28 February 2017

ArtSnacks - February 2017

The second ArtSnacks box of 2017 is here and ready to be revealed!  For those who don't know, ArtSnacks is a monthly blind box subscription for art supplies.  They send out 4-5 full-sized art tools every month, often including sample sizes of other products on top of that, and the contents are a surprise until you open your box!  I've been a subscriber for several years now and I'm still happy to open my box every month~  Let's see what I got this time!

Contents of February 2017 ArtSnacks Box Laid Out

Here's what's on the menu for February:
  • Pentalic Graphite & Charcoal Drawing Pencils Set
  • KRINK K-70 Permanent Ink Marker
  • Kuretake ZIG Clean Color FB
  • Stabilo Pen 68

Pentalic Graphite & Charcoal Drawing Pencils Set

Drawing Done With Pentalic Drawing Kit

It's always very impressive when I receive a complete drawing kit in my monthly ArtSnacks box.  I mean, that's 6 full-sized items right there!  I feel familiar with this Pentalic setup because I already received a similar drawing pencil set from a different ArtSnacks box, but this one is even better, for me.  The set includes three hardenesses of pencil—HB, 2B, and 6B—one soft and one medium hardness charcoal pencil, and one white pastel pencil.  I didn't realize until I actually started testing these tools that this set is perfect for my travel sketches; I always pack a white charcoal pencil, a black charcoal pencil, and a graphite pencil when I go somewhere I'd like to sketch with ease, like the zoo or an out-of-town vacation.  Of course, to make proper use of the white pencil, I bring a tan or grey paged sketchbook, as well.  That's what made me realize I could use this kit on-the-go: I started to sketch on white paper and had to switch to tan so I could really show off the set's potential. 

Something else that makes this kit nice for travel is the metal case it comes in.  The pencils are all cradled in a molded plastic rest with a thin sheet of foam providing cushioning from above.  Basically, the tools are well protected and conveniently organized while in the case.  Next time I go to the zoo, I may bring nothing but this set, instead of my travel pencil case, and my sketchbook.  It'll be even easier to carry and manipulate!  I'll have to remember to sharpen all the pencils first though, so they don't get dull too quickly while sketching (I could bring a sharpener but the point in this scenario is to bring as little as possible).  Which reminds me, I was very impressed by how incredibly sharp the graphite pencils already were!  Furthermore, the manufacturers sharpened the graphite pencils to a longer, thinner tip while the charcoal and pastel have shorter, wider tips.  I feel that's a good detail for Pentalic to have considered; it shows they really think about what artists want.

KRINK K-70 Permanent Ink Marker

Demo of KRINK K-70 Marker

When I saw this, I immediately thought, "I already have one of these," and indeed I do, from a previous art supply box (can't remember if it was ArtSnacks or the defunct Pigment + Palette).  I remembered so easily because I recently tried using the older one and found it disappointing.  It was encouraging, therefore, to see the menu explain that this particular marker is the redesigned version, supposedly with better ink flow and a reversible tip.  The tip is definitely reversible—one side is a large bullet while the other is a wide chisel—but I won't be switching again.  Even being extra careful, I still stained multiple fingers with the ink.  If I had rubber gloves or tweezers that I didn't mind inking up, perhaps I wouldn't have had a problem, but that's really too much for this one little thing.  As it was, I hoped a paper towel folded over several times would be enough to protect me through the 5-second operation but, alas.  I just don't think it's worth it to bother with flipping the tip around; I'd rather just buy two markers.  Furthermore, after trying both tips, I still found the chisel to have the same issue as the original K-70 that I mentioned before: the ink does not flow evenly.  I can't draw a wide line with the chisel tip that comes out as one solid mark.  I was hoping the improvements would have fixed that.  With a marker this big, the only thing I'd really want to use it for is filling in large areas with black but the spotty delivery of the chisel tip means I'd spend just as much time filling in as if I used a smaller marker.

