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Taking Baby Strokes

Ok so right from the start of this whole blog-thing I’ve been doing, I’ve been talking about my art. Now I’ve made good on some of my pen-to-paper scribbles, but what I haven’t yet done is share any digital…anything. Well, that’s because I wanted something decent to show for it and for a while I most definitely didn’t have that. There’s a fair few reasons for that.

Reason one: Technical Difficulties. Two-Fold.

The set up seemed easy enough at first. My intuos seemed easy enough to set up. I picked out some features for the buttons (the quick keys as they’re called). The ones on the stylus themselves weren’t really working, mostly because I kept bumping them at first, so I just disabled those and had my quick keys set to do the things I’d tried to set the stylus-buttons to do. That was fine. (At first.)

No no, the first problem came, apparently, with my choice of program. I admit I hadn’t looked too much into my options. I knew Photoshop was a thing, and I knew Gimp was your free semi-equivalent program. It…is not. Equivalent that is. It will do the job if you need a free photomanipulator and you learn how things work with it, and I have used it as such for a while. I don’t manipulate many photos extensively mind you, but I can tell you most pictures I’ve posted on this blog have been lightened. And anything on white paper was ‘whitened’ because all of the lights in my home have a yellow hue to them so it made all those drawings look weird. However as for making actual art, I very quickly ran into extensive and obnoxious glitches that had very long and complicated ‘solutions’ online. Since I can’t afford Photoshop I assumed that this was what I was stuck with and settled down for hours of troubleshooting.

Luckily that didn’t happen. In the first thirty minutes I stumbled on someone mentioning this other program that was also 100% free by it’s very design – Krita. It also, apparently, fairly recently released a very much improved version 3. It’s been fully created by kicksterter backing since the beginning, and it was specifically designed so that anyone and everyone can make digital art if they so choose.

Well there we go! A free program designed for drawing tablets and aspiring (and professional) digital artists. And it has not disappointed. But it has had a learning curve of its own. Which I will address in reason two (the learning curve).

Ok, I know this section has been long so I’ll keep the rest short: I’ve had a few problems with the tablet itself. Specifically I had to uninstall all components and re-install the drivers once in the first few days because it hadn’t installed correctly. After I did that, though, my ‘back’ option (essentially ‘undo’) no longer worked. So I uninstalled and re-installed again, among other various troubleshoots. It still doesn’t work. I’ve tried it on all the buttons on both the tablet and the stylus. Every other potential setting works. So uhm, if anyone has a solution for this, please tell me. Thank you!

Reason Two: The Learning Curve

Hooooo boy. There is a learning curve. It took me a while just to be able to make lines in a way that resembled my current skill level – which I’m well aware isn’t particularly high, but it’s not as bad as it was looking for a minute there. Basically the first couple sketches I tried to make – including my first attempts at just drawing basic shapes – looked like grade school scribbles. I mean regular kid grade school, not pro artist grade school. I’ve seen some pros put up their grade school ‘scribblings’ and even that looks great. It looks like the kind of stuff you see in movies that you just know was drawn by an adult trying to make it look like it was drawn by the kid because of how unfairly good it is. (So unfair guys.)

Then there’s learning Krita. Some things are obvious and easy if you have any knowledge of these kinds of programs. Layers work similarly to how you’d expect them to, though you might have to learn some of the more advanced options. The color selector is there, brush options, etc. But there’s so much more. But we’ll get there in a minute. First – my first attempt!

Yeah, I cannot draw a proper circle on a good day, and this was while I was still struggling with straight lines. So please for give my lumpy sphere. And just…everything. I gave up on the shapes fairly quickly, considering they never really work out well for me anyway. I know that’s not a good sign artistically, but I do know to use my shapes to build bigger pictures and…well, I have a lot of work to do as far as shading goes.

So I hope it’s fairly obvious but I started in on that without looking up any tutorials beyond basic troubleshooting. I wanted to see what I already knew and what I still needed to figure out. Turns out…I need to figure out a lot. Especially because a lot of things in Krita are significantly different from Photoshop. Like blending and, to an extent, shading. (There’s still options like ‘burn’ but, one, I had no idea where to find it at first and two, there’s better options than burn, as I found out.)

