29 January 2015

Tutorial - Chibi Basics I

Welcome, everyone, to my very first art tutorial!  Several months ago, around the time I started this blog, I put out a poll on my deviantART profile asking what subject I should cover in my inaugural lesson.  More votes were cast for "Chibi Basics" than any other option, so I started brainstorming.  Surprisingly, despite using the word 'basic', I came to realize chibis--my chibis anyway--are actually quite complex!  After some consideration, in order to keep the tutorial relatively simple, easy to follow, and true to its title, I decided to focus on one very specific thing: the process I generally use to draw a chibi.

There are many ways to draw a chibi, many types of chibi to draw, and many decisions & considerations involved when creating a chibi.  For this tutorial, I thought it simplest to focus on a human chibi that was not based on a real person (i.e. caricature) nor on a popular character (i.e. fan art).  With that in mind, I chose to draw my own character Mika, who, in a side note, I have imagined as my inner voice of strength (and when I fail at something, admonition) ever since I invented her.  Her visual design isn't very complex and her character quirks shouldn't interfere with the lesson so I hope you'll find her to be a pleasant teacher.

The following images and instructions were put together in a way that will hopefully allow you to draw along and create your own chibi as you read.  You don't have to draw along, of course--my writing here does not exclude readers who are simply interested in my process--but it could be fun!  If you do draw a chibi using this tutorial, please share, I would love to see it!  For study purposes, you are free to copy my drawing exactly, if it helps~  Now, on to the tutorial proper!

Tutorial: Chibi Basics I


Instructions for drawing a female human chibi character in a stationary pose.

Difficulty Level (Beginner, Easy, Intermediate, Advanced, Expert): 

Easy to Intermediate (Requires some familiarity with anime-style drawing.)

Tools & Supplies:

  • Graphite Pencil (mechanical with 0.5mm lead)
  • Rubber or Vinyl Eraser (the thinner the better)
  • White Paper (at least 4x6" or A6)
  • Digital Drawing Program


Step One: Circles

Basic Framing Circles

Draw two circles, one on top of the other.  The top circle should be large and very round.  Make the bottom circle smaller and more elliptical.

When drawing a chibi human, I always start with two circles, as pictured above.  The first--the larger, more round one--represents the giant chibi head, and the second--the smaller, more ovular one--represents the entire chibi body.  Because the head is much more important for a chibi than its body, I always draw the larger circle first.  When adding the smaller circle, I generally draw it at around 3/4 the size of the head (but I'll sometimes draw it larger or smaller than that, depending on the desired height or intended pose).

Tips for My Students:  When drawing these circles, it's important to use a light hand and attempt to get the circle down with as few strokes as possible.  It's ok to draw the circle several times over to get the desired size and shape--you can see above that I worked the lower circle a bit more than the upper one--but drawing as lightly as possible will make it easier to erase cleanly later (of course, when drawing digitally, we can simply draw on a separate layer).  Don't spend too much time trying to make the circles perfect; there will be plenty of opportunity for fine tuning as we progress.

By drawing these basic circles before anything else, I'm able to claim my space on the page, planning the pose and compositional placement of the chibi.  They help me determine if I'll have enough room for what I want to do, give me my first visual idea of how the character will look, and they're simple enough that erasing and redrawing, multiple times if necessary, won't ruin the paper (of course, some of these issues aren't as important when drawing digitally, but I still use the circles to begin visualizing the character).

Step Two: Outlines & Guidelines

Body and Head Outlined with Guidelines


Define the basic body structure and pose with rough outlines.  Add crosshair guidelines wherever necessary.  Don't add too much detail.

At this point, the chibi already starts to take on a recognizable shape.  Using the circles from Step One as a guide, I define the chibi's head, body, and pose.  For this tutorial, I drew the head in a three-quarters profile view where one ear shows on one side of the head while the indentations and protrusions from the brow and cheek are depicted on the other.  You may notice that I added crosshairs where the face should go.  This is a useful way to map out facial features and it's actually the first thing I do.  Using these guidelines allows me to pose the head and then draw the cranium, cheeks, jawline, and ears to match.

As for the body, since it will be less detailed and is overall less important than the head, I only used a single crosshair (I suppose that just makes it a hair? lol) for this particular chibi.  This crosshair indicates the direction the body will face and gives me a baseline to build around.  In constructing this chibi's body, I used several more oblong circles to map out the arms.  Sometimes, if the pose is unusual or the character's design more complex, I will define the hips, legs, chest, etc. with small circles, as well.  Here, though, I didn't find it necessary.

Tips for My Students:  When drawing the head, remember to place the face lower than you would for a more realistic character.  Giving chibis extra-large craniums really adds to the cute factor.  When drawing the body, remember to make the hips wider than the chest, since we're drawing a female chibi.  Also, do not give the hands too much definition; draw them simply as the smallest end of the tapering shape that makes up the arms.  For the feet, indicate their protrusion with a couple small, simple lines.  The chibi body gets smaller and less defined as one looks it over from top to bottom.

Step Three: Cleanup & Definition

Drawing Cleaned Up for Next Step

Erase guidelines and other marks that are no longer necessary.  Add definition to the female anatomy.

This simple step helps me because I have a hard time deciphering messy sketchwork, even though I'm the one who created it just minutes before.  If the drawing gets too overloaded with unnecessary lines, I not only get confused, I get frustrated.  So here I cleaned up a bit by erasing guidelines that I knew I would no longer need, especially in the tiny area that comprises the body.

The only thing I added here was a small curved line to indicate the other breast.

Tips for My Students:  Feel free to skip the erasing step if you don't feel it is useful for you.  We will have more cleanup opportunities later.  Also, don't try to clean up the entire drawing at this point.  Only erase enough to give yourself a clearer vision of the drawing as a whole.

Step Four: Facial Features

Facial Features Added

Draw the eyes, eyebrows, and the mouth.

This step seems simple, but it can be difficult to get right on the first try (as we will see later!).  When drawing the face, I always start with the eyes.  The crosshairs I drew a couple steps ago become the most useful at this point.  I line the eyes up along the horizontal crosshair, and try to place each eye the same distance away from the vertical crosshair.  Once the eyes are done, I add the eyebrows, spacing them evenly above each eye with the eyebrow ends reaching just a bit further than the eyes themselves, and finish with the mouth whose corners line up approximately with the eyes' pupils.  (In case you're wondering, I don't draw noses on my chibis.  I just think they look cuter without.)  For the expression, I decided on a mellow smile (a bit of a reflection of the way I was feeling at the time).  Now chibi Mika is starting to appear~

Step Five: Clothing

Clothing Added

Add clothing.  Erase obsoleted lines as necessary.

Now we're coming to some of the funnest parts of drawing chibis.  Adding clothing, whether it's predefined (as when drawing a caricature or fan art), or it's being pulled directly from imagination, is very entertaining because we get to make it so small and simple.  I suppose this is the same reason why I find baby versions of grown-up shoes so adorable and amusing, ha ha.

Anyway, in trying to keep with the "basic" theme of this tutorial, I gave chibi Mika a very simple outfit comprised of an A-line skirt, a ribbed sweater, and some boots.  As I drew these items, I erased lines that were no longer needed.  For instance, once the skirt was drawn, it had 'covered up' the thighs, so I erased those lines.  Again, this erasing process is simply the way I keep track of what I'm doing as the drawing develops and becomes more complex.

Tips for My Students:  When drawing your chibi's clothes, don't forget to consider the thickness of the fabric you're trying to depict (notice how the lines for the sweater, in my example above, sometimes bulge away from the lines that indicate the arms) and attempt to draw folds even though the chibi body is so small.  Including these details helps impart a realistic touch to an otherwise unrealistically proportioned character.  All good caricaturizations, including chibis, need a balance between exaggeration and familiarity.

Step Six: Hair

Hair Added

Draw the hair.  Use outlines and avoid adding too much detail just yet.  Again, erase obsoleted lines as necessary.

Arguably, drawing hair is an anime-inspired artist's favorite thing.  It's definitely one of my top favorites, anyway.  The organic, flowing shapes, the wild styles, the personality...it's so fun and creative!  Recently, I changed Mika's normal hairstyle.  When I first designed her, she had a buzz cut everywhere except her bangs and long queue.  As you can see here, I drew chibi Mika with her new style, which is mostly the same except the buzz has been replaced by a french braid.

As with the previous step, I erased any lines that were effectively rendered useless by the addition of the hair.

Tips for My Students:  When drawing a chibi's hair, always use the head as a reference for the length and volume.  Don't use the body as a comparison except when drawing long styles.  For example, when my character Mika is drawn with normal proportions, her side-bangs fall a little past her shoulders while her queue reaches down to the small of her back.  So, normally, her longest bangs are around 1.5 times the length of her head, while her queue is 2 or 3 times that length.  Now, when translating those proportions to a chibi and using the size of the head as a reference, the bangs still size up to about 1.5 times the length of the head, but the queue is much smaller.  This is because, although we want to make the hair match the head's proportions, Mika's queue, if it were 3 times the length of her chibi head, would end several centimeters below her feet, effectively forcing us to draw hair that drags along the floor (nasty) in order to maintain a proportional length.  With that in mind, I feel it's better to make the hair match the size of the head EXCEPT when it's so long that it would exceed the length of the body.

Step Seven: Details

Details Added Throughout Drawing

Add final details (individual strands of hair, folds, small accessories, blush marks, etc.).  Make final corrections as necessary.

