28 September 2014

New Art - Chibi Genie

For my new art post this week, I'm featuring my September ArtSnacks challenge.  The way I do the challenge is to create a drawing or painting using only the supplies provided in that month's box.  Sometimes I'll use an extra item such as an eraser or a brush, but this time I needed only the exact supplies I was given.  Let's take a look! 

As you may guess, I drew chibi Genie as an homage to the great man we lost recently: Robin Williams.  I don't want to get too deep into the impact his sudden death had on me but I will say I loved him as much as one can reasonably love a person known only from their acting.  That he, someone so bright and warm and cheerful, was lost to depression has made me finally (if not slowly, hesitantly) take steps to overcome my own mental health issues.  That's not what I want to talk about here, though.  Let's talk about Genie!

Sketch Drawing of Chibi Genie
Sketched with ArtSnacks pencil and eraser.

I had actually sketched a chibi Genie once already before I received my ArtSnacks.  One of the things that made me use the idea for my challenge was the brilliant blue watercolor marker I received.  If I hadn't gotten that color, I definitely would have drawn something else.  It was great that the supplies I received allowed and encouraged me to finish an idea I had already started.

Chibi Genie Drawing Inked on Clear Paper
Lines inked on a sheet of clear vellum with the ZIG marker.

Inking on the clear vellum was a great experience.  It's not flimsy like tracing paper, but it's the same translucence which made it very easy to copy the lines from my sketch.  If there's any place for this paper in my normal repertoire of supplies, it's as a surface for inked lines that I intend to scan in and color digitally.  The paper takes ink beautifully (no feathering) and eliminates the need for a lightbox or transfer paper to ink a sketch.  This is perfect for inking something to be digitally colored because it provides a very clean scan without a lot of trouble.

Reverse Side of Drawing Colored with Watercolor Marker
I colored on the back of the page.
Front Side of Drawing with Watercolor Marker Showing Through
The blue appears smooth but muted.

A suggestion from the September ArtSnacks menu to create two-sided art prompted me to add blue on the back side of the paper--behind the lines rather than over them--allowing the color to show through on the front side.  The result was very interesting.  As you can see in my photos, it's obvious that the color becomes very desaturated on the front but, less noticeable, it also doesn't show the stroke marks from the back.  I tried another technique later, attempting to shade using the watercolor marker on the back, but it didn't show through at all.  Viewing from the front, the area I had layered extra color on looked just as smooth and even as the rest.

It's also easy to see the clear vellum couldn't really handle the watercolor marker; it got very wrinkly even though I didn't go so far as to blend or gradate with water after using the marker.

Finished Drawing Shaded with Graphite
For the final touch, I shaded with the pencil.

Since shading with the watercolor marker was out of the question, I finished this piece by shading on the front using the pencil that came with the September ArtSnacks box.  It seemed to enhance the faded, nostalgic look of the blue watercolor and polished off the drawing nicely.

This is one of my best ArtSnacks challenge pieces yet.  It was satisfying to create something I really loved since last month's challenge felt like a big flop.  I'm also happy to have drawn a picture that has meaning; usually my challenges are all about experimentation with the tools with the end result being secondary.  It probably helped that I was already familiar with some of these tools and super excited to try the others.

Did you create an ArtSnacks challenge this month?  What do you think of chibi Genie?  Is there something you would have tried with the September supplies that I didn't?

25 September 2014

Adopt-a-Dog Month (October 2014)

For my very first advocacy post, I wanted to focus on something joyful.  When I saw that October is Adopt-a-Dog month, it seemed perfect.  I love dogs, they're wonderful beings, and I draw them all the time.  It's a great topic to bring more attention to because anyone can help no matter how much time or money they have to spare; you don't have to actually adopt a dog (or even leave your house) to support the cause!  Let's look at how we can provide extra support to adoptable dogs this October.

I want to point out that some call it "Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog" month.  I imagine this is to emphasize the adoption of dogs in shelters as opposed to purchasing a dog from a breeder, pet shop, etc.  I think it's good to make that distinction but I don't like excluding adoptable dogs that are available in other places such as animal sanctuaries, breed-specific rescues, or foster home programs, not to mention stray and unexpectedly homeless dogs that haven't yet been placed with an organization.  So I'm sticking to Adopt-a-Dog.  Just remember, the point is to support dogs in need of homes, not humans in need of cash!

