10 November 2022

2022 September & October Roundup

It's a snowy morning as I begin typing this entry, one of my favorite atmospheres, but unfortunately, it's already wet and mushy and melting. I'm listening to Tchaikovsky, my favorite classical composer. His music seemed like a good fit for the weather. My usual morning tea has gone cold, but that's ok because there's not much left anyway. I'll wait until lunch for another cup. For the next couple hours, I'm going to focus on sharing my roundup of the past two months with you ๐Ÿ’•

October marked the first time I've missed a roundup since I started doing them. After over two years not being sick with anything, in September I caught COVID-19. And I had symptoms; I wasn't one of the lucky people it doesn't affect. Thanks to my vaccination and booster shots, I was never sick enough to go to the doctor for care, but I was sick enough that most everything in my life got put on pause while I recovered. That included writing my September roundup. Instead of scrambling to catch up once I was better, I decided to just do a joint post after October, and here we are!

I have some unique news to share with you in this post, so I hope you'll enjoy reading to the end ๐Ÿ˜„

Patreon Rewards

Because of being sick for several weeks from the end of September into the beginning of October, I wasn't able to produce any worthwhile new rewards to send out to Studio Mikarts members during those months. I won't deny I felt guilt and anxiety about it, but as always, my patrons are amazingly patient and understanding people. I'm excited to report that they are soon to be thoroughly rewarded for their constancy ๐Ÿฅฐ

I completed all 31 Inktober drawings in October (for the first time ever! more on that later) and chose my top ten to present to my patrons. They voted on their top six at the beginning of this month and now all of the winning drawings have been ordered as rewards!

A preview of the patron-only voting post on Patreon.

If you're interested in becoming a Studio Mikarts member, now is a great time to sign up! If you select any of the postcard or print tiers (Pen Pal, Writer, Collector, or Connoisseur) before 21 November 2022, you'll be guaranteed to receive all six of the Inktober rewards! What a solid way to start your collection! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ You'll also have the pride of knowing that your support is helping me continue to make cool, unique artwork, both in a financial sense--helping me with things like buying art supplies, paying for intangible costs like the very URL of this blog, and funding entries into art shows, contests, and professional guilds--and in an emotional and social sense, giving me reassurance that my artwork is worthy, and proving to others that these images have value ๐Ÿ–ผ️✨

Click here to join the studio!

Gryphia Progress

It's not pleasant to realize that I haven't written anything for my first Gryphia novel since the latter half of September. But it's not as if I have lost my motivation or have writer's block. It's just that I've been so busy ever since! First I went on a week-long anniversary vacation (a planned break from writing), then I spent several weeks recovering from COVID-19, soon after that it was time to go to New York state for the Inktober retreat, and for the past couple weeks, I kept finding both legitimate and silly reasons to be busy during my writing hours, until here we are today ๐Ÿ˜… The good news is, once I'm done with this post, my writing time will again be available for Gryphia work!

It's not as if I didn't get ANY writing done in the past two months, either. I got about halfway through writing chapter six (of twelve) before my extended break began. That means I'm almost halfway through the entire first draft! It's no longer realistic to aim for my goal of finishing the first draft this year, but I intend to ride the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) energy to make as much progress as possible this month! Wish me luck!

deviantART

I uploaded a lot of work to deviantART last month! It bothered me that in 2020, I had done several lovely drawings for Inktober, but I never even scanned them into my computer. So I took the time to digitize and post all eleven pieces. Even though they're a couple years old now, I still love how they turned out~

This is one of my favorites from the lot. Click here to view on dA.

All of these Inktober drawings followed the same format: a Halloween-themed animal depicted with some sort of plant or mineral, inked in black with limited color added using marker. I drew them all in my tiny Royal Talens sketchbook, which has beautiful, warm ivory-colored paper. Click here to visit my Inktober gallery where you can see all of the 2020 drawings and some of my favorites from previous years, too!

Art Excursions: Grand Canyon North Rim

As I said in my previous blog post, I have continued to go out on art excursions to practice my plein air work, sharpening my life drawing skills and working with subjects I don't see every day. In the past two months I only had a single plein air session, but it was a biggie: I painted the Grand Canyon!

Sitting on the edge of a cliff while painting the view. It was a first for me!
Thank you to my husband, Sean, for taking these photos ๐Ÿ˜Š

The only thing I didn't like about this art excursion was my own choice of media. I did not realize that the travel watercolor kit I brought was mostly full of bright, neon colors ๐Ÿ˜ฑ I initially chose it because it had a few lovely metallic paints, but the other colors didn't look so shockingly bright in the pan. Not until I wet and applied them to the page did their true nature show.

