Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Will It Work: Blick Studio Brush Markers and the Copic Airbrush System (Guest Post)

Huge thanks to my arty friend Sam (@kibou) for writing about their experiments with Blick Studio Brush Markers and the Copic Airbrush system.  If you enjoyed this post, make sure you check out Shooting Stars, Sam's site.  Sam is a member of Manga Apps on DA, and makes loads of amazing digital art resources that you should check out as well.

I was recently introduced to Blick Studio markers, which really are a good, cheap alternative to Copics.  I bought them with the thought of experimentation, because it doesn’t seem like anyone really had tried them with the airbrush system.

Why would I want to do this?  The Copic airbrush system has a tendency to cause markers to dry out more quickly than normal use.  So, if you can get something else to do the same job for cheaper, it’s a better deal than whatever you’re paying for a single Copic marker, right?

I decided to give them a shot, fully expecting one of the three following possibilites: I could potentially wreck the markers, destroy the air grip, or it simply wouldn’t fit/work at alll.

Here’s my supplies:
1 Copic Airbrush System with Aircan
Blick Studio Markers
(Copic Marker for comparison)
One inked illustration (masking suggested)

In this case, I used a piece of paper and masking fluid to protect my drawing from errant sprays of the markers.  Some people use frisket film, which also works.

In any case, let’s start by comparing the sizes of Copic and Blick markers to see what we’re up against.
So, right off, it’s really important to note that the Blick Studio markers are just a touch shorter than the Copic Sketch markers.  They’re also a little bit wider, which means fitting in the air grip might be tricky, but not likely impossible.


I was able to get the brush tip to fit with a fair amount of force.  It certainly takes more effort to get it in than the Copic would, and you have to push it until you hear a pop.  It wasn’t until later that I noticed why it pops, though:

The blick markers are wide enough that they force the air grip apart slightly.  It doesn’t affect the function of the airbrush, but it does raise some concern because this COULD cause damage if you force it apart too hard.

In any case, let’s get to the interesting part.  DOES IT WORK?


I don’t have a camera stand, so please don’t mind the cell phone shakycam.

Once you get the marker in, it works pretty much exactly like a Copic.

You can also use the chisel tip of the marker. I’m wary about doing this as you need significantly more force to insert and remove it from the grip.  Since the Blick Studio alcohol markers aren’t quite a perfect fit, there will be some minor damage to the marker’s body.
It isn’t severe, but it is something you need to keep in mind.

I did try pulling out the chisel tip further to see if I could work with it without damaging the grip.  I used my tweezers to help get a better grip.

That didn’t go very well.  I tried pulling it out further, and didn’t get very predictable behavior out of it.  So, I resigned myself to just working with the chisel tip as normal.

Once the marker is in firmly, its behavior and performance is fairly predictable for those familiar with the Copic airbrush system.

In the end, you CAN use the Blick Studio markers as a substitute for Copics in the airbrush system.
They’re not perfect -- but they’re definitely a great starter point if you’re low on cash and don’t feel like potentially trashing your Copics. Just remember that you might need to apply a little extra force to get a not-so-round marker body to fit in that very round Copic airbrush grip.

If you’re interested in my artwork, you can find me on deviantArt as Kabocha: http://kabocha.deviantart.com
Alternatively, you can visit my website as well: http://shooting-stars.org/

Thursday, November 24, 2016

2016 Small Business Saturday

Last year, I made it my mission to remind people that artists are small businesses, and deserve your support on Small Business Saturday.  Many of us create handmade, one of a kind items that make perfect gifts for loved ones, but we are so small that we cannot afford brick and mortar shopfronts.  Many of us also have difficulty getting the small businesses in our local area to take a chance on our work, so you may never see our work for sale in local shops, despite their promises that they carry locally made products.  Last year's Small Business Saturday post not only covered these bases, but also included a list of wonderful artists and crafters who sell their wares online. If you're interested in supporting micro businesses like my own, I highly recommend you revisit that post.

In that light, I'd like to announce that this year, I'm hosting another

Small Business Saturday Sale!