So let me give a mega shout-out to all the artists on YouTube, especially ones who uploaded how-to’s with programs other than Photoshop. There are a fair few programs out there, too, and it’s nice to get a chance to see others looked at.

Specifically there’s a channel called GDquest (and they have a Twitter too) which had a great blending tutorial which I copied a little bit on my own to create this magnificent beast:

I originally had a bright yellow sphere but that was horrible so I turned it orange and then I actually liked the outcome, even if some of my edges are a bit weird on all of them. I wasn’t too concerned about completely cleaning the edges up since this was more focused on shade/highlight/blending. These spheres give me hope.

I also found a lot of help from Jazza(Draw with Jazza)’s YouTube channel in general, though I can’t tell you specifically what videos as there’s so many and I think I’ve had them on non-stop for the last couple weeks. Well, when I’m not watching Good Mythical Morning that is. That latter one is unrelated. But it is on YouTube so kinda related? Anyway Jazza has a lot of tutorials too, but he mostly sticks to Photoshop. He also has the highest level drawing tablet (Cintriq) so sometimes some of his tutorials are a bit, well, geared towards not me. But that’s fine. There’s still plenty to learn outside the technical realm too, and watching all the different challenge videos he’s done has also been rather inspiring.

Anyway, one of the other tutorials I found was one discussing various brushes available in Krita – at least, that particular person’s favorites. While I did play through with all the different ones he suggested, I also took that time to test out literally every single brush. Which was fun, but unfortunately I don’t have anything to show for it because I didn’t change canvases as I was doing so and as such as I ran out of space I just colored over the canvass and switched colors and kept on going with the next batch until I’d done every one of them. I can easily say that I verily agree with Mart(‘s Struggling with Drawing)’s suggestions. But then, I’m also super newb so maybe I’ll eventually branch out to others. Right now, though, this feels like a good solid start point which I didn’t have with the initial attempts.

Also later in the video he made a jellyfish which I sort copied but also made my own:

One thing I very quickly noticed was how easy it can be to make things look nice. Like, if I’d had to draw this out without the options in Krita…..well, you can see my most recent efforts at drawing in previous posts. (As for how accurate that jelly is, I know it’s not at all accurate. But I’m not sharing it because it’s a super accurate realistic jellyfish. I’m sharing it because it actually looks kind of nice just as it is.)

So that’s where I am as of now, and there was some procrastination involved since I didn’t want to go and read all the long articles or watch all the 30 videos I had open (yes – I had 30 video tabs opened alone, some pertinent to beginning with Krita or as an artist, others more advanced but I was really curious, but it was 30 all the same). But when I buckled down and did it I noticed marked improvements right away. Which in turn got me really excited to make more.

And since my next effort is a bit more ambitious than my last few, I do admit I have some concern that I might get frustrated again. But I’m also immensely excited. Plus so far it doesn’t look horrid. If I stick to what I’ve learned and keep learning new things as I go, I’m certain it’ll turn out fairly decent.

I think the mock up I was making for myself up in that corner looks better than the actual picture I was trying to make. I’ll probably take it and make it it’s own picture after I finish the first one.
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Some days things are just good.

My roommate is cranky, but aside from that I don’t really have any complaints about today. How often can people say that? I mean, I think I complained today, at times, though I didn’t mean to. But I don’t have any overall complaints. Work was fine, all the things that were going wrong seem like they’ve been fixed and I have a new supervisor that has reigned in all the mistakes of my previous one. They’ve even started my promotion paperwork (which I was told would happen over a month ago, but that was other supervisor). I’m back on track at work, and I even managed to draw Ruby multiple times and she didn’t look completely demented even once. That’s not related to work, but that’s some #artpride right there. Progress is always worth celebrating.

