The Origin of Paradise Found Studio

As you might expect, there is a story behind my store name Paradise Found Studio, and the stunning logo featuring the Archangel Michael. It all started early 2014 at an antique store along the historic Route 66 in Amarillo, TX. I walked by a tattered antique copy of Milton’s Paradise Lost that was in too bad of shape to be worth anything, so it was tied with twine to make a decorative piece.

It was illustrated with engravings by Gustave Doré, who was an artist I’ve admired for years. He was a 19th century artist who illustrated Paradise Lost, Dante’s Inferno, and even an edition of the Holy Bible (if you’ve heard of the Dante Bible, that’s the one). The idea occurred to me to buy the book, pull out the engravings, and paint over them with watercolor. Antique paper usually has a high percentage of cotton, so potentially could accept watercolors well. $5 later, and the book was mine!

After some practice, I came up with a technique of applying thin coats of paint to build up the color without obscuring the black etched lines. I use a high quality dry watercolor set, because cheapie consumer sets often contain white pigment, which would work against what I was trying to accomplish. You can see a time elapsed video of the painting technique by clicking here.

In a period of 2 years, I paints about 15 pieces that included Adam and Eve, Noah building his ark, the Archangel Michael in battle with Lucifer, and more. I then purchased an antique book of Doré Bible engravings so I could delve into Old and New Testament images. Pictures of the Nativity, Jesus surrounded by children, the last supper, and His crucifixion were all a joy to paint.

As I passed the 20 painting mark, it seemed a shame to have all these nice works tucked away in a drawer. I started to experiment with ways to scan and retouch the paintings to bring out the best of the colors. My background is in graphic design, and I have been professionally trained in digital color scanning, separation, and retouching. I figured out a way to separate the black as its own channel so I could pump up the contrast to make the lines pure black. I then could intensify the color to achieve beauty and drama that isn’t possible with watercolor without obscuring the black lines.

Beat up 19th century edition of Paradise Lost.

Beat up 19th century edition of Paradise Lost.

Page is pulled from the book and taped down.

Page is pulled from the book and taped down.

I overpaint the etching with thin coats of watercolor paint.

I overpaint the etching with thin coats of watercolor paint.

I digitally scan and enhance the image.

I digitally scan and enhance the image.

Late 2016, I decided to try my hand at selling art prints of my paintings. After some research, I found printers that can make high quality reproductions make-for-order, so no need for inventory. Giclée prints, a inkjet printing method for the highest fidelity color were the most accurate way to make reproductions of watercolor. Canvas prints also looked awesome, although it was kind of strange to see watercolor on a stretched canvas, normally reserved for oil and acrylic paintings.

Toward the end of the year, I opened my Etsy store under the name Paradise Found Studio. I had some success and achieved a bit of a following, but it was clear after a year Etsy could only take me so far. Etsy is more of a hobbyist website, so it doesn’t have the web development control to be able to scale up the traffic. In 2018, I decided to invest in my own website, which you see here. Paradise Found Studio LLC was founded as a legal entity mid-year, and the website launched early September.

I developed the logo myself based on the image of the Archangel Michael standing over the defeated fallen Archangel Lucifer, aka. Satan. It seems like a good symbol of what I’m trying to achieve with this project. There is so much negativity in the world, and especially on the Internet. Even more sad, people seem more that willing to share the bad stuff, spreading divisiveness and hate ever farther. I’m hoping Paradise Found Studio will, in its small part, spread some beauty and love.

I hope you enjoy what I’m doing. If you do, please share it with a friend — or even better, someone you disagree with. Maybe it will bring you closer together.

 
Engraving with Archangel Michael  that’s the basis of the logo.

Engraving with Archangel Michael that’s the basis of the logo.

Final logo with a fancy vignetted background.

Final logo with a fancy vignetted background.

 
Kevin Pawlowski