Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Avacyn: Progress and Completion

Finally finished my Avacyn piece from start to end. Took much longer than anticipated; maybe 35 hours or so. That was largely due to the fact that I couldn't decide what to do for the background. I mean it's angels, and angels belong in the clouds. But I already have another picture featuring clouds in the background. That and I wanted to do a purple sky, which is also already taken. And this is a second angel piece... I have a tendency to lean towards the same themes :/

So progress and completion:

Original sketch. 
I wanted this cool back view so the wings could be more prominent going off the edge. That left hand was really jacked up though. It made sense in my head but no one really holds anything like that. Either way, I wanted the spear to be in the picture so she had to hold it somehow.


Flat coloring.
Might be the easiest part. The only shaded area is her skin. Also I went ahead and put in the designs on the spear. Frankly I like flat images. I thought this looked really cool itself but clearly it's lacking a few important elements. Like her wings.


Detail & Background.
Every artist I've talked to tells me to start with the background first. That way you know how you need to draw the lighting and surrounding whitespace and blurgity blurga. Right so the background for me is always an afterthought. Meh. I wanted some contrasting color that I hadn't already used that was soothing to look at but not too dark or light so that she or the spear disappear.

Notice those little black angels in the back? Well halfway through I decided to fill up some of that empty sky with more angels. After all, she is using the Moonsilver Spear. I'm so clever :) But those three were just doodles of what I might want them to look like. Also I drew in a quick outline for Avacyn's wings. They were too small so I made them bigger later.


Finished (maybe)
Not entirely convinced I'm done with this one yet. I feel the sky needs a little tweaking, or maybe the whole background itself. But for now she's done. I think I'm getting tired of drawing angels.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Drawings, Lots of Em

Had a couple updates to post. Redrew two more pictures from the olden days.


This one I've actually redrawn 3 times. The first one was horrid and I refuse to share it. It looked like the back of a mutant child reaching through an open window trying to reach stars that were clearly too far away. Clever right? Well my mom's friend requested that picture be made into a print or card or something as a gift for a niece (I think) so I redrew it and BAM, you got that picture on the left.

Well I didn't actually like this one in particular. Not my usual. But my now-husband liked it so much he kept on on his bulletin board in his room for years so I thought I'd redraw it again as a favor. Third time's a charm because the newest one that I did is by far the favorite right now. You can't see it because of the resolution, but her face is gorgeous. That and her outfit seems more sensible. Much better.


This one was my current "favorite" of all the old drawings. I always liked how the concept turned out, but not the designs in the background. They were too overpowering and a little too geometric. I like soft curves more but at the time I worked with pens and it was just easier to do tiny busy details. This time around I was able to use photoshop to darken the entire background so the white spirit/mermaid could stand out more. Not too proud of the faces but it's the concept I love.

They're pretty low res, sorreh. I don't plan on uploading the high res files anywhere just yet because of theft. These are two of my pictures from... high school? Goodness I'm old. But clearly my skill has developed in the last half a decade so that's good news.

I do prefer black and white work because color is just not my thing. Whenever I do color drawings, I tend to get really really really lazy for some odd reason. Coloring is exhausting. All those tiny little details in black and white, not so much. Ha.

Here's an example of my laziness:


Not even a background. And I probably won't add one anytime soon. I didn't really like the way it turned out either. I was going to dump in more details to the armor and the wings were going to get more fuzz but that totally didn't happen. Coloring pictures really sucks the motivation out of me. So sad. I'm great with crayons though :D

Current WIP. Avacyn from MTG.


Fortunately Avacyn is already mostly black and white so aside from skin and background, there's no coloring necessary. Her armor is crazy intricate and I cannot wait to get started on it. The Moonsilver Spear is also a detailed piece of equipment. That one I'm less crazy about because there are no good reference pictures so I'll be making it up as I go.