Actually, there is one art complaint I could easily make – I’m still struggling with the Wacom. I’ve had to uninstall/reinstall the drivers twice now, and there’s been serious trouble with registration. I also was originally trying to work with Gimp, a program I know rather well, but there were so many glitches so I tried a different program (Krita, which I’d never heard before let alone played with). I have so far played with colors and shading the basic shapes…which I know I’m not a super artist, but I’ve always been extra super bad at the shapes. Once I learn a bit more about the program itself (especially selection, layers, blending options, etc) I’m going to give them another go. I want to know a bit more before I start sharing even the scraps, though I probably will share the scraps of my first attempts after I have something I feel better about to compare it to.

But none of that is really a complaint as much as a ‘welp gotta roll with it!’ kind of thing. My goal is to learn and learn I am trying to do. Now, since I talked about drawing I don’t feel I can leave this post without some of my scraps.

First is a check-back with my old favorite – I’ve shaded a bit more and I think it looks quiet a bit better now…even if I put Steven’s shadow-arm in the wrong spot.


This is simply a sick day sketch dump. I was still really feeling awful on Monday, but I also didn’t want to not draw something, so I started working on something I thought couldn’t turn out too bad, considering I’ve drawn quite a bit of Ruby and Sapphire. Then I got mad at how it was going and started throwing down a bunch of other things. All from memory, since I couldn’t have references when I was drawing these. For not using any references at all I don’t think I did horribly. It could be a lot better, but it’s not the worst I’ve ever made. Doing a dump also gave me chances to work on a few smaller details (like attempting to draw walking…and dancing, which I have a lot of other really bad flops of attempting that pose elsewhere which are even worse than these – no I will not share them). Then I started sketching out a thought and it turned into a cute little Pearl, and then I had to give the Pearl a little story, and then that story gave me another sketchy. That being the Garnet in the bubble room sketchy there beside her.

Then I sketched her some more. I really like her actually. She could be really helpful for me developing something of my own. It’s not totally mine, I know, but it’ll help me branch out some more.
Lastly are a few pieces from a bit of a longer thing I’m making that I’ve been calling ‘Getting to Know You,’ which I’d also include the other little Ruby-Sapphire bits as well. It’s just them getting to know each other during that time between when they escape Blue and join Rose. Oh and also that one from before they come to Earth at all.

My goal is to ‘draw a little every day.’ Sometimes that becomes very little, and unfortunately for a few days there that little bit was limited to very minimal attempts at coloring in Krita. But we don’t get better if we don’t keep at it. So I’m going to keep at it. My other goal is to write a little every day. So far I’ve been doing mediocre at that, and I’m not counting twitter posts as writing since 14o characters is about the equivalent of a couple of texts. Or one text, depending on what’s going on. I’ve written some summaries of ideas but I haven’t started developing those ideas yet. If I ever want to use my writing to buy a car, or something else that it’d be nice to have extra money outside of my paycheck to buy, I know I really need to get started on that.

Oh, semi-unrelated to the art, but Cartoon Network added a clip from one of the upcoming SU bomb episodes. The whole episode was already leaked so most people have already seen it so it’s been a bit of a big deal. At least the leak entirely watchable, so here is the very watchable clippit they put out:

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And now, some art.

For some reason they seem to have mistaken my notebook for my breakfast.

When I have time next weekend I’m going to put a handful of these on my actual progress page, but for now I just want to give rundown for where I’ve been, where I’m at, and where I hope to go in the next while. This post took multiple days to make because I had to heavily edit a lot of my sketches that I made in the last year – I kinda doodled them in the notebook where I took notes for the training for my current job (I’m cheap, ok? I don’t like buying notebooks when there’s still perfectly good corners to doodle in).  I had to blur and crop out a lot of stuff so that it didn’t take away from the actual art, and that took a surprisingly long amount of time. So that’s why there was no post for a couple days and also why this post might look kind of cruddy. Then I had the worst time just getting the pictures to upload. Like I said before, I’m no professional. I wouldn’t mind becoming one but I know I’m no where near that yet and may never be, and that’s ok. I just want to make nice things, and this is my steps towards being able to do that.