It would be wonderful if everyone who reads this post participates in supporting the cause.  To that end, I'm listing several actions you can take, starting with the easiest, most inexpensive, and ending with the most difficult and dedicated.  There shouldn't be any reason not to help!   

Super Easy, Totally Free: Share

The easiest thing one can do to support Adopt-a-Dog month is spread the word.  This can be done through many channels but there's one so easy you don't even have to leave the device you're reading this on: make a shout-out on your favorite social network!  It can be as short and simple or long and detailed as you please.  If you want to go longer, consider sharing a fun or heartwarming story about an adopted dog in your life (even better, share a photo of that furry friend!).  To make your post more useful, provide a link to your local shelter, a rescue for your favorite breed, or even a national organization such as the ASPCA.  You can ask your friends and family to share the message, too.  But if you would like to make your message as short n' sweet as possible, you can simply share a link to this blog post and/or copy and paste the following message in your status update:   
October is Adopt-a-Dog month!  Share, donate, adopt!


Push It to the Next Level: Donate

If you have more to give after spreading the word, donate!  There are lots of ways to donate and many places that would be happy to receive your support.  The three main donations to consider are time (volunteering), supplies (food, toys, bedding, etc.), and money.  Money is the most useful to any rescue organization since it can be applied to very specific needs (and it doesn't have an expiration date!) but time and supplies are helpful, too.

It's important to contact your choice rescue organization before actually showing up with your donation.  Depending on a wide variety of factors, they may not be in need of cage cleaners or dog food at the moment.  I've personally experienced a rescue rejection when all I had to offer was my time but what they were in need of was food (hay bales for horses, to be specific).  So before you decide where to donate, evaluate what you have to give and ask the organization if they need it.  Some organizations have a helpful page on their website that lists specifically what they are currently in need of.  Others will have volunteer applications you can fill out and submit so they can contact you when your specific type of volunteer service (dog walking, secretarial work, photography, etc.) is needed.  If your choice organization isn't in need of your type of donation, don't worry.  You can try another organization or just wait and offer again later.  There will always be another chance to help!


Go All the Way: Adopt!

