Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 12, 2011

Illustrator Saturday – Carlyn Beccia

Carlyn:  Hi. That’s me to the left in my latest Photoshoped creation. I do this a lot to “improve” photos. You know that ugly tricep fat bulge that everyone gets when they press their arms too close to their bodies in pictures? Well I NEVER get that. It only takes a few clicks in Photoshop to get slim arms in my world. I did this before I had Photoshop. As a kid, I spent endless hours slicing off the heads of family members in photos and frakensteining them on to various bodies. My sister immediately became the circus fat lady. My dog’s head fit perfectly on Nancy Reagan’s body. The possibilities were endless.

Then right about the same time I fell in love with roller skates and Kirk Cameron, I fell for digital painting. My dad worked for Hewlett Packard so we had something most people would never see in a family room – a personal computer. It sat on his desk humming away with its bloated monitor taking up about as much space as a set of luggage. It only had Dos commands, scary, glowing green type and was the same creamy color as our Diesel station wagon, but I remember I could wrap my small hand around the mouse and do rudimentary line drawings. Then my dad got a dot matrix printer and I was in nirvana. I made endless dotted ponies and stick riders heading off into a speckled sunset.

I was hooked.
Now, I have moved on from my dotted ponies, but I still love painting horses. The image above is for my book on Digital Painting that will be out next year. This painting tells the story of Bellerophon. Bellerophon was one of those warriors that made all the Greek ladies get a little sweaty under their chitons. So the story goes that after capturing the winged horse Pegasus, Bellerophon caught the eye of Queen Stheneboia. But Bellerophon spurned her advances and you know what they say about a woman scorned. Not good for our muscle-clad babe. As punishment, he was ordered to slay the Chimaera – a fire breathing monster with a lion an a goat’s head and a snake’s tail. Don’t go petting this pup. Does Bellerophon succeed in his task? Well, if I told you that then it just might kill the suspense in this painting.

But what I will share with you is all the steps (or I should say mistakes) that I took to get to this point. Pull up a chair and grab your beverage of choice. I make A LOT of mistakes.

Step 1
I scan in a sketch and clean it up in Photoshop. I tend not to spend a lot of time on sketches. I feel that if I do too tight of a sketch then it ends up taking on a coloring book approach. I am a paint outside of the lines kind of artist. In other words, I would rather have my brush strokes lead the process than my sketch.
On to the next step….

Step 2
I lay down my first coat of paint using Corel Painter. I call this stage the “ugly baby stage” because my painting resembles something only a mother could love. It is important not too lose faith at this point.  Every painting starts off a little ugly. Even super models can resemble hairy trolls as babies. I try not to panic at this point and then….

Step 3

Oh no, what a mess I am making of this one. Now I realized that Pegasus was too close to the Chimaera. I needed some distance to make sense out of the negative space between these two figures. So I take my trusty lasso tool, rope that frisky horse and pull him back. I also realized that Bellerophon was missing something really crucial. Can you guess what it is?

Yes, he is missing pants. How naughty. One slip of Pegasus’ wing and the young ones are going to be getting an eyeful. 

Now he has pants (or a skirt). It’s amazing how a simple thing like pants can improve your art. If there is one tip you can take away from this post to make your characters stronger it is this: always add pants.

Step 4

Next, I began to focus on the anatomy of Bellerophon. A good trick to see anatomy mistakes is to simply flip your image. I can’t tell you why it works, but it really does. It may be that flipping your image wakes your brain up and forces you to see things anew. When I flipped the image, I literally gasped in horror. I had a million mistakes. His eyes were too low. The helmet wasn’t sitting on his head right. His head was not in line with his body. His tricep muscle didn’t look long enough and the muscles in his back should be more stretched if he was truly sweeping his sword backward. I am not too proud to say that I had truly made a mess of things.

Step 5

I am not quite done with the my “how I made a mess of this painting” portion of this tutorial. I also have some serious composition problems.

The first composition problem I have is that the figures are relatively the same size so I don’t have a clear indication of who is in the distance in who is in the foreground. Size is one of the many ways to create spacial depth. The second composition problem I have is the direction of the motion. Currently, the action sweeps the eye into some very boring corners. Even worse, the dramatic curve makes the horse look like he is flying up not down.

So I decreased the size of Pegasus and also rotated him down so that he has a less dramatic slant upward. He now appears to be flying down not up.  I also added in some feathers coming off his wings to create a sense of frantic motion. Next, I painted some happy little mountains into the corner. These mountains create a wall to force the eye to stay on the page. Always keep the viewer’s eye out of the corners. Also keep in mind that sharp edges are viewed as threatening while rounded shapes are viewed a calmer. For this reason, I framed Bellerophon with a the sun and gave the Chimaera some jagged cliffs.

Step 6

Still not done fixing my mistakes! (you are probably on your second beverage by now.) Then, I sent it off to my amazingly talented critique group for feedback and they see yet more problems. My horse has eaten a few too many bonbons for there is no way he could possibly lift that big ole’ arse off the ground. I repaint him bottom and also fix his shoulder muscles.

And now I am finally done. It is not perfect, but it will have to do for now. I am certainly no Michelangelo but his advice always rings true, “If you knew how much work went into it, you wouldn’t call it genius. “ Which reminds me….I should be getting back to work. I have lots more mistakes to fix!


This is one of my digital collages featuring Josephine Baker. I combined hand drawn elements with photos. I have got a big ole’ history crush on her.

Here are some other pieces:

When I am not painting scary beasts, I also like to paint angels. I am in my angel phase right now. 

And here are a few of my books:



Henry VIII

Vlad The Impaler

Queen Elizabeth I

The End

Carlyn Beccia won the Golden Kite Award for her picture book illustrations in Who Put the B in Ballyhoo in 2008, which she also wrote.  Hope you enjoyed visiting with Carlyn Beccia.  I know I was impressed with her talent, her books, her website and blogs.  To see more visit: Carlyn’s Website Carlyn’s Blog Who Put the B in Ballyhoo website The Raucous Royals Website

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Oh my god, this was SUCH a fun read. I am not an artist so usually I go cross-eyed the minute an artist starts explaining their process. But this kept my interest! First of all, my new slogan is: “always add pants” as a cure-all. (of course, depending on your age group, “always subtract pants” could be just as effective). The info about jagged mountains forcing the eye to where you want it–FASCINATING! Loved this post and love her books!


    • Vicky,

      I agree. She is not only talented, but very funny. She just sent me one of her books and that humor shine throughout. Thanks for stopping by and lesving a comment.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: