Category: illustration

Sketch Diary – Winter Offering

Inspiration: Every year I do a painting to spread the cheer of the winter holidays to my fans, friends, and family.  Keeping in that tradition, I created this piece entitled “Winter Offering” for 2015.

I wanted to capture the quiet warmth of candles, which are one of my favorite decorative elements of the season, and pay homage to some of the Celtic traditions that define the holidays with the presence of evergreen holly and pine.  I also wanted a celestial theme for the window to represent the dark, cold winter nights which the light guides us through.

Tools and Techniques

For this painting, I used Photoshop CC and a Wacom Cintiq 21UX.



A selection from my references. 

Art Process

Step 1 – Thumbnail sketching with ink and white color pencil on toned paper to find the right idea. At first, I wanted to do a candy theme, but the candles struck me with their simplicity and elegance. The Krampus one was also a fun contender, but I decided to save him for another time.


Step 2 –  Reference gathering! I looked at many Tiffany glass windows, wreaths, and white candles for inspiration.  I keep a secret reference board for my yearly holiday images on Pinterest.

Step 3 – I did a rough sketch in Photoshop keeping loose and quick.  The sketch was then printed out and refined with pencil sketching on top of the lightly printed line work.


Step 4 – This refined sketch was then scanned in and the lines turned blue so they could be easily transferred.  I also used the same refined sketch to do a digital color test so I had an idea of my colors before I put paint on paper.


Step 5 – The refined sketch with blue line work was then printed and transferred with graphite dust applied to the back of the printout.


Step 6 – The transferred line work on the illustration board were inked with various colors of mechanical pens for visual contrast and interest.


Step 7 – The ink drawing was finished with watercolor paints.

You can also watch the 5 minute time lapse video of how I created this painting here!

For more in-depth instruction on how I created this image, including the brands of materials I used, tips on creating a stained glass style in watercolor, etc., pledge to any $10 and up level on my Patreon to gain access to the narrated video tutorial!

You can also buy the individual tutorial separately at my Gumroad shop, but you won’t receive the other extras you would by purchasing via Patreon.

Sketch Diary – Nariko of Heavenly Sword – Part 2

Now that Nariko’s design is figured out, it’s on to coloring!  I decided to try a new coloring technique called the Ambient Occlusion method.  This technique is a way to bring a structural quality to your images relatively quickly.  I used Alex Negrea’s tutorial and also this helpful process post from David Lojaya.

Here’s a breakdown of the main layers in my painting.

  1. Sketch – I produced a clean line art using the hard brush. This Sketch layer hovers above all of the other layers for the figure.  Notice I didn’t sketch in pure black, but a very dark brown so as to keep my image from looking too stark. I wanted subtle warmth and for the line art to look natural. The same goes for the AO layer, which is not pure black, but a dark brown. You can tweak this coloration later to suit the mood of your piece.
  2. Sketch+Ambient Occlusion – The Ambient Occlusion layer sits below the Sketch and Flat Color layers and above the Shadow layer and represents places that are hard for light to enter, the deepest, darkest shadows where light is ‘occluded’.  It is set to the blending option Multiply.
  3. Sketch+AO+Flat Colors – The Flat Colors are actually a group of layers, as I kept each color on its own layer just in case I wanted to change them later.  The entire group is set to the blending option Multiply so they show the AO layer beneath them.
  4. Sketch+AO+Flat Colors+Shadow – The Shadow layer was clipped to a standalone layer that masked out the entire figure to keep my shadows from going outside of the lines.  The Shadow layer is located below the Flat Colors group and above the AO layer.
  5. Final – In the final image notice I’ve actually masked out some of the Sketch layer so that the hard lines don’t look so unnatural (particularly in the area of the neck where lines are too harsh for the soft transitions there).  Lighting effects have also been applied here.


NOTE: My Patreon Patrons at the $5+ reward tier have exclusive access to my .psd file, so be sure to pitch in there if you’d like to peruse my layer structure!


Tools Used:

Deharme’s Brush set for Photoshop CC

Finally, here’s an animated GIF of my process (roughly 8 mb).

If you’d like to download wallpapers of the final image, I’ve provided the 1920×1080 size for free.

Also be sure to check out the article this image is featured in, What Women Want…In Women Characters for an interesting discussion of female character designs and representation.

The 1920×1080 wallpaper of this image. Download here.

Other sizes plus the .psd are available exclusively for my Patreon Patrons.

