The “Autumn” Project

Historical fiction told through digital and traditional art.

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mockups of laptop, ipad, and phone with Autumn images

An Open Ended Art Project

A realistic art series based on the history of a fictional town called Autumn, Virginia – a community nestled against the Blue Ridge Mountains. The story follows the city’s century and a half long rise and fall (and eventual Renaissance) in its struggle to create a more ideal society.

World Building

150+ years worth of fictional characters, places, and stories developed from my own mind as well as adapted from regional history – all weaved into our own American heritage.

Drawing & Painting

I’m finally returning to my bread and butter, traditional figurative artwork with a focus on realism in much the same style as the great 19th century painters – now with more creative resources.

Storytelling

The artwork will be supported by a detailed backstory, following reoccurring characters that overlap from one generation to the next. A great fire, city rivalries, racial tensions, labor struggles…

3d Design

Using Blender, an open-source 3d graphics program, I’m building whole compositions from the ground up, including architecture, characters, costumes, and environments to be used as reference for drawings & paintings.

Historical Research

Accuracy is the key to realism, and I intend to represent each object in my scene with authentic details. A piece as small as a pocketwatch or as complicated as a steam engine locomotive will be thoroughly researched. 

Fan Sponsored

I cannot do this without support from all of you. Patreon, my primary source of income for this project, allows fans to provide ongoing financial support to creators so that they can do what they do best – create.

An imperfect society can still strive for perfection.

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Imagining a better world through research and storytelling.

A creative journey that takes you from idea, to understanding, to finished artwork.

  • sepia train station digital drawing
  • 3d model of porch and house
  • 3d model of Victorian marble fireplace
  • man waiting for train cropped

A Culmination of My Passions and Struggles

A thriving city is not built overnight. The project is ambitious, but it’s one worth participating in. Though mistakes are expected, it’ll be a rewarding journey, and the end result should be a beautiful one.

My first series, My Humble Existence, allowed me to draw and paint realistically and develop a body of work that explored issues between childhood memories and adult realities. My animal silhouettes took me in a modern and colorful direction, forcing me to learn a new digital way of creating art that could appeal to a different audience.

Various other projects, some successful, some not, pushed me into new territories as well. I’ve been able to show at galleries, design logos and t-shirts for college organizations, paint a mural with elementary students, donate artwork to animal charities, learn advanced computer programs, give an artist talk and workshop at my own solo show, and deal with the complexities of selling art all over the world.

I’ve stretched myself further than I could have imagined, and now I want to use that knowledge to return to the type of art I truly love – drawing and painting realism.

Discovering a new series took some time. I looked for a subject that I could sink my teeth into, one that would give me freedom to explore various genres and interests. I struggled with concepts for a while until I started to form this project around my own interests.

19th century history, urban development, Victorian architecture, and beauty in nature were the pillars I set up early to develop a story around. I started to play around with 3d modeling and organizing a backstory to a fictional town. With the new crowdfunding system Patreon created, I felt ready to completely dive in. I’ve never felt so excited about a project. Instead of just creating standalone artwork, I’m forming an entire community based on the places I love and the issues I’m passionate about.

I want to share each part of the process with you because I can’t hold it all in. As an artist, I’m always fascinated when a creator shows his/her workflow. The point of this story is the development of an ideal community from the beginning, and I see no better way to do that than to include you in that journey. I’m learning as a go so that means I’m looking for experts, passionate voices, and curious onlookers to help guide me.

Where to go from here? I’ve set the stage for a very ambitious project with many moving parts. I not only want to show my audience a positive vision of the future (especially in contrast to the many dystopian stories out right now), but I want to pursue that goal with accuracy and honesty. That means there will be missteps along the way, both in the timeline of my city as well as my own path.

Autumn does not have a smooth transition into the modern world, but it is built on a solid foundation of vision and ideals. I’m taking the time to research and develop this semi-utopian project with the same expectations. My personal goal and the goal of my city is to constantly improve the quality of life. My workflow will improve, the technology I use will improve, and (I hope) so will the world around me. I hope it can also be entertaining along the way.

