Greyscale Colouring – A new way to enjoy adult coloring

If you’ve been enjoying my coloring* books and you’re looking for a way to up your coloring game, you might be interested to try out my new Grayscale Coloring Editions! These books contain the same artworks as my existing coloring books, but printed as grayscale versions of the original paintings rather than recreated as new outlined versions. There are two books out already, and more coming soon! What exactly is grayscale coloring? Read on to find out and try a free sample yourself…

Grayscale Coloring- Unlike traditional outlined coloring

Grayscale coloring offers a different coloring experience than normal outlined designs. Coloring over a grayscale artwork where the tonal values are already in place means most of the shading has been done for you, creating much richer final creations like magic.

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How Does Grayscale Coloring Work?

Begin by coloring a single color over an entire area, just as you would fill a blank space in a traditional coloring book, and the grayscale image underneath does the work of shading for you. Advanced colorists can use the grayscale values as a guide to layering their own choices of light and dark colors. Working with a grayscale image is very similar to how artists work with monochrome or grisaille underpaintings, and is a great way to help train your eyes and hands to understanding values and creating beautiful artworks.

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Tips…

  • If you coloring pencils or mediums are too opaque or waxy and are covering up the grayscale image too much, practice varying how heavily you apply them. Sometimes you may need them thicker in the darker areas (when using a dark color), and sometimes you might need them thinner, allowing more black to show through (when using a lighter color), depending on the color you are using.
  • Work from dark to light. Lighter pencils can be waxy and prevent darker colors holding, and using light last over darker colours will help blend all the colors together.
  • Always keep your pencils well sharpened, you’ll get better results with less effort.
  • Try picking a light, medium, and dark color for each area and use the grayscale image as a guide for where to place them. The three shades don’t need to be the same color, for example, try lemon yellow for light areas, orange for medium, and red or purple for shadows. This is a great combination for skin.
  • To avoid skin looking muddy from the gray image underneath, use an orange-red color for the darker areas of skin, around fingers, toes, knees, elbows, shoulders, lips, cheeks, and nose to give the skin life.
  • A colorless blending marker can help blend colored pencils and remove some of the waxy shiny.
  • Instead of using black, try a very dark green, blue, or purple for the darkest areas for a more mystical look.

Ready to try it for yourself?

Not everyone likes grayscale coloring as it’s a different style to normal outlined coloring and requires a different way of working. So here’s are two free printable sample pages so you can try out grayscale coloring and see if it’s for you. I hope you love the results you get! Just click the image to download the full size.

SelinaFenech_GrayscaleFairy SelinaFenech_GrayscaleMermaid

Ready to try out a book?

There are two grayscale edition books out now, with more coming soon. You can get Fairy Art Grayscale Edition Coloring or Mermaids Grayscale Edition coloring from Amazon, or direct from me in Australia from my shop below.

*coloring, colouring, grayscale, greyscale! UK and US english differences are making my head spin! I publish in US english but I’m a UK english user naturally, so forgive me if I switch between the two sometimes!

Experimenting and Moon Boats

If you’ve been following my Facebook or Instagram feed, you’ll know I’ve been experimenting for a while now. Trying new media, trying new styles, trying to re-find myself I suppose.

A lot of my artworks these days start from nothing. No idea, no inspiration. Just me and a blank canvas and a pencil-brush-marker-whatever drawing tool I feel like at the time. And I just start drawing and see what happens. Or just start painting. Sometimes it doesn’t work and gets left behind to maybe come back to later (I’ve had a couple of “resurrections” of such pieces that then turned into something lovely). Every one has been a lesson in some way.

I’ve been trying to document the process a bit more, but I’ve never been a very methodical person. So basically I sometimes remember to snap photos. I wanted to share the series of photos from my recent painting, Moon Boat.

Stage One

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I was excited to score some 12×16 inch cradled wooden panels at a local craft store which is nigh unheard of here in Australia. Even a lot of the big art stores don’t stock them. So yay! I decided I wanted to try mixing a whole bunch of mediums on it, so I primed the board with Daniel Smith’s watercolor ground. Then I splashed a bunch of watercolour paint on it. Then some salt to try and draw out some texture. The paint didn’t hold very well to the ground. I’ve used it a bunch of times and never been very happy with the results, but I know others who love it… Maybe I’m not using it right, or got a dodgy batch? I was hoping to have more texture than this to start with, that could be the backdrop for whatever I painted over the top, but oh well, moving on.

Stage Two

02

I’ve decided on a Moon Boat concept for the panel, and do a blue wash to head down a more purpley colour range. I mark out a sphere then roughly apply gold leaf sizing in the shape of a crescent moon and water, then apply pure silver leaf to it. I’ve been enjoying adding some gold and silver leaf to my works. Because shiny.

I realise afterwards I really should have sketched in my figure first and I’ve made some problems for myself, but that’s what you get with this rather unplanned and impromptu method. There is something to be said for careful planning!

Stage Three

03

I sketch out the figure, based on a reference photo. I only have the top half of a body to reference, so drawing the feet is hard and I spend a long time twisting my own feet at weird angles to try and see how they should look. The watercolor ground continues to annoy me. A tiny drop of water got on her shoulder and lifted the paint right off it. I also have to sketch so softly or it digs into the ground. But I’m happy with the look of the figure at this stage. Still don’t know what else I’m doing with other details yet. Working unplanned like this is a process of Take Action – Ask “What next?” – Take Action – Ask what next, etc etc.

Stage Four

04

I add a string of bells and some flowers because I’m now sure what else to add. I like bells and flowers. They’re my go to.

I want to finish this artwork in oils, so I make a grayish-purplish-brownish glaze and apply it all over, then sponge some bits back off with tissue for texture. I use the same colour I mixed for the glaze and some white to start adding form to the figure. The oil paint is taking well to the board, except where the silver leaf is.

Stage Five

05

I continue building form for the figure, her hair, and dress. I’m working mostly in greys, then start to add some warmth to her skin with reds. I have a very limited palette of oil paints so far, just two yellows (warm and cool), two blues (likewise), two reds (you get the picture), black, white, paynes grey (which is just a must have for me always), raw sienna, and burnt umber. I’ve done all my oil paintings thus far with just these. I’m using Liquin as my main medium for mixing.

Stage Six

06

I continue to apply layers to the painting. By this stage it’s probably had 5 layers/work sessions on it with drying between. I’m still learning oils, and tend to make areas too dark, and then make them too light when trying to adjust that, and then make them too dark again, spending more time than I need to. But I’m starting to get used to them and enjoy the feel of them as I paint. Still trying to work out how to get other mediums working with it. How lovely would this look if the original watercolor wash had held to the background and showed through around the figure?

I decide to call the artwork done at this point. The ground I used initially is still feeling a bit fragile and I don’t want to poke it too much. I also quite like the raw look it still has at this stage. Sometimes so much freshness and energy is lost from the sketch stage the refining process.

