What Yoda Taught Me About Painting

ART – What Yoda Taught Me About Painting

What does that video above have to do with painting?

In my last painting post I wrote that I was going to count my loses and move on.  I fully intended to until I spoke to my friend Paul about my failed attempt.

I asked him what he thought my problem was. You know what he told me?

My head construction fundamentals where off. The basic principles of my head construction were not working.


That was the last thing I expected to hear. Once again, getting cocky failed me.

The reason I wasn’t able to get a handle on the painting was because the structure of my drawing was too nebulous.

After a conversation with him about drawing and painting heads, I came to the conclusion that I needed to work out and plan how I was going to paint my piece by drawing it first before painting it.

It turns out that the same technique I was using to paint in gouache, I could apply to my digital painting.

What technique? Click the links below to read the relevant posts on the subject:

It’s ridiculous that I thought the process was different because I was painting in a different medium.

But as Yoda said to Luke:

No, no different, only different in your mind.

Photo courtesy of: http://quotespictures.net/18939/no-no-different-only-different-in-your-mind-yoda

So I’m doing it all again. Starting with a line drawing. So here’s what I’ve got so far:

Supergirl face rhythm guide

In the drawing above, I first started by constructing the head and then mapping the rhythms of the face.

Supergirl drawing the shadow guide

I then added a layer and using the rhythms, looked at my reference and worked out the shadow patterns.  I drew ONLY the darkest shadows.  I left out any light midtones.

This was the one thing I realized I was not thinking about when painting this piece the first time.  Separating the darkest shadows from the slight midtones in the light is key.

It can often be, the hardest part of the process and requires a ton of squinting.

What I ended up with is the drawing below:

Supergirl shadow guide

I will tell you this, doing the drawing first has shown me all the things I was ignoring and wasn’t thinking about when doing the painting.  I’m amazed that I neglected so much.  No wonder I lost control.

Trust the process. If you do it well, it will make everything easier.

The further down the drawing I got, the sloppier I got. That’s okay, I don’t really need the hands to be perfect, I’ll mostly be concentrating on the face. I may crop that area out in the final version.

This will be my final attempt. If I mess it up I’ll move on.  I’m getting tired of repainting this one piece. I need something new to get me excited again.

I also need a “win.” Perhaps, I’ll try something a tad less ambitious next time.

In a way, I already “won,” the process has taught me so much already. Still, I’d like a make a pretty painting at some point.

I’ll see how far I get by next week.

So yeah, I should have listened to Yoda from the start. I thought it was different, but it was only different in my mind.

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The Making of a Time Travel Anthology Cover

ART – The Making of a Time Travel Anthology Cover

I put my painting practice on hold this week to create a cover for a time travel anthology, Creative Alchemy Inc. will be publishing in a few months.

The book is called Masters of Time: A Sci-Fi and Fantansy Time Travel Anthology.

I spoke about the cover with my wife, who’s editing the book and also contributed to the collection of stories.  We both agreed we wanted a retro Science Fiction feel to the cover.  Something graphic simple.

I’m not a fan of photo covers.  I much prefer drawn or painted ones.  Also, there’s so many photo covers out there that a cover with artwork tends to stand out more.

My wife showed me a photo she thought had the feel she wanted and I went off from there. She wanted all the characters in the anthology to be represented in the cover.

The first thing I did was to sketch out a rough, to show her the direction I wanted to go.  Here it is below:

Masters of Time rough cover mock up

The intent was to show things in the cover that would immediately evoke the theme of the anthology at a glance. I thought it would be good to use time travel cliches and tropes to get this across. I decided to go with the characters coming out of a “time vortex,” in silhouette and I added clocks so you’d know it wasn’t just a portal.

She liked the concept, so I moved on to make the final cover. Unfortunately,  I didn’t record the process. It took about a week.

I used a lot of reference photos to get a real world idea of what I was going to abstract.  Then I began the tedious work of constructing the assets for the cover.

It was less like drawing and more like cutting out lots of different shapes out of colored paper and gluing it together.

Even though I’m still not sure about the fonts, the final art for the cover turned out like this:

Masters of Time Kindle Cover

Personally I think it turned out okay.

What do you think? Did I accomplish what I set out to do?

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What to Do When Your Art Skills Fail You.

