Thursday, March 26, 2020

Common Watercolor Problems

Over the past four years, I've written (and recorded) a LOT about watercolors!  Writing and recording all of this has given me not only a lot of experience, but I've had to do a lot of research and painting over the years

While you're still learning watercolor your three big hurdles are:

  • Too cheap/small brushes
  • Too cheap watercolor paper, wrong kind of paper
  • Cheap watercolor

Getting these three things right- right for YOU- will solve a lot of your problems

Problem:  Every element of the piece feels disjointed
Causes:  Elements were painted individually, rather than painting the piece as a whole
Solutions: A toning wash beneath (a griselle) will create unifying shadows that create a consistent light source, a consistent shadow type, and will provide a layer of color that will influence further layers.  

Problem: Large areas in the watercolor piece appear scrubby or patchy
There's a few possible causes for an issue like this!  One cause is using brushes that are too small for the area you're trying to fill,  like trying to paint a large area with a size 4 round.  Another is using a synthetic or hog bristle brush that's really too stiff for watercolor, and will lift up prior layers.  The third is using cheap watercolors- they tend to go down muddy and opaque, and don't really allow for some of the layering and translucency effects that watercolor is known for.
Solutions:  In the future, try working with a much larger brush to cover large areas, and try switching to round brushes that allow for both broad strokes and finer applications.  The more you paint, the more confidence you'll develop in your ability to handle a brush.

Problem: Watercolors won't dry, take too long to dry, are pooling
Cause:  High humidity outside, overloaded the paper with water, paper isn't absorbing the water
Solutions:  Allow your piece to dry in front of a fan or a well-ventilated area for several hours, or use a hairdryer to speed up dry times.  Avoid painting if it's raining out.  NOTE:  Hair driers can sometimes cause further problems- they can cause some colors to go chalky, paper to wrap, and may push puddles of paint.

Problem: Watercolors look dull, opaque, dingy - EX Artist Loft Field Test
Common Cause:  Using cheap watercolors.  Cheap watercolors may have binders like dextrin and glycerin, and may have optical brighteners to make the colors look bright in the pans.  Optical brighteners make colors more prone to lifting, more opaque, and layer poorly.
Solution:  There are lots of affordable watercolors that handle well!

Budget:  Yarka Children's Watercolors

Student Grade: MozArt Komorebi, Kuretake Gansai Tambi

Professional but Affordable:  Daniel Smith Essential Six,

Common Cause: Using cellulose paper.  Pigments sit on top of cellulose paper, rather than soaking into the fibers, and are more prone to lift up during washes and glazes.
Solution: Adjust your painting technique to suit the paper, or switch to a cotton rag paper.

Common Cause:  Using hotpress paper.  Like cellulose paper, pigments sit on top of hotpress paper (even cottonrag).  Hotpress paper is not designed to handle multiple washes or thin glazes the way coldpress does.
Solution: Try painting on cold press watercolor paper.

Problem:  Can't blend out watercolors
Common Causes:  There are several possible issues that can cause an inability to blend your watercolors! Using wrong type of paper, super low humidity day, waited too long, even the wrong types of brushes!

Common Cause 1:  Wrong type of paper. 
Solution: KNOW YOUR PAPER!  Experiment with it, do test swatches, and play around with any new paper before you commit to a larger piece.

Common Cause 2: Super Low Humidity
Solution: You could buy a humidifier, but I find it so much more effective to just understand when the humidity is low, and change my painting choices to suit the weather.  If you need more open time, consider prewetting the paper with clean water first to encourage blending, or oversaturating a smaller area and then using that to blend out. 

Common Cause 3: Wrong Type of Brush:
Solution: I find synthetic/natural hair mixes and natural hair brushes work best for blending!  There are all sorts of affordable, long lasting options on the market.

Inexpensive Brushes I love:
Hake Brushes
Sumi Brushes
Silver Black Velvet Brushes
High Quality Squirrel Brushes

Problem:  Watercolors bleed into each other
Common Cause: Paper is still damp on the interior, didn't wait long enough for it to dry
Uncommon Cause:  Paper is damaged structurally, as in knicked by a knife or graphite.  You may also be using the wrong type of paper for the type of watercolor you want to paint- this includes sketchbook paper, some cheap mixed media papers, etegami paper (a watercolor paper designed for bleeding)

Solution:  Allow paper to dry full, try again with more saturated, less wet washes and glazes.

