I’m offering background commissions! (But it might not be what you’re thinking…)

Hey everyone. How’s it going?

So…

At last, I’ve decided to offer something resembling commissioned artwork.

But it might not be what you think…

I’m going to offer commissioned backgrounds. Meaning, I’ll create a background (no subject matter or details) using my style. You’ll select the size of the canvas, the colors you want me to use, and the general position of the colors.

And I’ll paint it and ship it to you.

  • Artists who want to paint atop my backgrounds, this is for you.
  • Collectors who simply like my stylized acrylic backgrounds, this is also for you.

How does it work?

First, you’ll click this here link to get started.

Then…

1. You’ll select a canvas size
2. You’ll choose a color combination for me to use (choose any colors in the rainbow, but typically 2-4 colors are ideal.)
3. You’ll choose a color orientation (or select a similar painting from my huge catalog here to let me know the general idea of how you’d like me to position the colors on your canvas.)
4. I’ll paint a background using my acrylic blending technique, and when finished, I’ll send you photos of the finished background.
5. You decide whether you like the background (Meaning I’ll ship it) or you don’t like it (Meaning I’ll refund your money 100% and use the painting for my own work.)

It’s that easy.

The sizes available are:
20″ x 16″ x 1″
36″ x 12″ x 2″ (Deep-edge canvas)
36″ x 24″ x 2″ (Deep-edge canvas)
48″ x 24″ x 2″ (Deep-edge canvas)

You’ll select the canvas size upon purchase. The colors and orientation, you’ll add to the order notes.

Have questions? Track me down at my many social media outlets here.

Want to get started?

Smash this link. 

The Van Gogh Experience

Van Gogh – Stary Night Over The Rhone

This past weekend my wife and I headed out to Atlanta to see the Van Hogh Immersive Experience. Prior to going, I could say that I might have known a couple of his paintings (Stary Night obviously being the big one) and maybe knew two things about him (he died young and cut off his ear for some reason). So you could say this was definitely something we were both walking into a bit blind.

The first portion of the exhibit showed many of his paintings along with information about what inspiration he might have drawn from when he was painting. And while the paintings themselves varied from the more mundane subjects (bedrooms and flowers and the countryside), it was still an amazing accomplishment (a true feat of brilliance by one man). Here was someone who did the majority of his oil paintings and artwork in the final two years of his life. To have a creative output of that level is beyond my understanding, but I could definitely appreciate everything I saw and read about a man who seemed to be so troubled by his own brain that perhaps through his painting he was exorcising the demons within himself?

The main portion is in a very large room where his works are projected on all four walls and the floor. The move to music, telling a story of a man’s passion for capturing the beauty he saw within the world. The images move and flow, they warp and change from darkness to light, from self-portraits to a wheatfield where a murder of crows fly into the night. The music they chose to accompany it is remorseful at times before morphing to match the images we can see.

This is the Immersive Experience. To be able to live within his works, even if only for a little bit of time. To be able to peer inside his head in order to gain a small understanding of what he was trying to say to the rest of the world. Sitting there on the floor with my back against the wall, the rest of the world was only what Van Gogh chose to paint. Reality was a series of short and long brush strokes. Life was a collage of images drawn by someone who had no choice but to bear his soul on the canvas.

Van Gogh – Wheatfield with Crows

Finally, we had a VR experience where we could see the world around him for ourselves. They had a digital recreation with frames suspended in the air where the painting would take shape. The idea that perhaps, for a second, we might be able to see the beauty he saw in the world and understand why he was moved to paint it.

Yet, as we left the rooms and ventured back to our own reality, the thing that resonated with me the most wasn’t the paintings. Instead it was the various quotes they had from his numerous letters which struck home with me. He wrote so many letters where he bared his soul in a different way than he could do in his art. Those words hit me in a way I wouldn’t have expected. There was clarity to each thought.

Sometimes because it was a beautiful thought:

“There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.”

“There is peace even in the storm.”

 

To tragic:

“I put my heart and soul into my work, and I have lost my mind in the process.”

“Art is to console those who are broken by life.”

 

However, two stood out and really hit home. The first because I’ve recently begun to resurrect a project about Dreams so it felt as if Van Gogh was talking about it directly:

“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.”

 

And the second because it is something that I need to remember whenever doubt enters into my mind, for it is a singular truth like no other:

Choose to push through the doubts, the adversity, the days when you don’t want to do anything, the days when you can’t do anything, the days where the blankness of the page is so intimidating that you nearly cry…

“… then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”

Silence the doubts.

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To find out more about the Van Gogh Immersive Experience by going to their website.