At least the bullet tip works well.  Now I have one marker with a chisel (the older one) and one with a bullet (because I don't want to bother with the mess of switching) so the upside is I ended up with two different tools :3

Kuretake ZIG Clean Color FB

Demo of ZIG Clean Color Marker

I already have a few Clean Color markers from previous subscription boxes (I even have the same exact color, carmine red, in the Clean Color F series!) but this is the first time I've received one from the FB line.  (The menu means it when it says "New Product" because I couldn't even find it listed on Amazon!)  FB stands for "fiber brush" and I found it to be quite a firm one.  You really have to lean into it to get thick lines, but it does a lovely transition from hair thin to reasonably thick.  Using the side of the tip also works great for filling in, it's the best way to get big fat marks out of this tool.  Since the ink is water-based, I tried a few techniques with my water brush.  First I used the water to spread a big patch of ink.  It went quite far which shows this ink is very pigmented.  The vibrant pink color it thinned out to is beautiful, also.  The next thing I tried was wetting a section of paper then writing on it with the marker.  It made pretty cool effects but it really drained the tip of color.  My next experiment further drained it: I wet a section of paper, drew in it, then dripped more water onto that ink.  It produced a really beautiful, even, feathered patch of color but with how much it drained the tip, I wouldn't want to use the marker like that all the time.  I had to press the tip into a paper towel until the color properly returned so I could continue with my final test.  I drew a patch of ink on the page then dripped lots of water onto it and gently swirled the page.  The result was another cool effect: an organic blob with more deeply hued edges.  The only problem with this technique is that it takes forever for the water to dry up.

Stabilo Pen 68

Demo of Stabilo Pens

The final item in my February box was the Stabilo Pen 68 and I received two colors, a purple defined only by the number 55 and a green numbered 43.  I love when ArtSnacks sends more than one color of the same product because the color can often make a big difference in first impressions.  For instance, the green and purple I received both laid down very vibrant, solid lines and, aside from the purple being darker, didn't seem too different.  But when I used a water brush to test out the water-based ink, they revealed their distinct properties.  The green became very transparent, more easily blending away the original lines, and was quickly brushed out to clear.  The purple, on the other hand, remained fairly opaque when the same amount of water was applied, left the original lines mostly intact, and obviously would have required a lot more water and paper to be brushed out to clear.  This doesn't mean one color is better than the other, just that they have variations which might need to be taken into account.  Receiving two colors and seeing the differences also gives a better idea of what one might get if they decided to invest in more of the product.  Differences aside, both of my Pen 68's created beautiful, even lines and I think this marker collection would do really well with stippling techniques because the firm tips create dots that are generally always the same size and shape.

Goodies & Bonuses
As always, ArtSnacks includes a few extras in each monthly box.  I received the all-important menu, which explains what each item is and also has a goofy art riddle that makes me snerk every time (the menu was tinted pink this month for Valentine's Day 💘), a sticker featuring the cute ArtSnacks logo (my beau always calls my subscription "your ArtPretzels" because of the logo XD), and a little bag of Sweethearts candies, which I ate up before I even finished my first draft of this blog~

This was a really generous ArtSnacks box!  Not only did we receive a tin with six full-sized drawing utensils, there were three other types of art supplies in four different colors!  Maybe the ArtSnacks folks were just trying to show how much they love us.  We love you, too, ArtSnacks!  Happy Valentine's Day!

Mika's Workstation While Writing this Blog's Draft on Her Freewrite
Behind the scenes, the making of a blog :3

18 January 2017

ArtSnacks - January 2017

The folks at ArtSnacks helped get 2017 started on the right foot with the interesting, fun supplies they included in the January box. There were four different types of item--marker, paint, pencil, brush--but a total of five items thanks to the inclusion of two different paint colors. I'm here to share my unboxing with you, so let's check this stuff out!