Problem: Paper Buckles and Warps
Cause:  Paper is drying unevenly, or shrinking as it dries.  Paper may not be heavy enough for watercolor (for western papers, 90lb and above)
Solution: Stretching your watercolor paper or securing it in some fashion

Problem:  Paper Buckles and Warps even though I stretched it
Causes:  Watercolor paper has a 'memory'- if you stretch watercolor paper on a humid day, you may have issues with buckling and warping every time you saturate the paper.
Solutions: Try to wait for low humidity days to stretch watercolor.  Barring that, just be aware that this is an issue you may have to deal with.  A tight, secure stretch will help mitigate these issues.

Common Problem: Consuming too much paint/paint seems to go too fast
Common Cause:  Student grade paints are full of fillers- extenders that allow companies to include less pigment in each pan or tube.   This means you need to mix more paint to achieve desired saturation.  More expensive paints have a higher ratio of pigment to binder, and will stretch further in the long run.
Common Solution:  Work towards replacing the student grade watercolors you own with professional watercolors as they run out.

Common Problem: Watercolors are really prone to lifting up when trying to layer, tend to become muddy
Common Cause: Cellulose papers, like Canson XL, mixed media papers, or Strathmore's watercolor paper (that isn't in large sheets) don't' absorb water or pigments into their fibers- the texture of the paper comes from embossing onto the paper and the paper may contain a lot of external and internal sizing to give it structure.  So water and pigments sit on the surface of the paper and are more likely to be removed with repeated glazes or washes.
Solutions:  Consider switching papers- With cottonrag papers, the pigments get into the fibers
so they're less likely to unintentionally lift up. 
Switch up your watercolor technique to utilize fewer layers

Common Problem:  "Watercolor isn't erasable/correctable"
Common Cause:  Lack of knowledge or staining watercolor pigments.  The smaller the particle size, the more likely a color will stain the paper.  Granulating pigments are unlikely to stain the paper.
Solutions: You can lift w/c while it's still wet with a paper towel. If it's dry, wet it, then scrub gently with a soft synthetic brush to reactivate the pigments.  Dab it with a paper towel.  If you want to reprime and rework the area, you can use a watercolor ground to make corrections.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Invest In Yourself- Daily Drawing Warmups

Right now, so many of us are self isolating at home, and suddenly find we have a lot of time on our hands.  Between endlessly scrolling Twitter, posting photos of sunsets to Instagram,  baking tasty pastries, harassing the pets, and keeping up with the news, I highly suggest we work daily drawing warm ups into our at home schedule.  Now is a great time to start your drawing journey or to hone skills that may have fallen by the wayside, and there are lots of great online resources that will help you do this- FOR FREE!  You don't even have to get out of your pajamas.

Daily Figure Studies, 5 Min Per Figure, from SenshiStock

Why Warm Up?

  • Limbers up your hands- muscles and tendons- resulting in better drawing
  • Less likely to injure your hands
  • Helps build your mental library of objects, poses- will result in better drawing from imagination
  • Improves your knowledge of structure, human body
  • Will enable faster drawing

Still Life, Set up at Home, 20 Minutes

Great Daily Warmup Exercises:

2 Minute Pose Sketches x 10

5-10 Minute Referenced Figure Sketches x 2

Draw an animal from reference- same animal, 3 different references

Draw 1 randomly generated character from this character generator

Pick a corner of the room you're in and sketch it for 10 minutes

Pick a household object and sketch at least three different views of the object

Set up a small still life of interesting objects and draw it for 30 minutes

You can either use some of the sites listed below, or family members can take turns posing! 

Great Tools for Warming Up:
Note:  Not all resources linked here are all ages appropriate.  * will denote General Audience

Inspiration and Reference:
Pose Reference:
*Senshistock Pose Timer
Croquis Cafe
Line of Action Practice Tool
Quick Poses Reference tool
New Masters Academy, lessons and reference
Bodies in Motion
New Masters Academy

Drawing Prompts:
*Quick Character Generator
*Character Generator
Character Designs reference generator
Sketch Daily Reference Generator
Character Designs:

Monday, February 17, 2020

Comic Artist Starter Kit Gift Guide

Art supplies are great but the MOST important thing you can give is support.  This is demonstrated in interest, involvement, and encouragement.

Some artists choose to work digitally, some choose to work with traditional supplies, so select materials that will work best for your artist!  If you'd like to familiarize yourself with comic materials more before purchasing, I recommend you check out Getting to Know: Traditional Comic Materials.

Great Basics for Teen and Adult Beginners 

Options were selected based on affordability and accessibility.  This is designed to point you in the right direction, but you don't need to buy everything on the list!  Products chosen were selected based on being applicable to a wide age range but still useful for those new to making comics.

