The Beginning Artist

I’m really enjoying the journaly feeling of blogging.  I’ve never really been good at keeping a journal, but I will crank out a few pages when I need to.  I want to continue to share these feelings with the world of people who find me interesting, because I find these things from other people helpful.  I usually walk away with a feeling a belonging, because of something I resonated with, or I get a new perspective I hadn’t considered before.  So, thank you for being here, and feel free to comment if anything here speaks to you!

I used to think I was an aspiring artist.  I don’t know what I thought the line was for whether or not one was a “real” artist.  I’m certainly aspiring to be a professional artist, but I’m definitely an artist.

20140704_102216 (2)
So fancy.

A chef is a person who went to culinary school.  You can be a darn fine cook without having gone to school (talking to you, husband.) But without the education, you don’t get the title.  Artist doesn’t work that way. It’s more of a who you are thing than a line you cross with education.  An artist can’t not art.  If they don’t do it actively, the people around them will still see their creativity in everything else they do. And in my case, I see it looking back now.

20131012_013209For about 5 years I didn’t draw anything. Not even doodling in my margins on work notes. I can’t say much about why other than to say I filled my time with other things. I created 2 children within that time, but I’d quit drawing before my oldest was born.  The most artistic things I did in this time were custom birthday cakes for the kids in my life.  There were a lot of artistic challenges in some of those cakes.  My mom used to do them, but I sort of took over one year in my zeal to be helpful.

My husband got to tinkering in his garage and making little electronic gadgets.  Laser lights and LED lights.  He made a really awesome wand, too.  One night while I was hanging out with him while he was tinkering, I thought to grab a sketchbook.  I don’t remember what I drew.  That summer I drew a really sweet sketch of my daughter, and the car, and a tree, and just a bunch of random stuff.  Between summer and winter I filled a couple of sketchbooks and was on a roll. I got a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 for Christmas, and did a goodly handful of digital drawings. Before my break, I did sketching, but my final pieces were all digital.

2014-09-28 11.32.16
So cool.

Then I pulled out my colored pencils for something.  Don’t remember what.  They are Prismacolor pencils, and I had so badly given up on art that I’d been letting my children use them.  I must have really enjoyed whatever I colored, because I went nuts going back to traditional media.  So much so, that I have done only one digital art piece in the last year.  If I got that assignment now, I’d probably use watercolor :).  In fact, Husband told me last night that I should redo that one in watercolor because it would awesome.  I got an Artsnacks subscription for my birthday last year, and it has been AWESOME.  A few art supplies every month to tinker with, and then a challenge to do a piece with just what’s in the box each month.  Some of my challenges were rather uninspired, but I really enjoyed some of the other ones I did.  And lots of the supplies have been adopted into my stash of usual suspects.

I love this thing!

It must have been around February of last year that I pulled out a student travel watercolor set that my mother in law gave me.  I pulled it out after I painted a rainbow with my daughter and her Crayola watercolors. Watercolor is a great fast way to add some color to a sketch to make it just a little more.  I’ve since pretty much gone nuts with watercolor.  It helped that I won a drawing  from The Artist’s Network to get a huge pile of watercolor things, including a travel watercolor palette, and a great big porcelain Stephen Quiller palette.

It was also in February that someone said something to me that sank in really deep, and I didn’t realize until now, over a year later.  I was coloring with my niece (who was 7), and she was dictating where I would color, and
what color it would be.  She handed me a blue crayon, and I also grabbed a slightly darker crayon.  She gave me a look, and then said “You’re an artist, so I’ll trust you.” I had wanted to add shadow to 20160217_184259the area I was coloring, and she loved it when I was done, and did her section similarly.

“You’re an artist, so I’ll trust you.” I realized today (today being the day I’m working on the first draft of this post) that she is the first person who called me “artist” that I actually believed.  My neighbor had called me that earlier in the same month and I shrugged it off with an “I’m trying.” Trying is all it takes to be an artist.

And I AM an artist.  When I was a kid, I was a beginning artist, not an aspiring artist.  Now I’m probably square in the grey middle of Intermediate.  I thought I had quit, but now I understand better that there are seasons in life, and even an artist has seasons where they might not art much.  But it’s still there, and you might find it in a funny place. Just do yourself a huge favor and don’t deny it when it comes to visit again.

Where to begin…

So there I was, planting apple seeds throughout the frontier, and out of nowhere comes this funny guy named John Jacob Jingle-Heimer Schmidt.  He’s going around singing his name like some kind of idiot, so I seized the opportunity to copyright his song, just so I could collect the royalties from him.


