Artwork swap!

Thursday night, I walked around the Riverside Arts Walk with friends and easily found Raymond Argumedo because of his beaming smile. Just look at the photo below. (It didn't hurt that he was in the same vendor spot as last month) I gave him my art piece and he smiled the whole time, thanking me, but he probably thought it was a little strange. I'm alright with that. I think there is some reason why we crossed paths and only time will reveal why. His drawing skills are quite advanced for his age. Take a peek at the table in the photo and you will see a few examples.


Little did he know that giving away his art would create such a response from a complete stranger. Maybe we are just strange attractors in a butterfly effect. 


Trading Cats

Last month I went to the Riverside Arts Walk to check out the art there. It's a vibrant art scene with artists, young and old, showing off their talents. Very often, there are also performances by local dancers and musicians. I love it. 

While walking around looking at the street vendors, I came across a small drawing of a cat woman that I really liked. When I inquired about it, the artist pointed out that it had a paint smudge across the top and didn't want me to buy it. It was part of a tryptich as I could see the other two offered on the table as well. A small exchange happened, the result of which he gave me all three for free. That's of charge. I said that I really could not do that, but he insisted saying something about them being around for a long time.

And so, I did take them.....and I love them. Here they are:

Catwoman tryptich by Raymond Argumedo

Catwoman tryptich by Raymond Argumedo

But it still didn't feel right. So I decided that I wanted to draw up something for him and make this an exchange. This is the artist way.

There is a piece of Japanese art that I have had in my inspiration file for a long time. I just love the stark nature of it, with the black jumping off the page. The artist had used a pale peach watercolor in the background that I find really pleasing. I don't know who the artist is, so if someone can tell me, I will gladly credit them. 

Here is the inspiration: 


Japanese Raven

Japanese Raven

I used that as my jumping off point, making the raven into a cat woman instead. This is not a traditional cat woman, but that's the fun thing about art, you can make it your own. My cat is perched on a branch, motionless, waiting for the right moment to pounce. I did not have time to do that lovely watercolor wash in the background, so I had to do it in the computer, which only takes a minute. Of course, that means that I cannot give him the original, which I completely intended to do. Alas, aesthetics win out.

Years back, I was in Korea and had my name carved onto a traditional stamp, which is the mark in red on the left side. Above it is the Japanese symbol for 'love.' 

 © 2013 Julie Ann Silverman

 © 2013 Julie Ann Silverman

I'm on my way to this month's Arts walk tonight, with my cat in the bag (I could not resist the pun).

I have two hopes..... 

I hope I find him, and I hope he likes it, because I certainly enjoyed doing it.




Style Notes-All White-Dynomite!

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The birthday card

A few years back, I started my own tradition of giving hand drawn birthday cards to friends instead of gifts. I liken it to finding a hand written letter in the post among the junk mail, which almost never happens anymore. Very often, I give away the original, with all of it's perfect imperfections, keeping a copy in my archives. My friends seem to be appreciative of this one-of-a-kind item.  I know first hand that a few have been framed, which is the ultimate complement.

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Yesterday, I drew a card for my girlfriend Kellie, trying very hard to embody the tall and fierce beauty that she is. Because I developed this look from online sources, I decided to include this post in Style Notes, to share both the process and the inspiration.


I could not give her the original, because I wanted to drop in a more interesting background and had to use Photoshop for that. The first image that I placed on a background layer was a palm tree that I quickly sketched in marker. Then, I chose a very small corner of an outdoor photograph, and shifted the color into hot chartreuse, making the landscape feel more martian. The girl was on a separate layer, and I played with the levels to get the highest contrast black and white. I had a strange purple color in there, so I desaturated it too. I kept the girl graphic and hard edged with no soft airbrushing effects.

It's liberating and fruitful to try new things when you are not getting paid . I think that is why I initially started doing the cards, because they are just for fun and I can play at will. I highly recommend the self directed project to my fellow commercial artists. It can help alleviate creative road blocks.


