Category Archives: WIP

Racquetball WIP

Racquetball Squid, a.k.a. Davy Jones’ Gym Locker

12×16″ gouache on Pastelbord


Last month I finished one of my more involved paintings. You know, the kind that actually has a background and tells a story… one that I planned out very carefully. I get one of these done every once in a while, between commissions and fun, quick little paintings. I try to focus on improving one specific aspect of my painting skills during each one, while hopefully maintaining (and improving) the skill I learned on the last one.

(Click the thumbnails for bigger versions.)

This is the beginning of the Racquetball Squid. The first thing I did was try to block in the background with a wash, to help establish darks and lights. And the first thing I learned is that watery paint bleeds on Pastelbord. BAD. Almost as bad as a paper towel. But that’s OK – it’s just a block-in, and I could still see my pencil lines. I used wax paper and foil to help create the textures.

After the wash dried, I completed the locker background. Texture is fun! But the best part about it was adding compositional lines. I used lines hidden in the background elements to draw the eye toward the focal points. The main focal point is the eye of the squid on the left, and the secondary focal point is the eye of the squid to the right. Can you see all the lines I pointed at that first squid’s eye?

Next I filled in the racquet. One good suggestion I got was to push the darks darker for more contrast. There’s enough to know it’s a shadow, but it isn’t as convincing as it could be. At least I was able to push the top of the racquet into the background. By the way, it’s really hard to paint sports equipment without real-life reference.

Here’s a supreme example of the wash bleeding on the Pastelbord. Yeesh.

Anyway, the next and final step was to color the squids. I believe I succeeded at my goal; the left squid’s eye is definitely the biggest focal point. Do y’all have any other suggestions?

1Q2008 Review of Goals, and a Nautilus

Nautilus macromphalus

Nautilus macromphalus by Meg Lyman

11×14″ gouache on Pastelbord


I am beginning to think I set unrealistic goals at the beginning of the year. I underestimated the amount of time required for things like, say, putting my house on the market. It has been hugely time-consuming. However, having that list of goals has helped keep me motivated during the long, full days, even if I’m not perfectly on track to finish everything.

Nautilus macromphalus WIP 1

N. macromphalis WIP 1: Background. See this post for my laments about Pastelbord, the Magical Brush Eater. The cheap synthetic brush I used to complete the painting held up surprisingly well.

Here are the goals and my 1st Quarter commentary.

  • Register my business by March – Done. I want to frame the certificate.
  • Redo this blog to greatly expand its content and interactivity – Not done. I had hoped to finish this by now, but… yeah. Still in the works, and I’ve actually done some coding.
  • Trim my website into a portfolio – See above, re: coding.
  • Time all my projects with the new stopwatch Santa got for me – Doing. Doesn’t work nearly as well when I have 5 projects going at once…
  • Complete the 100 Cephalopods projectNo way is this going to happen. I have a grand total of 2 done. Commissions got in the way. Working for dollars is way better than working on spec, though, so I’m not bummed about missing this one.
  • Promote my art on MySpace, etc. – Slowly working on that. Check out my MySpace page if you’re into that sort of thing.
  • Do 10 shows and/or conventions – Going to happen! I have done four already and the rest are planned out.

N macromphalus WIP 2

N. macromphalus WIP 2: Whites. I didn’t do much planning for this piece. For example, I hadn’t planned to push the boundaries of color. These are all supposed to be shades of white, but at this stage I kept thinking, “Looks like metal. Maybe I should change the name to Robo-nautlius.”

I have done something list-worthy that was never an explicit goal of mine: I’m getting faster. I knew this would come eventually with practice, but I was pleasantly surprised when I realized it’s already happening. It took a friend saying, “you’re getting faster” for me to notice. Duh.

N macromphalus WIP 3

N. macromphalus WIP 3: Almost done. The oranges really balanced the blues and made the whole thing look properly organic. Nautilus, check. But the background was distracting. I took a sponge to it, which did the trick. Pastelbord is also the Magical Sponge Eater, and I spent 15 minutes picking bits of sponge off the painting.

