Tuesday, December 7, 2010

African Art History Project

When I took history of graphic design last year, papers were par for the course. There were two papers, two tests, and four 'pop' quizzes, and I thought that this was both fair and reasonable. From comments made by my Modern Art history teacher (by which I mean that she out and out stated it; truly, her discretion knows no bounds) that not everyone thought that this was fair and reasonable and that papers are no longer to be assigned to the class in general.

So have fun with that, Art History students, I don't really envy you your extra workload.

At the same time, I'm a bit offended. We live in an age of unparalleled written communication. No generation before us has written or read more than we have. And someone on high thinks we can't do research? Can't put together a reasonable argument or coherent paragraph?

I don't know, maybe I'm the odd duck here. Lord knows I enjoy writing more than a great many people and that it's gotten me into a little bit of trouble now and again*.

Anyway, this was mostly just to introduce how my African Art History teacher got around the no-essay thing. Besides having us post blog entries I mean (which I did on a separate, private blog, thankyouverymuch.) We were given a 'creative project,' which could pretty much be anything within reason (including a paper if so desired.) Our subject was to be something of our choosing that we covered before the midterm. I chose the adoption of plank masks by the Bwa of southern Burkina Faso.


When I first started this project, I wanted to do three different pages, showcasing the perspectives of each of the major players as we learned about them in class (the French invaders, the Bwa themselves, and either the Nuna or Nunuma, from whom the Bwa either bought, copied, or traded the masks depending on the mask or family)

It was always going to be a silent comic with abstracted forms for the people to highlight the nature of the masks, but as I started doing the research I realized that the normal layout wouldn't work. Which was really too bad: I had wanted to print it off as a freebie for SPACE. Ah, well, posters work as well and will actually earn me some spendables maybe.

Obviously, I wasn't careful with my panel shapes or outlines. I didn't want to lay them out on a grid while I drew them so that I could get more freeform shapes. For the most part, I think this worked out fairly well. On the other hand, the gutter spacing (it's soooooo huuuuuge) really bugs me. But that's the thing about experimenting: not everything works.

In summary: super awesome project. A++, would draw again.

*I was once accused of plagiarism because, among other things, my vocabulary was too good. This was back in 7th grade, when I was still naive enough to believe that I was being asked to stay after class so that the teacher could offer me praise, as if such things happen. It was one of the most shaming experiences of my public school experience, and I never even received an apology. And that is why I never seriously pursued creative writing. Also why I avoid the word 'albeit.'

Monday, November 29, 2010

New ID

I was going through some of my old favorites' galleries on Deviantart and decided that I really really REEEALLY wanted to do a new ID picture.

So I did.

As always, I'm still playing around with digital stuff. This time, I decided to go digital from start to finish. I know I said I was going to play more with textures the next time I opened up photoshop, but, well...I'm sleepy?

Yes, very sleepy. To that end: good night.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Every so often there'll be a fellow student in one of my art classes who is not an art student. And then there will be the one who is Not An Art Student, lemme tell you all about it.

On the whole, I get along with both of the above types. They're fun and not as afraid of failure as the artsy kids because, let's face it, it doesn't matter as much to them. Which isn't to say they don't work hard. They do, even when they signed up for the class expecting an easy A and found out that it wasn't is going to be as simple as they thought.

For my electronic arts class, I'm currently doing a project with one of these Not An Art Student types. He's a cool dude* and we share a several Completely Nerdy interests; also he speaks Geometry and I speak Calculus, so our dialects overlap a little bit.

So we get to talking as we're working (he's drafting, I'm hunting down materials on the internet) and at one point he says 'Y'know, I've noticed that most of the people in here have very in-your-face personalities.'

Which is...true? I guess? I replied that it was because if we weren't like that, who would notice us? The odds of getting 'discovered' are so dismal that, well, it doesn't really bear thinking about, does it?

But the question kept niggling away at the back of my mind. This guy was really only familiar with the people in the electronic arts class, and I had been finding the other students to be frustratingly retiring and unassertive. It's probably that none of us are all that familiar with the media that we're learning, but the projects have mostly seemed to be lacking in daring, despite the fact that our teacher keeps saying things like 'art is meant to challenge.'

So does this say something about me, that I expect more from these people? Or does it say something about the world outside the art school walls, that they expect less?

