26 October 2014

New Art - Drawlloween Favorites

What I've been drawing a lot lately are responses to daily prompts from the 31-day Drawlloween challenge in the Artists guild on HabitRPG.  So, I'd like to share some of my favorite creations in this week's New Art post.  This challenge has been fun and freeing, allowing me to make some pretty cool stuff without the stress of worrying what it looks like!  I've also found it a great way to get more use out of my ArtSnacks art supplies; almost every single piece has been made with nothing but ArtSnacks, including any erasing!

Howling Werewolf Drawing

I like all of the Drawlloween responses featured in this post for various reasons.  With the werewolf, it was simply fun to incorporate so many different ArtSnacks and it was great to see how interesting the final result looks.  I used a pencil, pen, acrylic paint, a brush, a marker, and two different types of colored pencil!  Limiting myself to only my ArtSnacks can be challenging so it feels super awesome ending up with something that looks like it was all done on purpose, as if I would have still chosen those exact tools even if I hadn't been limiting myself to them.

Chibi Dr. Franken Stein Drawing

For my Frankenstein response, I was giddy with pleasure since it allowed me to draw some fan art of my newest anime obsession, Soul Eater.  Dr. Franken Stein is one of my favorite characters and he simply fits the prompt to a T!  I think chibi Stein came out utterly adorable!  I want to make him into a pin-back button to match my existing Excalibur design~  Also, the photo I've posted here was taken before I realized I forgot to draw his face scar.  It's since been added.  This is one of the few Drawlloween pieces that I didn't use ArtSnacks to create; I wanted to use my standard method so I could get a solid, predictable result.

Yawning Vampire Mouth Drawing

It's a little difficult to put my reason for liking this Vampire drawing into words.  I think some of it is due to my acting on the freedom to choose how I would interpret the prompt.  I could have drawn a whole vampire, arms, legs, cape, mist, etc. but my mind instead fixated on the part that everyone thinks of first: fangs.  I also put more feeling into the lines themselves, making the inside of the mouth look almost like a vortex, like it's sucking the viewer in.  And everything was drawn with a furious stroke, emitting the type of mad, dangerous energy that I think of when it comes to vampires.

Devil and Skull Drawings
"Devil" and "Skull"
Cute Witch and Scary Demon Drawings
"Witch" and "Demon"

These next drawings were done after I filled up my small sketchbook. Drawlloween finally ended that faithful friend! So I turned back to my standard-size sketchbook and started doing two prompts per page. I had actually gotten even farther behind in the challenge by this point, so I spent several hours catching up to the actual day that I was on. Of all the drawings I did during that session, these were some of my top favorite.

I actually had a bit of trouble while drawing these.  Devil and Demon were right next to each other in prompt order!  I had to do a lot of thinking (and asking my beau's opinion) to decide how I could draw a demon that looked different enough from what I had already done for devil.  You can see that the end results did come out quite differently so I'm satisfied there!  What I decided to do was make the demon more fleeting, raw, wild, and wraith-like.  The devil is more controlled and calculating, a being with ideas and intent.

I don't have much to say about the Skull, to be honest.  I think it turned out nicely for not using a reference and I had fun making it elongated and alien.  I'm much more proud of the Witch!  I think she came out looking adorable!  I would love to draw her again, perhaps make a proper character of her.  On top of the nice character design, I'm pleased with the two-tone hatching I experimented with.  Not all of my experimental drawing techniques pan out, but I think this time I hit gold!

Pumpkin Drawing with View of Art Supplies
Check out all the art supplies I had been using!
Colored Pumpkin Drawing

The last Drawlloween prompt response I want to feature is actually my most recent. It was done at the end of my last marathon session and was completed on the correct day! It's another ArtSnacks piece and I ended up using a lot items.  I started with mechanical pencil for the underdrawing, colored in with marker, then went to town shading with carbon, white charcoal, watercolor pencil, and regular colored pencil!  As with all of these drawings, I didn't put pressure on myself to make it look 'perfect' so, as you can see, most of the strokes are messy and blunt.  I think the end result still looks rather lovely, even so!

Today is only the 26th, so I still have half a dozen drawings to create.  If you would like to see them, or if you'd like to see all the other Drawlloween pieces I've done, you can check them out in this Google+ photo album.  Everything that's been completed so far is there and I'll definitely be updating to include the final six drawings of Drawlloween!

