Throwing Off the Fear Cloak

The above painting is an old favorite of mine. It’s titled “Forbidden Knowledge”. I’ve already written about this painting and the process behind it before in a previous post – so fear not, this post is about something entirely new! I’m taking a new tack here and writing a very personal (personal for me, at least) post.

Over the past few months, I’ve gone through some interesting transitions as an artist and illustrator and plain old human being. First things first, I got married in fairytale-esque wedding to the coolest lady ever. Huge thanks to friends and family for celebrating this with us!

Photography by Jaclyn Szabo

Secondly, I left a very stable freelance gig that kept me constantly employed for just over 1.5 years. Crazy, I know! I leave the details of this event to my NDA agreement, but it will suffice to say that my life is very different now that I am no longer employed full time. There is a wide open expanse in front of me – and it is terrifying.

I have been toying with the idea of starting a Patreon page for my own work and I have to say that I am pretty scared of this step. As so many others have concluded, I have found that the old paradigm of “post your work on social media and become successful” no longer makes much sense in the current climate. Changes in algorithms on Facebook, Instagram and other popular platforms have created a real wall for individual creators. Although video seems to be the next big thing for internet media in general, its limited reach does not justify the labor that goes into editing and producing.

So, today I created my Patreon account – and in the spirit of this platform, I decided to support an artist I know and respect with a monthly payment tier that connects to my credit card. Unconsciously, I have been hiding from Patreon. Whenever other artists post on social media about their Patreons, I typically avoid checking them out. I’ve been afraid of this platform, and I think I now know why.

The answer came to me in the form of a book: “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer. Many artists have recommended this book to me and I finally read it earlier this year. I won’t try to summarize the book here, but it’s premise is simple. Palmer writes about the difference between begging and asking. I finally realized that I’ve always been afraid of Patreon because I’m afraid of looking like I am begging.

“Asking for help with shame says:
You have the power over me.
Asking with condescension says:
I have the power over you.
But asking for help with gratitude says:
We have the power to help each other.

The above quote from Palmer’s book summarizes it perfectly. Many, many artists (myself included) put a cloud of shame around the activity of asking others for help, and they do so unnecessarily. I still struggle with this cloud. The above quote from Palmer’s book summarizes it perfectly. Many artists (myself included) put a cloak of fear and shame around the activity of asking others for help, and they do so unnecessarily. I still struggle with this cloak. Without the all consuming work of my previous freelance gig to distract me, I can now see that the cloak is still there, hindering my ability to move forward as an artist and a creative.

I will be completely honest and say that part of my decision today to finally contribute on Patreon was due to my total lack of knowledge about the platform. Becoming a Patron just seems like the best way to learn about something in which I have zero experience in. But its also part of putting my money where my mouth is. The giving street goes two ways.

What lies beyond in the great unknown?

I posted the painting “Forbidden Knowledge” because sometimes, I just feel like the wizard in this painting. Gazing at other artists’ success via their booming Instagram feeds, glowering at the successfully funded kickstarter personal projects of others that are farther along in their artistic journey than myself, and going further and further inside a dark cloak of fear. The wizard is obsessed with knowledge, but he is afraid to leave his dark dungeon to take a risk and learn from others greater than himself. The musty tomes are more comfortable and familiar than the frightening things in the wider world outside.

Here’s to throwing off the fear cloak! Stay tuned for more to come – I plan on sending out more updates as I continue venturing out in this dangerous world of exploration and creativity!

Tabletop Day!


Tabletop Day is today! Yes, it just so happens that there is an official day to celebrate classic tabletop gaming. To celebrate the occasion, I am offering a special sale on all portrait commissions at my commissions website, Roleplaying Portraits. Save 10% with coupon code “TABLETOP”, valid through 5/1. Herald your inner adventurer with a custom handmade portrait today!

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 3 Recap

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 3 was amazing! I’m still recovering from the massive dose of inspiring art and talent. This year, I had my a whole booth all to myself and was pleased and excited to have a significant number of people show interest in my work, from fans of the fantasy genre to giants in the industry that I respect and admire. I decided to set up my pochade easel this time around and paint a simple portrait study to generate attention and keep myself busy for when foot traffic slowed down. It turned out to be a really good idea – a lot of people stopped by to see what was going on, and some folks even asked technical questions, such as “how do you keep the skin colors from getting muddy?” I was actually hard pressed to come up with an answer for that one – sometimes I forget how much practice is required before painting even tones without muddy mixtures on the canvas becomes natural. Naturally, the advice of my own teachers came to mind and that was what I usually responded with.

