Category Archives: Artists

On Abstract Art

And without the title, “Portrait of an Englishwoman,” I doubt whether Mr. Lewis’s drawing would have suggested to anybody even the most violent and revolutionary of ideas on English femininity; but might have left them still puzzled whether it was a design for a new sort of magic lantern, or a railway signal after an accident.

Page 35,  Oil Painting Techniques and Materials by Harold Speed

lewisenglishwomanI am inclined to agree with Mr. Speed.

Harold Speed, Sassmaster

I’ve had Harold Speed’s book Oil Painting Techniques and Materials for ages; it was recommended to me by someone smart. After I learned that James Gurney was going to do a Book Club on it, I decided to read it finally. You should too because it is full of good information, not only on the titular subject, but also on art history and how to be a good artist in general.

I have been pleasantly surprised at the quality of writing. Harold is just full of sass and I’m actually laughing while I learn. I am going to dedicate a series of blog posts to his attitude (and of course his extensive advice). To start us off, here’s a good one:

I am inclined to think that every age has the art it deserves.

Page 31


The Lull

I have returned intact from the workshop, and now I’m so stuffed with knowledge I can barely move. Thanks to Kate for putting up with us and sharing her top secret techniques. I look forward to using her painting method on some upcoming still life practice.


Cervid I by Meg Lyman

8×10″ oil on board

Etsy link

In honor of still life, here is a skull I painted. Before the workshop. Not only did I not use Kate’s technique, I painted it over an 8-year-old gouache painting on gessobord that was one of my very first paintings and was consequently horrible. Turns out you can use oil over gouache quite easily, although I know nothing about its longevity. All that aside, I believe it is a mule deer, advertised on Etsy as a found elk skull. People are really bad with taxonomy. I love identifying found skulls, but I admit I might be in the minority there.

Also, the first plug: come to see me at Emerald City Comic Con this weekend in Seattle! I’ll be at table LL-13. I may try painting between now and then, but these past two weeks have been all about learning and business.

Larry’s Painting Class, Take 2

Larry’s Warrior painted by Meg Lyman

12×18 ish oil on masonite

I attended another of Larry Elmore’s painting classes in September. We all used the same drawing and he showed us how to paint it. Mine isn’t great – there are a few things I’d like to change – but I learned a LOT. It was so fun to be with other artists, painting 10-12 hours a day, learning, and having a great time. It was great to see how much I’d improved from the first class, and how much easier I find oils now than I did then. Much less frustrating. Fun, even! I itch to do larger, grander paintings, and gouache doesn’t do well with large, expansive areas.

This class also got me thinking about my career and life. More on that later.

Thanks, Larry! Also, critiques welcome.



The Hairdresser by Meg Lyman

8×10 colored pencil commission – SOLD

Commissions. The double-edged sword. They are often an essential part an artist’s living, but they can be so draining creatively. When someone wants me to do custom artwork for them, I am thrilled and terrified at the same time.

I am beginning to set myself up with a style – the more work I do for myself, the larger my portfolio, and the more likely I am to get commissions that I will like. However, there are always commissions that just suck it out of me. If I accept a commission about which I am less than enthusiastic, can I use it to practice a new technique or style? I’m at risk of providing the customer with a product unlike any of my others… and they hired me after seeing my existing work. If an experiment goes wrong, I’ll have to start over.

Luckily, this hairdressing cephalopod commission was right up my alley.

For the artists out there, where do you draw the line when accepting commissions? Do they have to interest you, or do they simply have to pay the bills? For the potential commissioners out there, how much leeway would you give your artist in terms of style?

Artist Challenge

Life of the Party Will Bullas 

Life of the Party by Will Bullas 

Over at Greywaren Art, Maggie posted a challenge to her readers: feature an artist you admire and let your readers know why. Spread the love!

There are a lot of artists I admire, but if I had to pick a favorite, it’d be Will Bullas. He’s been an artistic inspiration ever since I first saw his work. He’s creative, funny – no wait, hilarious – and cute. His technique is constantly improving and refreshingly unique. And the puns! Wine-ocerous? Crabernet? A man after my own heart!

I have these two prints above my bar. I love them dearly for their weird, clever, punny originality. And the drink theme, of course. And the ducks. Gotta love the ducks.