This is the last drawing step in my chibi process.  At this point, I add remaining accessories and other character-defining visual traits, reevaluate and correct existing linework, and scrutinize the details so that I can finalize the drawing as a whole.  In the example above, I added individual strands to Mika's hair, drew in her monocle-sunglass (if there's a proper word for such an invention, I would love to know it!), erased and redrew one of her eyes as well as the hair at the crown of her head, added small details to her face (blush marks, eyelid creases, ear curves) and subtly changed and added to the clothing (especially the thickness of and wrinkles in her sweater).

This step, though it doesn't necessarily produce a distinctive visual change, is still one of the most important.  Adding small accessories, such as Mika's distinctive eyepiece, helps to bring out character.  Correcting unsatisfactory lines--for my biggest change, I added more distance between the eyes to make the whole face look cuter--prevents glaring mistakes from monopolizing the viewer's attention.  Focusing on details and making subtle changes ensures the drawing looks polished, even when left in a rough, sketchy state.

Step Eight: Cleanup

Unnecessary Lines Cleaned Up (Final Drawing)

Erase all unnecessary lines and clean up stray graphite (if working in physical media).

To be honest, I don't usually do this step.  Most of the time, I will follow the previous step with inking and coloring but for the sake of this tutorial, which is already ridiculously long for being called the "Basics", I decided to end the drawing with a simple cleanup step.  All I did was use an eraser to eliminate all the sketchy lines that were no longer needed so that the drawing was left looking crisp and complete.

Tips for My Students:  When erasing around super-small details, don't be afraid to erase and redraw lines that you actually wish to keep.  Sometimes, this is the only way to clean up an area satisfactorily.


And we're done!  I hope you had fun drawing your own Mika-style chibi (Mika both because the chibi I drew here was Mika and because my nickname is Mika) and/or that you found the exhibition and explanation of my chibi-making process to be interesting.  I very much welcome any questions you may have.  I would be more than happy to expound on any of the steps listed above.

Don't forget to share your chibis with me!  I want to see what you make!

25 January 2015

ArtSnacks - December 2014

This poor ArtSnacks box has been so neglected.  I opened it right away (I ate the candy right away, too!) and I've used many of the supplies several times now, but when it came to sharing my unboxing, I was severely delayed by my Studio Collection unboxing and review.  I didn't even have time to create an ArtSnacks Challenge with these items (not the first time that's happened, unfortunately) but I hope you'll enjoy this post despite its tardiness; the December ArtSnacks box came with some fun and useful stuff!

First Look Inside the December 2014 ArtSnacks Box

The December box was very festive!  ArtSnacks' usual neon green tissue paper looks so Christmassy alongside the little peppermint stick and other red items~  Christmas is my favorite time of year, so I began to love this box the moment I looked inside.  I couldn't wait to eat that peppermint stick!

Contents of the December 2014 ArtSnacks Box Laid Out

Contents of the December 2014 ArtSnacks Box Fully Revealed

I'm actually a bit sad to have neglected this box; all the items here are a drawing-artist's dream!  Drawing is my favorite and most accessible way to create art so all the supplies in this box are great for me.  Maybe I'll do a super-late ArtSnacks Challenge with them, just to make sure they get their fair share of attention.  It seems a shame not to, with a box so perfectly matched to my tastes.

Here's what came in my December box [specific attributes in brackets]:
  • Pentalic Drawing Pencils, 6 Degree Set
  • Faber-Castel Colored Art Eraser (i.e. Kneaded Eraser) [red]
  • Uni POSCA Paint Marker [black]
  • Prismacolor Premier Illustration Marker [01, fine line, black]

Pentalic 6 Drawing Pencil Set

Pentalic 6 Drawing Pencil Set, Focus on Tips
Hardnesses Included in the Pentalic 6 Drawing Pencil Set

This first item, the Pentalic drawing pencil set, is the only thing from this box I haven't used properly.  I've done some scribbles to demonstrate the pencils' general capabilities but I haven't actually created a drawing with them yet.  (Just another reason to do a late ArtSnacks Challenge!) Despite this, I'm already very happy with this pencil set.

For one, the tin case is awesome.  It's hinged (so I won't misplace the lid!), made of stiff metal that'll withstand most bumps and scrapes, with grooves in the bottom for each pencil to rest in, and a layer of padding on the lid to protect the contents.  This would be a great item to take traveling--on a daily commute, a trip the park, even camping or hiking--it's slim enough to fit in a pocket and study enough to keep the pencils safe.

On top of that, receiving a matching, balanced, and well-ranged set of six (pre-sharpened!) pencils is very impressive!  Most art subscription boxes I've received feature just one pencil from a certain brand or line, maybe two or three if they're colored or otherwise significantly different, but this is the first time I've received a full set like this.  It's less like an art snack and more like an art appetizer!