I think that this article at Psychology Today helped clarify some of it, but I don't know that I can see enough of the situation from where I am in the system to be able to give any definite answers. Maybe that aren't any. Chalk it up to weirdness.

*This is actually one of my highest compliments for a friendly acquaintance, but I realize it could sound a little odd over the internet. Probably in real life, too. Doesn't stop me.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


This week's theme over at Illustration Friday is 'burning.' I don't usually do Illo Friday, but I follow it. Perhaps it is time to change that?

The drawing was done in ink on paper, and then colored over in the photoshops. Because, really, I am serious about getting better at it.


I did a lot of messing about with layer modes on this one. Next time: TEXTURES!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Justine 4

Art: yay! Late now. Sleepy times


...I like green

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Weird Tips for Art Students #2

Art and Fear, Letters to a Young Artist, and Ignore Everybody should be read by anyone at a crisis point with their work. Or just read one and then save the others for when you're in trouble again.

Also useful, a central bit of trivia from Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: it takes 10,000 hours of work to be really truly excellent at something. This translates to about ten years. Patience and passion, people.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Justine 3

Watercolor, as promised!


And I have no complaints about the scan quality either. It's pretty close to the original.

This is the third in a series, of sorts. These are the first two, done during sophomore and senior years of high school, respectively. They are pretty bad:

justine by ~sparksel on deviantART

Er...and that'll take you to my DA account, I suppose. Which I haven't updated in...months. Many months. Most of a year, maybe. Some of that stuff is still pretty good, though.

There'll be two more Justines in the near future. My mom wanted to hang the two old ones in the bathroom (we're hanging a lot of my art now, since we've done the remodel), but I really dislike them, so I told her I'd do new ones.

And so I am.

Monday, September 27, 2010

RECEPTION for the Florence Show

I said I'd put this up here as soon as I knew and then I went and nearly forgot.

The reception for the 2010 MSU Florence Study Abroad show will be on October 8th. I don't know the times yet, but I suspect that it'll be sometime around 7pm. I will keep everyone updated (for realzies this time) as I learn more.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Digital Interlude

Occasionally, I'll come across something that I want to do really really well, but that I am really really bad at.

Like, I am spectacularly bad, you guys. No, for cereal.

For years this has been digital painting. And it is still digital painting. But I'm gonna get better, gosh darn it, and at least now there are recognizable objects.

Some recent examples:




More to come?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Florence Paintings

Ever have one of those days where you realize that your art blog doesn't have that much art on it? Yeah, let's fix that. With every single painting I did while in Florence this summer (don't worry! There are only 12 of them)

Let's do this chronologically (or as close as I can get. I don't quite remember what came before what all the time)


The very first day we painted, we were taken to one of the busiest places in the city. It was...daunting. The fact that I was used to working on canvases nearly as tall as myself and was now restricted to 14''x20'' paper rectangles didn't help.

Or that I had become emotionally distanced from my work in the last class I had taken. This is only important because the moment of reconnection was a huge breakthrough for me later in the class.


Second day of painting. We were supposed to head up to the Piazza de Michelangelo. Instead, it rained and we ended up on the steps of the Pitti Palace. Then we got yelled at by a curator or director or some other sort of fellow who ran the place. We left very quickly after that.


At last! The Piazza de Michelangelo. My professor and I both agreed that I should have stopped working on this one way before the end of class. There is such a thing as overworking!


Speaking of overworking...I covered this one in paint so quickly (whole thing in about ten minutes at the beginning of class) that everything else I tried to do later turned to mud. So I scraped it off and tried again. I did that probably 15 times in 3 hours. Looking at it now, I really like the atmosphere and depth of it, but at the time I was just frustrated out of my skull.


The Piazza de Santa Spirito. Still overworking the paint, but I started to let thinner washes and the paper show through in patches. A lot of people aren't fans of leaving the raw canvas (or paper or whatever) showing through, but I've always through that when done well it creates a positive texture contrast.



These were both done the same day. Theresa kept telling me to slow down, make rules for myself, and maybe even bring multiple surfaces to work on in a single session. So I did all three of those. I can't even begin to describe how much of a difference it made to me. Painting suddenly felt right again.

We didn't have time for a group critique that day, which is why I think my next one surprised so many people.