My current plan is to have a few of the larger prints to sell as 9x12 prints and ACEOs by Anime St. Louis. I'd love to get them done and printed and I'm currently on schedule to have everything ready. That and new bookmarks/notebooks. :)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

KawaKon 2013: Review for Artists

Here's the disclaimer again:
This review is not about the convention. It is simply an opinionated review from an artist's perspective to reference for anyone interested in attending the artist alley.

This is my third year at KawaKon but only the second review I've written for it. Here's the first one from last year for those who would like to compare: KawaKon 2012 Review.

So here we go:

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Dealer/Artist Space: Finally It Makes Sense! Sorta

I’m going to start with the venue this time. This year KawaKon was held in the Hyatt Regency at the Arch in downtown St. Louis. Hyatt is obviously one of the more gorgeous hotels available and is a great luxury to be in. The hotel staff are amazingly polite from clerks to valet and the interior is downright breathtaking.

However, the hotel is perhaps a little too high class for an anime convention. Not like conventions are trashy, but the cost just attending in this location was pressing. For one, you’re in downtown St. Louis. Want to park? You have to pay. Want to eat? You either walk a couple blocks (not recommended) or you dine at the hotel. Cha-ching. Another problem in addition to parking was loading/unloading. We received an email to head to the loading dock on Pine Street. Upon arriving I was confused because the dock can only fit 2 vehicles and you can’t park on the street anywhere to wait, not to mention that the hotel was also using the dock. I ended up parking 2 blocks away at a meter and walking all my stuff to the hotel. Thank goodness for my rolling cart. Unloading was a little more organized because the loading dock was scheduled for those who needed it to take turns. I left through the front doors since I was getting a pickup ^_^

Also, some poor planning landed the convention over the same weekend as Mardi Gras. That was a traffic nightmare and some con goers had more than their share of drunk partiers meandering the hotel and streets. But from a third person, sober perspective, it was pretty funny to see cosplayers and Mardi Gras-ers mingled together.

Now the dealer/artist alley is always in a locked room. Kawa always chains the doors during closed hours too, which I really like since some conventions just have “patrolling security”. This year artists and dealers were separated although in the same room. I’m glad they made this change because years before artists were scattered among dealers and overshadowed. There was plenty of room for tables (6 ft), behind the tables, and in the walkways. I give the vendor room layout an “A” this year.

The hours seemed to close a little earlier than I remember (6pm on Sat, 3pm on Sun) but if they lock the room, who can really complain.

Variety: Not Your Typical Anime Con

In the last three years I’ve seen Kawa slowly transforming into a variety geek con more than anime. They are still advertised as an anime con but their panels, events, and artists definitely cater to a larger palate. Steampunk is fairly predominant, as are video games and scifi. This year even featured artists who usually attend Renaissance Fairs.

Print artists were lacking, and I mean the people who do mainly poster prints. Crafts were the dominating portion of the artist alley. There were blade engravers, leather masks, comics, hats and scarves and all sorts of goodies. I love the variety from all the artists because a lot of them try Kawa as first timers and I meet new people every year. However, the return rate to the artist alley is normally smaller than other cons because sales aren’t always the best. It’s great for social connections though!

Sales and Attendees: It’s Like A Broke Party
 
You’ll never be too bored at Kawa’s artist alley. I’ve been to many conventions were you get a few hours when no one walks in the dealer’s room or artist alley. This is not one of those. There were always people walking around who generally were very happy to talk. I don’t think I’ve ever talked to so many people before.

However sales were ok at best. For some of the returning artists they did better than last year, but as quoted, “Last year was abysmal”. I barely made half what I was expecting to. Many other artists just barely broke even by the end of the weekend.

I do feel that for the St. Louis cons, Kawa is normally the slowest for sales. It used to be that it was so close to ASTL that most people were saving their money for that one instead. This year Kawa was held a month earlier than years prior so I hoped the timing would be less of a problem.