Just like her

Strange is the moment when you realize that the words coming out of your mouth sound so familiar to you, like a hazy déjà vu. It may take some time, but you will finally realize that the déjà vu is your own childhood, and those words were most likely delivered from the lips of your parents. My mom used say to say that "parenting is just brainwashing your children to see the way you do." Luckily for me that meant hearing her position on honesty, integrity, compassion, self worth......ya know, what we now call basic values. I remember that she called them 'principles, ethics and scruples.' Mom is well read.

I don't get to see my mom enough because we are separated by some distance, but her words and her views are with me always. I am so very grateful for her brainwashing. It has worked it's magic in some very powerful ways.

This is a card that I mailed to my mom for Mother's Day. She still likes it when I draw her a pretty picture.  It makes me smile to know that she will proudly hang it on the fridge or put it on her she always has.

I love you mom!


Style Notes-Borrowing from the Boyfriend

Fashion is ever evolving.  If your desire is to be a fashion illustrator, inspiration is endless. I will be sharing some of mine.

Welcome to Style Notes.


Borrowing from the Boyfriend

Every now and again I borrow an item from my beau’s closet and wear it for a day.  He wears these cute little black pork pie hats throughout the year- a straw one in the Summer and a felt one in the Winter. I’ve worn both. When the weather is warm, or when he is out of town, I skip my pajama drawer completely and prefer to sleep in his t shirts instead. My favorite one is black and says ‘Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie.’ in white lettering.  Nerd love.

I’ve never borrowed a pair of his jeans, but if I did, I think that I would cuff them at the bottoms, and wear them with a pair of heels. Since it is always more fun to Show and Tell, I challenged myself to make an illustration from that inspiration.  I turned to my usual fashion haunts online until I came up with the right combination. For those of you interested in recreating this look, I did what a good blogger should, and included the links. Enjoy.



Illustrations via Photoshop

As an artist, I always find it interesting to see how another artist works through a project. Do they create their art solely by hand, only to be scanned in and converted to a digital file upon completion? Or perhaps, like my own illustrations, their work is more hybridized between hand drawn and digitally polished? I am creatively curious about this process and suspect many others are as well. So I have decided to share samples of my process now and again for all you curious cats out there. One day I plan to be savvy enough to do one of those inspiring time lapsed videos. But, until then.....take a peek into my brain through a few scans and some written words.

First I do a pencil sketch on a piece of paper that is the expected size of the completed project. This is when I try to execute the composition that I have pictured in my head. When I am pleased with the outcome, I go over the whole drawing with my Sakura MIcron ink pens. I employ various sizes, using a 5.0 for the heavy lines and a .005 for the finest line work (usually around the eyes). Then I erase all of the pencil with a kneaded eraser. I input this into my computer via my scanner which is set for Black and White and 150dpi output. If this was a commercial job, I may scan it in at 300dpi. 

This is my initial scan:


Sometimes I use Illustrator to convert the drawing for me, to prepare it to be filled in Photoshop. For this project, I opened the file in Photoshop and used my layers box to adjust the contrast to a rich black and white. I then opened another layer, drawing on top of that to close any line areas that I knew I wanted to fill. When I was happy with those lines, I merged that layer with the original. Then I was able to fill areas with color, using my paint bucket, clicking on each area, making sure the swatch in the swatch box was what I wanted to use. This took care of the background, hat and hair. I selected the white area of her face with my wand, then opened another layer and airbrushed on her makeup which stayed within the select. This kept the blush off of the hair. I did get too much yellow in her eyebrow area and , used my airbrush eraser to remove the unwanted color. I used my airbrush in white, choosing a smaller size to do the highlights and shines on the eyes and lips. 


