Saturday, April 16, 2016

My New Toy

For my birthday last week, Rohan decided to surprise me something absolutely extravagant: a Wacom Cintiq.

What is a Wacom Cintiq, you ask?

Basically, it's a huge (about the same size as a TV screen) tablet with an easel and a pen-cursor for the purpose of creating digital drawings and paintings. I've wanted one for a loooooong time. But didn't really feel like I deserved one since I'm not a real artist.

But my handsome husband felt otherwise. Because he's the sweetest like that.

Anyway, I finally set it up and created my very first digital painting today! I LOVED how quick and easy it was to make! (By "quick" and "easy," I mean it only took my about 6 hours.) This first endeavor is pretty rough and very simple, but I hope it will give all of you a smile!

Recognize these two?

Don't look TOO closely at his hand, 'cause it will start looking a bit warped under  close scrutiny! But still, considering I haven't actually sat down to an easel in nearly five years, I feel pretty good about this. Most basic drawing and painting techniques still apply, but the digital format allows for some pretty cool variations that make the whole process easier.

I'll probably add some cool details to this as I get more comfortable with these tools. Maybe some embroidered edging on shirt. And a starflower in her hair. We'll see . . . I'll post updates if I get around to them . . .

Anyway, I had a blast! And I can hardly wait to start my next painting!


I thought perhaps all of you would enjoy seeing a step-by-step of how I created this painting, since the process is, in some ways, more interesting than the result itself. And with digital painting it's SO easy to save the steps along the way! So here you go . . .

Step One: I roughly sketched my characters based on a photo reference. This sketch was done directly onto the screen (and you're seeing a refined version, rough though it is!). The original models had weird piercings, and the girl was not the right nationality, but those were simple enough fixes.

Step Two: I filled in very basic color blocking for hair and skin. Not really sure that this stage accomplished much other than just getting me comfortable with the characters, color schemes, and wielding my new tools! As you can see, I did not concern myself with "staying in the lines," but simply tidied up those edges later using my eraser tool.

Step Three: Feeling utterly intimidated (!), I decided to apply all the shadows and dimensions to their skin in shades of gray. This way, I could focus on getting the right depth and dimension without concerning myself just yet with actual skin tones. (When I painted in acrylics way back in the day, I would do this stage in shades of green.) I left the original sketch layer on through much of this stage, just to give me one more visual guideline.

Step Four: After a tea break to clear my head, I came back to tackle their hair. Which wasn't so bad as I thought it would be! I built up layers of shadows and highlights until I had something that looked pretty much hair-like! Around this stage, I removed the sketch layers and started working primarily without it, too. They look a bit sickly with their gray complexions, but otherwise, they're coming along pretty nicely!

Step Five: Working very quickly, I blocked in an abstract background and their clothes. My interest has always been faces, not clothing, so I kept their garments pretty minimal. I MIGHT go back in and add some interesting trimming and embroidery later, now that I'm more comfortable with the tools. We'll see.

Step Six: All that remained now was transforming those robotic complexions into flesh-and-blood! This stage took quite a lot of patience and fine-tuning (particularly on the hand!), but I did it by simply applying transparent "washes" of color, building up the layers until I achieved the effects I wanted. This is the same technique I used back when I did fine-art portraits (I was specifically trained in this technique by my college mentor, Professor Davis, who recognized my love of all things classical, and therefore trained me in this classical, Renaissance style). So yes, same technique, but digital! So much quicker, much easier, with more immediate results. What would ordinarily have taken me several days, I managed to do in about an hour and a half!

Ta da!

I hope you had fun seeing this step-by-step process. It probably wasn't the most efficient ever, since I'm still getting used to this equipment. But it was a ton of fun!

But people and faces have always been my comfort zone. Next, I plan to tackle a tree, which is much harder for me. All those textures? All those leaves? Eeeeek! I probably won't post any more paintings for a while until I have some good results again . . .

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A New Goldstone Wood Story - Chosen by YOU!

Well, Imps, I think this might just possibly be the most exciting giveaway I've hosted yet. I know I am excited about it, anyway!

How would YOU like to pick the star character of a Goldstone Wood adventure?

