Monday, April 20, 2015

February and March 2015 Sketchdump

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February Challenge

Draw at least three faces from Humane per day as a warm up.

While I try to practice figure drawing at least somewhat regularly, I often don't really focus on faces in my attempt to quickly capture gesture.  During this February, I made it a point to draw at least three faces from Humanae per day.

facial studies, Becca Hillburn, face construction

facial studies, Becca Hillburn, face construction

facial studies, Becca Hillburn, face construction

facial studies, Becca Hillburn, face construction

facial studies, Becca Hillburn, face construction

General Sketches

February and March kept me pretty busy, but I tried to make time to do some general drawing.

Emoticon Inspired Facial Expressions

#BlackOut Inspired Studies

So many beautiful selfies uploaded to Tumblr during #BlackOut inspired me to do some sketching.

Knight School Concept

Knight School is the comic I'm working on for 1001 Knights, below are the concepts for the grandmother knight (Viveca), her three grandchildren, and her 9 students.

 Gemsona- Moonstone

So many artists have been drawing Steven Universe inspired Gems, I had to noodle one up for myself.

 Scans from Fude Pen Ink Tests

When testing out new pens, I usually sketch up something to ink, and those fully inked pieces are often an afterthought in the pen reviews.  I thought I'd scan a few favorites to share.

Witchsona Week Entries

 Style Tests

I didn't do as many style tests in February and March as I would've liked, but I managed to do a few.
From left to right, top to bottom:
Mingjue Helen Chen
Louise Bagnall
Song of the Sea

Below the cut are some NSFW figure studies, but that's it.  If you're not comfortable with nudity for the sake of study, you can skip that part, there's only three below the cut.

PSA- Importance of Color Swatching

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The above demonstrates why you should swatch your paints and markers!  The first two swatches are Van Dyke Brown, and the color varies hugely between Cotman and Grumbacher, two student grade brands.  The Cotman pigments are much lighter than the Grumbacher for a color that should be a rich, dark reddish brown.  The bottom three swatches are for Sepia- Blick's, Cotman's, and Winsor Newton.  The Blick's is rich and dark, but opaque, the Cotman's Sepia is more of a Van Dyke Brown, and the Winsor Newton (a professional grade paint) is the right hue and would withstand repeated washes.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

All About Banners

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A banner helps your work stand out in a crowd, especially if everyone else in the crowd has banners.  A banner allows you to reach a potential customer from across the room, giving them all the relevant information- who you are, what you're selling, and what your art looks like.  As convention setups become more elaborate, the need for a banner becomes more pressing- it's easy to get lost when you're first starting out, especially when you're surrounded by people who've done conventions for years.

A banner is a good first investment in making sure your setup can compete with the big dogs, and it doesn't have to be expensive. 

Common Banner Sizes and Uses

3'x4' Poster Banner- If you don't have room behind your table for a standing banner, but have a curtain (like at MoCCA-fest), this might be a great solution.  In the past, we've clipped it to the curtain at MoCCA, as there's no easy way to display it standing.

Spotted in the Wild at: MoCCA-fest 2014

7"x3" Vertical Banner:  Great for half table displays that sit low on the table.  Often seen at indie cons and superhero cons, useful for promoting your comic rather than promoting you.  You'll need a stand for this, it's easiest to just buy the stand and the banner at the same time.

Spotted in the Wild At: Otakon 2011 (photo doesn't want to load), will have new banner above at TCAF 2015

6'x18" Horizontal Banners(buy a 6'x2' and trim it down, the unfinished edge won't be noticable):  For your whole table setups, used on either a pole display or wire grids.

Spotted in the Wild At: Anime Weekend Atlanta 2014, Mechacon 2014, Anime Blast Chattanooga (displayed on an 8' table)

2'x3' Horizontal Banners:  Great for half tables, both above your table or across the front.  You don't need a stand, but will need to set at least six grommets. 

Bottom of table display at Ohaoyocon, with 'studio' banner displayed above.  We had hoped this would help people differentiate between our halves of the table.  It did not.

Above table display with pipe structure for support.  This table layout was confusing to customers who assumed we were one seller.
Spotted in the Wild At: Ohayocon 2014, NOCAZfest (an indie con), Nekocon 2013

Places to Buy

BuildASign:  This is where all of my current banners are from.  While their print quality isn't photo quality, it's fine for a banner as people won't be closely scrutinizing your print quality anyway.  This printer is quick and very affordable, and I've gotten banners for as little as $10, with my most expensive banner (the vertical 3'x6') being $79 (technically like $65, I caught a deal from RetailMeNot that included free shipping) and includes the stand.  Still extremely reasonable.

VistaPrints:  My first banner came from here, but was before I started writing reviews, so unfortunately I can't link to one.  The print quality is really high, much higher than BuildASign, but I find VistaPrints to be too expensive considering how often I like to switch and update my banners.  I also ordered a stand for my banner, and from what I remember, it cost about $150 all included.