I did my best to work with them, though. After all, I wasn't going to waste the opportunity just because I didn't have the colors I expected. Indeed, the session was a great art lesson because I began experimenting with mixing colors. I ended up being able to produce some nice hues that reflected what I was seeing quite well. And even if the end result wasn't what I hoped to produce, it's still a unique experimental piece!

The final plein air watercolor sketch, with ink details added later.

There was a particular reason I chose a watercolor kit that included metallic paints. Normally in my work, metallic, glitter, and other light-reflecting elements are a waste, because they're not picked up properly by the scanner and therefore don't make it into the final piece. In this case, however, I knew I would not just be creating a plein air sketch, but that I would be doing it on watercolor postcard paper! The final painted postcard, with all its metallic glory, was mailed to my best friend since adolescence, Sarah, who is now the owner of my first ever painting of and from the Grand Canyon ๐Ÿ˜Š

Greetings from the Grand Canyon!

While I was at the Grand Canyon (we visited the North Rim, which I had never been to before and has a very different look from the South Rim I visited in childhood!) I bought a bunch of neat souvenirs from the gift shops. One of them was a purely practical purchase: a sling rucksack that will make future art excursions much easier! Until now, it's been cumbersome carrying my art tools, a waterbottle, perhaps a snack, and my personal items in a regular backpack, which I have to take off and put back on every time I need something, usually with the backpack or something else spending time on the dirty ground while I rearrange ๐Ÿ˜ฌ With this new rucksack, I can just swing it around to my front when I need something or even wear it across my chest the whole time! It's hard to put into words how much this bag is going to improve my art excursions. The bottom line is, I'm going to be spending more time making art!

Livestreaming

One of the first things I was able to get back to once I started feeling well enough, thanks to the impetus of Inktober, was livestreaming on Twitch. In September, I streamed every week until I took my anniversary vacation, completing two Lucky Dip pieces and making a couple more hours of progress on the digital coloring of my chibi tanuki piece.

I think the chat-inspired title of this one ended up being Beast Boy Be Creepin' ๐Ÿ˜†
My final Lucky Dip until November!

For October, I switched from Lucky Dips and Chibi Fridays to Inktober! This was my plan since returning to Twitch earlier this year, and it went so well I intend to do it every year ๐Ÿ˜Š I livestreamed a total of six Inktober drawings this October (the other 25 were all done during the Inktober retreat! More on that later~). I'm not sure how outwardly apparent it is, but without a doubt, participating in the Inktober challenge this year helped not only my inking skills, but my composition and design skills, and improved my drawing efficiency and confidence.

My first drawing served as a warmup for the entire challenge.
This gryphon was nicknamed the "wiener bird" by Twitch ๐Ÿ˜†
You can't really tell, but this is a bat-snake gryphon!
My first attempt at using a gesture drawing to increase overall dynamism.
By this time, I was less hesitant to try drawing unusual scenes from imagination!
I absolutely love this, my final drawing ๐Ÿคฉ
Gives a completely different meaning to "turkey farm"!

To join me during future livestreams (where we can chat in real time!) visit my Twitch page and click the "Follow" button. You'll get notifications when I go live, either in your email, on your Twitch app, or both. My streaming schedule is the same every week. Check out the schedule on my page to see times and dates in your time zone ๐ŸŒ

Charity Fundraising: Zoo Boise

Because I lost so many streaming days in September, and because I was too ill to update it before I resumed streaming in October, I kept Zoo Boise as my featured charity. My fundraising formula is based on the number of unique viewers I get on Twitch in a month (or in this case, two months). I donate USD $0.10 per viewer, with a minimum of $10 and a max of $100.

Across September and October, I had 26 unique viewers! That amounted to a $10 donation ๐Ÿค—๐Ÿ’ธ✨

When I made the donation, I was pleasantly surprised to find a specific goal listed on the donation page. This $10 is going to help build the red pandas a bigger, better home! I'm excited to see it when it's done ๐Ÿ’• If you'd also like to help with the red pandas' new home, please make a donation here!

This month, November, my featured charity is Farm Sanctuary. They are working to create a more kind and healthy world, where farm animals are allowed to live out their natural lives freely, in peace and happiness. Since 1986 (my birth year ๐Ÿคฏ) they have run the Adopt a Turkey Project, redefining the meaning of Turkey Day ๐Ÿฆƒ๐Ÿ’– You can even take a quiz to determine which of this year's spokesturkeys match your personality! I got Roberto, the Adventurer~ The money we raise livestreaming in November will count towards his symbolic adoption. If the total is greater than that, I will donate the extra as well!