Has anyone else been participating in an October or Halloween creativity challenge this month?  I'd love to see your work!  And to everyone reading, while I have the chance, let me wish you a happy Halloween!  Have fun, dress up, eat candy, and be safe!

23 October 2014

Support Your Local Food Bank (November 2014)

In my country, the United States, November is the month of Thanksgiving, a holiday most often celebrated as a time to feast heartily with loved ones.  It's definitely a food holiday for me, anyway.  This led me to choose food banks as my advocacy topic for November.  Let's help everyone have a delicious, fulfilling Thanksgiving this year!

Platter of Fresh Buttered Rolls
Fresh-baked, buttered rolls from a Thanksgiving Past!

To give an idea of why this cause is worth supporting, I would like to share a few statistics from the USDA.  In the United States in 2013:

  • More than one in ten households (14.3%) experienced some form of food insecurity.
  • About one in twenty households (5.6%) experienced very low food security, which means "normal eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake was reduced at times during the year because they had insufficient money or other resources for food."
  • In about one in ten households with children (9.9%), both the adults and the kids suffered from some form of food insecurity.
  • In 360,000 households with children, the kids themselves suffered from very low food security at times.

To put these ideas into extremely simplified terms, it means that, statistically, there's a good chance that, in the US, someone you know, a friend, or family member, or someone in your neighborhood, school, or workplace, has suffered from food insecurity in the past year.  That sucks!

I'm not much of a numbers person myself, but I am a food person--I love cooking, baking, and, of course, eating--so the idea of that many people not being able to enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner (or any dinner) is pretty awful.  There are lots of ways to help people in your community this holiday season, including households with, let's not forget, pets!

Your Local Food Bank

I want to focus first on supporting your local community.  I personally feel more connected to a cause when I know my support is going to those who live near me.  I may not ever meet them, but the feel-goods are still more tangible simply thinking of how close they might be.  To find a local food bank, you can use this handy tool from Feeding America to search by zip code or, internationally, use this page from The Global FoodBanking Network.

Once you've found your food bank, there are many ways to lend support.  The most obvious way, if travel to a drop-off location is feasible for you, is to donate physical foodstuffs.  If you can, call ahead and ask what type of items your food bank is in need of most.  Especially around major holidays, there might be special demand for certain items.  The organization might also have a list of items that aren't as needed at the moment, so knowing to avoid those could also help your donation be as useful as possible.

The next way you can help is to donate money.  Most food banks have simple, secure one-time donation pages on their websites, so you can give support virtually any time, any place.  You may also be able to sign up as a monthly supporter (i.e. automatic donations via your debit or credit card in the amount you designate).  Money donations can be even more useful than food donations since the funds can be used to buy very specific items or even pay for things such as gasoline to fuel food delivery trucks or advertising for a holiday food drive.

Finally, you can support your local food bank by volunteering your time.  There a lot of things that food banks do which require man-power:  sorting and tracking food, keeping in touch with people in need, making deliveries, running food drives, etc.  Some food banks may even allow you to volunteer with a group of friends or family, making the time even more fun and rewarding for everyone involved.

Broader Support

If you don't have a food bank near you or if you would rather support a larger organization, check out these national food bank organizations for your country:

Each food bank website will list plenty of information relevant to your country and lots of ways you can share your support, including things as simple as spreading the word to tasks as ambitious as hosting your own food drive.  Check them out!

Don't Forget the Pets!

When it comes to food security in households with pets, there are no government-tracked statistics.  And, of course, such statistics wouldn't even touch on all the pets in shelters or elsewhere who may suffer from food insecurity or plain ol' hunger.

Mika's Shiba Inu Enjoying a Raw Hide Treat
Sun, my Shiba, loves getting special treats for Thanksgiving!

Pets may not understand or celebrate their humans' holidays, but they still understand what it means to be truly hungry and they still suffer the stress brought on by not knowing when or where they'll get their next meal.  Pet food banks are less common and less easy to find, but they do exist.  I recommend starting the search with your local animal shelter.  Check their website or give them a call and ask if they or another organization they're aware of has a pet food bank.  You can also contact local veterinarians--especially if you're interested in supporting a specific type of pet (cats, dogs, horses, etc.)--who may have contacts for smaller, extremely localized pet food banks or organizations that include food banking among their animal support efforts.  Once you get in contact with your pet food bank, whether online, over the phone, or in person, they'll be able to tell you exactly how you can help.