I think the problem was in the venue. Attendees were not only paying badge price, but parking. The hotel parking was $26 a night if you were staying. A few garages were available a block or two away for considerably less but they filled up fast because of Mardi Gras and other events in downtown. Another problem was food availability. There were no dining options aside from the Hyatt restaurant that weren’t at least a few blocks away. If you didn’t want to lose your parking, that meant walking through downtown. A lot of people ended up bingeing on snacks or paying to eat at the Hyatt. Many attendees mentioned how fast they spent their money before even making it into the dealers room.

Staff Attitudes: The Usual
 
I had very little interaction with staff this time around since I didn’t get the chance to leave my table. Kawa was fairly prompt with getting out information although a communication problem did exist between me and the head of the artist alley. She didn’t seem to be receiving any of my emails. I sent about 5 between applying and the show and only heard back once and that was after I contacted the chair. A few other artists claimed similar problems so maybe it wasn’t just me.

Didn’t have any problems with staff this year so we’ll just leave it at that.

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That said, I had a good time at Kawa this year. Mostly it was meeting new artists and talking to old friends. Sales can be summed up as worse than last year (for me) but only a few fared slightly better. I might go back next year if I'm in the area but this isn't a big profit for me.

I would like to see Kawa be held somewhere that parking isn't a nightmare. Perhaps in South County. There are tons of venues there and it's very spacious with free parking and fast food everywhere.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Post Kawa

I got home from this weekend and crashed so hard. Nothing like doing a convention alone. I had a great time meeting new artists and seeing old friends so the weekend wasn't all bad. A few quick updates:

The new displays and setup worked great. Way more space at my table now. :D


I haven't quite worked out how I'm going to cram any more bookmarks and such onto that display but for now it's good enough.

My 2 favorite cosplays all weekend:


I loooove Rapunzel! I was so excited to see how much detail was put into that wig! And Pascal on the pan was so adorable. And the Assassin's Creed was just badass. Nothing else to it.

And finally my artist alley booty for the weekend. This has to be my favorite part cuz I'm a total trade-a-holic. Any artists and dealers are welcome to trade with me all the time and I try to make that obvious without being pushy about it. This weekend I met a bunch of fantastic new people and studios whom I hope to see again in the future.



Got stuff from Gaslight, Rainbow Riceballs, Clawshawt Crafts, and Kate Sherron. Unfortunately I did not manage to get out from behind my table enough to work out more trades but there were tons of amazing things I wish I could've gotten my hands on.

I also got this original hand drawn trading card featuring Warm Bodies (aaaaahhhhh! >_<) from Kate Sherron. Quite possibly one of the strongest wants I've had in a long time. So cute!



Also as usual I got a few prints from my lovely friends at Musetap but their portfolio is so large it would be insulting for me to just show 2. But then again, I advertise for them enough they should start paying me. Haha.

Sadly Kawa this year was worse than last and I definitely didn't come close to my goal, but I'll write about that in this year's Review for Artists. Here is last year's Review for KawaKon. This year there were some changes but everything will be covered in due time.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

DIY Literature Display


With all my new little print items, I needed a display. My display rule is nothing should ever lay flat on the table. Ever. I have designated racks and baskets for all my jewelry so my bookmarks and notebooks definitely needed something to help them stand out!

Literature displays (fits books, brochures, pamphlets, etc) are really expensive. You can buy them in clear acrylic, wire, wooden, and all sorts of sizes. Well I'm not ready to for out $60 for a display for new and experimental items so I decided to try my hand at building my own. I did well enough in shop class and architectural drawing.

I wanted something to display smaller items so I chose a shallow multi tiered design.



Here's the pattern for reference. Sorry it's so busy. My brain works this way.

This can be made out of anything relatively thin and easy to cut/score. I used cardboard because I have access to a lot of it and, well, not much else in the realm of materials. Cardboard is difficult to make clean cuts with but there's a lot of room for error. I swapped between an Xacto knife and a regular pocket knife for larger cuts.

