spqrblues: (Domitian forgets)
2017-09-16 01:33 pm
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A Year of Four Emperors

I'd forgotten I'd meant to put something like this in the printed book for Chapters I-IV. I was flipping through some printer's proof pages and remembered all the future emperors Felix stumbles across in Chapter II.

The fact that one person can meet, say, 7 emperors in a single lifetime doesn't say much for imperial longevity, does it...

Year of the Four Emperors-to-be
spqrblues: (Antikythera hands)
2017-09-09 10:28 am

Testing new tech

I've heard wild and wonderful things about drawing comics on the new iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil (and an app called ProCreate--yikes). Maybe someday some new tech can join the art-supplies arsenal.

This test drawing is of a mishmash because I used about six different digital brushes/pens/pencils all on top of one another. I can see doing pencils and inking for the comic digitally, but I'll always be devoted to working with my actual ancient palette and its assorted exciting poisonous pigments.

In other news, any of you who supported the Kickstarter should have gotten both a backer survey and a download link by now; please let me know if you haven't received both.
spqrblues: (Antikythera hands)
2017-07-10 05:40 pm
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Sketch of the day: daily watercolour #5

After doodling a bee, I got it in my head I'd draw Wonder Woman in the leftover space, but somehow ended up turning her into Venus (the "on the battlefield with Felix" version), as you do. The greens and yellows are modern-style paints; the rest are from the ancient palette.

The sample paper--you can see its specs in the image--is Canson's Moulin du Roy. I have a sketch pad with their Montval watercolour paper, and don't like the way it handles water, and I think paints look dull on it. This is a higher-end paper, while Montval is meant to be student grade.

I like this Moulin du Roy paper a lot. It's less textured than some cold press papers (fine grain); it feels smooth and easy to work on. Buckling/warping, when not taped down, is minimal. It was happy to let me do a light pencil sketch, erase it, do another, erase it, about 10 times. The inked line was done with a 005 (very fine) Micron pen, which went down okay, considering this is textured paper and not the best surface for a pen like that.

There's something...I dunno...a little bit dirty about the surface, as if it had been left out to collect dust, but I'm not sure whether that's literally true, whether it picked up dirt in my bag, or whether there are grey fibers or other particles in the paper itself. I didn't notice it until I was peering at the art close up. I feel like the colours lose some of their vividness on this paper, but the fine-grain texture might be a fair trade off.

Update after holding it up to an east-facing window: Actually, colours look very vivid in the sort of direct bright sunlight one isn't supposed to expose one's paintings to.

Non-staining colours don't lift off this paper with the breezy ease of the previous papers I've tested this month. Paints seem to dry more quickly, which is good if you're impatient like me. My homemade earth-tone paints blend and layer easily on it. I have another sample sheet of the cold press, and I'd like to do more tests with it, and I'd like to try the heavier weight version. It makes me want to go out and do architectural paintings, of ruined temples and tumbled columns....

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spqrblues: (arch scribe)
2017-07-09 02:59 pm

Sketch of the day: daily watercolour #3

This is another paper made by St Cuthberts Mill, called Bockingford. It's 140lb cold press, like the Millford paper, though it feels ever so slightly stiffer, and the texture is ever so slightly rougher. When doused with the same amount of water as I put on the Millford, it warped and didn't dry back flat on its own like the Millford--but it flattened out after I forgot it in the scanner for a while. Layering on this paper is easier; I've been adding layer after layer on the skin tone, and not only didn't accidentally scrub off the previous layers of paint (as with the Millford), but see no damage to the paper.

The manufacturer says: "traditionally made on a cylinder mould machine...surface is created using natural woollen felts that give it a distinctive random texture. Appreciated for its excellent colour lifting abilities. This is an extremely forgiving watercolour paper."

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spqrblues: (arch scribe)
2017-07-09 02:57 pm

Sketch of the day: daily watercolour #4

(Also today, because I accidentally didn't post it: daily watercolour #3)

I let this dry a few days before going back to it so I could try layering paint. In the meantime I seem to have forgotten how I was doing the ponytail so that style could be continued for the rest of her hair. Lots of tweaking and changing is still in progress.

Still, every time I think I've pushed the paper too far with corrections and new layers, it puts up with me.

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spqrblues: (Antikythera hands)
2017-07-04 06:55 am
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Sketch of the day: daily watercolour #2

Today's test paper is Daler-Rowney's Langton Prestige, 140lb/300gsm cold press/"not."