9"x12" Strathmore 300 Series Smooth Bristol
Canson Mixed Media Paper
Canson XL Watercolor Paper

Pilot Color Eno colored leads
Pilot G2 Pencils
Col-Erase Pencils

Sakura Pigma FB, MB, BB
Pentel Pigment Brushpen
Pentel Pocketbrush
Kuretake Fudegokochi
Sakura Microns

Pentel Hi Polymer Eraser
Pentel Clic Erase

18" Clear Acrylic Ruler (ideally with an inking edge- a strip of metal inserted into one side)

Drafting Brush
Presentation Portfolio
Storage Portfolio
Page Protectors and Binder

Drawing Boards and Work Surfaces:
Futura Drafting Table (I own this one!)
Simple Portable Drawing Board (I own a couple of these, they're lightweight but very sturdy)
Drafting Board for Construction and Engineering
Large Drawing Board Easel
Wood Drawer Drawing Board
2 Drawer Walnut Adjustable Storage Box with Folding Easel

Supply Storage:
Desktop storage:
96 Hole Pencil and Brush Holder- Desk Rack
Desktop Storage Tray
Spin-o-Tray, Rotating Desktop Organizer
Totes and Bins:
Craft Storage Box with Lift Out Tray
Artbin Super Satchel with Removable Dividers
12" Plastic Art Supply Tool Box
Pencil Cases:
Medium Capacity Pencil Case
Linen Pencil Case
Large Capacity Organizer: 202 Pencil Case with Zippered Closure
High Capacity Pencil Pouch
Big Capacity Pencil Case

Clip Studio Paint
Medibang Paint (free)
Affinity Photo
Procreate (Mac OS only)

XP-Pen Graphics Tablet, 10X6.5"
XP-Pen Artist 11.6" FHD Drawing Moniter
Huion Inspiroy Q11k V2 Wireless Drawing Tablet
Huion KAMVAS Pro 13 GT-133 Drawing Monitor

Apple iPad 10.2"- 32GB
Apple Pencil

For Your Phone:
Bamboo Tip Stylus

Other Giftguides to Inspire:
2019 Video Giftguides:
Dollar Tree

2018 Holiday Watercolor Gift Guide
2018 Comic Artist Gift Guide
Intermediate Alcohol Marker Artist Gift Guide
Watercolor Gift Guide- Beginner
Gift Guide for Intermediate and Beginner Artists
Holiday Gift Guide: Alcohol Markers for the Aspiring Artist
Watercolor Gift Guide for Young Artists- Ages 9-13
Holiday Gift Guide: Buying for Adult Artists
Budget Watercolor Recommendations
Gift Guide: Amateur (Student) Artist
Recommended Products of 2015

Friday, February 14, 2020

Valentine's Day 2020

Every year, my mom has sent or given me a Valentine.  Sometimes at my seat at the table, sometimes wrapped in excelsior.  Some years it was expansive- candy and stuffed animals, some years it was small- but every year at Valentine's, I knew I could look forward to a sweet reminder from my mother that I was loved and valued as a person.

This continued well after I started having boyfriends- I knew no matter what was going on (and one year, I got dumped on Valentine's Day), my mom had my back on Valentine's.  It's a tradition that continued into Undergraduate, where my Valentine would be waiting for me at the house, and into Graduate school, where my Valentine was mailed to me, and has even followed me here to Nashville.  As I got older and had some income, I was able to return the sentiment and send her Valentines (usually flowers) in return.

It's not really about receiving a gift.  It's about exchanging a sentiment between two women who sometimes struggle with vulnerability.   It's about taking the time to express love and affection.

Valentine's Day isn't really a romantic holiday for me.  I don't like fighting the crowds to eat out, and while I like chocolates and flowers, I'm happy to wait a couple days and get them half off.  I treat Valentine's Day as a wonderful excuse to tell the people (and animals!) in my life that I love and appreciate them.  While I ALWAYS love them, sometimes I need an external reminder to be grateful, appreciative, and demonstrative in my esteem.  So many people don't hear "I love you" or "I value our friendship" or "you make me smile" enough and it can be easy to assume we have no positive impact in the lives of others without this external validation.

So I hope you guys will take some time out today to tell others in your life just how much they mean to you!

Valentine's Day is also a great day to remind yourself of all the reasons why you love YOU.

