, Blacksent: Book of the Umbra. This was a milestone for me in my artistic growth and career.
I pushed myself hard to capture the mood and details of this otherworldly setting in the countless hours of shading and layering in color pencil. Blacksent’s characters pushed me in wonderful ways to level up my character design, wardrobe, and character acting.
That same year, I also started to seriously learn digital painting techniques where I unlocked a whole new level of detail and potential for my paintings. (More on that in Day 4’s feature!)
Day 4 – “Angel of Penitence”, 2006
I created this particular piece as a birthday present for my darling husband, Kevin. It represents my first real try at digital painting. Before this moment, I had only done anime style cell shading or photomanipulated backgrounds with my hand-drawn figures using digital techniques.
I challenged myself to paint the atmospheric perspective and to try harder than I usually did to include a background with the figure, backgrounds still being a weakness for me to this day. If memory serves, I painted this on an old Intuos!
I learned so much with this piece that lit the fire for me to keep on learning to paint semi-realism digitally!
Day 5 – “Archangel Azrael”, 2010
I was surprised to look back on my work and realize this piece represented an unexpected milestone for me. It was the final piece created for my Angelic Visions book and the culmination of my watercolor and color pencil mixed media technique.
I also pushed my symbolic elements and remained dedicated to the details, right down to every skull in the apples and the 300+ eyes in the angel’s wings.
Ironically, I plan to experiment with the evolution of this technique by blending color pencil and acrylic in my next traditional pieces.
Day 6 – “Keeper of Secrets”, 2011
Despite being a few years old by now, this has been my favored image to feature on my business cards, banners, etc. This painting represents one of the most perfect unions of my ‘light’ and ‘dark’ sides, symbolically and technique-wise.
She was made by scanning in my hand-inked lines, then painting the rest digitally in yet another a mixed media digital+trad experiment. This painting also encapsulates that dark elegance I want to channel in my work in the future.
In the past, I’ve felt very boxed in stylistically and subject-wise by my Art Nouveau paintings. The Keeper helped me break out of that box and have faith in my future intent to keep working in this aesthetic direction.
Day 7 – “Kushiel’s Dart”, 2013
Despite this being one of my most popular pieces, I struggled with it the entire time (a clear sign there will be a level up, usually). It just wasn’t working in its early stages and I almost gave up on it. This painting was the first image completed for my Kushiel Concepts project, where I’ve been redrawing the covers of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series to help build my skills.
I ended up shooting reference photos myself. I took the time to do a master copy that inspired me to re-work the colors and textures of the piece. I had to rework the color scheme twice.
This painting took weeks upon weeks and I didn’t back down! Because of that, it still stands as one of my strongest works. I sometimes worry I’ll never be able to paint this good again!
Donato Giancola also complimented the hands of the piece when I had my portfolio reviewed at IX that year and I’ll always be eternally grateful for the ego boost!
Day 8 – “Oathbound”, 2014
For those who don’t know, I have designs on writing my own novels some day. One of those novels tentatively titled “Song of Exile” follows a politically exiled prince who must return to his kingdom to face his estranged father, a ruthless king, his ex-wife, now a rebel politician on the rise, and a nest of political plots and supernatural problems he wants no part of anymore.
This painting was a spiritual milestone for me because it was the first time I defined Prince Ramah in a way that felt right. I had tried to draw him many times before, but nothing ever worked up to this point. This painting also leveled up my storytelling, color usage, and sense of lighting. It is one of my most shared paintings, aside from the Kushiel piece, which tells me I really need to come back to this story world sometime!
Ramah’s design is no doubt going to evolve even more since this old piece, but this was a milestone in his visual development and my artistic development I’ll never forget!
Day 9 – “Lady of November”, 2016
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Even still, I didn’t back down from the vision I had for this one. She was perhaps the first Goddess in my Birthstone Goddesses series who I allowed to be true to my own personality as the artist, while the others were more a slave to their color palettes and outside symbolism (with the exception of March, I’d say).
This Lady brought in the narrative of the monarchs, traveling souls returning to their loved ones for the Day of the Dead, as well as the Aztec Lady of the Dead, Mictēcacihuātl. This piece made me realize the overarching narrative for my Birthstone Goddesses was our own reflection of mortality we see in the waxing and waning of life and death throughout the seasons. She changed everything about how I was approaching this series from that point forward.
I also made a horrible mistake while I was inking the nose! This mistake, which required me to re-prime the area, also led to the decision to leave the skin the blue of the underpainting, which ended up being a really fascinating character quirk for this corpse-Goddess.
She is one of the VERY few pieces I have kept the original of to hang in my home. She has also won an award at a show, which shows me she resonates strongly with others the same way she does for me. As the artist, she represents a process struggle, renewed dedication, a renewed spiritual connection to my topic, and so much more that makes this piece a level up close to my heart.
Day 10 – “Gilded Wings”, 2020
The most recent level-up I have to share! It’s not a perfect painting nor is it my best piece, but I learned a lot in the doing of it. This piece represents my first attempt at drawing my Exalted character (and other novel’s protagonist) in a more realistic style. I’ve struggled with this for a long time, as I’ve always drawn Kalara in a more stylized way.
Not only did I achieve the first image of Kalara that felt right in a more realistic style, but I also proved to myself I could turn out good results in Procreate, a program that I had just started learning to use last year. I had dabbled here and there in it, but this is the first piece where Procreate clicked in my brain and I felt comfortable with it. This program has some of the best FX brushes I’ve seen and I look forward to seeing what else I can make with it! It’s especially useful when I want to escape my normal space to create art on the go on the tablet.
Looking back makes me look forward to a future utilizing all the knowledge I’ve accrued to make even better pieces! I sense a lot of mixed media in my future and really sinking my teeth into my dark, elegant aesthetic.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the past and my evolution as an artist! If you’re a creator, I challenge you to do the Share 10 Challenge as well. Share 10 of your pieces for 10 days (or when you have time) on social media and feel free to tag me so I can see and enjoy your pieces. Let’s fill the void of the internet with our sparkling creations!