ART – What to Do When Your Art kills Fail You.

Supergirl Painting first pass

What do you do when your art skills fail you? Chalk it up to getting experience, move on and try again with another piece…and another…and another.

That’s the conclusion I came to, AGAIN.

It’s a simple lesson that’s so easily forgotten when you’re emotionally invested in the drawing or painting you’re trying to create. EVERY piece you make is a step forward.

You learn something from everyone you make.

Here’s what happened to me this time around. I got cocky.  I should have known better. Every time I get cocky, I fall on my face.

I’d been doing color studies for almost two Months now.  The more I did, the more comfortable I got with them.  They started to become second nature.  Which gave me confidence.

Too much confidence.

I thought to myself, “Hey, this stuff is so much easier now. Now that I’ve got this down, I could do a finished painting easy.”  I was sure I could do it.  After all, I could do step one easily.


Problem was that I thought that getting step one down would make me automatically able to get the last step down as well.  Not realizing there were more steps along the way.

I didn’t realize there was a step two. Until step two kicked my butt.

I ended up with this painting I lost complete control of and didn’t know how to finish.

Supergirl Painting failed second pass

It’s time to chalk it up to experience.  Now I know what my limitations are and what I need to work on next.  Namely, step two.

That said, I’m going to ask my friend and mentor Paul Wee for some advice. Hopefully he can clarify for me what I can do to nail down step two. I’ll let you know.

Unfortunately, I have to take a small break from painting because I have a book cover for a time travel anthology to do.  Perhaps I’ll write about that next week.



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Figure Drawing Painting Practice

ART – Figure Drawing Painting Practice

Figure Painting roughs 01

Figure Painting roughs 02

Figure Painting roughs 03

I figure draw every Tuesday night at work.  The studio provides us with the opportunity.

Since I’m trying to get better at opaque painting, I thought it would be good idea to practice it during figure drawing.  I used my  Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 and the Sketchbook Pro App.

I don’t do this in color because it would be too much to think about.

The top painting it a two minute pose. The second one is five minutes, and the last one is ten minutes.  There isn’t much time to get a finished painting.  Just the impression of what you see.

Doing this made me very comfortable with laying in a figure fast.  I highly recommend it


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5 Best Superhero Tabletop Games

BOARD GAMES – 5 Best Superhero Tabletop Games

5 Best Superhero Tabletop GamesA while ago I wrote about the 6 best superhero tabletop role-playing games out there.  They’re fantastic, but what if you don’t have the time to play a role-playing game?

What if you want to play a tabletop game, but want something you can quickly set up and start playing with friends or family?

Well, I got your back. I play a few tabletop superhero games and I’ve made a list of the 5 best superhero games you can play.

The is from great to awesome.  None of these games are bad and you might put some of these in different spots on your list.

I suggest you give them all a try and see which ones you like best.

Some of the descriptions under the “What is it” headers, I’ve taken from other sites or the back of the boxes.

(Some of the links below are affiliate links, thanks for your support)

Let’s get started:

5. Sentinels of The Multiverse

What it is:

This is a cooperative, fixed-deck card game with a comic book flavor. Each player plays as one of ten heroes, against one of four villains, and the battle takes place in one of four different dynamic environments.

Each player, after selecting one of the heroes, plays a deck of 40 cards against the villain and environment decks, which “play themselves”, requiring the players to put the top card of the appropriate deck into play on the villain and environment turns.

On each player’s turn, they may play a card from their hand, use a power printed on one of their cards in play, and draw a card from their deck. Each round starts with the villain turn, continues clockwise around the table, then concludes with the environment turn.

Each villain has various advantages, such as starting with certain cards in play, as specified by the villain character card.

Play continues until the heroes reduce the villain to 0 or fewer Hit Points (HP), or until the villain defeats the heroes, either via a win condition or by reducing all the heroes to 0 or fewer HP.

Why it’s fun:

This game makes you feel like you’re in a battle with an evil super powered mastermind. You and you’re friends desperately work together to get the cards you need to draw to defeat the bad guy.

It can get tough depending on the mastermind you’re fighting, the heroes you’re playing, and the number of players.

Each hero plays different and brings something unique to the game. There’s a hero archetype for everyone, especially if you get the expansions.  