Stage Seven

moonboatscan

The raw scan, straight from the scanner without any cleaning or color adjustment. It’s a lot more pale and purple than my photos from my smart phone, which is a bit more true to how it appears in real life, but it still needs some adjusting. The scan won’t be able to capture the way the silver flashes in the light either.

Stage Eight

words

I’ve been wanting to try and include words into my artworks, and this moon boat image seemed like a great one to experiment with. I came up with a phrase for it, and decided to try a hand written approach rather than just adding text digitally (great idea, from someone with terrible handwriting and no calligraphy training!). I wasn’t quite game to write directly on the original so I sketched it out on a sketchbook page with a copic marker pen. I didn’t rule lines or anything, which is a great indicator of the “not being very methodical” thing I was talking about before, but I kind of wanted that more rustic feel. If I wanted perfect calligraphy, well, I’d just use a font. I scan the words in and apply them over the artwork in photoshop while I clean and color correct the image. I also apply a splatter of starts digitally, because I’m too chicken to do it to the original.

Stage Nine- Final

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(Click for larger)

And here is the final artwork. She was a bit of a crazy experiment from start to finish, but I do like how she ended up.

I learned lots during the process about all the different mediums I tried and how I could have done things better that I can apply to future works, so that’s the most valuable part for me.

The “Moon Boat” original painting (sans words and stars) is up for auction now.

Out of stock
Sold for: US$360.00

Memory’s Wake Trilogy Audio Books

Production for audio books of all three novels in my Memory’s Wake trilogy is now complete. It’s been a wonderful experience creating these with narrator Em Eldridge. Hearing my stories brought to life is amazing, and there were lots of moments while listening through during production where I had to stop and wonder, “Wow, I wrote that?!” Maybe it’s the narration that makes it so much more alive, but I’m feeling really proud of this story right now. And it made me miss the characters so much *sniff*

Here’s a teaser video I created with some snippets from all three of the Memory’s Wake books-

You can get all three books individually through Audible or Amazon, or get them as a box set all together for a great price! Audible members can get the books as part of their subscription, and ebook readers can get a huge discount on the price through the WhisperSync program on Amazon.

 

New Release, New Covers, and Coloring Book Sale

My newest release, Gothic – Dark Fantasy Coloring Book, is out now and is also now in stock here at selinafenech.com (or here for Amazon)

As part of this new release, I’ve redesigned and updated the covers of all of my coloring book range. Don’t they look pretty? An improvement on the old design?

coloringNewCovers

!!!SALE!!!

Now what am I to do with all of my stock of books with the old covers? Put them on sale of course! All the large size books have been reduced from $14.95 to $9.95 AUD. That’s about $7.40 USD, and these books come SIGNED from me (with a bunch of other goodies!). Minis is also on sale. Check them all out below!

US$11.33

Goodbye 2015. Oh, hi there 2016!

Well, that was quick, wasn’t it? Here we are, starting a new year again. This is the time that I like to look back at the previous year and everything it involved to remind myself that it didn’t all just pass by in the blink of a eye. I actually did things! Did I do the things I had planned to? Well, let’s have a look…

>> Check out my 2014 wrap up post

The Year of Colouring

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room first of all. This year, regardless of my other plans, became all about colouring books. I spent literally half the year, or more, just designing colouring books. I already had one out, my simple Fairy Art colouring book, and worked on and off through the beginning of the year on my Mermaids colouring book which was released in June. And then, things exploded. Mermaids started hitting bestseller lists on Amazon and selling like nay-nays. I have to admit I was, and am still, shocked at how much people loved it. And everyone was asking for more, so being the kind that wants to please, I dropped all other projects and the rest of the year became colouring book central. I published another two colouring books over the following months, Enchanted (forest themed) and Fairy Companions. And then I created a Mini pocket sized sampler book with samples from the other four. Enchanted also zoomed up the charts, and even now Mermaids and Enchanted fight each other over the number 1 place in their category on Amazon-

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But what else did I do?

The beginning of the year was a big milestone for me, finishing my Memory’s Wake trilogy with the release of Providence Unveiled. Once the three books were out and complete, I also released an Omnibus edition, the audio book of Memory’s Wake, and the Companion Guide which was designed for people who read on ebook or listen to audio book, but still want a way to get all the illustrations.

CompanionGuide_3D_spreads

What I didn’t do in 2015 was much of any kind of writing. I had hoped to get the next Empath Chronicles story finished and released, but it got put aside for colouring book work. I did get some time to do a little brainstorming and plotting work (it’s easy to let my mind wander through ideas while outlining colouring pages!) that have helped my plans for the Empath Chronicles and other stories I want to write… but no actual writing done.

I did only a little bit of new art-

A lot of little or experimental artworks which I auctioned along with the Queen of Wands artwork for 78 Tarot and Gift of Starlight, the original of which is for sale now. And of course, my whole website here got a huge make over so I could have a shop here, especially for my original paintings!

queenofwandscanvas2 GiftofStarlight

Back in April-

I did an April Fools joke as I usually do, which was a bit of a flop because…

2015-2

“I thought your name WAS Selena French!”

We also had some huge storms here which knocked out our power and phone for days, and straight after that I went into surgery to repair my umbilical hernia (being pregnant does all kinds of mess to your body!). The surgery was a quick and easy day surgery, but I didn’t count on requiring months after that to recover. Abdominal surgery, ouch.

I was recovered though just in time for my events for the year! I went to my usuals- Supanova, Winterfest, and Book Expo Australia, and added Sydney Comic-con to the list. Also in December I did a group market with my authors group which was fantastic!

Me, at Supanova, flipping out fangirl style at getting to meet Ed and Al!

Over all, I did manage to get a lot done in 2015, knocking off about half my list of projects I had planned before the tidal wave of colouring books hit. But I have to admit it’s been super fun riding that wave! My favourite part is seeing the finished coloured artworks everyone has been sending me, it’s amazing and inspiring to me seeing the colours people choose for my work. I love it!

How was your 2015? What do you have planned for 2016?

To be honest, I’m not sure of my plans for 2016. I plan to do some planning! So far, I’m partway through work on the next, yes, the next colouring book. It will be Gothic themed. I really do want to get back to some of my other passions that got neglected though, particularly writing and dollmaking. And of course, painting. I’ve been making more of an effort to do a little something creative every day, even if it’s just a 10 minute sketch or some story planning. And that’s felt good. I hope I can keep it up!

Coloring is for all ages! Mermaid Designs out now.

A new coloring book has finally made its way into my collection!

