04 July 2018

Aunt Sam - Happy Independence Day 2018!

Happy Independence Day from me, here, in the United States of America!  I was inspired to create something fun and unique today, since the holiday falls on a work day!  Please allow me to present Aunt Sam!

"Aunt Sam 2018"
graphite, watercolor, gouache, acrylic, and ink on watercolor paper, 5x7"
Completed 4 July 2018

I wanted to genderbend our well-known fictional representative and make her a cheeky, fun-loving lady (as opposed to the grump on the Army recruitment poster, lol).  I don't know where the idea came from, but once I thought of it, that's all I wanted to do for my 4th of July Twitch stream.  I think more than anything, the fact that this would give me a break from my February Gryphon illustration, which I've been working on diligently every day for the past few weeks, was what motivated me.

I ended up using an even wider variety of media than I originally planned.  My plan evolved as I worked and after finishing the graphite sketch and the watercolor, my use of the gouache with a stencil proved that I would need to use something else when adding more detail to the background.  I had intended to use gouache there too, but it was too bold and would have taken away from the main focus of the piece (Aunt Sam, that is).  So I switched to metallic silver acrylic!  I love the effect!  I definitely think it was the right move.  Everything else went as planned and I finished off the details with ink and more gouache.

Real time creation video of Aunt Sam 2018.

I had so much fun creating this piece (and chatting with one of my Twitch friends) that I ended up streaming for a full hour longer than scheduled!  And I didn't even notice my back hurting or my stomach complaining for food like I usually do.  I definitely needed this break :3  What a great way to start my long holiday weekend!  Happy Independence Day, everyone 🇺🇸

P.S. Consider supporting my art career by purchasing this artwork as a print!  Available as art prints, mouse pads, mugs, and more! Click here to check it out :D

21 June 2018

Chibi Bilbo Baggins

Today I'd like to share a chibi I drew for myself, as a response to an art challenge posted by my friend on my message board back in April 2017.  The challenge was to draw something from one's first anime.  When I thought very hard about it, I realized that, technically, my first anime was The Hobbit!  Although it is a Rankin/Bass film, the animation was done by what would eventually become Studio Ghibli.  So, to complete the challenge, I drew the cutest Bilbo Baggins I could!

"Chibi Bilbo"
ink and Manga Studio, 4x5"
Completed 9 February 2018
I've always loved the incredibly unique art style of the animated The Hobbit adaptation (as well as that of its sequel, The Return of the King).  It was very fun to take that amazing style and process it through my own chibi style to come up with this super cute Bilbo!  I started by finding a good reference image from the movie and then began sketching.

Completed sketch.
I used my Plumchester sketchbook to draw this piece and the sketch was done with a simple mechanical pencil.  Interestingly, I didn't move directly onto inking.  For whatever reason, I forgot about the project entirely until my friend posted his completed challenge drawing a week later XD

Erasing pencil.
Completed inking.
I used my Sakura Micron pens to ink.  I may have used a small brush pen of a different brand as well, but I honestly can't remember anymore, lol.  I cleaned it up and got it scanned in and digitized for coloring on my PC but, again, for whatever reason, I totally forgot about the project and didn't start coloring it until nine months later!!

My digital working environment with reference and color swatches.
What got me to finally pick this project back up was my need for digital work to do during the months when I was in-between homes earlier this year.  I was extremely fortunate to be in a place where I could stream art on Twitch despite my awkward situation, but digital was MUCH easier to do since I had a rather small workspace.  That's how I dug this file back up and finished it off!  You can watch the whole thing happen in the video below!

The coloring of Chibi Bilbo in real time.

So there we have it!  Took nearly a year but I finally completed my friend's art challenge XD  I'm really happy with this chibi, it reminds me just how much I truly love that awesome, unique art style from Rankin/Bass's version of The Hobbit~

18 June 2018

Mika's Pets as Chibis!

This year I did something I'm actually surprised I never have before: drew all my pets in chibi form!  Pet caricatures are something I've done here and there in the past, but this year I've been taking it to the next level, promoting this artistic service as an inexpensive way to obtain custom artwork in my unique style.  So, who better to model for this product than my own precious fur babies?

Click images to see them larger :D

Another reason I drew this set of chibis was because I needed subjects for the weekly themed drawing I started doing for my Twitch livestreams, Chibi Friday.  I wanted to avoid too much fan art and everyone loves animals, so I figured my pets were a great subject that anyone could enjoy (^^)  Each of these drawings took about two hours to draw, give or take, so they were also the perfect fit for my standard streaming window!