Each villain feels different and they all have their own unique winning conditions you have to avoid.  This combined with how the environments effect the game turn by turn gives this game plenty of replay value and bang for your buck.

Lot’s of theme here.  Very fun.

There’s even a paid App for iOS and Android, where you can play it solo. It does a great job of simulating the tabletop experience minus the friends.


The game can get a bit long.  You need to set aside some time to play this.

Sometimes the random draw of the cards don’t let you do much.

Also, the game can be fiddly.  By which I mean, some turns, have many conditions to keep track of.  Bad guys do stuff, environments do stuff, there are modifiers and health tokens to take into account.

Lot’s of upkeep.

Fortunately, there a paid App, called Sentinels of the Muliverse: Sidekick for iOS and Android, that helps out with all of this. But the fact that they had to make it at all, says something.

4. Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game

What it is:

This game is set in the Marvel Comics universe. To set up the game, players choose a number of hero decks – Spider-Man, Hulk, Cyclops, Wolverine, etc. – and shuffle them together; since players use only a handful of hero decks out of the fifteen included, the hero deck can vary widely in terms of what’s available.

Players then choose a mastermind villain (Magneto, Loki, Dr. Doom, etc.), stack that particular villain’s attack cards underneath it, then modify the villain deck as needed based on that villain’s particular scheme.

Over the course of the game, players will recruit powerful hero cards to add to their deck in order to build a stronger and more resourceful deck.

Players need to build both their recruitment powers (to enlist more heroes) and their fighting ability (to combat the villains who keep popping up to cause trouble). Players recruit heroes from an array of six cards, with empty slots refilled as needed.

At the start of a player’s turn, he reveals a villain and adds it to the row of villains. This row has a limited number of spaces, and if it fills up, the earliest villain to arrive escapes, possibly punishing the heroes in some way. Some villains also take an action when showing up for the first time, such as kidnapping an innocent bystander. The villain deck also contains “master strike” cards, and whenever one of these shows up, the mastermind villain (controlled by the game) takes a bonus action.

As players fight and defeat villains, they collect those cards, which will be worth points at game’s end. Players can also fight the mastermind; if a player has enough fighting power, he claims one of the attack cards beneath the mastermind, which has a particular effect on the game.

If all of these cards are claimed, the game ends and players tally their points to see who wins. If the mastermind completes his scheme, however – having a certain number of villains escape, for example, or imposing a certain number of wounds on the heroes – then the players all lose.

Why it’s fun:

Similar to Sentinels, this game is full of theme. But it plays very different than Sentinels.

If you love the Marvel universe, this it he game for you. This really makes you feel like a team of Marvel heroes fighting the bad guys.

Once you’re done playing, it really feels like you’ve been through an adventure.

The gameplay is simple and turns go by quick.

There’s a ton of expansions. There’s a ton of game here. You can play with characters from just about every corner of the Marvel Universe.  Even the Guardians of the Galaxy (there’s an expansion with them).

The characters you play with are thematic and fun.  And the villains you “fight” are as well.

It’s really fun. A must have for Marvel fans.


This game takes a while to set up and clean up.  Lot’s of card sorting.

It’s also a very long game, so you will need to set aside plenty of time to play it.

I have a hard time getting this game to the table for those two reasons. I think if I got this game to table more often, it might be higher on the list.

3. DC Comics Deck Building Game

What it is:

To start the game, each player chooses one of the seven over-sized hero cards, each of which has a special power, and starts with a deck of ten cards.

Each turn, a player starts with a hand of five cards and can acquire or conquer the five types of cards in the game: heroes, villains and super-villains, equipment, super powers, and locations.

To defeat villains, you’ll need to have power – but when a super-villain is defeated, a new one comes into play, attacking all the heroes while doing so. Make sure you’ve acquired defenses – like superspeed or bulletproof powers, or The Batsuit equipment – to protect yourself from harm.

Craft your hero deck into a well-oiled machine to take on the most vile villains in the DC Universe in your quest for Victory (Points)!

Why it’s fun

Personally, I like this game more the Marvel game above.  I tend to like the DC universe a bit more anyway, but the truth is, this game gets much more play time than the Marvel game. Why?

It’s simple to learn, simple to set up and the game is done in about 45 minutes.  Each superhero you play gives you a special advantage that feels like the hero.