Demonstration of the Pentalic Drawing Pencils

In the photo above, I went through some basic pencilling techniques with each hardness.  I hope it presents a general idea of what the pencils are capable of.  During that brief demo, I didn't notice any glaring problems; smooth, consistent, responsive, and comfortable, these tools behaved just as well as any other artist-quality pencil I've ever tried.

New Faber-Castell Art Eraser

I suppose this next item, the Faber-Castell kneaded eraser, also hasn't been used as fully as it might.  Unlike the pencil set, however, this isn't something that needs extensive testing to determine whether it performs well or not.  I'll definitely use it if I do a late ArtSnacks Challenge, but I'm not going out of my way to make sure it receives a lot of immediate use.

Erasing with the Faber-Castell Art Eraser
Graphite Lifted by the Faber-Castell Art Eraser
Demonstration of the Art Eraser's Capabilities

All I really had to do in order to evaluate this eraser was feel the kneaded texture and see how well it removed graphite from the page.  The texture was good.  Easy to mold, soft, but not stringy or overly dry.  I was able to form the eraser without trouble and it kept its shape as well as can be expected.  The erasing capabilities were also good.  For my test, I pulled up a line of graphite from each of the demo scribbles I had previously done with the pencils.  Even on the dark 8B, the eraser was able to clean up quite well.

Used Eraser Formed to Return to Its Case

Art Eraser Returned to Its Case

Practically Good as New!

What really sets this Faber-Castell kneaded eraser apart is its pretty red color and the handy storage case.  The color is, of course, just a visual bonus.  It doesn't affect the item's performance, but it's still really fun!  Sure, it'll eventually be dulled when it's full of graphite and charcoal, but I think even then it'll appear more cheerful than the typical lifeless grey of your standard kneaded eraser.  (I wonder if everyone got red or if I just lucked out in receiving my favorite color...)

Unlike the coloration, the storage case is a much more tangible advantage for this product.  The biggest problem I have with kneaded erasers is they dry out over time, becoming more and more difficult to manipulate.  This is especially frustrating when warming up an eraser that hasn't been used for a while.  Of course, the material the eraser picks up as it's used probably contributes to its eventual stiff demise, but at least having a case to slow moisture loss will allow the eraser to last longer than it might otherwise.

Visual Instructions on Posca Marker Body

Other Information on Posca Marker Body

Posca Marker Body

The Posca paint marker has so far proven to be a relatively unique item in its category.  Most paint markers I've used come with huge tips that only make them useful for larger drawings and filling in broad areas.  The Posca, on the other hand, has a lovely small tip that lines almost like a felt-tip pen.

Aside from the uniquely small tip, I'm also pleased with this marker's visual design.  The body is chunky and squat, with a matching cap and useful information printed clearly and cheerfully all around.  It's very cute to look at and satisfying to hold.

Large Unintentional Drip of Paint

Demonstration of Posca Paint Marker's Capabilities

Unfortunately, despite the marker's visual and physical appeal, it has some conspicuous problems.  As you can see in the images above, the paint delivery is not particularly reliable.  When I first primed the tip, a sizable drip of paint plopped out without warning.  At first I thought this was just a 'new marker problem', that perhaps I shook or pumped the marker too much before its first use, but the marker again delivered too much paint the second time I used it (a few days later).  Thankfully, once the initial overflow of paint is used up, perhaps on a scrap paper, the delivery evens out, but there is a second issue that isn't as easily avoided.

In the upper-right image (click to enlarge) the curly-cue and Xs are riddled with tiny paint splatters ("Eeek..." is my initial reaction to this unexpected event!).  This happened simply as I was pulling the marker tip across the page.  This paper isn't particularly toothy, so I can only conclude something about the marker itself causes this to happen.  I hoped this was a kink that could be worked out as the marker got broken in, but, after a flawless second attempt, it started spattering paint again during its third use.  It seems the only way to avoid this issue is to draw very slowly and lightly, but that's not easy to always remember or follow through on, nor is it a very reasonable expectation for a tool like this anyway.

At least I can praise the paint itself.  I really love the thick texture and subtle shine when it dries.

Prismacolor Illustration Marker

Prismacolor Illustration Marker, Fine Tip
Demonstration of the Illustration Marker's Capabilities

The last item I received in the December 2014 ArtSnacks box is a Prismacolor Illustration Marker.  The menu describes three tip types--I got a fine liner--but I'm not sure if colors other than black were sent out.  If you got a different color, let me know!

I've only tested this marker (really, in my mind this is a pen, but I'll try to go with the product's official description) on its own.  Since I haven't used it in conjunction with anything else (e.g. Copic markers, watercolor) I can't say whether or not it plays well with others.  By itself, it seems to be a fairly standard, reliable tool with a nice dark ink that is smoothly and consistently delivered.  In that respect, it quite reminds me of my go-to inking pens (Sakura Pigma).  I'll be interested to see if this Illustration Marker does well with my Copic markers; if so, I could consider it further when it comes time to buy more inking pens, especially if the price is right.