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People are starting to catch onto the truth that coloring in is for all ages, adults too! As an artist, I already knew this 🙂 So I wanted to offer a more complicated and details coloring book, and my mermaids seemed the perfect choice for the collection (all those scales!!).

mermaidcolouring2The Mermaids coloring book includes 25 mermaid designs, and as a bonus there are two sets of those designs, for 50 pages total to spend relaxing time coloring in!

coloring

You can find my new Mermaids coloring book on Amazon along with my first coloring book full of fairy and fantasy designs.

Click here to see all my books on Amazon

Mermaids – Calm Ocean Coloring Collection has already been getting lots of love! It was the #1 New Release on Amazon for crafts, and even hit #1 on that bestsellers list briefly!mermaidranking

I hope you all enjoy my new coloring book. I’m already planning the next one! What do you think its theme should be?

Free and Sale books from Selina’s Author Friends

Need more to read? Let me introduce my friends!


At the end of 2014, I joined an writer’s group with some lovely and talented local authors I had met at events throughout the year. These ladies are seriously awesome writers and it’s been fantastic to be part of a group with them!

Would you like to get to know them too?

Well, the best way to get to know an author, is through their books! So below, I’m going to post a little information about each author, AND links to their ebooks that are either FREE or on sale!

Laura L Hunter


Laura is a powerhouse of an author. Still so young and she has about 12+ books out! Be sure to follow the links for her website to find out more, but this series is a great one to get started on.

Archangels are extinct and the world is now inhabited by a half-human/half-angel race called Nephilim. But it’s been told that one Archangel remains – a child born of fire only known as The Legend.

21-year-old Nephilim Scarlett Porter is about to start her Angel training at the infamous Blackbell Academy, so she doesn’t have time to worry about dreams of mysterious dark angels. The last thing she expected was her dream angel to be Dyston Blackbell or that finding her was part of his mission – a mission Dyston is prepared to fail to keep Scarlett and the secret of who she is safe.

But, danger is closer to Dyston and Scarlett than they realize.

War is brewing, led by a group of Nephilim called The Lucifites, and they need The Legend to carry out their plans. With the help of their friends, the two must find the leader of the Lucifites and stop his plans for destruction. But will Dyston and Scarlett’s love survive what’s coming? How far will Scarlett go to save those she cares about the most?

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The first book in the series is FREE here- http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00KYAZKU6/

Find out more about Laura and her books at-

web: https://llhunterauthor.wordpress.com/ 

amazon: http://www.amazon.com/L.L.-Hunter/e/B00B2B701I/

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/LL-Hunter/

Kim Last


I read Kim’s book Fall For Me long before I knew her. Angels and vampires and kick-ass action, what’s not to love?

A battle is raging. Blood will be shed. Lives will be lost, and friendships will be tested.

One angel’s decision will change everything, and one vampire’s secret will tear them all apart.

Some rules are made to be broken.

Sacrifice is free at most online retailers-

Amazon US http://amzn.to/15r6z5l – Amazon Aus http://bit.ly/1wmk900 – Amazon UK http://amzn.to/1CtGOfe

iBooks http://bit.ly/17Zbigd – B&N http://bit.ly/1qcvYIo – Smashwords http://bit.ly/1yPMkZG – Kobo http://bit.ly/1ADeKE1

Fall For Me is 0.99c at Amazon for one more week

Amazon US http://amzn.to/1wmkorY – Amazon Aus http://bit.ly/15n6ujR – Amazon UK http://amzn.to/17Zbqwp

Fight For Me released January 17 and is available at most online retailers!

Find out more about Kim and her books at

Website: www.kalastbooks.com.au

Facebook: www.facebook.com/KALastBooks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kalastbooks

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/KALast

Lauren McKellar


Lauren writes in contemporary young adult rather than paranormal/fantasy like most of us, but her work was good enough even to tempt me away from my fantasy preferences! I’ve read her book Finding Home and loved it.

The Crazy in Love series covers a group of new adults learning how to live their lives, falling in love and coping with loss. Written with the intention of making you feel, these three books cover the late teen years of Kate and her best friend Stacey—and the whole lot of crazy that can happen when you walk out of those school doors.

THE PROBLEM CRAZY: FREE till January 28:

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-problem-with-crazy-lauren-k-mckellar/1118627272?ean=2940148211532

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/problem-crazy-crazy-in-love/id821400217?mt=11

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Problem-With-Crazy-Love-Book-ebook/dp/B00IFH4NI0/ref=pd_rhf_ee_p_img_4

Find out more about Lauren and her books at –

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laurenkatemckellar

Website: www.laurenkmckellar.com

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/laurenkmckellar

Tsu: www.tsu.co/laurenkmckellar

Stacey Nash


Stacey’s novel Forget Me Not is the last I read, not counting re-reading my own of course! It was a such an intriguing and unique world she’s created around secret magic-like advanced technology. But I have to say I’m absolutely Team Will, and not just because he shares names with my own Will!

The Collective Series follows the journey of seventeen-year-old Anamae Gilbert as she discovers a huge secret that has been kept from the general population. Advanced technology capable of cloaking the human form, teleporting individuals, and allowing people to speak directly into one another’s minds exists and is used around us. Every single day. The head of the hidden organization responsible for this massive cover up sets her in his targets and Anamae struggles to keep herself and her loved ones safe.

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The first book is currently on 99c Sale at

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00K1Q9NA6

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/forget-me-not/id881490143?mt=11 – Googleplay: https://play.google.com/store/search?q=9781460704004+&c=books

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/forget-me-not-nash-stacey/1119538120?ean=9781460704004 – Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/forget-me-not-67

Find out more about Stacey and her books at-

web: http://www.stacey-nash.com/

twitter: https://twitter.com/staceynash

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StaceyLeeNash

And how about 101 new authors to sample for FREE?


I am proud to be part of this amazing anthology of indie authors, 101 of us in fact! Including Hugh Howey, which as you can imagine had me fangirling at being in the same book as ^_^
You can get these 101 short stories from 101 authors for FREE here- http://www.amazon.com/Stories-Go-Very-Short-Authors-ebook/dp/B00R1GECO6/

Free Short Story – Emotionally Scared – Empath Chronicles

A short story from Selina’s Empath Chronicles series, FREE for your reading pleasure…

 Emma has been bullied her whole life. Her supernatural ability to sense other people’s emotions makes their cruel words even more painful. When Emma changes schools she hopes things will be different, but a prank and a risky plan turn into a life or death situation. Emma will discover she has more power than she thought, but will she use it for good? 

Emma is a character from my novella Emotionally Charged, and this the story of her past. It may cause some spoilers for Emotionally Charged if you read this first.

Want to read this on your ereader? It’s available as an ebook through most ebook retailers.


I wish I could use magic to stop people staring at me, or enchant myself to be beautiful, but the magic powers I have are different. I’m not really a witch, no matter what the other kids call me. I’m not a superhero either, even if I do have special powers. Heroes aren’t ugly.

The lime-green shade of my new school’s corridors set my teeth on edge. Everyone watched me, and why wouldn’t they? I was the new girl with a target right on her face. My sneakers squeaked as I walked and I felt so completely conspicuous. Cruel laminate flooring. My own body betrayed me as well. I was taller than most girls, which just made me easier to spot. I wanted to love my bright red hair but I hated that it attracted attention to my face.

The other students stared openly at me and gossiped as they pretended to poke through their lockers. A tide of emotion followed their stares, the usual mix of sympathy and disgust that I was used to. That was my superpower — to sense how people were feeling, so strongly that I felt their emotions burrowing into my pores. I hated it. I hugged my new textbooks close to my chest and tried to ignore it.

Chin up, Emma. Don’t let them get to you. You’re beautiful on the inside. You’re special and important, no matter how you look.

I tried to believe that my outer appearance didn’t matter and that real friends would like the real me despite how I looked. But I was smart, smarter than most kids my age, and it made them think I was even weirder. My intelligence made me as much of a target as my face. I tried to act like everyone else, dress right, talk right, do all the right things. I had gone from being a child prodigy down to a C average. I stuffed tests on purpose, half-hearted my assignments, and worked harder on giggling mindlessly, and pretending I actually like music where dudes sing about their sexy bitches. Anything to just fit in.

It didn’t work.

This year was supposed to be better. Operation: New Me. I finally convinced my parents to let me change schools. Well… by convinced, I mean I was expelled from my last school when I got into a fight with this girl who kept calling me names. I had a weird adrenaline rush and broke her arm. Oops.

A little extra begging on top and my parents finally let me have the mole, the bane of my existence, removed. The mole that had made me the brunt of bullying my whole life. This was no cute beauty mark, oh no, but a brown blob of ugly flesh that covered half my chin. That’s why I was called a witch at my last school. Marked by the devil, dribbling sewage, fecal face; I heard it all from the other kids.

My life was a living hell. If they also knew I could read their emotions like some kind of freak…

But all that changed. I was going off to a new school, and in between, I’d have the mole removed. Then it was meant to be like in the books, where a group of great friends would adopt me and the hottest guy in the school would fall for me. I wouldn’t be teased. I would be happy.

The whole plan plunged into epic fail. My plebian parents didn’t realize I needed a proper cosmetic surgeon for the work, to actually make my face look like the mole was never there. Sure the doctor removed the mole, but in its place he left a jumbo pink scar like a deformed fetus.

Determined to be positive anyway, I came to this new school with a plan. I dressed up, smiled, and waited for people to ask, wow, where did you get that scar? And I would tell them crazy cool tales of my heroism, saving a baby girl from a pit bull attack, only to have a chunk of flesh bitten off my face. I’d say it was nothing, I did what I had to do to save a child. Beloved school heroine, here I come!

Except I didn’t have a chance.

Someone knew someone from my previous school and gossip of my mole, and the botched removal attempt, became the new school joke. It took no time for mortifying “before and after” photos to make the rounds, and the fact that I’d lied about how I got the scar turned everyone against me. Not one student would even talk to me. Their hateful emotions seeped into me like poison, chilling my veins, making me ill.

I hadn’t escaped.

I wish I could turn my powers off, to just ignore all those emotions for just a second. Or turn them back the other way and make everyone else know how I was feeling. Because right now, walking down this school corridor with my chin up pretending to smile was the hardest thing in the world.

My eyes stung. No way, if I cried in the middle of everyone, it was all over.

I turned to face the wall and got lucky. There was a notice board right there, covered in fluoro fliers for me to pretend to read while I got myself under control. There were fliers for cheerleading try-outs, chess clubs and the whole spectrum of other cliques that wouldn’t take me.

Just breathe.

The corridor stank of bleach from a recent cleaning. If anyone saw my eyes damp and asked if I was OK, I’d say my eyes were sensitive to the chemicals. I always had an answer for everything. I just needed someone to ask.

I closed my eyes, and when I opened them again, Rafael, who I’d already identified as the most handsome guy ever, was leaning next to me. He had one elbow against the wall and his hand played with his sun-bleached hair. I don’t blame him; my hands would love to do that, too.

Rafael had the looks of a 1950’s movie star and he knew it. He played it up, wearing a leather jacket with turned-up collar like he was James Dean and said things like doll, daddy-o, and swell. Yeah, I’ve been eaves-stalking. Just a bit.

And here he was next to me, looking at me. What was going on? I scanned my surroundings for hidden cameras.

“Since you’re new, I’ll give you some advice.” He spoke in my ear, closer than I’m used to anyone getting. I shivered.

“Advice?”

“Don’t join the chess club,” he said.

I let what must be a dumbfounded expression stay on my face and spoke slowly. “But… the checkered boards are so pretty, and I like the little horsies.”

Rafael looked at me like I was a poor dumb girl and I worried I’d missed my shot. I raised an eyebrow dramatically, hoping he got the point.

A moment passed, then he chuckled at my joke and I let out a massive sigh. Internally. Externally, I kept my cool and gave a flirty-yet-coy grin. I was stupidly proud of myself. Maybe I could do this. I could be funny and charming and fab-u-lous. I was beautiful on the inside, and he would be the first person to see. And really, I’d kick ass in chess club, but I’d never let him know that.

“I’m Raf. That’s the other important thing you need to know, new girl.”

“Emma,” I said. I extended a hand to shake his, leaving just one to hold up my books. They shifted, almost fell, and I rebalanced them in a way that squished my boobs up into prominence.

“Oops!” I giggled as though I hadn’t done the whole thing on purpose. His smile in return was hungry, almost predatory. I could sense the lusty excitement in him, but also something chilling, a darker emotion hidden under his grin.

“Careful, you’ll need those, for, you know, learning.”

“No problem. I can shake hands and balance books. Get me a job in the circus, I have the skills.”

The bell rang. Too soon… I didn’t want my time with Rafael to end. This was the nicest anyone had ever been to me and my heart raced with hope and confusion and the close proximity to hottest guy in the world.

Rafael sighed as the bell finished clanging. “Better move. I don’t want to get you in trouble on your first day.”

Right. I’d been here two weeks. Well, he’s noticed me now at least. I had to give him a reason to remember me. Dare I?

“I don’t mind getting into trouble sometimes, if it’s for a good enough reason.”

Raf bumped his shoulder into mine. “You’re a firecracker, aren’t you? Say, you want to meet up after class? Hang out?”

My lips trembled. “Sure.”

“Come to Siren’s Haven. You know it?”

I nodded, casually, like I went there all the time. Siren’s Haven was an abandoned set of a failed pirate movie, still standing down by the river. I knew all about it because Dad was big into collecting movie props. Tacky replicas mostly, but real stuff too when he could.

“See you there at six, at the main pirate ship. It’ll be a gas.” Rafael winked at me then headed off down the corridor.

