How Long Did It Take You to Draw That?

Drawing A Long Pose, Time in an Art Studio

I am often asked , “How long did it take you to draw that.” It depends on how large the drawing paper is and how many objects I had to draw. Mostly, if a model is hired, the time depends on how much time is booked with the model.

This drawing I created in three (3) three-hour sessions. The toned paper is 18hx16w. I used charcoal and white calk for highlights. This was drawn from a live model. He posed in 20 minute increments. The sessions were hosted by artist Gabriel Coke instagram@gabrielcoke and he created the setup at his studio in Saratoga, CA. The model is John Carrasco. instagram@john_a_carrasco

Pacing Myself and Daring to Dwell

First I have to decide if I sould draw the whole set up or focus on a section of the image. Before touching the toned paper it is a good idea to make a thumbnail of what you want to include. The pose was set up beautifully with the bread and cheese on one side and a candle and a book on the other. The model has a wonderful face and I really wanted to work on the portrait so I had to edit out some items to get his head the size I wanted to work on.

I happened to be standing at an easel on the bread and cheese side and had a better, closer, view of it. You will notice I drew a vertical line on the thumbnail because I was thinking if stopping the image by the hand was a good idea. Although the book and candle were fantastic props, I felt I was too far away to render them clearly and including them made his face smaller. I did the block image below afterwards to make sure what I was drawing would fit dimensionally on my paper.

Draw It Lightly and Slowly

Day 1. In long drawing, I take the first day to get the drawing correct. Typically the first line I put down has something wrong with it! Be willing to change up the drawing by drawing lightly on the paper. Hopefully you have gotten a good drawing paper that doesn’t keep the marks. I’m using a toned Strathmore drawing paper, that was ok.

As you can see I put a center line in the middle of his face, which is very helpful in getting the perspective right. On this drawing I got the head the size I wanted then compared lengths of things to where I put the facial features. For example, the length of the bridge of the nose to the triangle under the lip is the same size approximately to the length of the wrist to the start of the ring finger. Don’t get into too much detail on the face. There is still wiggle room to adjust a nose and eyes.

Other comparison tricks to use to get an accurate image besides using length:

1. Comparing angles by using your pencil as a linear guide. Hold your pencil at arms length and copy the angle you are looking at (lets say the arm closest to you) and see if the angle you drew is close to that.

2. Comparing negative spaces. I had to check if the space between the cutting board and arm were similar. (Certain things I don’t get too upset about if they are pretty close.)

3. Comparing intersections of masses. Where does the cup intersect with the bread, the cape and the sleeve.

4. Using a plumb line. Is the crystal ball all the way under his face or does one side line up with the farthest eye and center of the orb lines up with his shoulder

Just be ready to adjust and adjust on the first day before you put in any shading.

Summoning Shadows in Dark Places

Day 2. Hopefully, things worked out in the first session with getting the image pretty proportional to what I was looking at. I will find out the mistakes when I start shading. Why? Because shades have their shapes and sometimes I have caught myself realizing that I’m looking at a portion of shade that isn’t as big on the model as it is in my drawing. Darn it! What do I do? I make a decision to go with what I got or I adjust the image. If there is a lot of erasing, so what. It’s only paper. And if it’s really off and I want to start over… an art instructor I had said, “If you could draw it once, you can draw it again.” You have to choose to believe it.

I’m not going to get into all the types of shade that form on an image in this post. I’m going to be un-academic and let you look that up. Mostly I squint my eyes, start light with the charcoal and get darker and don’t shade in the light parts. Determine how much of my paper I want to have as the mid-tone. The model was heavily shaded from my angle.

By the end of Day 2 my goal is to get in the medium darks. If I had enough time, I got to cover all of them. If not, I can continue on day three. By this time there should be no more adjusting the drawing. I am committed to the lines that are put down.

Conjuring Light Lights and Dark Darks

Day 3. On the final day I am going to work on contrast. Since the figure is the central focal point, I decided to make the most of the contrast there. Remember to step away from the drawing throughout the whole process. This helps with catching things from drawing errors to adding more contrast.