You guys are probably wondering what this has to do with art, or watercolor, or comics.  I see so many artists online who hate themselves- it's pretty obvious.  Attacking other artists who are more popular than they are over micro transgressions, constantly dogging their own work, forever putting themselves down.  I think a lot of artists struggle with feeling like they DESERVE to love themselves.

 I've been there, and it's something I struggle with daily- which is why it's so important to try and love yourself as you would a friend.  Sometimes you have to separate and talk to yourself the way you would a friend you value and trust- because you work hard, you put yourself out there, and regardless of whether other people see your value, YOU HAVE VALUE.

It was the culmination of failing to meet my goals (which, admittedly, were often set outside the realm of my control), difficulty in maintaining boundaries (after years of unemployment, I struggle to say no to 'feature creep' from employers), and feeling isolated from the comic community in Nashville.  A heady dose of 'unemployed and can't find work' added to that bad brew- I created the echo chamber that was killing me.  I really didn't think someone who was so unemployable, someone who could draw and share work every day, but still couldn't find work- deserved self love, and I reserved that 'privilege' for when I felt like I was actually worth something.

Beating a dead horse doesn't bring it back to life.  It doesn't make it walk, and a dead horse can't carry any burdens.  I was emotionally abusing myself to suicide.

I was so lucky to befriend Kabocha at this time.  Our friendship inspired me to take the first steps in turning my life and viewpoint around.

Depression, anxiety, mental health or disability drastically color how we view ourselves, our interactions, the world around us.  I have ADHD, depression, and anxiety, so you can imagine the weird tints my feelings color the world and my experiences.  For years, I really struggled with confidence issues and asserting myself- I would let opportunities pass me by without even trying, or self sabotage my efforts because in the back of my mind, I was SURE I'd let them down.  Working on loving myself has helped me ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression by inspiring self care before things spiral out of control- taking breaks, taking walks, eating regular meals, stretching, getting some outside perspective, and loving myself has allowed me to embrace my ADHD and try to work with it, rather than fight it.   Eating a meal before the anxiety got too bad and made me sick.  Going to bed before the 'witching hour' arrived and depression clawed its way in.  Accepting that as someone with ADHD, I am creative, engaging, empathetic but also that my feelings are often more intense than a situation merits, and the feeling of never quite measuring up and being good enough might be all in my head.

The struggle out wasn't and still isn't easy.  It's been almost four years since I couldn't even look at myself in a mirror, even in passing.  Now I can smile at myself, compliment myself, tell Becca she put in a good day's work.  But it's been four years of actively trying to rewire my mind, how I think about myself, and how I talk about myself.  Shutting down the negative self-talk just as it starts, putting on music or reading a book to drown it out and distract me just enough to focus.

Here's your permission.  Please start today.  Try to see yourself as a friend, an ally in your struggles and a companion in your life's journey.  Try to see your body as a loyal and hardworking vehicle, always trying to serve the needs of the mind, even if sometimes it cannot succeed due to the limitations of health and humanity.  Take the steps necessary for self care- turning off social media notifications, finding or creating a group of supportive friends you can turn to, eating regular meals and drinking plenty of water, setting and keeping a reasonable bedtime.  While these won't cure anxiety, depression, or mental illness, they definitely make it a lot easier to tackle the symptoms.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Third Kara-versary

Today marks the third anniversary of launching 7" Kara as a webcomic, and it's been a weird ride.  My nearly 10 years of work on 7" Kara has seen a lot of changes- graduating from SCAD, moving from Savannah to Nashville, working closely with other artists to working in near isolation, the formation of Ink Drop Cafe, the dissolution of Ink Drop Cafe, dozens of conventions, self-publishing Volume 1, researching comics and watercolor, teaching comics- I've grown so much while working on Kara.

The past three years, from when I first launched 7" Kara on February 11th, 2017, have not been nearly as turbulent as the whole, but it's been fruitful for development and growth.  Dozens of conventions, representing my own book, joining SCBWI, regular teaching gigs, participating and moderating Ink Drop Cafe, tabling at SPX with several perfect bound books- I'm in a totally different place from when I started painting the first Kara pages. 

While Kara is not my first comic by a long shot, it's the first longform comic I was willing to share not only with friends, but with the internet as a whole, and with readers via the perfect bound Volume 1.  It took a lot of courage to begin uploading comic pages three years ago- the audience for web comics is pretty different from the audience for print comics, and I knew my preferred demographic isn't really using the internet yet.  But I also knew sharing Kara as a webcomic would not only open me up to critique and criticism, but to potential friendships, and would give me a chance to prove myself to online peers.