The cards are thematic.  It’s cool to see the DC universe villains, locations, equipment and Heroes pop up as the game plays.

The game is a lot of fun, full of tactics and strategy.  There’s a lot of expansions, including one where everyone plays cooperatively to beat a bunch of bad guys.

In other words, there now two way to play this game, not just one.

I really like this game.  If you’re a fan of DC, get this game.


Biggest drawback this game has is it’s not nearly as thematic as the Marvel game.  It’s a deck building game with the DC license on it.

When you play the game, you’re competing with the players around the table for victory points.  This seems odd since you’re all playing as superheroes. When you defeat bad guys, they become part of your deck which means you use them and sometimes they attack players around the table.  This also doesn’t seem to make sense.

Also, all the equipment and power cards are accessible to everyone, including the Batmobiles and super strength. If you’re playing as Flash, this wouldn’t make sense.

You end up having to invent the reasons this would make sense. Like maybe it just means that Batman or Superman made an appearance that turn and used those things.  And when you attack others with a villain, it’s just the villain showing up and causing havoc in their lives.

See, you may need to do that to justify the way the game works.  I personally don’t mind and don’t really think about it that hard.

However, as I said above, there is an expansion that makes the game fully cooperative and makes it very thematic. Problem is that it doubles the playtime to two hours rather than just 45 minutes and it can sometimes get tedious.

I still like this game though.

2. Dice Masters

What it is:

This is a collectible dice-building tabletop game.

In this game, each player fields one of their own custom made superhero teams, with each hero being represented by custom-tooled dice; each team must be composed of 15 dice, and a player can “purchase” dice only from his team.

Each hero also has one or more character reference cards, which show the special abilities for the characters based on the die rolls.

Different versions of these cards will be available in booster packs, allowing for more customization of your team. Players use these dice to collect energy, recruit new heroes, and battle head-to-head.

In addition, each player brings two basic action cards to the game, which are placed in the center of the table; both players can purchase dice from these cards.

A player wins once the opposing player has been reduced to zero life.

Why it’s fun

Oh boy, is this game fun! You get to build a team of superheroes, villains or both, and then you go head to head with an opponent.  It’s a lot like a game of Magic the Gathering.  Or if you’re not familiar with that, a game of Hearthstone. Only that, instead of cards you’re using and rolling dice.

Each die has a different powers, and faces.  They do different things and it just feels right.  The powers are thematic and they feel like the characters they represent.

There’s a ton of variety in the game and the way it’s played.

As of the time of this writing, only Marvel characters are playable, but DC is on the way, so are Yu-Gi-Oh! and Dungeons and Dragons.

Did I mention that it’s an inexpensive game? The starter set is $15.00 and the booster packs are only ONE DOLLAR each! There’s something exciting about opening each pack.

The games are short too.  It’s so fun.  I highly recommend this.


The game is collectible and it’s tough to find the first starter sets. Although the second one is easier to find.

The fact that it’s collectible means you’ll be spending your dollars only to end up getting stuff you already have. Although it’s not a total loss if you needed more copies of the die that comes with it.

Also, if you’ve never played a game like this before, you might have a hard time understanding how to play the game.

1. HeroClix

What it is:

Based on the popular Mage Knights system, but utilizing super hero characters from the Marvel and DC Comics Universe.

The game plays much like a miniatures game, but without the measure-and-move system or the constant consultation of hit charts. Rather, most of the vital statistical information is directly on the base of the characters, which can be rotated as characters take damage from hits.

Players construct teams of comic book heroes, villains, and engage in a turn-by-turn battle on grid maps based on various storyline locations.

Since we’re talking super heroes here, each character has special abilities and powers, which give the game its ‘comic’ book feel.

Why it’s fun

For years I’ve been seeing Heroclix sold in comic book stores.  I’ve  ignored the game.  Mostly because the figures looked kinda ugly.

The technology has changed.  Figures now look great.

I decided, after playing all the games above and feeling like, there ought to be a game out there that really feels like you’re fighting with superheroes, that I’d give Heroclix a try.

The other games above come close but, there was something missing. I’m happy to say that what was missing, Heroclix has.

THIS is the ultimate superhero game.  You want to play a game that really makes you feel like your playing with super powered characters from your favorite comics, this is the game to play.