The last thing I decided was to add the mist coming from the crystal ball. When drawing on toned paper, I like to work the background a little. The prop came with a solid white mist shape surrounding it, I decided to continue the mist behind the figure to pop out the mid-tones. In creating the mist I had to be careful to not make it too white, or it would flatten out the drawing. I wanted the whitest areas to be on the figure and props.

Hope this was helpful!

Happy Drawing!


Follow me on Instagram@LidiaStudioArt


Full Moon Madness

Full Moon Madness • oil on canvas • 30hx24w

This Ain’t No Science Fiction

There’s a race to get back to the Moon! Several countries are going back up there to do interesting science experiments and to set up a lunar base with plans to use the moon as a big fat stepping stone to Mars. There will be a lot of action on the Moon in the coming years. People of Earth, this is my metaphorical rendition of the Lunar Base Boogie we are about to witness.

Preparing to Launch

I set up a photo shoot with eccentric performer Iman Lizarazu. She kindly shared her talents with me and I got multiple poses from our afternoon in her studio. (You can see Iman’s performances on YouTube. Hopefully you get to see her perform live, as she is an international performer. She is also a juggler and has a PhD in Astrophysics!) I have created multiple figure compositions in the past combining people as metaphors for planets in a painting series. (Read my post called, “Heavenly Bodies” for more on the series.) I loved so many of the images I photographed, I decided to apply the idea to this painting. I also wanted to say something about stepping foot on the moon again.

Experimental drawing on the canvas.

Orbital Positions

Below is the process of drawing on the painting. I drew the figures over each other hoping to find interesting places where the lines intersected that I could give more emphasis to. Also, I choose to eliminate some lines where there seemed to be too much going on.

Draw! Draw! Draw! Got to keep layering!
The completed drawings.

Another thing to consider when creating a multiple figure composition is including the shadows to add to more abstractions of form.

Moon Age Daydream

The next step is painting!

First pass determining lights and darks.

I wanted the Earth to be in the distance to help identify that we are looking at the Moon.

Second session with color.

I also wanted to add qualities I researched that can be seen on the surface of the moon. There are certain spots of the moon that appear gray and some large craters that have a “star burst” patterns on the surface.

Third pass.

I worked a lot with the contrast on the painting. The darks needed to be darker and the lights lighter. There is a constant reworking in layers that I find necessary to get a balance I am happy with.

Next I started with more details in the faces.

This painting has a lot of loose strokes and layered paint. The whole process was a joy!

It’s In My Book!

“Full Moon Madness” can be found in my book Circus Real Surreal: A Collection of Narrative Paintings. It is featured under the Heavenly Bodies section of the book that includes other planet/people interpretations. Thank you for reading and enjoy!


“Wildfire” oil 40hx30w

A Little History

I created this painting during the fall of 2020 after a scary fire season. Dry lightning strikes created several fires that eventually converged together to become one big fire in the Northern California county I live in. We were lucky and our home was not in danger, but others lost their homes. The fire fighters and all emergency response teams did a valiant job of saving our town. My thanks to all the first responders and helpful people out there!

On Fire

At the time of these fires, so close to home, I was creating my book of narrative paintings Circus Real Surreal. The book records current history using narrative paintings with the figure as metaphor. Wildfires as a painting subject needed to be included in it. An old Van Halen album cover with lead singer David Lee Roth photographed posed in a backbend was an inspiration for the figure. I wanted the hands to be different and asked my son to pose by balancing on an exercise ball.


As you can see, I altered the backbend pose in Photoshop because the flexibility is near impossible to duplicate for the average person. Reference photos of trained acrobats doing backbends along with current photos of various wildfires in the area helped shape the composition. Sometimes pyrotechnics are used in rock ‘n’ roll shows and I kept this idea in my head as well. Next I blasted the music of Van Halen in the studio and drew in my notebook.

I Brought My Pencil! (and paint brush!)

One of the first concept drawings.

Below is the process from gesture drawing, underpainting and color layers.

Beginning of gesture and placement of figure.
Completed drawing.
Wild underpainting.
Figure with first pass of color.
Working on the fire and its reflections on the body.
Detail of face and torso.

It’s In My Book!

“Wildfire” is on page 86 under Specialty Acts in my book, Circus Real Surreal: A Collection of Narrative Paintings. Available at Bookshop Santa Cruz, and Kindle.

Thank you and Goodnight!