Whether you're supporting locally or internationally, human or animal, whether you'll celebrate Thanksgiving this November or not, it's as easy as you wish to help ensure everyone can spend this holiday season with a full, happy belly.  Let's make it happen!

21 October 2014

Pigment+Palette - 10th Edition

Welcome to my very first Pigment+Palette unboxing!  This is my second art supply subscription and although the idea of both services is the same (send surprise art supplies...ha ha, I didn't mean to rhyme but I like it!) Pigment+Palette has a distinctly different flavor.  That being said, I don't like the idea of questioning which subscription is better so I'm going to avoid commenting on how P+P is different from my previous subscription experiences and keep my focus only on this specific box.

Box with Pigment+Palette Printed on the Side
Outer shipping box.
Inner Pigment+Palette Box
Inner goodies box.

First I want to mention that my box arrived during Tomodachi Fest earlier this month.  I was so excited that I decided to do my unboxing in our hotel room rather than wait a few days to do it at home.  This worked out relatively well except my only decent light source was a short desk lamp with very yellow light.  So all my photos, despite my standard editing process, look...intense.  I prefer not to spend too long editing though, so these bright images are here to stay!

First Look After Opening the Box
First look!  It's fun to open the box because the flap is magnetic.

I already knew from watching others' unboxing videos that the P+P boxes come with an art print.  I was very happy to see the lovely art for this box!  It's whimsical and fun, plus the color palette is beautiful.  I was also excited after reading the note that the P+P folks left along with the print (more on that later).

Art Print and Message
This box's art print and my special message.

The art print also serves as the table of contents, as it were, for the box which it accompanies.  Art on the front, info on the back.  Pretty and useful!

Aquabord and Contents Card
"This Month's Theme: Smoke on the Water"

After checking out the print and message, I dove right into the box.  I briefly glanced at the contents list but I wanted to discover all the items myself before reading about them.  The first thing I saw after lifting the tissue paper got me very excited!

Aquabord and Ampersand Pamphlet
This is a product that's right up my alley!

Watercolor is one of my all time favorite art media.  Getting this Ampersand aquabord was spectacular not only because it's something that fits my artistic preferences but also because it's something I didn't know existed (I have used masonite board for oil painting, which is similar, but I don't enjoy oils and never thought to look for a watercolor-suitable version).  It's an expensive item too, helping make this Pigment+Palette box very valuable and worth the subscription price!  As of this post, I haven't yet tried the aquabord because I want to save it for a painting that I feel merits such high-end materials (i.e. I don't want to just scribble and experiment wildly and end up feeling like I wasted the item).

I liked that there was a pamphlet included, talking about Ampersand's related items.  Gives me an idea of what other neat artist surfaces are available.

Inner Contents of Pigment+Palette Box
More goodies underneath!

Already so excited about the aquabord, I was even more thrilled when I saw all the neat supplies waiting for me under it.  It's hard to believe they were able to squeeze all this good stuff in one box!

Watercolor Sample Cover and Color List
My first 'sample' item.
Sample Watercolor Palette with Watercolor Paper and Color List
A well planned sample!

I could now see everything at once so, to avoid being overwhelmed with the decision of what to examine first, I turned to the contents list to guide me.  The QoR Modern Watercolors were next.  Made by Golden Artist Colors, a brand I know more for acrylic than watercolor, this was actually a neat little sample palette that opened to reveal six daubs of complimentary colors on one side and a square of watercolor paper tucked into the opposite.  There was also a useful pamphlet included which listed all the colors available in this line.

I reviewed the watercolors in a previous post, so make sure to check it out!

Graphite Stick
ArtGraf stick.
Graphite Stick, Alternate View
I got 'soft' hardness.

The next listed item is this water-soluble graphite stick by ArtGraf.  I have a vague feeling that I may have heard of water-soluble graphite before but this is the first time I've gotten my hands on any.  I haven't personally used it yet (my sister tried it out to good effect) but I'm thinking this is another item that's perfect for me.  I'm considering using it on the aquabord once I have a composition in mind.  This is where the smoke in this month's "Smoke on the Water" theme must come from.

