Ocean Painting

Paintings and Murals of Fish, Corals and Anemones


Fixing an Aquarium Leak

One of the problems with owning an aquarium is the fact that you have a big box of water inside your home that potentially could flood and ruin your floor. Every aquarist at one point in time has had to deal with some sort of water problem, whether it be a pump shooting water outside your tank, accidentally siphoning half your tank on the floor, or a tank leak.

A few weeks ago I discovered some water on the floor under my tank. I thought I had a leak and was going to do an emergency tank swap the next day. However, the next day I noticed that the problem was due to a cover on my filter diverting water down the back of my tank. I thought “Hooray no tank leak!”

Well a few days ago I noticed that the bottom edge of my tank had an excess of salt build up (called salt creep). I wiped it away and checked back the next day to find that it was back. I wiped it away again and later that day it was back. Well, looks like I did have a leak. The bad luck was that I had to change out my aquarium. The good news was that I found the leak before it got any worse. It’s much better to find this than to come home one day to find that my entire tank has emptied on the floor and that all my precious fish and corals are dead.

So this weekend with 1.25 arms and a little help from a friend, I was able to get the tank changed out. As a treat, I upgraded my tank from 33 gallons to 55g. Check out some of the pics of the old and new tank.


Fish Wall Stickers

I just created a new page on my site to show all of my digital wall decals that can be printed at ltlprints.com. I got my tests back a couple of weeks ago and they look great. I have tried them out in a few areas of my apartment and they go on and off the wall very easily. They are also very sturdy because they are made of a cloth material rather than vinyl. Right now I have them in my bathroom. Between my paintings, my wall stickers, and my aquarium, my place is beginning to get saturated in fish stuff. I need to find some buyers or galleries to house my work. :)

Check out some of my new decals and drop a comment to let me know what you think. I plan on doing many many more, so if anyone has requests, let me know and I’ll be sure to expedite the creation. This first set includes angelfish, tangs, clownfish and butterfly fish. Check back soon to see more fish, corals and anemones, Also I’ll have more info on how you can order them!


False Percula Clownfish in Frogspawn Coral Painting Complete

Before I had shoulder surgery, I wanted to make sure that I was able to finish my clownfish in frogspawn coral painting. If you read my last two posts on this painting (Work in Progress: Clownfish and Frogspawn Coral and Trying to Get a Painting Just Right) you’ll remember that I was having some trouble getting the frogspawn coral right. I got some great help from  people over at wetcanvas.com. It’s funny, I have found corals and anemones to be much more difficult to paint than fish. There is a certain shape, color and fluorescence that is difficult to convey with corals. But I am working on it and feel that I represented the coral well.

The female clownfish is the highlight of the piece with the male tucked away in the coral. In aquariums, clownfish will host pretty much anything and it is common for them to pick a large polyp stony (LPS) coral to host if an anemone is not present. Clowns have been known to readily host rocks, coffee cups, and even corners of an aquarium. Clowns need a home base and they will pick out any identifiable landmark. I have 2 false percula clownfish in my aquarium and they used to host in a huge colony of frogspawn corals. They loved it until I introduced a couple of red bubble tip anemones (RBTAs) to the aquarium. Then they instantly took to those. It was pretty cool to witness. Keep an eye out for more clownfish paintings once my shoulder heals. I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on this painting.


A Painter’s Shoulder Surgery

MRI of a Labrum Tear (not mine)

MRI of a Labrum Tear (not mine)

Disclaimer: This is going to be a short post since I am typing with one hand. Sad times for me, I had shoulder surgery on my painting arm Wednesday.

Last winter I hurt my shoulder throwing a dodgeball. I tried to take it easy and heal it hoping it was muscular, but I swim so that aggravated the problem. A couple weeks ago I got an MRI that conclusively showed that I tore my labrum. Apparently the only way to fix it is to have surgery. Since I am active I decided to go ahead with it. The surgery itself was relatively simple, only 1.5 hours. The rehabilitation is much worse, 4-6 months. Worst part is I have to chill out on painting for a while. I do plan to do more site related things, so keep an eye out for enhancements.

On a positive note, I finished my clownfish and frospawn painting! I made sure that I got that done before the surgery and am really happy with it. I will be posting it shortly, just need a break from all this one handed typing.


Technique Talk: Creating Proportional Fish and Corals

Proportional Divider

Proportional Divider

A few weeks ago I came across an instructional painting website called The Carder Method. Here is the skinny:

“The Carder Method DVD takes a unique and fresh approach to teaching the fundamentals of oil painting. Even people with no natural ability can learn to draw and paint beautifully.”

Thinking that it was a gimmick, I watched the intro video and actually found it interesting. I liked that the method looked at realism painting as not so much an artistic pursuit, but rather a calculated technique. I feel like I have the whole creative, artistic thing covered, what I need is some good old grounded, logical technique. I really don’t have much technique other than keep painting until it looks right. That isn’t the most effective way to paint, so I’m always keeping an eye out for certain ways to approach oil painting. I am interested in it all, from realism to abstract methods.