Co-Mo Sketchpad with ArtSnacks Sticker Applied
Here's a bonus photo.  This is the Aquabee Co-Mo Sketch Pad, which I received in the 2014 Studio Collection, but the sticker is from this ArtSnacks box.  I've always liked to put stickers on my sketchbooks but it's even better when I can use my ArtSnacks stickers to label my ArtSnacks paper pads!

And there we have the last ArtSnacks box of 2014!  Only a month or two late, ha ha ha.  Let me know if you have any questions about the tools featured here.  If I don't know the answer off-hand, I can always experiment or research to find out!  For those of you who also got the December box, let me know if yours was different and what you think of the products you received!

20 January 2015

ArtSnacks - Studio Collection 2014 (Part II)

Hey, are you ready for Part II of my ArtSnacks Studio Collection feature?!  This time you'll get to see some brief testing and general demonstration of the items I received in my Studio Collection box.  Not everything from the box will be shown here--the Lumi Inkodye set requires ample sunlight, something that's in short supply during Northwest winters in the States--but on the whole you should get a nice idea of the possibilities these awesome art supplies hold.  Let's get into it!

Confidant Sketchbook with Drawing Done with Copic Doodle Pack
I put my fancy Studio Collection sticker in this sketchbook~

I couldn't wait to try out these first couple items: the Copic Doodle Pack (I received the brown set) and the Baron Fig Confidant sketchbook.  I was particularly impressed and excited by these things from the first moment I saw them and I haven't stopped using them since (I've actually been carrying them around everywhere I go, replacing my usual sketchbook and pencil pouch).  For my first test, I decided to fill in the bookplate area at the beginning of the Confidant.

Close-Up of Bookplate Drawing
This photo really shows the glitter from the Spica pen!

I started the above drawing with the brown Copic Multiliner pen.  I then added blocks of color with the two Copic Ciao markers (E31, the lighter brown, and E35, the darker).  After that, I added detail and went over some existing lines with the Atyou Spica pen (in chocolate, i.e. warm brown).  Around the border, I added even more detail with the Multiliner.  Having a restricted but highly coordinated set of tools to use, by which I mean the Copic Doodle Pack, actually increased my sense of satisfaction while drawing this.  I felt a lot more creative, as if I was using logic to both create and solve a puzzle.  Rather the same feeling I get when creating my monthly ArtSnacks Challenge, hee hee.

When examining these items one-by-one, I'm generally pleased with all of them, though a few do have some shortcomings.  The Copic Multiliner and Atyou Spica pen both perform perfectly, exactly as expected, no complaints there.  The Copic Ciao markers, though awesome for their beautiful color and two different nibs (one end is a chisel tip, the other is a brush), seem to be quite dry.  I had only done a couple small drawings when I noticed the color was no longer flowing freely from the nibs.  I know these are refillable--and that the Ciao markers have a much smaller reservoir compared to the standard Copic marker I normally use--but it's disappointing nonetheless.

The Baron Fig Confidant sketchbook is also quite pleasing--beautiful off-white and smooth-textured pages, binding that allows the book to lay flat while you draw, a tassel to keep you at a fresh page every time, and a strong, compact storage box that protects your sketchbook while on the go--but the pages do bleed profusely when used with marker.  Not only does the color seep through to the back of the page after just one layer of marker, it will stain the front of the next page if you add any additional layers.  This hasn't stopped me from using the Copic Doodle Pack with the Confidant, but it does prevent me from using the front and back of each page (and also I must accept that sometimes a markered relic from the previous drawing will be present in the next).

Overall, I can't say either of these two items, the Copic Doodle Pack and the Baron Fig Confidant, are something I would definitely buy on my own once they're used up (I might buy them, mind you, I just don't feel I would be lost if I didn't) but they're still a couple of my very favorite and most-used supplies from the Studio Collection.

PanPastel Pans Unscrewed and Laid Out
Focus on the Tools in the Bottom Pan

The next items I tested out were the PanPastel Artists' Pastels on the Aquabee Co-Mo sketchpad.  I really have only an instinctual idea of how pastels are meant to be used, but even through my ignorance, the big, bright colors and the intriguing set-up of the PanPastels called to me most insistently.  I can't properly describe how quietly thrilling it was to take apart and examine all the little goodies contained in the pastel stack.  First, there are five beautiful colors, each getting its own mini-spotlight as the container (or lid) above it is unscrewed and removed.  The primaries (red, blue, yellow) are deliciously vibrant while the black and white are velvety and rich.  Then, revealed in the bottom-most pan, there are four different, exciting-looking tools to play with!