Orange and Blue! Favorite of favorites, even though somehow most of my paintings either come out purple or green. There was very little on-canvas color mixing in this one, which for me is highly unusual. Wherever possible I restricted it to adding more white to an area, and that ways it. I also got to play with filling in organic shapes with solid graphic shapes, which was a very meditative process. I had only ever done it once before on a piece called 'Grand Theft Chicken,' which was not very well received by my teacher of the time. Very glad I went back to it.


Venice! The first day in Venice! Absolutely fantastically wonderful, all of it.

The painting is ok.


This is one of my absolute favorite images of the trip. I wish all these pictures had come out truer to the actual image, but with this one I wish it the most (Well, maybe I wish it more for the next piece, but it's a close thing.) I love the graceful architecture of the city, and getting the opportunity to just...do this. Ah! Venice, why are you so amazing?


Back to Florence, to an outdoor museum. We weren't allowed to paint or use charcoal, so this was all done in my favorite .7 lead mechanical pencil, and then when I got back to my apartment I added some ink (.3 monowidth pen, if I remember correctly) and watercolor (winsor and newton travel set.) This is really one that you have to see in person, but you get the gist of it maybe?


Our final piece. It was hot, I was sunburned, and there was ABSOLUTELY NO SHADE. We were near the train station and everyone was miserable. I didn't really...end on a good note. But I did start to work the paint thicker on this one, and I do think that that was a good idea. Contrast! Texture! All that jazz!

If you are interested in seeing some of these in real life, I am putting together an exhibition at the Kresge Art Center for everyone who went on the trip. We will be in gallery 114 from September 27th to October 8th. More on that to come, no doubt.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

And now for something completely different

Classes start tomorrow, and so I think I shall leave you with this:


You're welcome.

[found in a whole foods in Naperville, IL]

Sunday, July 11, 2010

1 Day and an epic nap later...

If you ever happen to find yourself thinking 'hey, I wonder if I should do this 24 hour comic challenge thing or not' I suggest you do it. When you do it, there are some things you should know:

1. Bring caffeinated beverages. This is fairly obvious, but if you don't plan ahead, you could find yourself dead in the water

2. If you think you have the time, and maybe even if you don't, you should probably get up and walk around. Going to the bathroom is a good excuse to leave the room for a minute

3. People will complain while they work. This is expected. You should complain too.

4. Have nothing planned for the next day. Maybe not even the day after that.

5. Greasy or sticky snacks are bad news bears. You do not have time to waste in cleaning your fingers.

6. The right drawing and inking tools make all the difference. It takes me most of an hour to do with an unfamiliar pen what I can do in twenty minutes with my pentel brush pen.

7. There is no such thing as planning ahead.

8. Work small. Both times I have done this, I have worked fairly large. It has turned out to have been a bit of a mistake. And also a marker eater.

9. Bring more ink than you think you'll need. You probably won't run out, but if you do you're screwed.

10. Sell the resulting work. There are very few other times in your life where you'll be able to answer the question of what it's about with "I don't even know, man" and have it be a selling point. Also, it's a great thing to trade with other comic artists

11. Get as many people involved as possible. This includes non-comics people. At the very least, even if they don't participate, they can bring you emergency supplies. And if they do participate, then even better.

12. Chances are, the result will not be a masterpiece. If it is, you are a freakish monster and I would like to give you all my money.

13. Give yourself an art-break the day before. Put your feet up, watch some movies, go for a run.

14. Get some sleep, if you can. Most people I've talked to have trouble sleeping the night before because they're too excited.

15. Have fun, dammit!

But of course, that's a small list of things I can think of off the top of my head (because I am simultaneously sleepy and obsessing), and for a more complete list, you should try it yourself.

I plan to post the completed work ...somewhere...on the internet soon. Just as soon as I scan, edit, and find a place to stick it so that it's readable. Possibly here, now that I think of it.

I will also soon post my paintings from Italy (I still have to get good images of them. It's mostly an issue of light, unfortunately. It has to be really perfect, or some of the more conceptual elements of the later ones won't come through.) When I get those up, I'll talk some more about the trip. I'm still digesting it a little bit. It was definitely one of the best times of my life.

I'll probably also spend a post talking about books, which I have been reading plenty lately. Man, I love the summer.

But for now, it's time to hunt down the wild dinner.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Brush Pen!

