Saturday, June 30, 2012

Line Drawing

Someone on Deviant Art asked me for advice on line drawing. They said their lines kept coming out shaky, and asked how I keep my pen lines smooth. As I answered their question, I thought I would share my advice here too.
To practice line drawing, I'd say: Play around a LOT! Take a few blank pages, and scribble stuff out just have fun, don't worry about results at first.

This guy started out as a line study, that I ended up keeping in pencil back in 2005.
(Yes, Wigglesworth is based on this guy, whom I've been drawing for years).

A lot of my ink lines are more like scribbles when they're in pencil (I'm left handed, so I started inking when I was young because I smeared a lot of my pencil work by accident). Inking is a great step because you can decide which pencil lines you want to keep! It can be tough at first to replicate them over the pencil though, because really it's not so much tracing, as it is doing the same motion again. Tracing is slower, and so the line comes out thick and a little wobbly, but executing the motion a second time works best when you make the mark quickly.

A fox queen from 2004
Had I traced any of the lines in her tail, they would have lost their
"fuzzy/hairy" quality. They had to be 'drawn' again over the first lines to work.

Like shooting an arrow to hit the target--an archer wouldn't try following the path of a first arrow with a second arrow. They'd just try and hit the target again. In the same way, you're not trying to trace the first line exactly, you're making the line again where the pencil proved it would work. You don't want to follow that pencil line rigidly, you want to "hit the mark" again with a natural, second, more permanent line over the pencil layer.

So play around with making steady, slow lines, fast dashes, great big swirls, tight concise circles, dots, sweeps--the works!
Don't worry if the sketches don't make sense, look bad,
 or if the proportions are a little off. This girl's arms are a hot mess, but "Fluffapurraus Rex",
(the cat she's holding), made me save this sketch as a monster study.

See the feet and tail? A lot of sketches are reborn
into very different paintings later on.
(Although, Fluffapurraus Rex will get his own painting someday).

The more you practice, the more certain lines will start to catch your own eye and you'll find yourself committing them to memory. And your hand will develop the muscle control it needs to follow what your brain is telling it to do. A lot of people get really frustrated with drawing, because they're not only learning the hand eye coordination needed, but they're also training and conditioning their hands to move a pencil/pen with more and more precise control. So sometimes they'll sketch something out and it won't resemble what they wanted on the page, and they get vexed. However, months or even weeks later, the practice begins paying off and they find a second attempt at the same drawing yields better results! Because they've gained more control in their hand over time with exercise--that's why it's important to keep some of the linedrawing practice very loose and fun so you keep going until you reach the point where you are loving your lines!

When I am just drawing for myself, there's no gravity on the page. Everything I sketch looks like it is moving underwater. Everyone has horns, antennae, weird bone spurs, strange floating stones and jewels orbiting them. Hair curls up, lines framing features tend to stay, and motion paths are very cartoony. It's a blast, it's probably when I am happiest drawing. Don't force any rules on yourself for line drawing practice, because then exercising stays fun.

Some of my favorite drawings I've done are just
unfinished line practice, like this pregnant fairy from 2005 

Or this wizard dude from 2007

Remember what I said about sketches getting used years later?
Here's a hag from 2003 who looks an awful lot like Grandma Hawker....

Meet Lupin! Warning: Contains Numerous Cute Kitten Photos

Last weekend Ryan and I went to a fundraiser for Purrfect Pals here in Washington. We got our three legged cat Puck from them, and love the work they do for cats in need. For the past few weeks we had been discussing the possibility of taking in another kitty, so Ryan called them last Friday to ask if they had any young special needs cats available. They told us about a deaf kitten they had for adoption, and that he would be at the fundraiser. So off we went to support their cause and check him out.

It was pretty much love at first sight.

And so, I'd like to introduce Lupin! Lupin and his siblings were taken in by Purrfect Pals after they were found locked in an empty apartment with no Mama, no food, and no water. Can you believe some of the monsters we share this world with?

Who could leave this little guy behind?

