Digital Illustration of New York Travel Poster nearly finished

graphic art new york manhattan

this one still needs a little work

Well, here we go, I haven’t done any graphic design in years. This is a little digital illustration I made in Photoshop from one of the shots I took on my way to work in Manhattan, I think I am going to upload it to Fine Art America when I am finished. Now for years I have been thinking about starting a painting of some of the local architecture but I could just never pull the trigger on that one because I came to the conclusion recently that I only enjoy painting subjects that are alive. Yep the way I figure is that straight lines are just no fun for me to paint, I just can’t get excited about it, I might as well do this type of “commuter’ art in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop it just makes more sense to do it that way. This type of artwork I am finding out is a good diversion for the more kind of ethereal stuff I do in my paintings, the two balance each other out nicely. Also it is taking me hardly anytime to do and you know how I really appreciate that. Anyhow I hope you enjoy, thanks.

April 14, 2014


Artist Lena Quagliato guest stars on TV’s “Pawn Stars”

lena artist paintings canvas

some of Lena’s earlier paintings: “Trust” (left) and “The Dotted Line” (right

Tune in to the History Channel on April 10th(air date could change) to check out painter/artist and fellow wordpress blogger Lena Quagliato who will be featured on the reality TV hit Pawn Stars. She informs me that the details of the visit are a surprise but I get a feeling we are going to see some new original artwork from her. I have never met Lena in person, but we have been in contact over the net for a while brainstorming art promotional strategies so I am as curious as heck, also I  watch that show all the time and to see someone I know pop up in it will be a real hoot. As Rick Harrison, the owner of the pawn shop says “Everything has a story and a price” so stay tuned.
You can check out Lena’s amazing artwork here, or go like her on Facebook here.
lena Quagliato on pawn stars

on the set

April 3, 2014

The Hamptons painting, the most difficult one to finish


Taming the beast

by Robert Conway

I found this article in my archives from when I had this other blog. This post deals with my attempts to finish my most difficult painting, thank goodness this ordeal is over, however I might add that I am pleased as punch in the way it all came out . . .

This one is so close to being finished, but as I go in for the kill, I keep finding these little things to fix, I am in the extra innings with this project. Now my wife, who usually never comments on issues dealing of my nocturnal hobby, is saying that it looked fine enough like a month ago and it looks finished. I am being referred to now as “the painter of sticks’, a subtle hint that I have been obsessing over this Hamptons vine painting for far too long. But to my defense, I need my obsessions, it just keeps my mind off what is happening in the real world which makes no sense to me whatsoever. Anyhow, I am going to have to lose this ‘stickman stigma’ in my house as soon as possible, so musical theme from this point on is of course, Momma Said Knock You Out.

It is not helping that my source material is an actual size blow up from a blurry cell phone shot which means I have to make things up and make my lines appear sharper than what I am seeing, even photoshop could not help me out with this. At least I am down to the tiny brushes now, so I am not too worried about totally screwing up. Words to live by: big brushes, big mistakes, little brushes, little mistakes.

This is a whole new painting for me. Quite a few of firsts in this one, lots of detail, a realistic style and most importantly my first painting with actual lines in it. I also broke one of my old taboos about never having any man-made objects in my paintings. Yep, out of the comfort zone with this one, most of my past work has been my koi paintings which are colorful and have very soft edges, I wouldn’t  even call them lines. There is a certain level of discipline in this new work with the dynamic composition, strict attention to detail and hard lines that really make the whole process a tight ass venture, not that I am not happy about my results, its just not as fun to paint as my previous artwork. Also, my computer system has been down in my studio so I am without any of my music, this makes me uptight right there. I miss my headphones and my twentieth century bar chords. I am really itching to get back to painting something that is fast, loose, colorful and not so darn serious. However, just let me say that I have always wanted to do a canvas like this, I have always loved japanese sumi-e ink painting and I always wanted to capture that tense, dynamic energy of say a coiled vine or the branch of an apple tree so i definitely think I got my fill as far as that is concerned. Also, painting the deep contrasts of shadow and light and experimenting with the levels of depth in this composition has been and an extremely rewarding venture.