The most dedicated, time-consuming, and expensive way to support Adopt-a-Dog month is to act on the cause's namesake.  Adopting a dog is a massive responsibility.  I know that's something stereotypically said to children when they ask for their first pet, but it's also something grown-ups tend to forget.  Not everyone can or should adopt a dog.  If you're considering bringing a new furry friend into your life, ask yourself these questions first, and answer brutally honestly:
  • Financially, can I afford a dog?  Do I have enough regular income to purchase healthy food, bedding, toys, and other supplies?  Do I have a savings built up for veterinary emergencies?  Is my financial situation stable enough to afford these things throughout the life of the dog?
  • Time-wise, will I be able to support a dog?  Will I walk the dog often, play with it regularly, groom it, clean up after it, and provide basic good-dog training?
  • Does my housing situation allow dogs?  Are there any restrictions on the size or breed allowed?  Are there special registration requirements?
  • Do I already have pets that would make adopting a dog difficult?  Is there the potential for them to suffer chronic stress or be in danger due to a new dog's presence?  Would my current pets adapt well to another canine family member?
  • Are there other humans in my household?  Would they be willing and able to provide care and support for the dog?  Are there young children or older adults who need special consideration about the size or breed of dog?
  • Am I emotionally and mentally prepared for a new dog?  Am I grieving a lost loved one (human or animal) or suffering another emotional hardship (bad breakup, etc.) which leaves me ill equipped to create a strong, balanced environment?  Am I ready to handle the negative things that inevitably come with a dog (messes, accidents, etc.) in a calm, positive way?
The answers to these questions must be taken seriously.  Please don't adopt a dog just because it's exciting or fun at the time.  Don't bring another life into your home just because it's cute or pretty or because you feel sorry for it.  (You can still help the adoption cause even if you realize you aren't ready to adopt after all; keep reading!)  Make absolutely sure you can support the burden of a dog's life--financially, medically, socially--and if you find you're ready, here's how to get started!
  1. Research - Before you head out to your local shelter, do a bit of research online to find out what type of dog would fit you, your lifestyle, and your household best.  It's much better for all involved if you go in with an idea of what you're looking for.  A lot of stress and unhappiness could result from a bad matchup and returning your dog to the shelter (even if it's necessary due to complete incompatibility) is the antithesis of Adopt-a-Dog month.  Some general things to think about include your personal energy level (don't expect the addition of a dog to somehow prompt you to be more active, choose a dog that matches your current energy level), what ages the humans are in your household (young children and older adults are better suited to different types of dogs than adolescents and adults), how much time you have to dedicate to dog care (some types of dogs are more prone to illness, some require intense and regular grooming, some simply need a lot more daily exercise and interaction), and what other pets the new dog would be coming home to (it's important to find a dog that will fit in well and not endanger or be endangered by your existing pets).
  2. Dog-proofing - Once you have an idea of the type of dog you'll be after, it's a good idea to start dog-proofing your house.  There are a lot of different things to do, especially for first-time dog owners.  PetCo has provided an excellent printable list that you can put up around the house and/or distribute to all your household humans: Dog Proofing Checklist.  Even if you already have a dog at home, it's a good idea to reevaluate your home's dog-proofed status before bringing in your new companion.  I've personally known several long-time dog owners who never knew about certain dangers until it caused injury or death to their dog.  Don't let yourself be caught unaware!
  3. Visit - This is the fun part!  Visit your favorite shelter or rescue and check out the dogs!  Even if you're adopting a dog from a foster home, you should still go visit if possible.  My favorite adoption method comes from Cesar Millan.  An A-to-Z list of adoption rules and guidelines is contained in this article: The Rules of Adoption.  A couple of the most important rules are: talk to the people who actually handle the dogs so you can find out how the dogs behave for them, don't look the dogs directly in the eye when you're evaluating them (also, don't squeal happily or talk excitedly, this will simply excite them and won't let you see their true selves), walk a few dogs that you're interested in to gauge their energy level and personality, and when you've found a dog you want, go home first (it's tough, I know!) and come back on another day at another time so you can see if the dog behaves any differently then.  If it's still a good match, inform the shelter staff so you can fill out any required paperwork and pay the necessary fees to secure your new dog.
  4. Supplies - You may have noticed that I haven't actually mentioned bringing your dog home yet.  That's because it's a good idea to, once you have the dog secured, prepare your home with the proper supplies first!  Some essentials I recommend include a properly large house crate (this should be treated like your dog's new bedroom, a special place set aside just for them), a comfortable and large-enough dog bed for the crate, food and water bowls, appropriate food for your dog's age and size, toys and chew treats, training treats, a collar with I.D. tags, and a leash.  There may be other essentials to get that are specific to your dog, such as training pads for a puppy or jackets for short-haired/hairless dogs.  There are also purely fun supplies to consider; I always have my dogs wear colorful bandanas, for instance.
  5. Coming Home - The final step is to actually bring your dog home.  Different rescue organizations will have different adoption requirements (I've even heard of some that perform a background check or require a waiting period before you can take the dog) so pay attention and ask questions while you're filling out forms.  When your dog is ready to go home, I recommend another Cesar Millan technique: go on a walk first.  Ideally, you would walk the dog directly from the shelter to your home (this gives your dog the feel of moving or migrating rather than simply being carted to another strange place) but if that's not possible, try to take a short walk before getting in the car and then take a long walk around your neighborhood before arriving at your home (this will allow your dog to experience new smells and start growing accustomed to the environment).  Once you arrive home, introduce your dog to new areas around and inside your house slowly.  Show them where they're meant to go potty, show them where their food and water is, and show them their new bedroom.  Depending on the dog's personality and whether there are other humans and pets to introduce them to, it can be a good idea to only introduce your dog to a new area of the house every couple days.  If you have existing pets in your home, make sure to properly introduce them to your new dog.  Here are a couple useful lists from the ASPCA: Introducing Your Dog to a New Dog and Introducing Your Cat to a New Dog.
Mixed Breed Hound Dog Cutely Chewing Elk Antler
Kenshi enjoying an antler!  I adopted my biggest buddy in 2004.

