Stick Girl’s Epiphany, 22X32″ @300dpi. 7/2020.

And that’s about as far as I could take her. if you’ve followed the development of this piece on my blog you know it was an exercise in technique, and based loosely on a tutorial. It’s evolved into something a bit more, and I’d consider it part of my portfolio. Along the way I discovered that treating tutorials as projects, and treating individual pieces as projects — as opposed to installments within a signature style — is an approach with a lot of strengths.

Before attempting this I did 20 quick portraits sketches, since I can count the number of full side-view portraits I’ve ever done on one hand, and I wanted a better feel for the relations between the ear, jaw, nose, and eye placement:

My original sketch looked like this:

And here you can see the before and after:


Above you can see that I didn’t stick with the photo-bashed textures, even though they were kinda’ cool. I painted over it all using some snappy new brushes in Photoshop CC. I experimented with a few rake and palette knife brushes. It’s pretty sick how traditional the real oils brushes work. Not only can they blend colors as you drag your brush, you can pick up “paint” from one part of the canvas and smear it on another. So, for example, I could pick up paint where there’s a crack, and then paint a streak with that, crack and all. I wanted the digital painting to look good up close.

You can still see some of the original photo-bashing in the hand, but a lot of the texture is textured brush work.

Above, branches or sticks further away from the center of focus are blurred to create a depth of field effect.

I spent a lot of time working out how to paint convincing textures and patterns on the sticks, and how they intertwined.

The hand, tentatively touching the sticks in her neck, has always suggested to me that she’s just discovering her condition – that she’s part human and part tree.

And compared to the tutorial

As I’ve said since the beginning, this is based on a tutorial by Aaron Blaise focusing on techniques of realism. Basically, I went through all the stages he did, but did it my way, and went off script quite a lot. Below is Aaron Blaise’s original image in the tutorial, and then mine again for comparison.


His lighting is much more dramatic. I just couldn’t bring myself to darken the background to the extreme he did. I added in an ear; the hand; switched out using bark for using all sticks; painted my eye rather than dropping in a photo as he did; made my own original figure drawing; painted my own branches, created my own background, and painted almost 100% over photo textures. You could say mine’s an interpretation of his. Aaron was a Disney animator for decades, and his image retains some of that Disney feel. We have very different sensibilities.

Don’t worry folks. The last thing we need to be concerned with is my ability to come up with my own characters. Here I just chose to tackle this theme because, well, it’s just not something I’d normally do at all. Below are a couple recent images in a similar style that are completely original.

Learning Photoshop

Several people have inquired about learning PS, and there are tons of videos online to choose from. Decades ago I got my foundation — as so many did — with the classic Photoshop book put out by Adobe, and worked my through it from cover to cover. For people who like to work with something physical [reading on the toilet counts!] they still make good old Adobe Photoshop Classroom in a Book and have updated it for the latest version. Alternatively, you can wait for me to offer classes online, though that could be somewhere between a while and the implosion of the universe.


You can also get post cards, and there are framing options. I keep my prices as the flat rate with no markup. The printing service I use was created by artists and they give the best deal for their creators and the public that I’ve found.

~ Ends

And if you like my art or criticism, please consider chipping in so I can keep working until I drop. Through Patreon, you can give $1 (or more) per month to help keep me going (y’know, so I don’t have to put art on the back-burner while I slog away at a full-time job). See how it works here. Or go directly to my account. Patreon-account
Or you can make a one time donation to help me keep on making art and blogging (and restore my faith in humanity simultaneously). donate-button

6 replies on “New Art: Stick Girl’s Epiphany

  1. Looks good. I prefer yours to his. In yours, the flesh to wood transition is more subtle, see Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne. And the less dramatic lighting is better; in my experience strong lighting can be used to hide flaws.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Howard. I was not familiar with that sculpture. Probably one of the ones all the students like, so, my teachers probably wanted to steer us in the correct direction of the stuff people don’t generally like.

      I find that a lot of artists use the more standard digital painting techniques to the point of cliche, and there are hundreds or thousands of artists churning out very similar offerings. Even when just doing learning exercises, I don’t intend to be one of those.


  2. Love all those profiles! Barbra Streisand is especially striking.

    I used to do profiles all the time when I was younger. I found them easier than face-on.

    I love drawing and panting trees and underbrush, but my goodness, they take so long! You did a lot of patient work on those sticks!

    Liked by 1 person

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