This was too good to be true. I hated that I doubted this, doubted that there could be anything about me he’d find attractive. I was about to split apart, torn between hope and suspicion.

Too jittery for class, I skipped out, went to the girl’s bathroom, and did the Snoopy Dance.

 

~*~

 

Between when I talked to Rafael and the time for our meet up, everything changed. I almost didn’t go. I almost curled into a ball of sobbing tears never to face the world again. Then I came up with my plan.

I took so long trying to decide what to wear that I risked being late. I ended up staying in what I wore to school that day: sneakers, black stockings with enough carefully manufactured runs to look every-day, short shorts, and an oversized dusty-red sweater. I’d spent long enough picking it out in the morning anyway and I didn’t want to look like I was trying too hard by having an all new outfit on. All I did was change my bra. I also had other preparing to do, and the loose-fitting sweater worked well with my plan.

Twilight lit the fake pirate town, turning grayed wood and dusty weeds varying shades of lilac. I squeezed through the hole in the chain link fence and when my top snagged on one of the cut wires I had a mini panic attack while getting my outfit in order again, covering up what the sweater hid.

I couldn’t lose the shakes that had been with me since my conversation with Rafael. They only grew as I made my way to the half-built pirate ship, propped up on blocks down the path. Used spray-cans littered the road like a rainbow and I kicked them along to try and distract my nerves.

Siren’s Haven had been abandoned a year ago when issues with actor contracts tanked production. They closed up shop and left it all standing while they tried to get back on track, but in the meantime it had become a playground. I climbed up the weathered wooden ladder onto the ship’s deck. Empty beer cans lay scattered around the remains of fires. A couple of old lounges had been dragged in. All the signs of a regular party destination for parties I never got invited to.

Rafael waited for me, reclining on top of a cluster of barrels like a real swashbuckler.

“Hey, sweet cheeks.” He rolled onto his side, shifted over, and patted the spot next to him.

“Hey.” I strolled across the deck and paused at the barrels. A foam mattress had been thrown on top of them. It made squishy noises when he moved. Ew.

“Come on, don’t be shy.” Raf patted the mattress again and its moldering stench reached me. “No pressure, I’m not going to try anything. I’m a gentleman.”

I already knew how untrue that statement was. But even still, I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. Some dumb part of me still hoped that what I’d overheard wasn’t true. For the part of me that despite everything hadn’t yet turned bitter, I had to let this play out.

“Can I admit something?” My voice quavered, but that was ok, I was aiming for cute and vulnerable. But really I was super nervous about what was going to happen. “I haven’t been here before. I want to have a look around. Can you show me?”

“A tour? Sure, doll, sure.” He hopped down onto the deck with a smooth jump.

The wood squeaked in warning under us, fragile and not meant to have lasted this long. Rafael put an arm around my shoulder and led me to the prow. I hadn’t expected him to touch me. My heart thudded. If he had put his arm around my waist the game would have been over.

From the prow of the ship you could see the whole film set. There were mermaids carved into the front wall of the pirate bar (which, like most of the buildings, only had a front wall). Tall grass sprouted everywhere, even from the façades themselves. There was a fake rock pool to our left, and the place might have been pretty if it weren’t crumbling and trashed.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Raf breathed heavily into my ear. “But not as beautiful as you.”

Where did this guy get his lines? I hated that they still made my heart race, even though I had no reason to believe him. Before I could mutter the obvious denial, he kissed me.

It was a small kiss on my temple, soft and a little cheeky. I lost my breath.

“Hey,” he said, and turned me toward him. I let him move me as he wished. He smiled down at me and it was a beautiful smile. His emotions told me how excited he was. Excited, and smug.

He whispered in my ear. “Take your top off for me.”

The last fine cobweb of hope I’d clung to snapped. I knew this was coming, but I clung anyway, and now I felt myself fall. I could stop this and leave now, or I could follow through with the plan I had stupidly dreamed that I wouldn’t have to use. Rafael saw my pause and misread my internal conflict.

“It’s OK, you’re beautiful. I just want to see you.”

I nodded slowly and grabbed the bottom hem of my sweater, lifting it up over my head.

I heard the cla-click sound effect of his camera app as I dropped my sweater to the ground.

The hidden camera finally revealed.

He held up his phone, admiring the photo he had taken. “Grade-school underwear, much?”

I had changed out my nice bra that afternoon for a plain black sports tank that covered as much of me as possible. I came prepared. I reached around to the back waistband of my shorts while he examined his photography.

He stood there, still pointing the phone at me, playing his cruel trick.

And I stood, pointing a gun right back.

Checkmate.

“What are you doing? Are you crazy?” He took a clumsy step back and looked around as though there’d be someone to save him.

“I knew. I knew what you had planned!”

After he first talked to me and I danced like a happy fool, thinking he actually wanted me, the fear that it couldn’t be true took over. So I went to find Rafael, to follow him and find out more. I knew there had to be something going on with him, and I daydreamed that he just had some cool, dark secret that only I could know, like he had freaky powers too, or he really was from the 1950’s. Instead it turned out that he was simply a jerk.

“I heard you talking to Gavin. Saying you had me eating out of your hands, and you were going to get a photo to blackmail me with to make me do whatever you wanted.” I jabbed the gun at him as I talked, my voice growing louder.

“I knew about it all, and even then, I still hoped maybe you were just saying that to your guy as a cover but you really did want…”

I shook my head. I had to stop saying stupid stuff in front of him, as though I were still waiting for him to reveal he cared for me.

No. I had my plan. I knew this was coming, despite any crazy hopes I held. I came here knowing what I would do so that I’d come out of this on top either way.

“Throw your phone over,” I said.

He did, and I deleted the photo of me.

Rafael trembled visibly. His expression was frozen but with my powers, his fear was tangible to me. He had his hands raised in front of him. I pulled out my phone and flicked on the camera. Set it to video and kept the gun aimed at him with the other hand.

“I want you to tell the world, Raf, what a jerk you are. A horrible bully. Come on, I’m easy pickings, right? Go for the girl with the mangled face, why don’t you.”

His jaw moved, but he said nothing.

“Say it!”

“I… I’m a jerk, and a bully.”

“You are. You take advantage of girls. Say it.”

“I take advantage of girls.”

The fear flowing off him made me giddy. I hadn’t felt such an intense emotion before and it filled me with energy. A grin spread on my face.

“You’re nothing but a small-dicked, derivative, misogynistic coward…”

He repeated me on cue.

“Who is about to die.”

I squeezed the trigger and Rafael twisted like he could dodge a bullet. He couldn’t even dodge the spray of water shooting from the gun. Working replica water pistols formed a large part of my Dad’s prop collection.

Not all the wet on Rafael was from the gun. His pants were soaked. I giggled as I turned the video off on the phone and slipped it into my shorts pocket.

