What is Inktober?

Month long initiatives for skill-building, projects, charities, and more are nothing new. One of my favorites, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), was started back in 1999. From Movember’s mustachioed charitable funds to American Humane’s life-saving “Adopt-a-Dog” month, these challenges/awareness events create communities and make a difference.

Inktober, created by Jake Parker in 2009, is one of the more artistic and personal themes. Every October, thousands of artists create inked works for the challenge. The main intention? Personal growth in discipline and a specific medium.

On his website, illustrator Jake Parker says he started Inktober as a personal endeavor to improve his “inking skills and develop positive drawing habits.” His challenge has inspired a worldwide community, with over 3.5 million posts for #inktober on Instagram. Participants on Instagram have expanded beyond the traditional pen and paper medium to include ink washes, alcohol markers, and even tattoos.

While there is an official prompt list for 2016, there are no required subject matters. The rules Parker lists on his website are quite simple:
“1) Make a drawing in ink (you can do a pencil under-drawing if you want).
2) Post it online
3) Hashtag it with #inktober and #inktober2016
4) Repeat”

He adds an encouraging note below these, that not completing all 31 drawings is not failure; even doing one ink sketch a week is acceptable. It’s all about self-improvement. So “the more you’re consistent [you are] the better.”

Parker includes a comprehensive list of his favorite Inktober materials as well. Curious what materials I’ll use this Inktober? See the list here. You can also see my first Inktober sketches from 2015 here.

Have you participated in Inktober? Let me know below!

New Filming and Art Equipment!

I don’t know about you, but I always get excited when the mail comes.  Especially when there are packages with your name on them.  And now, with my room half-filled with empty boxes and packaging materials, I can show you some of my new supplies.

Logitech c920 Cameras

Logitech c920 Cameras

My priority was filming quality.  The video recording and lighting are important factors.  My phone was easy to film with, but the quality was definitely lacking.  I haven’t used the cameras much yet, but so far they seem great.  Using OBS I can change different settings to adjust the picture.  Plus, they will work for both YouTube and Twitch livestreaming.

 

For lighting, I bought the Lightblade 1500s.  Originally, I was planning on an Ottlite.  But the reviews on Amazon were so positive that I decided to give it a chance.

microphone box edited

Blue Microphones NESSIE Adaptive USB Condenser Microphone

I want to do voiceovers for the videos, so I bought the NESSIE Blue Microphone.  I’ve seen people on Twitch use them, and the Amazon reviews were also good.

Canon CanoScan LiDE220 Photo and Document Scanner

Canon CanoScan LiDE220 Photo and Document Scanner

Lastly, the scanner was another necessary purchase.  Previously I had only taken pictures of my artwork, but they’re nothing compared to the quality of a scanner.  Personally, I would have preferred a larger one, since I like doing bigger artworks.  This was the best I could get for my budget, as the other ones I looked at were about $2,000 and up.  Upon letting out a cry of shock and slight despair, I decided this $99 Canon scanner was the best option.  I’ll figure out what to do with big drawings when I need to.

 

Are filled with glee at the arrival of packages and equipment upgrades?

Granite State Comic Convention

Today I experienced my first convention: cosplays, panels, contests, and more.  I kind of knew what to expect based of various tidbits I’d picked up from various YouTube videos and IGN articles.  But I was a bit nervous for some reason.

Armed in my Marvel Civil War t-shirt and with Legend of Zelda messenger bag, I went forth.  There was a slightly surreal encounter with the Winter Soldier in the parking garage, followed by an elevator ride with a group of Batman villains and a three year old Captain America.  All before even entering the convention hall.

The cosplays just got better and better.  I wish I had pictures to show you, but there were Gallifreyan doctors, Jedi, Lara Crofts, a Yoshi, and Pokémon.  There was even a Mythbuster and a replica of the famous Smokey and the Bandit car.  And yes, there were many, MANY Harley Quinns and Jokers.  At one point I was in an elevator with a Suicide Squad Harley and Joker who were, well, very in character.

