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Black Ships Ate the Sky

I started this, thinking I was going to take an 8×10 pencil sketch and make a neat water-colory looking piece of it, or maybe just smooth it out and make some edits.

I began by making it 16×20 at 400 DPI, and then took to smoothing out all of my pencil grainy-ness. I chose this size, because I like my works to be high resolution, and my prints to be perfect – I also always consider that I might finish a piece, and then wish I had made it available much bigger.

The downside to working digital for me, is that can I zoom in to where I can see the individual pixels when it comes to detail… I begin just doing this for one part, then realize that the entirety of the work now needs to be in this ultra-high resolution – and set off on a journey of exploring a miles-square map of pixels for.. as long as it takes… in this case, over 300 hours I really did not have to spare. I think I spent nearly two weeks planning on being done “tomorrow”.

It was certainly a way to indulge though – as an artist these days, I don’t always get the chance to put so much work into one piece – though I do put a tremendous amount of work into every one comparatively.

From pencil sketch, to over 2 gigs of file size, hundreds of layers of painted elements, plus all the modification layers for overlay, lightening, darkening, color, multiplication, saturation, etcetera…

About a day or two in, I decided it would be a great idea to actually log the process for this one… and I saved a lot of progress pics.  Below, you can actually see the details of the finished piece. One thing with all of my paintings and other images: Web resolution will never let you see how packed with detail every inch is, or all of the interesting scenes, items, and mini-artworks semi-hidden throughout the painting.

Below that, I’ve added my progress pics – for people who are interested by such things.

Oh… if you would like to buy printings of this: There are giclees available in my store – There are also poster prints and photographic prints available at our Redbubble shop – Also in my DeviantArt account.

Image and details:


Progress Pics:


A rather rough sketch… these were quickies done for $25 a pop for bus fare a year or so back. The paper type really did not allow for erasing, so they were one-shot deals. I liked the concept and base layout enough, I thought I would do some digital work on it to make it print-ready.


A lot of steps went by before I realized it was going to be a much bigger project than I planned. It was the point where I was fleshing out this airship where I decided some screen caps would be good. I had started on the girl, switched to the airship, cut my pencil work out to its own layer, and placed other airships where I wanted them, as placeholders for the sake of layout.

I blacked out the girl for this stage, I didn’t want its pencily quality drawing my focus from the background I was working on.


head/face. This part took all of my night – so not much else has changed.


boots and leggy things… I put a lot of base work into this, then decided I would need to enlarge the feet, and widen and lengthen the lower legs. I write notes to myself whenever there is something important I want to hit first thing the next day… you’ll see these notes in other screen caps below.


The very beginnings of the holster and belt… I would later go in further, and further, sharpening up these details, then making details within these details… and sharpening those up. Oh, you can also see the base/beginning brushings of her stripey-pants.

… and done.

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Infernal Teardown and Commissions Available Again

Infernal Device at Night
The Infernal Device at night time

So, this last week we wrapped up the Infernal Device show at the Gerald R Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Tear-down went pretty smoothly, considering that we had to break down nearly two tons of complicated mechanical machinery in less than two days. From standing atop our 17-foot tall wind and solar power sculpture and rotating mural to disassemble Todd’s wind collector, to getting the solar panels and reserve batteries loaded up, to breaking down the 7-foot tall, 7-foot in diameter, 7-sided rotating mural, to breaking down the massive surrounding structure – and all of its pistons and gears and chains, to scooping up nearly 3 cubic yards of decorative stone – all went fairly well – much thanks to help such as Glen Swanson, and Steampig artists/team members: Alicia Vanheulen and Thomas Birks.

There was a *lot* to talk and blog about during this huge 6 month project, and I missed out on that from being too busy each and every day of it – but if you would like a recap, progress pics, and more pictures of the device itself, you can find them all at http://facebook.com/infernaldevice

The project, is not over. We are re-grouping. We’ve all spent a lot of the last six months, and a lot of expense on making  this project happen, and now comes the time when we recover, rest up, catch up on all those other things that have been screaming to be done these last few months… things like blog updates, new art, and standing obligations.