Here are a couple things that I am going to do to finalize everything:

I believe that the whole war will be won with this painting when I can make the 3 elements on the right side of the composition (the white window frame, the dark barn wood siding and the faded sign on the top) connect convincingly on the same plane, instead of it being just 3 separate pieces. My plan right now is to first darken the shadows of the white window frame, that element needs to be pushed back from the foreground, there just needs to be more depth in this area. Second, I need to lighten up the barn wood and hit it with some long highlights. Third, I need to slightly darken the white sign in the upper right and work it out with a longer more convincing grey gradation over the entirety of this element. I hope that these moves will make these elements work together with each other and that this whole right plain looks like a real solid wall. The part of the vine in the foreground that reaches diagonally through the middle of the layout also needs to be modeled more, it needs to feel more rounded, it is very busy in this area but I am enjoying it, that branch looks yummy enough to eat, I just have to smooth it out more. Then I need to do a just a general examination of everything and hope that I don’t add any more things to fix on my list.   Hopefully after all that, I can put this horse out to pasture and start painting something else, sometime thing more fun. Can’t wait to spray this thing, I love putting that final finish on the worked canvs, sealed for all eternity in a UV coating, now that’s closure!

April 1, 2014

The Train Station acrylic painting finally gets started


off to a slow start, but this might turn into a pretty good one

by Robert Conway

Well I finally broke down and started to work on that train station terminal painting that I blogged about in the fall. It is not that I don’t want to do it, it is just that I am really itching to do a painting that is alive with vivid colors and the three paintings that I have been working on have all been painted with very limited color palettes and I just want to bust out. This year I am going to have to remind myself to go out and take more pictures in the spring, summer and fall so I don’t have to resort to doing winter pieces which always lack color, it is sort of not fun, I might as well  just be drawing sometimes I think. Anyhow this is going to be a small painting(12×16) so hopefully it won’t take too much time, also I am going to go for a more impressionistic feel with this one as an experiment and if isn’t turning out right I can always go back to my safety net, realism. Right now I would say that my inspiration for this piece would be that series of paintings that Claude Monet did of the Rouen Cathedral, but like I said that can change as the process goes on. Yes I took those meds, that is why I am so chatty today.
In the picture above I wanted to show you how I start a painting which is I run two color proofs of the intended work both at one hundred percent, then I save one as my reference and the other one I turn over and rub a dark, soft graphite 6B pencil all over the back until there are no white spaces. From there I take that print and I  tape it around the edges of the stretched canvas using with the graphite side sitting on the canvas, then I tape the print to the canvas from the sides, so now I am ready to trace. I usually take the proper sized book and put it as backing behind the canvas so I am not tracing on a sagging canvas and then I trace out every sharp detail with a black ballpoint pen and I am good to go. Then you remote the tape, take the print of the canvas and give the graphite impression you just made a quick spray of workable fixative to seal it all and I am ready to paint.

When I start a painted work i want to make sure that I don’t cover up any of the details from the heavy pencil tracing that i put down on the canvas. The first paint cover is usually thin, so my pencil markings show through. Also, I want to make sure that in my first round of painting the colors I choose are as close to spot on as possible because that is a huge time saver if you get it right in the beginning, you have to fight the lazy urge to just get some paint down there on your first round just to make it look like something. When i first started painting, i would just put down any color that was reasonably close enough to my source material and then I would eventually pay the price later with having to go back and repaint the whole thing. You want that first overall cover with the paint to be as accurate as possible to give yourself the most visual clues. In this way you will have a firm and stable foundation for the rest of the journey. Just remember that the less guesswork you have going foreword, the more confidence you are going to have and a more enjoyable experience it will turn out to be.

March 24, 2014

Painting Fish with Acrylics while on Meds

orange fish white carp art

just can’t think of a good title for this painting

by Robert Conway

Yep, I took the plunge, I don’t want to delve into anything serious not on this blog, lets just generalize it and say that ‘old man winter was giving me the blues’. Why not? the rules have changed, everyone is crazy now, crazy is the new normal. Anyhow, my old 20th Century brain needed an overhaul, a little outside assistance getting through this mind numbing hassle festival that we call modern times, just a little tweak was all that was needed, a low dosage, nothing major, like the mayor of Toronto or anything, I am not starring off into space and drooling or something like that. That was a big concern, but the stuff they have now is different than it was when I was growing up, I think back then they gave everyone Thorazine to keep them quiet so everyone else could go about their day. So for years there was always that stigma in the back of my mind, my greatest fear was that I would become a total zombie, a total zombie who didn’t want to paint! but that did not turn out to be the case at all, in fact I have just upped my game, I am at a different level with my painting now, more focused in my execution and more confident than ever that I am improving with my progress at being a painter.

It all started the third day I started to take these pills, I was at work(as a digital retoucher) and I found myself writing the most eloquent emails about the most mundane work stuff, even my boss was like “I didn’t need a novel Bob, a simple yes or no would of done.” That’s when I realized that I was concentrating better, better than ever, I have always been easily distracted it is probably ADHD but we did not have that term in my day. I was always a poor student and If I had this stuff in high school I know I would of avoided that purgatory like stint at that community college. But I digress.