I could have stopped here, because it does have that clean 80's Nagel style to it. But, I decided that I wanted to see a bit of shadow and contour around the face. So, I repeated the same process above, working on other layers, drawing and airbrushing until I was satisfied. I really wanted a heavier black line around the face, which is more like a drawing from a graphic novel. I tend to like high contrast. You can choose to flatten all of your layers when done, or not, it is your choice. As long as the layer is being shown in the layers box (not hidden), it will show up in your print out. The final touch was a bow made of real ribbon, glued to the front. The finished drawing ended up looking a little bit like Catherine Zeta Jones, which is never a bad thing, so I named the file ZetaFinal. This was a birthday card for a friend. 


Let me know in the comments if you would like to see more posts about the artistic process.


Accidental Portrait Painter

Painting portraits was never something that I thought I would be doing, and it took a bit of coaxing for me to try it. But now that I have, I must say that I love doing it. Painting people is inherently challenging because there are real expectations that it should look like the subject. Duh!! But when you succeed, it can be an amazing experience for the artist and the client.


Great Uncle Jack

Uncle Jack and Tia were like grandparents to my beau. His relationship with them was closely bonded over root beer floats and lots of time spent together.  Having never had children of their own, they doted upon their niece's two boys with generous helpings of love and guidance throughout their lives.

When I met Uncle Jack, he was 94 years old. He had suffered a stroke years earlier but still had an immense sense of pride in his home, his appearance,  and his family. His wife, whom we all call Tia, was often his spokeswoman, since words were sometimes difficult for him. At 93 years old, she peppered our first conversation with shared experiences, questions and a few self deprecating jokes. With her mental acuity, I found her truly inspiring....she was such a firecracker!  I immediately liked them both.

I was quite moved when I got the call that Uncle Jack had died. Shortly after, my partner asked me if I would paint a portrait of him to be displayed at the memorial. I remember having reservations. There was not a lot of time, only a week (although I admittedly work well under pressure). I was afraid of it not looking right and disappointing the family. He assured me that it did not matter if it was perfect.  I had very little experience, having only painted still life, collages and only a few figures with very little detail. But, with his gentle pushing, paired with loving encouragement, he wore down all of my arguments until I agreed.

He sent me a small photo in an email, which I printed out and taped to the side of my easel and began to paint. Normally, I don't take photos of my painting process, but because he was out of town (helping the family with arrangements) I took a few to keep him updated of the progress, which I am sharing here:

In the beginning, I sketch on the canvas with a small paintbrush to make the initial layout. I then fill in the outlines with some color,  using a lot of water in a wash technique. I make sure to indicate something in the background, even if it's only a wash of color.


This is the moment to step back and look for proportion problems. I realized that his face was too thin, his ear was too long and the glasses were rounded too high at the top. You will notice that I shortened the ear with a dark brown to be painted over later.


The final version. I added blue to the background to bring out the blue in his eyes. You can see I covered the brown paint on the ear with dark blue. I needed to get that depth of dark areas in his hair and under the lapel. Because of the white in his shirt and hair, I decided to keep some of the background showing, keeping the left side more 'detailed' and the right side less so.


The make or break part of any portrait is the eyes. We communicate with eye contact, and in a portrait we need to find that same familiarity in looking into the eyes. The true test was Tia. As a woman in mourning, it was expected that she would cry when we gave it to her, and she did. She missed her husband dearly and was overwhelmed with being alone after 65 years of marriage. All day long at the memorial people kept telling me that I was very talented and wanted to know how much I charge for portraits? Um.........I wasn't really prepared for that. I had no idea at that moment, but with such praise and encouragement, it gave me a reason to figure it out.

The unexpected surprise was that Tia keeps the portrait on her mantle and says it makes her feel like he is with her still. It gives her immense comfort and she looks at it every day. She said, "the painting is better than any picture because of the way you captured him. His eyes, smile, and favorite shirt make the picture come alive." That is the ultimate compliment. I had no idea that I could have such a positive impact on someone's life with a painting. Thank you Tia. It was my pleasure. This is what makes me want to do it again........maybe for you!