PRINTS AND PRODUCTS – Contact me privately if interested.

Back to Part 1


Con Report: Dragon*Con 2012

Sporting a leather Magpie feather
made by the multi-talented
Brenda Lyons!

My brain has finally returned from Dragon*Con 2012 (some days after it officially ended, I might add)! It was a haze of cool costumes, reunions, and meetings, as it usually is.  This is going to be a LONG entry, so grab a cup of tea and get comfy!

The Con

This year was an odd duck for me. I spent most of my time selling at my table in the art show, running to panels in the art track, and riding on the train since we commuted in. I didn’t get a chance to see many costumes or really leave the Hyatt.

I did, however, brave all three dealer’s rooms to hunt down amazing artists Michael C. Hayes, Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, and Echo Chernik to buy their books, which I had been looking forward to doing for a long while! There’s no better feeling than to shake an artist’s hand and show them you support their work by buying a book directly from them at a show. This probably worked against me as I suspect I spent all my profits doing just that!

I also met several cool folks I have known online for ages, but had never met in person. So many folks came by to say hello and show their support!  It really made me feel special this year and I have no words to express how this warms my heart. Thanks, you guys!

The Selling Experience

As always, the Dragon*Con art show is a well oiled machine!  Set up and break down went smoothly, despite the fact I had three times the stuff I usually do this year.  I sold decently at the art show and hit my selling goal to break even, plus a few hundred.  My best selling work at the show was The Lotus Dancer, which I sold out of at my table, while none of my masks sold from the 3D table, which I’ll probably be dropping next year.  People seem to buy more masks right off the gallery bay, so I suspect that’s where I’ll be putting my masks from now on.

What I  Learned About My Display

For the first two days, I had nothing but older watercolor work of mine up on the panels arranged in very symmetrical grid patterns.  I have Death the Kid level obsession with symmetry, which works against me sometimes when I put up art for display!  My boyfriend tried an experiment of arranging a whole new selection of my digital works in asymmetrically balanced patterns and we noticed this seemed to grab the attention of con-goers far more. Lesson learned. Gotta dump my old work, get larger pieces for max eye-catching capability, AND stop being so symmetrical!

Other Stuff I Learned About Displaying Art

  • Tiered wire magazine racks make for great mask displays!
  • Instead of stretching canvases on stretcher bars, I want to try affixing them to masonite and covering them with gel medium. Annie Stegg used this to beautiful effect!  Her prints had the texture of her original paintings after applying the gel medium.
  • Offer more sketches and/or sketchbooks.  A lot of artists have been doing this and it seems like a smart way to get a little added income from your sketches!  Instead of rotting in my art pads, I could sell my doodles in bins or baskets.  Got to break my sketch hoarding habit!
  • Start ordering things wholesale. A couple of the other artists looked at me like I was crazy when I told them I hand cut all of my mats myself.  It’s time consuming and I can save a lot of time finding places that sell mats, backing, and bags all in one place for cheap at a bulk rate. (Anyone know any suppliers? I have been looking into
  • Mitch Foust had an amazing looking display that folded up into little collapsible panels AND included its own lighting setup!  It also costs far less than my Propanels and seems to take up much less space.  It’s called The Original SMART Exhibit and it is lovely and professional looking!  It may not work well for my outdoor shows, but it’s a good choice for the inside ones.

My First Portfolio Review

This year was the first year I worked up the courage to ask other pro artists to review my art at length.  I talked to both Justin Gerard and Dan Dos Santos, two illustrators from Muddy Colors with amazing work who gave me some stellar advice at my review and during their painting demos, which I will paraphrase here:

  • Use more reference. They knew instantly where I had fudged anatomy and it really brought down the overall believability and quality of my work where I didn’t use it.
  • Relates to the last one. Do more preliminary studies and thumbnails. Both Justin and Dan did an alarming amount of planning until the next step in their production was merely  to copy the preliminary to their final format. My planning phase has always been short and rushed and that needs to change.  They did whatever they had to, from taking model shoots, to photomanipping in whatever props and faces they needed in the prelim phase.
  • NO PHOTOMERGED TREES! *hangs head in shame*
  • Cut out ALL of the old mediocre work from my portfolio. Out of 20 pieces, only 5 were really viable to show to an art director.  This means I better get cracking on new work!  If I’m not producing at last one polished piece a month, I am not being serious about my career nor will I get the amount of high quality images I need in my portfolio in a decent amount of time.
I’ve already emailed the both of them with my sincerest thanks!  I suspect the advice they gave me is really going to change my career in the best of ways, plus they are just two wonderfully nice fellows!  Don’t be afraid to chat them up if you see them at a con.