The worst response I've gotten is from people who judge my current artistic ability based on what they see in Chapter 1- comic pages painted 8 years ago!  Watching my art develop as I work on 7" Kara has been really exciting for me- I've always loved comics that evolved with the artist's ability, rather than sticking to an outdated 'style'.  I'm proud of how far I've come in terms of ability and comfort with the medium and the artform, and I love using the contrast between Chapter 1 and Chapter 8 to inspire other artists to begin their own projects.

Early Page from Chapter 1, Early page from Chapter 8

While working on Kara, I researched and learned so much about watercolor.  Beginning the Watercolor Basics series here on the blog helped fuel that passion, and as time progressed, I learned what papers, paints, and brushes worked best for Kara comic pages, and what I preferred to use for standalone illustrations.

When I first started with Kara, I used Cotman Student Grade pans on Canson's cheapest 90lb watercolor paper, with cheap synthetic brushes- the pages are rippled, the colors chalky, the mixes muddy.  I quickly upgraded my paper in Chapter 2- I've reviewed a lot of different papers over the years, and have tried even more, but I lucked out when I selected Canson Montval for comic pages, as it's still my preference.  And as time passed, I slowly switched out Cotman half pans for Winsor & Newton professional half pans, and then later began experimenting with other professional brands.  My watercolor brush selection grew as time passed as well, and I began to prefer natural hair brushes over synthetics.

I struggled to learn how to paint darker skintones, how to paint grass, how to draw animals and not every comic page or panel was a success.  Often I spent time doing watercolor studies- practicing realistic watercolors, painting different scenerios, learning something new every time I tried to flex my wings.  But without struggle we wouldn't have success, and Naomi has become one of my favorite characters to paint, and steals the stage in the Volume 2 bonus chapter, Naomi's Big Day.  And anyone who follows my Instagram knows I love painting grass!

2018 and 2019 were years that marked a desire to find watercolors that performed better than the Winsor & Newton watercolors I was using, and more economical.  I became friends with Kabocha, a fellow watercolor enthusiast, and we exchanged notes and paint samples.  I shared many of my reviews on Youtube, hoping to help other comic artists interested in watercolor.

Working on 7" Kara has inspired so many aspects of my life, from teaching others how to create their own comics to studying watercolor.  I'm excited to see where my art will go, and where inspiration will strike, as I work on the next two volumes.


Chapter 1 Pages: 
 Painted 2011/2012- Cotman watercolors, Canson Beginner Watercolor Paper

Chapter 2 Pages:
 Painted 2012- Cotman and Winsor & Newton watercolors, Canson Montval Watercolor Paper

Chapter 3 Pages:
 Painted 2013- Cotman and Winsor & Newton watercolors, Canson Montval Watercolor Paper

Chapter 4 Pages:
 Painted 2014- Winsor and Newton watercolors, Holbein Irodori watercolors, Canson Montval Watercolor Paper


Chapter 5 Pages:
Painted 2014/2015- Winsor and Newton watercolors, Holbein Irodori watercolors, Canson Montval Watercolor Paper

Chapter 6:
Painted 2016- Daniel Smith watercolors, Mijello watercolors, Soho watercolors, Winsor & Newton watercolors, Canson Montval watercolor paper

Chapter 7 Pages:
Painted 2017/2018- Daniel Smith watercolors, Mijello watercolors, Soho watercolors, Winsor & Newton watercolors, Canson Montval watercolor paper

Chapter 8 Pages:
Painted 2018/ 2019- Daniel Smith watercolors, Holbein watercolors, Mijello Watercolors, Sennelier watercolors, Soho watercolors, Winsor & Newton watercolors, Canson Montval watercolor paper

Those of you who keep up with the webcomic have probably noticed that after Chapter 6, 7" Kara went on hiatus.  I have three additional chapters painted and lettered- ready to go, but I'm holding onto those as a special incentive to support the Volume 2 Kickstarter.  If you'd like to keep on top of Kickstarter news, you can sign up for the mailing list- I have a lot of newsletter exclusive stuff planned!  And hopefully you'll consider supporting Volume 2 after the Kickstarter launches- your support means the world to me, and inspires me to continue painting.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Notes on Hourly Comic Day 2020

Notes on Hourly Comics:

  • Gives structure to my day- it forces me into a routine, which is both great for ADHD and not so great for my usual work methods
  • I'm guilty of doing more 'fun' things on Hourly Comic Day so I have something interesting to draw
  • Also very distracting- it's weird to stop work every hour to quickly draw more work- it's not like it's a real break.
  • Makes it obvious that my schedule is WEIRD.
  • Try to keep it simple and sketchy so I can at least get other work done- it seems like some folks literally dedicate their day to making attractive Hourly Comics, but I draw too slow for that
  • Nice to break up my normal routine of very polished comics with a lot of process and steps to just sketch autobio
  • Try to work in a different format- color pencil, in the sketchbook, super sketchy

Hourly Comics of Days Past:

Hourly Comic Day 2014
Hourly Comic Day 2016
Hourly Comic Day 2017

Monday, February 03, 2020

Upcoming Classes in Nashville, TN

I have a busy Spring ahead of me here in Nashville!  Joseph and I are wrapping things up here in Tennessee and preparing to get married and move back to Louisiana.  In the meantime, I wanted to say goodbye with a bang!  These classes are your last chance to take an art class with me in person in Nashville, TN, and I have a little something for anyone who might enjoy this blog!

Please register for classes early to ensure your place in class.  Since I'm responsible for printed templates and resources, and provide most class materials, it's helpful to have a good idea of how many students are attending, so I can prepare ahead of time.  If you’d like one on one critique or advice, please make sure you bring examples of your work (physical is best) and show up a bit early so I have time to help you!

For Plaza classes:  If you would like to register someone under the age of 13, please register for the class with them. Kids are welcome, but only if accompanied by a parent or guardian.

All other classes in this post are for teens and kids.

Classes are for February-May 2020 and are subject to change.  Please register in advance to secure your seat and to allow me to properly prepare in advance.  If you have any questions or need more information, feel free to email me!

Watercolor for Comics and Illustration
February 8th- 1PM-4PM
PlaZa Artist Materials
Nashville, TN
$25 admission, supplies provided
Register through or call 615-254-3368
All ages welcome, but children under 13 need to register with a guardian

Have you always wanted to learn how to use watercolor for illustration and comic art? Or maybe you know someone who loves traditional media art and would be interested in expanding their experience?
I’m teaching a class on watercolor for comic and illustration art through Plaza Artist Materials in Nashville, TN, on Saturday, February 8th!  It's called How to Use Watercolors on the schedule.  Even if you know absolutely nothing about watercolor, you’re welcome to sign up and take this class! We’ll be providing everything you need for three hours of watercolor fun including paints, papers, and snacks! If you want to learn how to use your own watercolor supplies, bring them along! The class is from 1-4PM, and I welcome artists of all ages and experience levels to come learn the secrets to watercolor for comics.
I’ll provide you with a list of recommended supplies, if you want to start shopping after the class is over, and once you get home, you can explore years of watercolor tutorials and reviews to help bolster your studies on Nattosoup Studio Art and Process Blog and my Youtube channel. And of course, you’re welcome to reach out to me via email!

Learn to Draw Anything
Standalone Pop Up Class
February 19th, 4-5PM
The Little Art House
Nashville, TN
Register through The Little Art House
Price TBA

Want to learn how to draw, or level up your art?  I'll teach you the magic secret that they don't teach you in public school art classes!   Everything in our 4D world is made up of pretty basic 3D shapes that can be drawn on 2D paper.  I'll show you how to break complex objects down into those basic shapes, and teach you how to draw them.  When you leave this class, you'll see the world in a whole new way!

Manga Madness
Standalone Pop Up Class
February 26th, 4-5PM
The Little Art House
Nashville, TN
Register through The Little Art House
Price TBA

Love anime and manga?  Trying to find your own art style?  In this standalone class, I'll show you how to draw your own characters and teach you the basics of constructing faces and facial proportions.  Once you have the basics down, it's easy to tweak it to suit your taste and drawing style!

From Stick to Figure
Standalone Pop Up Class
March 4th, 4-5PM
The Little Art House
Nashville, TN
Register through The Little Art House
Price TBA

Want to learn how to draw people?  Interested in designing your own original characters?  This class will show you how to go from stick figure to character design!  In this hour long class, we're going to focus on capturing gesture and form, as well as answering your figure drawing questions! 

Comic Illustration: Designing Original Characters
March 7th & 8th, 10AM-4PM
Watkins Community Education
Nashville, TN
Register through Watkins Community Education

A weekend crash course on drawing and designing characters for comics and illustration! On Saturday, we're going to focus on figure drawing and understanding the human form using constructive anatomy- great for posing characters! On Sunday we're turning our focus to facial construction, designing faces, and finding your style!

This weekend drawing camp is perfect for young artists who need extra guidance or encouragement to get started on their projects. Classes are held at Watkins College of Art- the perfect setting to inspire.