I’ve spent 6 months without posting new artwork, without making sales, without shipping most of the few sales I had made, and needing to catch up on the last rewards shipments from our kickstarter – and I’ve found myself in a spot where I *need* to sell things, but cannot afford to sell things if I have to pay to have them made or shipped to me. My at-home stock is all but depleted, and I have nothing on hand but a lot of paint and wood to paint on.

I have seven new paintings from the device itself, each 3 foot by 7 foot monsters making one continuous repeating 21-foot by 7-foot mural… but not the money to have them imaged.. as well as doubts as to whether I can sell 3 foot by 7 foot prints at the price I would need to sell them at.

So, I’ve put a few commissions for sale – to get me back into the swing on doing artwork, to get some new artwork on this site, and I figure since they are such favorites: I might as well add some new pieces to the “Airships and Tentacles” art collection since I have yet to get it published.

If you are interested in getting an artwork commissioned, and incredibly cheaply – there are several options available – a 24×24 inch painting (already added), an 18×12 inch painting (already added), and more engravings (I’ll have that offer up soon if it is not up already).

You can find all of those offers here: http://www.mykeamend.com/new/products-page/?ptag=commission

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The End of the Series

Think of a visual representation of a statements or concept, as a series or a single image.

Consider a style or media that would be striking, and imagine it taken to a level beyond your ability.

Research said media if it is new, and think on the concept or image for a while – but not so long that something new takes its place – because the longer this thought process, the more ambitious it should become.

Once the thought of even trying begins to fill you with an equal level of dread and excitement, begin.. even if it is after your bed time.

Don’t stop until it is looking as good you had hoped, because this is the *true* starting point. Now work to take it even further, as far as the piece demands, beyond whatever level of ability you  thought you were limited by.

Walk away regularly with the image in your head, process it, think of the parts you like, the things you don’t, and things you would like to add.

Remove and go over anything you have doubts about without mercy.

Add in only what won’t crowd the piece

When you reach the point where any change will only make it “different”, but not “better”, you are done.

“Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things by breakfast”, is a good phrase to remember.

Most *Everyone* draws at some point in their life. Those who are intrigued by failure, inspired by the seemingly impossible, continue beyond the point of jagged teeth and crayoned stick fingers.

An artist should never seek to do what they already know they *can* do – and perhaps such is the evil in commissions, which are most often specified according to past works, and limited by scope. Not that all commissions are bad – an artist must accept only those that allow the artist a fair share of creative freedom, as well as room, opportunity, or even obligation to try something new.

An artist who finds himself or herself with extra money, tends to spend it exploring a new mode of art, a new mode of printing, or trying to break into some bigger and more time-involved media or project. It isn’t that we are without wisdom, we know what is wise, and choose to ignore it out of a strong and passionate love for art. Buy canvas, sell paintings, buy scanner, sell reproductions, buy printer, sell giclees, buy lithography press, sell lithographs, buy bigger canvas and better paints, sell paintings, fret over a choice between crowns or a big chunk of marble, sell sculpture, buy clove oil … some ramen noodles …and a better chisel.

When I first started the “Airships and Tentacles” series, in wow… 2006… I don’t even think that “Air Kraken” was a word yet, though I could very well be wrong. I can’t remember specifically, but given Final Fantasy’s tendency to make *some* version of every base creature for each and every environment, it would be insane if they never had some sort of airborne cephalopod in all those years.

Yes, It is foolish of anyone to believe they invented anything… logs and stones rolled down hills long before the wheel, and there is sure to be a comic book from the 60s or illustration from the 1800s with flying cephalopods *somewhere* – and a hundred movies and books in-between. I am only saying I hadn’t yet seen them in paintings, especially luminist and/or American arts-movement-styled paintings, and I thought it would be fun to add hints of in the first painting – and loved that touch enough to continue it through the series.

