June ArtSnacks Unboxing!

My ArtSnacks Challenge illustration this month was created using past profile pictures as a reference, an homage to my love of eccentric fashion and costumes year-round, and my lifelong fascination with what creates identity.

artsnacks june

I mentioned in a previous post how art has been an important tool of expression for me throughout my life. Turning myself into the things I wanted to be at the moment as if I was just another blank sheet of paper was another part of this. It always boggled even my own mind how in school I was too embarrassed to even stand up and go throw something away in the trash in the middle of a class lest I draw attention to myself, but I’d wander about town on the weekends in full zombie makeup in the middle of July and not feel a bit of trepidation. When people would talk about identity, or “groups” both in grade school and now, I have never known what to say for myself. I’ve never felt that I strongly identify with one certain label or category in any area of my life, but am instead either nothing or everything all at once. Most likely, I am the latter. It was fun doing something that was more of an actual, personal “art journal” page, and also reliving many fun memories through fashion of years past! As an adult at work all day, for the most part now I either wear meeting clothes or messy-art-class-clothes :-/.

In this box I received a:

I appreciated the sharpener not only because of the snazzy ArtSnacks exclusive color that is very close to what I’ve just painted the front door on my house, but also because I had previously only had cheapie sharpeners akin to what kids bring in their elementary school pencil case. This is admittedly odd for someone who works so much with colored pencils! They had me at their automatic stop function as I tend to be rough on pencils and am always breaking the leads. The fact that you can sharpen the wood and lead separately for the perfect point is also a very unique feature. I like it!

The SumoGrip eraser was another favorite. I’ve mentioned before how nothing beats Pentel Click Erasers in my mind, but I think my old friend may have finally met its match! I was freaked out at first by the black color, expecting it to leave dark smudges on the paper but it left no traces behind, and did not require a lot of pressure or abrasion to lift graphite from the paper. I’m impressed.

The pencil was also nice, and I can’t say I have any complaints but I will always be a mechanical pencil girl overall. Still, if I ever need to reach for a traditional pencil this will not be a poor choice.

I love brush markers, and the one that came with this box was no exception. What I noticed right away is the lack of bleeding for an alcohol marker. Another bonus is the fact that you can replace nibs and refill the ink in each marker base rather than having to replace the entire body when it runs out. Excellent performance – I will definitely be looking into buying some more of these.

Lastly, the Millennium pen. Longevity was a big focus of these pens which is very important to me as I don’t just sketch with pens, but incorporate ink drawing into many of my finished fine art pieces as well. It made a nice line, and did dry far quicker than the other pens I usually use which helped avoid smudging, and it did not bleed at all when the marker was applied. Another win!

This is my last unboxing for a bit since I only got a 6 month subscription at first to try it out. (I also need to get a chance to really explore these supplies in more than just my art journal and see if I want to get a full set of any of them to use in my large scale art!) All in all I have enjoyed having ArtSnacks as my first experience with subscription boxes, and have felt there was great value in the supplies that were sent each month. I’d definitely recommend.

Happy drawing!

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May Artsnacks Unboxing!

art snacks may

This month’s Artsnacks box came with something scary – a calligraphy pen! Calligraphy pens are my mortal enemy, mostly because I don’t know how to use them properly. I played around a bit, and still don’t know how to use it properly and mainly treated it like a normal liner but – hey look! – it’s a tiger!

Now for the breakdown…

In my May box, I received a:

flat800x800075f-u1So, first the scary thing which is the Copic Multiliner. I’m sure it would be a fantastic product if I knew anything about calligraphy, and that is about all I can say as I have no basis by which to judge calligraphy pens. (Appropriate image by Nathan Moore on Redbubble.)