Sadly, we (my mom and brother came, too) were running late, and I missed the panel I was most looking forward to.  “Cover Art Masters” was a panel all about creating your own cover art, something I don’t have any experience in yet.  I was excited to learn Babs Tarr was one of the guests.  Her design for Batgirl in ‘Batgirl of Burnside’ has become an icon in modern hero redesign.  Ironically, I’d done a study of that cover a couple days before I realized she would be there.

After getting in we rushed to get my brother signed up for a kids’ N64 Pokémon tournament.  I left to go to a Star Wars Panel, featuring Dave Barclay, Ian Whyte, and Dexter Vines.  There’s a full blog on what insightful, and often comedic, things they had to say coming soon.

It seems Professor McGonagall also likes Star Wars

It seems Professor McGonagall also likes Star Wars

After lunch, my brother continued to kick butt in the tournament, despite never having played the game before, and I went to a panel entitled “Batman Day 2016”.  It was here that I realized just how little I know about comics.  I enjoyed reading as a kid and still do when I find the time and resources (let’s face it, comics aren’t cheap).  But the room was filled with people who knew every detail about the Batman universe.

The guests were Larry Hama, Jeff Parker, Billy Tucci, and Jack Purcell: all artists who had intimately worked with Batman comics for many years.  It was a fun time, even if I didn’t always know what they were referencing.  At the end, two random audience members were selected to participate in a Batman trivia game.

Harley Quinn wanted all the Batman info

Harley Quinn wanted all the Batman info

The idea was that the artists would stump them by asking about specific and little-known details in the Batman universe.  It was funny- one contestant knew every answer but one, and responded like it was common knowledge (I, of course, had no idea what the answers were.)  The other contestant knew some things, but always leaned towards her presumable husband for definitive answers.  They both won a prize package that included Batman toys, plushes, and some comics.

I quickly went next door for the “Making a Pop Culture Legend” panel.  Although the audience was fairly empty, it was one of the most hilarious times of the convention.  Featuring Blair Shedd, Andrew Robinson, J. K. Woodward and Otis Frampton, the artists discussed the challenges and adventures of working with existing popular works, like Star Trek and Assassin’s Creed.  A blog sharing their advice on dealing with fandoms and editors will also be published soon.

Meanwhile, my brother lost the tournament in the semi-finals.  It was a close game too- he would have won if he hadn’t unknowingly used a Gengar move that only had a 5% success rate.  He was given a gym badge for making it to the final four, which made him happy.

 

As the day went on, I lost most of that nervous feeling.  You see, where I’m from I’m used to being the only one who really cares about those things (besides my mom and brother, anyway).  Never at school did I have a genuine conversation about the deeper meaning of Doctor Who or just how special the Legend of Zelda series is.  Not only was I now surrounded by fellow fans, but they were just passionate as I am, often even more so.  It was a welcoming, yet somehow intimidating feeling.

 

That intimidation was still a little present as I preceded to the last panel of the day.  In front of the salon doors was a crowd of Red Shirt workers and costumed attendees.  The cosplay contest was starting at the same time in the room next to the panel.  One of the Red Shirts told me there was no more room for the contest, and naturally said I was there for the panel.  She let me through, and I turned the corner to face an empty room.

Seeing no one in the audience gave me a social panic, and I tried to turn back.  As soon as I did, I heard the Red Shirt say, “She’s your only one!”  The moderator was approaching, and quickly ushered me in.  No leaving now.  The artists on the panel made some jokes about choosing any seat I like and being the only one, which helped a bit.

All day I’d been trying to stay in the background.  Take my notes, learn what I can, and move on.  Asking a question in the fandom panel took an illogical amount of courage on my part.  I think it mainly came from this: besides elementary school art teachers, I had never met an artist.  Let alone many comic professionals who are successful and incredibly skilled.  Growing up in Small Town, Nowhere does have some disadvantages.  I was intimidated in an awe-inspiring way, if that makes sense.