Building in 3d

  • Model or sculpt in 3d space.
  • Create realistic surfaces using material nodes.
  • Add realistic lighting with sun, spot, and mesh lamps.
  • Include simulations – particle, hair, fluid, cloth, smoke and fire, and soft/rigid bodies.
  • Set up a camera, adjust settings, and render the scene.
  • 3d model of Victorian marble fireplace
  • 3d model of Victorian marble fireplace
  • sketch of Dash of Cinnamon
  • photo of hand holding cinnamon bottle
  • figure in green posing
  • color study for Dash of Cinnamon
  • work in progress for Dash of Cinnamon painting
  • Dash of Cinnamon painting by Ricky Colson

Visual Realism

I admitted a long time ago that I do not draw or paint well directly from my imagination. I need visual information to work from, and that is the main reason I have relied on photographs in the past. With plenty of detail in front of me, I can begin to edit and use my artistic license to compose the image in my mind. This has been a crutch, yes, but I’ve learned to adapt to it and make it work to my advantage.

My old way was to come up with a concept just unique enough to be interesting, but still manageable enough to actually  accomplish. I would draw a few thumbnail sketches to get the plan down.

I would have to settle for a location and model that I thought worked best, not necessarily the best that I imagined. This worked out most of the time, but I was still compromising my vision. The next step was the toughest part, every time. I had to schedule a photoshoot, pick out clothes that worked well, and then time it right for the best lighting conditions or fumble around with lamps if inside. This had to be done twice – once for the model, and a second time for the background since I was essentially painting a giant still life with people in it.

Once the photos were taken, I had to search through hundreds of them to get the exact poses I wanted. I would pick out a hand shot from one photo, grab maybe one or two for a specific expression I liked, etc. It was mixing and matching constantly. Then I would maybe sketch out the composition before I jumped into Photoshop to seamlessly blend everything. There would be one final detailed drawing to plan out the right values before I even jumped into painting (always a color sketch first).

In the end, I relied on everything going mostly right. Even with all of the planning, I lacked control…

The newer way gives me complete control. That may be a little dangerous, like drinking through a firehose. But I’ve had time to learn the process over the past two years. First of all, I now have my backstory to give me options for scenes instead of brainstorming out of nothing. I can choose a moment in time or deal with a specific issue in the story. Next, I can either sketch out a composition or jump right into 3d space and start blocking in objects, moving them around, and lighting them like a diorama. I can visualize the scene in its most basic form early on which is enough for me to judge its future success.

The fun part for me is the research. I dive into my books or go online and learn about the history of an object and personalize it for my characters. I build, texture, and place the objects exactly where I want. Instead of my hands carefully adjusting an object an inch or two, as if I’m working on a stop motion animation film, I can place it with precision.

All it takes from there is to light the scene, point the virtual camera, and hit render. I still have the ability to edit the image in Photoshop to stylize it a little. Finally, I paint.

It’s a process with more control, more options, and therefore it will require more time. However, the end result is limitless. In the past, where I might have struggled with the flame of a candle, I can have a whole street go up in a blaze and paint it just as realistically. It’s a jump in technology and opportunity. It’s recreating real life in the way I imagine it in my mind.

Revisionist History

Ever since my mom told me she grew up on the same road in which Paul Revere made his famous ride, I’ve been captivated by American history. It includes some of the most entertaining and fascinating stories while still maintaining relevance today. My goal is not to rewrite history, but to personalize it and bring to light the lives of people who helped shape our great country.

The history of Autumn exists alongside other American cities, with presidents, businesses, and events showing up with the fictional ones. Based on various US cities, specifically ones in Virginia, Autumn will absorb local cultures and traditions and organically grow into the world class city I envision for its future.

How Can I Help?

If you’re one of the quiet voices out there that wants to see more representational art or an uplifting vision of the future, here’s your chance to contribute. Patreon rescues me from worrying about bills and the end product. Fans can support this ongoing project, give me uninterrupted time to create, and provide me with resources to develop Autumn into something special.

Visitor

$1monthly
  • Early access to new content
  • Receive a 10% off coupon to my online shops
  • My thanks and gratitude!

Resident

$5monthly
  • Become a fictional resident
  • Entered in monthly print giveaway
  • + previous rewards

Official

$10monthly
  • Signed Autumn postcard
  • Participate in the Candy Lane mini-project
  • + previous rewards

Mayor

$25monthly
  • Personal Easter Egg in a scene
  • Receive a signed print of your choice
  • + previous rewards

The Project

Be a part of this forward-looking series by helping me create its past. Autumn, Virginia is neither a utopia nor a dystopia. It is intended to be an optimistic version of our society’s future. By reflecting on the struggles of our past, a balance of beauty, respect, technology, and civic improvement is possible. I’d love to share my vision with you.

Become a Patron

Funding Goals  |  FAQs  |  Ideas & Concepts