Now onto the Tombow MONO Graph pencil … I have professed my undying love for Tombow in past unboxings. This pencil is unique because you don’t have to push a button for the lead to extend, you just shake it and then click a lock on the side when you have the amount of lead you want … Which means you still have to push a button haha. I found this feature a bit useless and gimmicky, but it is a nice pencil otherwise and claims to feature the most popular eraser in Japan. I can corroborate that this pencil has a damn fine eraser.

ddSpeaking of erasers, the next product was the KUM Correct-Stick eraser. I just now realized this product was hiding and didn’t make it into my picture, but here is what it looks like …  This eraser did work really nicely and had a comfortable ergonomic grip, but I feel like it will lose its precise, pointed shape with use. As far as fine detail erasers I think my favorite will always be Pentel’s Click Erasers.

The Faber-Castell Big Brush Pen was my favorite product in this box.  The color is smooth and bold, probably owing to the fact that the ink used is India Ink. Though it was great for filling in large areas, the brush tip made it perfect for filling in details and making thin strokes as well. I struggle with sensitivity to strong smells so for me an added bonus was that this pen didn’t stink like alcohol markers do! I will definitely be getting more of these.

Last is the Liquitex Paint Marker. Not surprisingly given the quality of Liquitex paint, this marker was excellent. Of all the paint markers I have been sent since January, this one was my favorite. I liked that it didn’t look like solid acrylic paint when applied to paper, but being water based had a degree of translucency to it, probably because I am partial to watercolors over acrylics. Overall a decent box, while not necessarily my favorite one thus far.

Now, for those of you awaiting pictures of the progress on my Painted Piano Project, wait no longer …

It’s getting there, but still more to do – Guess what I’ll be up to this weekend? 🙂

 

April Artsnacks Unboxing!

IMAG8922I am a bit late on my Artsnacks unboxing again, but better late than never after missing last month! In this box I received:

Tombow never disappoints me, and this brush pen with a dual tip – one side black, one side light grey, is no exception. Despite being a brush pen, it is still quite firm and allows for super thin lines which I appreciate. Being completely waterproof so I can use it in conjunction with watercolors is another bonus. I have no doubt in my mind why this was marked as a staff favorite!

I honestly never use watercolor pencils aside from in a classroom setting at work while teaching a watercolor class. In my own work, I prefer watercolor markers though lately I haven’t been using those either. As far as watercolor pencils go, I really enjoyed the variety included in the April box. The fact that it is lightfast is great since a huge problem with watercolor pencils and markers is their susceptibility to fading over time. I also preferred this brand over others I’d tried because of its softness – it blended completely without leaving any indications of the original pencil strokes behind.

I had always seen acrylic inks like this while out shopping at art supply stores and been intrigued, but never tried them for myself. As one who enjoys working with watercolors, I loved the acrylic ink included in this box and will definitely be purchasing some more colors in the future. It works similar to watercolor when blended with water, but the pigment is bold and once dry, it is resistant to water which is a quality that could certainly come in handy. Used without water, it layers on like a luminous, translucent acrylic and can be dry-brushed to create texture. Very versatile!

IMAG8926This was a very successful box for me – I loved the brush as well. The firmness and shape allows it to work well for both filling in tiny detail areas, and covering larger areas depending how you tilt the brush. It worked excellently for applying shading. Another success was the watercolor paper, which I expected since I already quite like the Canson brand :).

In other news, remember how I told you guys I was going to be painting a piano? It arrived this week! Yikes, it’s big. Wish me luck!

 

 

Artists To Know: In Dreams

I haven’t done an “Artists To Know” installment in quite awhile, and have bookmarks of inspiring artists piling up by the minute – The internet is wonderful ^_^! The artists I have picked today all create dreamlike worlds through their art, causing the viewer to get lost in detailed landscapes that could only exist in the artists’ imaginations, almost as if they are inviting viewers into their own inner fantasies. All are 2-dimensional works this time except the last, which is really something special, so be sure to look all the way to the end! This style of fantasy-like, surreal art is my absolute favorite. I hope you enjoy, or at least see something you’ve never seen before!

Lucy Hardie

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Lucy Hardie is an Australian artist who began her education at a Waldorf school built by her parents. With her parents’ encouragement, she studied art history and the Masters at an earlier age than most. This foundation was obvious to me right away in the style and subject matter of her work. Parts of it look like they are from another time… but then other parts resemble a time that has not yet existed, and this seamless meshing of the two along with the exquisite fine details are what make her work so captivating to me.

