Tiger study and an exploration in colored pencils

About 5 or 6 years ago, maybe more, I was given a large set of Prismacolor colored pencils and until last weekend never touched them. All pencils were never sharpened. A box of nice new blunt pencils. I decided it was time to fire up Carl, my trusty pencil sharpener (I'll do a review of Carl soon), and give them a try. Let me preface this by saying I have NEVER used colored pencils so this is a journey of exploration for me.

Step forward a few days and this tiger study is starting to evolve. I had a sheet of Daler Rowney toned Canford card stock on the table so just dove in with this. I'm learning what I can and can't do and what limitations these pencils present. I'm also on the fence about whether it's a medium I really want to pursue seriously. I can definitely see the possibilities with sketches and studies. But for serious projects, I'm still a little unsure.

This Tiger study is a work in progress and I'll more than likely post more shots as it progresses. If you have any tips for me on using colored pencils, leave me a comment. I'd love to hear how others are using them.

Carolina Wren Study

One of my favorite backyard birds is the Carolina Wren. Every other year a couple build their nest in our garage. The first time it was in a box of fishing supplies. The second time was in a lawn mower bag hanging high on the wall. We had a lot of fun watching them come and go and really enjoyed watching the young wrens learn to fly and leave the nest.

A friend of mine had a wren build a nest in his motorcyle helmet in his garage. They can be a little distructive but I don't mind.

This study will be used in an upcoming oil painting.

Pastel, Panpastel and Charcoal
Canford Gunmetal Grey Card Stock

Progress shots can be seen on:
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/gregnewmanstudios
Instgram: http://instagram.com/gregnewmanart

Owl Study

I have a few wildlife paintings in the works at the same time. This is a study of an owl which will probably end up not being used but it was a fun exploration of the owl's facial features.

I've put together a progression image to show the some of the progress of the study.

Pastel, Panpastel and Charcoal
Toned Canford Card Stock

Progress shots can be seen on:
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/gregnewmanstudios
Instgram: http://instagram.com/gregnewmanart

Importance of Daily Sketching

I had a chat with a friend of mine the other day about sketching and a few things stuck in my head after the call. Beyond the fact that I (and other artists) sketch daily for pure pleasure, there are many benefits from a habitual routine of daily sketching.

The most obvious reason is to get better at what we do as artists. If you practice something long enough it becomes second nature and your skills refine. Beyond the obvious, it's a great way to focus on areas that need particular work. For example, if I have a problem drawing ears, I'll focus on that in my daily sketches until they become second nature. The added bonus is I can usually draw the problem subject(s) without reference after a few good daily sketch sessions.

I often find that going back through my sketchbook(s) I find interesting sketches and ideas to expand on and some become finished pieces.

The Egg-Timer Effect - Focus on Form and Value, Not Detail

Take 10, 15, 20, 30 minutes a day to put pencil to paper. Daily sketches should not be about how long it takes you to draw the chosen subject. Just taking the time to do it, you should be applauded. So why an egg timer? For my purposes, timing myself does a few things:

  1. An egg-timer forces me to think more about the subjects form and values and less about detail.
  2. An egg-timer trains me for the projects where I'm doing a lot of thumbnail sketches. Thumbnails are not meant to be completed, detailed drawings. They are usually studies in composition and/or value.
  3. I personally think it helps an artist become less critical about their sketchbook and focus on the ideas/studies being stored in them.

Set the egg-timer for whatever length of time you choose, then try to accomplish your goal in that time.

Footnotes and Supplies

I often post my daily sketches on the Studio Instgram account so give it a follow if you'd like.

Some supplies I use for daily sketches and studies:

  1. Cachet Earthbound Sketch Books 8 1/2 in. x 11 in. - Toned paper
  2. Faber-Castell Mix & Match Pitt Pastel Pencils 4/Pkg Neutrals
  3. Daler-Rowney Canford Cut Paper & Card Sheets paper dreadnought gray 8 1/2 in. x 11 in. [PACK OF 20 ]

Brodey Value Study

I've been working on this sketch of our son from when he was about the age of 12 years old off and on for a month. I was originally planning on a finished pastel but can really only see the likeness of our son in oil. Therefore, I mostly consontrated on this pastel as a value study. I'm prepping the panel for oil at this point and will use this as reference.

Free 47 Harley Knucklehead Desktop Wallpaper

I did this painting of a 1947 Harley Davidson Knucklehead last year and thought I would make a wallpaper of it (people still do that?). I'm providing it as a free download for you fine folk. Just go to the dedicated page and follow the instructions to get it. Oh, and tell all your crazy friends to get it to!