I didn't like it all that much. This drawing incorporates homemade paints, Indigo, Japanese-style Kuretake Gansai Tambi paint (did not play well with the paper), and various commercial-brand watercolours (Sennelier, M Graham, MaimeriBlu, & Daniel Smith). The paper holds up perfectly fine to lots of water (which seems to dry oddly quickly), to lifting/scrubbing off paint, and layering. I think the various paints look a bit lifeless in a way that's hard to quantify.
spqrblues: (Antikythera hands)
2017-07-03 02:31 pm

Sketch of the day: daily watercolour

I have at least 30 (possibly more) different types of watercolour sampler papers that I'd like to test, so I'm going to try to do a little piece of art each day--maybe during lunch breaks, so I can make sure I do them quickly, not worrying about the drawing details. Or worrying about, you know, anatomy and stuff.

Also of course I'm going to try to keep the comic chugging along.

Today's "spend no more than an hour on it this time" test of the paper samples stars St. Cuthbert's Mill Milford 140lb cotton cold press ("not") paper.

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Light pencil erases easily; paints lift well; the paper warps when wet but dries flat; and I discovered I need to learn PATIENCE before layering on this type of paper--it doesn't dry immediately, but stays workable for a while, so I found myself accidentally scrubbing off the underlayer of paint.

I was also being my usual timid self, and the colours looked a bit washed out. I think more (patient) layering would give a much more vivid result, judging by how bright the more pigment-dense paints along the side look when thumped on the paper in masstone (in "full strength," so to speak).
spqrblues: (arch scribe)
2017-06-13 11:00 pm
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ICYMI: sketches of today

Posted on Twitter today: I played with a sampler of QoR watercolours today (instead of getting the next comic done--but it was something I could do while thinking through the next complicated(!) steps in the plot).

QoR paints are made with a synthetic substitute for gum arabic, a binder traditionally used in watercolours and mostly sourced from one type of acacia tree in Sudan. I've heard that the synthetic binder is used in art preservation, but that disqualifies QoR paints from joining my ancient palette, even as a substitute for something poisonous :) The paints needed some finessing to work nicely on the sketchbook paper. They wouldn't be my first choice of paints, but some artists like them. I'll keep playing with them until my tiny sampler runs out.

These are photos, not scans, so the colours and proportions are slightly different in each Iusta image.

(click 'em to see larger)

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spqrblues: (Antikythera hands)
2017-06-04 02:56 pm
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Sunday Red: warmup sketch

Warmup sketch with two reds--kermes (bugs) on the left, cinnabar hue (substitute for genuine mercury vermilion) on the right.

I'm always worried I'll overshoot the mark and ruin a painting by overworking it, but I'm planning to do a second layer (glaze) on the cinnabar red and on the skin tones when this is fully dry.

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spqrblues: (arch scribe)
2017-03-29 12:01 am

Sketch of the day: balancing books

At this rate I'll actually fill a sketchbook. It's been a while since I've done that.

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spqrblues: (SPQR olc.net)
2017-03-28 12:01 am

Sketch of the day: battle goddess

Felix swears, he really did have help in that battle that time.

(click to see larger...)

spqrblues: (White Rose)
2017-03-27 12:00 pm

Sketch of the day: slightly foreshortened

I'm making my way through the pages of that Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook and, y'know, I don't hate it. It's ok. One good thing about it has been that, because it's been such a challenge to see whether it can live up to its hype, I've been filling the pages with test pieces, instead of being too timid to "ruin" the book by doing art wrong.

This sketch took me a while to figure out, and the pencils were erased many times before the page was inked then the light wash was put on. The paper held up extremely well to all the erasing, and although it seemed to buckle a lot with the water, it's flattening out. Not completely flat, but no worse than the previous pages.

I was going to watercolour the whole thing, add in more Felix-y details, and include Venus in the drawing, but started liking it as is. Of course, he might see Venus anyway. It's hard to tell with him.

Alternatively, he might be describing a fish that got away....

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Hmm. This just dredged up a memory. Once when I drew something and didn't completely define each finger, the editor said it looked like the character's fingers had been "fused together in a horrible industrial accident." I'm not bothered.
spqrblues: (arch scribe)
2017-03-26 08:43 am

Sketch of the day: Antikythera guy

Today's warmup sketch is based on the "Antikythera youth" statue that was found in the same shipwreck site as the Antikythera mechanism. On Fluid cold-press paper; pencil, ancient palette watercolours, no subligaculum.

