Thursday, November 14, 2013

Blue Assassin

Blue Assassin
6 x 6
oil on panel 
Playing with paint! Another quick character study I liked.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Shell and Spoon study


Just a quick oil painting study (about 1 hour), playing around with color and texture. Painting shells is such a fun challenge- I can't wait to do some more.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Neil deGrasse Tyson


charcoal/digital
Neil deGrasse Tyson is simply one of my favorite human beings. The joy, passion and eloquence with which he discusses (and defends) science and astrophysics makes me grateful we share stardust. I've had this charcoal drawing floating around for a bit and decided I needed to toss some pixels onto it and share.

I am so so SO excited for his sequel to Carl Sagan's Cosmos next year:


(if you don't get chills watching this, we can't be friends)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Flux

"Flux"
6 x 6 oil on panel 
Another quickie oil sketch that I ended up liking. Maybe she wants more work, maybe she doesn't. But no matter how she ends up, sometimes those "in between" moments are fun to linger on.

I am working to get to a place of confidence where I can bring in some more of that "in betwee-ness" to my finished work. I think many realist painters end up going through something similar. I love the way it looks when done right- it brings an "alive-ness" to the piece and creates more of a dialogue with the viewer. Artists Like Jeffrey Catherine Jones, Rick Berry, Greg Manchess and Jeremy Mann do it beautifully.

I tell my students: Good art is as much about what you can leave out as what you can put in. And the first one is much, much harder to do well I think.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Amanda Palmer Tarot- The Seven of Wands

Some of you may have already heard about the Amanda Palmer Tarot Deck, it has been in the works for years now. Now the deck is finally going to see the light of day and I can share what I did for it! Thanks in large to Madeline Carol Matz, who started rallying the 78 or so amazing artists in earnest (no easy task!) and organized a kickstarter to get it properly off the ground, this deck is now happening in a big way! There are still a few weeks to get your own deck, so check it out and help us exceed our goal even more. The more this gets funded, the more the artists get paid!
Digital

The initial instruction way back when this assignment was first given was to base the card off a particular song. I always loved  Astronaut, from her Who Killed Amanda Palmer series and when I read the description of what the Seven of Wands stood for, it seemed a perfect match. For me, this song was about the people who are simply destined for greater things. You've met them.They have a little extra spark, they don't seem to have any fear and don't worry about failure. They are the mad geniuses who come along and shake up their corner of the world. The Prometheuses, the  √úbermensches. These are the people who make a lot of sacrifices and may give up a little of that human connection because they are so focused on doing something a little bit larger than life. They are magical and terrifying and we flock to them like moths to a flame.  Astronaut is the the song of the Moth.

I wanted my image to embody to that very human desire to steal fire from the gods.  While everyone has some capacity for this,  I think this is something especially familiar to artists. The creative struggle is long and hard and full of obstacles. Whether it's the people around us who are standing in our way  or own personal demons, it is an unending battle. But it's a battle worth fighting if, even for a moment, we get to touch a little fire.


Seven of Wands from the Rider-Waite Tarot deck
From the Wiki page for the card : "The Seven of Wands is a card that when upright, means a testing time calling for courage and tenacity for long-term success. In the Rider-Waite deck, the person braces themselves in a defensive pose against the other wands prodding in his direction. Looking strained and stressed, but standing firm, he appears to stand on a hill, or straddle a mountain range, to symbolise his strong footing. The Seven of Wands defender stands ready for battle. It is about defending the footing gained. It is the ability to cultivate the struggles at hand into a stronger position. He stands alone against a multitude, but perseveres. It is he alone who maintains the fight and is not beaten."



"Astronaut"
music and lyrics by Amanda Palmer

Is it enough to have some love
Small enough to slip inside a book.
Small enough to cover with your hand
Because everyone around you wants to look

Is it enough to have some love
Small enough to fit inside the cracks
The pieces don't fit together so good
With all the breaking and all the gluing back

And I am still not getting what I want
I want to touch the back of your right arm
I wish you could remind me who I was
Because every day I'm a little further off

But you are, my love, the astronaut
Flying in the face of science
I will gladly stay an afterthought
Just bring back some nice reminders

And is it getting harder to pretend
That life goes on without you in the wake?
And can you see the means without the end
In the random frantic action that we take?