Seeing as how the song was only five seconds long, I could charge him quite often.  Then inspiration hit me, so I strolled down to the local tavern and listened carefully to the drunken renditions of different songs, and I realized that they were different enough to copyright without infringing on the original copyright.  So I go about copyright’n all of these slurred songs, and as it turns out, each drunk slurs a little bit differently. So here I am, tryin’ my hardest to write every possible drunken rendition of every song.  That’s when it hit me:  I need a huge blue ox. I can’t quite remember why it hit me; it might’ve been the booze.  I was trying to write drunken renditions after all.

That’s a big ox.

And so I find this huge ox, and I realize that I am easily no match for it.  This is when I turned around and began running. Luckily for me, a crowd of innocent bystanders meandered into the ox’s path. The next thing I know, the ox is lying on the ground whimpering like some kind of baby.  So I approached the mighty beast, only to realize the reason for the ox’s pain:  It had a farmer stuck in its hoof.  So I kindly help the poor ox out.  I took a 2×4 and pried the poor farmer loose (what was left of him, anyway) and the next thing you know, this ox is my best friend.




That’s when the $’s sprung up in my eyes:  I realized this ox could easily feed a whole town for a year.  “Now to find a town with a big enough gun to put this creature down with,” I thought to myself, “seein as ordinary bullets just bounced off of it.”.  Well after tryin a few dozen cannons to no avail, I realized I needed someone with tremendous strength, and not much brains, so I started auditioning.  I finally end up with this meat-head named Hercules, and when I say meat-head, I mean it. This guy didn’t even know which end of a tree you’re supposed to chop.  This kid kept telling these crazy tales about his dad being some kind of omnipotent being and whatnot, that’s when I pegged him as a loony, I convinced him that he had to help me slay this giant beast, in order to get a golden fleece, I couldn’t believe he fell for it.  Eventually I got the basic plan into his head, all he had to do, is chop the head off the big ox, this is when the trouble began.

I never really considered how much blood a huge ox like Babe (the pet name I’d given him) could hold, and well, the nearby towns didn’t much appreciate my lack of foresight, especially when the tsunami of blood was headed their way.  Quickly I blew a breath of frozen air at it, a trait passed down through the Frost family, and froze this giant wave of blood solid.


He was nice.

While, I’m not really a member of the Frost family, But Jack used to deliver the milk when I was a child, so I figured the ice breath sort of rubbed off on me.  Once again, my lack of foresight was my downfall.  Now, instead of demolishing the nearby towns, I ended up nearly encasing them in ice. The three survivors were very angry about this:  You know “you killed my family” this, and “you’ve ruined my life” that.  I ended up settling the score with ox meat.  Now, I had planned to sell this meat to the nearby towns, but since we were in the middle of a “population crisis”, they didn’t exactly have much interest, besides the original bribe, er, tribute.

So I convinced Hercules that we needed to bring the beast’s carcass to the nearest “populated” town to collect the fleece.  He kept trying to convince me that proof of its demise should be enough, but I kindly reminded him that he was an idiot.  Now this guy was a tough guy, but no matter how tough he was, there was no way to avoid half-dragging this giant, blue, headless ox.  This wouldn’t have been a problem, if the nearest town was within 50 miles.  Now lets pretend the ground is sand paper, and Babe’s headless corpse was a piece of balsa wood; yeah, it wasn’t pretty.  When we got to the nearest town, only about half of babe was left, and there was a huge red path behind us.  Ordinarily this wouldn’t have been a problem, but it seems this town had some odd organization protecting the endangered giant blue oxen, and seeing as how Babe was, well, the only giant blue ox, there was hell to pay.


Now normally in this situation, I’d high-tail it outta there, but seeing as how I was in the middle of town, and surrounded by angry citizens carrying torches and pitchforks, that didn’t seem like it’d work.  Now the second idea that came to me seemed a little more likely to work.  I decided to play blind, color blind that is.  I fell to my knees and covered my face in my hands, I hadn’t intended to use the waterworks, but the sharp rock I just slammed my knee down on changed my mind.  “I didn’t know he was blue!” I let out between sobs, “I thought he was an ordinary giant brown ox!” This seemed to take them aback for a moment:  Now all I had to do is convince them I was the victim.  This wasn’t as hard as you’d have thought.

