I am being asked “How do you do that?” quite a bit lately.  People are probably referring to the tiny details, but after hearing the question for the dozenth time I decided to make an explanatory post.

First off, the tools.  I think most how to art books start off that way. Pretty simple really, besides the paint, I use a magnifier headpiece, a sharp exacto knife and a liner brush.

Magnifier, Exacto Knife and Liner Brush


“Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Cabochon”

My friend, Rene Campos, had an idea and asked me to paint a wearable piece with artwork from his daughters’ favorite anime show, “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure”, as a gift for her.  I was unfamiliar with the show so we looked through some pictures together until we found her favorite character.  The next day I looked around and found a picture I thought would work on a stone, then selected a relatively uninteresting cabochon that I had previously cut and polished.  Painting a cabochon is a good way to “re-purpose” a stone that previously did not draw much interest.

Jo Jo Cab (in progress 1)

After the stone and reference picture are selected, I put a layer of white paint in the general shape of the painting.  I use the knife here quite a bit to refine the shape.  The purpose of this is to provide a “blank canvas” that is easy to paint upon.  Some stones are porous and absorptive and often requires a few layers of white.  Learned via earlier frustration trying to paint direct.


JoJo Cab (In progress 2)

For the next step I put in guidelines for painting.  This doesn’t have to be exact as all of the lines will get redone in the final stage.  This just provides reference before putting on the first layer of color.


JoJo Bizarre Adventure Cabochon in progress 3

JoJo Cab (in progress 3)

This phase is the “underpainting” phase.  Putting in the general color layer that I then paint upon.  Note on “size”.  the painting is a little bit bigger then a US Quarter coin.


JoJo Bizarre Adventure painted cabochon

JoJo Cab (Final)


Upon completion I glued a bail on the back so Rene’s daughter, Nicky, could wear the piece.  She was very happy.



“Washing Her Hair At The River”

The next example is a painting on a stone slab. I found this to be a beautiful piece of dendrite jasper.  Wonderful color and pattern.  It is a relatively small specimen, 3 1/2″ across by 2 1/2″ in height.  My first process step is to decide if the stone should be cut as  jewelry or be used as a “stone canvas”.  This piece would have made 2 nice gemstones, but I have found that women are generally not attracted to gemstones that are in the brown to red color range.  For that reason plus it is a brittle piece that could crack on cutting and I found the patterns were very interesting, I decided use it for a painting.

“Washing Her Hair” in progress 2

I decided to go with a Japanese style and located a reference picture in one of the art books in my library.  As with the Jojo cabochon, the first step is to create a white surface in the general shape of the subject, on which I will paint.  The knife was used to scrape paint away, refining the form.  (note: if a stone is porous or has pitting, paint that gets in is hard to scrape away)


Washing Her Hair (in progress 3)

In the above,  I painted in the basic black lines of the figure detail and the first underpainting skin color mid-tone.


Washing Her Hair (complete)

This is the final painting.  I am basically using the same painting process that I have used for decades on larger canvases. Drawing – Underpainting – Darks/Shading – Highlights – Final Details.  It is a real challenge to do the tiny detail of the face and fingers.  I find the best way to achieve tiny lines is to thin the paint to an ink like consistency, load the brush, wipe the brush off, bringing the brush hairs to a fine point, pick up a little bit more paint, hold my breath and go. Each facial feature is barely a “touch” of the brush onto the stone.  Compare the facial lines between the in Progress 3 and complete painting.


Washing Her Hair (size reference)

Finally, one more picture with a coin as a size reference.  As you can see, her hand is about the same size of the “U” and “N” in United, lol.



“Sammy’s Rosary” large cabochon display painting

One more example.  You probably understand the process by now.  This painting was for my mother’s best friend who was recently diagnosed with a severe illness.  She is very active with the Catholic Dominican order and has a devotion to the Rosary.  I brainstormed an idea and came up with “A child praying a rosary” as my theme.  I enlisted the help of my Goddaughter, “Sammy Ruiz” and she posed for me.  I had cut a large cabochon out of green marble some time ago as an experiment and thought it would be a good piece to paint upon.  The following pictures document the process.


The Beautiful Samantha Ruiz!

This was the picture I decided to go with as her hands reflect actual prayer.  I took a number of “praying hands” shots with the rosary beads but they didn’t convey the emotional content I was trying to achieve.


Sammy’s Rosary in Progress 1

As with the previous examples, my first step is to paint the stone with white in the general shape of the desired image.  In this case I used a pencil to sketch int the fingers and fingernails.  The knife was used on this piece mostly to shape the individual rosary beads.  I had to change the beads leading to the Cross from the picture.


Sammy’s Rosary in progress 2

This picture reflects painting in the basic skin tone and the beginning of basic shading.


Sammy’s Rosary Complete

This is the completed piece.


I hope you enjoyed my “How To” post.  If you have any questions please contact me.

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