Mono Zero Eraser by Tombow
This tool is the best.  Get one!

When I saw the Tombow Mono Zero Eraser in my box, I couldn't help but laugh; I had seen someone get this item in one of their unboxing videos many months ago and was so enamored that I bought one from Amazon right away.  So I had to laugh because now I have two!  But I was not wrong in being impressed by this eraser before so I'm not the slightest bit disappointed to have another one.  It's just fabulous for artists who need to erase small details without eliminating other marks in the area.  I use it a lot when I'm cleaning up a sketch before inking (I keep the lines I want without having to redraw after erasing).  I received the round eraser, but I know a square version also exists.

Water Brush and Welcome Message
My welcome item!

Because this water brush wasn't listed on the contents card, I knew it must be my first-time-subscriber bonus item.  How perfectly it fits with the rest of the supplies!  I'm lucky that my first box was all related to a medium I really love~  I've already used this brush several times and even reviewed it in a recent New Art post.  I'm very happy to receive it (did I mention I love watercolor?) so thank you, Pigment+Palette folks!

All 10th Edition Pigment+Palette Items Together in the Box
So here we have it, my very first Pigment+Palette box!

Although I haven't tried all the items yet, I'm still very pleased with everything that came in this 10th Edition box.  I've heard that P+P will sometimes send totally different items to people based on supply.  If you got the 10th Edition box, did your supplies differ from mine?  Even if they were the same, did you get different sizes or types?  Any other first-timers who also got a bonus item?  Let me know!

19 October 2014

New Art - Autumn Leaf

This new art post is also going to be a review of a couple items that arrived in my first Pigment+Palette box earlier this month.  One is a sample palette of QoR watercolor paints by Golden Artist Colors and the other is a bonus item, a water brush, that the P+P folks kindly included as a welcome gift.

So I had my sample palette, which came with six color daubs and a little square of watercolor paper to experiment on, and my water brush, which I was already generally familiar with thanks to the travel watercolor kit my sister gave me for my birthday earlier this year, but I wasn't sure what to paint.  I didn't want to do something random.  I wanted my painting--even though it was just a way to test these new tools--to look like something when it was done.  How could I use all the colors on this palette without making the final result look gaudy or unharmonious?

Watercolor Sample Palette with Sketch on Paper and Water Brush
Sketch in place.  Water brush filled.  Ready to paint!
My answer actually came from the watercolors themselves.  To my eye, the blue and orange stood out the most.  I realized that the entire palette was nicely balanced with complimentary colors.  This inspired the idea of depicting a colorful autumn branch against a bright blue sky.  I sketched the scene with a mechanical pencil then got to work using the color.

I used only the water brush, the watercolor palette, and the square of watercolor paper for the majority of the painting.  I did use graphite for the sketch and at the end I tried a bit of table salt to give the sky a touch of organic texture, but I didn't use any other brushes or watercolors.  It was actually a bit difficult to use only the water brush; it's great for covering larger areas but there's not much control over how much water comes out.  This means it's difficult to paint fine lines or maintain a rich streak of color.  It's definitely a brush better for initial color blocking or plain ol' sketching.  This isn't to say I don't like the item--it's a handy tool that I'll definitely reach for again--it's just got a specific set of limitations that's important to keep in mind.  The only real negative I noticed was that a couple bristles came out while I was using it.  The head hasn't fallen apart yet but I feel it probably won't last as long as a standard brush.

Watercolor Sample Pallet with Water Brush and Finished Painting
Finished painting.  Used about ⅔ of the water in the brush.
As for the watercolors themselves, you can see that they produced a beautiful, vibrant painting.  It was great that the sample palette came with a well in the middle so I could mix colors.  I was able to create shadowy tints by mixing compliments.  But despite the excellent color laydown, I won't be purchasing these paints any time soon.  Aside from the fact that I already have a favorite brand, I just couldn't stand the paints' unpleasant odor.  At first I thought something in the room was stinking, like a hidden spill needed cleaning or the trash needed taken out, but I eventually realized the odor was emanating from the watercolors themselves.  Maybe this smell is common to most watercolor paints (add this to the reasons my favorite brand is my favorite brand: no unpleasant odor from Sakura Koi) but it's not something I'm willing to accept.  I can handle some byproduct scents from my art tools, but this wasn't one of them.