Here's how it works:

1. Everyone who writes an Amazon review for my new title, A Branch of Silver, a Branch of Gold, between now and June 25 will have his or her name entered in a randomized name drawing. (And yes, reviews ALREADY up on Amazon are eligible.)

2. Each applicant to this contest must send a link to their  Amazon review to David Cross ( along with THE NAME OF THE GOLDSTONE WOOD CHARACTER THEY WOULD LIKE TO PICK AS THE STAR OF A NEW STORY.

3. On June 30, we will randomly select a winner and post his or her name, along with the name of the chosen character, here on this blog!

4. I will write the story . . . which will, upon completion, be made available ENTIRELY FOR FREE to all of my readers via Kindle. I'll also feature it on my website for those of you who do not have e-readers.

This story will have its own beautiful cover design (not the one displayed here, which is just a mock-up to advertise this event), and the dedication inside will be to the winner of the giveaway (or whomever he or she would like to honor).

And yes, you may pick ANY character you like just so long as that character has been mentioned by name in at least one published Goldstone Wood novel. (So, if I've mentioned characters on my blog who have not yet featured in a published book, they are not eligible.)

I will decide how long the story will be. I'm thinking approximately 5-10,000 words, but it might be longer (since I tend to have an easier time writing longer stories than short!). I will also decide the plot, setting, other characters, etc. But I promise that the selected character will be the central character of the story (if not the main view-point character).

I also promise that whatever I write will be considered proper Goldstone Wood canon. So, depending on who you pick, you might be able to wrangle some series spoilers out of me!

You are welcome to pick a fan-favorite, a side character, a hero, a villain, or even someone who has merely been referenced by name once. Faerie or mortal . . . they're all up for grabs!

As for those reviews--They don't have to be long or complex. Single sentences are perfectly acceptable. Even one-word reviews work fine! The winner will be chosen at random, not based on the complexity or even enthusiasm of the review submitted.

So what do you think, dear Imps? Do you know what characters YOU would like to learn a little more about? Do tell in the comments! I am very much looking forward to exercising my imagination and creativity for this event . . .

Friday, April 1, 2016

Fan Art Contest is LIVE!

Dear Imps, this year's Goldstone Wood Fan Art Contest is now LIVE and displaying two fantastic galleries absolutely BRIMMING with incredible talent!

To see all of this brand new, sparkling, wonderful artistry, visit Dame Imraldera's Library.

Browse through all of this brilliance, and be sure to cast your votes for the top three pieces. This year, there will be two winners--one selected by fan voting and one selected by me! Both winners will receive a print copy of my brand new novel, A Branch of Silver, a Branch of Gold . . . 

First thing this morning, Rohan and I got up, fed our swarm of kitties and hounds, then he made tea while I pulled open the gallery. Sipping our morning brew, we browsed through all of these images, analyzing each one in detail, exclaiming over our favorites and all the little details. It was SUCH a delight to see all of these images for the very first time this morning (usually I see them as they come in, you understand).

 And O! Great Iubdan's Beard! Am I EVER going to have a time of it trying to pick my personal favorite! There are so many tremendous pieces, both by favorite fan artists of previous years AND by new artists bringing breathtaking new vision to these stories and this world. I will have to agonize over this decision for several days, I'm thinking.

 Anyhoodle, be certain to go and enjoy, and send your votes to Maid Bryn of the Haven will tally them up.

Be sure to thank Maids Hannah, Beka, and Bryn for all of their hard work putting this together, particularly Maid Hannah, who headed this rather daunting project. They really turned this year's contest into a smashing event!

Don't forget to leave some love for the artists themselves in the gallery comments (over on the Dame Imraldera site). They all worked SO hard to produce these wonderful pieces, and they deserve lots of praise for their efforts.

Huge thank you to all of the dear Imps who participated! I cannot tell you how delightful and encouraging it is to see such affection demonstrated for this series and these characters. Una, Lionheart, Rose Red, Sairu, Sunan, Draven, Daylily, Eanrin, Imraldera, and all of the others mean so much to me . . . I love seeing how much they mean to each one of you as well.

Happy gallery browsing!