Full Contents of the January 2017 ArtSnacks Box Laid Out 

Here's what's on the menu for January:
  • Kuretake ZIG Art & Graphic Twin RB+F Marker
  • GOLDEN High Flow Acrylic Paints
  • Princeton Snap! Series Paintbrush
  • Koh-I-Noor Magnum Black Star HB Graphite Pencil

Kuretake ZIG Art & Graphic Twin RB+F Marker

Kuretake ZIG Art & Graphic Twin RB+F Marker Test Page

I've now been introduced to so many ZIG tools throughout my years with ArtSnacks that I'm always happy to receive their products because they're always good. This marker's title is long but aptly describes it. “Art & Graphic” is self-explanatory, “Twin" indicates that it has a different tip on either end, and "RB+F" describes those tips: real brush and fine. The marker uses water-based dye ink and the 037 Persian Blue color I received is quite beautiful. I found that the brush tip laid down color fairly evenly when used with a light hand and produced an interesting dry brush texture as I pressed harder. I didn't test it, but I think dipping the tip in water would allow it to create large lines without the dry texture, perhaps making it useful for filling in relatively large areas with color. The fine tip, on the other hand, gave me a steady line that didn't waver in thickness. Since the ink is water-based, I ran a water brush over marks made with both tips as well as running the marker tip over a damp section of paper. All of these tests produced different, cool effects that would be useful in artwork, especially if the artist knew what look they wanted to achieve ahead of time (or was simply making an experimental piece).

GOLDEN High Flow Acrylic Paints

GOLDEN High Flow Acrylic Paints and Princeton Snap! Brush Test Page

I was surprised to find two full bottles of the GOLDEN paints in my box and was pleased to read on the Menu that it wasn't a mistake. How generous and fun to send us two different colors to play with! I received two fluorescent colors: green and chartreuse (yellow, to my eyes). These paints come in squeeze bottles (be sure to remove the protective seal under the cap before squeezing or you might end up with an explosive mess on your hands, literally) so they can be used straight from the nozzle or poured out for use in everything from refillable markers to airbrushes. For my part, I tried them straight from the bottle, with a dip pen and with the Princeton Snap! brush and water. The paints performed admirably in all applications and my colors in particular looked really cool swirled together with water on a blank watercolor postcard (pics at the bottom of the post!). The only problem I encountered was when digitizing the dried postcard: it took a good deal of color adjustment to get the digital copy to read well. I'm sure it was an issue caused by the bright hues and not by the paint in general.

Princeton Snap! Series Paintbrush

I don't have many filbert brushes and I didn't have any in size 4 so I was happy to receive this one. In the days I spent testing it out on various little projects, I've washed it many times, sometimes quite roughly, but haven't had a single bristle fall out. To me that's an indication of a well-made piece of equipment. Aside from the bristles, I think the attractive finish on the handle is further evidence of the brush's quality: at the right angle, it's possible to see a shadow cast on the wood by the letters printed on top of the clear varnish. That kind of detail is so satisfying! In action, I could find nothing to complain about with this Snap! brush; the bristles held a reasonable amount of pigment and laid it down evenly and smoothly. The filbert shape allowed me to create both wide blots and relatively thin lines, making this tool useful for multiple applications.

Koh-I-Noor Magnum Black Star HB Graphite Pencil

Koh-I-Noor Magnum Black Star Graphite Pencil Test Page

It's hard to get too excited about any graphite pencil but this Koh-I-Noor has proven to be a satisfactory example, gliding smoothly across the page, stippling, lining, and shading with ease. The latter is probably this particular pencil's forte, since it's much fatter than your average drawing pencil. The chubby body also makes the Magnum very comfortable to use. The only drawback here is that the large size requires a larger sharpener (or the more risky knife-sharpening method) which luckily is not an issue for me, thanks to the wide variety of sharpeners I've obtained from previous ArtSnacks boxes over the years.

Goodies & Bonuses

As with every monthly ArtSnacks box, this one included some extras: the Menu, a list of all the tools and their descriptions (plus a wonderfully cheesy art riddle); an information pamphlet from GOLDEN about the High Flow line of paints; an ArtSnacks sticker (my pencil shavings jar is getting prettier by the month!); and a yummy Life Savers candy :3 I don't know if I've ever said, but I am always pleased to receive an actual snack with my ArtSnacks~ I'm glad they send one every time!