"Chibi Kiba"
ink, marker, colored pencil, 4x6"
Completed February 2018

The first pet I drew was my black Manx, Kiba.  I don't know why I decided on this, but I started with him because I wanted to draw everyone from smallest to biggest.  The reference photo I used showed him laying on the floor on his side, looking up at the camera.  I'm not sure if that comes across here without a background, lol.

 Here's the video of Chibi Kiba's creation!

"Chibi Kiki"
ink, marker, colored pencil, 4x6"
Completed February 2018

Next, as the second smallest pet in the house, I drew my cat Kiki.  Her full name is actually supposed to be Tanuki because of her adorable striped tail, but that name was very quickly shortened XD For her chibification, I chose another unusual pose as reference.  I wanted to challenge myself to draw chibis in positions that I never have before.  So she's sitting on the floor, looking straight up at the camera, in her reference image.

Here's part one of chibi Kiki's creation...
...and this is part two!

"Chibi Bear"
ink, marker, colored pencil, 4x6"
Completed March 2018

Next on my list was Bear, my second largest pet and the biggest cat.  He's also the oldest pet!  If I remember correctly, Bear's reference image was unique among this series because I took it right before I started drawing.  We had only just got his weight back to normal after years of trial and error so I wanted to draw him looking his healthiest (^^)  He wasn't very amused by my picture-taking so that's why he looks kind of annoyed in the drawing, lol.

This is chibi Bear's video~

"Chibi Sun"
ink, marker, colored pencil, 4x6"
Completed March 2018

Finally, the last pet in this series, and the only dog, is my Shiba Inu, Sun!  His name is pronounced "soon" like the Chinese surname (I named him after the Sun clan in Dynasty Warriors and Sun Wukong, the monkey king X3).  His might be the most difficult pose I took on but I'm extremely pleased with the result!  In the reference image, he was laying upside down in a recliner, lol.

And here is the creation video for chibi Sun!

So that's everyone, three cats, one dog, Kiba, Kiki, Bear, and Sun~  If you'd like me to chibify your pet, or even your favorite animal, I am always open for these quick projects!  Just email me at Denise.Mikarts@gmail.com to get set up!

15 June 2018

Druchii Commission Parts 1 & 2

This is an extra special post since it covers a project that I've been working on since years before I even thought of starting this blog.  Way back in 2011, my services were engaged by several members of a group of online Warhammer roleplayers.  They had seen my previous tabletop gaming character design work and wanted me to bring their team to life :)

First group, completed 2014.  Click image to see larger!

Specifically, they wanted me to visually design and illustrate six of their main player characters. They were all Druchii, the Warhammer dark elves, all with very different aspects and histories (as is only right in a decent roleplaying party).  I received written descriptions of each character and started my work from there.  Eventually, another member of the group liked my progress so much that he commissioned me to design a further four characters!  I was so excited to be in such demand!

Unfortunately, that excitement caused me to bite off way more than I could chew.  I thought I would be able to complete the project in a manner of months.  When all was said and done, it took me almost seven years!  I finished the tenth and final character in March of this year.  I suppose seven is an auspicious number, and I learned a LOT about a wide variety of things thanks to this project, so in the end, I completed it with positive feelings.

Second group, completed 2018.  Click image to see larger!

Aside from technical skill I gained through visually working on these characters, I learned a lot about myself as a professional artist.  I learned what I can and can't handle, I got a better idea of how long it takes me to create things, I realized that design work MUST be approached differently than work that already has complete visual reference available.  Perhaps most importantly, I understood the true value of my time.  As hard as it may be to turn people down or ask for more than I know they can offer, underselling myself just to snag the job does no one any good.  I end up losing money, motivation, and confidence, while the client loses faith and patience while wondering if they will ever see their dream brought to life.  If nothing else, I'm extremely thankful for this commission because it made me a better artist, both technically and professionally.

If you'd like to engage my services for a character design project like this (I give you my word I won't take seven years to complete it 😉) feel free to email me at Denise.Mikarts@gmail.com!

Click here to see larger images of all the Druchii characters from this project as well as my other previous commission work!

And this link will bring you to a list of all the videos of my livestreamed work on the final characters in this project.