Another list-worthy mention: I’m making a conscious effort to work on my style. Maggie and Rita encouraged me, and I worked out a list of things that make my paintings “mine.” One of those things, which had never occurred to be before (and never would have without this exercise) is that I love to use warm browns and oranges and cool blues and greys in combination. This may or may not be related to my love of da Bears.

So, that’s where I am after the first quarter of 2008. How are y’all doing in terms of goals this year?

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.

Headless Chicken

Felipe the Flaming Salamander, WIP

15×20 Gouache on Illustration Board

Y’all know the saying “running around like a chicken with its head cut off.” I figured it’s more efficient to say “running around like a headless chicken,” but whenever I say it, people go, “what?”

I’ve been running around like a headless chicken all week. I’m leaving for Con on the Cob on Thursday, and it’ll be the first time I’ll have an exhibitor’s table at a convention. I’m also entering 3 6×2′ panels in the art show. Preparation for this includes the following:

  • Painting “Felipe” specifically for Con on the Cob (at one of last year’s Quick Draw competitions, a “flaming salamander wearing cowboy boots at a taco stand” was suggested)
  • Matting, backing, labeling, and bagging all my new pieces
  • Laying out the art show panels so I know how much art I can hang
  • Labeling non-show pieces with prices to sell at the table
  • Buying and labeling a portfolio for unmatted sketches
  • Buying and filling a print binder
  • Getting prints made
  • Creating and uploading notecards and magnets to Vistaprint (their notecards are nice quality but say “” on the back)
  • Buying ungodly amounts of candy to draw people to the table
  • Buying a 29 cent ACEO frame at the resale shop only to find that a 1/8″ frame border swallows up a lot of the ACEO
  • Buying a 49 cent jar at the resale shop for animal shelter donations
  • Purchasing a receipt book
  • Researching vendor taxes in the state of Ohio
  • Designing and ordering from Kinko’s a 3×1.5′ banner. It looks awesome and cost ~$50.
  • Creating a small pricing sign (for prints and commissions)
  • Pilfering binder clips from the office
  • Panicking
  • I think that’s it.

Luckily, I have most of these done. However, it’s the first of the month, so I should update my website. And as you can see, I still have half of Felipe to paint. *runs around like a chicken*

p.s. I underpainted with three warm orange washes and it is working really well. You can layer gouache as long as you aren’t heavy-handed and use the right tools. Illo board soaks up paint fast, so it’s much easier to layer than Gessobord.

Gouache WIP – Socctopus – Part 2

Hey, did I mention this is on cradled Gessobord? Did I mention that washes get easier if you layer them?

Once I got the background finished, I started on the octopus. First I painted the darks. I used a reddish-purple for the core shadows and a bluish-purple for the rest of the darks. I am probably not done with the darks yet; I’ll come back to them later to make sure everything balances out.

Next: Create the orange practice cone and flag, and lay in the middle tones on the ball. I’ll probably leave the white for the lightest areas.

Next: Paint the middle tones on the arms and eye, and some grass on the arms to integrate octopus and foreground. Notice the big difference the lighting makes in the color of the photograph – this was in daylight, the others were under halogen bulbs.


My boyfriend told me the eye wasn’t focal enough, and he couldn’t tell the little guy was supposed to be sleeping. So I used The Gimp to try a few different eyes.



Finally, I ended up with this: sad. Maybe they lost the game… or maybe he’s just sad that everyone keeps kicking him around. I added highlights and little details. It’s color-corrected and done!

Critiques and comments welcome!

Gouache WIP – Socctopus

Next in my ambitious lineup of sports squids, I present… The Socctopus!

(OK, it’s not a squid, but the pun worked better this way.)

This is a another WIP showing my process from start to finish, but with paint instead of pencil. The whole thing is already posted on the WetCanvas gouache board, in case you can’t wait to see the conclusion.

Start: I made many many sketches and doodles, trying to decide 1) content 2) positioning 3) composition and 4) value.