And is it getting easy not to care
Despite the many rings around your name
It isn't funny and it isn't fair
You've traveled all this way and it's the same

But you are, my love, the astronaut
Flying in the face of science
I will gladly stay an afterthought
Just bring back some nice reminders

I would tell them anything to see you split the evening
But as you see I do not have an awful lot to tell
Everybody's sick for something that they can find fascinating
Everyone but you and even you aren't feeling well

Yes you are, my love, the astronaut
Crashing in the name of science
Just my luck they found your upper half
It's a very nice reminder
It's a very nice reminder

And you may be acquainted with the night
But I have seen the darkness in the day
And you must know it is a terrifying sight
Because you and I are living the same way

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Lucy Blueskies

I finally got around to some figure drawing this week at the Boston Figurative Art Center. They had a young Burlesque model, Lucy Blueskies, who was great. I got a few fun sketches and a watercolor in:





Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Frog Queen's Revenge

Earlier this year Jim Burke asked me to contribute a piece to the Dellas Graphics Frogfolio. If you've never heard of it, basically it's a calendar featuring all frog-themed illustrations. Some of my favorite artists have been included in this showcase (Victo Ngai, Sam Weber, Yuko Shimizu, the list goes on. Leigh Guldig did the cover illustration) and I was thrilled  to be asked.

Almost immediately I knew I wanted to do something around the old Brothers Grimm story of the Frog Prince (read here if unfamiliar). I never really liked the princess in this story- she's sort of a brat. I thought, what is the story that isn't getting told here? With this seed planted and many sketches later, I discovered what I wanted to do: a sequel.

Because I create better when I have a solid story, I kept  fleshing out details of the sequel in my head as I worked out the image.  I realized I quite liked this character. I not only wanted to paint her, I wanted to tell her whole story. So after I finished the painting,  I sat down and wrote it out.

So here you are: a brand new painting and some Grimm Brothers fan-fiction to go along. I hope you like it! There are some notes on the process at the end.

16 x 20
oil on panel

The Frog Queen’s Revenge
by Kristina Carroll

When the large, ugly frog that had followed the little Princess up from the forest turned out to be an enchanted Prince, the Kingdom rejoiced. What a handsome Prince! What a rich kingdom he’s from! What a lucky girl to break the spell! There were lavish feasts and colorful parades. The well in the dark forest behind the castle where the frog had lived was even given a shiny bronze plaque.

 The King had been especially pleased. The Princess may have been a bit too young to marry, but she was near enough. It was no secret that the Kingdom was no longer rich and the King had very little to offer in the way of dowries. The chance to send the girl off with just a small corner of land and a new, powerful family member was more than he could have ever hoped for. Thank goodness for witches! He’d thought. The bond that comes from spell breaking was sacred and absolute. Though the Princess was already quite beautiful for one so young with golden hair and a rosy mouth, beauty did not win wars or pay for roads. The King knew that all too well. Breaking the Prince’s enchantment was the only way the little Princess could have ever made such a rich and powerful match.  The King now thanked the good fortune that had led the Frog to their castle that night.
At first, when the slimy thing knocked on the door of the castle saying the Princess had made a deal with it, the King had been red with anger and beat the Princess. She tearfully admitted to going down to the well to play with her favorite toy: a little golden ball that had belonged to her mother. She’d been playing too close to the edge, peering down into its depths, when suddenly the frog jumped out at her. Startled, she dropped the ball and watched it disappear into the darkness.  The Princess thought of how angry her father would be at her losing the precious toy and was frightened. She could only say yes when the frog offered to retrieve her ball in exchange for a promise to bring it to the castle as her companion. However, when it returned and she was faced with carrying the ugly creature back, she grew scared and ran away.
                 Normally the King would have simply stepped on such a disgusting thing, talking or not, if it came knocking on the door claiming a debt owed. However, the King thought it a very clever punishment to make the frog eat from the girl’s plate and then send it off to bed with her. She was clearly repulsed by it.
                “When you are so careless that you need to enlist the aid of slimy creatures that crawl upon the ground, you have earned no better than to share your bed with them.” The King growled as the Princess sat weeping on the stone floor and wiping a bleeding lip.  “We are royalty, child! The source of our power defines us!”

Clearly fortune had rewarded the King’s wisdom and good sense. He never did ask exactly how the spell had been broken, he didn’t care. All that mattered was that the Princess was gone to be wed in the far off kingdom and he’d already received a very generous gift of fine silks from the Prince that he could begin trading.

