birthday robot

Saturday we had a birthday party for the boys – after tempting them with an afternoon of Pinterest browsing, they agreed to let me do a robot party.

Although I don’t do tutorials, at the request of my friend Sarah (who also makes awesome cakes) I did try to take more photos of the process. So, here’s the basic structure for the robot. Flanges screwed into wood – with a couple of holes drilled in for the copper wire. The way I accomplish this sort of structure is to make a trip to the hardware store, tell the helpful associates I do NOT want them to help me, and then wander around in plumbing until I get things to fit together and work.  I don’t glue any of the pvc – it usually fits tight enough to hold for this purpose.

Rice Krispies for the arms and legs. One of the legs is built around the pipe, the other doesn’t need to be supported. Cake for the feet.

This year I tried something new – store bought fondant. Most fondant you buy is gross, but this time I had several tubs of colored Satin Ice (thank you, Karen!) It tastes about like the grocery store colored icing in tubes (which isn’t a terrible flavor), comes is bright colors and is very easy to work with. My fondant never ends up perfect – but I think it works fine for the robot – he just looks a little distressed. The parts (eyes, plates, gears and screws) are gum paste, painted with Metallic Food Paint – which I used with a brush since I don’t have an airbrush.

That’s about it. For some awesome robot party ideas, check out Suzy’s blog, and if you do a version of this, and a better tutorial, let me know and I’ll link to it!

Random Friday

Today I’m working on a robot cake for my boys combined birthday party tomorrow (3 & 5 years old!). It may not be as awesome as the one my friend Suzy put together (which I rediscovered while browsing Pinterest for ideas…), but at least I think I can pull off an awesome cake. I’m not much of a planner, but I did draw a sketch of a basic robot shape so you can see what I’m going for:

While I’m baking cakes and smashing rice krispies treats, I’ve also been listening to a great lecture by comic artist Dave Kellet – discussing the business and future of web comics.

And, to go with the Random Friday theme, I wanted to mention that after listening to the latest Webcomic Alliance podcast I am finally aware of how all the changes to Facebook affect my fan page. Basically, if you have “liked” me, you only get to see SOME of my posts, unless I pay for promoting my posts. So, if you like a comic or post, please share! I may start tweeting posts as well, which I don’t often do, but I’m exploring other options for helping people stay updated – in the meantime, I’d love to hear how you stay current with the content you want online.


Weekend Sketch Dump – March 3, 2013

I have had a great many art lessons in my life (shocking, I know!), but I still remember one of the first. When I was seven or eight my father, a fine arts major himself, sat me down and tried to teach me how to draw faces in a structurally correct way. I think I remember the whole lesson – my shock at discovering where the eyes really were placed on the head was life-changing. Realizing the level to which your brain interprets what you see incorrectly was unsettling, even then.

I have had many lessons since then, and my study of the human head in particular has gone far more in-depth, and yet, I still struggle to draw faces. I can draw fairly structurally correct people, but there is a spark – something that eludes me – that is required to not only make that sketch look like it is a real person, living on the page, but also that it is indeed the very person you are trying to draw.

So, practicepractice, these are some people I have seen around me – when the people I see sit still enough.

My three best habits

When I started this site, and the comic, and my journey to be a better artist, I was already somewhat knowledgeable about art. But somehow, being a “good” artist was still this mysterious and unattainable thing. Throughout the last few years, however, I have begun to develop some habits that are slowly clearing up the “mystery.”

Nothing revolutionary about these three things – but turning them into real habits that had a permanent place in my life was a challenge.

1. I surround myself with inspiration. I look at good art. I look at beautiful things. I watch fascinating animations. The more familiar you can get with quality work, the more discriminating you become with your own.

2. I am constantly looking for motivation.  The comic gave me the best start. I love doing it, and the schedule provides me with constant motivation. I also try to make video lectures or tutorials part of my weekly routine, so I can always be learning something new. I find that terrifically motivating.

3. Practice, practice, practice, practice, practice practice, practice. I have now gotten to where I rarely go a day without working on a sketch or piece of art. I want to get to the point that I feel uncomfortable sitting still for a moment without a pencil in my hand.

I have had so many “aha!” moments within those first two categories, I’m going to start posting some of my favorite resources for inspiration and motivation. Stay tuned.

Weekend Sketch Dump

I’m always sketching these days, and I’m going to try to start uploading some of what I’m working on every week. Maybe Saturday, maybe Sunday, maybe both. We’ll see how this goes. For the most part, especially lately, I work on faces – shapes and expressions. Often while watching tv. Often what’s on the tv. These are not meant to be awesome, and probably won’t ever be finished or used for anything, but I wanted to share with you a glimpse of my practice and progress.

Keara the Mischievous Angel

This is one I started that didn’t make it into the October Game this year, inspired by a poem from another participant in the game, author Krista Tibbs.

Here’s the poem:

And here’s my version of Keara:

I’m taking some of my time off from the comic working on gesture drawing and life drawing, so I think I might revisit this poem and do a more animated version with some dust bunnies. During the October Game  there were almost no poses. Most of my characters were just standing there, looking blankly out of the page.


More Tribal Belly Dancers

So, after a short recovery from the October Game, and a busy couple of weeks traveling and having company I couldn’t help pulling out the sketch book again. I loved my October Game Belly Dancer so much I did two more. These are inspired by the diverse styles of American Belly Dance, from tribal to tribal fusion, to even gothic fusion.