Coupon Code:  SmallBiz
Good for: 20% total order, including comics and original art
When:  Today until Sunday, Nov 27th

Original Art, listed just in time for the holidays. We accept all major credit cards, PayPal, and Bitcoin.  All pieces are priced to be affordable- I would rather they go to good homes than sit in my portfolio collecting dust.

Not sure how original art or commissions fits into the lives of you or your loved ones?  Check out this Art Soundoff on Art as a Service:

All New Listings:

Favorite Fictional Femmes Original Ink Illustrations
Ink, Brush on Watercolor paper

To purchase, please visit the painting section of the shop.

Gizmo Grandma: A Twisty Tale
A children's novel with watercolor illustrations.  Written by Lenore Salazar, with illustrations by me.

Includes 43 watercolor illustrations by me.  $15.  Purchase here.

31 Days Under the Waves
My 2016 Inktober mini features loads of merfolk in fun situations
32 underwater illustrations.  $4. Purchase here.
31 Days Under the Waves is available as a PDF download via Gumroad.

31 Days Under the Waves Coloring Packs
10 images printed on artist quality marker paper using toner based inks.  Compatible with waterbased and alcohol based markers.
$6 for the 10 sheet pack.  Purchase here.
These images are also available as a Print It Yourself download via Gumroad.

2016 Black and White Sketchbook- Let Sleeping Cats Lie...
An ashcan is a collection of sketches and studies compiled into a small, self bound booklet.
This year's black and white sketchbook, Let Sleeping Cats Lie..., is a collection of daily figure studies, fashion studies, facial expressions, and doodles.  It's perfect if you're interested in a peek into how my mind works, or if you have a young artist you'd like to encourage.

$3 Purchase here.
Let Sleeping Cats Lie is also available as a PDF download via Gumroad.

2016 Full Color Sketchbook- ...Or Else They'll Drink Your Watercolor Water
An ashcan is a collection of studies and sketches compiled and handbound into a small book.
This year, I completed so many color illustrations as watercolor studies, marker field tests, or YouTube tutorial demonstrations, I could put together a sizable color ashcan, ...Or Else They'll Drink Your Watercolor Water.  Perfect if you'd like a taste of my color work, or are looking for inspiration for yourself or a loved one.
Full color. $6.  Purchase here.
...Or Else They'll Drink Your Watercolor Water is available as a PDF download via Gumroad.

Fairy Kei Plaques

One of a kind, handlettered sealed and decorated wooden sign that reads My Bae is 2D.  $20.  Purchase here.
One of a kind, handlettered sealed and decorated wooden sign that reads Livin the Kawaii Life.  $30.  Purchase here.
There are more wooden signs available in the shop, and signs can be commissioned.  Please email me for a quote.

New Original Watercolors
Available in a variety of prices, sizes, and subject matter

11"x15"- inkwash and watercolor on watercolor paper. $40 for the original piece.  Purchase here.
5"x8", Brusho, watercolor, ink on Fluid 100 watercolor paper.  $30 for the original piece.  Purchase here.
For more original art and illustration, please visit the shop.

New Mini Watercolors
8"x8" and 9"x12" mini watercolors that feature fanart as the subject.  Most are popular Pokemon in bright watercolors, but there are also Gundams and a few anime characters.  Check back frequently, as updating the shop is still in progress.

8"x8" watercolor of Magikarp, original piece available for $25.  Purchase here.
8"x8" watercolor of a Zaku, original piece available for $20.  Purchase here.
Make sure to check out the shop for more mini watercolors!

Convention Favorites:

Magical Girl March
31 Days, 30 Girls, 3 Boys
2015's March challenge. $4.  Purchase here.
Magical Girl March is available as a PDF download via Gumroad.

Favorite Fictional Femmes

42 of my favorite fictional femmes, all in glorious black and white.
  2015's Inktober sketchbook. $4.  Purchase here.
Favorite Fictional Femmes is available as a PDF download via Gumroad.