One of the tools the method calls for is a proportional divider, which helps the artist proportionally and accurately transfer a subject onto the canvas. Alot of problems in paintings come from odd proportions and this is something I am looking to improve upon in my work. I just got mine in the mail today and can’t wait to try it out. Yes it cost me $30 for 2 chopsticks with holes in them, but I live in New York, I can’t really make something like that. Main thing is to see if it improves any of my proportions. I’m looking a bit more into the method, and how it might help me out with color techniques as well. Here’s a cool video on the method and how to use the proportional divider:


Fish and Coral Wall Stickers Updates

I just sent off my wall sticker test to  ltlprints.com. I tried out a new style so that I could see how different styles printed. I like this new style, it has a comic book type feel and I think people of all ages would like it. The artwork in this image will be sold as separate decals allowing people to mix, match and composite however they like. The fish in this image represent what a final wall could look like and includes a male and female maroon clownfish, a green bubble tip anemone, a small group of sergeant major fish, a flame angel fish and a brain coral. Can’t wait to see them printed out. I am setting up my account on ltlprints.com right now and will hopefully be selling some stuff soon.


Fish and Coral Wall Stickers

My artwork lends itself nicely to murals and children’s rooms, so I decided to look into how I could transfer my artwork to the wall. Doing murals seemed like too much of a departure from what I was focusing on. Being a muralist is a whole new ballgame and I’d probably have to dedicate all my painting endeavors to finding clients who want murals, planning custom pieces for rooms and then traveling around to various places to paint them. Way too much work, especially since I have a job that actually pays me money.  On top of that I really didn’t think that in this economy people are all that interested in having a custom mural painted in their home. So I decided to approach it from a different angle… wall decals.

Wall stickers are becoming quite popular again as people look to find unique ways to decorate their homes at an affordable price and without making a mess. Original artwork can be expensive and wall murals can be even more costly so home owners now browse a myriad of wall decal sites in hopes of finding something to decorate their baby room, rec room or man cave. Sites like Blik and Fathead offer life size graphics of football stars, comic book characters, butterflies and flowers. Pretty much anyone from a sports fan to a hip interior designer can find something that they like. Here are a few reasons why people like decals:

  • They are affordable
  • They can be removed without making a mess
  • They can be easily repositioned so you can adjust to your liking
  • You know what you are getting
  • They are fun!

Last week I got in contact with a new company called Larger than Life Prints, after seeing that they were a company that was interested in partnering with artists and designers to print their work. I showed them my little site here and they thought my artwork was perfect for their site. I got on a quick call with them, and we decided that I should do a print test. I used to be a graphic designer and thought that I should approach decal artwork differently than my oil paintings. Since wall art can be blown up to huge sizes, I figured it would be best to do line art in Adobe Illustrator since those images can usually be blown up as large as you want without affecting the resolution. This weekend I installed the latest version of Illustrator and started playing around with some designs. Here is what I have come up with so far.

I’m pretty happy with it. Once I render a couple more fish I’m going to send it off for a test print. Can’t wait to see how it turns out. If all goes well I’ll be able to produce more art for their site and I’ll be able to set a designer’s price for the art. They will get paid for the printing. They also are developing a widget that would allow me to sell my artwork on my site. So for those of you who don’t want to spend money on original artwork or are looking for a cheap alternative to a mural, maybe aquatic wall decals of fish and corals is the way to go.


Trying to Get a Painting Just Right

I still have much to learn about painting. I wish I could say I knew it all, but in reality I don’t. In fact I probably know less about painting than most people. But I’m learning everyday and feel that my skill and technique are getting better and better every time I make a brush stroke.

I’ve been working on a clownfish and frogspawn coral paint for that past few weeks. I got it to a point where I was hoping to be done, but in the end I wasn’t pleased with the result. The painting was just too busy and the main clown wasn’t getting the impact I wanted. So, I posted the image over at Wet Canvas forums and asked some fellow artists to review my work. I’ve been posting alot of my work here and enjoy hearing people’s comments. Most of the time their comments are pretty spot on. It’s nice to get comments from people who aren’t friends or family because they don’t worry about offending you.

If you ever want to see what I’m up to (many times before I post here) do a search for johnstires (my username) over at wetcanvas. You’ll quickly learn that my paintings don’t come out perfect the first time. I usually have to do alot of refinement, mostly because I am my own harshest critic, but often to the comments of other painters at Wet Canvas. But as you can see from the comparison in this post, usually it is for the best. The top image shows what the painting looked like before and the bottom shows what the painting looked like after I toned down the coral’s tentacles. The main clownfish subject stands out so much more than before. I’m still not finished, but feel I am on a better track. I’ll be happy when I finish this 24″x48″ canvas. It’s been alot of work for me, but fun work. :)


Sergeant Major Fish

Sergeant Major Fish

I had to stop painting my clownfish and frogspawn coral painting for a little while. I’m not 100% happy with how it looks and I think it is best to take a step back and paint something else. I’ve started a new 24″x24″ painting of sergeant major fish. I’ve never kept sergeant majors in an aquarium because they are damsels and damsels tend to be pretty aggressive. I have seen them while snorkeling and I think they are absolutely beautiful fish. Like all damsels, they are full of personality and you often see them swimming in shoals. It is fun to watch because they do not swim in a synchronized manor although they keep relatively close. While they often scene swimming close to reefs, the painting I am doing is going to be of a shoal swimming without a reef nearby. As in usual shoal form, they will be scattered here and there, darting in every direction.

Sergeant Major Fish

Work in Progress: Clownfish and Frogspawn Coral

I want to continually post to my blog to show some of the work that is in progress. This photo is of a female clownfish darting out of a frogspawn coral. It is a closeup of a much larger piece. The entire peice is 24″x48″ and is my first foray into a larger more polished work. Up until now I’ve been mainly playing around, getting some ideas out and exploring oil paints, to which honestly I don’t know much about. Most of what I do is experimental, and while I am learning alot, I’m sure there is much much more to learn. I’m very happy that I was able to get the texture of the scales, that really tied it all together for me. Hopefully will have the entire piece done by the weekend. Keep an eye out!