Hsaio Ron Cheng

 

Hsaio Ron Cheng hails from Taiwan, and is a digital artist and illustrator. The bio on her website says she was born in 1986, only 2 years before me which makes me feel like I’m slacking! Her portfolio encompasses a wide range of personal and commercial work, all in her signature palette of peachy, pastel, diluted colors. The unusual color choices are actually what first drew me to her work, and made her illustrations stand out.

Daria Hilazatova

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Daria Hilazatova describes herself as a “full-time artist, part-time elf” in the bio on her website, and sites her inspiration as “fairytales, theater, and nonsense”. Whimsical and fantastical theatrical elements abound in all of her drawings. Her illustrations are distinct and different from anything else I have ever seen, truly 100% from the artist’s imagination. The other element that differentiates her art from anything I’ve seen previously is the insane amount of detail! One has to squint to see all of the intricate patterns making up each image, and the longer one looks, the more they notice details they had originally missed.

Alexandra Levasseur

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The image above is what first prompted me to investigate more of Levasseur’s work, but she also has a ton of fantastic paintings in which the subjects are merging into painted landscapes which I’d encourage you to check out on her website. There is strong movement and emotion in each of her pieces, all of which are incredibly surreal. Her figures are realistic, but she mixes in a lot of more painterly or sketchy elements as well, making it look as if her subjects have jumped inside a delightful hand painted world and gotten lost there.

Benjamin Shine

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I told you the last one was a good one! I can’t even wrap my brain around how this works, but below is a video that shows artist Benjamin Shine in action as he creates his tulle “paintings”. Shine studied fashion design at The Surrey Institute of Art and Design and Central St Martins in London. I can’t even iron shirts properly, so conceiving of how these gorgeous, smokey portraits can be born out of an iron and some thread makes my head nearly explode. Who said there is nothing new under the sun? Shine has certainly discovered something that has never been done before.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your Sunday inspiration! Get out there and do something amazing with the rest of your weekend! 🙂

 

First Art Snacks Box, First Art Journal Entry!

artsnacks boxSo, I was having a really rough week y’all … and then I got this in the mail.

I had gotten an artsnacks subscription for Christmas, and being a virgin to subscription boxes in general, was excited to see what it was all about and hopefully discover some awesome new products for art making!

art snacks janThe January box came with:

  • A Uni-Posca PCF-350 Brush Tip Paint Marker
  • 2 Maribu Graphix Aqua Pens
  • A Tombow Fudenosuke Soft Tip Brush Pen
  • A Sakura SumoGrip Mechanical Pencil
  • And a cat joke: What do you call a painting by a cat?
  • A green Lifesaver

art journal artsnacks janI decided to do what a lot of artsnacks subscribers do after receiving their box, and join the fun of challenging myself to create a little picture using only the products in my box for the month. This is also a great way to test out the materials, especially if they are unfamiliar to you. Another fun thing about artnsnacks is the fact that the colors of the products you receive are totally random … The royal blue was lovely, but that olivey/sage green and bright orange? – maybe ok separate but kind of yikes together. So, here is my unique green penguin, swimming beneath the chilly arctic waters.

All in all I thought this was an interesting first box, especially for someone like me who is primarily a drawing based artist but also holds a lot of love for watercolor. I’ll start with my favorite products, which were hands down the mechanical pencil and Tombow pen. I own a lot of black liner pens in a huge range of line weights, but I had never owned a pen whose line weight is dependent on the pressure you apply. This is a fantastic feature for adding more depth to outlines, and it is pretty intuitive. The brush tip is firm, and it is easy to control the weight you want. I.e. – it doesn’t suddenly “blob” out a big fat black line with the slightest pressure. The mechanical pencil has a fantastic eraser which is a huge plus – The quality of your eraser sometimes matters even more than the quality of the pencils you are using! The rubber grip, besides having a cute name, practically gives your fingers a massage as you are drawing – even for someone like me who holds their pencil wrong ;)!