All of these tools look and feel exactly like makeup applicators.  That's not a complaint or jab, just something I find interesting since I was already reminded of makeup from the moment I pulled this product out of the box (more about that in Part I).  There were four specific tools included with the PanPastels: a relatively large, rectangular sponge with one square and one curved end, a small applicator stick with a spade-shaped sponge tip (exactly like a typical eye shadow applicator), and two sleeve-like sponges, one round and one square.  The nice thing about these items is, since they're obviously made of the same stuff as makeup applicators, it'll be easy and inexpensive to replace or augment them (just stop by the health & beauty section at pretty much any department store).

Various Pastels Applied and Mixed on the Page
So bright, so bold!  I want to experiment more fully with these pastels!

I feel this photo doesn't do justice to the awesome, rich color that the pastels left on the Co-Mo sketchpad.  When I first scooped up the pigment with the various tools, I was going in with the idea of testing how each tool worked to apply the color.  As soon as the first mark was made, however, all I could think about was experimenting with mixing and layering these bold colors.  I really didn't notice much difference between the four sponges, though I did diligently work with each size and shape.  Perhaps I was overwhelmed by the beautiful colors (bright, energetic colors are my weakness) and when I work with these pastels again in a more structured or purposeful way, perhaps I will be able to properly appreciate each applicator's unique qualities.

In any case, there's no doubt the stars of the PanPastels tower are the pigments themselves.  It didn't take much pastel to create vibrant, thick coverage.  They mixed with each other well, too, especially the primary colors.  Both the white and the black simply dulled the primaries--creating various smoky grey colors as opposed to a darker version of red, blue, or yellow--but if one is aware of that fact, it can be used to the artist's advantage (or at least avoided when the effect is not desired).  Overall, my impression of these pastels was that they exist and work somewhere between the realm of colored pencil and watercolor paint.

Used Applicator Sponges in Their Pan
All done for now!

Something I want to point out before I move on is that using the sleeve sponges on the end of the spade applicator was tricky business.  I quickly rubbed a hole into one of the sleeves.  I wasn't working very vigorously, so my warning to anyone using these applicators is to use a light hand or find a different type of stylus to use the sleeves on.  If you're wondering why I didn't just place the sleeves over the spade sponge itself, rather than the black plastic handle, it's simply because they didn't fit.  Or at least, they wouldn't have fit without much stretching and struggling with sponge-against-sponge friction.  I think even if I had gone that route, I probably would have caused more damage to the applicators than I did with the over-handle method.

I should also mention that I haven't tried washing these sponges yet.  They seem like they would clean up easily with soap and water.  I'll find out next time I use them, since I don't want to muddy up the color in the pans by using unclean applicators.

Drawing Done with Blue KRINK K-32 Marker
Close-Up of Krink Marker Drawing
Close-Up of Krink K-32 Paint Marker

I used the Co-Mo sketchpad again for my very brief test of the Krink K-32 water-based paint marker.  Partly because I knew the paper couldn't take it and partly because I'd prefer to do it in conjunction with other water-soluble art media, I didn't do any in-depth experimentation such as thick layer building or gradating with water.  All I did here was play around with the tip to see what kind of shapes it would produce.  I'm happy to report it proved quite versatile!  You can see in the photos above I was able to coax out little thin lines, softly angular dots, and big fat strokes.  The blue color was satisfyingly vibrant and bold (again, my weakness!) and provided dense coverage.  It didn't take too long for the pigments to dry, while still leaving enough working time if one wanted to mix in some water.

I admit I didn't spend too much time testing this item, but it's easily one of my top favorite Krink products to date.  I'm going to experiment with it more in conjunction with regular watercolor paints.  I think the results will be great.

Written Examples of the ZIG Pen Capabilities
Close-Up of the Four ZIG Twin Tips

Even more briefly than the previous item, I tested the ZIG Memory System Twin Tips set.  On the face of it, these pens are fairly straightforward.  Two different nibs on either end of each pen, for a total of eight different tips, all with black ink inside.  The pens are well-designed with a delicious satin finish on the body and caps that stack so there's no interruption to workflow (so annoying, realizing the cap cannot be snapped onto the other end of the instrument, having to set the cap down wherever while working, then trying to find it again among the inevitable clutter of one's creative process; stacking caps are a must for double-ended pens!).  In the photos above, I show what each different nib produced when writing (please note that I am no calligrapher, ha ha).

Although this set is clearly intended for calligraphers, scrapbookers, and anyone else doing decorative lettering, as an illustrator I've found the wide range of marks these pens create to be useful and refreshing for any type of line work.  Outlining with the scroll tip (as I did on my Tea Ducks), filling in with the 5.0mm calligraphy tip, hatching and stippling with the writer, there are all kinds of cool things that can be done to enliven and complete a drawing or painting with these versatile pens.  For me, the set isn't so much a thing to be used all at once to create a single piece but, rather, an array of tools with the potential to augment almost any artwork I produce.  This is one of the most useful items I received in my Studio Collection box and I've since kept it nearby whenever I'm working.