I feel this came out nicely for a test painting.  The salt didn't really do much other than make everything sparkly but the colors stand out well enough on their own and the water brush did an admirable job even with its limitations.  I might use these watercolor samples again, smell and all, when I test out the watercolor board and water-soluble graphite stick that also came in the Pigment+Palette box.  Until then, let me know what you think of my test painting!  Was it a good use of the colors at hand?  Did you get this P+P box?  If so, did it come with this watercolor sample set?  What's your favorite watercolor brand and why?

12 October 2014

New Art - Butch Cassidy

The new art I am featuring this week is another commission piece from Tomodachi Fest.  It was my last chibi of the convention and I actually had to bring it home to finish since I was so surprisingly busy all con!  Because I had more time to work on this drawing, I was able to take breaks and photograph my progress to share.

Although this piece is also an on-the-spot artist alley commission, it's quite a different type of chibi from last week's featured art!  Rather than a colored caricature of an anime character, it's an inked caricature of a real-life historical figure!
Pencil Drawing of Chibi Butch Cassidy
The initial pencil work is all done.

If you didn't already guess from the title of this post, the historical figure I was asked to draw is Butch Cassidy.  I was provided with a specific photo of him to use as a reference--my preferred way of working for on-the-spot commissions.  I simply took his exact pose, expression, and outfit and chibified them!
Partially Inked Drawing of Chibi Butch Cassidy
Partway through the inking process.

As I was drawing chibi Butch, I became very pleased with how he was dressed.  There are certain details I didn't notice until I was looking closely to ensure I captured everything I could.  Not only is he wearing a well-pressed three piece suit with a jauntily-perched bowler hat while sitting in an extremely ornate chair, he's got a watch chain through the buttonhole of his vest (I noticed that it's unbuttoned where the chain is; I always assumed vests remain fully buttoned even when a chain is worn), his vest is collared, and his tie has a decorative pin at the knot.  Butch Cassidy is simply dapper!
Inked Drawing of Chibi Butch Cassidy with Reference
Final inked drawing and the photo reference.

I think this is the first time I've drawn a chibi in a bowler hat.  What do you think?  Does chibi Butch look like himself?  What historical figure would you have me turn into a chibi?

07 October 2014

ArtSnacks - October 2014

It feels like I only just received the September items but I'm already reviewing my October ArtSnacks supplies!  It was a hefty box this time and included some unusual selections.  I suppose it's a testament to its interest that instead of basic lines, dots, and gradation, I was inspired to complete my ArtSnacks Challenge drawing as a means of testing these art tools.

October ArtSnacks Box Opened but Still Packed
First peek!

Although I already saw in a video earlier this year (when I was deciding whether to subscribe to ArtSnacks in the first place) that the October box is Halloween themed, I had long forgotten by this time.  I was therefore very pleasantly surprised to see all the black and orange!

ArtSnacks Items Unpacked
That candy smelled so good I could hardly wait to eat it!
ArtSnacks Supplies Unwrapped
Decent item count here!

Here's the full list of items from my October ArtSnacks box:
  • Lyra Colorstripe Colored Pencil
  • Cretacolor Black Chalk Pencil
  • Pentalic Woodless Charcoal Graphite Pencil
  • Pro Art India Ink
  • Protégé Short Handle White Nylon Brush

Drawing Started with Colored Pencil
I really enjoyed using the colored pencil.

Like I said above, my ArtSnacks were so inspiring that I felt like creating a complete drawing right away.  I decided to use these items in the order listed on the menu so I started with the colored pencil.  I must say, after using it, I think it's a shame these are no longer in production.  The color laydown was so smooth and rich--making excellent gradients and covering the paper quite thoroughly and quickly when desired--it's the first time I've really considered buying a different brand of colored pencils.  The yellow color I received inspired me to draw the moon, stars, and eyes you see above.