“Wow, a better performance than I could have hoped for. Now listen carefully, Mr. Popular. You’re going to be my new bestest friend at school. You’ll help show everyone how fab-u-lous I can be. Because if you don’t, I will show everyone who you really are.”

My plan complete, I turned to strut away, the proud victor.

I felt the change before I saw anything. The fear gushing from Rafael shifted to blinding fury. The heavy sound of footfalls charged at me.

He shoved me hard from behind and I landed on my face. The aged wood deck grazed my hands, turning them into splinter pincushions. I rolled onto my back, looking up at him. The anger on his face was terrifying, the strongest anger I’d ever sensed.

“No one is going to see that video, ugly bitch!”

He reached down, grabbing at the pocket of my shorts.

I wrestled against his hands, swatting him away.

“No way are you blackmailing me. You’re going to suffer.”

He slapped me in the face.

Something strange was happening with my powers. I felt Rafael’s anger flow down onto me, bathing me, seeping into my muscles and warming them. I felt strong, the same strength I felt when I broke that girl’s arm. The splinters didn’t bother me. My cheek felt hot where Rafael had slapped me, but didn’t sting. I felt powerful.

Rafael swung at me again and I knocked his arm away easily. He pulled back, shocked, and nursed his arm where I hit it.

I knew then I was stronger than him. My powers had always felt like a curse before, but now I realized they were something more. I was something superhuman.

I leapt onto my feet, grinning and staring Rafael down. He shied away from me.

That’s where I should have left it. I should have made some witty comment, and walked away. But my hands balled into fists, wanting more fight. With this strength running through me I felt out of control. I wanted revenge for every painful word or look I’d ever suffered.

I kicked high and hard, hitting Rafael right in the centre of his chest.

He flew backward, like he was wired up for a movie stunt.

I was a witch after all.

Rafael hit the figurehead at the prow of the boat with a sound that made me feel sick. I instantly regretted lashing out, and went to help him up, to make sure nothing was broken. Even if he was a jerk, I hated myself for being so violent.

I took one step and a squealing groan came from the ship, followed by popping and cracking noises of wood splitting. I felt the deck shudder, and knew the ship would fall.

I looked at Rafael, groaning as he tried to get back on his feet. My body screamed with energy. I felt strong, fast, and confident, like I could reach him, throw him over my shoulder, and leap to safety in time. But he was so far away, all the way at the other end of the ship, where I had kicked him to.

The ship lurched to the side as the hull split open and I ran. I leaped over holes that tore open in the deck. Something huge fell into my field of vision and I saw the main mast collapse down into my path, right in front of me. Unable to handle my new speed, I slammed into it and rolled to the side. My momentum spun me too fast and I fell from the side of the ship, tumbling to the ground.

Coughing dirt, all I could do was watch as the pirate ship collapsed in on top of Rafael.

 

~*~

 

I bolted away from Siren’s Haven before the dust settled. I had to sneak back inside so my parents wouldn’t see that I’d lost my sweater and come home half-dressed.

It wasn’t my fault. It was my fault. It wasn’t my fault. It was my fault. My brain was stuck in a loop of guilt and denial. There were too many variables, but I knew one thing—if I had held back, if I hadn’t let my anger loose, Rafael might still be alive.

I deleted my video of Rafael for fear it could be used as evidence against me. I fretted about the sweater I’d left behind and hoped it would be considered just another piece of trash, not a clue to a crime. I plotted various excuses and alibis for if I was questioned. I had answers for everything.

But no one came for me.

A week later, I went to the funeral.

The grief I felt from Rafael’s family ached, pounding into my skull, and I told myself it was the punishment I deserved. But not everyone grieved. Two rows in front of me, gleeful relief came from a small huddle of girls from school. I wondered what Rafael had done to them, whether they were on a long list of blackmail victims. I tried to cheer myself up by pretending I was a hero who saved those girls from Rafael’s conniving schemes. But it didn’t work. No matter what he did, I knew he didn’t deserve to die. Heroes bring people to justice, not beat them up and fail to save them.

After the ceremony, I wandered through the crowded church, exploring the mix of emotions held by the funeral-goers. Some kids from school just thought it was cool to be there, since Rafael was so popular. His death made big news, and parents were already lobbying to have the “death trap” film set demolished. They all believed it was an accident, and nothing could have been done. I was the only person who knew that wasn’t true. My brain played through hundreds of alternate endings for the night if I’d made different choices. I wish it would stop. I couldn’t take back the choices I’d made.

There were a couple of guys I didn’t know drifting through the funeral crowd, taking donations for some vague anti-teen-death charity. They looked like brothers. Both had the same cute, roguish charm. Their faces showed commiseration, but my powers told me they felt smug, the same kind of smug Rafael had felt as he pulled his trick. I wondered just what trick these two were up to. Every single person gave them money. I watched with interest from a quiet corner.

Gavin, Rafael’s best friend and blackmail confidant, found me there.

“You were with him, weren’t you?” His voice was a growl.

I acted shocked. “Me and Rafael? Why would he have been somewhere with me?”

“I know he was going to meet you. You had something to do with him dying, I know it. You’ve been acting weird all week. Why were your hands all scratched up? What happened?”

He loomed over me. I saw anger in him, bubbling under his skin like the glow of lava. But now I knew what I could do with someone else’s anger. I couldn’t let him reveal to anyone I was with Rafael that night. I had to scare him off and I had the power to do it.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I drawled. I rested a hand on the crossbar of a stone crucifix next to me. “But whatever happened to him could happen to you too if you don’t keep quiet and leave me alone.”

I squeezed my grip and the stone crumbled like chalk. The patter of the pieces falling to the floor was covered by the talking crowd. Gavin looked at me like the freak I was. My demonstration clearly had the desired effect.

Gavin ran away, leaving me with my regrets. Was I really a witch, or a monster? Was that the path I was fated for, using my powers for evil? I started to wonder how much I could achieve with my newfound abilities. Maybe, one way or another, I could still turn my life around.

The older boy with the donation bucket stared at me. I stared back, waiting for him to glance to my scar, be disgusted and turn away. My glare was a challenge.

But instead he smiled.

He came over and introduced himself. He name was Jake, and he was there with his little brother Jamie. They’d read about the funeral in the newspaper and came to see what donations they could get for their own “charitable cause”.

“I saw what you just did,” Jake whispered, dramatically low considering no one was interested in our conversation anyway. He kicked at the broken stone on the floor and raised his eyebrows.

“I didn’t do anything. It was dodgy craftsmanship, broke on its own.”

“You’re a fast thinker, too. Perfect,” he said. “Don’t worry, I know what you can do, because I can do it, too. I’m so glad I spotted you. It’s rare to find someone special, like us. How about we get out of here and talk more. Doesn’t all this sadness give you a headache?”

I couldn’t stop my eyes widening. “You really feel it too?”