So there I was surrounded by angry villagers that didn’t seem to be buying my “colorblind” excuse.  Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, the pygmy cannibals arrived. Sure, they couldn’t have been more than 3 ft tall at the best, but when a people eats human flesh, other people tend to fear them. I on the other hand, found this to be the perfect diversion:  Now was my chance to escape, or so I would have thought, if the entire town wasn’t surrounded by half-pint human-eaters

But, I remembered something about common enemies, and friends and stuff, so I realized, all I have to do is kill a few innocent people, and that should scare the little people away…  I quickly grabbed a pitchfork from the nearest civilian, who happened to be frozen with fear, then I stabbed him with it.  Hercules seemed to think that everyone was waiting to be saved by him or something, and rushed out into the middle of the pygmies’ group and started stomping like crazy. I pretty much ignored him from this point out, trying to make like I didn’t know him and such.  


Now, generally you’d expect people to attempt to defend themselves, especially when charging them with a pitchfork in your hands, these people must’ve been as dumb as rocks.  The biggest effort I saw of self-defense was one guy who yelled at me when I was charging him; everyone else just stood there with their backs turned to me, like they wanted to be killed or something.  Now, in the fray I spotted the leader of the pygmies.  He had a patch over one of his eyes, and one of his ears looks as though his wife gnawed it off. I assumed he was the leader, at least:  He was nearly 3ft 2in, so among them he was a giant.  And everyone knows that the one guy that you can tell apart from the rest of the crowd has to be the leader.

This is when my plan came to me:  All I have to do is take out this guy, and the rest of the pygmies will worship me as a god. Unfortunately, my pitchfork was a little too inbedded in my last victim, and it was not coming out. So I turned to “plan B.” Plan B was to trick him into killing himself, all I needed was a raw human heart, and I had no trouble finding one of those…  After I cleaned off my pocket knife, I began stomping my way through the pygmies towards their leader. Now, I probably could have just kept stomping and went right on by, but once I make a plan, I got to see the results of it.

pygmy_bossI stopped my stomping right in front of the leader of the pygmies, and as he opened his mouth to bite me, I stuffed the whole heart down his throat.  The whole crowd went silent and looked at me and the one-eyed, one-eared, pint-sized, purple, people-eater.  He grabbed at his throat for a few minutes as I stood there patiently waiting for him to keel over.  He kept giving me this weird look with his eye that intrigued me at the same time as it disgusted me.  Now, I was expecting the pygmies to bow down and grovel, or at the very least retreat, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Almost at the second he finally croaked, the entire horde of pygmies came rushing at me with their teeth bared.  It kinda looked like an ant hill after being stepped on, from my angle at least.  Now, one of my faults is my complete and utter lack of “correct” foresight, which you may have noticed; my other major fault is my bad habit of blaming others when I make a mistake.  The latter came in quite handy as I pointed at Hercules and yelled “He Made Me Do It!”   Now, I was unable to pull a fast one on the villagers, but these pygmies were something else, even though they all just witnessed me laughing at their leaders last moments of life, for some reason they actually believed me.

The horde turned around almost in one fluid motion and began charging directly at Hercules. I almost felt sorry for the guy, when I realized he was just a waste of good meat anyway, at least he could feed some pygmy children for a few days. A little too late I realized my folly, for Hercules was carrying my backpack, and in my backpack was my wallet…

So there I was, knee deep in pygmies, not a dime to my name….


Video Games and Me

I know of no other medium that is as powerful as interactive video games can be.  A person can fly to the farthest reaches of the universe, throughout the expanses of time, see things that never have and never will exist, based only on the limits of technology and human imagination. All while building thumb and butt callouses and not even standing up.  As with all new media, it’s had a rough start, and rough acceptance in society, but video games have grown into a billion dollar industry.

I started coding when I was 8 years old.  Inspired by the archaic video games of the early 1980’s, playing on an antique computer with a radiation spewing amber-monochrome monitor. It’s been my desire since that time to create games of my own.  Some of my earliest inspirations were games such as Willy the Worm, Space War, Jump Man, and who could forget Lode Runner.  All are quite simple by today’s standards, but once upon a time it was not such a crazy idea for *one* person to be making a game.