While we go through this, please keep in mind that cheap comment above. I either use what I have available or what I can get easily and cheaply (for example – my pens are from the Dollar Store, my notebooks were acquired during training at work, I use every last scrap of available space within those notebooks, and my pastels are a set I’ve had since high school). The most money I’ve spent on art supplies in the last seven years is the $70 I just spent on my new Wacom Intuos. We’ll get to that later on.

Also, I don’t know if it’s necessary at this point, but let this serve as your spoiler warning, especially for Steven Universe. If you somehow don’t already know what great secrets that show holds I recommend not spoiling yourself on my crappy art. At least spoil yourself on good fanart if you must be spoiled, but preferably just go and watch the whole thing. It’ll only take you a day or two if you binge it since every episode is just 11 minutes long and it will be so worth it to watch the show unspoiled. I wish I could have, but Tumblr had other plans for me.

Drawn on April 11th, shaded on April 12th, 2017.

So I can’t go back to my old sketch books to show you the travesties they contain. I say travesties since when I look at professional artists, I’d say my high school was about where their middle school was. Seriously, when they share their ‘bad kid art’ it looks like the kind of art tv execs have made for the kids on their shows. That stuff is never bad. They’re trying to be ‘bad’ but it’s never actually bad.

Outside the sketch books though, I did make some art that I’m rather proud of. I only have two pieces in my own home right now. My mom kept the rest as all super loving, proud moms do.  Though she wouldn’t keep the one that we made together. I mean, we didn’t paint it together. We both painted the same painting at one of those ‘Wine and Canvass’ type events. Or ‘Paint and Spirits’ or whatever your local one is. I bet there’s one near you if you look. Its a place where you drink wine while you and a party of other people all paint the same picture together. We did it with the realtor who helped her find her house (along with several other ladies who had also acquired their happy homes with this same realtor). It was a really fun experience, though I wasn’t too excited with the end result:

Painted in 2014

I have it hanging up on my wall because otherwise the wall would be bare, and over time I must admit it has grown on me, though my regrets are still very much there. Like the green in the horizon and the extra black loopies above the trees themselves, and making the loopies that were supposed to be autumn leaves as black as I did. Basically I wish it was just a bit brighter. BUT we live and learn.

Ok so lets take a trip back real quick to the art I am proud of: My pastels from high school. Both chalk and oil, though the chalk won more ribbons. Despite that I most definitely prefer my oil pastel piece more:

2010. Maybe the end of 2009, I don’t remember.
I definitely made this in 2010. It was one of my very last high school projects, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks this is my favorite thing I’ve ever made.

I feel more affiliated with the ballerina baby. I pulled that art from deep within my soul. I also designed it on my own. The chalk was basically pulled right from a picture I found on Google, though made to look a bit rainier. My little dreamer, though – sure I used references for the shapes and color schemes but I made that on my own. I created that.

When I got my own apartment and hung it up, I thought “Hey I really liked pastels. Maybe I should try to get into that again!” And, well, this happened:

August, 2016.
August, 2016. Credit: My Little Pony – Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?

Now I know they aren’t bad, per say. But trying to just jump back into pastels after a seven year absence really made me appreciate having had my teacher beside me to give me tips rather than just floundering through a bunch of YouTube videos. Not that they aren’t great – but they aren’t there with me to see what I’m doing as I’m doing it and directly tell me where it’s going wrong and how to make it better. Ok, well, lesson learned. And also I cut out the six other really creepy looking pastel things I tried to make, so be grateful I just gave you the good one out of the batch.

Instead of doubling down and trying harder, I admit I got disheartened. I know, art isn’t easy. You don’t just pick up a pencil and make amazing art. Not the first time at least. It takes work and practice and, well, I was in a down spiral at the time so this was just making me worse. Now that we’re on the other side of winter I’m ready to give it another try, so stay tuned and we’ll see what happens.