Jake grinned. “The emotion reading, the super strength, the whole deal.”

The idea of other people with powers like mine made a strong need for belonging bloom in my chest. My voice sounded way too vulnerable when I asked, “Can you help me understand what I am?”

“Sure. Come with me. I want to tell you how sticking by me will give you everything you ever wanted. Everything that people like us deserve.”

Every nerve inside me ached to go with Jake, my body rebelling against my better judgment. Jake was charming and so handsome it made my palms sweaty. There was something downright supernatural about how tempting he was, but also something wrong and disturbing. I wouldn’t fall for sweet talk again, and could already tell he wasn’t one of the good guys.

I shook my head. “No. Go away. You’re not my type.”

Jake looked stunned. I doubt he got turned down… ever. He stared, assessing me again, his gaze lingering on my face.

He handed me a business card.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“A gift, something I’m guessing is high on your wish list. I’ll let Dr Rachenko know you’re coming and to put any work on my tab. I’ve written my number on the back so you can get in touch again when you’ve seen what I can do for you.”

I stared at the card. Dr Rachenko- Discreet cosmetic surgery and enhancements.

Jake tapped the card as I held it in my hands. “Everything you ever wanted starts here.”

Jake called his brother over and the two of them left the building, counting the money they had been collecting from the grieving crowd. Definitely not on the good guy side.

I stared at what Jake had given me, my fingers clenched and shaking around the thin cardboard. Jake had offered me a new life, a new skin, and all I could wonder was what trick he would play on me, what catch this promise held. I couldn’t stand the idea that his offer wasn’t true.

And if the only catch was that I wouldn’t be one of the good guys either, could I do that?

Deep inside I had always wanted to be something good and special, but it seems that I was born to be something other than a hero. I never had that sort of strength in me, the strength to stay beautiful on the inside. Ugliness had crawled inside me, driven in by the cruel words and games of my peers. It sat there, next to the dull ache I felt in my chest whenever my mind replayed the night at Siren’s Haven. A montage it chose to replay often.

I shook the guilt and regret away, denying it. It didn’t matter anymore. I would become beautiful on the outside. Everything I wanted, I would take. I had great plans. Operation: New Me, Mark II would not fail.

The End

 

A few notes about this story


 

When I decided to write Emma’s backstory, I knew that it was going to be the tragic origin of a villain, rather than the normal hero’s tale. That’s the sort of story I’m used to writing, and that we’re all used to reading- a person surmounting all the terrible trials thrown at them to become something better. In my mind, the difference between good people and bad people are the decisions they make in their darkest moments. Not everyone has it in them to rise above, and it’s the ones that fall, that are beaten down, that tragically become villains. That’s the story I wanted to explore in Emotionally Scarred. I don’t want readers to think that Emma’s actions are to be condoned, despite Raphael being not too nice himself. Emma has it in her to become a true super-villain. Will she, or will she have a chance to redeem herself?

Thanks for reading my short story, I hope you enjoyed it. Comment with your opinions below! You can read more about Emma and whether her “Operation: New Me, Mark II” plan succeeds and how she has to deal with what she’s done in other books from the Empath Chronicles series.

Haven’t read Emotionally Charged yet? Grab a copy here on Amazon, or signed direct from me.

 

Digital Painting Walkthrough- Finishing up

 

Like my mermaids? My next art collection book is ALL mermaids! It was due for release in late October, but if my ebook of Memory’s Wake reaches a bestseller rank of under #5000 on Amazon, I’ll release the art book early! Every sale counts! See more information about my ebook promotion goals here- https://selinafenech.com/2012/free-ebook-weekend-plus-the-ride-and-the-results/

Buy your copy of Memory’s Wake for Kindle here- http://www.amazon.com/Memorys-Wake-ebook/dp/B005502KA8/

Don’t have an ereader device? The Kindle App is free and works on almost all computers, smart phones or tablets- http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000493771


It’s time for me to finish this mermaid painting off. I let it sit for a while, pondering where it was at and how to proceed, and got back to work on it this week. I finished it off over two full days (including lots of breaks for baby play and maintenance!).

See the starting stages of this painting at my previous post https://selinafenech.com/2012/developing-a-concept-with-digital-painting/

You can click on most of these images to see much larger versions!

The first on the left in this set is where I finished off last time. Not a bad beginning, but I’m not loving it. I start playing around, see if I can improve on the composition now I’ve looking at it fresh again. In the middle image I’ve darkened the background, and then in the third from left I’ve repositioned the man’s arm. I mostly did this to save myself from what I like to call the Nipple Dilemma. I have nothing against nipples in art myself, but as this is is for mass publication in the oracle deck I’m avoiding any body parts that might cause an issue. 🙂 Sure she could have been wearing something, but I didn’t feel a bikini (of whatever sort) suited this mermaid.

Next it’s time to start getting rid of those bulky black sketch lines. Using my favourite all-purpose painting brush, I start painting over the sketch lines, or erasing them if they go outside the figures. I use the same brush shape for my eraser when painting as well. The brush I use the most looks like this, and if memory serves my correctly I got it from a pack shared by Melanie Delon on her website.

My favourite brush shape for all purpose painting and blending.

After I’ve painted out the sketch lines with the standard paint brush, I use Photoshop’s new Mixer Brush tool (new in version CS5, or possibly CS4? I can’t remember…) to blend the brush strokes a bit. I use the same brush shape again, set on Moist, Light Mix, and work as if I were blending wet oils or acrylics on paper. I try not to blend too much, I still want a bit of a painterly feel to the image.

Here’s the zoomed out view of the image at this stage, sketch lines painted out and some blending done. I haven’t blended all areas (mermaids tail for example), because some areas will require a different treatment later.

Time to zoom in there again and fix those faces up a bit! The mermaid’s face is a bit wonky. It’s a tough angle and I don’t have a model reference photo for this one, so I’m just muddling through as I go. I do the mirror image flip a few times while painting the features in to get a bit closer to what I want. I decide that I also want the man’s eyes showing, even if they are closed, so I paint over his hair and add a visible eye.

That’s where I finished that day…

So I open up the file the next day, and like my usual indecisive self, I decide I’m not happy with it and start playing around with the composition and colours again. I decide I want a bit more of an angle to the poses rather than the mermaid being so vertical. Free Transform in Photoshop, which lets you rotate and transform an object in just about anyway, is one of my most indispensable tools! The mermaid and the man are on their own layer together, above the background, which makes it easy for me to keep moving them around. I also change the colour scheme, shifting towards more of a cobalt blue than the teal it was before. I use the Hue and Saturation adjuster for this, selecting just the Cyan range of colours and shifting them further into the blue/purple range.