Manga Madness
March 12th- 4:30-5:30
Bordeaux Branch Fandom Fest
Nashville, TN

This class is more than just manga!  Part of Nashville Public Library's Fandam Fest, I'll show you how to construct and draw your own characters in this free hour long workshop!  Bring your sketchbooks and be prepared to draw!

Creating Comics
Watkins 4 Week Comic Class
Mondays, March 23rd- April 13th 6:00PM-8:00PM
Watkins Community Education
Nashville, TN
Register through Watkins Community Education

Know a young artist who'd like to start their comics journey?  Or maybe someone who needs a bit of support and encouragement to get started?  This four week comic class, hosted by Watkins Community Education, will walk aspiring comic artists through the basics, giving them the foundation they need to get started.   Get help with the comic process and hands on experience with the tools of the comic trade!

From Stick to Figure
March 28th, 1-4PM
PlaZa Artist Materials
Nashville, TN
$25 admission, supplies provided
Register through or call 615-254-3368
All ages welcome, but children under 13 need to register with a guardian

Learn how to go from stick figure to comic character in this three hour drawing workshop hosted by Plaza Artist Materials.  This is a deeper dive into figure drawing and construction.  Feel free to bring snacks and your favorite sketching materials!

Mixed Media Marker
April 11th, 1-4PM
PlaZa Artist Materials
Nashville, TN
$25 admission, supplies provided
Register through or call 615-254-3368
All ages welcome, but children under 13 need to register with a guardian

My last marker class in Nashville, so sign up while seats are available!  In Mixed Media marker, get hands on experience with alcohol markers like Copics and Prismacolor, and learn new techniques to really make your marker art pop!  From watercolor to color pencils to chiyogami paper, take your marker illustrations to the next level with creative solutions.

Comic Boot Camp
May 9th, 1-4PM
PlaZa Artist Materials
Nashville, TN
$25 admission, supplies provided
Register through
All ages welcome, but children under 13 need to register with a guardian

My last comic class in Nashville!  In this three hour workshop, we'll talk about comic art, process, and you'll get your hands on commonly used comic tools.  Together we'll make an eight page minicomic.  Although we provide the materials, feel free to bring your own favorites!  Snacks are provided, but you're welcome to bring your own.

Sign up here to find out about future classes and workshops!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

How Do You Know So Much About Markers?

A couple very excellent questions popped up in The Paintbox recently:

How Do You Research Markers?

How Do You Know So Much About Markers?

Copic and Blick Studio Brush markers on sketchbook paper, chiyogami paper background
Copic and Blick Studio Brush markers on sketchbook paper, chiyogami paper background

There's a few things yall should know about me, to understand how I pursue reviews.

I am impulsive as heck, especially when it comes to alcohol markers and watercolor.  I've had to actively work to slow myself down from buying things over the years, and to work through my backlog.  I've purchased A LOT of markers, and tend to personally go for things that are interesting and innovative (Chameleon Color Tones, Spectrum Noir Tri Blend), but my most requested reviews are for really cheap markers like those sold on Wish, Amazon, or even Walmart.  I try to satisfy both needs, but at this point, refuse to pay to review bullet tipped markers (I know I hate them, I'm biased) unless there's something really unusual.

These days, to slow myself down but still offer the option of reviews, I sometimes crowdfund art supply reviews on my Ko-Fi, allowing viewers to decide with their dollars which products they're interested in seeing reviewed.  This has helped me set boundaries, allowed me to save some money, and has slowed me down (in a good way) a lot!

When I do review a product, I do a lot of research between the Unbox and Swatch and the Fieldtest videos.  For the Unbox and Swatch, I want to go in as a fresh slate and form my own opinions, for the Fieldtest, I want to be knowledgeable about the product and able to answer possible questions.  I also use the Fieldtest as an opportunity to help those who own the product learn how to use it.

Knowledge builds on knowledge.  What I learn in other marker reviews can often be applied to newer reviews.

Copic marker on Fluid EZ block paper, watercolor
Copic marker on Fluid EZ block paper, watercolor

So how do I know so much about markers?

Years of use, years of teaching.  I teach marker classes with Nashville's Plaza art- to teach markers, I have to have a lot of experience, but I also had to do a lot of testing.  I make my own materials for class use, including demos.  At one point, I wanted Copic certification, and studied a lot about alcohol markers, but Copic never came to Nashville with their cert classes.