The Spirit of ’76

The Spirit of ’76 Anthems of Hope • oil • 30hx24w

Broad Stripes and Bright Stars

“Preserving a democracy is a serious fight! Old Glory has tales to tell of courage and sacrifice. Be it protection of country or protest of policies, the Star-Spangled Banner gallantly streams o’er the fray to form a more perfect union. Oh say, can you hear – in the battle’s confusion – the drum beat of the human heart?” – from the book, Circus Real Surreal: A Collection of Narrative Paintings.

Stars and Stripes, Step by Step:

The Concept

The concept was based on historical battles and protests and how American’s continue to fight for rights. 

The Pose

The pose was inspired by Colin Kaepernick, for his kneeling protests against police brutality against people of color, but the figure in the painting is cropped at the knee to also suggest a soldier marching forward. I planned the background to suggest a smokey battlefield.

I found the hat at the Goodwill and I cut out a star and stripes using printer paper to get a better visual reference. The fabric I had in the studio and I cut out the collar and created a sleeve out of the polka dotted fabric. I can’t remember if I actually sewed it or I just pinned it together. My son kindly posed for me. I did do a little Photoshop manipulation of the background – which I just blurred – because the background in the photo was too busy. It helps me to have the background in a reference photo be similar in tone to what I want in my painting.

The Painting Progress

I started with an abstract shape based on the pose and the lights and darks, then added in the lines. It was a fun way to start.

I set up the props and continued to paint. My paintings start dark and out of focus. Then I add more detail to the painting and tighten the image.

In addition to working from a photo, I set up the props in the studio as noted in the image above. Below is a version of the painting that needs to be lightened up – almost done. Sometimes, adding in the highlights takes a couple of passes because I like to layer the paint.

This is what I look for to determine my painting is finished:

  1. When I feel that the image has the correct contrast.
  2. Nothing is popping out in the painting that draws attention where I don’t want it.
  3. I can make out details in low light.
  4. I can make out details at a distance of 20 paces. (Always step away from your painting while working on it periodically.)
  5. I feel like I don’t know what else to do to it to fix it!

It’s In My Book!

If you really like these paintings and want to see the book – for free – request your local library to purchase it for you, then check it out! The print or e-book would be a great addition to their book collection! To purchase the book yourself, it can be found at Bookshop Santa Cruz, and

The Book: Circus Real Surreal: A Collection of Narrative Paintings. The painting discussed in this blog can be found in the Finale section on page 115 of the print edition.

Thank you for reading this post. Best regards, – Lidia

Tie the Knot Rollercoaster of Love

Tie the Knot Rollercoaster of Love • oil • 30hx20w

A Little History 101

Two U.S. Supreme Court rulings inspired my painting. This painting celebrates the legalization of gay marriage by the Supreme Court in 2015 in the Obergefell v. Hodges landmark civil rights case. However, despite the ruling, equal rights under the law are still in for a bumpy ride.

Cake as Catalyst: History 102

Getting the cake for a gay wedding is still an issue. In 2018 the Supreme Court overheard  the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. This case argued that owners of public accommodations can refuse certain services due to the First Amendment  which protects religious freedom and free speech. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission – which stated that the shop was discriminating against the couple – and the Cakeshop was granted an exemption from non-discrimination laws and could refuse to provide services on the basis of the owner’s religious beliefs. So folks, the coaster goes up then it goes down and sometimes it goes around and around.

The Painting Process

Below are images of the progress of the painting. First I drew the ideas in a note book, then I recreated them on canvas using vine charcoal. I don’t trace my drawings onto the canvas. I am not working under deadlines, and I find that my drawings feel “stiff” when I have transferred them. I like to redraw the composition using my sketchbook drawing as reference. Drawing the rollercoaster “knot” was really challenging and I had to complete the whole image to get it right. I have the figures drawn over it lightly at the bottom. I didn’t care to have the rollercoaster be a closed knot, I just wanted the looping effect of the tracks.

Vine Charcoal on canvas.

Next I painted over my drawing. I think I used a burnt umber for this. I also use dioxazine purple a lot of the time. I even might have mixed them together. I just like a warm dark color for the drawing. Also, I left the figures in silhouette (step 1) and pulled out the lights, then defined the lines (step 2).