Bar Bill Will Bullas

The Bar Bill

Capybara Club Will Bullass

The Capybara Club

His bold use of flat color and wonderful texture are very appealing to me. He lets the subjects speak for themselves, using simple compositions, plain backgrounds, wonderful expressions, and witty titles.

Between the Sheeps Will bullas

Between the Sheeps (OMG funny)

Third Day of Christmas Will Bullas

Third Day of Christmas (I can’t stop laughing. Seriously.)

Vineyard Will Bullas


He can do realistic, serious work as well, and excels at it. But the best part of being a Will Bullas fan is snorting your coffee up your nose because you are laughing so hard.

Science and Art

I recently stumbled upon an interesting art-related article that I want to share it with you. There are climate change scientists out there searching old paintings for sunsets with vivid colors. They’re trying to pinpoint climate-changing events, like volcanic eruptions, through the painters’ depiction of sunsets (which become much more vivid after large eruptions due to the particles in the air).

It’s a fascinating project, but it’s also very much like scientists to try to objectify something like art. How do they determine whether the artist’s depiction is accurate? I am working on a sunset painting right now, and completely invented the colors and clouds. I hope nobody tries to decipher anything scientific from it. We’re artists, dagnabit… we paint things we see in our heads!


This article interests me for several reasons. First, I’m a nerdy engineer by trade, and science fascinates me. Second, I love nature – both being in it and painting it. An article that discusses both makes me happy. Third, I’m not sure if most artists have a “grand vision,” but I do, and it involves painting nature and technology together. I have many ideas planned out, and I hate to admit it, but the paintings I do now feel like practice for that big, important vision.

Let me know what you think of the article. Also, tell me if you artists have a “grand vision,” and what it’s all about! What motivates you?

Art Workshop

Hey everyone! I’ve been quiet for the last week and a half because I’ve been at an art workshop. I went to Kentucky to learn oil painting techniques from the top-notch fantasy artist Larry Elmore.

This is the painting just before I had to leave. We took it from a photocopied drawing of Larry’s and a raw sheet of Masonite to here in 7 days. I still have some work to do on it, but even if I never finished it, it represents a butt-ton of learning. Remember how I said I hated oil paint? Well, I like it better now that I know how to use it.  :D

I met some fabulous people (Daniel, Rhea, Laura, and Erik) and reunited with good friends (Kelly and Ken) and had a blast. I’ll post this painting again when I get it finished up!

Portfolio Reviews, a.k.a. Ego Bruising

Yaardvark by Meg Lyman


It is often said that if you like the art you produced a year ago, you aren’t learning anything. But not liking last year’s art doesn’t necessarily mean you’re learning, either. I rarely like what I produce. However, it recently occurred that I wasn’t doing anything about it. It took outsiders to show me how to break that cycle; how to improve and grow.

Dragon*Con is one of the largest fantasy/science-fiction conventions in the country. Nerds from around the world converge on Atlanta on Labor Day weekend, geeking it up with costumes, gaming, seminars, and art. This was my second year attending, and the first year I tried to get into the Art Show. I found out a few months ago that my “work does not meet the criteria” for the show.

I was sad at first, but became more and more determined to figure out why. The three art show jurors were top-notch fantasy artists and fabulous people; all three agreed to take the time out of their busy days selling art to give me portfolio critiques. I also weaseled critiques out of some of the excellent attending artists.

The short version: Ouch. They tore me a new one.

The awesome Larry Elmore says individual artistic knowledge progresses in stairsteps. One day you’ll be happy with your art, and the next, you’ll read something or talk to someone… and BAM! you’ve jumped up a step, and your work is suddenly full of flaws. It’s true. The bad part about that is the ego bruising. The awesome part is the motivation. Once you see that next step, you know you can get there.

In the hour I spent with these artists, I jumped several steps. They made me think about things I’d never even considered. Being a chronic overachiever, the ordeal made me feel sheepish and small. But they were right. And I came home full of humility and motivation, along with the realization that I hadn’t been pushing myself enough. Not liking my results was a good first step, but it wouldn’t do me any good unless I did something about it. I had been trundling along, satisfied with mediocrity.

The painting above was the first I completed after the convention. A lot more thought went into it than my previous ‘varks. I still don’t like it, but it tells a better story.

Get critiques whenever you can. Forget the ego bruising – bruises heal quickly, and the lessons will last you a lifetime.