Monthly Archives: September 2014

pencil sketch on vellum
Larger sketch. Pencil on vellum.

Sea Daydream: Process Part 2
What's wrong with this picture?

As I wrote in part 1, I was repurposing a rejected sketch and aiming for a dream-like quality. The larger sketch just wasn't "it". Something wasn't sitting right for me. At this point I was stubborn and decided I was going to solve this my self so didn't bother bouncing ideas off people. (I'm glad I stuck it out. I needed the visual problem solving practice)

mitzuk_seadaydream_thumbs3I decided the problem was the symmetrical arm placement so started playing with arm and hand poses and positioning of the figure within the frame.

I thought I had a solution so I started another large sketch (pencil on vellum again).


pencil sketch on vellum by christine mitzuk
Larger sketch. Pencil on vellum.

I liked the new hand placement and the morphing into waves/sky. The fish got more attention. I made sure to overlap the fish with other elements and tried to make an interesting arabesque of their contour. At this point, the idea of scales on her face started to creep in. I had also fallen in LOVE with the goldfish.

But something still seemed off.

I decided there was too much separation between the elements. No real flow throughout the piece. There was a little flow up through her arm/hands/tilt of head, but everything else fought that flow. There were also 3 layers: jellies; goldfish/head & hair and none of them were really interacting with the others. I thought, "I need something to connect those layers. A visual bridge of some kind."

pencil sketch on vellum by christine mitzuk
Larger sketch. Pencil on vellum.

Lion Fish! Of course. Larger bodies and fins that extend up, down, and out. Perfect. Okay. Now I felt like I was on a roll. I still needed to figure out what the hair/sea/sky was doing and get some reference for a face. But I thought I had it. (Poor goldfish.)

I showed this version to some of my trustworthy critique people. They suggested maybe giving her something to hold (shell, starfish, or sand dollar). So I tried a few of those out. Instead of redrawing I made drawings on tracing paper of just hands holding things. No destruction of the sketch plus I could tilt and turn the tracing paper to try out placement of the hand & object. Also, as I did more research I learned that sand dollars are thought of as coins lost by mermaids. Interesting. I liked that idea so now she's holding a sand dollar.


pencil sketch on vellum by christine mitzuk
Larger sketch. Pencil on vellum.

Great! I've got it! I was feeling pretty good. I could finally move on with the piece. But there was so much stuff in the picture. So I let it rest for a bit to get a fresh look.

When I came back, yup too much stuff. Still no flow. The main focus of interest was lost. The fish were competing with the head. The "story" was muddied (there was no clear idea). My eyes felt like they were in a pinball machine bouncing from shape to shape.

pencil sketch on vellum by christine mitzuk
Fifth and final larger sketch. Pencil on vellum.





So I stripped it down. No jellies. No big fish. Just the figure holding a sand dollar, the dream-like quality, and the sea. I went back to my notes to see what else I could use to set the scene (kelp, little fish). I started making abstract shapes with the lasso tool in Photoshop. I tried to keep flow in mind, and the hierarchy of information: figure 1, sea things 2, hair/waves/sky 3, supporting details (small fish, gulls, wave crest).

That's how we got here and what would soon be a painting.

Next week: preparatory studies and paint.

A while back I said I'd post the process this piece went through so here we go!

Sea Daydream: Process Part 1

Here's the finished version. As I mentioned, she went through a lot of changes.

oil painting of a woman holding a sand dollar and staring dreamily into the distance, perhaps she's a mermaid, by christine mitzuk
A personal piece, Sea Daydream.











initial concept for sea dream rough sketch by christine mitzuk initially for pisces image for Llewellyn's 2015 astrological calendar
Initial concept sketch for what would become Sea Daydream. It was a rejected concept for the Pisces image for the astrological calendar.

She started out as a rejected sketch from the astrology calendar project. This was an early concept for the Pisces image. The gulls, fish with connecting thread, jellyfish, and orchid in her hair are all symbols related to Pisces.

Since it was rejected, and I get to keep the rights to my work from this project, I decided to make this into a personal painting.