22 March 2018

Copic Colors - February 2018

Last month, I heard of a cool new monthly art challenge that is right up my alley: #CopicColors!  Obviously, it involves Copic art markers but in particular, it challenges people to create/color a drawing using nothing but the three featured colors of that month.  The colors are posted on Copic's website and they sell a three-pack of those colors for a limited time each month.  I LOVE my Copic markers, so there was no way I wasn't participating once I learned of this!  I even added it to my livestreaming schedule; I now do my monthly Copic Colors drawing every third Monday of the month :D

Pencil sketch and marker test.

Since this was my first time doing the challenge, I had to decide on my personal completion rules.  Turns out, there aren't any official rules at all, just the announcement of the three colors each month.  A lot of people approach the challenge in different ways--some use NOTHING but the markers, some allow the addition of the colorless blender, some only use a couple colors, and I've even seen some people add a contrast color for effect.  Here's what I decided to use as my personal rules:
  • Black and white ink are allowed, as well as graphite and eraser for underdrawing.
  • All three colors must be used.
  • No other colors may be used.
  • Colorless blender is allowed.
And finally, most important for me:
  • Colors can be substituted as necessary.
You see, for my very first Copic Colors challenge, one of the featured colors isn't available in the Classic line of markers, which is the set I own!  There's no way I'm buying markers from a different set just to do this challenge, so I decided that I can choose the next best color from my set when a color isn't available.  (Of course, if the color is available in a Classic marker but I just don't own it, I will happily expand my collection!)

Lineart, on marker paper, made using a brush pen.

Since the colors for February were pink and brown, I decided to draw chocolate-covered strawberries :3 I even found reference images that had pink-tinted white chocolate along with the dark chocolate, so it was too perfect.  I decided to use marker paper, and that was for two reasons: 1) c'mon, marker challenge, marker paper! and 2) the paper is translucent which allows me to trace my sketch.  I used a black brush pen for the main lines.  Even though I was also allowing myself to use white ink, the sheen on the chocolate areas wasn't very strong, so I only used it on the white heart sprinkles.  I tried to use my colorless blender marker, most especially to get a nice variation of tone from the single brown marker, but it totally died midway through the project!  You can see the difference in the final piece: the left-most berry is so much more smooth and blended than the center and right.

You can watch the entire creation of this piece on YouTube!  As I mentioned earlier, I added it to my livestreaming schedule, so my Twitch stream recorded it all in real time :D

Copic Colors Challenge, February 2018, ink & marker

I think, for my very first try and considering that I had to substitute one of the three colors, my February Copic Colors drawing came out nice!  If my colorless blender had survived the project, I would be more happy with the brown application, but I made do with what I had.  It was just an extra challenging challenge, this time!

(P.S. I bought a refill and brought my blender back to life right away, lol.  Should be good to go for a long while, now!)

06 March 2018

Patreon Chibis - Mika and Ranger

In this blog post, I'm going to share a group of chibis that I recently created in January as a way to show supporters, and especially potential supporters, of my Patreon what a "chibi" actually is, since chibis are a big part of the rewards system there. I decided to draw two human chibis, one in physical media and one in digital, and two animal chibis the same way. I hope that the four chibis together will be enough to show the variety of subjects and finished looks that my supporters can choose from when they receive a chibi drawing as a reward.

Ink, marker, and colored pencil on index paper, 4x6", Completed January 2018

So this chibi is the first human, done in physical media. I used a photo of myself from a 5K race that I had run just the weekend before as reference. This drawing is pretty much all in line with the reference photo except that I changed the color of the mug I was holding (it was an awful neon green originally) and added a generous red tint to my hair and eyes. And well, of course I went really strong with the blush on the cheeks, just as I always do with chibi humans X3

View the real time creation of this piece on YouTube: youtu.be/0sRxMCSOt1s
Buy this drawing as a print or art merchandise: http://fav.me/dc4dtb8  

Ink, marker, and colored pencil on index paper, 4x6", Completed January 2018

Next is the first animal, done in physical media. I decided to draw the Studio Mikarts mascot, Ranger, a black and red (as opposed to tan) Shiba Inu. I had only ever drawn her once before and I realized that not only was she a perfect subject for this series of chibis, featuring the artist and the mascot serving as examples of Studio Mikarts, it was a great opportunity to draw her with my current level of skill. I still like the original drawing of Ranger, but this one is definitely much more well done.