Lupin is fantastic! He is sweet, brave, and clever. He and his siblings were fostered by a lovely woman named Ruth who did a marvelous job. He came to us litter trained, weened, knowing when to use his claws (he is so gentle) and understanding a few silent cues. Because he is deaf, the silent cues are important.

He understands a sign to come to you, (an open palm low to the ground with fingers curled 2-3 times). To tell him no, we blow on his nose gently. To get his attention we stomp our foot twice (he senses the vibration). When he is sleeping we carefully pat the area around him, and then very lightly pet his shoulder and back a few times (so he doesn't get startled).

It's a different way of communicating with a cat, but after a couple of days it becomes pretty automatic.

He can't listen, but he's all attention and he obeys.

Elvis and Puck are a little baffled by the signs. (Except for the foot stomp. It already summons all three of them thanks to typically being followed by food). They don't understand why Lupin gets away with stealing my embroidery floss and committing other established no-no's (until I can catch up to him and blow on his nose). They are both in awe of Lupin's stalwart courage in the face of terrors like the shower (he gleefully bats at the water pounding the plastic curtain) or the vacuum cleaner (click here to see how impressed he is with the vacuum cleaner).

Puck meows all the time to get Lupin's attention, but today he also began tapping him with his paw before initiating play. Puck fell in love with the kitten the moment we let Lupin out of his box. He's been following him, snuggling him, and guarding him while he sleeps since day one.

Puck trying to say hello to a feisty Lupin.

It didn't take him long to warm up to Puck.
(Puck is that kinda guy).

"Lupin throws his paws up in the air sometimes...".

True story: He slept like this for about 5 full minutes.

Elvis was a little more hesitant about the kitten. Within ten minutes of meeting, Elvis walked up behind him and let out his best hiss while Lupin, unaware, continued to lick his tiny paw. This indifference to his prowess rattled Elvis's confidence. He spent the first night sulking on the futon, and then hissed at Duncan when he said hello.

However, when he woke up the second morning, Elvis was ready to play.

Come up here....


Second Morning. I woke up to every cat lady's fantasy:
A hunk and a cute kitty.

Before long Elvis loved Lupin too.

...He's been getting a lot of baths.

And learning from Elvis.

Come up here.... 

He loves stalking Elvis....

Making faces....

Finding his tail....

Playing with toys....

Looking cute....


He is a beautiful kitty, just the way he is.

Everyone is bathing a little too loudly for Elvis.

He sleeps very soundly....

Ryan holding Lupin, watching 'Over the Top'.


He likes a good stretch...

Watching Internet videos...

Sharing interests...

...And making friends.

Happy kitties.

We're really happy to invite Lupin into our home! Census count: two humans, three cats, and five pet rats. Until we buy a house, Lupin is going to be our last new creature. Once we have a house Ryan has plans for a dog, I wouldn't mind an aquarium, and we'd like to take in a geriatric cat every few years to live out their lives in spoiled retirement.

We'd take in countless animals if we could, but here's where I stress it's crucial to have enough finances, time, and attention for each pet. A cat is a 15-20 year commitment (if you're lucky). You have to be prepared to cover vet bills for all of your creatures should they all get sick at the same time. A rat is a 1-3 year commitment, and they a have a lot of health issues. Sneezes cannot be ignored, lumps must be checked. You can do everything right, and a rat can still pass away quickly. They take a lot of self education, but are well worth the effort. And caring for animals takes a lot of effort. I spend the first half hour of every day feeding all our critters, filling water bottles/dishes and wiping down rat cages. We play with our pets throughout the day, and give them a lot of attention. I work at home, and that has factored into the amount of pets we have as well. They're not sitting in an empty room all day, being bored and getting into fights (or working together to take down all the curtains). They're being engaged and attended to. We own so many pets because we enjoy caring for animals, not just having them.

I have a friend who cooks her elderly dog homemade meals every night because they're easier for him to eat. Then there's my friend who buys baby blankets for her ferrets and rescues pit bulls. And another friend who communicates with his cat in gentle squeaks and meows because she responds more happily that way after a life of being shuttled around from person to person previously. So, there's people who abandon kittens to fend for themselves in locked apartments--but there's also these people. That's something to consider long and hard before you get a pet: Are you an asshole or a hero?