This sucker is tall enough so the top tier is at a comfortable eye level when placed on top a folding table. Each tier holds one of my 6" bookmarks very well without hiding much. The lip on each tier is 1" but you may want to choose to make it larger or smaller depending on what you're putting in it. Each tier is slanted so the bookmarks slant backwards. This way they won't fall over the front.

I attached the pieces with plenty of packaging tape and glue along the edges to seal it.


The back is open, mainly because I didn't want to cut a piece of cardboard that big. Ha. But now you can also put items in the back to weigh it down. When those convention goers decide to swing their bag onto the table or not pay attention while running around, all your paper products won't go flying.

Another bonus: hide your table clutter! Every show I have to find somewhere to put my phone, water bottle, merch bags, extra business cards, etc. Now I can hide that ugly mess and weigh down a light display.

Advantages:
  • Lightweight
  • Inexpensive materials
  • Can be customized for all products
  • Do it yourself!

Drawbacks:
  • Can't break down for easy transport (this thing is huge)
  • Cardboard does not survive too many shows
  • Ugly. Needs painting or covering up

And voila!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

New Product List

Finally starting to wrap up my first wave of product prep for KawaKon. Good thing too since it's this weekend.

So here's what's up!

Paper Dolls


Those paper dolls will be at the show. I only have 2 dozen and some have already been requested. I didn't quite think ahead and each doll is different so they'll be practically impossible to list online until I standardize them. But variety is what I love about these dolls so maybe it'll be a listing for a random paper doll instead. Show price will be $4 each.

Bookmarks

Bookmarks will also be new on the menu.Currently I have 27 different designs but there are already a bunch on back order for EvilleCon and ASTL. They measure 2"x6" and have the option of coming with a clear plastic sleeve. Show price will be $2 or 3 for $5. My personal favorites are the Maneki Neko (top left), Harley Quinn, and Princess Tiana.



Art Notebooks

And finally the most fun to make: notebooks!


 
Currently I only have 7 designs completed. I wasn't sure whether or not to pursue this avenue so I didn't want to do all the princesses or more abstract designs. The paper's cheap but those binding wires are not. These notebooks measure 5"x3.5". This is not a standard size at all but 4x6 seemed way too big for me and the mini size you can find at Walmart is too small. This size is more for random scribblings and sketches, not so much school. Each book has 40 pages. Show price is still undecided although I'm leaning towards $5 each since they are hand assembled.


The covers are printed front and back on 12pt card stock. The inside of the cover always has less detail and my name and studio name printed at the bottom. The image above shows the front of the notebook (closed) on the left/bottom and the inside cover (open) on the right/top. It's kinda hard to see the open book since the pages are white on a white table.



The back are chipboard and the pages are blank. I chose a chipboard back because... well, my printer accidentally printed the covers double sided instead of printing my front and back so chipboard seemed like a good inexpensive alternative to using 2 double sided prints. It also provides a little more stability to the notebook itself. Pages are blank because I can't really imagine how many notes you can really take on a 5"x3.5" therefore lines are unnecessary.
 

TCG Mini Notebooks


The next and last set of new items for tonight are my tcg notebooks. These are made using old (well, mostly new/mint) trading cards. I only have photos of Magic The Gathering cards right now (by the way, who likes Gatecrash? ORZHOV OPPRESSION) but I plan on also having a large variety of Pokemon cards this weekend and hopefully some YuGiOh and Sailor Moon tcg stuff by Evillecon.


These babies feature a [MTG] card on the front and back, appropriately matched. Green creatures will be backed by a Forest land or something related. The front will show the card face and the backs will show the back of the cards. These measure about 2.35"x3.35" and contain 30 blank white pages. Show price is still tentative but I'm thinking $3. Again, hand assembled.


That's it for now. This, on top of jewelry and buttons will be available this weekend at KawaKon in St. Louis! Come visit us for sure just to say hi. Wooh! Still got tons to do before the show.