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John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

A Crash Course on Four Common Types of Art Print

So…

You say you’re in the market for some art prints.

First of all, awesome. After all, art prints have great upsides. They’re an inexpensive alternative to buying original art. They’re typically smaller than big canvas paintings. They can be put into stylish frames. They’re easier to handle, and even replace, than larger, hard-to-ship art.

Sounds great, right?

But there’s just one question.

How do you know what type of art print is right for you?

Now, when we talk about the ‘type’ of art print, we’re not looking at the art style. That’s a entirely different conversation. Maybe you like kittens, or watercolors, or abstract art, or…if you’re looking at my work, crazy dark surrealism. It’s all good. But what we’re talking about today is the material of which your future art print will be made of. Be it photograph paper, inkjet lustre prints, velvet giclees, canvas prints, or mounted canvas, there are more styles of print than most people realize.

Many, many more.

Which is a good thing. It’s always nice to have options, right?

Let’s get straight to it.

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The Different Types of Art Prints


Style 1 – Photographic Prints

Photographic style prints are your entry-level art print. If you buy from most artists, this is the basic style they will offer. Photo-style prints are inexpensive, durable, and provide a quality that most art-lovers find very much acceptable.

What’s the scoop?

This type of print typically uses dyed inks on digital photograph paper. If you’ve ever held an actual photograph in your hand (I say this only because so many photos these days are strictly digital) then you have a general idea for the quality of a photo print. The paper stock used is thicker than standard printer paper. It’s durable stuff, and the colors of most paintings (especially line art or art with plenty of strong, bold colors) will look good. It’s easy to frame, easy to ship, and not particularly pricey. What’s more, this style of print can be made to be glossy, semi-glossy, matte, or even metallic, depending on the artist’s (or buyer’s) tastes.

In short, it’s versatile stuff. And in today’s ever-growing art market, it’s what you’ll see a ton of.

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Style 2 – Fine Giclee Prints

Suppose you want to step up your art print game. You want better color saturation. Better paper. Something longer lasting.

And more than anything, you want an art print that picks up every detail of the original artist’s work.

Giclee prints might be for you.

In today’s world, there are many styles of giclee prints. There’s deep matte, a printing process which carves out any hint of shine, leaving only the deep, dark details. There’s somerset velvet, a smooth, luxurious-feeling print, capturing the subtle color notes in a detailed piece of art. If you see words like Lexjet, Lexjet matte, Somerset velvet, or 100% cotton, then you’re dealing with a high-quality giclee.

In short, giclees are gallery-quality prints printed using pigmented inks (instead of dyed inks) on archival (typically cotton) paper. If the original is unavailable, and a buyer, gallery, or even the original artist wants an excellent reproduction, giclees are most likely what they’ll go for. The paper is much higher quality than photo paper, which allows excellent color saturation and detail. When framed properly, a good giclee will resemble the original painting in almost every way (unless it was a highly-textured original.)

The only drawback? With giclees, buyers should expect to pay two to four times more than the price of a standard photographic print.

As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.

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Style 3 – Canvas Prints

Still further up the art print ladder, we find canvas prints.

Similar to giclees, canvas prints typically are excellent, top-notch reproductions of art. Whether created by traditional artists after their originals have sold or by digital artists who desire a physical copy of their work, canvas prints are a superb method of displaying art.

Firstly, they’re flexible. Printed on the thickest, most durable materials, canvas prints are bendy, tough to damage, and easy to trim/manipulate for framing. Even more than giclees, they’re a long-lasting print style, and can be varnished with protective coatings to last many decades (or possibly even centuries…given that the technology used to create them is still relatively new.)

If you’re a collector who wants the best possible reproduction of a piece of art, canvas prints are likely for you.

The good news? While pricier than inkjet or photo prints, canvas prints are typically only 10-25% more expensive than giclees.

The challenge? Canvas prints come loose and in need of (usually high-quality) framing.

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Style 4 – Mounted Canvas Prints

Mounted canvas prints are quite simple, really.

They’re the same as canvas prints, same material, same color quality, same durability.

But they’re stretched and mounted on a wooden frame, and are 100% ready to hang.

For collectors who don’t want to pick out custom frames, and for art-lovers who like to hang art just as it looked in the original artist’s studio, mounted canvasses are a great option. Like standard canvas prints, they can be varnished. The wooden frames (typically 1/2″ to 2″ thick) offer stability, ease of hanging, and true-to-life colors which often match the original work.

Personally, I’ve hung multiple mounted canvasses of my own work (after the originals are gone) and I can’t really tell the difference between them and the original paintings.

They’re that good.