Photo and Video Stream

I only took a couple of photos this year while I was hurrying through the Marriott to the dealer’s room, but you can see them here.  I also gave a panel on leather mask-making, which you can watch the video walkthrough here.

Here’s a preview of two really awesome cosplayers who had built their costumes around my Red Dragon and Seraphim leather masks. You look stunning, ladies!

The Red Dragon and Seraphim masquers. More of my masquers
can be seen at Angela’s Masquers.

What’s Next?

I have been debating back and forth if I will even attend Dragon*Con next year.  My budget is very limited and while I always have a blast at this con, I really want to try attending other conventions geared for artists, such as Illuxcon or Spectrum Fantastic Live Art, where art is the focus and I can make more career contacts.  If I can do them all, I will, but it’s time to venture outside of my comfort zone, meaning that Dragon*Con will be prioritized beneath these others.

But this also means I have a whole new journey ahead of me to produce new, improved work so that I’m not just showing the same old tired pieces to people.  I also need more subject matter relevant to the gaming industries in my portfolio, if I am to seriously pursue the kinds of jobs I want there.  This probably means less floofy angels and more Elves, which I can’t argue with!  I have an action plan for doing this, but I’ll save that for next journal entry!

Thanks for joining me for my Dragon*Con wrap up. See you all next year, maybe?  If not, remember me when you see cosplayers in leather masks and/or wings. Take a photo for me!

Killing the Muse

I must begin this journal with a disclaimer. This topic is perhaps one of the topics I am most passionate about, so please forgive my fervor if any of this offends you.

I’ve noticed a pattern lately, particularly at anime conventions, where fellow artists set up their tables, toss up a “will work for food” sign, and litter their booths with fan art because that is what sells at anime cons. There seems an atmosphere of desperation that’s almost sweltering with the $10 originals and $5 quickie sketches while the rest of us who are charging what we’re worth are left to the mercy of undercut prices. Besides selling yourself short, the other half of what bothers me so much about this practice is the sheer hopelessness of these artists. Not every artist in an anime convention artist alley is this way, but it’s something I notice more at anime conventions in general.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a well crafted and well thought out homage to anime. Selling fan art is not the problem, it’s the intention behind selling the fan art. I have gotten the response from some of these artists about how they can’t sell their original work because it’s fluffy and idealistic to think one can make money off of drawing what they love. My response to them is that if you’re looking for a quick bang for your buck, the art world is not the one for you. For one, it is certainly not guaranteed for many of us to make money right out of school, though I have heard of it happening. Success in any creative profession is about doing what you love and standing out in the crowd for it. Doing what you love and doing it well…because there are a thousand others trying to do the same thing. If you have no passion, you’re more than likely to be a flicker next to a candle in the crowd.

(EDIT for clarification) For example, if you’re selling fan art in the artist alley, what will a customer be more likely to buy? The half-inspired doodle of Sasuke or the inspired, or at the very least masterfully crafted, image of Sasuke that really says something about the character and your love of him? This same concept can be applied to the creative field as a whole.

I used to be in the same position where I thought I could not make money with the subjects I enjoyed (an unfortunate byproduct of a gallery-focused fine art education). That is, until I started talking to more professionals in my field (and in other creative fields as well, for that matter!). Every single one of them has told me the same thing during interviews:

“It’s scary relying on the uncertain, but do what you love and they will find you. Doing anything else is a way to get stuck designing cereal boxes till you don’t care anymore.”

If you market yourself to draw the popular things you don’t even remotely enjoy drawing, you are going to burn out quick because that is all anyone will ever want to hire you for. This business takes patience, focus, and self-motivation. Forcing yourself into it just to make a buck generally leads to sub-par work because you are not challenging yourself or fostering your inspiration and you just cannot compete with other people in the same field who genuinely enjoy and love what they’re doing.

I am not naive enough to think an artist or creative individual will always be inspired for every single job they’re hired for, but if these sorts of jobs become more numerous than the ones you enjoy in even the slightest capacity, than something’s gotta give. Why? Why torture yourself if you don’t enjoy it even a little anymore? There must be a breaking point where you discover just how much your creativity is worth to you.