◊◊◊

When the young Princess arrived in the Frog’s kingdom, (for in her mind, he would always be The Frog) she was terrified. The customs, language, dress and even the weather were all alien to her. She was utterly alone apart from an old, one-eyed handmaid that was given to her. And when her wedding came, she spent the first of many nights silently sobbing on her side of their bed.

The Frog may have changed his form, but it was soon clear he was still slimy and was not kind. His father, the old King, was blind and useless so the Frog Prince was ruler in all but name and wielded his power cruelly. She wished she could once again throw him against the wall of her bedchamber like she did that first night he’d crawled, slippery and cold, into bed with her. She fantasized about the violence turning him back into the little wet creature and then ripping off his legs to be fried for her supper. (The Princess had found a delicious irony that frog legs were actually a delicacy in this Kingdom and ate them whenever she could.)

                When the Princess woke one cold, winter morning with red on her sheets, she was certain she was dying. She sat shivering and horrified as her old handmaid explained what was happening and what it meant.
                “Don’t be afraid, little bird.” The handmaid had said with a soft voice and a spark in her good eye as she stroked the girl’s hair. ‘Little Bird’ was the handmaid’s nick-name for the Princess: ‘Because all Princesses are little birds: pretty things in pretty cages.’  She was old and strange and spoke in riddles most of the time, but she had helped the Princess learn the ways of the kingdom and was the closest thing the girl had to a friend.  The Princess had asked the handmaid once how she lost her eye, but the old woman had just smiled.
                “Don’t be afraid,” the handmaid repeated, “for now the little bird has the power of life. This is a very strong power and it is only for the little birds. ”
                The Princess didn’t fully understand what the old handmaid had meant but for some reason her father’s words came back to her then: The source of our power defines us.

This secret could not be kept from the Frog and he became gentler for a time. Yet when the seasons came around to winter again and her belly still did not swell, he grew colder. Then the Frog’s old, blind father died. The Frog Prince and Princess were to become Frog King and Queen soon.  Finally the Frog turned from cold to hot with anger.  He came to the Princess’s chambers one day in a rage and threw her to the floor. He told her that spell-breaker or not, if she would not give him a son, he would have her thrown in the dungeons and forgotten.
    After the Frog left, the old handmaid helped the Princess rise off the stones. The girl looked through unshed tears at a canary in its elaborate gilded cage, a gift from her handmaid. It was still flitting around in agitation from the excitement.
                 “Grandmother…” The Princess began, using the endearment she had adopted for her handmaid in private, “Little birds have the power of life, it’s true. Our canary here has had many chicks. But do they not also have sharp beaks? I still have a scar on my hand from when I tried to take out one of her eggs to look at.”
                At this, the corner of the handmaid’s mouth turned up a bit and with a strange glint in her eye she took the Princess’s hands in her own. She looked very hard at the Princess for a long time, until the girl grew afraid. When she tried to break away, the old woman’s grip was iron.
                “Yes. You are ready I think.” The handmaid said finally. Then she began to tell a story. The Princess’s eyes grew wide first in surprise, then fear and finally, hunger.

                The handmaid told of a Prince who was spoiled and cruel. He liked to torment the servants, especially the girls. When a particular young handmaid fought back, scratching his face, he had one of his soldiers hold her down while he cut out one of her eyes with a knife. He kept the eye in an amulet around his neck as a warning to anyone else who might defy him. However, the young handmaid only grew strong in her anger and so she sought out a witch to teach her of those secret magics known only to women. Many years she practiced and grew more powerful just as the Prince grew crueler. When finally it was time for the Prince to choose a wife, the handmaid was ready with her magic and cast an enchantment.  The Prince chose a Princess, beautiful and rich, from a far off kingdom. However, when he took his new wife to their bedchamber on their wedding night and closed the door; she suddenly turned into a rotting corpse. His screaming brought the guards but as soon as others were beholding the girl, she turned beautiful again.  Certain of some dark magic, he had his wife thrown in the dungeon and married again. Once more, as soon as he took his new wife to their bedchamber, she turned into a corpse. He kept trying, but every new girl, while lovely in anyone else’s presence, became rotting and putrid as soon as they were alone. At last the madness and humiliation drove him to a fit of desperation. The Prince took his knife and cut out his own eyes, breaking the spell. Finally he was able to bed his newest wife, who was plain and not from a rich Kingdom but kind and wise. When the Prince’s father died and they became King and Queen, she became the power behind the throne. She ordered all his previous wives released from the dungeons and returned to their homes. Next to the King, she ruled the kingdom well for many years.