As far as this testing session is concerned, this is the last time I used the Co-Mo sketchpad so I'll leave my review of it here.  I was quite satisfied!  The texture isn't what I normally go in for, but for use with the PanPastels, it was perfect.  When I used the Krink paint marker, I was happy to see that it didn't bleed through onto the next page.  And finally, when I wrote with the ZIG pens, the ink did not feather and I was left with lines as fine and crisp as could be hoped.  Like the Baron Fig sketchbook, it's not something I feel I couldn't live without, but it's definitely (as a lover of artist papers) something I'm pleased to now have in my repertoire.

Sketch on Smartphone App Done With Buddy Stylus
Showing the Buddy Stylus Creating a Mark

At last, we have come to the final item I'll be demonstrating here.  This is the first digital media tool ever featured in any post on this blog, as it happens.  It's the Buddy Stylus!  I simply placed it on the blunt end of a Papermate pen and fired up my rarely-used smartphone sketching app (nothing wrong with the app, I just prefer sketching on paper.  The app is Autodesk SketchBook, if you're curious).  Since I rarely create on my phone, I don't have much to compare my experience to, but I can say the Buddy Stylus performed without issue.  I was able to draw lines, select menu options, basically do anything I might otherwise have done with my fingertip on a smartphone screen.  The stylus itself is made of velvety-smooth, firm-but-forgiving rubber, making it reasonably comfortable to use.  Above all, it really is nice to choose what instrument to use the stylus with, though I think there is probably a limit to how thick a pen it can accommodate.  I imagine this product would be especially useful for those digital artists who create on tablets.

So that's all for now!  Come summer, I'll use the Lumi Inkodye kit, the only Studio Collection item still left to test out, and share my results with you.  Maybe I'll call it Part III.  Please look forward to it!  Until then, let me know what you thought of the items featured here.  Anything else you would like to see done with them?  Do you have personal experience with these tools?  Suggestions for neat, unthought-of uses you would like to share?

11 January 2015

New Art - Companions

My first new art piece of 2015!  This painting was actually several years in the making, initially requested in 2010 or '11 (I honestly can't remember now), practice sketches done within the next year or two, pencil lines completed in 2013 or '14, and now the final steps of painting and inking are complete.  This blog entry will focus on those last steps which were undertaken in 2015.

The backstory to this painting is pretty simple: for his birthday, my beau asked me to paint him and myself as Doctor Who companions.  At that time, I was already getting into 10th Doctor (David Tennant) Doctor Who on my own because my local PBS station was playing episodes every week. My beau furthered my interest by introducing me to the 9th Doctor (Christopher Eccleston).  I've since watched every Eccleston episode and more than half of the Tennant episodes, but my beau remains the more fervent Doctor Who fan of the two of us (he's seen almost everything, I think, even the original episodes!).  Because of that, I felt pressure from myself to make this painting as good as possible.  Coupled with other time-consuming responsibilities, that pressure caused a lot of delay.  Whenever someone asks me for gift art, I have a harder time creating because I don't want to 'mess it up' (even when I'm reassured that they'll love whatever I come up with).  Sometimes this means I never finish the piece at all.  Lucky for this request, for the past few months I've been feeling really confident when I create--truly embracing any 'mistakes'--even when the result is meant to be a gift.  This is the biggest reason I was finally able to complete this piece.
Artist and Her Beau, in Watercolor
I've been really enjoying making "splotchy" watercolor, recently.

I feel like I have a photo somewhere of the graphite linework for this piece but it's too much trouble to dig through 2+ years of photos to find it now, ha ha.  I still have the original drawing, which I traced onto the paper pictured above, but I neglected to photograph it before starting in with paint.  All this means is that none of the work prior to what I did in 2015 will be pictured here.  In the photo above, I'd completed the first application of watercolor paint (starting with watercolor marker as a base in dark areas).  I focused simply on getting the main colors down on the figures, including only basic, rough shading.
Tracing a TARDIS onto the Painting
Google image search + Photoshop and my printer = TARDIS!

This next step, though simple, was actually a breakthrough for me.  One of the biggest challenges I faced while composing this piece was how to make it look like Doctor Who.  My first idea was to draw us inside the TARDIS and/or with the Doctor himself.  I quickly gave up on the Doctor (how to choose which iteration?! I hate choosing favorites, though I do have them...) and when trying to draw the inside of the TARDIS, I kept getting frustrated because the place is so complex.  I found it difficult to find an angle that matched our poses and looked recognizable without crowding the composition.  Not to mention that the inside of the TARDIS changes almost as often as the Doctor himself.  It wasn't until this year that I had the amazingly simple idea of tracing a police box in the background.  Such a relief to finally solve that puzzle!  Not to mention feeling a bit foolish for not thinking of it earlier.
Background Started
I'm in love with using sponges in my watercolor works.