There have been questions in a couple different places as to what brush pen I'm referring to when I start singing its praises (because....I always manage to forget to link to it. This is your brain on derp.) You guys! It is totally this one and you should buy it:

No html for you today.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Space: the reaction post

It's been a while since I promised a reaction post, and while the delay is true to for m for me, I'm afraid that this will be something of a let down. Especially considering that I had planned drawings and graphs and things specifically for this, and then my scanner died.

Well, that's what editing is for, isn't it?

My general reaction, boiled down to basics, was this: good convention good! Although there was the usual comedy of errors that seems to crop up whenever I get involved with anything, I managed to float around in happy land for most of the weekend.

This doesn't mean that I didn't notice some of the, shall we say, inherent problems that managed to crop up. I've built up a bit of a buffer for these things because I'm a frequent reader of communities like wtf_sexism and fanficrants (warning: may break brain. Basic knowledge of fandom recommended before entering), but the way that many writers rely on easy tropes and obvious sexism is something that does need to be addressed. My friend Leslie does a wonderful job of this in her reaction post here.

As an addendum to the above, I would like to say that if you ever find that I am falling into the same traps with my work, let me know so I can correct my course. I do try, but cliches and comic books go together like strong earth magnets and computers: they're so hard to separate, but they're so bad for each other.

But, as I was saying, the convention on the whole was an awesome experience for me. I met a lot of really excellent people and spent way more money than I made (and I am happy to report that I did make back the table cost and a little more besides), which is what I was looking for going in.

Besides the usual familiar faces (most notably Ryan Claytor, my teacher and creator of And Then One Day; Jay Jacot of Comics Obscura; and Matt Feazell, creator of The Amazing Cynicalman), I want to mention Max Ink of Blink and the lovely team over at Ringtail Cafe. I had many great conversations with both Jackie of Ringtail and Max over the course of the weekend, and thinking back on it now I'm still grinning. I'd like to give a special bit of thanks to Max, who put me on to this great new brush pen that I'm a little bit addicted to. As terrifying as it is, inking is one of my absolute favorite parts of the process, and finding a tool that does what I want and doesn't hurt my hand the way using a brush and ink does is exactly what I've been looking for.

...that for which I've been looking? Gyah, I don't even know anymore.

In conclusion: A++, would exhibit again.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

post-SPACE pt1

This post is a placeholder post, letting everyone know that I am back and alive after experiencing SPACE. I still have to go through everything that I picked up, finish a last minute sketch commission from the folks at Ringtail Cafe, and organize my thoughts.

Mostly, though, I need to sleep.

I'll also have a post with one finished and several in progress paintings. Promise!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Some upcoming events, etc

Wow, so it's getting to be the end of the semester. Which means that it's time to buckle down and get crazy with the self promoting.

Places where both my work and I shall be in the near future:

MSU Comics Forum

March 26th (keynote speech) and 27th in the RCAH on the MSU campus

I was fortunate enough to be able to snag a table at this event. I went to some of the panels and skulked about the artists' alley last year, and if it's even a tenth as awesome this year then I shall be pretty happy.

For more information, I offer this website.


April 24th and 25th at the Ramada Plaza Hotel and Conference Center in Columbus Ohio

I will be sharing a table at this even with at least two other people, possibly three, depending on how things shake out. I will update you as we get closer the event and actually know which table we'll be at so's you all can fiiiiind me.

Oblique Patience (at Scene Metrospace)

May 7 - June 27 at Scene Metrospace in East Lansing Michigan

Opening Reception on Friday, May 7th from 6-9 pm

The website for this one just went live a little while ago and I've avoided looking at it because I signed on to take part in this project about a year ago now. It seems so unreal. Work is still rolling in and it sounds like the site is going to be updated a lot in the near future, so I suggest checking it out now, while it's still young, and going back to check it again and again in the future.

Please please please go to the website.


Hopefully, I'll have another gallery show to add to that list in the near future. I may not have much job experience to put on my resume, but I am determined to have a list of exhibitions as long as my arm by the time I'm done with school (assuming a very large point size...)

In the meantime, I should probably mention that my recent application to the BFA program here was accepted, which means, among other things, that there is no way I am graduating at the end of next year. But! It also means that I am one step closer to getting into a really fancy pants grad school.