                “Unfortunately she died giving birth to their only child. A boy. Without the Queen, the old cruelty passed from father to son and I saw the pattern repeating itself. The Prince liked to torture small creatures so I decided to turn him into one of them. The spell would not be broken until a Princess made him feel as helpless as the little things he tormented. I had hoped it would teach him a lesson, but perhaps even my power wasn’t strong enough in his case.”
                The handmaid ended her story and released the Princess’s hands. The girl stared hard at the floor for several long minutes and then straightened her back and raised her chin.
                “You will teach me.” It was not a question.
    The old handmaid looked at the Princess for a long time. Then she smiled.

◊◊◊

                Years after the young King mysteriously disappeared, supposedly on some crusade or another; the land had grown fruitful and prosperous under the Queen’s rule.  Although she may have been a bit young to be Queen, she was wise and no one missed the cruel King. Still, tales began spreading to other Kingdoms about the wealth to be found in the Kingless land, tempting those who thought to claim it.  Though many armies marched, and many suitors came, the Queen turned aside every last challenge to her power.

                 There were whispers of witchcraft, but they never became louder than whispers. The Kingdom loved the Queen and only grew richer under her rule and so, Witch or not, the people would not speak against her.
                However, the Queen did have one particular strangeness that kept the whispers from dying out completely. More than the lavish balls, the string of lovers, the eccentric fashions, it was her crown that kept the hushed rumors going.
                After the King had disappeared and she took his throne, the Queen decided that she needed a new symbol for her power as ruler.  She took an elaborate gilded cage and had it fashioned to sit comfortably on her head. It towered above her in a dance of sparkling ornament and delicate bars. Still, it was not so much the new crown itself that was unusual. It was the other thing.

                For always inside the cage, contrasting with the beautiful craftsmanship, it sat.  Looking out dolefully from two wet, yellow eyes and occasionally giving a half-hearted croak was a very large, very ugly frog.


 ◊ The End 



Preliminary Drawing
Pencil on Paper

Below is one of my early concepts that I started mocking up digitally. I really liked it but worried that the full body composition would make the frog too small. It was important he got noticed.


Some thumbnails and quick value study:



I love high fashion and try to steal from it whenever I can. Tex Saverio and Alexander McQueen are two of my favorite designers. They provided a lot of inspiration for this piece.

Tex Saverio
Alexander McQueen
Photo by Scott Bakal

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sketchbook Tourist


photo by Irene Gallo
Like most artists, I am rarely to be found without my sketchbook. I try to sketch a little from life every day, especially people. Recently, thanks to some pushing from Scott Bakal, I discovered the joys and challenges of sketching with pen. Right now I'm using a .5 black micron, but will upgrade to a portable fountain pen and/or brush pen soon. Sketching with pen has been a revelation for me, who can noodle and erase for (stupid amounts of time) and still not be happy. Pen sketching builds confidence, accuracy, keener observation and simplification. All skills I really need to improve on because, frankly, I paint way too slow for my liking.


So below is a little compilation from my sketchbook over the last month or so.  We've travelled to Kansas, Florida and New York and found plenty of inspiration.


We watched this guy hunting fish in the shallows for a good
 half hour. The way he moved and struck earned him the
 nick-name, "ninja bird".

Scott and I took a week long "do nothing" trip to Lido Beach in Sarasota, FL. I love beach sketching. Every shape of person is around you with very little on, not standing still and acting natural. To me, it is one of the best places for life drawing practice outside of a studio. Not to mention all the neat wild-life! Egrets, Pelicans, Seagulls and plenty of birds I couldn't name. 

Had a few minutes to kill waiting for the
 train in South station when we got back.
This is one of my favorite pages.



Subway sketching is one of the things I miss most about living in NYC. So many extraordinary people in one place.I can't get enough when I visit.