Print-It-Yourself Coloring sheets are also available for purchase in three packs- Ladies of Literature, Just Animated, and the entire collection of 42 femmes.

7" Kara Volume 1

7" Kara is an all ages watercolor adventure comic the whole family can enjoy together.  Follow Kara, a 7 inch tall girl, as she make friends and discovers that humans are more than just tall tales.

  • 120 pages,including a bonus story and concept art section to inspire young minds
  • Perfect bound
  • Includes Chapters 1-4 of this ongoing comic
  • For readers 8-12, although enjoyable for all ages
  • Beautiful watercolor illustrations keep the reader engaged
  • Comic format is very rewarding for young readers- strong correlation between content of panel and dialogue

$15 or $20 with a sketch and dedication in back of book.  Purchase here.

Lilliputians are tiny people who occupy the in-between spaces of our world. Sometimes, if you're careful, you can catch a glimpse of one. 7" Kara is a suburban fantasy comic aimed at young girls. Inspired by books such as "The Borrowers", "The Littles", and "Gulliver's Travels", 7" Kara follows the adventures of the 11 year old Lilliputian Kara. Kara lives with her parents in an old doll house that's been hidden away in the back of a neglected shed. Isolated her entire life, she has few Lilliputian friends her own age, and even less experience with the outside world. Everything she knows has been learned first hand or has been taught to her by her parents. Her life changes drastically when a human family moves into the house her family lives near. Will Kara make a new friend? Or is there something darker, possibly more dangerous in store for her?

Sample pages from Chapters 1-4

If you are only going to purchase one thing from my shop this year, I highly recommend it be 7" Kara Volume 1.  The project is nearest and dearest to my heart, and all of my efforts go towards promoting this comic.  If you enjoy this blog, the YouTube channel, or my art, please check this comic out.

If you've already read volume 1, the first chapter of Volume 2, Chapter 5, is available as a PDF from my Gumroad shop.  You can also purchase a PDF for all of Volume 1.

Your support of my comics, mini comics, originals, and merchandise not only encourages my work as an artist, but enables me to continue dedicating massive amounts of time to this blog and to the Youtube channel.  If you enjoy the content I create, and you cannot justify joining my Patreon, giving patronage to my online shops is a fantastic way to

Monday, November 21, 2016

September ArtSnacks Vs SketchBox

Thanks to Denise Hillburn (my mother) for the gift of ArtSnacks for the year!  SketchBox Basic subscription purchased by me out of personal funds.  If you would like to help support this blog, and continue posts like this, please consider donating to my Paypal, or contributing to my Patreon.  Future unboxings and reviews are unlocked to the public at the $15 level each month, but backers have access regardless of funds raised.  Posts like this are only possible through the support of my Backers, so if you enjoy this content, please check it out and consider joining.

Special August Thanks To My Patreon Backers

Please note:  I have linked backer webcomics/blogs when I have access to them.  If you are a backer who would like to have your project linked, please get in contact with me.

Andrew Benedict
C. Ellis
Boss Goose
Heidi Black
Mary Catherine
Virginia Williams
Wayne Norris
Michael Suriano

Previous SketchBox Vs. ArtSnacks
January- Winner: ArtSnacks
February- Winner:  SketchBox
March- Winner: ArtSnacks
April- Winner: ArtSnacks
May- Winner: ArtSnacks
June- Winner: SketchBox
July- Winner:  SketchBox
August- Winner: SketchBox

So here's the skinny:  In all the hustle and bustle of October (Special Edition ArtSnacks Inktober Box, bringing the October ArtSnacks and Sketchbox with me to San Jose, being in San Jose for a week, tabling at APE), not only did I NOT write the September ArtSnacks V SketchBox post, but I also committed the biggest sin of all- I deleted the notes and the photos.

I know, I know, I am the absolute worst.  I am sure my read-only readers are horrified.  I apologize.  When I realized I'd never written a September review (while writing my October review, ironically), I had two options:  Skip September entirely or make the best of the situation.