Next: Value study. I was on lunch break at work and had only a sharpie and a blue highlighter, which work well for a 3-value study.

Then: In pencil, I sketched out the composition full-sized. This is on cheap typing paper and is 8×10″.

The colors I planned to use: Prussian Blue, Cadmium Green, Alizarin Crimson, and Lemon Yellow, all Holbein. I’ll also use white for highlights, but only at the end. The big “X” on the cad green means it can cause cancer if inhaled, so avoid licking it.

I transferred the paper sketch onto Cradled Gessobord, using the same carbon-paper method that I used for the Chiroopractor. The pencil lines transferred very light, so I washed in the dark areas (black sharpie in value sketch) with blue to help me keep my bearings along the way.

Next: background. I have been told that it is a good idea to do the background first. I am not exactly sure why, but I suspect it has to do with 1) integrating subject and background and 2) getting bored and lazy and deciding the subject looks fine without a background.

For the grass, I did a light wash of cadmium green (a great color for bright grass). I then mixed two greens – light and dark – and made the grass blades with a 3/0 brush. Once I had the area around the socctopus filled in, I ditched the teeny brush for a fan, and finished the background grass with it. I’ll add blades of grass on top of the octopus’ arms later, to integrate him with his surroundings.

That’s it for now. Conclusion: next week!

Non-Secret Pencil WIP: the Conclusion

To continue the Secret Pencil WIP… It isn’t secret anymore! I finished and gave it to my chiropractor, and he loved it. Mission accomplished.

After the last step, I just kept on shading. I hadn’t laid out the darks and lights of the roos in my planning. I just shaded the round forms as if the light was coming from directly overhead and slightly diffuse, just like an office.

I started on the upper left, then went down and then over, since I’m right-handed. This helped me avoid smudging the finished areas.

This photo shows the lovely side-effect of working in graphite – the shine! Once you put down enough layers, the graphite starts reflecting light. The thicker and softer (i.e. 4B, 6B pencils) the layers, the more reflective it gets. You can use charcoal in those dark areas to avoid the shine, but once an area starts shining, it’s hard to lay down charcoal on top of the slick surface. Luckily, the shine disappears with a layer of fixative.

Since I hadn’t planned everything out before I started, I often went back into finished areas to darken and lighten things to balance contrast. The further I went, the more I could “see” the finished product in my mind.

I generally eyeballed the edges, but with the top of the table, I used a ruler. You can see in this shot that I’ve shaded just the very top part of the table base. I held a ruler on the line and scribbled up against it with a dark pencil. This kept my edge nice and sharp.

I had a tough time shading the dark shirt and the light shirt properly. I was trying to convey “black shirt” and “white shirt,” including shadows and highlights, all while balancing the composition and values. The focus is supposed to be on the chiroopractor and his hands.

This is nearly finished. I still need some adjustments to the floor, since it is too darn light. I also need a few final touch-ups. Sorry for the blurry picture…

The Chiroopractor by Meg Lyman

11×14″ pencil on bristol board

The End!

Secret Pencil WIP

I’m doing some art for my awesome chiropractor. This is a WIP of it, but he doesn’t know what it is yet. Shhhhh, don’t tell him.

First, I had the ridiculous idea: Chiroopractor. Get it? …well, you’ll get it when you see it, I hope. I record most of my ideas in one of my sketchbooks, as a sort of visual list. Very rough concept sketches only, just a few inches and a few seconds. Here’s this one:

Now do you get it? I sure hope so. My twisted sense of humor might not fit into a respectable place of business.

Next, I did three value thumbnails. Again, really quick, just helping me plan out large areas of value. I also sketched the scene a few inches wide on a very large sheet of paper (my vanishing points were pretty far away) so I could get my perspective lines right. That’s something I don’t usually mess with… but with walls and tables, this needed to be right.

What, you want a picture? Um, well, I threw that piece of paper away before I decided to do a WIP. Sorry. I’ll be better next time.

Next, I drew it full-size, using my perspective sketch as a guide and being so geeky as to measure lines with a ruler and scale it up with my calculator. Helps me learn perspective, although maybe the hard way… Anyway, I measured all the hard lines and free-sketched the roos, erasing and tweaking until I got it right.