Next, onto the Aqua Pens … The colors are super saturated and these are obviously artist grade. These were marked as a staff favorite. I have to say though, as far as pens that can be used with watercolors I still prefer Tombow’s Dual Brush Pens. The Aqua Pens seemed to not blend as well as with water as the Tombow ones I am used to – you could still see the original sketch marks though the color did spread with water. I noticed they washed better when I worked on smaller areas at a time without letting the ink dry as much in between. When you want more of an illustrative look with super BOLD color that doesn’t fade with the water, however, these would be perfect.

Lastly, the brush tip paint marker – marked on the product list as brand new to the market … I experienced a bit of sticker shock reading the retail price of these – 10 bucks for a SINGLE marker! But, they are unlike any paint pen I have ever seen given the fact that the brush tip is an actual bristled nylon brush. It is more rigid than a traditional painting brush and maintains it’s shape even when pressure is applied, so it is a true hybrid between marker and paint brush. I can see these being fantastic for the classes I manage with Express Yourself Artshop at Creative 360. The added control of using a paintbrush in pen form like this would be great for painters who have mild to severe dexterity issues or shaky hands due to age, injury, or disability, or anyone who struggles with fine motor skills but loves to paint. If it weren’t for that darn price tag … we are a non-profit after all. Donations, anyone? 😉

My assistant at work /slash/ really cool art friend /slash/ art educator teaches an art journaling class and has been trying to get me into starting an art journal. Another surprise Christmas gift I received was lo and behold, a mixed media art journal! It’s a sign. I’m a big reader, so, in addition to my monthly artsnacks challenges, I am going to play around with journaling some of my favorite quotes from books I’ve compiled. With my first two, I kept them mainly illustrative with a lot of white space but I am going to do more with texture/mixed media backgrounds for my next one, whatever that may be.

Be sure to check back for more unboxings! ❤

P.S. The answer to the joke was a paw-trait.

P.P.S. I may be so opposed to the orange and green color combo due to new home renovation trauma. This was what our mud room looked like when we moved in.

porch2

Meet the Newest (Paper Doll) Cool Girl!

I have waxed poetic about my love of paper dolls in the past, and am happy to announce the first new member to my squad in a couple of years.

paperdollkadywheel 11x14

Following the traditional format of my other paper doll pages, Kady comes wearing a swimsuit with accessories that include an animal companion, a dressy outfit, a casual outfit, a jacket, and an outfit having to do with a profession or hobby. My girls have run the gamut from astronaut, to scientist, to artist, to baker, and athlete … presidential candidate was the obvious next move :). Kady 2020!

 

Since a lot of the fun is sharing clothes with other dolls, I am currently working on a second doll who uses a wheelchair as well that Kady will be able to swap clothes with, named Isla. Isla will come with some fun fantasy based outfits such as a fairy and princess costume, and may or may not have a pet dragon named Electra in tow ;).

What I always loved about dolls as a kid, be they paper dolls or Barbies, was having dolls that all looked completely different from each other so that each was their own unique character with their own backstory, interests, and personality when I played out my epic imaginative tales. I want to continue expanding my collection so that everyone can have a doll that looks like them, but also a bunch that don’t!

All of my paper doll sets are available at a brick and mortar location inside Imagine That! in downtown Midland MI for those in the area, and also online in my Ebay Store.

Year End Reflections And A New Project

As I mentioned earlier, after the completion of my “Unlimited”series I’d been experiencing a bit of artist’s block. I tried playing around with a couple new ideas, but nothing seemed to stick.

Design is pretty much my constant state of existence similar to, you know, breathing, so I stayed busy with commissions, crafting, my day job, and involvement in the Creative Team at my church. It was one of my projects for the team that would be the inspiration for my next piece. Upon the usual late December reflection, I discovered the themes explored in this piece really parallel what I’ve learned in this last year.