Want to see who would win, Superman or the Hulk,  Flash vs. Quicksilver, Batman vs. Captain America? Play the battle out with a friend.

Want to recreate a battle from you’re favorite comic story? You can do it with these.

Want to have the Legion of Superheroes go up against the Justice League? You can.

This game gives you rules you can use to play with neat little superhero toys and it’s awesome. I mean, why have a bunch of superhero toys that just sit there on the desk when you can actually play with them.  Now you have an excuse.

You put out a big map on the table that looks cool, and you play with figures of you’re favorite superheroes.  All of them have powers and abilities that make them feel like who they are.  It’s so fun.

I’m addicted.

You can even go online, find and purchase the characters you want. The game has been around so long, you can buy figures in bulk for cheap.

But opening packs to see what you get randomly might lead you to discovering new comic characters and story lines you didn’t know about.

I’ve bought a few comics because of  my Heroclix.

If you like superheroes, THIS is the ultimate superhero game.  A must have.


The game is very difficult to get into.  There’s a LOT to this game. It can be overwhelming at first.  I took baby steps getting into the game. I watched a lot of how to play videos too.

It took a while before I felt comfortable with the game.

Although once you do, it’s so worth it.

The game is collectible. And most of the characters can only be bought in blind packs. This means that some of the characters you really want, you might not get.

However, they may be available online, but they might be really expensive to buy because of their rarity.

This is a big pain.

Also, finding a place to put your figures can become an issue. Especially if you end up buying a ton.


So that’s it, what do you think?  Have you played any of these games? Which one is your favorite.

If you haven’t and tried them out because of my list, let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you Like This List You can Also Try

Six of the Best Superhero Tabletop Role Playing Games

6 Secret Awesome Things Nerds Know About Playing Tabletop Role Playing Games That You Don’t.

Three Reasons to Play “Terror in Meeple City” (previously called “Rampage”) a Review.

Four Reasons to read Brian Michael Bendis’ First Five Year Run on Avengers.

Dungeons and Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game Review – Playing With Little Kids.



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Practicing Your Art Anywhere.

ART – Practicing Your Art Anywhere.

Lara Croft Digital color Study


The above color study was drawn on my Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0.  I used the Sketchbook Pro App.

Unlike the Supergirl study I did a few weeks back, this one used a more traditional digital brush.  I like the way it felt more than the previous one.

The reason I painted this study using my table was because I did it during lunch with my friends from work. We went out to get comics and afterwards, we eat.

While we ate and talked, I painted this.  It was a good opportunity.  Considering the circumstances the study turned out nice.

Which leads me the point of this post, if you really want to practice your drawing, or painting, you can do it anywhere.  Just make sure you bring your art stuff with you.

Before we left, I made use to bring my tablet.  I also planned out what I’d do when we sat down to eat before we actually went.  That way, once we started eating I knew that I’d be painting.

Both my friends are artists so they didn’t mind that I painted as we talked.  It was  good time, with a fun conversation.

Practice your art everywhere.

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Practicing Painting Skin

ART – Practicing Painting Skin

Bruce Lee Color study


Since skin is so difficult to get right, I thought I’d practice by painting a color study a shirtless Bruce Lee. Once again, I limited myself to doing this study using only one brush size.

This helps me, not get into all the details and allows me to see the main colors and shapes.  If I can succeed in making the study look like what it is, without the details, I’m on the right track.

The foot he’s standing on was cut off in the reference photo I was using. I didn’t feel comfortable making it up so I left it alone.

There’s an awful lot more colors in a skin than “peach” or “dark browns.” When studying the reference photo I saw lots of reds and dark reds in the shadows.

They weren’t quite brown.  There where some browns but mostly reds.

You can see the colors I thought I saw in the reference photo above the study.  I didn’t use most of those colors. I didn’t touch any of the purples or bright reds.

I usually see a lot of purples and blues in skin shadows but not this time.

I’d like to say I’m starting to get the hang of things.  I might do one or two more skin studies and then try to do a finished portrait.

That will be the test to see how much I’ve learned by doing these studies.



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Seeing How Painting Practice Applies to Coloring Drawings

ART – Seeing How Painting Practice Applies to Coloring Drawings

Draw Fu Perspective Secrets

I had to take some time away from my color studies to color a header drawing made for my perspective lesson post over at my other site The Drawing Website.