I’m not even sure how many times I’ve started working on a game for my own learning and enjoyment.  In my youth I would enjoy making the concepts, basic rules, and game engine bits, but never followed through to complete an *entire* game.  I once created a DOS sprite editor, it even had mouse support.  Not such a trivial thing in the dark ages.  It’s not until adulthood that I’ve come to realize that I was having so much more fun coding than I would have had playing any game I myself made.  To be realistic here, as a child I thought I wanted to build an awesome game because I wanted to play an awesome game, a notion that seems outright silly to me now.

Fast forward to the future, where we’re all living now, the number of video games available is mind boggling.  There’s more video game content being created each year than any one person could possibly complete in their lifetime.  What was once just for us nerds has been thrust into the mainstream.  Movie stars have admitted to playing massively multiplayer online role-playing games.  Even among early video games, role-playing games were shunned as ultra-nerdy.  Television networks devoted to sports are showing video game tournaments, what has this world come to?  Aren’t those guys supposed to be beating up nerds?

There’s a gaming platform in the pocket of most people in the modern world.  I wouldn’t go as far to say that everyone with a phone is a gamer, but I’m not sure I know anyone that doesn’t play a video game now and then.  Jigsaw puzzles, solitaire, and match-3 galore.

Here I am now, an adult by most measures, with a nostalgia based love of video games.  I’m a software developer, but not even remotely in the direction of games.  Every now and then I get an itch to make a game, but the itch never lasts long enough for a completed vision to take form.  Unlike many types of art, video games are not timeless. Technology progresses and old video games die.  Someone building a game is fighting a battle against technological advancement.  If technology  progresses too far, a game that is being made might be left behind before it’s even completed, a potentially disastrous consequence for developers.

My most recent prototype, space-game-alpha

When dabbling on my own, I’ve not worked on any of these projects with thought to marketability or even with the thought to sell them.  In that respect I’ve avoided the battle against technology.  In recent years this trend seems to have gone weird, with retro pixel games having a resurgence of sorts.  Games like Shovel Knight and Terraria are showing the world a thing or two about pixels in the modern day. Sandbox games like MineCraft and Creativerse are somehow seeming to bring pixels into 3d and it’s working.


These recent games are quite inspiring.  Maybe there’s more people out there than I think that want to see what I can make, what WE can make.  As it turns out I’m no artist, I’m a nart. We’ve rolled around a few ideas recently, but have not yet found the one, the one that must be made.  We will find it and it will be awesome, and more importantly it will be fun to make.

Possible future game sprite

Colored Pencil Blending Techniques

Welcome the Legion of Teddy Bears

I don’t mind admitting that quite some time ago I believed more in the supplies I bought than I believed in myself.  I also believed more in the supplies than the idea of techniques, I guess.  Techniques are actually something I’ve recently come to respect, and learn for all sorts of things.

Green blue, and blue green

Colored pencil was my thing in high school.  I didn’t have any supplies for digital coloring, and Copics were WAY out of my price range.  It’s a good thing, too, because I’d have killed those beautiful markers *cringe*.  I used layering back in the day, but it was more in the form of “smash a color into an area, and then smash a 2nd done to make a new color”.  Blending is not a word I would use here, LOL.  I remember coloring quite hard back in the day.

After high school I went more digital with  my coloring and quit ruining my colored pencils.  About a year or so ago, I dug them back up again and really learned to appreciate them!  I now have a few different kinds of colored pencils that I love for different reasons, which always seems to be the way of art supplies.

I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite colored pencil techniques.  Many of these can be used on coloring books, though you’ll need to check the quality of your paper first for some of them!  There are a couple of specific products that I have linked in here to Amazon through their affiliates program.

Blending with Colors


toothy paper

The different techniques all have to do with blending, so we’ll start with the one that doesn’t require anything extra.   Blending just with your colored pencils :).  It’s really more like layering than blending.  Try to remember to use a light touch with your colored pencils.  If you need more/brighter color, color longer, not harder!  As far as blending effects go, it doesn’t much give you one, because you’re not smashing your pigment into the tooth of the paper.  This works better on smoother paper so that you have less area without color in it.  I should have remembered that when I did my first bear.



Blending with the Colorless Blender

My main colored pencils are my Prismacolors.  Prismacolor makes a colorless blending pencil that is pretty nifty.  I find that blending in any way other than the color layering mentioned above does something to make the color pop a bit.  It can also smush your color around to cover a large area, or maybe the strokes weren’t even when you initially laid own the color.  The core is waxy, and softer than a normal colored pencil.  They are sold for finishing your piece, which makes the colors pop and makes the drawing shiny/glossy.

So smooth and pretty when it’s done.