Time to stop messing around and do the hard work of refining the painting. I’ll work on the background first, then move to the figures. I use a rough, painterly brush on the spines in the fourground so that they look jagged and nasty. In the image above, you can see the two zoom scales next to each other. This is how I normally work in photoshop, with two windows of the same file open side by side, one zoomed out so I can get a sense of the overal image while I work zoomed in on the window beside it. You can open extra windows for an artwork in Window>Arrange>New Window For (filename)

I fix up the little background cages, but decide not to touch the rest of the background too much. I like the painterly splotches it has going. All I do is add some sparkles to the waters surface, and brush in some light rays. To get the light ray look, it’s a process of switching to and from brush and eraser- painting lines down, erasing back into it, painting streaks, erasing streaks, until you get a nice soft but streaky look.

More refining work. I add some rim-lighting to the figures to make them pop a bit more. Again, I’m working with no reference so it’s all a bit like trial and error. Light sources are hard to get right, and I’m imagining that, realistically, the man’s body would be casting that shadow on the mermaid’s face. But that’s a bit unfortunate because it makes her face dark and bleh. So adding a little rim lighting helps bring it back into focus. I’ve worked on the man’s hair in this one as well, adding some wavy strands.

Lots of painting, painting, painting. I finally get to work on the mermaid’s tale, and do use the Mixer brush a little, then the normal brush over the top again to bring up a few highlighted scales. Because the figures are relatively small compared to the overall scene, I don’t refine them quite as much as I might if they were larger. I paint in details of the mermaids hair and fins, and stop to ponder again.

Final touches and I call it finished. I decide there needs to be a little more texture in the background, so add a texture layer to simulate bubbles/debris in the water to give a bit more depth. I also paint in some bubbles streaming down from the man- yes bubbles will float up, but I want to give the impression that the mermaid is pushing him upwards, leaving the bubbles behind as they go (which will float up after them later). I also shift the colours one last time, taking it back slightly towards the teal range again. What can I say? I’m fickle.

I’m not in love with this artwork, but I’m pretty happy with it for one where I had no models to work from. Models make so much of a difference! While I can try and use my 20+ years of drawing experience to figure out how a nose might look if tilted to that angle, while underwater, with light hitting it from this angle and reflections from that angle… there’s no way I’m going to be able to get it as true as real life.

Did you enjoy seeing my painting process? Or learn something new? If you did, please consider buying a copy of my ebook “Memory’s Wake, a fantasy novel for young adults. It also has a bunch of my artwork in it! I’m trying to break into an Amazon top 100 list, and every sale counts. Consider it a donation 🙂 http://www.amazon.com/Memorys-Wake-ebook/dp/B005502KA8/

Developing a Concept with Digital Painting

I’m working up a new mermaid concept for one of the cards in my upcoming Mermaids Oracle deck with Lucy Cavendish. I’m attempting to save work in progress shots as I go to show how I paint digitally. I don’t work exactly the same every time I paint, but here is an example of one way I work. I’ll describe what I’m doing at each stage under the image. Click the images for a larger version.

First I lay in some colour and rough background, just to get myself grounded. I love this aqua and light peach combination of colours, hinting at a sunset or sunrise above the water surface. I use a really large brush size and scribble the colour on.

For this artwork, I want to paint a mermaid lifting a man up to the water’s surface, away from ominous claw-like shapes in the bottom of the image. The concept provided by the deck author is for “Soul Cages” from which mermaids sometimes rescue men.

Once I have that rough background in place, I start roughing in the figures. And I do mean rough! I’m not working with any reference photos for this artwork, because I had a specific pose in mind and couldn’t find anything close enough. Reference photos make things so much faster and easier, especially for complex poses like this but we’ll see how I go… You can see the man has legs sketched in more than one position, still testing pose details.

More sketching, mostly on the man’s leg positions. Again, he’s got a “double” foot sketched in, me playing with positions.

Time to start cleaning up my mess. I solidify the lines I’m happy with and erase out the one’s that I’m not. The mermaid’s hand on the man gets the chop, it was wrong. The man’s face (bottom half only) comes into focus. I’m not sure about the idea of not showing the man’s eyes, but I like how his hair is falling. Eyes are important in artworks, one of the main things a viewer connects with, and this artwork (with the angle of the mermaids head as well) hasn’t got much in the way of visible eyes. It might change. I’ve also used the free transform tool to rotate and reduce the overall size of the figures. Free transform is to one tool I miss most between digital painting and traditional painting!

Time for a change up! I need a new perspective to get these figures right, so it’s Mirror Image trick time. Switching to the mirror image of your sketch can give you a new view on things and help get a better drawing.  I sketch in a hand for the mermaid I’m much happier with, and a little shading on the man, who’s shoulder gets cut down to a better size. I decide I’m not happy with the mermaid’s body at all, it’s got to get redone from scratch (but keeping that hand I like!).

Lots of construction and mess around the mermaid while I’m trying to get her body sorted out. Getting a bit better, but still not right.

I’ve been looking at the figures for too long again, time for another switch to refresh my eyes. Mermaid’s body is coming up better now, so I start cleaning things up again.

I add in some more shading to the mermaid to get a better idea of her 3D presence, and give her some rough hair.

Fins! I wanted to do some really soft, wavy, feather fins for this mermaid. I also darken the bottom of the image a bit more with a simple gradient layer set to Multiply in the blending options.

About time for some colour, right? The card description talks about red-haired irish mermaids, so we’ll go with that. Red is a great colour for mermaids anyway, lovely contrasting colours for water settings! I add a little of the rusty red to the mermaids tail as well, and do some subtle skin colouring for skin that looks like it’s underwater. Dark grey/purples and greeny browns make up the skin palette, with a touch of the same peachy colour as the water surface for highlights. While adding colour to the hair, I’ve given it some more shape- digital painting for me is just slowly working each piece of the image from rough to refined. I’ve also done another free transform, reducing the size of the figures in the image again.

I go back to the background to finish up this concept. I add a couple of murky “cages” in the background, occupants included. A few hints of fish and bubbles, and add some more detail to the water surface. The man also finally gets some pants.

There’s still a lot more to do on this artwork, but this is the stage where I’ll normally stop and leave an image alone for a while, so I’m looking at it fresh when I go back again. I also want to contact the author and see if this artwork is working for the card description, and this is a good time to do so. While most of the image elements are now in place, I haven’t spent any of the hard hours of detailed refinement work still to go. It probably took me an hour and a half to get to this stage (between getting up every few minutes to drag my exploro-baby back to her approved play area).

This sketch actually went fairly smoothly for me, considering the lack of reference. Only a few complete limb rearrangements. I try to keep different elements on individual layers in photoshop to make painting easier as I go (background, figures, hair normally gets it’s own layer, foreground details like the bubbles).

I’ll try and remember when I get back to this artwork to keep saving stages and continue this walkthrough, or at least post the completed artwork so that you can see how much it changes in some ways, and doesn’t in others, from this stage.