Scott recently got a fancy new camera and often brings it along on our walks around the neighborhood. This means frequent stops when he sees something interesting and adjusts the settings. I decided to use this as an opportunity to see how much I could capture with VERY little time and ended up having to really push my simplicity.Good art is as much about what you can leave out as put in, so this was a great exercise.




Here are a couple rogue sketches from Spectrum Live that I forgot to add. Superstar AD Mark Chiarello from DC and a quick model sketch from The Art Department's rooftop life-drawing session.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

It's Halloween in July! A song and a drawing.

So one of my best friends, Lucy, who is a very skilled musician (fun fact: she is also one of the three "Wyrds") has been doing this extraordinary weekly song-writing challenge through the Ignition Lab. I've been watching with delight as every week she writes, composes and records a new song, with a new baby no less! This week was especially fun, as she got to write about one of her favorite subjects: Halloween.

It was also fun because she had an image floating in her head during the process so decided that she needed some art to go with the music. She got in touch with me and commissioned a quick Medusa sketch to go along with the song. I hadn't even heard the song yet, but on Sunday I sat down  with my charcoal, then my wacom and came up with this:
Medusa
Charcoal and Digital
And today I got to hear Lucy's song for the first time! It is fun and catchy and you should go listen too:


See all of Lucy's and the other Ignition Lab ladies ' videos here.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Grey Widow - Portrait Sketch

When I have been thinking in thumbnails/prelim drawings and color studies for too long, I like to just sit down with a couple reference photos from my library as inspiration and do a little free-form oil sketching for an hour or two. One of my favorite things to do is just make a little portrait of someone pretty. Some of them turn out terrible, some of them turn out ok and sometimes I really like them and end up seeing something I can take furthur. I would like to accumulate a good-sized series of these to show at some point. But for now, here is one of my recent favorites:

Grey Widow
Oil on Panel
5" x  5"

Friday, June 7, 2013

Spectrum Live sketches

Even though it's already been weeks since Spectrum Live, it is still fresh on my mind. The people I met, the art I saw, the presentations I took pages of notes in... it was 3 days of inspiration packed joy for this little fantasy artist. I am now on vacation but I wanted to share a few sketchbook highlights from the weekend before May fades too much.


Playing around with adding color to a quick plane sketch. I need to get more involved in this sort of experimenting in my sketchbook.


This guy was keeping watch outside our window. How appropriate! I think we all got sketches of him.


Lauren Panepinto- Art Director and master legging wearer.She likes when artists put watermarks on their art for easy locating. Fun fact: Her pinterest is a black hole of awesome that will suck hours from your life and leave you wanting more. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Month of Love

In February I organized a daily art challenge that included 20 amazing artists. Every day (except Sunday) was "love" themed art with a mix of free-style and detailed challenges. The Month of Love turned out to be a great exercise with some truly amazing art resulting from everyone, especially considering we rarely spent more than an hour on each piece. There is a ton of beautiful art up there- hundreds of pieces in fact and I urge you to go marvel at what these artist can do in such a short time. Here are some of my favorite pieces I came up with:

"Love Song Shuffle" Challenge:
 Ruby Tuesday by The Rolling Stones
oil
"Love is Blind" Challenge:
 charcoal
Freestyle Sunday - - Blue
watercolor
Neverending Story Love - The Childlike Empress
pencil
Cat Tryst
watercolor
Medea
charcoal/digital
Favorite Mug/Caffeine Love
oil
I love my job - life sketch of James Gurney at NHIA demo
pencil
"Mating Rituals" Challenge:
charcoal 
"I love you guys" - Portrait of the MoL artists challenge
Jeanine Henderson (who designed our layout)
oil

Below is one of my favorite challenges. It was a multiple day challenge leading up to Valentines Day and was meant to  be an autobiographical love story. I chose my first "boyfriend". Here is the full story:

In 6th grade Chris started walking me home from school and became my first boyfriend.


Chris and I talked on the phone a few times.


He even came over once to play on my jungle-gym with me.



When he gave me a big, purple ring from a cracker-jack box, I knew it was serious. I mean, our names were sort of the same so it was clearly meant to be.



Then one day, I waited for Chris to meet me after school and he didn't show up.  I was a little bit worried but convinced myself that he was just sick or something. However when I called his house later, he wasn't home and he didn't meet me the day after that either...


Later that week, I found out he had been walking Misty Powell home from School. He was no longer my boyfriend.

- The End -
See All my Month of Love work here