And something else to consider: A special needs pet. My Aunt Lizzie has taken in a menagerie of disabled pets over the years, and she's been our inspiration (though to be fair, Ryan was already hooked himself. Aunt Lizzie and him look over rescue websites together on their phones in restaurants when we visit). Right now she has a spunky little dog named Finnegan whose back legs have to be carried behind him in a tiny wheel cart. The shelter that took him in gave him one day before scheduling his euthanization. A special needs animal group rallied to save him, and Aunt Lizzie clamored to take him. Over the years she's had a deaf cat, a mentally disabled cat, and an amazing blind cat with cerebral palsy named Magoo I had the pleasure of knowing personally. He got around with the help of her able bodied 20 pound cat Duffy and 4 pound dog Esmeralda. Even though he was blind, he walked and played perfectly fine, feeling ahead with stiff paws. He was friendly, he was affectionate. He was, above all, a very good boy. All of her special needs pets have been great creatures. And Puck and Lupin are great too!

But you don't have to take my word for it....

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mario, Yoshi, and the Seattle Retro Gaming Expo

This weekend we attended the Seattle Retro Gaming Expo in Bellevue, WA. It was a dramatic weekend, for reasons I'll share, that inspired me to do some illustrations based on retro games. I've already painted the first, and here it is:

Mario and Yoshi

In case you grew up in a controlled environment as part of a science experiment, Mario and Yoshi are characters from the Mario series of Nintendo games. It's been foretold unto me by nerds that Mario was originally based on the Seattle landlord of the game's designer. So, really, he's a hometown hero! Usually they look like this:

Look at 'em go!

I decided to try and give them a children's story feel. I may try different styles for other games. Castlevania and Megaman are just too tempting for my love of horror and sci-fi to make all the paintings super cute and sweet. We'll see....

Speaking of super cute and sweet, don't you just want
to pet Yoshi on the snout? 

A detail of the mushrooms.

The pencil and pen sketch.

Back to the expo! Saturday and Sunday Ryan and I went to the Seattle Retro Gaming Expo. Ryan was crazy excited to go, because there was a raffle planned and the big prize was a rare copy of the Nintendo game Bubble Bobble 2. He went to the expo with one goal... to win Bubble Bobble 2.

What's that? You may be saying. (It's okay, I was). It's a game that was released right before Nintendo made the jump to Super Nintendo and so they didn't make a lot of copies. (Check out the "among collectors" section of the wiki). Ryan prides himself on his Nintendo game collection, and was somewhat excited (stark raving mad) to get his hands on an actual copy of this game.

Ryan proudly cataloging his collection.

He had a great plan. Purchase enough tickets to cover the spread. We've seen this in action at the Northwest Majors and it usually pays off. He set aside a little cash for a few weeks in preparation enough to fill the raffle pot and still make Bubble Bobble 2 a deal. And it was all for a good cause, Camp Kesem a Washington camp for children of cancer patients. So, even if we didn't win anything, it was still a noble reason to drop some money, right? Right.

Ryan's plan to beat the spread was a little nerve racking, because Bubble Bobble 2 was not the only prize. There were gift cards, retro game systems, awesome framed pieces of pixel art (I really wanted to win those) a Vectrex (pretty cool) and a Bad Dudes arcade cabinet (otherwise known as the machine Robocop throws that guy through in Robocop 2). Those other prizes were cool, but if we won the arcade cabinet we were going to have a serious problem fitting it in the apartment... Now I'm getting ahead of myself.

Dazzled by Bubble Bobble 2 laying mere inches from his grasp, Ryan spent most of Saturday afternoon hovering over the glass case, checking out the little cartridge. I hit up the other tables and looked over rare consoles, old games, and everyone's favorite--adorable plushies!

Like this guy, my new BFF chain chomp.

I like to look at Japanese Game cartridges and guess their names.
I call this one "Hitler Money Fight."