I'm sure I'll find all sorts of things to nitpick about the drawing in the morning, as I always do :)

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spqrblues: (arch scribe)
2017-03-23 01:34 pm
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Sketch of the day (and a review): Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook

Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbookI was planning to give a lukewarm-to-negative report on the Stillman & Birn Alpha softcover pocket sketchbook. A few pages in, the binding was fine, though the same could be said for the Delta sketchbook that after a few pages more cracked and tore between signatures. I tried brush pen and different types of pencils on the Alpha’s smooth white paper (there’s only the smallest bit of tooth to it), and the results were meh, both in the look of ink on the paper and the feel of working with it.

The Alpha is praised as excellent all-purpose (ink, pencil, wash) heavyweight paper (150gsm weight--but to quote artist Ursula Vernon (@UrsulaV): This cardstock is not "heavyweight." Heavyweight means I can beat a man to death with a pack.)

review and some artings )

spqrblues: (Ave Sweetums)
2017-03-11 10:36 am

Sketch of the day: warmup doodle

Yesterday's warmup: An ATC-size mini-painting using the ancient pigments. This particular paper (Strathmore cold press watercolor artist cards) started feathering at the underpainting, so I didn't try too much layering or detail, but I'm getting better at understanding how each individual pigment wants to be coddled.

I used all the pigments except the lapis lazuli blue. I'll save that for a fancier piece :)

spqrblues: (Antikythera hands)
2017-02-21 12:01 am
Entry tags:

Doodle of the day

Today's doodle was going to be a comic in the regular lineup, but the idea was just a little bit too silly :)

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This version was made with watercolours created by hand from some pigments I picked up a long while ago--all of them pigments used in ancient Roman painting: Yellow Ochres, Red Ochres, Brown Siennas, Lamp Black, Cinnabar (equivalent), and Green Earth. Which is close to the prehistoric cave-painting palette, except for the bright Cinnabar red. One thing I don't have on my palette yet is an ancient-style blue (which might be made from a pigment created by the Egyptians called Blue Frit, or made from Lapis Lazuli). It took a long time for artists to come up with a more vivid blue pigment that was stable and was not as hideously expensive as ground-up gemstones.

I don't know whether I made these watercolours well enough to last a couple of thousand years, but they do scan pretty nicely.
spqrblues: (Antikythera hands)
2017-01-02 03:19 pm

DO ART WRONG: Artist's (Watercolour Paper) Block

Like a lot of artists and writers, I have trouble with a blank page. Sometimes, that blank page is a beautiful, perfect sketchbook, an actual physical object I might ruin. I find having a new sketchbook to be encouraging at first--this or that paper or shape or size or heft looks inspiring, or the brand was recommended, or it was a gift...Then the sketchbooks lie in the art drawer for years. I don't have a nice little sitting room or atelier where I can display their prettiness to visitors, so the books stay unseen (plus I don't actually have visitors). Say someone asks whether I've used the gorgeous, lovingly selected drawing journal they gave me--I try to find a way not to say outright that, well, I did a little bitty drawing on the first page and the drawing wasn't worthy of the journal's beauty so I was too hesitant to sully more of the book's pristine perfection with imperfect nonsense.

Edepol! The cover's been creased and its perfection ruined! How will I bear to look at it now?

Sketches of the Day... )
Semi-Related Recommendation: If you love the love of history and archaeology and discovery, and are in the mood for a quietly (and sometimes outrageously) funny comedy, try Detectorists, created by actor/writer/director Mackenzie Crook (The Office, Pirates of the Caribbean). It's available in the US on Netflix. It gave me all the feels there are. It made me want to stick with something I love, even if it breaks my heart sometimes, even if it means ruining a perfect sketchbook cover. @detectorists
spqrblues: (arch scribe)
2016-10-03 09:53 am

SPQR Blues sketch(es) of the day: a scribbled flashback

A random Egyptian night, some years ago...

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There's evidence from the wear and scuffing on mummies (of ordinary Graeco-Roman-Egyptian folks) that they were kept upright in or near the home, or else were brought out and set up for special occasions, until eventually being buried, maybe after a generation or two.
spqrblues: (Ugly Girl)
2016-09-05 12:00 pm

Sketch of the day: selfie

This is what my self portraits usually look like:

1073256 10732562 1073256

Well, that's what they look like when I'm in a charitable mood.

For some reason I decided, as long as I'm on a watercolour kick, to try a fancier self portrait. After I scanned it...

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Does it actually look like me? I dunno. Marginally?