View the real time creation of this piece on YouTube: youtu.be/mny-zrfUc6I
Buy this drawing as a print or art merchandise: http://fav.me/dc4gcb4

Manga Studio and Lazy Nezumi Pro, 4x6", Completed January 2018

This chibi is the second human, done in digital media. I used a reference photo of myself again but this time chose a completely different look. Instead of a sporty, post-race runner, now chibi Mika is a glamorous newlywed! Indeed, I used a photo from my wedding reception as reference for this chibi :3 My chibi dress turned out super cute, lol. I was able to use a lot of techniques here that really show what's different about what I produce in digital media.

View the real time creation of this piece on YouTube:
youtu.be/B1vspQgBQro (Part 1) youtu.be/t8NDJt185fI (Part 2)
Buy this drawing as a print or art merchandise: http://fav.me/dc4nelz

Manga Studio and Lazy Nezumi Pro, 4x6", Completed January 2018

And finally, this chibi is the second animal, done in digital media. It's the Studio Mikarts mascot again, Ranger the black and red Shiba Inu! The two previous drawings I've done of her were both stationary positions so this time I searched for a really active, dynamic reference image. I think Ranger looks even better leaping! Shows off her pretty markings. In fact, I had to decide on her fur pattern in some areas while drawing this because the other positions never showed those areas of her body. The biggest thing I gave her in that respect was the cute skunk stripe on her tail :3

View the real time creation of this piece on YouTube:
youtu.be/nWHKWd8thEc (Part 1) youtu.be/gSxe-CcFIKw (Part 2)
Buy this drawing as a print or art merchandise: http://fav.me/dc4reop

As I said at the top of this post, I created these chibis as reward examples for my Patreon supporters.  That could easily include you!  Every backer at the $5 level and above gets entered into a monthly contest for a free chibi character.  Some higher support levels include discounts on art commissions (which obviously could be used toward chibis) and the top level includes a free chibi each and every month, on top of the chance to win the monthly contest!  You can check it all out and become a member of Studio Mikarts here:  https://www.patreon.com/studiomikarts

23 February 2018

Lucky Dip III

Although I haven't yet shared my second lucky dip drawing, I'm going to go ahead with sharing my third one.  This is because the second drawing is currently packed away!  When I packed up my art studio to move, I figured I wouldn't need that piece before I got all unpacked.  Clearly, I was wrong XD  I don't want to get behind on posting my art, so that's why I'm sharing my third Lucky Dip today.  I'll catch up on number two once I'm unpacked and set up in my new studio.

These are the art supplies I had to use this time.

As with all my lucky dips, I use a spreadsheet that lists all my art subscription box supplies and RANDOM.ORG to decide which items I'll use.  I always pull five different numbers, no more or less, though a single item on my spreadsheet might actually contain more than one thing.  That's what happened this time when I drew number 48, the PanPastel set.  This set alone contains five different pastel colors and four different smudging tools, all in one compact unit.  I consider it one item, which is why, even if I had drawn its number first rather than last, I still would have chosen four more numbers.

For reference, here are the other rules I set myself for these challenges:
  • A pencil for underdrawing is allowed, but all marks must eventually be covered/erased.
  • Extra tools such as paintbrushes, blenders, and erasers are allowed.
  • Substrate can be selected freely, based on appropriate use of the Lucky Dip items.
  • Final piece must clearly show use of all Lucky Dip items.

My tools and selected paper.

Since the pastel set had so many different colors to use (and my rules require me to use them all) I decided to go with pastel paper as my surface.  Pastel paper isn't great for markers, but it works fine with all the other tools I needed to use.  It turned out that the marker would have done poorly regardless of what it was used on...but more on that later.  I have various colors of pastel paper I could have used, but since I had so much color to work with anyway, I chose a white sheet.

Lucky dip plans! This was a good idea; donno why I didn't do it sooner XD

This lucky dip is kind of unique in that I pulled the numbers and sketched out my ideas a year or two before I actually started creating the piece.  This is another one of my many projects where I felt overwhelmed by all the little things I needed to do in order to follow through properly.  I was already two blogs behind, I didn't really enjoy creating my second lucky dip piece, and even though I sought to make things easier on myself by planning ahead instead of deciding on-the-fly how to use each of the materials, I just sort of dropped it after the sketching stage.