Oh no Ryan, look out!

Our friends were competing in Street Fighter and Marvel tournaments. We watched and cheered them on. Cole won Street Fighter, and now he's being sponsored to fly to Evo by Another Castle! Pretty cool, right?

Finally raffle time came, and Ryan pulled out his many tickets. He'd entered the ranges into his iPhone, and he eagerly scanned the screen for each number as they were read. We didn't win the cards. We didn't win the awesome art work (damnit). We didn't win the Vectrex (also damnit). However, we did win the arcade cabinet (BIGGEST DAMNIT).

The crowd was surprised to see Ryan throw his hands into the air (and hear my cry of agony) as our number was read for the Bad Dudes arcade cab, but see, we already have an arcade cabinet.

It's in the living room.

Every girl's dream, right?

So Ryan walked to the front, shook the MC's hand, took the mic, and in a shocking twist none of the crowd could have predicted, said, "Whoever wins Bubble Bobble 2 tomorrow--I will trade you that machine!"

Everyone was pretty excited to hear this, as not too many folks collect rare Nintendo cartridges but arcade cabs are big business. Heck, if we had the room for it we would have loved a third (oh, yeah, no, we have another one back east. It's a Pengo machine. We own two arcade cabinets. No kids, just two giant game machines. My Mom is thrilled, thank you for asking).

Ryan being a Bad Dude for his winner's portrait with the cab.

The first day done, we went out to dinner with friends and Ryan hoped somehow he'd win/trade/cajole Bubble Bobble 2 on Sunday.

Me and my Bad Dude.

Ryan leans into our photos,
because he's over a foot taller than me.

Back at home, Elvis made a friend.


Elvis loves that ghost, so he was pretty stoked
we added another weird fuzzy ball to the collection.

Elvis with his boo (get it?) last summer.

He spent all of August and most of September like that.

Sunday dawned and we returned to the expo. On the phone, my Mom said "Tell Ryan I hope he wins the Bubby Bobby Bee thing!" I conveyed the message, and we gathered with the crowd to hear the numbers called. We didn't win the gift cards, we didn't win a Dreamcast hook up, and... we didn't win Bubble Bobble 2.

However, in another shocking twist no one could have predicted the guy who did win it took the mic and announced, "I'm going to auction this right now and all of the money will go to Camp Kesem!" (So, if you're paying attention, he's the real hero of this story. What a sweetheart!)

Ryan had dropped his "ridiculous game purchases" budget into the raffle already, so he waited with a sick stomach as everyone around us called out prices. Finally it was SOLD! for $230 to a gentleman who had come to the Seattle Gaming Expo with one goal... To win the Bad Dudes arcade machine.

He and Ryan met in the crowd, overjoyed but cautiously hesitant like a slow motion airport scene in a romantic comedy. They eagerly made the trade with a handshake, and a hug from me as I cheered, "Thank you for saving our living room!"

Ryan and the Bubby Bobby Bee Thing!

It was a great time. I love going to these events and shows--no, ladies, I really do! They're a great opportunity to build a collection, learn more about rare weird old games, and snag some swag.

Our friend Jared gave us this Super NES, so I can finally
master Buster Busts Loose again!
Thank you, Jared!

Did I mention we found a friend for our green
mushroom, Teddy?

And there it is, (yes he placed it in a glass case and hung it on the wall)
Bubble Bobble 2.

One of the things I like about my husband is his resolute determination to make something happen. Once he gets a bee in his bonnet (or a Bubby Bobby Bee) to do something, he moves Heaven and Earth to get it done. That's pretty cool.

Back to my Mario and Yoshi painting! My goal for the upcoming year is to create enough game illustrations to sell prints at the events we attend. We love games and we enjoy doing game art; between us Ryan and I have a lot of video game themed paintings done already, but not yet quite enough to justify a table.

It would be fun to be able to offer prints of everyone's favorite games! Right? I think so. But like Johnny 5, I need input! What were some of your favorite video games growing up? What characters would you like us to try and draw?