You can see my line of sight (or horizon line) – the horizontal one going through the chiroopractor’s head. I spent some time making sure the wall lines didn’t interfere with the subject or make ugly-looking tangents or intersections. Once I had those set, I played around with the composition. I sketched in the skeleton on the left, but I tossed it out because it was an eye magnet, hogging all the focus. You can also see how I moved the framing around (this is 11×14″ by the way) until I found a composition I liked.

Don’t mind the tape – I accidentally ripped the paper.

At this point, I was ready to transfer the sketch to bristol board. I scribbled all over the back of this sheet with a nice soft graphite pencil, then taped it to the board. Then I traced everything with a blue pen (so I could see what I had traced and what I hadn’t). Ballpoint pens are good for transfer – they don’t rip the paper and they make a nice fat traced line. I peeled the paper up and traced the ball & dumbbell in a better location.

I do all these steps for whatever medium I’m using – it works for pencil, painting, and pastels.

Being a novice at the WIP, I forgot to take a photo after transfer. Take my word for it – it looks pretty much like the layout sketch above. Here’s the first shot I took, after I finished the walls (aaaaaaaaaaag, the endless walls that took forever to shade) and started the first roo.

You can see my tools – ref photos, thumbnail sketches, pencils (mostly used 6B, 2B, and 2H), erasers, a blending stump, and some tissue paper.

See how I scribbled the background into his arm in a couple places? I wasn’t strict about the fur outlines, because I can erase it later, and this makes for more natural-looking fur. Also, it prevents him from looking like a cutout.

More next time!

Angry Art

Not the kind that you make when angry, but the kind that makes you angry. Specifically, your own.

This is the first rendition of my brand-new, never-seen-before, Mid Week Post! This new kind of post will feature art that I have worked on since my last website update. Along with the art, there will be content – quality content – that will range from lessons learned to WIPs to bad jokes. Well, bad art jokes, anyway.

Actually, I don’t know any jokes, except the one about the penguin in the bathtub, and nobody buy my sister thinks it’s funny.


This week’s featured art made me mad. You know the kind – you painted what you planned to paint, but it looks horrible and makes you want to run screaming from the room tearing your hair out because you don’t know why you hate it. Usually this is remedied by leaning the painting against the wall (paint side in) and trying to forget about it for a day or two. That, plus the helpful eyes of others, usually show you the problem. Fixing it may be easy or hard or impossible, but if you can figure out what is wrong with it, at least you can call it a learning experience instead of a total failure.

The Ugly Chickadee:

Ugly Chickadee

The bird and composition aren’t too bad, but those leaves! AARGH! My sister accurately referred to them “flying yam-aliens.” I wanted leaves, not sweet potatoes. So I did the wall thing and got advice on WetCanvas, and tried to fix it:

Better Chickadee

Not brilliant, but I don’t hate it anymore. I just mildly dislike it. I learned from it, and hope someone will buy it. What more could I ask for? Some paintings sell, but the artist never having learned a thing…

Guinness and Gouache Portrait WIP

How could I keep a blog about dark beer and not include Guinness? When I was first introducing myself to beer in general, Guinness was the only dark beer I knew. My first pint was an entirely new experience. I won’t go into the Guinness details, since most people are likely to know them already, and if not, go here.

Guinness will always have a place in my heart, but after having tasted so many other dark beers, it doesn’t stand out. It’s smooth, and actually quite bland compared to some. It’s a drinkable beer – you can have it with dinner – as opposed to some that are an experience, or a dessert, by themselves. Rating:

M: 7
N: 7

Gouache Portrait WIP – the last installment, I promise

This is simply a visual step-by-step of my portrait of Grandpa. Other than the toning wash, all the steps show opaque application with very little blending. The background was done with layered washes, dabbing, and a sponge. The illo board I worked on curled up after the first wash, so the photos are a bit distorted. It is also why the first picture includes a beer bottle.

And the final result: link