The Rescue -Steampunk Airship painting featuring Abney Park's HMS Ophelia

My airships, started with a commission for Robert of Abney Park, based on the existing designs by Eliza Gauger, which may or may not have been based somewhat on an equal interest in things such as Final Fantasy. The fun of imagination, came more in execution and styling, and moreso in the landscapes themselves. Over time, as the result of much research on bag sizes, gas content, altitude, temperature, etc… balloon sizes grew, ship sizes and engines shrank – I also started to lean more towards the stylings of DaVinci for wings and other parts – and mixed a bit of the aesthetic stylings from my favorites like Derek Riggs, Michael Whelan, Brom, Bethalynne Bajema, Gustave Dore, Pieter Breughel (E&Y), Zdzislaw Beksinski, and others wherever characters, creatures, scenery, or technology allowed.

Anyway, I wanted to do a series of what is essentially landscape art, explored by this fascinating mode of travel – as a means of adding a human element for the viewer to view through, without focusing on figures so much as to make it “character art”.

I sought to combine Lovecraftian elements and mythos with Vernian machines and aptly romanticized visions of exploration; in this, I also wanted to hide every bit of my usual dark and spooky art in such a way that it goes mostly to completely unnoticed.

The latter is most likely why this series was the first series I ever did that people *both* liked, *and* would hang on their walls (Criteria: Does not scare children, much; Does not creep in-laws and future in-laws out; Does not give the potential future girlfriend reason for pause; Does not get a cubicle-dweller fired).

Shadow, Mist and Stone: The last of the series
Shadow, Mist and Stone: The last of the series (crop)
Shadow, Mist and Stone: The last of the series
Shadow, Mist and Stone: crop 2
Shadow, Mist and Stone: full view
Shadow, Mist and Stone: full view. This, the last of these images is finally available as a giclee on fine art paper, a giclee on canvas, and a metallic print at our Etsy store: http://ettadiem.etsy.com

I *thought* I was going to explore this into many, many other types of media – and planned to have a sculpture in wood and a sculpture in metal in the series of nothing else. But, I’ve done more paintings in this series than I intended to, and many, many engravings. The very last painting ships out tomorrow… technically that is not true, because there will be *some* of that in the Infernal device – but I am counting that as my sculpture piece to complete the series.

I’ve got one hell of a collection together in this – plenty enough for the book I committed myself to making works for. I’ll be releasing it in a time when dirigibles and flying Cephalopods have over these years become an odd sort of ‘norm’ (a subcultural standard that to most, comes out of *nowhere* for no apparent reason). The journey has been in interesting one, and I feel that alone merits the book’s release if nothing else… pending until all this Infernal Device stuff is under control.

Thank you everyone who supported the making of this series by buying prints, sharing links and such – and of course thank you  everyone who continues to do so.

I really have no idea what I am going to do from here, because I have *many* ideas and will have to choose one, or combine a few – but whatever I am thinking, I am sure going to look forward to it the moment I allow myself to look forward to other things.

Right now I am looking forward to getting the first build of the Infernal Device done, and looking to make it better than anything I could ever possibly do.

In celebration of the closing of the series (okay… I really need money to get my butt to Maker Faire Detroit), I am making large giclees of the very first image from this series available online. They are 30 inches by 24 (printed area is slightly less), and they are printed on fine art rag paper. I will also sign and date these. These are not limited editions – the reason is that the metallics and canvas prints I sold as limited editions, must always remain more special than any version I put out afterward. These are prints I make available in small quantities at conventions, with no set number to be made – but they beautiful, high quality, and they are the biggest prints of this  image you can get without buying one of the 4 remaining giclees on canvas.

If you would like one, these few prints are available HERE – and are only $100 until they  are gone.