In the post I show the process I went through to draw the line work.  Here though, I thought I’d write about the coloring process.

The reason I’m doing so is because I took the opportunity to color the drawing using a lot of the techniques I’ve been using in my color studies.  Turns out, the processes are complimentary.

That should be obvious of course, I just didn’t know how complimentary they would be.

In general, I think the final colored drawing came out okay.  I didn’t really have a vision for what it should look like going in.  I was making it up as I went.

I’m not entirely sure that was the best approach.

I colored it all without reference. I was made up the colors and values shapes.  I began with the shadow colors and then added in the colors in the light.

I also used two different programs to color this with.  Not out of choice. I simply didn’t have access to the program I began coloring the drawing in.

The programs I used where Photoshop and Manga Studio 5.  The character in pink with the big afro, I colored using Photoshop.  The rest of the drawing I colored using Manga Studio 5.

It was an interesting experiment.  Using Manga Studio 5, I used the “oil paint,” simulator option.  It was a bit awkward at first to use it.  Little by little, the more I used it, I began understand it. By the time I was done with the coloring, I loved the tool.

Too bad there isn’t a brush in Photoshop that’s like it.  From now on, if I get a chance to color in Manga Studio 5, I’ll use it every time.  I diffidently want to try doing some studies with it.

In the end, my take away from coloring this drawing:

  • A preliminary color thumbnail might be a good idea.
  • Painting techniques apply easily to coloring line art.
  • The Manga Studio 5 “oil paint” tool is pretty cool.
  • Coloring a drawing like a painting takes long time.

Some of the links above are affiliate links. Thanks for your support.




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Supergirl Color Study

ART – Supergirl Color Study

Supergirl Color Study

Painted using the Android Sketchbook Pro App on my Wacom Cintiq Hybrid. It was a different experience than doing these studies in Photoshop.

I don’t like how it turned out all that much.  I think it was the brush I was using.  At first I wanted one with texture and bristles.  But it turned out to be too “rough.”

The study could only be exported at a low resolution as well, which is something I don’t like about the Sketchbook Pro App.  Otherwise it’s a great App.  I think next time I’ll try using a more Photoshop like digital brush.

This time around I learned I needed to practice skin in bright light a lot more.  I also need to watch my proportions when doing these studies.

I was trying to do that multiple colors within one value thing I wrote about last week.  Especially on the torso where there was a lot of skin.  My version turned out darker than the source material version.  I need to do a better job of picking the correct colors next time.

Also I need to make sure I’m simplifying what I’m painting into much simpler shapes so I don’t get lost in the details.

Because of the Holidays (Christmas) it was a bit harder to get more than one color study done.  I really need more practice though.

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Painting Observation: Multiple Colors on One Surface

ART- Painting Observation: Multiple Colors on One Surface

Color studies Deathstroke and the doctor


As I study opaque painting by doing thumbnail color studies I’ve come to learn a few helpful things that I hadn’t realized.

As I’ve written before, I’ve tried painting a few portraits and have failed.  One of the reasons the paintings have come out so badly was because of the way the skin would turn out in the paintings.

I would choose a local color in a light area and vary it slightly depending on what plane of the face I was painting. But for some reason, doing this made the skin seem unnatural.  I wasn’t sure why until now.

I’ve come to the conclusion that, even if you’re painting one plane with one value, the local colors within that value may still vary.  In skin especially. Since skin is translucent, how much or little blood or blemishes are in an area change the local color of said area.

In other words, you DON’T use only ONE local color in the area you’re painting, but rather a few.  As long as the local colors match the value of the area, varying the local colors makes the area seem natural.

This same principle can also be seen in other surfaces as well.  Noticing when it happens can make the difference between making something look natural and making something seem unnatural.

Of course, it isn’t an absolute principle and there are local colors that are completely without variation. Still, being aware that it can happen, helps.

Above I painted two color studies. One of Deathstroke: The Terminator and the other is The Doctor.  My study of The Doctor isn’t a very good likeness, but it was difficult to do so when I limited the size of my brush to one size.  The point was to study the colors not to get a likeness.  Still, it kinda bugs me.


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