So along with the heightened concentration and the easing of distractions I am also finding that the extreme highs and lows that I have always experienced while I was painting have kind of melted away and has been replaced with a steady sense of quiet confidence and a little more optimism. If you have read any of my other posts you know that I am all about avoiding panic and ignoring self doubt these are the two culprits that had impeded my progress in my earlier experimental days and I am done with them, don’t let the door hit you on the way out fellas!

I would say also that I was greatly concerned that my desire paint would be diminished from taking these things which is not the case at all, the act of painting has become less of a struggle now so I am enjoying putting brush to canvas even more than before.

March 16, 2014

Painting what you see, Not what you think you see*

barn wood painting hamptons

“East Hamptons Shop” acrylic_painting on canvas_16″ x 20″

by Robert Conway

*I have been told that some of the subject matter included in this post might reach into “Drawing for the Right Side of the Brain” territory, since I have never read that book ,this is my (I am sure) less eloquent version of the subject matter. honestly I really don’t know my right from my left anyway.

When using a reference source like a picture or a layout for your painting the act of visually translating that image to your canvas can be can be quite a challenging one, there can be this inner struggle in your mind between the analytic side and the sentimental side of your brain. I always find it helpful to try to block out that sentimental side of your mind, the part with all the stored memory of all things you know and embrace that logical side of your mind since this is going to aide you in visually breaking down the elements such as for example which colors to mix, which brush to use or how much paint to apply.

There is sometimes a tendency to want to rendered favored areas into something greater than what you have in front of your eyes and this can lead to a hot mess of confusion, for example if you are painting say a leaf, there is going to be that part of your brain coaxing you to depict the leaf from your collective memory of all the zillions of leaves you have seen in your lifetime, it would be more productive to block out these urges since you are dealing with a new challenge and you should be focusing on the present and depicting what is actually sitting right in front of you. This sentimental part of your brain is going to tell you that a leaf is usually green, it has a stem, it has these veins in the middle and it has pointy edges, now this is all useless information for the task at hand, you want to tap into that part of your mind that tells you “this object is just a mixture of black and green that gradates to green and white and has some yellow highlights thrown in.” It is like you have to take a step back and detach yourself from a lot of the things that you are comfortable with, it is like a very sterile, scientific approach, maybe it would be good to pretend that you have never even seen a leaf before, in this way you can focus on a non-bias, analytical approach that should yield positive results. You can even take it a step further and not think of the leaf as an object at all, it may be better to just think of it as just another part of the composition
another brushstroke, another dab of paint and just move on from there.

Being a self-taught painter, I find this clinical method of visualization really helps especially when I am working on difficult, complex areas of a painting, much in the way that I would imagine a fire walker psyches himself up to walk over the coals, I want to get into a zone of detachment where i do not panic. In the past I have had a history of crashing and burning while working on difficlut areas of a canvas, but with this method of visualization I no longer feel like I am totally going to screw up, it is a good safety net to have.

March 2, 2014

Photoshop Digital Illustration: The Rabbit and the Frog


a blast from the past

By Robert Conway

Well what can I say about this one? I may have been partying up a wee bit when I came up with this one in the year 2000. And of course if you read my posts you know that this thing took an insane amount of time to finish. This was just an experimental promo piece for when I thought it would be a cool thing to be a children’s book illustrator a plan in which I kind of grew out of when I started painting which I just find a much more enjoyable process. The subject matter of this piece is all up in the air, I never could think up a good enough story to match the artwork, now matter how long I thought about it the big idea never came, so there is no hidden meaning or anything just fill in the blanks yourself. Anyhow, I adapted this new illustration style right at the turn of the century when I got a digital camera and started to become preoccupied with gathering a library of digital textures to use in my artwork. So every where I went I would be photographing rocks, grass, cement anything I found interesting and as I have mentioned before I would make regular visits to New York’s American Museum of Natural History the texture capitol of the world.

With all the stuff going on in this composition I was left with a huge layered photoshop file and using a 1997 era Apple computer did not exactly speed up the process so lets put it this way every time I would hit save I would have to go and take a walk around the block. Also I topped out on my maximum number of for layers in a photoshop file even though I did a lot of layer merging to cut down file size when I made the last layer it was layer #360 so I knew right about there it was time to call it quits and go start working on something else. Hope you all enjoy.

March 7, 2014