Voluptuous Mermaids

ermaids are my favorite fantastic creature.  Anyone who knows me knows this.  Of course I jump at any chance to work with them.  Thankfully the chance came when I was commissioned for this piece, a buxom, sexy spread of mermaids.  This was such a fun piece to make, and I was nervous throughout if it would be successful.  I did a few sketches, and my client was in love!  As was I.  Check out my progress below!

Warning: Nude Content!

Square illustration of voluptuous female mermaid with gold shells on breasts, bright red lips, large black eyes, and floating blue afro framing her face.
Sketch of 1st Mermaid with Blue Hair

Above is the first sketch I did very quickly, it reminded me so much of Foxxy Brown! I was definitely going for a "blaxploitation" feel as the client wanted the sirens to be sexy and strong. In this post I go into great detail about my tools and creation process of this work, but toward the end I jump over to the conversation that lead to this work, and my embarrassing mermaid fandom.

 

 

THE PROCESS

When I started working I decided Hot Pressed watercolor paper was best for a nice smooth illustrative look.  I referenced a few shots of empty space underwater, as well as rock formations, to get some color ideas.   Backgrounds can be such a struggle for me, because I focus more on the figure, but I'm pretty proud of this one! Since I didn't want too many clashing colors with the women, I went with water done in Compose Green No. 2 with Indigo to create depth.  I sketched the sirens in their positions using Non-Photo Blue pencil and began painting their backdrop first.

artwork in progress by Johnny Perez, featuring 3 mermaids outlined in pen against green and blue water background painted in watercolor
detail of 2 mermaids from previous photo outlined in pen and over watercolor background of water in green and blue by Johnny Perez

Once I had the background painted in, I used Micron pens for detailing the features.  Of course a lot of detail I wanted to leave for the paint, but the lines create a good definition and guideline so I don't completely lose my pencil lines later.

Progress photo of painting by Johnny Perez, featuring 3 watercolor mermaids with painted torsos and over background of green and blue water
Progress w/ partially painted torsos

Once that was done, I began with skin tones using a combination of colors.  First I like to lay a light layer of Opera Pink to add a touch of "rose" to the skin.  Then I combine Sepia and Bronzite Genuine (pictured below).  The latter color brings out a textured look, as well as a shimmer not unlike a powder makeup.   I continue to add varying layers of these until I reach the desired depth and balance of skin tone.  From there I color in the hair with bright hues.  I used Pthalo Blue on the first mermaid, with Indigo undertones.  On the second I used Opera Pink as a base, and layered with Rose of Ultramarine for undertones and depth.  On the last I used Lemon Yellow for highlights and Deep Quinacridone Gold for undertones.  I repeated these colors in the opposing tails of each, but also added iridescent colors for added magjc.  On the first was Autumn Mystery in paired with small details done in gold gel ink, and plain yellow gel ink.

Bronzite Genuine by Daniel Smith Watercolors
Bronzite Genuine by Daniel Smith Watercolors



Final work

The true beauty of metallics and iridescents can barely be appreciated in pictures so I put together a short video to show you a little more of the light play on the surface of these vixens. Check it out below!

THE STORY

It is true that inspiration can strike at any time and from anywhere.  I'm often sitting by myself drawing, when people approach me about making art.  Its not a bad tactic for business.  My typical mermaid drawing is a long-haired wafer thin young female with plenty of fins and shells.  My client was looking for something a bit different though.  When she asked me about a piece for her bathroom, she wanted to know what I thought would look good there.  Aquatic themes are always great for bathrooms, if not cliche.  But I thought it'd be fun, and I knew I could create something perfect for her taste.  She looked at me a little crazy, as if I'd suggested Disney's Ariel was going to be plastered everywhere, "ummm..." she pondered.  I knew flashes of red hair and A-cup shells were taking over.  "Look, let me give you a sketch of something I have in mind, she'll have a curvaceous adult body with beautiful afro hair, and..." before I could finish she was on board.  I laughed at how fast that changed her mind. 

 

Its almost embarrassing to admit how many times I'd watched the Little Mermaid as a child.  When I hear the seagulls calling in the opening scene, my heart soars.  Even before Disney remade this classic tale, I watched Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre version which was live action, and featured the longest hair blowing in fans you've probably ever seen. Way before Beyonce!  Everytime I show people this movie, they laugh at the cheesy effects.  I can't deny its dated, but so many things are still great to me.  And there's no question how much of an impact its had on my life and art.  My love life has often played out like a tragic tale! 

 

Movie stills from The Little Mermaid by Faerie Tale Theater

See what I mean?!  Anyway, one of my very first art sales was for a mermaid art show, and it just reaffirms that me and mermaids are not done making art together.  I know other people love them as much as I do!  What is your favorite fantasy creature?  Let me know in the comments if you have a great idea you'd like to see me make!

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Do you love mermaids, fantasy creatures, and fairytales?  I want to represent people of color and diversity in my work.  If you share this belief then join with me, and help me make my work more colorful!  In return I have a 12-page Digital Coloring Book of my artwork you can download and print at home. Sign up here to receive it!


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About the Artist

 I would call myself a Jack of all Trades, but mostly because I'm interested in many areas of art if not all!  I graduated with a BFA in Fine Art from the University of North Texas with a focus on Watercolor.   I always had dreams of creative writing, and in 5th grade I wasn't too bad!  Art clearly won out for my attention, but writing will always have a place in my heart!

What better way to write, I say,  than to share a blog, and practice my second love while talking about my first! With that said, I hope you all enjoy my ramblings and please hit me up with any questions.  :D


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