Overall, January was a solid box, a great start for a fresh new year. I think my favorite item was the Art & Graphic Twin RB+F marker. I just love art markers, so I'm always excited to try new ones. The RB+F didn't disappoint and the color I received was beautiful, so it's a welcome addition to my collection. I was surprised how much I liked the High Flow Acrylics, too. I'm not a fan of acrylic paint in general, but the fact that these can be used with dip pens means they're not just acrylic paints for me. I rarely paint with acrylic but I use dip pens all the time. I'll remember these next time I want some trippy fluorescent linework. Heck, even the Snap! brush and Magnum pencil from this box, though basic, are still welcome additions to my supply horde. Who can't use an extra brush or pencil?

I'm looking forward to what ArtSnacks will bring me throughout this year. If you received this month's box, let me know what you got and what you thought of it! Also, feel free to send me any questions about this box or its contents, I'd be happy to clarify anything I didn't already cover. Finally, if you did an ArtSnacks Challenge with the January 2017 supplies, link it in the comments so I can check it out!

Progress Shot of GOLDEN High Flow Paints Swirled on a Watercolor Postcard
I made a colorful mess!

Close-Up Shot of GOLDEN High Flow Paints Swirled on a Watercolor Postcard
This was a really fun experiment~

03 October 2016

Inktober 2016 - Day 2: NOISY

I'm already getting behind on my Inktober entries!  I finished my Day 2 drawing early in the morning on the 3rd (I did start it on the 2nd, it just took me longer than I thought to finish) and here I am just beginning to compose its blog post when it's almost October 4th (O_O!  My ArtSnacks October box arrived today, too, so in order to get back on track with Inktober while allowing time to write an unboxing post, I'm going to skip Day 3.  If I find myself with extra time later this month, I'll do it then.  For now, though, let's talk about Inktober 2016 Day 2!  The theme was "NOISY".

It was easy to come up with an idea for NOISY.  The first thing that popped into my head was our housecat, Kiba, who loves to make a racket when he's hungry, lonely, or just wild & crazy.  He's a black Manx so he's not only vocally appropriate to the theme, he's visually perfect for inking, and furthermore brings to mind this month's big holiday: Halloween.

I'm quite proud of how easily I drew Kiba himself.  I didn't even look at him; I was able to draw fairly true-to-life from memory :D  The meow-bubble came along without many hiccups but it took a really long time to fill in the amount of space I wanted to.  My intent was to get across just how NOISY Kiba can be!  All the cat-talk was based specifically on Kiba's vocalizations, not just generically chosen cat noises.

I started with the Copic Multiliner to trace all the thinner, smaller words (I used the Kuretake ZIG brush pen for the few Japanese mews).  Next I used the Kuretake ZIG nib pen and sumi ink to work over the medium-sized vocalizations and to ink Kiba's outline.  Then I switched to the Princeton Kolinsky brush to fill in the really big letters and Kiba's body.  After that, I picked up the brush pen one more time to fill in the medium-large mewling.

I didn't mention it in my first Inktober post but on top of the mechanical pencil, I've also been using an eraser to clean up the pencil lines after all the inking is done.  As with the pencil I'm using, even though it's not from the Inktober box, it still matches the ArtSnacks theme because I received it in a previous monthly box :3  So, after I cleaned up my Noisy Kiba drawing, I finished it off with a few small detail lines and my signature, the date, and a title using the Multiliner.

Before I forget, I want to voice my satisfaction with the paper in the Inktober Denik sketchbook.  I was worried that the wet sumi ink would bleed through since I always apply it rather thickly to ensure an even look but I've had no such issues!  It doesn't even show through on the back of the page, much less leave marks on the succeeding leaf.  I can't say whether other inks or wetter media would fare as well (watercolor may not bleed through, but I have a feeling it would wrinkle the page something awful) but for now it doesn't matter since the only things I'm using in this sketchbook have already been tried and shown themselves up to the Inktober task.