I believe you can order in person from the following places, and I think you can pick up in-store:

Staples:  Their banners seem expensive unless you catch a sale.  I've never printed with them.

Office Max/Office Depot:  I've never printed with them.

FedEx: Never printed with them.

Tips and Tricks

  • Don't pay for the banner printing service to set your grommets.  Invest in a grommet kit from Michaels, and set them at home!  This way, you're not only saving money, but you can put the grommets exactly where you want them.
  • For most banners, you don't really need a banner stand- you can hang your banner from an inexpensive and lightweight home built stand made of pipes, a photo backdrop setup, or your wire mesh cubes.
  • Order your banner at least a month ahead of when you'll need it, to make sure it arrives in time for your show.
  • Test out your setup before the show, in case you need to make any changes.
  • Watch sites like RetailMeNot and Slickdeals for sales that will help you save money when ordering your banner.
  • Banners that have grommets can be attached with zipties or ribbon. 
Alternatives to Printed Banners

I mentioned in the Artist Alley Essentials series that you could paint your own banner at home.  This really only saves you money if you have most of the supplies at home.

To Paint a Banner, You'll Need:

  • Length of Cloth slightly larger than what you want your banner to be
  • Acrylic Paints (the cheap stuff is fine)
  • Paint Brushes (stiff bristle brushes really work best here)
  • Thread, Needle, or Sewing Machine
  • Grommets
  • Color pencils
Begin by hemming your length of cloth on all four edges, so there are no rough seams.   While you don't have to do an amazing job, you should use thread that matches your banner.   Set your grommets.  If you don't have grommets, and know how to sew buttonholes, those work too.  Sketch your design out lightly with a color pencil.  Once you've figured out the basics, go ahead and darken it so you can see it better, refining details.  When you're satisfied with your design, you can start painting.  I recommend 'sketching' in your letters with a smaller brush, filling in the letters with your larger brush, and then adding details with the smaller brush once the paint is dry.

Paper Signage:

While paper signage isn't ideal, it's better than nothing, and can be quite effective when used with other types of banners.  If you're going the low-budget route, poster boards with cute sketches on them are large enough to attract attention, especially if displayed high above your tabletop.  Posterboard cutouts of your characters can also be attractive and engaging. 

Convention Chow: Soylent

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I mentioned on my Twitter a few weeks ago that I'd be trying Soylent, and that it might be the meal solution many con-artists are looking for.  My announcement was met with enthusiasm and skepticism, after all, isn't Soylent green made of people?

All jokes aside, Soylent is an excellent meal replacement for those of us who can't get away from our tables long enough to grab a bite to eat, let alone eat it.  I recently took a thermos of Soylent with me to MTAC on Saturday and Sunday, and it lasted me from arrival (9:30 AM) until we left for the day (after 8:00 PM).

Some considerations before consuming:
  • Your batch of Soylent will last 2 days refrigerated
  • Soylent separates, so make sure you always shake it before drinking
  • Your Soylent will need to be kept cool during consumption, I bring mine to conventions in a thermos bottle.
  • The first time you drink Soylent, it may make you mildly nauseous.  If you drink it regularly, it won't bother you, but I wouldn't recommend your first time consuming it being at a convention.
  • Soylent isn't exactly a diet food, so please read instructions carefully.
  • Adding foods and flavors to Soylent will change it's caloric value, but will vastly improve the taste.

I'm not a big fan of Soylent on it's own, so here's my recipe for a tasty and filling Chocolate Banana Soylent Shake.


  • 2 Bananas
  • Milk
  • 1 bag Soylent
  • 9tsp honey
  • 3.5 tsp cocoa powder
  • half teaspon cinnamon
  • Water

Blend the bananas in some milk until bananas are fully blended.  Add in bag of Soylent, honey,  cocoa powder,cinnamon, blend until ingredients are mixed.  Pour into your Soylent pitcher, then add equal parts whole milk and water to fill pitcher.

For more recipes, check out the Soylent site, but I gotta warn you, I haven't tried any of these. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Finding Fude Pens in the US

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I've mentioned in prior pen reviews that while I love Jetpens, I wish fude pens were more commonly available in the US.  When I go to art supply stores, I always check around to see if any brands have made the witch to stateside distribution, and I'm usually disappointed.  Living in Nashville, my options are limited to overpriced Pla-Za and 40 minute drive Jerry's Artarama, so I took my search for American distribution online.


Upon casually browsing Pilot's English site, I can't seem to even FIND fude or sign pens, which is strange as I know they make several.  Searching the terms 'sign pen' and 'fude pen' didn't bring any enlightenment- while 'sign pen' did bring up results, none of them were the flexible nibbed pens fans of Japanese stationary recognize as 'sign pens'.  Similarly, nothing comes up for 'brush pen'. Does Pilot feel there's no need to bring their fude pens over because they feel there's no market?