Lucky for the project (the lucky Lucky Dip project XD) I decided to try livestreaming my art on Twitch this year.  I'd never livestreamed anything before, or even posted videos of my art, but I knew I wanted to go in with a schedule and a plan.  I had first learned of lucky dips thanks to YouTube videos, so it quickly came to mind and I actually ended up scheduling it as my very first livestream.  You can watch it on YouTube now, to see the entire creation of Lucky Dip III from start to finish:

All done! This dragon looks glorious! Table's a wreck XD

It felt really good to do this lucky dip.  I had enjoyed my time working on the first one, but the second one felt like I was fighting with it the entire time, so I was a little worried about that happening again this time, especially since it was going to be broadcast live.  I did some deep breathing before I hit the start button on my streaming software XD  Once I got started though, none of my worries came to pass.  Everything went smoothly and the final piece turned out even better than I imagined!  This piece restored my confidence in the Lucky Dip project.

RIP Touch Twin Marker in Marigold

The one real hitch in this lucky dip was the Touch Twin Marker.  It was an item I received in my second ArtSnacks box, back in April 2014, nearly four years ago.  I only used it a few times before this lucky dip, but despite being properly capped and stored, it was almost completely dry when I used it here.  It had enough left to do what I originally intended--give the dragon its undertone--but I knew I would have to retire it after this.  I took one last photo before tossing it XD

Ink, marker, pastel, and white charcoal, 9x12", completed January 2018

I'm really glad I came back to this project, even though it took me so long.  The lucky dip idea--randomly drawing a limited selection of tools and then using them all together in one piece--is a great way to force myself to think outside the box, to use tools that I've spent money on but generally don't consider, and to liven up my video channels and blog with interesting content that you all can come to expect from me on a regular basis.  I hope you enjoyed this lucky dip and that you'll continue to look forward to them in the future!

22 February 2018

Chibi Sean - Black Bear

A lot of, "Wow, finally!" with this drawing!  For one, this was the first piece I completed this year, in the very first week of January, and yet I'm only posting it now, in the last week of February XD  For two, and much more impressive, this is the second in a series of chibis that I started way the heck back in 2008!  It's been practically a decade between my first entry and my second entry (⊙_⊙)  Hopefully, I'll be able to complete more before another ten years goes by!

I sketched the rough lines on paper, drawing the bear, staff, and Sean separately.
I then combined the sketches in Photoshop.

I'm actually quite sure I will have more to add to this series before the end of 2018.  I've decided to follow up the "birthday person's favorite animal ACEO" theme that I did in December 2017 with a new theme for the entire year: fantasy chibi birthday person!  The most basic idea for this series of chibis was thought up by my friend Trent ("draw your friends as chibis") and I decided back then to draw everyone as a sort of fantasy RPG-type character riding on the chibi animal that I felt fit them.  So the first chibi I did, way back in 2008, featured Trent riding a black horse.  I truly intended to make more, even thought of a couple more friends' outfits and animal mounts, but at the time, the first chibi had been one of the hardest projects I'd ever done (and I think that's why the drawing still holds up quite well today).  I think I burned myself out and that's why it took me so long to come back to this project.

Final lines completed in Photoshop. It was my first use of Lazy Nezumi Pro.
I left the areas under the visors intentionally light or blank.

So here we have my husband, Sean, whose birthday is the first one of the year on my list.  He really likes tabletop gaming and one of his favorites is Shadowrun, a sort of cyberpunk magical world based in Seattle, WA (or at least, that's how his explanations make it seem to me).  Using that as the basis for what kind of fantasy character he should be, I designed all the armor and the background to match.  I decided on a black bear as his mount because Sean is like a big, cuddly bear in real life.  I considered other bears--brown bear, polar bear--but the black bear's general reputation (or really, its lack thereof--grizzlies are known as ferocious, polar bears make people think of the environment) fit Sean the best.

Photoshop and Lazy Nezumi Pro, 6x8", Completed January 2018
Available for purchase as a print or art merchandise here!

I really surprised myself with how quickly I was able to complete this piece.  I didn't time myself when I created the first chibi in the series but I'm sure I didn't get it done as quickly as this one.  I finished with enough time to print, dry, trim, and frame it before Sean's birthday!  It's probably for the best that it took me so long to try making more fantasy chibis; there's no way I'll burn out now with my current level of skill and experience (^^)  Here's hoping the rest of the chibis I intend to draw for birthday people this year are just as quick and easy so that busy birthday months aren't tough to manage!