How are you doing at Inktober this year?  Right on schedule?  Or falling behind like yours truly?  Link to your own Day 2 entries in the comments!

01 October 2016

Inktober 2016 - Day 1: FAST

This year ArtSnacks came out with an Inktober Collection and, as with all of their collection boxes, I couldn't resist.  Unlike any collection before, this one has a very specific purpose: to give the artist everything they need to participate in the annual Inktober Challenge.  I've completed an October daily drawing challenge before--Drawlloween--but this is my first time doing Inktober.  I'm excited!

Although I received my Inktober box weeks before this month began, I was so busy with final wedding preparations (we got married on the 22nd of September!) that I only spent about five minutes looking at all the inky goodies before closing it up again.  This meant that, although I saw all the tools, I didn't notice the useful calendar with daily drawing themes which the ArtSnacks folks provided.  I'm glad I noticed it before I started the challenge!

So today's theme was "FAST".  The first thing I thought of was a cheetah but I could only visualize the cheetah art from one of the quests on Habitica.  It didn't feel like I could pull off an original-looking cheetah without undue effort so, searching for other ideas, my mind next landed on Sonic the Hedgehog.  Awesome!  I've been so busy with wedding planning for the past year+ that I haven't had time to really do art for myself.  Starting this challenge with some fan art of one of my favorite game franchises (well, recent entries have really quite lost me but I still have all my old favorites!) felt exciting and fun!

Yikes! White balance always ruins my phone screen in photos XD

I started with a pencil drawing of Sonic using some Google search images as general reference (all of my Inktober drawings will be done in the special Inktober Denik sketchbook that was included in the ArtSnacks collection; it's been great so far!).  I wasn't going for a particular version of Sonic, just a fast-looking pose.  To keep it an ArtSnacks-specific challenge, I made sure to use a mechanical pencil that I had received in a previous monthly box :3

I began inking with the Pentel Arts Pocket Brush Pen.  I love brush pens but this one was the most difficult to get started that I've yet encountered.  Putting it together was easy enough but the instructions said to hold the brush tip-down to let the ink flow into the bristles.  I did this for a while, sometimes swiping the bristles on my test page in case that might help, but I eventually had to--gently!--shake the pen to force the ink down.  The ink flowed perfectly after that.

After I inked the main lines, I moved onto the Princeton Kolinsky brush and Kuretake ZIG sumi ink to add some interest with block shading.  I outlined my blocks with the mechanical pencil first which helped me make sure I wasn't overdoing things.  Throughout my drawing process, I used the Inktober Collection Copic Multiliner any time I needed precision lines.  I often filled in or rounded out brush lines with it but the most visible use of the Multiliner is in the speed lines all around Sonic.

I didn't do any actual drawing with the Kuretake ZIG nib pen this time but I did use it to sign my work (^^;  It was interesting to see this style nib from a different company than I'm used to; I've only ever seen them produced by Deleter before.  I own a decent few, actually, and really love them for inking so I wonder what the price difference between the two brands is.  I didn't notice any performance difference so it would be good to do a price check when I need more in future.

Finally, I started to prepare for bed thinking I was done but when I began exiting the Google image search on my phone, I realized I totally forgot to give Sonic ears!  He has such a simple character design that I didn't feel I could get away without adding them.  I had already inked so much space on his head, however, I had to cheat a bit and use white ink (hey, even if it isn't from ArtSnacks, it still fits with Inktober!) to clean up the criss-crossing lines.  I decided while I was at it to clean up and enhance a few other spots, as well.  The ear I added isn't ideally placed--it should really go right where the big black block below it is--but I think it's better than nothing and doesn't ruin the overall effect.

If you're participating in Inktober this year, whether the ArtSnacks version or not, I'd love to see your completed drawings!  Link your day one entries in the comments!  If you haven't jumped in on this challenge yet, I encourage you to join.  It's really fun and can seriously stir up those creative juices :D