Blending with Paper

Blending stumps (or stomps, depending on who’s talking)  and tortillons are a fun way to mash around your pigments.  Basically that is what you are doing, smushing your pigments into each other, and into the tooth of the paper.  Blending this way seems to work best when you layer your colors, and then use the stump or the tortillon last, or almost last.  Each time you blend this way it works less well with the next layer of color.  The next color doesn’t lay on as well, in addition to not blending as well.

Blending with Solvents

I’ve tried a few different methods of solvent blending.  I experimented with these more before I got my colorless blender for Christmas, but I still go to them. I have used rubbing alcohol, baby oil, and mineral oil.  Fun fact for folks like me who don’t pay much attention: baby oil is scented mineral oil.

Blending with Mineral/Baby Oil

The back of my oil bear

To do this I get my colors down on the paper.  You can lay color on top of the oil, but you should do that on scrap paper first to see if it’s going to give you the texture and effect that you want. I did do that here with the shadows.  After I am done coloring the area I want to work on, I barely tap my blending stump into the mineral oil.  The blending effect is very quick and doesn’t require too much pressure.  I push a bit hard with this blending method.  I find the oil spreads farther this way and and I don’t need to use quite as much.  Using less is good, because the oil makes the paper greasy.

The bear below got pretty smudgy, but if I paint a background around her it won’t be a problem at all.

Blending with Rubbing Alcohol

Blending with Rubbing Alcohol is quite a bit different than the oil.  It evaporates away, which is always nice, no splotches.  I want to practice this more myself, because I’ve seen some folks do some very cool things with it.  In additional to blending the colors the way I’ve been doing, you can also put down just a bit of color in the shady areas of your picture, and pull it toward the lighter areas.  I will do a video of this at some point, because it’s a pretty neat subtle color effect.  Oh, and I use a cotton swab for this one.  I tried my blending stump but it didn’t work any better than the stump with no alcohol on it.

I think one of the most amazing things with all of these methods, is that I used the same pencils of all of the above bears.  There’s a pretty wide range of end results, considering that.

Bonus Bear: Watercolor Pencilswaterccolorbear

I mentioned multiple kinds of colored pencils earlier.  These are my watercolor pencils, blended with a water brush.

I enjoyed sharing my bears with you today!




Learning to draw (again)

I’ve spent the last year and a half learning how to draw again after a hiatus.  Everyone draws when they are a kid.  I don’t remember being really obsessed with drawing when I was a kid, but often wishing I could draw well (evidently not understanding it was something I’d have to work for).  I do remember some things that I would draw in junior high.  There was a flying serpent I drew a billion times in 7th grade, and then a cute puppy I drew a billion times in 8th grade.

I discovered Anime in the 9th grade, and that’s when I started being known for drawing.  I’ll go ahead and admit my first anime drawing was copying a picture of Sailor Moon off of my DIC VHS.  I actually got good at copying rather quickly.  I guess drawing what you see when someone has already done the line work for you is easy, relative to drawing from life.  In high school and a while thereafter, all I drew was anime, and most of that was girls (I probably drew a dozen guys or so in all that time).  Someone would tell me I should draw something else, and I would actually say “sorry, that’s not what I draw”.  Seems so silly now. I thought I was pretty good.  Character designs and pinup type stuff.

Dynamic hands was not my thing.

I still like a lot of that stuff from back then.  I should redraw some of those that I like and see how they come out.  Some part of me was determined that I’d get found and be given an art job, I suppose?  Life happened a bit, and when my oldest daughter was born, I pretty much quit drawing.  Two summers ago (5 years after said daughter was born) I picked up a sketchbook that wasn’t full and started just drawing the things around me.  The car, a tree, my daughters, etc.  I was pretty excited when that sketchbook got full, and the one after that.  Filling a sketchbook is a really accomplished feeling, and I love it.  I had an old set of watercolor paints that was given to me, and I broke that out and started adding watercolor to my sketches.  I also started 2 acrylic paintings that I have not finished (I will finish them some day, I am sure).  I’ve been through trying out a huge variety of supplies this last year.  Husband got me a subscription to ArtSnacks for my birthday last year, which has been AWESOME.  I’ve asked for something else this year, but if I ever get in a slump, I’ll definitely consider doing that again.  Besides, who doesn’t like a surprise in the mail once a month?