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Slave 1881 Finally available as a giclee on canvas

The HP 4670, rocks. 600 DPI, in seconds. Perfectly flat, no distance from the painting, means I can finally get good imaging of my paintings without the $300+ a pop imaging fee, which means savings to you.

I decided to take this one step further, because limited editions and all, though they appeal to some people – most just want a good wall hanging at a good price. And the added cost of having these shipped to me, so I can stretch them, sign them in paint, re-varnish them, print up certificates on hahnemuhle paper, stick holograms on them, etc… well… this is a bit of an experiment.

Not to say they *aren’t* somewhat limited, I mean, my life is finite… unless you both believe in quantum immortality and also believe that you and I will never part coils – in which case I guess you have forever.

But, whether you and I live forever, or otherwise – I anticipate I’ll probably sell about 20 to 50 of these, before I stop selling them, and you can be one of 20 to 50 owners – without all that cost and delay involved in limited editions.

You can buy  them here

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Reign in Purple

Painted on birch panel in acrylic paints. Even the images below can’t possibly give you a good look at all the detail in this piece… but that is the story with most of my works.

This piece took me 2 + 2 days of no sleep, painting from waking till crashing.

“Break time” for me is a matter of choosing 2 or 3 days in which to do art other than the art I *should* be doing, and I tend to cram as much art into that time frame as I possibly can. This time around, I decided rather than several engravings or several small paintings, that I would do one painting, break far away from my typical American Art Movement or Luminist style, and delve into something more Art Nouveau or cartoony (I chose somewhere between ‘both’).

If you’d like to see the fine details (minuscule scales, blood vessels in the eyes, variegated petals, and all the fine lines which hold them in), you’ll probably need to buy the original (here), or buy one of the 20 available full sized giclees (here), *or* buy one of the 10 by 20 inch metallics (here)

Reign in Purple - Victorian Cthulhu Tea and Flowers Art

Reign in Purple: 12 inches by 12 inches in acrylic on wood panel.

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Detail 1 (click to view)

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Detail 2 (click to view)

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New Wallpaper: The Rescue 1280×960

This one is finally available.

It took me forever to settle on the right cropping for this one, but I managed – much of this due to regular requests to make this one available.

This painting features Abney Park’s trademarked HMS Ophelia, and was commissioned by Captain Robert Brown of the famed steampunk and retro-future band: Abney Park.

The Rescue -Steampunk Airship Wallpaper featuring Abney Park's HMS Ophelia
The Rescue -Steampunk Airship Wallpaper featuring Abney Park's HMS Ophelia
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BIIIG Painting

Me - Painting a big one
Me - Painting a big one

A whole mess of other photos HERE and HERE

This year for the Artprize competition (Grand Rapids Michigan), well, there is a whole lot of craziness in there- long story short, because of pencil pushers we are starting our painting at the start of ArtPrize (rather than having it done before artprize), and our other artwork is at One Girls Treasure on Lyon street, and our musical acts and sideshow acts are at the Bob… right next to the Steampig – our best co-contestant friends and favorite competitors.

This is the last part of our work, painting on the actual lot that is our venue -and it is HUGE!I have never painted this big before and it is a hell of a lot of fun were it not for the sunburn and the sore knees and back.

Here is the fun part though… forget I said anything about sunburn or sore backs- if you have the will to do so, YOU CAN BE A PART OF THIS!… yes… even if you do not trust yourself within five feet of a brush, you can fill a large area with a roller – and for those feeling their arty ability – there is plenty of room for that as well.

If you would like to help out, drop in at 530 Monroe avenue between the hours of 10:30 AM and 11PM, pick up a brush, let us know how confident you are, and we’ll make up some sort of shit for you do do… FREE OF CHARGE!

… or just drop in and say “hi”, by some t-shirts if you must (or buy them ONLINE)… but if you can, come down and see us and our painting – no matter the reason.