Kuretake's English Site was annoying to navigate- I can't seem to actually click on any of the categories I'd like to explore, so I went to their Zig site instead.  While their Zig site shows that they make fude pens (they're included on the graphic for the 'Brushes' category), I can't seem to easily view their selection or order from the site.  Their separate online shop (UK) does have some interesting offerings including:

Zig Art and Graphic Twin
An Entire Section of Fude Pens
Zig CocoIro

The Zig site also offers some brush pens that I've never seen offered on Jetpens.  These include
Zig Cartoonist Manga Flexible Fine
Zig Cartoonist Manga Flexible Medium

Mitsubishi Uni

Uni or Uni-ball in the US, is as bad as Pilot's English site.  Although they have an interesting range of products in Japan, their American offerings are more limited- rollerball pens, pencils, gel pens, and their Jetstream line, none of which include brush pens.


I really couldn't find an official English site for Sailor, just several vendors who carry some of their fountain pens.


The Pentel English site is much better, and has a winder range of offerings.  Although their site advertises sign pens, it seems like they may be in the process of rebranding their sign pens to the Pentel Touch (which is still a sign pen).  I managed to find a few that didn't lead to a dead end, and would be interested in comparing the old and new iterations.  While we wait for Pentel to finish updating their English site, Pentel Touch is available through both Jetpens and DickBlick's  (search for sign, not Pentel Touch) online store.

Besides the Pentel Touch, Pentel's English site lists many pens that would be interesting to comic artists and illustrators. These include:

Black Color Brush
Sign Pen Brush Tip
Aquash Brush with Pigment Ink
Metallic Brush Pens
Pentel Pocket Brush and refills
Sign Pen Multi Color Pack

Unfortunately it seems for those of us who aren't fortunate enough to live in New York or San Francisco, areas blessed with Kinokuniya, Daiso, and Japanese stationary stores, we'll be ordering our Japanese stationary supplies online from sites like Jetpens.  Some stores like Jerry's Artarama occasionally carries little known (in the US) Asian art supplies, so if you have one local to your area, they are well worth checking out.  If you have a locally owned art supply store, they may be willing to place orders for you, or take stock recommendations.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Art Supply Review: Six Shades of Grey

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After noodling about with Copics in my sketchbook, I was curious about other pens that could be used to add a little life to my sketches.  You guys have probably already read my review on the Mitsubishi Pure Color-F sign pens, so you know how some of my ventures have fared. 

I ordered the Pitt Brush Pens in Shades of Gray because I've used the green super brush in the past to shade my work in conjunction with fude pen inks, and was fairly satisfied with the results.  I figured if I liked how these worked, I could add a new dimension to my sketches.  You can get the set of six for $15.50 on Jetpens.

A look at the pens

Pitt makes a variety of brush and technical pens that many comic artists utilize for inking.  One of the selling points of the Pitt brush pen is the brush tip, but it's quick to fray.  Many artists salvage their still-full pens by sharpening the brush by flipping the nib.

I don't use Pitt Artist Pens often enough to justify flipping the nib, but if I started using Pitt pens to tone, that nib salvage technique might come in handy.

 The ink in Pitt Pens is India Ink, which is waterproof once fully dried.  Although it's available in a wide variety of colors, I was mainly looking for toning, not color.  If you're interested in colored toning, Jetpens offers a number of sets sold by color family

The Shades of Grey set comes with six brush pens- three cool greys and three warm greys.

The Field Test

Unfortunately, preliminary tests of the fude pen's ability to withstand Pitt Pen application were disheartening, and I abandoned the idea of using the pens AFTER initial inking, despite having prepared a test and allowed it to dry overnight. However, after noodling with the Fudebiyori pens (post to come!), I realized there's another way to handle gray toning- tone first and ink after!

Pitt Pens Revisited

So for this to work, you need to start with an uninked lineart.

I'll be using the cool greys for this test, so I went ahead and pulled them from the reusable plastic wallet the Pitt Pens came in.

I begin by filling in the lightest area of tone.  Unfortunately, the lightest cool grey is both pretty dark and pretty warm for a light cool grey.

I then started to fill in the next layer of tone with the medium grey.

The ink used for the Pitt Pens works well for layering, which makes the lightest grey's dark hue even more unfortunate.  With the right distribution in hues, you could theoretically achieve a huge spectrum of grey with just these six pens, but since the lighest pen is already very dark, it's difficult to tone many skintones and lighter shades like whites and yellows.

Finally it was time to apply the final layer of grey with the darkest pen in the cool grey spectrum.

To tighten things up, I inked over it with my Kuretake Fudegokochi.

And added some highlights with a Signo white gel pen.

The Verdict

Pitt Pens really don't need an introduction from me- they're commonly available in the US at a variety of stores in a wide array of colors.  They're a popular choice amongst artists, and are an affordable option for those looking for a convenient way to ink.

Although Pitt Pens don't seem to be fude-safe, if you ink with them first, you can achieve impressive results.  If you're looking for an inexpensive way to liven up your sketchbooks, Pitt Pens are a great choice.