The good part? Original-looking art which typically costs far less than original paintings.

The only drawback? The cost of stretching and mounting the canvas is significant, meaning these are usually the most expensive print option.

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Of course, there are other print options out there. Custom paper styles. Custom finishes. But in general, 95% of what collectors will see in the market today will fall under these four art prints styles.

I hope, for all you art-lovers and artists out there, this article proved helpful. If you have questions or want to chat about print styles, reach out to me at any of my social media links right here.

And of course, I invite you to take a look at my own selection of art prints. Click the pic below and fall into my surreal world.

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Until next time…

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J Edward Neill

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Shadow Art Finds – How I Create My Surreal Backgrounds

Hi there, art lovers.

Over the last few years, I’ve fielded a ton of great questions from artists, collectors, and generally curious folk. The conversations have been awesome and engaging, and I’m truly grateful to take part in any conversation about my art…or really anyone’s art, at all.

But…

There is one question I’ve long struggled to answer.

Just one…

“How do you create your backgrounds?”

So…yeah. It’s a solid question, and it’s something I’ve not done a terrific job of answering. Until now, my answers have usually been, “It’s complicated,” or, “I’ll get around to making a process video someday,” or something entirely too brief, such as, “I use wet brushes. Lots and lots of wet brushes.

Yep.

It’s likely, after all these years, people are beginning to suspect I’m hiding some big, dark secret. Or that I don’t want to share some proprietary artistic discovery. Or maybe that I’m just a jerkface who avoids direct questions.

Nope.

None of those. I hope.

About a month ago, I decided to try something to answer this question once and for all. “Okay,” I told myself. “I’m going to make a time-lapse video. It’s time to show the process. A video will tell the whole story.” 

I started the video. And after much cursing, several awkward angles, and the worst lighting setup ever, I fell prey to frustration and gave it up. Between you and me…it was a total fail. My camera setup was weak, my video skills frail, and my process…well…it’s even more of a beast than I already knew it to be.

So…

Here’s what I’ve decided.

I’m going to do my best to describe, step-by-step, how I create the swirly, surreal, and often strange backgrounds featured in most of my artwork.

Swirls, whirls, and surreal madness…

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Okay then.

Let’s jump right in.

Step one, and it’s very important, is to start with a high-quality canvas stretched on sturdy wooden-panels. I typically get mine from Blick Art’s premium canvas collection, but I’ve also scoured Michael’s and a handful of local art supply stores, including JoAnn’s. Now, there are several keys to a canvas being ‘high-quality.’ No nicks or scuffs in the canvas. No flimsy panels. But the number one most important quality for this particular process is that the canvasses are flat. As in, very flat. No warping. No bends in the wood. No dips or loose, flappy canvas stretches.

Flat. Flat. Flat. 

Why? We’ll get to that later.

Step two. Acrylic paint. Lots and lots of acrylic paint. Especially white, black, unbleached titanium, and Payne’s grey. These are your most important weapons. I use Liquitex Basics, never the heavy-bodied stuff. You can use any brand you want, but whatever you do, don’t use different brands of paint while working on the same painting. The varied consistencies will cause awkward color blends, and the varied dry times will wreck your process.

Step three. A big, flat table. The flatter, the better. For your first several (or several hundred, in my experience) attempts, you’ll probably make a mess. So maybe choose a table you like, but don’t love. I use two different tables. A heavy Home Depot workbench and…perhaps surprisingly…the granite countertop in my kitchen.

Step four. Brushes. For these kinds of backgrounds, you’re going to need several sizes of brushes. Big (1″ wide) trim brushes. Fat-bottomed brushes that can hold a bit of water. Slim, knife-like brushes for detail work. Itty bitty pointy brushes for blending in tight spots. For background work, I don’t use anything fancy. Save your best brushes for the post-background subject work. Just buy a ton and keep extras on hand (I mostly use these.)

Step five. A jar (or jars) for holding water. As you likely know, acrylics dry fast. And your biggest enemy in this process will be time. You need to keep your brushes mildly wet (but not soaking) at all times. If the paint dries, the artist cries.

So…

You’ve got a canvas, a flat space to work, brushes, acrylic paints, and water.

Now it’s time to work.

Step six is key. This is the underpainting, the core of your color base, the background to the background. With a un-wetted brush, using un-watered acrylics, apply your various acrylic colors to the canvas in a single not-too-thick layer. Use whites and unbleached titanium in the areas of your painting which will be light, and darker tones in areas of shadow. Between these, you’ll use the actual non-neutral colors you want your painting to contain.