Here are the new ones:

And the first:

October Game – 2012

Let’s Start October!

I thought I’d kick off The October Game today by dragging out an old photo of my sister and I trick-or-treating to get me in the October mood. I’ve always thought of this photo as representing my sister and I in our “bunny” costumes, but now that I’m looking at it, it brings up some curious questions. Those aren’t bunny ears, so what sort of animal are we supposed to represent? Why do we seem to have a case of the measles? Why are we wearing such thick, heavy costumes in the warmth of Florida? Were we really allowed to consume all those pixie sticks?

And while we’re asking questions, why did I decide again to do a finished piece of artwork every day this month? Who’s going to take my kids for the next 31 days? Don’t expect great things – most of my artwork last year was pretty terrible, but I did end up with a few pieces I really loved. And I’m going to try to keep my comic going at the same time, so we’ll just see how this goes.

I’m actually pretty excited to start this year. Not only do I get to honor the memory of a friend by playing the game and work on my art skills, but Dick Nelson has managed to find  another 21 poor saps creative minds to play along!

I’m going to be posting my work here on the site, but if you want to see all the other artwork, head over to The October Game Facebook Page and take a look around.

Getting Ready for the Game

Starting next Monday I’m going to be playing Bill Counts’s October Game. One piece of finished artwork a day for thirty-one days. Simple, right?

Chalk in Terra Cotta, Oil Paint 2011

This week I’m in prep mode. Here’s what I’m doing to get ready:

1. Declutter everything. I like to simplify everything I can before starting a big project, so I’m not distracted by piles of stuff. It is also nice to have lots of clean surfaces accessible in case I decide to pull out the oil paints. I’m not saying this will last much past the first week of October, but it is psychologically helpful to at least BEGIN the month this way.

2. Create an idea list. I’ve got a list of 25 ideas so far. I’m still going to work on whatever I happen to be inspired by in the moment (much like i do with the comic), but listing out ideas helps reserve a corner of my subconsciousness to be working through these ideas as I go about the rest of my life.

3. Organize supplies. I plan to be doing mostly sketching/photoshopping for my work this year, but I would still like to do some finished pieces with either oil paint or pastel, so I’m going through what I have and organizing and prepping paper and paints, and ordering what I need.

4. Work on my schedule. As you might have noticed, I have two preschoolers who are with me 24/7. Last year it was tough enough, but I still managed to get it done with a one-year-old and a three-year-old, so I’m not too worried. I do have to make sure our days are going smoothly, however, and keep the little monsters darlings well occupied to give me space to create.

Have you tried a challenge like this? What sort of things do you do to get ready?

Almost October

Was that a chill in the air I felt last night? Is it almost October again? Time for the October Game!

Night Formation   Pastel, 12 ” x 8 “, Bill Counts 2008

For four years, every October, my friend Bill Counts played his own little game – a painting a day for the month of October. (Read more details here.) Last year I played it in his memory, and this year, Dick Nelson talked me into trying again – and we’re opening up the challenge to everyone!

You don’t have to do a painting – I’m going to try to focus on character drawings that will probably be painted in Photoshop, though I’m open to digging out some oil paints or pastels if I’m inspired. Just head to the Facebook Page Dick set up, and get in touch with him to have your work displayed.

Also, if you’re going to be in the Knoxville area this weekend, don’t miss the Secret City Film Festival where they are going to be showing the documentary made about Bill’s October Game.

Happy Anniversary!

Two years ago today I put my first comic up on the personal blog I was using to keep friends and family randomly updated on my life. Actually it was my second comic. The first comic I drew was this one:

which I sketched while my children were sleeping in the van in the grocery store parking lot after I drove through McDonald’s and got a McLatte. I had no idea at that moment that the comic would change so much in my life, or that anyone but my family would be entertained by it.

So a big THANK YOU to all of you who read the comic and have encouraged me along the way!

Painting Practice: Prisons

As I mentioned before, I have been having lots of fun painting imaginary environments in Photoshop. I’ve been playing around with quite a few different paintings, but this is the one I like the best so far:

I wasn’t actually intending to do something that looked like prison towers, and I have no idea what horrible crime you’d have to commit to be thrown into one of these and forgotten, but here they are anyway.

Sketch: Hula Girl

Last week Phillip and I watched Princess Kaiulani, the story of the last princess of Hawaii. I was more impressed with the movie than Phillip (hey, at least I picked one without subtitles…), but by coincidence, the next on the queue for pizza-movie night last Friday was Lilo and Stitch. So, I drew a hula girl.

Confession #2

I am not this artist: Sarah Mensinga

That probably sounds like a silly confession, but it is important for this reason:

In my head, I AM her.

I grew up in Orlando, loving art, loving animation, but my life took some winding paths that completely sidetracked who I always thought I’d be. I adore her style (thanks to Suzy, who originally linked to Sarah on her own blog) and the fascinating characters she creates. I always saw myself working as an animator or illustrator but that didn’t take shape for me.

Comparisons can be helpful. I can look at her work and see what is lacking in mine. But comparisons can also be destructive. I can look at the work of a better artist and just feel defeated. Discouraged that I don’t know how to be that good and feeling as if there is just something inherent that I might be lacking after all. I don’t want to face that, so instead I usually just imagine that if I had invested the right amount of time and energy, I would be amazing.

I might not be, but at this point in my life, I’m determined to find out, even if I have to completely reshape the image I have of myself.