So in the end, I had a virtually personal panel with Ron Garney, Shawn Crystal, Joe St. Pierre and Bill Walko.  The official title was “The Swiss Army Knife Comic Book Artist” with the focus of being an artist in a variety of mediums, including movie character design, commercial marketing, and more.  The moderator, Thomas Novak, started by asking prepared question around those topics, but the conversation evolved into more personal advice for me.

The artists were talking about their passions in the art world, and asked me about mine.  I was taken aback, like, ‘Oh, yeah, they’re actually talking to me.’  I answered that I have always loved writing, and would one day like to create a graphic novel.

And their advice was priceless.  Learn to draw everything, only one action per comic panel, you can always self-publish, and absolutely make sure to protect your original ideas are just a few of the gems of wisdom they had to give.  They shared experiences of designing packaging for clients, character design for the movie I Am Legend, and what it’s really like working for large companies like Marvel and DC.

At one point I asked when they thought they were skilled enough to be a professional illustrator.  The general answer was that you look for work.  Whether you’re hired or not, you need to continue working on your skills.  It’s a lifetime effort.  They also said something I’d heard before, but was especially poignant coming from them: anyone paid for their work is a professional.  Even if it’s just a nickel for a quick sketch- if someone pays you, you’re a professional.

You don’t need to wait for an editor, or skill-point, or income level to be a published or professional artist.  What matters is to keep moving.  Self-publish, sell your work online.  While editors and publishing companies can help, they are not necessary, especially in the modern world we live in.

Okay, I’m filling in some of my own words there.  But the point is that finding a career in art is a very individualized journey, one without set requirements or limits.

Over time, that intimidation became enthusiastic awe.  When they first asked if I had a question, I didn’t know what to say.  By the end, I kept thinking of more and more things I wanted to ask them.  After all, their careers have consisted of work and opportunities that I have only dreamed about.  In retrospect, I’m glad I was the only one who came.

 

With Day One of Granite Con over, I am thrilled, inspired, informed, and a little surprised at how out of my comfort zone I went.  It was a great day, with experiences I certainly won’t soon forget.

 

Have you ever been to a comic convention?  What was your experience?  I’d love to hear in the comments below!

I recently went to a well-known artist haven: Michael’s.  Amidst the fragrant wood projects and fluffy brush bristles, one can’t help but be inspired.  Unless you return and see once again that they have no Copics in stock.  Sigh.  Much sadness.

The Haul Overall

The Haul Overall

Nevertheless, it was still fun.  I had gone with the mission of finding storage for pinback buttons and a shelving unit for 50% off.  It was a success!  The containers for buttons I actually found in the jewelry aisle, but they look like they’ll be a good size.

 

I picked up a few miscellaneous things as well.  I desperately needed new scissors, as the ones I had were bent and dull.  My mom was with me, and she picked out a nice portfolio for some of my larger drawings.  They had just been sitting in a pile on my desk collecting dust, so it’s nice to have a safe place for them.

gold-shadow-gelly-rolls

The Sakura Gelly Rolls were intriguing to the point where I felt I had to get them.  So far I’ve been pretty impressed with Gelly Rolls as a whole, especially given their fairly low price.  There are different types, and I believe these are the newest ones. They’re called Gold Shadow, and are described as “gold with color outline.”  I was curious to see how well they work (stay tuned for a review!)

 

The sketchbooks, oil pastels, highlighters, and clips were also somewhat impulse buys.  I’m pretty close to finishing my current Canson Mixed Media book, so I was already considering which one to get next.  These Artist’s Loft sketchbooks have the thinner paper I wanted, plus it’s about time I have some with nice covers.

old-vs-new-sketchbooks

The sketchbook on the left says “Imagination is more important than knowledge.   -Albert Einstein”

 

Michael’s was having a lot of back-to-school sales, so the candy highlighters and clips were super cheap (and cute).  The Artist’s Loft oil pastels were only $5 for 48 colors, plus an additional 20% off in sales.  I’ve been liking Artist Loft a lot lately.  Their products somewhat reflect their cheap prices, but it provides a way to test out a type of media without investing in a high-quality ‘artist’ brand.

