A Year in My Life- July

Oops, I did it again. I forgot to share my “A Year in my Life Photos”. I was about to start writing Augusts post, when it dawned on me that I had completely skipped over July! I guess it will be July today and August tomorrow.

As can be expected the beginning of July was filled with parades and fireworks. We had a lot of fun going to a few different performances of the Army National guard that Cameron plays in. The kids always holler and scream when Daddy marches by. They’re his biggest fans.

A Year in My Life Documenting Our Family- July | smithsquad.com |military family | Patriotic
We were lucky to run into some friends at the local fireworks show.
A Year in My Life Documenting Our Family- July | smithsquad.com |military family | Patriotic
I’d rather take pictures of these cuties than the fireworks
A Year in My Life Documenting Our Family- July | smithsquad.com |military family | Patriotic
Army National Guard Band playing the National Anthem
A Year in My Life Documenting Our Family- July | smithsquad.com |military family | Patriotic
Maddy loves her baby
A Year in My Life Documenting Our Family- July | smithsquad.com |military family | Patriotic | LuLaRoe Julia
Rocking my LuLaRoe Americana Julia as a long shirt
A Year in My Life Documenting Our Family- July | smithsquad.com |military family | Patriotic
Daddy marching in the smallest parade we’ve ever seen.

July was also great because we had a visit from Cameron’s brother and his cute little family. My kids absolutely adore their little cousin. We got a bit of rain while at the park, but that didn’t slow anyone down!

Get out of the way!
Get out of the way!
You can definitely tell these two are related.
You can definitely tell these two are related.
"just singing in the rain!"
“just singing in the rain!”
ok, maybe they don't ALL like each other.
ok, maybe they don’t ALL like each other.

It was a pretty fun low key month. The most exciting thing happened on July 23rd when I submitted my application to become a LuLARoe Fashion Consultant! MY call to purchase my initial inventory should come any day now. I can’t wait to get started in this business. I love their clothes and I know I’m going to rock it! If you haven’t gotten in on my LuLaRoe presale yet check it out. Pre-sale deals end on the day my inventory ships, which will be in about 10-14 days. Also make sure to join me in my Facebook group to get in on some fun giveaways leading up to my big launch party in a few weeks.

Are you doing a photo challenge this year? I’d love to see your work. Drop a link in the comments so I can check it out. 

Behind the Scenes- Digital Painting in Corel

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I absolutely love digital painting with Corel Painter. When paired with my Wacom Tablet it is about as close to traditional painting methods as you can possibly get on a computer. I’ve found that with all the apps and filters out there available for turning a photo into a painting most people don’t understand what it is I do to create my custom digitally painted portraits. Here is a little behind the scenes rundown of how I prepare an image in Photoshop and paint it in Corel Painter.

Custom oil portrait painted in Corel Painter| SmithSquad.com | Behind the Scenes
The original photo I started with

The first step is to take the image into Photoshop and tweak the colors. One big key to making a painting look realistic is adding contrast to the image by making the brights brighter and the darks darker. I also will sometimes change the color tone depending on what look I am going for. For many of my oil portraits I like to add a warm golden brown tone to the image. I will sometimes add a light canvas texture as well. If I need to composite the subject onto a different background I also do this in Photoshop first before taking the image into Corel.

Custom oil portrait painted in Corel Painter| SmithSquad.com | Behind the Scenes
After Photoshop edits

I then open up my image in Corel Painter and make sure the paper I want to paint on is selected. I usually choose “Artists Canvas”. If I am going for a lighter look or planning to print on fine art paper instead of canvas then I will choose the “Soft Press Watercolor”. The paper only interacts with certain bushes. when you paint with those brushes they will pick up the texture of the paper that you choose adding texture and dimension to the finished painting.

Custom oil portrait painted in Corel Painter| SmithSquad.com | Behind the ScenesCustom oil portrait painted in Corel Painter| SmithSquad.com | Behind the Scenes

Once I have my paper set I then quick clone my image. What this does is place an additional blank canvas layer over my image. It allows me to pick up the colors from my photo and pull them through to the canvas rather than having to mix my own colors in the color picker. When you quick clone the top layer is automatically set to 50% opacity so that you can see your image underneath. At this point I select the smeary round oil brush in a largish diameter and start painting in rough strokes to set the boundaries of my image. Once I’ve got some broad strokes of color laid in I turn the top layer to 100% opacity. I then make my brush smaller and start painting in details.

Custom oil portrait painted in Corel Painter| SmithSquad.com | Behind the Scenes

I always zoom in and start with the eyes. These are the soul of any portrait and I want them to speak to the viewer. Of course they never are from the get go and I always go back to them at the end as well to make the absolutely perfect. When painting in the details it is important to follow the lines of the face and the way the light moves. You don’t want to paint in lines that are perpendicular to the shape of the jaw or move across an eye smearing your paint. It is just like working with real oils on real canvas, minus the drying time and adding in a LOVELY undo button!