Monthly Recommendations

Now it's time for one of the most fun parts of my roundup posts: monthly recommendations! This time they span two months, but because this post is already plenty long, I'm still sticking to one recommendation per category. As a reminder, I'm not being paid to promote any of these things (though I wouldn't mind if that were actually the case ๐Ÿค‘) they're just things I legitimately want to share in hopes that you, my readers, might enjoy them, too.

๐Ÿ‘Ÿ Workout of the Month ๐Ÿ‘Ÿ
Hiking

With a trip to southern Utah in September and to northern New York in October, hiking was a big theme for both months! I hiked with my husband along an easy trail at Grand Canyon National Park during our day trip there, and then joined in a couple group hikes in Adirondacks Park during the Inktober retreat.

It's starting to get snowy and cold here, so hiking is more dangerous for many reasons. I've probably done my final hikes for 2022. If you're lucky enough to find some trails that are still warm and dry, why not don your hiking boots and set out? Physical exertion in the great outdoors, there's nothing more invigorating!

๐Ÿฝ️ Vegan Victuals of the Month ๐Ÿฝ️
Cinnaholic Cinnamon Rolls

Ever since I went full vegan earlier this year, Cinnaholic has become my favorite indulgent dessert shop. Everything they offer is vegan, so it's a safe haven where I can order anything without spending a bunch of time checking all the ingredients. The calories in their rolls are over the top (no surprise there, nothing so delicious could be low-cal!), so I've had to limit myself ๐Ÿ˜… but there's nothing better when you're craving comfort sweets ๐Ÿคค

Chai frosting, maple frosting, apples, chocolate chips, graham crackers, and marshmallows~

I reminded myself of Cinnaholic during the Inktober retreat, when I drew an owl gryphon eyeing a delicious roll for the prompt "tempting". My trip back to Boise was very stressful (in fact it was the worst day of flying I've ever experienced...), so of course, my first full day back home, I ordered the scrumptious roll you see above!

Spoiler alert: This Cinnaholic-craving gryphon (which I'm considering a loose self-portrait ๐Ÿ˜†) was one of the Inktober drawings that got voted into reward status! Postcards are on their way to the studio as I write ๐Ÿ’Œ

๐Ÿ“• Book of the Month ๐Ÿ“•
A Man and His Cat by Umi Sakurai

My recommended book this time is the start of a series that spans at least ten volumes (the eighth English volume is slated for release in May 2023). If you love cats or pets or just warm, fuzzy feelings, I think you'll love this~ It was originally published in Japanese on Twitter.

Here's my review of the first volume, originally posted on The StoryGraph:

emotional funny hopeful lighthearted relaxing fast-paced

⭐ 5.0

This was such a touching, heartwarming manga! It's very reminiscent of Chi's Sweet Home, both being cute tales told mainly from the point of view of cats who find new homes with loving humans. If you enjoyed Chi's story, I'm sure you'd love this. A Man and His Cat is a bit more bittersweet, with hints of past tragedy and more moments of sadness, but it's also full of humor and cuddly scenes that make you smile. The artwork is well done: pretty and easy to digest. When I finished this first volume, which I waited a long time to purchase so that I could save money by buying used, I immediately ordered all the following volumes--used if I could get them, but new if that was the only option--because that's how much I wanted to continue the story! If you're in the mood for something uplifting and fluffy, and especially if you were already considering reading this manga, I encourage you to give A Man and His Cat a try~

๐Ÿ“บ Show of the Month ๐Ÿ“บ
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law on Disney+

I was looking forward to watching She-Hulk long before it premiered, simply because I'm always in the mood for more female superheroes to inspire me, but I had no idea what to expect from the show. Happily, I enjoyed it from the beginning, and the more I watched, the more I liked it. After finishing the final episode, it had planted itself firmly in the top three of my Marvel series ranking. I think Moon Knight is still my number one, but She-Hulk is so unique (and so hilarious!!!) that it displaced Loki for second place. I highly recommend the show, and make sure to watch to the very end! It's so good, just writing that last sentence gave me goosebumps ๐Ÿ˜†


Official Trailer | She-Hulk: Attorney at Law | Disney+

Digging around a bit, it looks like a season 2 might be dependent on viewership of season 1, so why not help a girl out and give it a watch? ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ™

๐ŸŽฎ Game of the Month ๐ŸŽฎ
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective by SPACE Cowboys

The first time I played one of the cases from this series was at a board game cafe that unfortunately (but understandably) closed down at the beginning of the pandemic. Just that one session was enough to get me hooked, and I was very pleased to receive one of the games for Christmas last year! I could finally play again ๐Ÿคฉ

We've made it through three cases so far this year ๐Ÿ”Ž✨

While the replayability of each individual case is questionable, since all the details are revealed at the end, there are four games with ten cases each, for a grand total of 40 cases to get through. I'd argue that one could still go back and attempt to solve the cases again. 39 cases later, the details might have been forgotten, and if they weren't, one could try for a better score. Either way, even if you played a case a day, it would take you over a month to solve them all!

Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective is a multiplayer, cooperative experience that challenges your logic and deductive skills, and requires a scrupulous attention to detail to achieve a high score (we've never beaten Holmes yet ๐Ÿ˜…). I recommend keeping pencils and paper in the box for players to use for note taking, and as a way to chronicle your gameplay journey, showing who you played with, when, and how you did. This is one of the few board games I own that specifically gets requested on game nights. Goes to show what a strong and positive impression it leaves on its players!

๐ŸŽง Music of the Month ๐ŸŽง
Mika's Halloween ๐ŸŽƒ on Spotify

For my final recommendation, although it's now out of season, I'd like to share my Halloween playlist with you! It's a truly eclectic mix that includes everything from otome game themes to classical music, from 80s rock to obscure oldies, and from Disney songs to movie soundtracks. The one thing tying all these wildly different genres together is the Halloween theme! I hope you'll enjoy this seasonal playlist, if not now, then next year ๐Ÿ˜„

Shuffle play is recommended here, since I've been casually building this playlist for two years, without regard to how things are ordered. Tracks are ocassionally removed, but by and large, the run time has only increased. I'm sure by next spooky season, it will have grown even longer. In fact, if you have a favorite Halloween tune that isn't already on this playlist, send it my way! I'm always open to new ingredients for the musical brew~

Personal News: Growing Our Family

One of the activities we planned for our anniversary vacation this past September was adopting some new pets from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary ๐Ÿ’• The pain of losing Sun this summer had finally lessened enough that, instead of feeling like I never wanted to keep a dog again, I began to feel desperate to share my love with a new animal friend. In the end, we welcomed two dogs and a pigeon to our family ๐Ÿฅฐ The following are photos of all our beloved pets, old and new.

First we have Aoife, our home's gentle giant. She became firmly attached to me from day one! She now follows me around the house, whether I'm doing yoga in the den, working in the studio, or cooking in the kitchen. Of course that means she sleeps with me every night, too~

This is Sora, who we rescued last year. We were content not knowing her sex all this time, but she finally revealed it when we brought her new pigeon companion home. Just seeing him in his separate cage, as we slowly introduced them over several days, was enough for her to lay her first egg ๐Ÿคฏ

Here we have Kumo, our little shining prince. His adoption timeline met so perfectly with our visit to the sanctuary that he was never even publicly listed for adoption. He's a calm, gentle boy, who nonetheless keeps strong, pushy Sora in check.

Longtime readers may remember Kiki! She's our oldest pet now, though you'd never know she was over 14 just by looking at her. She's still healthy, energetic, playful, and spicy ๐Ÿ˜ˆ She's also an excellent beta-reader and editor, as you can see here!

Finally we have Chappie, our little wiggle worm. She looks exactly like a black & tan Australian Kelpie, though we won't know her breed for sure until we do a cheek swab DNA test. She was cautious and shy at first, but after a couple weeks she also ended up super attached to me ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ’•

So it is that we have a full house once again~ It's been many years since there were so many of us: two humans, one cat, two pigeons, and two dogs. It's actually been great for my daily routine and overall health. Taking care of the dogs in the morning gets me out of bed when it was so easy to sleep in before. I have new running buddies (the dogs, of course!) so I've finally gotten back to my main sport after being derailed by illness and travel. I even get up and move more often throughout the day, enticed by a coo or meow or the squeak of a toy.

The saying is true: life is good, pets make it better!

Other News: Inaugural Inktober Retreat

Now we near the end of this double roundup post. While the trip I took in September was of a personal nature, during the third week of October, it was all business (in a way, the business of honing my drawing skills!) as I attended the first ever Inktober retreat. I wrote a detailed review of the Focus Retreat Center, where the event was held. Here it is on Google Maps, and also pasted here in its entirety, followed by annotated photos from my trip.

I stayed at the Focus Retreat Center (FRC) for the third week of their Inktober retreat in 2022. I'd never been to a retreat of any kind before, so I only had vague expectations based on FRC handout materials and Inktober retreat-specific information, plus hopes built up by stories I've heard from people who have gone on various retreats elsewhere. I'm happy to report that my stay here was everything I had hoped and much more!