Erondu Portrait

Erondu Painting

"Erondu" is a portrait painting for Jared Erondu. Jared commissioned a monotone piece. Originally I planned on painting it monotone but thought I'd have some fun with an old-school color theme first then drop it back to monotone for him. I've provided both to him so he can choose which one he wants to use in whatever his final application will be.

Erondu brushes

I kept this piece really loose with no real blending at all; just overlaying brush work. I really didn't want it to be photo-realistic, even though it's close at small sizes. As you can see from the above slice of the full size painting, the brush work is meticulously placed but not as tight as some of my other paintings and not blended.

For those interested, the only brush I really used for this was the stock Acrylic Captured Bristle brush in painter 12. Sometimes varying the opacity and resaturation of it. It's a lot of fun to limit yourself to one (or two) brushes in a project, much like photographers limiting themselves to one lens.

Monoprice, The Little Tablet that Can

Monoprice tablet

Tablets are a frustrating but necessary tool for artists. Most, including myself, think that Wacom is the only player in this arena. My friend Ray Frenden had been raving about this cheap tablet sold by Monoprice. Yeah, that's right. Monoprice! The cable company. Ok, so maybe Wacom isn't the only player.

I kind of brushed it off for a while even though I was intrigued. At the time I was using a Wacom Cintiq 12wx (after years of using a Intuos 3 and then 4). I had the oportunity to upgrade to the 21 inch and sold my 12 inch Cintiq. Well, life happened and the while I used the 21 inch for a while, I just couldn't pay the steep price for it. I had long since gotten rid of my Intuos so I started contemplating my options for a new input device. That's when I decided what the hell. This Monoprice tablet is only $49.60 for the 10x6.25 size. What is there to lose? If I hate it, I'll return it. I read Ray's review and placed an order, reluctantly.

The tablet showed up and sat in the box for a month until I sold the 21 inch cintiq for the original owner. I opened the box and wasn't impressed. I had been spoiled by Wacom's tablet designs. This thing, while solid, looks a little antiquated. It has 8 (programmable) function keys down the left side that just looked like a birth defect compared to the Wacom's scroll wheel. The tablet itself though has a nice footprint with sturdy rubber feet and the surface has a little more tooth to it than the Wacom's which I do like. It feels more like drawing on paper than silk.

monoprice sketch

I had to install the Wacom Intuos 4 drivers on my Mac to get it to work. That's something that wasn't in the manual but a tip from Ray (thanks man!). Once I got the software installed and reprogrammed a few of the function keys I was off and running. I used the tablet for the Scream painting (below) that I did for Corel and was very impressed at the quality of this "cheap" tablet. It may be entry-level-priced but it definitely should be considered a viable tool. "It boasts a 4000 LPI resolution, a 200 RPS report rate, and 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity on the pen, allowing you to produce light, wispy strokes, as well as heavy, bold strokes, depending on the pressure used."

Scream Painting with Monoprice Tablet

I have had NO problems with Corel Painter or Photoshop using this tablet. All brushes performed as they did (or better) with the Wacom tablets I've used in the past. As you can see from both the painting and the pencil sketch (both done in Painter), the strokes produced by this tablet are top quality. The cheapness of the tablet's form factor quickly fades away after using it for a short period. The only drawback for some is that the stylus does not have an eraser. Something I never used anyway. There is a AAA battery inside the stylus but I haven't had to change it yet.

I definitely recommend spending the small price and giving this tablet a try. I'll be keeping it around and at this point I do NOT miss the Wacom products.

Who's Got Your Back


I get a lot of questions about how I handle backups on my Mac(s) as an illustrator. I'm going to explain the best I can how I've come to trust my current system. I will say that I've lost a lot of files over the years and pulled a lot of hairs out. Maybe that's why I'm bald? I've crafted a backup plan that works for me and doesn't cost me much money.


Quick Recovery Schedule

I classify my backups in order of quickness to recover. If my drive dies, what do I need to get back FAST and what can I live with as far as a time consuming processes?

  1. Client projects have to be immediate
  2. System preferences have to be immediate
  3. Media Libraries for music and photos can wait

System Preferences and Client Projects

My most used apps (Corel Painter, Photoshop, TextExpander, etc) have system preferences that I really don't want to lose if my drives go awry and I need to get back up and running fast. In addition to system preferences, I have to get my client projects back up and running in an instant.