Step 1
Step 2 There is also experimentation with the lights and darks in the rollercoaster.

Next there is painting! I paint in layers. I go from darks to light. I wanted the bridal veils to be transparent, so I painted the coaster first.

This is a couple of passes of layered paint.

For the rest of the painting I concentrate on making the images have more dimension and clarity – which means more color! I cleaned up the typography – which I also find challenging to do.

This version is almost finished. The figures are a bit too dark and need to be lightened up.

When do I feel a painting is complete? Let me confess, I think they are done and then I come back to the studio the next day and say, “Nope.” Usually, I still need to add contrast. So a painting is “done” for me when:

• Nothing pops out in the composition that I don’t want popping out

• It’s not too dark and the painting displays good contrast. I take my paintings to different lighting situations – I turn off the lights in the studio and look at it in low light, I go outdoors in the shade, and in my house – when I am really unsure. If I still see the contrast in the painting in these low light situations, the contrast is good.

• I can “read” the painting clearly from 20 feet away.

Fun Inspiring Facts!

The Knot: The roller coaster image was inspired by M.C. Escher “Knots” series from 1965. I had the idea for the Rollercoaster of Love painting in my sketchbook for a year or two, but it didn’t really come together until I started to study Escher drawings for fun.

Song to paint this painting by: Roller Coaster of Love by the Ohio Players (original version) and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (cover 1996)

Vintage photos of people on rollercoasters helped inspire the expressions of the brides.

It’s In My Book!

You will find the Tie The Knot Roller of Love in the “Intermission Section” of my book:

Circus Real Surreal: A Collection of Narrative Paintings. Available in e-book and paperback on

The Clown With Two Noses

The Clown With Two Noses • 30hx24w oil 

A Painting About Hypocrisy

When making my book, “Circus Real Surreal: A Collection of Narrative Paintings,” my brother-in-law mentioned that I didn’t have any clowns in my circus. Creating paintings of bad politicians as clowns isn’t anything new, and I have resisted the temptation until now. Here is my take on politician as clown. Notice that there is a lot of double imagery going on in this work. Let me tell you about the details of the painting.

Anyway the Wind Blows

My clown needed an outfit. I looked at many photos of clowns and noticed some of their attire is a hat of some kind. I found this beanie at the Goodwill while researching the painting and had an “Aha!” moment. I figured the art gods wanted me to express “Political Winds” in the painting. Our clown, Two Nose, wears a hat that warns him of which way the political winds are blowing so he can say what he needs to say.

Cloudy Communication

Sometimes the double talk is used to cover up an unpopular previously stated belief or not being told the exact story or a false narrative, and all the talk related to the popular term of “Gaslighting.” Clouds as glasses “framed” the idea.

Honk If You’re A Hypocrite

The horns were inspired by Harpo Marx who used a horn to communicate in all of the Marx Brother’s movies. I am also playing with the saying of “Talking out of both sides of your mouth.”  The crossed arms pose of Two Nose the Clown seemed to portray the right body language.

The Two Noses

I have a friend who is a professional clown – this isn’t her posing – but she does own a company that makes clown noses. She kindly gave me one and I painted it and the silver platter from life. My thoughts were that:

Hypocrisy doesn’t stink if you have the right nose for the job and

It must be a luxury to keep getting away with it. (The silver platter)

A Smile is a Frown Upside Down

My idea was to use the reflection of the nose in the platter to make the smile.

It’s In My Book!

“Circus Real Surreal: A Collection of Narrative Paintings” page 70 under the chapter “Stage and Song.” The paperback is available on Amazon. Below is the cover to the E-Book version which is available through Kindle.

Drone Man

I wanted to explore the connection of man and technology via the drone. Here are the steps I recorded while painting this composition.

The Start

Part of this idea came from a performer posed on a music CD cover. Even though he was sitting, the pose could be changed to make him look as if he were floating. I had my son pose in a similar position. In the above image, I already established some clouds in the background and drew the figure on top of them.

Creating Mass

Next I solidified the figure. I was listening to “Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra. I was going to put him in a blue suit at first. But felt that exposing the arm more would be a better gesture.

Too Blue

In the above version, I worked more on the arm. Then added some green as, the composition was too blue.