All in all, I am so glad that I invested in this convention – it was totally worth all the effort and preparation. Ginormous thanks to Cathie and Arnie Fenner for yet another incredible show. Until next year, Spectrum!

Colin Nitta at the Spectrum Fantastic Art Live convention.

I painted in my booth during the convention, a first for me. It was suraprisingly fun, and a few people even asked me for tips!

Another view of the booth.

A small portrait study that I painted during the convention, titled “Violet Simone.”

Some Spectrum swag I picked up: (clockwise, starting from the top) a postcard by Kelly McMorris, a print by Jeff Miracola, a greeting card by Craig Elliot, a postcard by Rebbeca Yanovskaya, and a postcard by The Fantasy Illustration Library: Lands and Legends.

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 3!

I’ll excited to announce that I’ll exhibiting at Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 3 May 9-11, Kansas City MO. I can’t wait! SFAL has been steadily growing since the first convention held in 2012, and the next one is shaping up to be even more incredible than the last. It’s a marvelous array of the best art in the science fiction and fantasy genres and a literal gathering of the tribes.

I’ll be selling original paintings and signed prints at Booth 420. If you’ve yet to buy your tickets, get them soon! Click here to go to the Spectrum site for more information. Hope to see you there!

This year’s exhibition hall map – my booth is circled in red 🙂


Spectrum Fantastic Art Live - only a week away!

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live – only a week away!

The first four cards in the Tales of the Aesir card set!

The first four cards in the Tales of the Aesir card set!

The back of each card in the Aesir card set.

The back of each card in the Aesir card set.

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 2 is only a week away! I am very excited and just a wee bit nervous. This entire past week has been a whirlwind of preparation for myself and my exhibition partner Laura Ramie. If you plan on going to the event, come see us at booth #814!

In other news, I received the first batch of my Tales of the Aesir card set! I used the printer and they did a fantastic job! These cards will be available for sale at Spectrum in “booster packs,” along with a panoply of other prints.

I’m also excited to announce that two other fellow artists, Lauren Szabo and Laima Klavina will be accompanying us on an epic road trip out to the convention. Yes, I know what you must be thinking: “you’re driving??” Yes, we are, all the way from our homes in the San Francisco Bay Area to Kansas City, Missouri and back again. We plan on documenting the journey to Spectrum with all the cool sights we see and hopefully will have time to make some plein air paintings and sketches on the way there.

Stay tuned for more updates to come!

APE Aftermath


APE was an absolute blast! Both days were very busy and I talked to more people about my work than at any other convention so far. Laura Ramie‘s work paired perfectly with mine and I’m excited to exhibit with her again in the future. Overall, I was very pleased with the turnout and my sales at the event. I’ve never been totally focused on profit margins at an event of this sort- rather, it’s the connections people have when they interact with my work that I value most. Even so, I managed to cover all my immediate printing costs, which left me very pleased! A collaborative Street Fighter themed print titled, “SHOCKED” proved especially popular. (Details on that in an earlier blog post.)
Also, I touched up two kitbashed models I used for paintings as reference and displayed those too. They were quite the conversation starter, especially with the kids. I am totally going to show those at my next convention, Spectrum Live. Overall, everything went incredibly well and I can’t wait to do it again next year!

Wedding Portrait



I recently designed some printed pieces for a friend’s wedding and I thought it’d be fun to show some of the work. The newlyweds Burton and Trupti Li asked me to create several different pieces for their wedding, including a program for the ceremony, a map of the property where the wedding took place, and some smaller pieces such as table placement cards and a dinner menu. It was quite an interesting challenge to handle such a multi-headed beast, but I had a lot of fun fitting all the pieces together.
I enjoyed designing the program the most. Burton and Trupti wanted a hand done feel, referencing the vibe of a Wes Anderson film. Weirdly enough, i knew exactly what they meant by this! So, I drew a portrait of them with brush and ink, then took it into photoshop and printed it in brown on a recycled paper stock. The rest of the pieces I created followed this aesthetic.
It was a lot of fun to step outside the oil painting box and work in an entirely different method. I had forgotten how challenging and rewarding brush and ink can be- I may be returning to the medium for personal projects in the future. Thanks for stopping by!