The Family music library and videos (over 100gb) need a bullet proof backup system. It's not something I'm concerned about getting back immediately if something goes awry, but I do need to get them back. I've lost my iTunes library more times than I care to public admit. Luckily, Apple let me get access to what I had purchased but our burned discs were a different story; we lost all of those.

Tools and How I Use Them

First, we'll discuss the tools I use for immediate recovery and how I have them setup, then offsite backups and local storage.


I think everyone has heard of Dropbox by now. It's had it's ups and downs but I still use it and pay the small fee for a lot of storage space. Why? Because I can house all my client projects in Dropbox, store my system preferences and still have space to share files with friends and clients. In addition to backups for my Mac(s), I also use Dropbox to sync my import files between macs and serve my images for this blog from it as well.


I copy my system preferences to Dropbox's Private directory and use symlinks to link them back to their original location on my hard drive.

After I copy the directories to the Private folder, I delete (or rename) the original directory. I then open a Terminal window and type the following command:

ln -s ~/Dropbox/private/path/to/folder ~/Library/path/to/original/folder

What this does is makes the operating system think the directory exists in the Library directory when it really lives in Dropbox. Any changes I make or the software makes to my preferences now lives in Dropbox. An added plus to this is if you run multiple macs with the same applications, you can do the same on all your computers. One change shows up on all Macs.

Blog Image Repository

Dropbox gives you a public folder. From this directory I have a blog folder that I store images for web use. Right clicking on an image (that has already been uploaded to Dropbox) allows you to choose Dropbox > Copy Public Link to serve this to the web.

dropbox images


This is a nice feature that I tell a lot of artists about. Some have really utilized the feature. When you save a file that's stored on Dropbox, it will keep a new version of that file on the server. I know we always try to do incremental saves but sometimes it's not a perfect world.

Dropbox More Link

From within the Dropbox website, if you click the row that a file is listed on, options show up at the top of the page. Click the "more" link at the top right and you can select "previous versions".

Dropbox Versions

Dropbox allows you to restore one of the prior dated file reversions. However there is a DANGER. Copy the original file on your hard drive FIRST. Restoring a file from Dropbox will overwrite your current file with the older version and you cannot undo this change.


Backblaze is a nice externally hosted backup service that I've been using for years. I think it was Von Glitschka who originally turned me onto it. I know there are other services and probably better, but I have had no problems with Backblaze to date (knock on virtual wood). It takes a few minutes to install. After which, It takes a few days to a week to get your initial backup finished depending on your upload speeds with your ISP.

Backblaze Preference Pane

Backblaze runs as a preference pane on Mac and constantly monitors your drive for file changes and keeps the backup up to date behind the scenes. If your drive fails, you can simply download a zip file or request a drive be sent to you with your data on it. Backblaze does NOT back up operating system files, applications and temporary files. For those I use Time Machine and/or Dropbox.

Backblaze Preferences

From the preferences within the preference pane, you can choose to exclude files from backup as well as change the scheduled time of backups. I do mine late at night so it doesn't intefere with my connection during working hours.

Time Machine

The only thing I really use Time Machine for is for backing up whatever Backblaze does not. Namely whatever is in my applications directory and important operating system files, even if I have them symlinked to Dropbox.

Final Thoughts

With the above tools, if my hard drive takes a crap, I can be back up and running in a very short period and able to service clients by reinstalling Dropbox. After which, I would get anything else I needed from Time Machine and Backblaze. I can't remember the last time I backed up to CD or DVD. Space is cheap now and my backup system costs me about $15 a month between the small fees from Dropbox and Backblaze. To me, that's a small price to pay for piece of mind.

UPDATE: I've had a few people ask me if this will work for PC users and the answer is yes, except for symlinks which are a bit different on a PC. I haven't used a PC in many years so I don't feel comfortable instructing anyone on how to make them. I believe the PC equivalent is mklink and there are some tutorials on google to show you how to make them. If you're a PC user and want to leave a comment instructing others how it's done, feel free.

Yawn! and a new bundle

It's been a while since I've posted anything new. There's a lot going on in the studio and I just haven't had the time to update. There will be a few exciting updates over the next week.

First off, I have a new painting of my friend jmathias titled "Yawn!". I really pushed myself to try a slightly different style and think I may continue to explore this going forward for a while. This was painted in Corel Painter with permission from James. He's one of the most upstanding individuals I've had the opportunity to become friends with and it was an honor to use him as a subject. This piece was also for something I don't think I'm allowed to announce until later this week so stay tuned. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did painting it.

painting, illustration, corel painter, portrait, color, people, james, mathias, awesome