Finally, for those who wish they could adopt a(nother) dog but can't (that's me), you can still help a specific dog at your favorite rescue organization.  If you fall in love with a dog at the shelter and want to ensure they have a good chance of being adopted, offer to pay the adoption fee.  You can pay in full or even just partially, whatever you can afford.  At my local shelter, the Idaho Humane Society, they will post on the animals' cage doors to let potential adopters know that the fee has been reduced or already accounted for.  This makes the dog in question more attractive and gives it a better chance to be adopted.  Plus, you get to feel good about supporting that adorable fuzzy face!

This October, please spend just a couple minutes to support Adopt-a-Dog month.  I'll be doing my part, too.  Remember: share, donate, adopt!

23 September 2014

ArtSnacks - September 2014

Earlier this year, I purchased a subscription to ArtSnacks.  It's a monthly blind box that comes with 4 to 5 full-size art supplies to experiment with.  If you're like me, the rush and excitement of trying out new art supplies is utterly addicting, so this subscription has been AWESOME.  Here's my unboxing and review of the September 2014 box!

September ArtSnacks Box Upon First Opening
First view of the September box's contents!
September ArtSnacks Box Contents
Before unwrapping the artist vellum.
All September ArtSnacks Laid Out
All the September ArtSnacks revealed!

It's difficult for me to describe how excited I was by this month's box.  To be honest, it was just one item that did it: the watercolor marker.  A few weeks before this box arrived, I almost bought a full set of these watercolor markers to try out.  I managed to hold off because they were spendy and I didn't actually need them (plus, I reminded myself, I have ArtSnacks to satisfy my new-art-supply cravings).  It's almost as if I was rewarded by Fate for my good behavior, ha ha.

September Box Contents:

  • Clearprint Artist Vellum Paper Set
  • Kimberly Drawing Pencil by General Pencil
  • ZIG Cartoonist Mangaka Flexible Marker
  • Kum® Correc-Stick Eraser
  • Winsor & Newton Water Colour Brush Marker
  • Bonuses: ArtSnacks sticker, roll of SweetTarts, and watercolor test paper with Winsor & Newton coupon

Translucent Clearprint Artist Vellum Sheets
These sheets are almost too pretty to draw on!

I received five 8.5x11" sheets of artist vellum in the roll.  Transporting in a roll makes sense but it also means the sheets are tough to keep flat afterwards.  I immediately squished mine in a sketchbook.  They've been there for a couple weeks and are perfectly serviceable now.  I used a sheet for my ArtSnacks Challenge and was satisfied with its performance in conjunction with the other supplies from this box (though it was too lightweight to try any wet watercolor techniques).  Although it's an interesting paper to work with, especially drawing on both sides, I don't think it's something I'll be rushing to buy when I run out.  It's fun, different, and can jumpstart one's creativity but it's not what I'd call an artist's staple.

The iconic gold and green Kimberly pencil (I got a 2B) is something I've been long familiar with.  I can't even remember when I first used this brand of pencil.  I'd like to say it was when I started university but it may have been earlier in high school or even at home as a child (my dad took his fair share of art courses when I was a wee lass).  It's just your standard, reliable, wood-encased graphite pencil.  Now THIS is an artist's staple.

Although the ArtSnacks menu (and Amazon; I did some research) calls it a marker, the ZIG Flexible marker behaves more like a brush pen.  I suppose the name doesn't really matter but when I go in expecting a marker, I get a bit confused when it doesn't act like one.  That being said, this is not a bad tool!  When I used it with 'brush pen' in mind, I was able to pull out a nice variety of lines, though the ink seemed to dry a bit translucent (maybe that's why it's called a marker?).  As the "Mangaka" title suggests, it does great lining for manga-style drawings.  My marker is labelled "Medium" (I assume that refers to nib size) and holds black pigment.

The eraser in this month's box is very interesting.  This is the second eraser I've received from ArtSnacks but it's completely different from the first: long, pink, and simultaneously pointed and curvy.  Despite the Correc-Stick's suspicious pink color, it doesn't leave unsightly pink marks like #2 pencil-style or Pink Pearl erasers.  And the weird shape of this eraser's body has a point, literally and figuratively.  The curvy form fits very comfortably in one's hand while the pointed end works well to erase small areas.  I flipped it around and found it just as comfy while erasing with the blunt end.  I wonder how it will be when the pointed end gets used up or worn down flat.  I haven't erased enough--though I've used it on several drawings thus far--to even guess.  Until then, it seems it will serve me well.