I was enamored of the dreamlike quality. My intent was to create a misty, nebulous mood so it was unclear if she was dreaming of the sea or immersed within it.

On to thumbnails!

mitzuk_seadaydream_thumbs2The image was no longer associated with Pisces so I could do away with the ribbon and glyph at the bottom.  I could also get rid of the thread linking the fish.

To make it my own I decided that I wanted to play up the nebulous, dream-like quality.  I needed to figure out how to create that feeling so I did lots of thumbnails. I also brainstormed words that I thought related to the sea and the quality/mood I was after.

mitzuk_seadaydream_thumbs1I'll often do thumbnails on printer paper. Something just to get the ideas out and not be overly precious about them (not yet anyway).

The First Larger Sketch

Thinking I was all set, I did a line drawing on vellum (Canson Vellum, 9"x12", 55 lb). At this point I referred to some photo reference I took of myself in the pose. I also referenced fish and jellyfish. I was just roughing them all in, going for general shape and placement.

pencil sketch on vellum
Larger sketch. Pencil on vellum.

I didn't get very far with this. While trying to make things look "right" I made it stiff. Plus there was something else missing. It just wasn't sitting right with me. I let it sit for a bit and gave it some thought.

Tune in next week for part 2 as we venture further down the winding path of composition.

Here's a little sneak peek at a personal piece I'm working on.

fire elemental digital painting photoshop by christine mitzuk
A sample of my Fire Elemental image.

She started out as rough thumbnails on paper, then a larger sketch on vellum (about 7" x 10"). I scanned in the sketch then did some rough digital value and color studies. Now I'm painting her digitally in Photoshop. She's next in my Elementals series. The first was the Air Elemental.

Painting Minis, also to be referred to as "Wadya mean the world isn't flat?!"

I blame my husband. Well, I blame him and our friends Cathy and Jim Wappel. And by blame I mean thanks for the mental shake-up. Painting the minis has been an enjoyable way to refill my creative well.

It all started with a game that we now have in which there are some amazing detailed Cthulhu themed resin miniatures. They're all the boring grey resin color so I, being the artist in the family, was tasked with painting them. I thought it would be fun. What the heck, why not.

Then I went into "serious" mode.

I researched paints, picked Jim's brain (go check his blog, he's an amazing artist) and my local resource (Source Comics and Games).

I picked up a few Reaper Bones series miniatures on which to practice. Here's one of them.

reaper mini silverhorn unicorn bones painted by christine mitzuk
The Silverhorn Unicorn from the Dark Heaven Bones series of minis by Reaper. I decided to paint it as a creature of fire. Approximately 2.25"x2.75".

Painting something someone else sculpted has been kind of relaxing. The gesture and "bones" of the composition are figured out. I just need to figure out how I want to enhance it with value and color. There's also no environment to figure out, but I think part of the trick is going to be to hint at there being an environment acting on the figure.

Anyway, if I waited till they were perfect, no one would see them so here's what I have so far. I've been painting them when I feel like it in the evenings. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the creatures, the ones below (Hastur and Yog-Sothoth) are mentioned in H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos.

Hastur Mini painted by Christine Mitzuk
He's only maybe 2.5" tall. Hastur. Just don't say his name out loud.
Yog-Sothoth Mini1 painted by Christine Mitzuk
Yog-Sothoth, also about 2.5" tall. Let's call this its front.
Yog-Sothoth Mini2 painted by christine mitzuk
Yog-Sothoth, also about 2.5" tall. Let's call this its back.

If you're curious, I've been using mainly Reaper Mini paint, except for Yellow Ochre from Vallejo. For the palette I went with a warm and cool of yellow, red, and blue, plus a few colors I can't mix (Magenta, Turquoise, Black, White, Yellow Ochre, and "Redstone Highlight" a kind of dull Venetian Red). To paint I've been using mainly a #4 bristle filbert, a #8 synthetic round that no longer comes to a point, a #4 and #3/0 synthetic round.

I think I'm going to have to go back and buy a few intense greens. I do have a Cthulhu to paint after all.