Internet searches and digging
  • Company's product page and what they say about the product
  • Reviews, particularly reviews on the product page
  • Videos put out by the company on manufacturing/usage
  • Digging up info about the parent company/acquisitions
  • Watch other artists' reviews like Frugal Crafter
  • Watch CHA yearly videos that introduce new products
  • Subscribed so several brands Youtube pages/Twitters/Instagram accounts to help me keep up with releases

Comparison to other markers I've reviewed in the past
  • Body type
  • Brush Type
  • Is this a new make of an old marker (like Spectrum Noir)
  • Is this a rebrand of another marker (like ColorIt, Milo, Shuttle Art)
  • Marker solvent's smell
  • Reactivity to popular/common marker solvents
  • Knowledge gathered from reviewing other types of markers, such as Winsor and Newton Pigment Markers/waterbased markers/watercolor markers

Frequently browse sites like:
  • Amazon
  • Ali Express
  • Wish
  • Marker Universe (formerly Copic's distributor)
  • Marker Supply
  • Blick
looking for new products

Frequently browse stores like:
  • Plaza
  • Jerry's Artarama
  • Michaels

Pay attention to trends:
  • Body types
  • Nib types
  • if the marker is popular, will they offer:
  • Refills
  • Replacement nibs
  • Who is this marketed to? (Spectrum Noir focuses heavily on the crafter market, for example, and may lean towards products that I personally would not find useful)
Copic Markers, Blick Studio Brush markers on sketchbook paper, chiyogami, mounted to sign board
Copic Markers, Blick Studio Brush markers on sketchbook paper, chiyogami, mounted to sign board

Went to Japan, twice, on the hunt for interesting art supplies.  Went to San Francisco four times for the same.  Basically, any time I'm in a new area, I hit their art stores- regional and local.  If something is really interesting to me, I have no problem using Google Translate in the store to figure out if it's useful.

Revisit old reviews, particularly written ones, for important information I may have forgotten.  This blog contains five years- literally dozens- of marker reviews in the Alcohol Marker subsection.   The channel has at least a dozen more, with important info in the video descriptions.  I've gathered a lot of hands-on experience over the years that I can put to use when reviewing new markers.

Most of my friends are artists, and some of them are just as nerdy about art supplies as I am.  Kabocha introduced me to MSDS- info documents that share some, but not all, information about the makeup of the products, including known toxicity issues and carcinogens and some chemical information like the solvent.  Blick has MSDS information for most of their products.  Alli and Heidi have allowed me to borrow their art supplies to review and compare for the channel, and Kabocha has sent me interesting art supplies to try out over the years.  My group of friends rehomes art supplies frequently, and we used to frequently send one another samples, which allows us to cheaply expand our knowledge base.  When I know a friend has more knowledge than I do, I'm happy to turn to them for help.

Attend events centered around art supply manufacturing and new products. Tried to join NAMTA a few years ago as an artist, because I'm genuinely interested in how art supplies are made.  This is an ongoing goal- right now they don't offer an artist rate that's affordable, and have difficulty understanding why artists might be interested in how the sausage is made.  Attend Hands on Creativity yearly at Plaza and talk directly to art supply reps and manufacturers, attend the free workshops where they talk about how their products are made.  I'd love to attend Art of the Carolinas at some point.

I also contact art supply companies like Prismacolor and Winsor & Newton via email, contact form, and Twitter- my results from this are very hit or miss, many of the big companies are awful at responding or their reps don't know the product.  I would love it if companies were more reliable about answering artist questions- if they could be a trusted source for information.  Winsor and Newton has gotten better about this, but huge companies like Newell-Rubbermade (who own Prismacolor) don't seem interested in responding to customer questions.

Recent Marker Fieldtests: 
Master's Touch Markers in Master's Touch Mixed Media sketchbook
Master's Touch Markers in Master's Touch Mixed Media sketchbook
Arrtx Markers on Strathmore Plate Bristol
Arrtx Markers on Strathmore Plate Bristol

Sharpie markers on Strathmore Zentangle Bristol
Sharpie markers on Strathmore Zentangle Bristol

Milo Art Markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper
Milo Art Markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper

Milo Pro Markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper
Milo Pro Markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper

Shuttle Art markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper
Shuttle Art markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper

ColorIt markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper
ColorIt markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper

Spectrum Noir TriBlend- Coral Blend Marker in Master's Touch Mixed Media Sketchbook
Spectrum Noir TriBlend- Coral Blend Marker in Master's Touch Mixed Media Sketchbook
As yall can imagine, handling so many different types of markers gives me a lot of hands-on experience and a large base for comparison.