Here’s an example. This is my painting ‘Born of Fire,’ in which I used about ten difference color hues to create the background. Ignore the tree and moon on this piece. Focus on the general layout of the background colors beneath.

 

What you want to do is apply the colors in roughly (it doesn’t need to be precise) the areas in which they’ll appear in the finished background. It’s just an underpainting at this stage. Precision isn’t as important as general location.

Step seven. Wait for the underpainting to dry completely. One or two hours should be enough. If you’re in a rush, run a fan nearby to whisk fresh air across the canvas surface. In any case, do not begin the next step until the underpainting is finished drying. Else you’ll get weird pops and textures you might not want. (Although, for advanced painters, you can actually time this to create the textures and pops on purpose.)

Step eight. The background. This is where the magic happens. You’ll need your brushes, your water, and patience all on hand. What you’ll want to do here sounds complex, but it’s really not. I’ll break it down in a bulleted list:

  • Starting with your lightest color, and ending with your darkest, use a larger water-wetted brush (1/2″ – 3/4″ wide) to apply your colors in the precise areas you want them to appear in the background. Remember…light to dark.
  • When applying each color, continue dipping your brushes into the jar of water between each brush stroke. The key: only a little bit of wetness. Too much will make the colors run wild across the canvas.
  • Work quickly. While the water will slow the drying of the acrylics somewhat, it’ll still start drying after about 15-20 minutes.
  • In any area where two or more colors meet, use wetted knife-edge brushes to apply narrow lines of water. The colors will begin to blend. The smaller the brush you use, the more control you’ll have. If you want your colors to be a bit unpredictable (which is just fine, by the way!) use larger brushes with a bit more water. More water will make the colors run wild.
  • If you want to smooth out brush strokes or make them disappear altogether, pat down the area using the flat side of a mildly wet brush. Or…for a cool stippled effect, very lightly pat the area with a dry paper tower.
  • Third reminder: Always work light to dark. If you jump back from a dark area to a light area using the same brush, you’ll lose the explosive lighting effect.
  • The reason using a flat surface and a flat canvas is key? If your workspace and canvas aren’t flat, your colors will tend to run downhill…literally. Colors you didn’t intend to combine will tend to mix, and murky patches could form. Flat, flat, flat!

Step nine. Now your painting, plenty damp and crazy looking, will begin to dry. But your work continues. You’ll need to babysit your painting at this stage, using smaller, mildly wet brushes to carefully blend areas of color you may have missed the first time. Also, sometimes tiny pool of water will form, which can tend to make patches of your background look murky. In these cases, use the corner of a paper towel to gently soak up any excess water. Or…carefully use smaller brushes to manipulate the wet paint for a better color-blend.

Step nine is usually the most challenging part of this process. Depending on the size of the painting, you may need to hover over your painting for ten minutes…or several hours, correcting murky patches, refining color blends, and building up your background to look exactly how you want. Patience is key here. Attentiveness to detail can make all the difference between creating a swirly, colorful landscape…or a murky, too-wet swamp.

Step tenonly if needed. Often, with larger backgrounds, doing step nine just once isn’t enough. Acrylics can be cranky, and sometimes, even with underpainting and a full second layer of paint on top of the underpainting, pale patches can emerge. In this case, what I do is wait for the canvas to completely dry…and complete step nine again. Sounds tedious, right? But in truth, adding another layer can result in a truly deep, vibrantly colorful background. Powerful colors are your friend, and often the best way to achieve it is in layers.

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For fun, here’s three before and after photos. The first photo is after the backgrounds are applied, but before drying. The second is the completed painting with full details.

‘Let Us Be Shadow’

‘Dark Desperation’

‘Bridge of the Broken Moon’

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With your background complete, your paints dried, and your brushes cleaned, you’re all ready for the fun part. Step eleven is all yours. Paint atop your background as you would any other acrylic piece, paying attention to the light and dark areas, and you’re sure to create something spectacular.

And most importantly, have fun!

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For a closer look at all my crazy backgrounds and completed works, head here.

Thanks for stopping by.

J Edward Neill

ShadowArtFinds Presents – Mounted Canvas Giclees

Hi there, art lovers.

Do you love art prints, but not so much framing?

Do you prefer art that arrives at your door ready to hang?

Did you want an original painting, but it sold before you could snare it?

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To address all of this, I’ve created a new option of art prints in my store.

Mounted canvas giclees.

What are they?

Well…

They’re gorgeous, gallery-quality canvas giclee prints stretched on a sturdy 5/8″ wooden frame.

If you want the feel of an original canvas painting, but the price of the original is too hefty, these are for you!

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Want yours?

Click the pic and be spirited away…

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