Now for the notebook sketch dump I promised:

These were all drawn at various times, just for fun. Some I’m more proud of than others. I’m kind of scared of my first Ruby up there. She looks ready to eat someone. Actually I still really struggle with Ruby and I’m not sure why. Sapphire usually turns out better. Not always, but usually. I also drew all of these with no references since we aren’t allowed to use our computers for non-work related things at work (and I draw these during down times between calls). Between work days I’ll look at pictures and try to memorize the parts I got wrong – it’s been a process but I’ve been getting better. For example here’s a set of MLP pictures I drew in October (2016):

Rainbow Dash, Twilight Sparkle, and Spike – drawn with absolutely no references.
Twilight and Discord, drawn after the previous when I’d had a chance to check on the way they looked. I still managed to draw Discord completely backwards (parts of him are backwards, parts are completely wrong, and I totally forgot he actually had ears when drawing this so I forced one in). Please lets not get into the shading issues. I’m working on that.
Drawn after having had some time to actually study almost all the main characters (minus Starlight, but I keep accidentally drawing ponies that look like her anyway). Bonus points if you can identify everyone correctly.

Sometime around December I stopped drawing as much. Like in the entire month of December I think I only made those blue shade-practice stones from the collage above. But then in a fit of boredom I remembered that there was this cartoon I’d been meaning to watch but had never gotten around to. A lovely little known work called Steven this-is-the-best-cartoon-ever Universe. So I gave drawing another try. As you can see from the collage above, it wasn’t so great at first. But I think it’s come a long way – and it’s definitely giving me hope. Just take a look at this progression:

Sapphire looks alright but…Ruby, Ruby my dear are you dead inside? (In case it’s hard to tell, in this little strip Ruby was about to carry Sapphire over a river, but Sapphire got the bright idea to just fly over it instead since, y’know, she can do that.)
This was literally almost the very next day from the previous one. It took a few days to complete but I was also trying really really really hard with it. Basically I realized that Ruby likely had to have met Sapphire before they arrived on Earth since they were her guards, so they probably traveled with her. And Ruby so had a crush on Sapphire long before they fell in love. So I decided to make a little fan sketchy I’m calling ‘the very first time Ruby and Sapphire really noticed each other.’ I used Holly Blue because the Steven Bomb had just happened and even if it wasn’t the Holly from that episode I could easily see a Holly watching over to make sure the Rubies didn’t do something stupid around the Grand Clarity.


This was the start of a new notebook. I had a spare from training that I made sure to keep away with nothing in it because I knew this day was coming. The day when I would just give up all pretenses of using it for work purposes. I really feel like a lot of shots look like characters are about to start eating other characters (especially Rose – girl I am so sorry for what I did to your face). This is actually a concept I want to return to. Garnet’s first days as a Crystal Gem, and Ruby and Sapphire learning about each other and who they are together. Based on the episode with Jamie, as well as Pearl and Amethyst’s statements that fusion isn’t easy (which Garnet, of course, said that it was for her), I get the impression that they weren’t the flawlessly cool Garnet we all love today. They had to get there, and that took practice. Just like me eventually drawing a sane looking Ruby will come, someday, with practice.
Oh hey look, a sane looking Ruby! For a little while. It is so much easier to draw her when she’s sad for some reason. This was a concept inspired by a much much much better artist about what if they were poofed and Ruby had to wait on Sapphire. Mine’s just a quiet Steven comforting Ruby as they watch the sun set and wait.
So the good Ruby didn’t last very long, and I failed immensely at drawing the emotion of Ruby and Sapphire reaching out for the kid they love the most – but it did lead to a Garnet that I am really proud of. I am so happy with how she turned out that, in case you didn’t notice, I made this my featured picture for this post. This is where I am at right now. I finished this last Wednesday. (And I’m already deep back in trying to draw another comic…which there are some clear improvements and also clear failures, but that’s nothing new.)

I’m going to take my wins where I get them. Just looking at the drawings I’ve been making since September I can see vast improvements. Yes there’s a long way to go but I’m getting better. And I’m also looking at getting into digital art, so definitely stay tuned for that!