The next steps I took involved more watercolor.  I used watercolor markers to paint the TARDIS.  By drawing with the markers first, then spreading the pigment around with brush and water, I was able to give the box some texture.  While going over the blue watercolor marker, I also pulled some of the color onto the figures of my beau and me in order to tie the fore- and backgrounds together.  I even painted the white parts of the TARDIS a little bit, just to make sure everything looked worked. 

The background was simple but took a long time to complete due to drying times (above, you may notice the page was still very wet when the photo was taken).  I started by wetting the entire background and dropping paint onto it.  I then swirled the page gently, to spread the color organically, and let it dry completely.  I repeated this process a couple more times, sometimes guiding the paint into small areas with a brush, and finished by daubing even more paint all over the background with a sponge.  All of this was to create something reminiscent of the purple-blue-black spacey backgrounds so often a part of Doctor Who imagery.
Stencils Added to the Painting
Stencils are awesome!

At this point, I began to add things that never would have happened if this piece hadn't been put off for so long.  The first is the use of stencils to create texture.  I simply took one of my organic-patterned stencils and painted over it, just to add visual interest to the background.  This is something I only started doing in 2014 and wasn't part of my technique back when this piece was first requested. 

Next, something that wouldn't have happened if I had completed this painting even a month earlier: the addition of Gallifreyan-like text.  To do it, I entered a Google image search to see what Gallifreyan is supposed to look like (rather than just making it up and hoping it was recognizable) and used an image result I liked as inspiration.  I just used one of my watercolor markers and a couple circle templates (the one pictured above is actually meant for quilting but it works awesomely for my purposes).  As I worked creating my own Gallifreyan message, I actually began feeling like, if I really studied, I could someday understand the language, ha ha.  By drawing it myself, rather than simply looking at those crazy-complicated scripts, certain patterns and rules began to appear.  That being said, I didn't try to write anything in particular here, ha ha.  If anything, I hope it reads "happy birthday" and not something rude, ha ha ha.

The reason I thought to add the text in the first place is my beau mentioned a couple weeks ago that a pageful of circles I had drawn for an art exercise looked "like Gallifreyan".  A few days later, I realized it could be a great way to add more Doctor Who to the entire piece.
Black Ink Being Added
Gel ink on the TARDIS, black ink to bring out the lineart.
White Ink Added
Finishing with white ink to add dimension.

The next step I took creating this piece is usually my last: inking.  I went over the TARDIS lines with glittery gel pen and inked its black parts with a dip pen.  I continued with the black ink on the foreground, going over almost all of the graphite lineart (I left some of it uninked; certain areas look better with only the subtle graphite lines) and adding hatching to enhance shadows or wrinkles.  I did the same thing with white ink after that, adding highlights to areas that were meant to shine (hair, eyes, shoes).

This was another step that took a long while due to drying times.  I would ink a small area, then wait for it to fully dry before continuing onto the next area.  The process was tedious but it helped prevent any smudges (though it didn't help drips!  Luckily, the single, substantial drip I faced was dealt with so well--if I do say so myself--that it's impossible to tell where it happened or how bad it was).
Close-Up of the Painting and Silver Acrylic Paint
Metallic paint, mm-hmm, who doesn't love metallic paint~?

As I said above, inking is usually my last step in a piece like this, but I was inspired by the paint I had received in the most recent Pigment+Palette box: metallic silver acrylic.  I wasn't able to use it in the way I originally intended (spattering over the page with a brush; it just didn't wanna! It foamed in the brush instead of flicking down onto the page, even when watered down or used on a toothbrush) so I went back to my sponge and stencils instead.  My vision of the completed piece was forced to change with the circumstances but I was still satisfied with the result.
Completed Painting
This birthday request has finally been fulfilled!

After the acrylic dried (goodness, I really love the way metallic media changes with the light; it's something digital art just can't replicate) it was finally time for the finishing touches.  I used several different ink pens to clean up little details throughout the piece.  More than anything, I went over the silver paint in certain areas to make it look like the lineart was showing through.  I had actually banked on the acrylic being translucent, so the final detailing ended up as an unexpectedly large task, though it was, of course, worth the effort.
Happy Birthday, Sean~!
Happy birthday!  Time for adventure!

I don't know if I'll ever get better at completing request art in a timely manner--that voice in my head which pressures me to make it perfect is the same voice which helps me improve my skills in general--but for now it feels great to have finished this one.  I'm proud and pleased to report that my beau already has the piece framed and mounted on a wall at home~