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 9.36.05 AM

Once I have the face details pretty well laid in I will zoom out and begin on the clothing and hair. For these I use the smeary flat brush as it adds a bit more texture to my strokes. This is where the tilt and pressure sensitivity of the Wacom tablet really comes into play. As I tip and rotate my pen, just like I would a traditional oil brush, I can change the direction and thickness of my strokes. The pressure I apply to the pen affects the width of the stroke just as pressing a paint brush flatter on your canvas affects the stroke. It really is impossible to get the variation needed for a quality digital painting with a regular mouse or inexpensive artist tablet that does not have tilt sensitivity.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 9.49.17 AM


Just as with the face it is important to follow the curves of the hair and the way the light moves on the clothing. You also want to make sure to vary the width of your brush to accommodate for smaller and larger areas and add variety to the strokes. I also vary the feature of my brush (a setting that determines how close together the bristles are) to add definition to the hair.

Custom oil portrait painted in Corel Painter| SmithSquad.com | Behind the Scenes

Once I have completed painting in all my oils the final step is to add some definition to the colors and add texture. I use the square chalk to do this. The chalks are one of the sets of brushes that will pick up the texture from the paper. I will zoom in on areas where there are contrasting swathes of color (for example the lips or the whites of the eyes) and use my eyedropper to select a color. I will then enhance that color a smidge in the color picker; making it more saturated or lighter/darker. I then will carefully apply the color with a light hand around the edges of that color zone. This adds texture to the color as well as more clearly defining the line between two different sections of color. I will also use the chalk at large sizes to pick up colors from the background and dab them around for extra texture as well as to more smoothly blend the background colors together.

For the very final touch on some images I will add a texture overlay in Corel or in Photoshop. I don’t do this to every image and the choice on whether to do it and what texture to use is highly influenced by how the image will be displayed. If I am going to share on the web I will add the canvas texture to show how it will look when printed, but when actually printing to the canvas it does not require the texture to be added. Sometimes for a more rustic look I will add a paint strokes or scratches texture in Corel. There are so many options I usually experiment with several before settling on a final look.

Custom oil portrait painted in Corel Painter| SmithSquad.com | Behind the Scenes

And there you have it. All told these paintings take several hour and usually are completed over a period of many days. I like to walk away from an image and come back a day later to see if I still love it or if it needs more tweaking. Sometimes I get frustrated with a certain painting not coming together the way I want and have to walk away for a few hours or even a few days to reset my brain and get back to work.

As you can see these custom works of art go far beyond adding a simple Photoshop texture or running through a computer program. I spend time and effort perfecting the details and painting each image by hand, just as I would with real oil paints on a real canvas. And just for fun, here are a few examples of running this photo through some of those programs/filters so you can see the difference.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 10.10.36 AM Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 10.09.39 AM Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 10.06.46 AM

I would love to create a custom digital painting for you. You can contact me using the link in the menu for a custom quote or simply jump on over to my Etsy shop to place an order. If you’d like to take a look at my completed paintings to order a print of your favorite you can see them all on Fine Art America.

Do you do any digital painting? What are some of your favorite methods, brushes, papers, etc.? Would you like to learn more about digital painting? What kind of tutorials would you like to see me do in the future?

Watercolor Ballerina- Sakura Koi Brush Pens Review

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Until now I have done most of my artwork digitally using Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Corel Painter. Recently I have wanted to do more traditional work, and have bought several different art supplies. One of my new favorites are the Sakura Koi Brush Pens. These pens are water based and can be manipulated in the same way as traditional watercolors. They were a ton of fun to use!

For this little ballerina I first drew the outline in Illustrator. I still do better at sketching digitally than I do by hand! I then printed her out on Bristol Smooth paper.

Now it was time to play with the pens! I got the 24 set as well as the colorless blenders. You can blend these with water as well, but I figured the blender pens would be the easiest method. When you are doing art with 6 kids running around a cup of water is just asking for trouble! I would love to get some water brush pens so that I can blend with water without needing an open cup. I also purchased the 6 piece grays set, though I did not use them on this project.

Before I got started with the brush pens I experimented a bit on another piece of paper to get the hang of how the colors worked and blended. I watched several YouTube tutorials, and this was the most useful one.

I then set to work coloring in my little ballerina. I drew my lines of color where I wanted them to be darkest, then blended color into the entire area. Once everything was dry I went back over the parts where I wanted shadow then carefully blended the edges for softness.


Watercolor little girl ballerina with bear|emilyjartist.com|Sakura Koi Brush Pen|
I think I might love her!

I would love to see any work you have done with the Sakura Koi Brush Pens. What are your favorite watercolor supplies and tutorials? Please share links in the comments so I can check them out!