Let There Be Pink

The pink color came next and I played with going back and forth on how much the figure would be exposed through the clouds.

Finishing Up

The hand was fun to work on. Below is the painting before I added all the drones.

I found various shapes and sizes of drones and blended them into the painting.

It’s In My Book!

The Drone Man can be found in my book “Circus Real Surreal: A Collection of Narrative Paintings” in the Aerial Acts section.

Creating A Painting: The Complicit Clown Rodeo

The Complicit Clown Rodeo” oil 40hx30w

At the time this painting was created, there was unscalable fencing around the White House and an election was about to take place. People had been watching the survival skills of elected officials under the incumbent president for four long years. The painting’s concept is that the Complicit Clown Rodeo enables the Bull to wreak havoc with democracy. The visual narrative borrows from the expression about three monkeys: “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” Below are the concept drawings and painting progress of the work.

It’s A Bonanza of Bozos!

First I started out with some concept drawings. The goal was to get a composition that displayed my theme and had clear visual clues to the See/Hear/Speak no evil reference. I used various reference photos of bulls and I kept placing the clowns in different positions in the composition until I felt the narrative was clear. Below are some concept drawings.

A Rough Roundup

Next it was time to start my drawing on the canvas. I used vine charcoal to draw on the canvas. I drew it from scratch. When I made mistakes I wiped off the charcoal. I’m not too much into transferring a working drawing. The drawing is looser when I do things this way. I don’t make it super detailed. I save that for the painting process.

Painting The Political Arena

Since the charcoal isn’t very stable on the canvas, I traced over the drawing with some oil paint. I tend to like purple paint or an earth tone. This establishes a darkish warm outline. Next I lay in basic shapes without getting into too much detail. I also try to establish shadows.

Next there is a building up of colors and sometimes corrections to the drawing while I paint. I paint dark to light. In the beginning of a painting, it is best for me to work both the background and the foreground of it together rather than one section at a time.

For the fencing in the background, I used at tool to help me paint the angle of the lines correctly. It is an antique from my father’s workshop. The lines came out thicker than I liked, so I ended up painting between them in the diamond shapes. This sounds tedious, but it’s not so bad. The fencing shouldn’t be so dominant as they are in the distance.

My paintings get pretty dark and then I lighten them up. The last thing I work on is the highlights and up the contrast in the painting. It is just the way I work, not any set “painting rule.” This last posted image is right before the lighten up stage. I am posting the finished stage below it so you can look at the difference.

Work in progress.

Finished version!

It’s In My Book!

“The Complicit Clown Rodeo” can be found in the Animal Acts section of my book Circus Real Surreal: A Collection of Narrative Paintings. Available at

The Phantom Malady

The Phantom Malady and the Juggernaut Follies • oil • 30×30

Allegory of Disease

Sheltering in place due to Coronavirus in 2020 was where this painting got its start. The world was shut down while dealing with an unknown disease that killed people. In this painting  “The Phantom Malady” is an allegory for Covid-19 and “Juggernaut Follies” is the (_hit) show that followed.

Detail of crown and coronavirus

Crowns, Ruffles and Science

Corona means crown in Spanish. Coronavirus is named this way because the spike proteins in the little beast resemble a crown to the scientist who classified it. As the pandemic went on, scientists realized it spreads through the air. The disease attacks the respiratory system.  These scientific facts gave me the visuals in the artwork. I decided to create props to help me with the painting. I made a crown out of folded paper via origami instructions I found on-line. I love origami!

Creating the origami crown was very easy to do.

Masks and Literature

Another prop I created was the mask the Phantom is wearing. The idea was inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s tale of a prince who has a party in his walled city, a disease and an unwelcomed guest titled, “The Mask of the Red Death.” I have to give a shout out to “The Phantom of the Opera,” by Gaston Leroux, as well. The mask, compositionally, is meant to draw the eye to the mouth. I wanted to emphasize that the disease is spread through the breath. Some people wore their masks like this on airplanes. FYI

The props and painting in progress.

The World Theater

The theatre is a combination of two theaters. Our local newspaper provided a vintage photo of the World Theater marquee, which I think was in San Francisco, when it was shut down in 1918 due to the Spanish Flu. The rest of the theater is based on one existing in Santa Cruz, California called the Del Mar.