As I mentioned above, the most exciting item for me was the watercolor marker.  I may have squealed for joy when I saw it!  The marker comes with a brush tip on one end and a fine tip on the other and I received a beautiful cerulean blue color.  (Interestingly, although this is certainly a full-sized item, it says "FREE SAMPLE" and "NOT FOR RESALE" in three languages on the body!)  So far I've only experimented with this item on the strip of watercolor paper and the artist vellum that came in this month's ArtSnacks box so I can't give it a really detailed review--not like what I could do if I used a full set of them on a large painting--but I will say I am definitely buying more (it doesn't hurt that Winsor & Newton provided a coupon!).  If you enjoy watercolor, I think this marker would be right up your alley.  The color lays down smoothly from both tips, it yields a wide variety of line thicknesses, and you can get some nice effects if you paint or spritz water over it on the paper.  One thing it doesn't do is wet-on-wet.  I tried it on the watercolor paper, wetting an area with water and then drawing over it with the marker, but instead of laying down color, the marker sucked up the water!  I expected to get a cool effect along the lines of wet-on-wet with watercolor pencils, but the physics of the marker doesn't allow it to work that way.  This doesn't ruin the watercolor marker experience, it's just something to keep in mind while using it: marker first, then water.

The September ArtSnacks menu suggested testing the watercolor marker on the strip of watercolor paper that was provided but I decided to go a step further and test all of the drawing media on it.  I suppose this almost counts as an ArtSnacks challenge, except I didn't use the vellum sheets!

Drawing Detailed with EraserDrawing Started with Graphite PencilDrawing Continued with Black Marker

I started my watercolor paper experiment with the pencil.  2B is a nice hardness for something like this, not too messy but still able to get a bit dark.  I augmented my pencil lines with the black marker next, trying some brush-like strokes as well as hatching, stippling, and other linework.  To give the Correc-Stick a shot, I erased some lines and small circles into the graphite at the top.

Final Drawing Finished with Blue Watercolor Marker
The final result looks like a fun, abstract bookmark!

Finally, the part I could hardly wait for, I played with my watercolor marker until I achieved the end you see above.  I colored in and brushed through some areas with marker alone, adding no water, while others I either gradated the color, smoothed it out evenly, or plopped a little drop of water onto for a rough, organic edge.

Overall, this may be the best ArtSnacks box I've gotten to date.  Definitely it's gotten me the most excited in several months.  What do you think of the contents?  Do you have any questions about the supplies that I didn't answer?  If you got this box, were your items different from mine?

21 September 2014

New Art - Ghostie Halloween

First off, welcome to my inaugural Studio Mikarts blog post!  This is my first non-scholastic art blog and I'm stoked to fill it up with awesome content!  Gotta pace myself, though.

The piece I'm featuring today was actually completed several weeks ago.  I know it's still summer but I'm just so excited for the holidays already!  Last year, I decided to start annually illustrating a Halloween card (like the Christmas cards I've done almost every year since 2007) so this is my 2014 entry!

Ghostie Halloween by AnimeGirlMika on deviantART

As with last year's illustration, this one features our Manx, Kiba.  He's just the perfect Halloween kitty: black witch's-cat fur with vampire fangs!  This year, I decided to assign our remaining household cats to the other major US end-of-year holidays (Kiki for Thanksgiving and Bear for Christmas) so those two will be featured in their own card illustrations later.

Another similarity to last year's Halloween card is the lack of text on the online version.  I added "Happy Halloween" to the illustration for my home-printed greeting cards.  These cards are available at the fan convention artist alleys I attend and also by special request online. 

The following are some in-progress photos I took while creating the piece: the inked lines, the base colors done in marker, and the final result with marker, colored pencil, and white gel pen.  The process was really satisfying and fun!

Drawing of a Chibi Cat and Ghosts with Basic Coloring
Base colors.
Lineart Drawing of a Chibi Cat and Ghosts
Line work.

Completely Colored and Shaded Drawing of a Chibi Cat and Ghosts
Traditional media all done!

What do you think?  Do you like cute black cats and ghosties?  What are your Halloween plans for 2014?