A Change in Plans



Recently, I’ve become obsessed with what artists do when they have a change in plans. When paintings don’t happen quite the way they ought to, how does the artist respond? The mind’s eye is a tricky thing- somehow it just tends to gloss over details that in practical application turn out to be much more complex. It turns out that this discrepancy between the imagined and the real is something we all share in common.
My latest piece in progress, “ALCHEMIST,” is a perfect example. My initial plan, evident in my underpainting above was that an open door would be behind the wizard character, streaming light behind his head in a halo effect. When I got into the gritty part of the painting and laid down color, I realized this plan was inherently flawed. The only way the door could emit enough light was if the sun was coming straight through horizontally, and this would only happen at sunset. I would have had to squeeze in some sort of landscape with a setting sun behind the man. This threw way too much detail into what needs to be a much simpler read for a clear silhouette of the character.
I discarded the entire idea, closed the door and hung a lamp from the ceiling as a light source instead. This made a lot more sense. Logically, no self respecting wizard would brew magic potions from super secret recipes with the damn door open anyway.
Artists throughout history have done this. There is actually a specific term, “pentimento” that in Italian roughly translates as “repentance.” It refers to areas of a painting that have been painted over and changed, visibly noticeable due to a change in surface texture in the paint. If they’re not visible x-rays are often used to discover them. Everyone from Vermeer to Waterhouse had pentimenti (plural for pentimento) in their work. This record of fallibility is actually one of the reasons why I work with real materials. Someday, I hope an art historian will x-ray one of my paintings the same way they do with master painters like Carvaggio and say, “Aha! He was human, after all.” Wouldn’t that be cool?


Our snazzy booth at Spectrum Live!

A beautiful opera house outside the convention center. Reminds me a lot of stacks of heat reflective aluminum ducting tape.

The stunning Midland Theatre where the awards ceremony was held. A real piece of work, built in the 20’s by some seriously epic people.

Some really strange towers on top of the convention center, a bit reminiscent of the the control bridge on the second Death Star.

Spectrum! It was incredible, mind blowing, face melting and everything in between! I’ve never seen anything like it. There was so much talent in that single hall that I am literally charged by it. I met a lot of my heroes and saw some incredible original work up close. Nothing in the known universe comes close to seeing a masterful painting in the flesh. And there were dozens of them! Not to mention a plethora of prints, sculptures, demonstrations and eye opening lectures. I am still reeling from the magnitude of the experience.
A huge thank you goes out to Cathy and Arnie Fenner for putting on such a magnificent show. And especially to my table mates Mike Manomivibul and Brynn Metheney! Those guys rock my socks off! I absorbed so much insight by exhibiting alongside them, not to mention a barrel of laughs and great times. My artistic ammunition has truly been reloaded with a truckload of new ideas, technique and inspiration. Until next year!

The Arsenal

My suitcase, packed to the brim with merch. Please don’t lose my baggage, United!

A smattering of prints that’ll be for sale.

A 2′ by 3′ poster I had printed that I’ll be displaying in my booth.

Long time, no post… sorry about that! It’s been quite busy around here at Colin Nitta Illustration. I’ve been heavily preparing for Spectrum Fantastic Art Live in Kansas City, MS. It’s sure to be a bonanza, and the list of the fellow exhibitors in attendance is literally a who’s who of the fantasy and sci fi illustration scene. I am incredibly excited and a wee bit nervous. I’ve mentioned this previously, but in case you were unaware I’ll be exhibiting with the fabulously talented Brynn Metheney and Mike Manomivibul. Here’s the merchandise I plan to sell:

6 different editions of 8.5″ by 11″ prints

1 limited edition 11″ by 17″ poster print

portfolio booklets


original paintings

and of course, business cards that I’ll be attempting to hand out in spades.

It should be a blast and I can’t wait to get out of dodge and partake in this inaugural event. I plan on writing about the event with some episodic posts upon my return. Wish me luck!