As a vegan, I wasn't sure if FRC could accommodate my dietary needs, but there was plenty to eat (in fact, I couldn't stop myself eating too much!) and I never needed to prepare/source my own food to maintain my vegan lifestyle. The retreat was all-inclusive, so three square meals, snacks, and drinks were included, and the dining area was open 24-hours, so if I needed a late-night snack or hot cup of tea to get me through my last Inktober drawing that day, I was able to satiate myself freely.

My room was spacious and comfortable and quickly became my main workspace as I marathoned 25 Inktober drawings over six days. We were allowed to roll in an electric standing desk and office chair and mine fit perfectly at the foot of my bed. I came to rely on the desk to mitigate as much physical strain as possible; I would sit for one drawing and stand for the next. This kept my chronic low back pain, and other complaints that crop up during long work sessions, at bay. Other cool features in the room: digital thermostat, remote-controlled lighting with brightness and warmth settings, and two-way window shades so you could let in natural light while maintaining privacy. A couple downsides to the room(s): the floors were squeaky and the walls paper-thin. I was able to hear my neighbor clearly and I felt overly conscious moving around too much later in the evenings, for fear of disturbing others. At least for sleeping, the bed was super comfy, so I just used my usual earplugs (normally to block out nighttime city sound) and the thin walls weren't an issue.

Something awesome for my room in particular: it was next to a bathroom! The bathrooms are shared (Poo~pourri recommended!) and a bit small, but the water pressure/heat was good. I have long, curly hair that takes half an hour to wash properly, but even on wash day, the hot water lasted! I don't even get that at home!

FRC is situated facing a lovely park that was full of gorgeous autumn leaves, fluffy grey squirrels, and little chirping birds during my stay. I really enjoyed my evening walks through the area. There were also plenty of conveniently close businesses and facilities, such as a police station, visitor information center (just walk in any time for free Malone postcards!), a drug store, and a post office. Walking around Malone is easy to do (the drivers were extremely considerate of pedestrians; I'm used to having to walk around the back of cars that don't stop until they're sitting on top of the crosswalk, but here every car I met stayed well back until I had passed) and full of interesting sights, especially the architecture. The only time I needed vehicular transportation was on my way to/from the Adirondack Regional Airport (which FRC generously facilitated) and when our group went out on hikes. I tackled two trails while I was in Malone, both beautiful and just the right amount of challenging. The relatively easy access to hiking is another point in FRC's favor, if you're like me, inspired by nature and rejuvenated by physical activity.

I think the greatest compliment I can give FRC is that the positive, inclusive, and healthy atmosphere they actively foster is no doubt the reason I was able to achieve my goal of completing 25 Inktober drawings during my stay. And because of that, I was, for the first time in many years attempting the Inktober challenge, finally able to complete all 31 drawings! If ever circumstances come together again the way they did this year, I would return to FRC for a future retreat without question. I highly recommend it!

The start of my trip from Boise to New York!
The glittering New England ocean was beautiful from the plane ๐Ÿคฉ
My room for the week!
The desk I worked at for 24 of the 25 drawings.
The desk got this high, so even tall people can use it standing!
The gorgeous view from the Azure Mountain fire tower.
The fright of climbing the multistory tower is worth it!
This pen holder was 3D printed by request for me by Pete, co-owner of FRC ✨
I never knew I needed this but now I can't do without it! Thank you, Pete ๐Ÿฅฐ
First of the Inktober retreat goodies: a t-shirt!
Other Inktober retreat goodies: supplies for next year, including a Moleskine sketchbook!
My workstation setup for most of the retreat.
I collected so many pretty leaves while I was in New York ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ‚ And I loved the rain!!
My evening walks in the park through crunchy leaves were the best~
Picturesque scenery right outside the retreat center!
A view from the front entrance.
Watching Moon Knight (told'ja it's my fave) while working.
Malone is a beautiful place in autumn.
My Inktober theme was gryphons, and here were some outside the post office!
I had to buy tape to protect my pen-rest finger, which was getting raw from so much drawing ๐Ÿค•
One of the many delicious vegan meals that were served: tofu pad Thai.
Being presented with my certificate of attendance, just after I gave my concluding speech ๐Ÿ˜Š
So grateful to this group for making the retreat amazing!
Bonus Inktober retreat goodie: a hoodie!
Of course I can't not send local postcards to my best!
Just before I left, my new friend Vika brought me to visit Lake Placid ✨
It was a rough journey home, but it still had its moments!

And that's it for this double-month's roundup! So many events to report, so many memories to share, I hope you enjoyed the read ๐Ÿ˜Š✨ Thank you for sticking with me to the end. Until next month, stay safe and be well~!