The series this image was designed for was titled Whole Heart, and though I hate being videotaped, I was somehow coerced into it so you can view this video explaining the concepts and thought behind the design. For a medium I chose a simplistic watercolor illustration with bold colors and sharp outlines. This would make the image clear and easy to read on a small app icon as well as in larger print form. The style would also appeal to any age from kids to older adults. I was surprised how even with a “story” that seemed so basic, people could strongly relate to it on multiple levels. Hearing how touched many were by image made me want to develop the concept into a more detailed piece in my usual surreal, mixed media style. Right now I just have the pencil outline, but keep checking back for in-progress shots!

whole heart orig brighten

The girl in this piece is doing something absolutely terrifying, and in no way should she be smiling or feeling any positive emotions such as liberation or elation, and yet …

I’ve always read things or heard speakers in inspirational youtube videos talk about the difference between joy and happiness, but for the most part it just sounded like a bunch of nonsense to me until this year. Suddenly – I get it. Happiness is about things that make you feel excited and content in the moment – it’s situational. Joy is about a balance of fulfilling what you need to be content, doing what you can to fulfill the needs of others or even the world or society as a whole, and learning how to deal with and process those desires that are not yet fulfilled, or those instances in your surroundings that are unjust, upsetting, or draining. Joy is about being your best self not just personally but in how you affect others.

Self care has been a huge buzz word this year, from making being comfortable into an art with lists of specific tenants required to reach maximum coziness level such as in the Danish hygge trend, to the increased conversation around kids needing “personal days” or “mental health days” in school just as adults get personal days off from work to reach their optimum ability and stay healthy. Articles about self care tend to revolve around taking it easy and giving yourself permission to indulge guilt free for the most part, but I read a really great article recently that discussed a far less popular part of self care. I suggest you read the entire thing for yourself, but the main highlighted, bold font point from this article reads as follows …

“True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from. And that often takes doing the thing you least want to do.”

Self care could mean finally making that counseling appointment you’ve been putting off. It could mean finally seeking help for your alcohol or drug addiction you’ve been struggling with. It could mean having an uncomfortable, challenging conversation with a friend or family member. It could mean either temporarily or permanently cutting a toxic person out of your life. Doing the hard things will give you not the temporary happiness that comes from giving yourself a free day relaxing in front of Netflix with a fuzzy blanket and a bottle of wine (Because you’re still going to have to go back to that job you hate after the sun sets on your mental health day … I speak from direct experience.), but the joy of a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.

I have felt the most content and fulfilled this year than any to date in my adult life, despite the fact that I still experience bouts of anxiety from time to time, I still experience periodic stressers in both work and personal life at pretty regular intervals, and the fact that the news cycle and goings on in my home country of America have really, really done a fantastic job in 2017 of pushing the exact buttons that make my blood boil.

And that is definitely an awesome thing, but it is not even all about my own or your own personal well being or fulfillment. More and more, I don’t think the point in life is necessarily to be happy all the time; I don’t think happiness is the endgame.

Most moral people tend to think that the reason we shouldn’t do bad things is because though we may think those things will make us happy, there will be some deep, dark void inside of us that will eventually eat us alive or something. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is always the case. I think there are plenty of people who are perfectly happy celebrating greed, lying, assaulting and bullying, and causing great harm to others … until they get caught. Just turn on the news. That is why the level of our happiness does not always correlate to a good life lived. We may feel happier and more internally at peace living with our heads under the sand, ignoring all the problems and injustices going on in our world, accepting the unacceptable because “I can’t do anything about it, so why should I worry?” But … if every single one of us did that, how would anything ever change? Not that every person is called to be a world changer that will end up in the history books, but plenty throughout history have put themselves in some pretty miserable conditions in order to speak up for what is right – certainly not the road to happiness and internal zen – because the purpose of life is not simply achieving momentary happiness over and over and over again.

My hope for this new year is that we all continue to grow into our best selves, and continue to flourish in awareness, in empathy, in bravery, and yes, in joy.

Come at us 2018, we’ve got this :).