20 February 2018

ArtSnacks - February 2018

Happy Valentine's Day! It's a bit late, but I'm finally here with my unboxing and review of the February 2018 monthly ArtSnacks box!  For anyone who doesn't know, ArtSnacks offers monthly blind boxes on several different subscription plans.  These boxes always contain at least four (and often five or six or more) full-size, premium art supplies.  This is the last box of my third year being subscribed to the service and I'm still not bored of it!  Let's see what came in my box this month.

I love when ArtSnacks themes the boxes for the holidays!

I was really happy with my January box and the February box didn't disappoint either.  Everything, again, was totally up my alley!  Drawing and watercolor supplies--my favorites!  Here's what was on the menu:
  • Sennelier French Artists' Watercolor [lemon yellow, titanium white]
  • Raphaël Mini Precision Brush, Flat Size 2
  • Faber-Castell Goldfaber Sketching Pencil 2H
  • Sakura Pigma Micron PN
  • BONUS: Fabriano Artistico Watercolor Paper Sample
Outside of the actual art supplies, my box also came with a little serving-size bag of Sweethearts and a Valentine's Day-themed ArtSnacks logo sticker.  I still love that every box comes with these fun bonus items!

Test of both watercolor tubes and the brush.

Sennelier French Artists' Watercolor

Watercolor is one of my favorite media so I'm always happy to receive more in my ArtSnacks boxes.  I was a bit disappointed to receive white this time, though.  I so rarely use white since I work on white paper (and the sample paper that came in this box was white, as well!).  White is good for mixing pastel shades and greys, so it's not a useless color, but I always unbox thinking first about how I can use all the supplies together for my ArtSnacks Challenge (a piece made using all of that month's supplies and nothing else).  It was not easy to imagine using every item from this box effectively in the same piece.  You can see, in the testing image above, how the white paint is virtually invisible on the white paper of my sketchbook.  It shows up well on the yellow paint, though, which was what made it possible to complete my ArtSnacks Challenge successfully this month.  As for the yellow paint, there's nothing much for me to say about it.  It seems like a quality watercolor paint, plenty of pigment and no weird smell like some other brands.

Raphaël Mini Precision Brush

This brush is one of the shortest-handled brushes I have ever seen!  I was skeptical at first glance, thinking it might be uncomfortable to use, but once I tried it out, it didn't really feel any different than other short-handled brushes.  I could see someone with really large hands having trouble, but then again, such a person might have trouble with any short, thin handle.  When I used this brush for my ArtSnacks Challenge, I found it worked really well, holding a lot of color, spreading it evenly, and it didn't lose its shape or any bristles.  Based on the menu, it seems like all boxes contained the flat size 2 brush.

A little side story about paint brushes:  Recently, I finished painting the interior of my house but we were in a rush to move out (I was painting it because I sold it) and the painting supplies all got packed before I was done.  We went out and bought a couple of those cheap painting kits--the kind with a roller brush, paint pan, foam brushes, etc.--and most of the supplies were fine except the 2.5" brush that was included.  It was SO cheap, so awful, I was barely able to paint anything.  I threw it away as soon as I was done painting because it was already falling apart after only a couple hours of on-and-off use.  I've never worked with such a cheap, useless brush, not for interior or fine art applications.  I'm bringing this all up because it really made me appreciate how good even the worst of my large collection of artist brushes are.  It especially made me think about the fact that I've never gotten a bad brush from an ArtSnacks box.  I almost feel spoiled.  It's so great to paint with quality supplies!

Pencil Test. The hard graphite doesn't show well in the photo.

Faber-Castell Goldfaber Sketching Pencil

Thanks to ArtSnacks, I will probably never need to buy another artist pencil again.  I have so many now!  But I'm never unhappy to receive another one :3  I've been particularly keen on harder pencils recently, since they are great for doing underdrawings which will eventually be erased (the harder the pencil, the easier to erase cleanly) so this 2H was quite welcome.  I don't have anything in particular to say about it, it's a hard graphite core encased in wood, easy to hold and does its job.  Can't really ask for more.

Micron PN test. Like most Microns, the ink is black.

Sakura Pigma Micron PN

Now this item REALLY intrigued me.  I'm a longtime user of the Sakura Pigma line and until I received this pen, I thought I had already seen (and owned) every pen under the Pigma banner.  I can't describe how excited I was to see something new from a familiar brand!  The blue-green color for the "PIGMA" and "PN" printed on the body was so visually striking since I am very used to my other pens that have purple or red text, instead.  I had no idea what "PN" could possibly stand for.  This was the most excited I'd felt by an ArtSnacks item in quite a while!  Instead of the thrill of an utterly new tool, it felt like the shock of a plot twist!

