I am often asked "how did you paint that?". Or "is that a photograph?" My paintings are created with a variety of media including acrylics, watercolors and colored pencils, using both traditional and digital painting techniques. However, these days almost all my artwork is painted digitally and then reproduced as giclee prints.
Here are some of the techniques I use for both traditional and digital painting.
I get my inspiration for my paintings from new astronomical discoveries or images sent back to Earth from our spacecraft or manned NASA missions. Often my inspiration comes when I visit a strange landscape on Earth that is a good analog, visually or geologically, to another planet in our Solar System. I've traveled a lot, and have a large library of photos and sketches from my travels to use as reference images. Aside from images from Space Agencies like NASA or ESA (because I can't get to Mars myself yet!) I only use my own photos as reference in my artwork. I don't use images taken by other people of places I have never been to, as I think it is important to my work that I have visited the location myself in order to experience the sights and sounds and smells of the landscape, to get a real feeling for the geology and to have studied the light and colors of the setting with my own eyes. I usually use several different photos to layout my initial 'sketch'. I also research the subject of my painting, getting the latest information from scientists and scientific journals to make sure everything in the artwork will be as scientifically accurate as possible. You won't find any unicorns on Jupiter in my space art.

My traditional painting technique involves some basic steps. First, inspiration! Then I draw a basic sketch of my scene on a piece paper. (I never do detailed sketches before I paint. I enjoy the immediacy of creating the art when I paint it the first time. Likewise, I never go back years later and do any corrections to a completed work. Once it's done, it's done forever!) I assemble reference photos from my own photo library and research the subject. I write my research notes on the paper sketch which I keep nearby so I can refer to it while I'm painting. With reference photos pinned up around my work area, I do a light pencil sketch of my scene on whatever canvas or paper substrate I'm using. Then I just dive in and start painting. Whether I'm using acrylic paint or colored pencils, my approach is the same - I apply many layers of color on top of each other to build up a luminous depth to my image. In the case of acrylics, I do an underpainting of the basic forms in the landscape, then use transparent washes or glazes as I build it up. With colored pencils, I have to plan more carefully as the paper can only take so many layers, but I still overlay many strokes of the pencils to build up depth and develop the colors. I sometimes use a technique of alternating layers of colored pencil with graphite pencil to add even more depth.

When people think of digital art they often equate it with a photograph that has been tweaked using software, or a computer generated scene involving 3D modeling, meshes and digital textures applied on top. But I create my digital art in an entirely different manner. I paint digitally in the same way I would if I were using traditional media. The difference is I use a digital tablet and pen instead of canvas and wet paint. I use a program by Corel called "Painter" that simulates many kinds of art media, paint and brushes. I usually use a combination of simulated acrylic, oil and air 'brushes' along with digital sponge and chalk 'brushes' for adding textures. Since I know I will be printing the final artwork on textured paper or canvas, I don't use a textured paper background when I work. I still make my initial sketch and notes on real paper, as above, but then I move to the computer and create a composite 'sketch' using my reference photos as a sort of underpainting layer that I can refer back to as I paint. Since I use many reference photos in each painting, instead of pinning actual photos to my work area, I keep the digital photos as layers in my file that I can refer to as necessary. Then I begin painting just as I do on traditional-media, brush stroke by brush stroke - laid down by my own hand. I do not employ any automated brush stroke sequences and I never keep any photographic elements that are not painted over with brushstrokes. I do use a few 'cheats', after all, it wouldn't make sense to use a computer if I didn't take advantage of the technology. So I might use a gradient fill in the background of my skies rather than airbrushing it, or change the scale of an object by resizing it without having to completely repaint it. If I find the overall color is wrong or the light and contrast are off, I can easily adjust those issues with the software rather than repainting the scene. Being able to save different versions of a painting is a great way for me to push the boundaries of my art by allowing me to experiment with an image without ruining the original or wasting paint and canvas.
I paint my pictures at a very high resolution which enables me to print large sized prints at high resolutions without losing detail. I print all of my limited edition paper prints myself in my studio. My canvas or metal prints are done by a third party printing agency. Prints made in my studio are created solely by me from start to finish. Each print is in effect an 'artist's proof'. I have a Canon large-format ipf PRO-1000 printer which can print on different textures of fine art papers or canvas. The printer uses archival quality pigment based inks. I usually use Breathing Color's Elegance Velvet Paper or Somerset Velvet Paper which are also acid-free archival quality papers. According to the manufacturers, these inks and papers will produce prints that are expected to last more than a hundred years if properly framed.

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