 

What’s your favorite thing to look for in craft stores?

Self Healing Plastic?

Following up from the last blog, I think I may have found a solution to protect my desk.  Apparently those mats I had seen other people use are ‘cutting mats’, and are meant to be resistant to, well, cutting.  Unless you want to carve your work surface with X-acto knives and boxcutters, they are a great way to fearlessly continue with art projects on your desk.

 

When searching on Amazon, they all looked about the same.  Sometimes they had different colors, or different gridlines to measure your cuts by, but overall they seemed pretty indistinguishable from each other.  Until a certain product title caught my eye.

 

“Self Healing Plastic Mat” is proudly proclaimed on the listing.  It also says, “Thick Double Sided Cutting Mat Re-Seals After Every Cut.”  Plastic that heals itself.  What?  Reading the description told me that it “possesses UNIQUE SELF HEALING properties” that allow it to do so.  But what could these magical properties be?

 

After further investigation, it turns out many people were also perplexed by this vague claim.  An article by Rain Noe on Core77 suggested it could be some type of special “thermoplastic,” or simply a marketing tool to convince potential buyers.

 

Unfortunately, I am not a chemist, nor engineer, nor anything that has to do with the proposed ‘Ultra-high-molecular-weight Polyethylenes’ and what they might be.  Wikipedia tells me it is a “very tough material, with the highest impact strength of any thermoplastic presently made.”  Sounds impressive.

 

Regardless of the mat’s mysterious compound, it is only about $20 with Amazon Prime for one sized 12 x 18 inches.  Paired with its five star rating average from 942 reviews and bendy quality for transport or storage, it is certainly worth considering.

 

I’m not sure it is right for my purposes, though.  I have yet to use a cutting material directly on my desk.  A simple, hard plastic mat that won’t be damaged by alcohol markers or watercolors would be a better choice for me.  The search continues!

 

Sold by Crafty World, the crafty healing mat can be found here.

 

Have you come across any magical claims for art supplies? Let me know below!

So, my desk is about eight years old, and has seen plenty of abuse in that time; various moves, stickers, and many spills have added lots of scrapes and stains.  But after coloring a picture of the Pokémon Rapidash with Copic markers, I noticed something new.

When I went to pick up the paper a few hours after coloring, it seemed to stick to my desk.  It pulled up without much trouble, and the paper did not rip, but underneath was a fairly subtle image of a Pokémon.

As you probably know, Copic markers are alcohol-based markers.  As you might not know, alcohol, especially rubbing alcohol, can be very damaging to wood surfaces.  Like an acid, it can eat through the varnishes or protective coatings on the wood.  Unfortunately, I found out the hard way that heavy blending with alcohol markers can have the same effect.  Ironically, I recently learned that using a small amount of rubbing alcohol is a recommended way to remove ink stains.

I’d seen a lot of YouTubers who specialize with Copics use a plastic mat or other non-wood surface between their desks and artwork.  I figured they just didn’t want to get marker or paint on their actual desks.  In hindsight it seems like an obvious problem, but you know what they say.

So, now I am in the market for a mat myself.  I think the reason this hasn’t really happened with my other Copic works is because I always rotated them as I colored them.  For Rapidash, I taped it in place so it was upright for the video.  Since it was static on the desk and I seriously blended its mane with a lot of ink, it had time to soak in and make a noticeable impact.

Rapidash Outline

The marks are more subtle on camera, and the reflection from the lamp and the pre-existing stain from a receipt (long story) make it harder to see. I’ve outlined it, so hopefully you can see where it is. It’s more noticeable in person.

Do you use something to protect your desk or work-surface?  Let me know in the comments!