I finally turned to the menu to learn just what was up with this marvel.  It turns out, "PN" stands for "plastic nib".  I totally would not have guessed that, lol.  The nib allows for a bit more range in line weight than the Microns I'm used to but it's otherwise the same as the rest of the line.  The ink is water/alcohol proof when dry, which is the nicest thing about these pens and the reason I've used them for so long.

My ArtSnacks challenge!

I actually completed my ArtSnacks challenge for this month before writing this post, which is somewhat unusual, but not bad since I can include it here instead of making an additional post.  The reason I got it done so soon was my Twitch livestreaming schedule.  Every second Monday is ArtSnacks challenge day, so regardless of whether my unboxing post has been completed, I have to get my challenge piece done.  Not only that, but it's done live on the Internet for anyone to watch!  I started livestreaming in January but this was the first live ArtSnacks challenge I did.  If you'd like to watch it, it's been uploaded to YouTube!

I drew a grey heron. I really like birds recently!

ArtSnacks is on a roll so far this year.  They've had a great first two boxes (at least according to my tastes) and they've been teasing their birthday box for next month, so I'm hoping I'll be just as happy with that one.  ArtSnacks' birthday is my subscription anniversary, so the March box will be the first box of my fourth year as an ArtSnacker!

Pencil shavings canister gets another sticker.

So, fellow subscribers, what did you think of the February box?  Did you like what you got?  Did you participate in the challenge?  Non-subscribers, are there any questions about the items I got this time?  Is there anything you'd like me to cover in my unboxing posts that I missed this time?

13 February 2018

Birthdays December 2017 - Have a Goat

Ink and marker on smooth Bristol, 2.5x3.5", Completed December 2017

The last piece of art I finished in 2017 was also the third and final birthday present ACEO I created in December, this time for Aryssa Hutchins!  I followed the same theme as with the previous two and drew what I thought to be the recipient's favorite animal.  Even though this drawing was for my first little sister, I had a really hard time deciding what her favorite animal must be 😲 I finally settled on a goat and was happy and relieved when she confirmed that I made the right choice XD

Although I only created three birthday present arts in December 2017, when you combine it with all the Christmas presents that I also made that month, this piece was the 17th ACEO I completed!  Then adding on the Tomodachi Fest commission and Christmas card illustration, I finished 19 pieces altogether.  I don't know if I've ever created so many pieces in such a short time--they were all done within a three-week span.  If I keep making lots of art presents around the end of the year, I imagine this won't be the last time XD  Hopefully I can plan ahead and make it a bit less hectic in future!

05 February 2018

2017 Christmas Presents - Reece Cat

Ink and marker on smooth Bristol, 2.5x3.5", Completed December 2017

And here we finally have it, the last cat in the "You as a Cat!" series of ACEOs I made last December as Christmas presents for my closest friends and family.  This one features yet another good friend from high school (and grade school), Reece!  Honestly, now that I've posted and talked about all the pieces I drew in this series...this cat might be my favorite of the lot.  The wide eyes and gaping mouth make such a fun, excited, even surprised expression (it's the most animated face of all the cats I drew) and I'm extremely pleased with how all the colors work together, they remind me of a rainy spring day in Seattle.  Nostalgic.

I think there's a very good chance that the reason I love this final drawing so much is that it is the culmination of all the planning, experimentation, and practice that went into making the previous 13 cats.  I chose this extreme pose based on Reece's personality, but would I have been able to pull it off as well if this had not been the last ACEO I completed?  Maybe not, but since I KNEW it was the last piece on my list, that could have given me a boost, too!  After all, this was the fifth drawing I did on the last day I worked on this project.  The drawing had the potential to suffer due to my exhaustion, but instead it came out one of the best entries in the series!

It took me all the way to February to share all these Christmas presents.  I definitely intend to do more art presents this year (in fact, I have already done a birthday present in January!) so I hope you'll look forward to them throughout 2018 (^^)

02 February 2018

2017 Christmas Presents - Jeremy Cat

Ink and marker on smooth Bristol, 2.5x3.5", Completed December 2017

We're down to the second-to-last "You as a Cat!" ACEO Christmas present that I created in December 2017.  This one is based on another close high school buddy, Jeremy.  I had a pretty hard time finding a relatively recent, well-lit, and complete reference image of Jeremy, but I finally settled for a somewhat older photo that showed his hair blowing epically in the wind.  I tried to replicate that effect with the cat's fur :3

Available printed on cool art merch here!