Well, you're reading this, so you know which option I went with.  Fortunately, I DID record three videos, two of which include September SketchBox Basic information, from prices to places you can shop.  I apologize if I've broken any hearts, but given the lack of complaints, I'm going to assume you guys forgot too.  We're just all smucks together.

If you're one of my Instagram followers, you DID see shots as I took them, so you probably know what came in these boxes.  If not, I'll be tacky and share screenshots of my IG in this post.  If you're into that sort of early access goodness on reviews, tutorials, and demonstrations, you should follow me on Instagram.

ArtSnacks vs. SketchBox Unboxing- Becca Hillburn

ArtSnacks vs SketchBox Overview

This Month's ArtSnacks:
Alvin DraftMatic ArtSnacks Exclusive Drafting Pencil
Alumicolor 6" Architect's Ruler (not the pocket version)
Kurecolor Twin S Alcohol marker
Kuretake Zig Clean Color Real Brush

Unfortunately I did not mention either totals for this month-my apologies.

This Month's SketchBox Basic:
Art Alternatives Blending Stumps and Tortillions
Art Alternatives Chamois
(General's) Primo Charcoal Kit
General's 4 Piece Charcoal Pencil Set

MSRP: $34.16
Lowest Retail Price: $24.92


For September, SketchBox Basic sent charcoal drawing supplies.  I'm going to get flack for admitting this, but I hate charcoal, I no longer use it, and I hate how it gets all over everything.  I work in a small studio (really just the smaller bedroom in my two bebdroom apartment) that has not only carpet, but a cat, so I try to limit my mess to materials I actually enjoy.  If you enjoy charcoal, that's great, but due to a very busy schedule, and the fact that my challenge videos tend to get the least hits on YouTube, I opted not to do the SketchBox Basic challenge this month, and focused my attention on creating loads of Inktober tutorials.


This month, we received only four 'snacks' from ArtSnacks, so the box felt a bit anemic, especially as the ruler is more of a tool. This month, SketchBox provided a very cohesive box, even if it was a media I greatly dislike, although there was a fair amount of overlap between the Primo set and the 4 piece Charcoal set.

SketchBox Basic did a decent job hitting the sweet spot this month, with a lowest retail value well in the accepted range.

The Winner: SketchBox

Friday, November 18, 2016

7" Kara- Chapter 5 PDF available

I have some exciting news!  I've decided to start listing 7" Kara Volume 2 Chapters on Gumroad as soon as they're completed- so those of you who are wondering about the progress of Volume 2 can get caught up!   Backers are about to unlock access to Volume 2 chapters as well, so if you're interested in updates over the longterm, consider joining my Patreon!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

NOCAZfest 2016 Announcement

Hey guys!  I'll be returning to NOCAZfest for my third year running, and I have lots of great stuff for this year!  NOCAZfest is a small indie comic and zine show in downtown New Orleans with a great all ages atmosphere, and a very inclusive environment.  The organizers and volunteers are all friendly people eager to help you get into indie comics.

The first two years I have tabled at NOCAZfest, it was a one day show, but this year, NOCAZfest is turning into a two day show, which gives you plenty of time to get your booty down to the New Orleans Main Library on Loyola and buy some comics and zines.  If you're in the area, you have no excuse, as admission is free to the public. 

New to NOCAZfest!
Gizmo Grandma: A Twisty Tale- an illustrated children's novel by Lenore Salazar and Becca Hillburn (book debut- limited copies available!)
31 Days Under the Waves: A Mermaid Zine (book debut, first 5 copies sold are numbered special editions)
31 Days Under the Waves: Coloring Sheets (item debut, only 5 sets available, printed on artist quality marker paper)
2016 Black and White and Color Sketchbook Ashcans (new this year)

I will also have:
Original art for sale
Pages from Volume 2 of 7" Kara
copies of  7" Kara Volume 1
Favorite Fictional Femmes
Magical Girl March
Assorted cute merchandise like pins and stickers

Inking Workshop

Learn to ink with me this weekend! 