A decent representation of the various supplies I might grab for any one project

In this recent time, I feel like I have really learned how to draw.  Between being willing to try to draw just about anything, and learning better how to draw what I see.  Husband often says to me “someone should make …” followed usually by a funny idea.  One day I realized that I could make those funny things he was talking about… at least make a picture of one.


This is Buttercup the Uni-corn.

Nearly all of those go into my Wunderlist now, and I try to remember to look at that list when I feel like I can’t think of anything to draw.  My lists have given me ideas for coloring books and calendars on all sorts of topics.  Some of my husband’s ideas can’t wait, and have to be done right away.  This turbeefin came from a dinner conversation that started based on the idea that the tacos I’d made had ground turkey and ground beef in it.

“Someone should make a turkey-cow.  You know, like a World of Warcraft mount.”

Whether an image is beautiful or funny, the look a person gets when I’ve drawn what they had in mind is pretty cool.  I am working toward doing commission work, because I think that would be awesome for a while.  I’ve come to learn that I am going to cycle through a lot of things that in one moment or another are going to be ‘my thing’.  Right now, ‘my thing’ is watercolor (and anything related to it).  A few months back it was colored pencil.  Soon I’ll hopefully go back to acrylics and finish those paintings :).  I’ve been published in a book written by the awesome Alissa Oliverson , and that gave me a really huge boost.  It also really opened my eyes to what it might mean to do client work, in terms of drawing something for someone that I wouldn’t ever draw for myself, and still loving it.  

So I continue to learn how to draw (and otherwise art), and I certainly hope I am always learning, because if I’m not, I’m getting worse.  I think understanding that is what finally made me able to say that I am an artist, not that I am trying to become one.  🙂

The Warning of Briney Jack

They call me Briney Jack, and I’ve seen the end.


My spirit animal, the mortal enemy of the invaders, has warned me of what is coming. I’ve tried to tell the world to no avail. We’re not prepared and we will fall. Any moment, the invaders will arrive, and they wont be coming from across the ocean or across space. Hollywood has done nothing to prepare us for the true invaders. They will burrow up from the silty depths. The molluscs have had enough, they wont let us walk on them any more. The Clam People are coming.

A nartist’s representation

They are biding their time, building their strength by leeching our precious plastics from the environment and sucking up our treasured radiation to use against us in the coming clampocalypse. As humanity litters, we’re only arming our greatest enemies, playing right into their dastardly schemes. Every pound of radioactive waste, to them is sixteen ounces of death and destruction to rain down upon humanity. Filter feeding is natures great big joke, until you’re the one being filter-fed upon.

Artist’s representation

I have been shown a vision of the destruction, the streets littered with bodies and shells. I have seen the streams of salty destruction blasting from giant clam-tanks, that make our most prized weapon advancements look like toys. Our cities rusting away, and being washed to sea with the ever rising tide of clam people.  Their immense floating clam-blimps blotting out the sun, as they rinse us to sea like used motor oil.

Fear the clam tanks

The few human survivors only being allowed to live, to massage the fleshy foot of the giant clam-queen.

clam_spy_smOf course their existence is being covered up. In the face of their insurmountable power, people can do nothing but cower and live in denial. They have spies among us, working to subvert humanity from the inside. Brilliantly disguised with expert camouflage, cardigans and mittens to cover their moist mitten-hands. For generations they have been convincing us of the coolness of littering and smoking, weakening us while we’re simply throwing our most precious resources into the oceans for them to gather and use against us.


They have nothing but time, for every year brings them another layer of calcium armor. Gloves wont be enough to save your fingers from the rage of the bivalves. Prepare yourselves, when the time comes, if you don’t shuck them, they will shuck you, and everyone you love.


-Briney Jack

Illustrate a saying

Getting Inspired

I’ve heard the phrase “trying to get my head wrapped around this thing” a million times, said in a handful of ways.  For some reason in a meeting one day the way someone said this, and the way his hands moved when he said he got me going down the path of this illustration.  To be honest I’m not sure about the colors, but I didn’t have a better idea when the Husband said the brain should be lime green, so there you go.

The Process

It used to be I’d just work on something until it was done.  Usually the paper was fried by the time I was done because of all of the erasing, but I never started on a new paper.  I always felt like when I did try to start clean on the same picture, there was some piece of it that was lost from the original each time.  I only mention that in hopes that someone will relate, and hear me say that it gets better :).