Why not just get another job that’ll help pay the bills, and then do art on the side because you can truly enjoy it rather than be held prisoner by the motivation of money? Don’t kill yourself! Don’t kill your muse! If the single motivation of your art is to make money without any enjoyment of what you’re doing whatsoever, than I can almost guarantee you that it is not worth it.

(Another EDIT for clarification XD) However, as Brenda pointed out in the comments, if making money is your enjoyment and that doesn’t harm your inspiration or quality of work, than more power to you! I realize not all people operate the same way I do.

My plea to you, the desperate undercutting artists, the money focused fan art peddlers who are afraid to explore their limits, the hopeless and uninspired who feel trapped by their profession, you have options. There is no shame in guarding your inspiration as a hobby if you cannot do it as a profession. There is no dishonor in doing such a thing.

Please stop torturing yourselves! It is painful to watch…

Terrible Dawn + Announcements

“Terrible Dawn”
5×7 Inches, Watercolor & Color Pencil on Illustration Board

A brilliant blade flashes in the deepest dark. All who fear the light know her, for she is the Terrible Dawn, the slaughterer of demons and the blinding brilliance of Heaven.

She was really only meant to be a ‘minor’ illustration, but she just stole my focus and demanded more attention than a mere day. Could it be her resemblance to my muse, Aurora? She’s almost what I imagine Aurora to look like if she were transmogrified into an angel. Either way, this was much fun and an excellent test run of the Series 500 Wet Media Board from Strathmore.

All in all, it seems this board is an excellent upgrade from earlier series. It takes abuse well with wet-in-wet techniques, absorbs hue quicker and more effectively, and seems a general improvement all around over the regular cold press illustration board I’ve been using. Color pencil took to the surface just as well as it had with previous cold press board. I had some minor issues near the figure’s cheek bone where the line became ragged because the surface of the paper began to peel up and create tiny hairs, but I think this issue can be avoided if one waits more thoroughly for paper to dry between layers (I’m an impatient cuss). I like this new board, but will have to experiment more with future pieces to test its full capabilities.

In other news, after much toil and effort and caffeinated nights, I’m proud to release the new Amazon webstore of Angelic Shades! I’ll slowly be migrating the current offerings on my website over to this new webstore over the next few months. Since Amazon doesn’t allow bewbies, any mature rated items will be moving over to my Etsy shop.

Want to keep abreast of new items and offerings? Sign up for my mailing list or keep an eye on the News section of my forum.

All plugging aside, I expect to write a review of my experiences with the Amazon webstore interface once I have gotten a better feel for its expansive features. My first impression is that this shop setup is not for beginners. There’s a bit of a learning curve with all it’s features, not to mention a great deal of setting up you have to have as a business to even be eligible to use the Amazon format.

Till next time, Bat fans!

Introducing the Muses – Melakim Fahre

It occurred to me recently that there are a repeating set of figures in my art that most of you may recognize, but only a handful really know. As a storyteller and an artist, my art is driven most strongly by character-centric work, particularly characters which I have been writing about for years, yet have never really shared with the general populace. I wanted to shed some light on some of these characters that have been featured in my art and who continue to inspire me to this day. More than merely sinking into the background, these characters have endured themselves to my imagination, tempting me to distraction when my mind should be occupied elsewhere.

Without further ado, I present one of my most recent muses: Melakim Fahre, the Shadow Hunter (or ‘Mae’ for short).

Melakim’s Artistic Evolution:

The Short Bio: The nihilistic bounty hunter with a distrust of people. As an infant, he was found birthed from the body of a dead woman, an inauspicious omen to the clerics who took him in, as well as his strange, seemingly blind right eye. He lived life as a servant before their fear of him drove them to extreme measures and a botched exorcism. He escaped and lived life on the rough streets of the city before being taken in by a rich patroness, Siin Fomori, who has since raised him as an assassin for her organization, Blood Meridian. He spends most of his time as far away from the organization as possible, much rather preferring the simple life of a woodsman hunter.

The Long Bio: Available Here

What inspired this character?

