Category Archives: How-To

My First Canvas Giclee

Remember last year when I posted about accuracy of sky color and mentioned a painting I was working on? Well, I finished that painting in time to get it professionally photographed before delivering it a Christmas gift. I finally picked up the CD from the printer, so now I can share it with you. Finally.

Chicago from the Lake

Chicago from the Lake by Meg Lyman

12×24″ oil on canvas

SOLD – Limited Edition Canvas Giclee prints available

The biggest lesson I learned from the experience was: gesso your canvas before use. Even the pre-gessoed ones. I had one strip of canvas that would not hold onto the paint. It lifted off even after drying for several days. I nearly tore out my hair. *sigh*

Canvas doesn’t scan terribly well because of its 3-D texture. And most canvas is too big for household scanners. So I had my pals at Silver Dog Digital photograph it for me. Apparently it was tough because I used a lot of medium on the top layer and it dried all shiny. Pretty, but a bitch to photograph, with all those specular highlights.

They also printed it up (archival) on canvas, full-size, and stretched the canvas for me. Actually, they did it twice, since the first one’s color was wonky, but only charged me for one. (This is a sign of a good printer. And the more I order from them, the more perks I get. Yesterday I was waiting for some prints to finish, and the owner let me watch Transformers on his iPhone.) Varnish, frame, sign and number, print a certificate of authenticity, which is required in GA for large reproductions, and I was set. Now I just have to sell it, and cover the cost of the photograph, the canvas print, and the stretching. It was a simple process and the print is full of awesome.

Gouache on Pastelbord

N. macromphalus WIP

Nautilus macromphalus – work in progress by Meg Lyman

11×14 gouache on Pastelbord

I did a brief review of gouache on Pastelbord last year, and although I liked it, I hadn’t used it since. However, I am a spineless worm when it comes to art supply stores. Colorful sirens in the form of papers, paints, and other such paraphernalia call from the shelves… “Buy me! Buy me!” and I am loathe to resist. Therefore, I recently found myself with half a dozen large pieces of Pastelbord that need to be used.

My first gouache on Pastelbord was this, and then this last week and now this current WIP. I am in love with the stuff. I know artists who swear by it for colored pencils and pastels, too. It is slightly sandy from the marble dust they mix into the substrate (which is probably why it’s expensive). It is of course rigid and non-buckling. The tinted ones suck a bit of the life out of the colors, but not much – and I haven’t tried the bright red gouaches yet, which typically dominate any surface with unyielding authority. They go on boldly, lording it over the other colors until you notice holy cow that’s bright and glaze some green over it. We’ll see about them.

The delight of this surface is hard to describe. For me, it’s mostly in the pull of the brush across the texture, and the way you can smack paint around without worrying about pulling up the under-layers. Pastelbord is absorbent and textured, something which none of the other Claybord-type products (or even papers and illustration boards) pull off very well. I am going to try gouache on Wallis at some point, and I hope it’ll give me the same feeling.

One of the only downsides to Pastelbord is its brush-eating. I have used one particular brush for 3 paintings: the two previous Pastelbords mentioned above, both 5×7, and the underpainting of Felipe (on illustration board). This is how the new bristle brush looked and how mine looks now:

Brush Damage

It’s not a very high-quality brush, but man, two and a half paintings? That’s pretty bad. Oh well… it’s worth it. And maybe it’ll be nicer to the soft brushes I use for detail work. I’ll report back later.

p.s. This is the first of the 100 Cephalopods project. Details still forthcoming.

How to Clean a Scanner

Bontebok sketch

Bontebok Sketch by Meg Lyman

So, does anyone know how to clean a scanner? Mine has been very good to me, but recently, the dirt on the glass has reached annoying levels. No longer do I have to use the Gimp to clean one or two dots; now they’re everywhere.

When I look at the surface, I notice two things. First, it’s foggy. The fogginess isn’t on the outside, but on the underside of the glass. I have no idea if it needs to be cleaned, or how to do it. It has slowly gotten worse throughout the scanner’s short life. Second, I see little dirty dots. They look green, presumably because of the way the scanner reflects light while it’s idle. But when I go to brush them off, I find that they’re sticky and need to be chiseled off with a fingernail, and mostly they smear all over.

When I scan, I see two undesirable things, both of which have gotten worse recently:

1. Grey areas on the edges. This admittedly may be a problem with the cover.

grey streaks

2. Spots in the scan, per the second complaint above.

I have a nice, soft monitor cleaning cloth that I use on the glass, but it won’t budge the sticky spots, and obviously has no effect on the fog. I keep the scanner covered so well that even cat hair never gets inside.

Does anyone have any words of advice? I paid a lot for this scanner, and I want to run it into the ground – many, many years from now.

Telling a Story

Soused Mouse by Meg Lyman

9×12 gouache on Bristol


During my humbling “art-reaming” at Dragon*Con, I was given the same advice by several great artists: Tell a Story. Doesn’t matter if it’s an illustration or fine art or just a character pinup – it’ll be much more interesting and successful if it tells a story.

Tommy Castillo gave me a great set of guidelines to help with storytelling. Once you get an idea, ask yourself these questions:

Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

Sitting down and writing out even quick, one-sentence answers to these helps immensely. The first four are pretty easy; usually you’ll have those answers in mind when you originally have the idea. The last two, however, can be tough. Those are the important ones. They can turn a viewer’s attitude from “So what?” to “Oh, that’s GREAT!”

I have about a zillion doodles in my sketchbook that I intend to turn into paintings. The first project I undertook after Dragon*Con started with this doodle:

Originally, I was going to ink and color him as-is. But after D*C, I answered those questions. I gave him a story. Instead of just an inebriated rodent, he became a drunk sot having trouble making his way back to his apartment after a late night out. The resulting painting was quick and messy, but I love it, because it tells a story. That makes it much more successful.

I highly recommend giving it a try next time you’re arting something from your imagination.