As I said, I was in a meeting, so I just did a quick doodle of the idea in my notes margin so that I wouldn’t forget it.  On the airplane ride home from that trip I worked on a rough draft in my Moleskin sketchbook.  It was the last page, and I promptly forgot about this for a bit when I shelved my full sketchbook.

water wash on the background

Once recovered, I decided I was going to do a process video.  Video editing is quite a bit harder than I gave it credit for, so the video will be a follow up, hopefully later this week.  ^_^;  (Update: This is now available!) First step was to redraw the head to larger paper.  I hadn’t done anything on the lettering, so the first copy I did was where I got the letter forms the way I wanted them.  I then traced the whole thing to a new paper.  Note to self: trace the drawing before you paint the rough draft next time.  Tracing will be easier.  *ahem* Once everything was traced and the video camera was set up, I used liquid mask on the letters so that I could do the background without worrying.  I then did a water wash on the background area.


I started dropping my background color onto the wet paper.  I love the way wet on wet watercolor spreads and you get kind of a cloudy effect, if you want it. Once this step was complete and dry, I moved onto the head area.  I similarly started wetting the spiral parts at the top and then dropping in some purples I’d mixed with the goal of a nice gradient.

I love liquid mask.  Need practice, but love it!

I did a few layers of purple on the face playing with the idea of more realistic shadows, but I ended up washing all that out in the end. I then started on the base color for the brain, and then got to pulling of the masking fluid from the letters.  Note to self: don’t get sick and leave the masking fluid on for an extra day.  It will ruin the paper underneath it.



Yup, the middle of the A ripped right on out when I pulled the mask off, in addition to a bunch of other little rips.  I decided not to let it get to me and just carefully moved on.  It makes me feel like this is more of a Final Rough Draft that I will definitely revisit later.




Another gradient for the text, and a bit of detailing added to the brain.  After this I used my nip pen to do the outlining for the letters.  It wasn’t my original idea but the paper fried from the mask, it seemed the best way to be as precise as possible.  I was still using water color here.  It’s a bit tedious, since you have to load the nib with the paintbrush (unless you mix enough paint for dipping).


I did the outlines for the head portion with a med/small brush, since I hadn’t masked that part off.  This when MUCH more quickly than the letters.  Having the details on the face filled in a bit sure made it pop more!  I rather like how a piece comes together during the outlining stage at the end when you’ve done it this way.  You can watch a number of mistakes not matter as those crisp lines start to go down.  Especially working with watercolor, which gets more beautiful the more you give up control.

I love how the brain turned out.  Another example of crisp lines making a difference.

And there he is.  I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about my process.  It changes over time as I fall in love with a new way to do things and meld it in.  In the future I certainly intend to do more of these posts, as well as posts that talk about the supplies I like to use, etc.

Follow the @teamdrakeprod twitter for more of my artwork that is posted between our weekly blog posts!

Update 2/7/16: Below is the completed video.



Art and Engineering


Engineering some art.

Is an architect an artist?  Is a building art?  Does art require an artist?

I’m a software developer by day and I firmly stand by my belief that art is not my job.  But in a strange way, the results of my non-art (henceforth known as nart), could very well be a work of art.

Most of the time, my mind is living in the world of logic and math. A nice solid place that always make sense and can be relied upon, even if the answers shift sometimes, it always makes sense why.  There’s no room in logic and math for being all willy-nilly.  You’d get the wrong answers!  Math and logic can be beautiful, and most definitely can produce amazing works of art, but that’s just a byproduct of the “right” answers.  It’s my belief that intention doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with whether or not a result is a work of art.

Say one day, the necessity arose for me to have a painting or sketch of a cat.  I’m not sure what’s going on that day, it’s apparently a strange future.  An artist might draw or paint a cat.  I would google it.  Obviously that’s more efficient, and I’ll most certainly get a better cat than if I attempted to make it myself.  Let’s pretend I could actually draw a cat.  I’d still google it.  It’s been done, drawing yet another cat would just be repeating a work that humanity should have already perfected!

I don’t see the value in drawing another sunset.  I’ve seen the sunset.  I could take a picture of the sunset. I could look at someone else’s much better picture of a sunset.  I will never be able to draw or paint a sunset that is as good as a picture.  It’s not that I don’t get it, it’s just not for me.  I would never be satisfied with my results, because the results would always remain imperfect, and i’m not sure I’m capable of letting that go.

And that is why I’m a nart.

I’ve been dabbling in this game lately, a fun little sandbox named Creativerse.  I’ve not played Minecraft in depth, but this game is something like that; Dig holes, find materials, build stuff.  This game is most certainly a creative outlet.  When I make a hole, is that a work of art?  What about a palace?  I believe somewhere between those extremes, there’s a line.