On Sunday, at 1PM, I will present a workshop/panel on Inking that will cover everything from technical pens to inking with a brush.  I plan on bringing lots of materials for participants to experiment with, and participants may bring their own materials if they wish.  Admission to the panel is free.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Art Soundoff 2016 Announcement

This November, I'm participating in Art SoundOff, an artist journaling challenge created by Rob Steinzinger and Jerzy Drozd.  Youcan find more information, including official prompts, here on the Art SoundOff site.

Every day in November, I am journaling some aspect of my artistic life, from inspiration to creation, to dealing with deadlines, and more.  These are handled vlog style, and are generally me addressing the camera directly, so if you wanted more face time, this is definitely the playlist for you.  You can check out my ArtSound Off Playlist here, and if you have suggestions for prompts, or topics you'd like to see covered, please let me know via Youtube or Patreon comments.

These videos are recorded using my Samsung S 7, and have been edited either using YouTube's editing software or Samsung's editing software- meaning minimal editing. 

Due to a sensitive nature, some of these vlogs will be only available to Patreon backers, but my intention is not make Art SoundOff a Backer Exclusive. 

At the end of the month, I plan on recapping my month of art journaling/vlogging, and sharing my thoughts.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Inking and Lettering with Fountain Pens

I assure you guys, I have no intention of this blog becoming a fountain pen blog.  There are plenty enough of those.  I don't even intend to do full reviews of the pens I've purchased, unless one is particularly standout, or one just outright fails.

I did, however, buy a few after visiting with Heidi and recording a video on the best fountain pens for sketching.  I was weak- playing around with dip nibs for Inktober made me fall in love with nib inking again- and I wanted to find the Pentel Pocket Brush equivilent of a fountain pen.  Something inexpensive, with expressive lines, that I could take anywhere.  Heidi's reccs started me off on a strong foot- the TWSBI Eco and a JetPens Chibi for fun, but I quickly added a Noodlers Flex, a Pilot Varsity, and a Sailor Fude De Mannen.

You can check out our guide video AND the shownotes by clicking here.

Pens Purchased:

TWSBI Eco (piston type reservoir)
JetPens Chibi (and converter)
Noodler's Flex (piston type reservoir)
Pilot Varsity (disposable, for general writing and maybe doodling)
Sailor Fude De Mannen (and converter)

TWSBI Eco.  Image Source
TWSBI Eco Image Source

Jetpens Chibi

Jetpens Chibi Image Source

 Monteverde Mini Fountain Pen Converter  Image Source
Noodler's Flex

Noodler's Flex Image Source

Noodler's Flex Image Source

Pilot Varsity

Pilot Varsity Image Source
Pilot Varsity Image Source

Sailor Fude De Mannen

Sailor Fude De Mannen Image Source

Sailor's Fude De Mannen have nibs with varying degrees.  The above pen (as well as mine) has a 55 degree angle.  I would be interested in trying the 40 degree Fude de Mannen as well.

Sailor Piston Converter Image Source

Sailor Piston Converter Image Source

I couldn't play with my new toys until an appropriate ink was found and I quickly ordered Platinum's Carbon Ink, also by Heidi's recommendation.

Ink Purchased
Platinum Carbon Ink

Cleaning My New Toys:

Used the method demonstrated on Withoutink

Setting Up My Pens

After cleaning, all three pens were easy to use on the Rhodia blank pad I picked up at Paper and Ink Arts.  Instant ink startup, no skips, no catching on the paper.  I found that the Noodler's Flex, although a bit stinky, handled the best for what I wanted, and was able to sketch and doodle without nipping the paper.  The Pentel Chibi also handled quite well, almost as well as the Flex, and the TWSBI offers a broader nib with a little less flex.  All three are great so far, and have been inked up with my Carbon Ink.

The TWSBI and Flex both have their own pistons for easy filling, but I purchased a little converter for my Pentel Chibi.

I think I'm going to add my Flex to my everyday art carry, but the Chibi and TWSBI ECO will probably live on my desk, at least until I ink the Chibi with something exciting (or order another).