A poster inspired by Abbot and Costello’s comedy routine, “Who’s On First.

The Posters

All theaters have posters to entice customers. The posters of the Juggernaut Follies feature the Phantom Malady, Economic Mayhem and a vaudeville act (shtick originally from the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic) called, “Who’s Wearing A Mask First.” 1940’s comedy act Abbot and Costello were the inspiration.

Poster and tattoo details.

Time and Tattoos

One last detail I wanted to include was the race against time health care workers and scientists were (and still are) up against to find out how to stop the spread. Many lives have been lost and the disease continues to spread and mutate. The fight isn’t just against time. There are many other acts not included in the visual narrative: Daffy Denial, Medical Supply Madness and Lockdown Lunacy to name a few.

I am the author and illustrator of “Circus Real Surreal: A Collection of Narrative Paintings.”

It’s In My Book!

You can find this troupe of turmoil in my book: Circus Real Surreal: A Collection of Narrative Paintings. It is a book out our surreal reality in the 21st century. “The Phantom Malady and the Juggernaut Follies” can be found in the Stage and Song section of the book. Narrator and Master of Ceremonies, E.M. Landé says, “We keep hoping the Follies will end, but this show is still running rampant. “

Thank you for reading. I wish you good health.

The Maze of Malcontent

January 6th, 2021

When I was working on my book in 2020, “Circus Real Surreal: A Collection of Narrative Paintings,” I was almost finished by December of that year. Then, on January 6th, 2021 there was an event that I never thought would have occurred in my lifetime – political violence as a result of people trying to overthrow a presidential election here in the U.S.A.  This event caused the following painting to be created. Below are some thoughts on how I came up with the imagery for it.

The Spirit of the Minotaur

During the insurrection, one individual wearing a horned headdress was waving his weaponized flag after breaking into the chambers of Congress claiming to be a “shaman.” By the looks of his uncontrolled rage plus the horns, I thought that the man was more likely to be possessed by the spirit of a Minotaur. This thought became the main concept for the painting.

Concept drawing in sketchbook.

Forging a Head and a Body

I had made various concept sketches of a Minotaur – with the bull’s head – for the painting, but they were too literal. Eventually, I came up with the tattooed horns concept. The idea seemed more “cerebral.”

This is a black and white photo of the drawing in paint on wet canvas.

For the figure, I used as reference a composite of various boxers, wrestlers, body builders and even a man who sings in one of my favorite ska bands. I needed a large bodied figure to get the essence of a Minotaur, preferably bald to make way for the necessary tattoos on his head. The overall darkness of the painting palette was inspired by the paintings of Frank Frazetta. Below is a reference photo of the fist and a photo of the painting in progress.

Tattoos of Lost Souls

When I Googled “maze tattoos” I found many beautiful samples. What I wanted to do was incorporate the maze tattoo and Minotaur story onto the body of the painting subject. The myth is about a creature that was half-human and half-bull. He was s abandoned and trapped in a labyrinth, eventually becoming a short-tempered man-eater. (FYI, in my research I discovered there is a difference between a maze and a labyrinth – I’ll let you look that up.) Back to the figure…I like when the tattoos follow the flow of the musculature in the body and I tried to emulate that in the painting.

An election was lost and so was some of the humanity for those who caused the chaos of that day. I wanted to put a heart in the center of the maze, but had to play with some ideas on how it should appear. Edgar Allen Poe is quoted to have said, “The nose of a mob is its imagination. By this, at any time, it can be quietly lead.” I started to play with vintage tattoo hearts that say “Mom” and changed it to “Mob” then changed it several times until I came up with what I felt was the right message for the painting. Where the Minotaur’s heart should be, in the center of the maze, is the word “Lost.”

Painting Shards of Glass

The rest of the image is a distortion of the American flag. There are stars of broken glass and the stripes blend into the maze tattoo. The rendering of the glass started with a dull underpainting and gradually more contrast was added. See the progression below.

It’s In My Book

This painting was the last entry I worked on for my book: “Circus Real Surreal: A Collection of Narrative Paintings,” a book that is a curious combination of surreal illustration and equally surreal historical happenings. The page layout is below. Thank you for reading about my work!