When I make a design, based on utility, but it happens to be fancy.. is it art?  I designed a teleporter station, designed around ease of use, maximizing use of space, while being well organized and compartmental.  I even used graph paper.

WP_20160129_10_53_09_Pro (2)
Actual graph paper.

I would say, it didn’t start as a work of art…  but it ended as one.

Maybe I added a few shinies

Then there’s art.  The world of willy-nilly, where anything goes, as long as you say that’s what you meant to do.

Sarah says:

art on graph paper

Willy-nilly he says.  You don’t even have to have done the thing on purpose, if you like it in the end. As Bob Ross said “happy little accidents”.  I need to do a paint along with one of his episodes sometime.  I’ve not done much with oil paints.

I don’t know what exactly makes a person think like an artist or an engineer (or any other number of ways to think, that’s just what we have in our house, so far).  I do know that I don’t think like an engineer, but I might have good input to one who was stuck on something.  

I’ve painted a few sunsets.  I did it to see if I could get the colors I wanted into the gradient I wanted.  I did better than I thought I could, which made me happy.  They were kind of cartoony, nothing realistic, but I was still pleased, and I had fun doing it.  I turned them into backgrounds for my cell phone.


I also painted a picture of a cat, because my niece asked me to.  She had come across a Photoshopped picture of a cat surfing on a mouse, and when I asked her what she wanted me to draw for her for Christmas, that was what she said.  


Also, I’ve seen Mike draw a very pretty daffodil ^_^. Even a nart can’t say no when his little girl asks him to draw her a flower.  And maybe I’ll really understand complicated science someday.

ColorCoder 1.0!

Hi!  This is Mike, the other partner in TeamDrake.

We’ve polished up ColorCoder a bit and think it’s ready for the REAL WORLD!  There’s an updated FREE version, and we’ve launched a PRO version as well for the modest price of $3.

We hope that the FREE version will do everything that most people want, with palettes limited to 16 colors, with 2 open at once, it fits our personal needs almost entirely 🙂

For those interested in supporting ColorCoder (or those that want bigger palettes and more of them!) please consider the PRO version.

All details are on the ColorCoder page.


Color Coder Beta

Hi there!  I’m Sarah.  I’m a wife and a mom, and I’m an illustrator who does web design/administration work.

Some time back I wanted something for keeping colors organized for my projects.  My husband, Mike, happens to be a software engineer, so he whipped me up something called syscolors.  It lived in the system tray, and it was a color pallet app, get it?  To use this: in edit mode I could add colors, other than that, I could click on the icon in the system tray, my palette would pop up, and the hex code for the color I clicked on would be in my clipboard.  That’s it.  Oh, and I had to keep the txt file it created on my desktop to keep my palette.  The neat part about that was that if I knew what colors I wanted I could open the text file and just edit my palette and the order of my colors at any time.  I almost never did that, though.  I used this tool for years.  It was in my windows startup stuff to just open if I restarted my computer, because I always got irritated if I was in Photoshop wanting a color and that wasn’t there waiting for me.

It’s neat having a helpful software engineer for a husband.  He’s also written me a password generator, as well as something he did for both of us that would scrub extra spaces from text copied into the clipboard.

Recently, he asked me what other features I might want to add to it if he wanted to update it.  He spend some time clacking away, and then had me check out the new version.  When I told him a list of people I could think of who might like it, we agreed more people might like it.  We’re releasing a beta for this.  If you found us and check it out, please drop us a line letting us know what you thought of it.  Features missing?  Anything not working the way you expect it to?  Please tell us!

What is ColorCoder?

ColorCoder is the solution to managing project color palettes for web developers and graphic designers.

Features include:

  • Organize colors in each palette
  • Manage multiple palettes in project directories
  • Color Grabbing from anywhere on your screen
  • Blend existing colors to create secondary palette colors
  • Random color generator for those moments when you just don’t know where to go next
  • Share palettes to collaborate with coworkers or friends
  • Move palettes to your desired location and lock them
  • Click the palette to copy the color hex to your clipboard, or into your keyboard buffer
  • Easy to bring into your workflow with any of your other programs

I really enjoy using it.  I hope that if it sounds like it might make something easier, that you’ll check it out.  If you think of a feature that would make it more awesome, do let us know.

Go to the download page.