This particular character started with the simple flash of inspiration that began with the eyes. Even before I had a concept, I knew I wanted him to be devoid of an eye. In earlier versions of the character, he was burned by an angel who took his right eye in battle. I created him as a character to be roleplayed in a past online roleplaying game with nothing more than a wish to portray a character that was not likeable, and therefore a break from my general leanings towards charismatic, moralistic characters which were merely reflections of myself in the world of Dungeons and Dragons (which I played in high school and college). Melakim started out mean, tired of the world, and more apt to stop and help someone only if they offered him money. The one simple exception to this auger was that he could never resist that annoying urge to help a child in need, which is the origin of his namesake, Melakim, the guardian angel of children’s safety.

Melakim is and has always been one who lacks general faith in humanity, and yet at the same time, has a burning need to be accepted. He teeters on the edge of falling in to that darker side, while being tempted by the hope that perhaps everything is not as he has perceived it in his experience, a fact which has made him most intriguing for me. Perhaps he is a reflection of my own past? Moving around with my family for the military left me with many days by myself pondering if it was worth getting involved in emotional connections with people at all. It hurt so much to say goodbye, it hurt to have issues with others, and yet, oftentimes it is only by interacting with others that we learn just how beautiful the world really is.

Melakim also presents a way for me to examine the psychology of the half-breed, or one between worlds. In his early incarnations, he was half angel and half mortal, yet never quite accepted by both, a stigma I can empathize with, being half Puerto Rican and Caucasian. In his latest incarnation, he is plagued by being always half tuned in to the spirit world, and the feeling of never quite being part of the living or the dead, especially with the way he is ostracized by superstitious individuals who view his white eye and and extra-sensory perception as evil. Melakim in all incarnations often felt lost and confused with no place or people to call home.

Despite his moral lack of faith in people, he still has compassion buried deep down, though it is a question of how long this compassion will remain. Roleplaying games have come and gone since his inception and now he exists in my imagination, beckoning me with the thought of novelization.

How do you get inspired to create art and writing for this character?

Music is a large part of my artistic process. Certain chords and lyrics strike a certain vivid image in my mind’s eye which helps me when I’m in the mood to create. I listen to a lot of music by VAST, Jon Crosby’s dulcet, soulful tones being as close to how I imagine Melakim sounding than anyone I’ve ever heard.

EDIT: Now that Melakim has undergone a gender switch for novel purposes, I’ve been drawn to different vocalists, including Florence+The Machine and Ellie Goulding. Funny how that works!

I must also admit an affinity for other long haired hunters, such as the Vampire Hunter D and Yasha, the demon slayer from RG Veda. Watching these anime flicks always get my juices flowing for Melakim.

Playlist for Melakim: Available here

Until the next Muse, who are your muses? Why do they inspire you? How do you prepare yourself to write or draw for them?

Balancing the Creative Muses

Well it seems I’ve been gearing up for ages here to really sit down and work on my writing projects, but I’ve just been too caught up in working on my current slate of commissions to really sit down and give my stories the attention they crave.  “Feed me!” My darling writing muse says as she rattles her chains and is shut back in her cage in the basement of my mind.

It occurs to me that eventually I will need to find a balance.  I’m hoping to be a writer, to illustrate said writings, to be a self-represented artist as well as a self-marketed author…and somehow amid all this still maintain a sort of life that involves socializing with friends and family.  How the heck do I balance doing all of that?  So far, I’ve found it easier to focus if I take on one project at a time, but then I find it hard to sleep at night thinking about that big project on the horizon and how it’s not been accomplished yet.  My friends call it my ‘endless project fairy’ who grows a set of wings whenever I think of something new for myself to do.  I have a mental image in my head of this poor fairy dragging herself and her hundreds of wings along with a ‘kill me’ expression on her face.
Along the same lines, I’m curiuos about any of you who may be a slave to both writing and art muses.  Just what are you inspired by first?  This is probably a ‘chicken or egg’ argument, but I’m really curious to know what muse dominates you.  Is your art inspired by your personal story first, or do you make your stories based on a nameless image that pops to mind?   If you’re ruled by both, how do you balance them equally?  Or is there no winning the battle against muse and time management?
More often than not, I find myself inspired by stories first.  I need a character I can sink my teeth into before I can get the inspiration that gives me the drawing itch.  Occasionally I’ll think up a cool look and make up a story inspired by thing that was too cool to resist making a story out of, but that is rare for me.  I am never more inspired to draw than I am when I’m writing or reading a good book.  How about yourselves?
In the end, I offer no solutions here.  My best guess being that any solution will differ for each individual.  For me, I think a swift kick in the butt will do.
Work it, Angela, work it!