Making art as Christmas presents is always a tougher challenge than I expect it to be (no matter how many years I do it!). Sometimes throughout the year, I feel lonely and friendless, but when I put together my recipient list, I realize I actually have quite a few good, close, cherished friends and family!  Five, ten, or fifteen close relations doesn't seem so big a number until you sit down to make five, ten, or fifteen individual art pieces before Christmas hits!  This year, I may start my present-making at the beginning of November to give myself a good head-start and plenty of breathing room...

01 February 2018

2017 Christmas Presents - Katrina Cat

Ink, marker, and colored pencil on smooth Bristol, 2.5x3.5", Completed December 2017

This is definitely the most different and difficult breed of cat that I attempted to depict in this series of ACEOs. The fur is so short that I had to draw every curve and wrinkle that is normally hidden by longer, thicker fur on other cats. I chose a curly-coated, red Devon Rex to represent my friend Katrina because the breed's appearance is a good translation of her human one: thin build with curly, strawberry blonde hair. I really love the coiled whiskers on this cat! So cute I wish I could pet them for real!

Available for purchase in my deviantART shop!

If you're keeping up with my posts in real time, you'll know this is the twelfth cat I drew altogether, and the third on my busiest and last day of working on the project. I think I was getting tired by this point and I remember taking a break after this cat, before starting again to complete the final ones on my list. When you look at them, ACEOs don't seem like they should take very long to make because they're so small, but it's still a good 2-4 hours of constant work per item to get a result like this!

31 January 2018

2017 Christmas Presents - Krystal Cat

Ink and marker on smooth Bristol, 2.5x3.5", Completed December 2017

This is one of my top favorite ACEO cats I did for this series.  It was the eleventh "You as a Cat!" present I drew and the second I drew on my busiest (and final) day of the project.  It's based on one of my best friends, Krystal.  She has lovely long black hair and Asian features so an Oriental Longhair was the perfect match.  The reference image I found was so epic and gorgeous, I can only hope its beauty came through in my version of the cat X3

Available for purchase on mugs, cards, and other merchandise!

It's interesting to me how I found on certain cats in this series that I wanted to use colored pencils to give that final detailed touch but on other cats, I didn't find it necessary and relied only on the marker and white ink to do the job.  It didn't coincide with any fur color or length or anything.  The overall effect just sometimes needed that bit of extra and it was impossible to tell until I got to the very end of each piece.

30 January 2018

2017 Christmas Presents - Scotsman Cat

Ink, marker, and colored pencil on smooth Bristol, 2.5x3.5", Completed December 2017

The tenth "You as a Cat!" Christmas present I completed was for my good friend and bearer of many nicknames (kinda like Gandalf) whom I call Scotsman.  I gotta say this is one of my top favorite entries in this art series.  It just came out so nice, the happy expression and lively eyes, the long fluffy fur, they look great on their own but also really remind me of my friend!  It's always fun when Scotsman is around (^^)

Available printed on cool stuff like mugs and mousepads!

Aside from being the tenth ACEO I completed for this series, this is also the first of five that I completed all in the same day.  It was finally crunch time--December 22nd--and I had to either get them all done or skip some of the people on my list.  I'm happy to report that I didn't skip anyone and I managed to complete every ACEO that I initially planned on before Christmas!  It's a good thing I had so much practice making all the others that came before XD

29 January 2018

2017 Christmas Presents - Nat Cat

Ink, marker, and colored pencil on smooth Bristol, 2.5x3.5", Completed December 2017

The next Christmas ACEO I have to share is the second friend-cat of the lot.  It features my handsome high school friend, Nat!  I literally searched "handsome cat" to find a good reference photo for this X3  I didn't mention that to anyone so I was especially pleased when Nat's comment about it was "IM THE MOST HANDSOME CAT!!!"  It couldn't have been more perfect!

Available printed on greeting cards, mugs, and more!

This is the third cat I drew for this series which had brown eyes and black fur.  I'm pleased that all three cats have their own unique vibe and don't come across as too similar (at least I hope that's so!).  By this point, after making nine ACEOs with the same theme, the process and details started to get both fluid (good because it took less time to make each one) and fuzzy (bad because I kept worrying I would forget something important).  My confidence was both high and low at the same time!  (And I still had several more to go...)