Featured Artist Sharlene McNeill

Today’s Featured Artist is Sharlene McNeill:

Hi there, my name is Sharlene McNeill and yes I paint, write and draw things for your pleasure. Like many artists I am not sure when this strange obsession began or if I was in fact born with a pen and brush in my mouth instead of a silver spoon. As far back as I can remember (that would be yesterday, well bits of it) I have been creative, a painter, a writer and illustrator. I have an ND in graphic design and a BA in animation production and so decided to paint in oils, make miniature art cards and write a novel instead.


Me at work:

I primarily paint in water mixable oils but love to play around with many mediums. My art cards are more illustrative and I often use watercolour markers, ink pens and a combination of soft and hard core pencils to create those. I have recently tried out acrylics and I also dabble in digital painting. Oils were my first passion and whilst I find it terribly frustrating waiting for the layers to dry I think they are still my favourite medium. I use Windsor and Newton water mixable oils because I dislike faffing about with the chemical thinners and stand oils and cleaning agents required for regular oils. For anyone interested in this type of paint I will say that the water mixable oils have a different feel under the brush when compared to regular oil paint. The water mixable versions are not as slick and slippery as regular oils but the colours are just as vibrant and the finish is equally pleasant. Cleaning up I use washing up liquid to remove the majority of the paint followed by Bob Ross brush cleaner to condition the brushes, then I wash this out a second time with a little bit more washing up liquid and rinse. I’m a stickler for simple round brushes and like to use very soft watercolour brushes instead of the harsh and stiff one’s I have been told are meant to be used with oils. Thankfully the water mixable element of the paint I use allows me to use these softer brushes without destroying them every time I paint. I prefer the smaller sizes with a no.3 round being my favourite even on quite large pieces of work. For very tiny pieces of work I obviously use much smaller brushes, 0 – 4×0 in size and even then I might have to snip a few hairs off to get the tiny point I require. 4×0 brushes are hard to come by and I have heard of other artists having great success using small brushes meant for nail art. There seems to be a misconception that miniature work is fast and easy to do so let me clear that up by stating that in my experience miniature work is actually much harder to do than larger pieces and takes just as long to finish. I would certainly recommend all artists try out miniature work since it has taught me a great deal. I found that the precision required to get the marks you want in such a very tiny space then related back to larger pieces of work and my mark making improved. I tend to paint in very flat and thin layers and have never been a fan of impasto. This lends an illustrative feel to my work because I allow the brush strokes and colours to suggest texture and depth instead of creating physical depth with the paint itself. Mark making therefore is quite important in my work. For surfaces I like to paint on wood panels/cradle boards the most, I find the wood grain more appealing than canvas but also do paint on stretched canvas too. For drawing my favourite paper is Bristol vellum right now, it is a very smooth medium paper that holds colour well which allows me to sketch freely without damaging the surface. I have tried papers with more tooth or grit to their surface but didn’t get on very well with them. I recommend Strathmore too and like their illustration boards for pen work and paint.


White Tiger ©Sharlene McNeill

White Tiger ©Sharlene McNeill

My subjects lean towards realism particularly in my animal paintings. I do love a good bit of fantasy though and have a whole host of fictional characters designed and ready to draw. My fantasy work is usually illustrated but sometimes I will paint a dragon or three.

My fictional characters evolved from a novel I have been slaving over for far too many years. Before you ask, no, it’s still not finished. Above all art passions; writing was my first one, and most if not all of my fantasy art begins as the written word.


Best bits of advice I have been given:


To quote my university tutor the most wonderful Peter Parr ‘it takes 100 drawings to get one good one so draw a thousand.’ Meaning keep drawing or painting constantly, practice is the best way to improve. Also ‘your pencils are laughing at you.’ Meaning be the master of your tools, you dictate to them and not the other way around. Read more, learn more, do more.


Reflections ©Sharlene McNeill

Oil On Canvas
©Sharlene McNeill

Keep going! You always reach a point where you think you are going to break a painting, you don’t know what to do to it but aren’t convinced it is finished and then get worried if you do more it will be overworked. Well you decide when that piece is done and often I have found that pushing past this point makes for a better final. Keep going and worry less about ruining your masterpiece.


Step away and let it rest. As above you’ve hit a roadblock and spent too many hours staring at the damned thing so long in fact you are tempted to throw it away in complete agitation and frustration. Don’t throw it away instead put it on display somewhere you wouldn’t normally store or show your work. The idea behind this is that when you see it next your eye will track it much more like a viewer who hasn’t spent hours staring at it. Sometimes errors or indeed beautiful aspects will pop out because your brain wasn’t expecting to see it and wasn’t thinking about it. This sounds stupid but I’ve tried it and it works.


Flop it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flopped_image Or flip it – basically meaning look at the image in reverse. Doing so is very useful for correcting proportion and drift when you have an inkling that something isn’t quite right in the portrait you have been drawing. Errors of size and alignment show up immediately when you reverse an image. You can either scan or photograph the work and then pop it into any photo editing or art software and reverse the image left-right. Or you could just use a regular mirror it works just as well.


Regarding pricing: You are the one who sets the price bracket and limit. If you don’t know where your price cap is look at the most expensive piece you are selling – that is your bracket. Buyers will expect all other work to be less than the most expensive piece you have for sale. You set this limit and no-one else so do not undersell yourself. Set the bar higher on that top piece to get better sales. Price is in part perception of value, you don’t go to the dollar store expecting quality but if you step into an expensive shop you expect that whatever you buy there will be of quality and are willing to pay. Art is the same, do not undervalue yourself your skill or the time it took you to make it.


Anything You Can Do ©Sharlene McNeill

Anything You Can Do
©Sharlene McNeill

Easy pricing method for beginners as I read from the fabulous Sea Dean is linear pricing. Assuming I understood it correctly (I am terrible with math and numbers) you use the square inch measures such as 8 x 10, take the middle/average which for an 8 x 10 would be 9 and then times that by ten giving a price of $90. That should be the very least you charge! This method works well within the average size range, pricing will obviously alter for much smaller or vastly larger works.


I do sell things:

I currently sell my ACEO work on eBay under the user ID of DeVagrant. I also have work on show and for sale at the Lake Country Art Gallery gift shop. Their Facebook community can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/LakeCountryArtCommunity/

Currently I have some pieces up in their Under 100 show which happens every year and offers art lovers a chance to buy small works all under $100 CAD.

Larger works can be purchased directly from me and I do take commissions. I hope to set up a shop on my website to make the purchase of larger works easier for my customers and for those who don’t like to use eBay. I can be found on DeviantArt too under the name of De-Vagrant but I currently do not sell through that site.

For more details of all the spaces I can be found online and how you can get in touch please check out my website http://drayguns-bazaar.wix.com/spire-art


Thank you for this feature Artist Sharlene McNeill 🙂

Thank you all you readers for dropping by today 🙂


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