Sailor Fude De Mannen

After I'd already cleaned out my Flex, TWSBI, and Chibi, my anticipated Fude de Mannen arrived from Amazon.

A fude style fountain pen is designed to facilitate Eastern style characters and replicate the stroke of a brush.  Instead of being more flexible than Western nibs, a fude style nib is bent at an angle (45 or 55) to facilitate this.

Drawing with Fountain Pens

Noodler's Flex and Fude De Mannen

Drawn in a Rhodia Blank notebook.

Noodler's Flex

Fude de Mannen

TWSBI Eco and Jetpens Chibi

Sketched on Rhodia blank paper.

Jetpens Chibi


Inked with the TWSBI Eco and the Noodler's Flex

Sketched and inked on Strathmore 400 series Mixed Media paper with Platinum Carbon Ink using a TWSBI Eco and a Noodler's Flex.

Daisies were inked with the Noodler's flex, as it can deliver a fine line.  I noticed no paper tearing.

Outlines and major details were inked with a TWSBI Eco broad nib.

Finer details were inked with a combination of the TWSBI and the Noodler's Flex.

Ink was allowed to dry for 24 hours, then erased, with no noticeable ghosting.

When sketching and inking, I find myself reaching for the Noodler's Flex, especially after listening to Goulet Pens interview with Nathan Tardif.  It's such an easy little pen to ink with- a good amount of flex, doesn't nip up quality watercolor paper, easy to get started, doesn't require much pressure to with.  Right now, if you're interested in a fountain pen for inking your art, I definitely recommend it.

Pros of using a Fountain Pen to Ink

  • Can use a wide variety of inks and ink colors- from very watersoluble to waterfast, to inks with dichromatic properties
  • Inexpensive options like the Jetpens Chibi, Pilot Preppy, and the Pilot Petit1 can be purchased in quality and filled with a rainbow of colors, if you enjoy colored linework
  • Even without flex, with an italic nib, you can achieve a lot of lineweight by rotating the pen slightly.
Cons of Using a Fountain Pen

  • The most flexible nibs on an unmodded, stock pen will be on vintage pens, which tend to be expensive
  • If you want to carry a lot of ink, you may need to buy a converter or try an eyedropper conversion
  • Need to be careful about the papers you ink on- sketchbook paper is generally a no go, but tightly woven papers and coated papers should work decently
  • Unless you mod or buy a modded pen, no nib will deliver the flex of a flexible dip pen nib
  • Can't use just any inks- need to use exclusively fountain pen inks, otherwise ink may clog/ruin pen

Comic Lettering with a Fountain Pen

Uppercase alphabet lettered with the Sailor Fude de Mannen, lettered on Strathmore Writing paper (prelined)

Although I lettered alphabets with all four of my fountain pens, only the Fude De Mannen had a distinctive stroke.  This makes sense as it's a pen designed to replicate stroke calligraphy.

This said, the TWSBI Eco is enjoyable for general writing, and I find myself reaching for it when I want to make notes.

Outside Resources:

Fountain Pen Network: Painting With Watercolors over a Fountain Pen
Jetpens Blog: Fountain Pens (section)
Parts of a Fountain Pen
Fountain Pen Terminology
Pen Maintenance
Filling Mechanisms
Fast Pen Flushing
How to Write with a Flex Nib
Fast Pen Flushing
How to Write with a Flex Nib

If you enjoyed this post, there are loads of ways you can let me know!  You can shoot me an email using the form in the lefthand sidebar, you can share this post to your social networks using the sharing buttons below, you can link this post on your favorite forums and sites.  These are all great ways to show me that you enjoy my content, as you're helping me increase my audience, spread the goodness of art education to the masses, and helping me establish legitimacy.  If you'd like to show more support, contacting companies on my behalf is a great way to really help me in a meaningful way- you can find company info in the righthand sidebar. If you'd like to help fund future posts, you can purchase something from my online shop or my Gumroad shop.    Finally, if you'd like to join my community of art nerds, gain early access to content, AND help support future posts, head on over to my Patreon for information on how to join the community.