Drawing Continued with Chalk Pencil
Note how quickly the pencil tip was worn down.
The next item I tried was the black chalk pencil.  It was certainly interesting.  Rather like charcoal but more...crumbly?  It's difficult for me to describe the difference but I can say the tip wore down very quickly and it produced lots of dust.  To create a larger drawing with this pencil would require much sharpening and might even use up the whole thing.  On the flip side, I got satisfyingly dark marks from the pencil in relatively little time.  I smudged the chalk with a paper towel to take care of the stray dust and chalk flakes which also gave the drawing a more refined look (compare the smudged body to the unsmudged head in the photo above).

Drawing Embellished with Graphite
Various shades accomplished with the woodless pencil.
Here I get a bit confused because the ArtSnacks menu describes this item as a woodless charcoal pencil available in "3 different grades: soft, medium and hard", but what I received is clearly a 4B graphite pencil.  I'm not sure if it's just a typo on the menu or if I actually received the wrong item.  It's not a big enough deal to complain or inquire about, just a curiosity.  The item I did receive is something I've already used before and which I still have in my repertoire.  I haven't looked into whether I already have this exact hardness (I probably do since I tend to have even numbers, i.e. 2B, 4B, 6B, etc.) but it's still a good one to have since you can get both fairly light and fairly dark marks from it.  I recommend this pencil for drawings that will be all or mostly graphite since being woodless makes covering large areas much faster.

Drawing Completed with India Ink
Some of the ink is still wet and reflective in this photo.

The last two items were clearly meant to go together: brush and ink.  Perhaps I've never used real india ink before or maybe this type is just different, but I was surprised at the thick, plastic texture once dry.  I felt it was more like using acrylic paint than ink.  I don't recommend using the ink to fill in large areas, especially when diluted.  The ink dried so quickly that everything I filled looked splotchy and unflatteringly showed brush strokes.  These traits seemed to be even worse when I dipped the brush in water after ink (diluting on the brush, essentially) before laying it on the paper.  I also was a bit disappointed in the dropper that comes with the ink because it didn't create a very wide range of droplets on the page.  No matter how I coaxed, they all came out around the same size and not nearly as small as I hoped or expected.  Next time I'll be using this ink for linework.  The disappointments I experienced while creating this piece showed me that I'll probably be much happier if I use it to create lines with a nib instead of filling large areas with a brush.

After all that with the ink, I only have a little to say about the brush.  It behaved very well.  I'm really happy that I received a round (my favorite brush shape) and I'm fairly sure I didn't yet have a short handle round brush in this size (9, I think; the size mark is not clearly differentiated from the number 6 but this is much larger than other 6's I have).  I'll definitely go to this brush again in future.


So what do you think of the Halloween ArtSnacks?  Did you get a box, too?  If so, did you get different colors or sizes than I did?  What did you create for your ArtSnacks Challenge?

05 October 2014

New Art - Chibi America

This past weekend, I spent the days having fun at my artist alley table during one of Idaho's fan conventions, Tomodachi Fest.  Of course, this means lots of on-the-spot commission drawings were created!  In this blog, I'm featuring the first piece I completed: chibi America from Hetalia.

I really enjoyed chibifying this character.  It was difficult to get started at first, though.  In preparing for the convention, I was left with no time to sleep before setting up for artist alley.  I had already been awake for over sixteen hours when I received this commission order at the start of the first day.

Partial Sketch of Chibi America
The pose was based on a reference image my client provided.
I was feeling progressively groggy and disconnected while I worked--I frequently took breaks as my concentration flagged--but, happily, the sketch stage of the piece came out well despite.

Completed Sketch of Chibi America
The word "HERO" was specifically requested for his shirt.
I started inking the same day as the sketch but each time I put pen to paper, the lines seemed to come out a bit wobbly or didn't curve in the way I intended.  I continued with a few larger lines but decided to wait on the more detailed areas (like the face) until I could get a good night's sleep.  I completed them on day 2, with plenty of energy and enthusiasm!

Inked Drawing of Chibi America
Isn't he so cute?  I love his happy face!
Coloring was the best part, as usual.  I actually finished the remainder of the piece so quickly that I forgot to take progress photos!  I did scan it, though, and I'm so happy with the end result that this may be my favorite drawing from the convention.

Did you attend Tomodachi Fest this year?  What did you think of artist alley?  Did you commission anyone or receive a commission order yourself?