And now, I'd like to leave you with a sketch for my next painting:


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The culmination of about three weeks' worth of crazed research has lead me to the purchasing of my very first netbook. It is this:

The Asus eee pc 1005peb. It's working out really well. I'm in the middle of getting everything set up to where I want it to be right now, actually. But I did turn away from it for a moment, and it fell asleep.

It fell asleep. And then started playing elevator music. I can't decide whether that is awesome or horrifying.

Either way, that feature is getting turned off NOW.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Two warm up pieces

I've just spent some time updating links to direct people this way, so I thought it would be appropriate to do a post with some art.

This time, some smaller pieces that were actually considered warm up pieces for our first project in painting 2. I consider these more successful than the final, but that's probably because, per square inch, I definitely had more time to work with them.

And also I just like the way paint sits on board more than on canvas.

Warning: abstraction

This is the first piece where I've ever really played with highly textured, loose elements against sharper, graphic ones. Plus, I really forced myself to stick with a blue/orange color palette this time, which made the image look cleaner all around, in my opinion.

I call this one 'Grand Theft Chicken,' because there are chickens in it,but in the collage I was working from I also included characters from grand theft auto. I also wanted to play more with white space, which I will definitely go back to in the future.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Weird tips for art students

Hey guys, it's been a while. This is not because I don't love you, but rather because I keep having thoughts about what I want to write about but I'm not sure which one I want to tackle first and then I decide on one and realize I have to do more research or at the very least doodle up an illustration and gosh wouldn't it be nice if I didn't have to hold the cord into my scanner with my foot while praying that my computer doesn't overheat while cs3 pulls the image slowly into my computer pixel by agonizing pixel?

And then, in the middle of the night after a long, long day, I realized what I needed to write about.

Foot care.

'But hey!' you say, 'this post is titled 'weird tips for art students', what gives?'

What gives is that proper foot care is the weird tip. Surprise!

I'm not talking about the usual horror stories that you hear going into college about fungus in the bathrooms or whatever. My dorms had communal showers and they were fine. It's amazing how much your university of choice wants to cut down on things like the spread of disease. I'm sure there are places in the world and even on my campus where ringworm and athlete's foot are actually a concern, but with the power of the internet I have no doubt you could find such things out.

...and if not, why is there no map of this? It could be crowdsourced so that people could update when they pick up some minor annoyance, like the sniffles or pink eye...anyway, I'm getting away from my point.

My point is this: I know you really like those shoes, and that they look super cool, even if they're not comfortable, but you should probably throw them away right now. Or, well, I guess you can keep them, but you should definitely also buy a pair of sturdy, all purpose shoes that your feet will be comfortable in for hours and will minimize any blistering that may happen.

Think lots and lots of cushioning. Flats may be adorable, but are they worth the pain?

I'd also invest in a thick odorless lotion, because no matter how good your shoes are, you're still going to want to give your feet a good massage at the end of the day.

If your specialization is design or something like that, it's likely that this post is pointless for you, because you're spending most of your time in front of a computer. But for painters and sculptors and ceramicists and so on and so on, you're going to be spending a lot of time standing. And the floors are all either concrete or hard tile, because those are easier to clean than carpet.

When I say 'a lot of time,' that's pretty ambiguous, and it can vary from person to person. Studio classes here are 3 hours a class, 2 times a week, and I've had two syllabi this semester state that the teacher expected 5 hours of work outside of class per week. Doing the math, that's 11 hours a class (minimum), and I'm taking 3, so that's 33 hours, which is the upper edge before you drop off the cliffs of crazy (4 classes) and into the seas of utter despair (5 classes). 2 classes is a more manageable work load, and what I'd recommend.

So, y'know, make sure you save up some general education courses for the end. And also: buy good shoes.

The mooooore you knoooooooooooooow.

(this post brought to you by 12 hours in the sculpture building)

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Late night blogging. You know what that means, right? That's right! As soon as I get back to school, I am doooooooomed. 8 o'clock classes mean a 6:30 wake up time for off campus students.


In the meantime, I have something I'd like to share with you.

I'd like to introduce to you someone I first knew of ('knew of' instead of 'knew', because I am a creepy internet lurker. Sad but true) as koosh-llama, and then lost track of.

But now, with the power of blogger, I can easily follow her blog without having to remember pesky things like urls or where I put the link in my bookmarks menu.

Her blog is here. Go. Go there. Go now. Go now and weep.

If you're running short on time, just check out Kiss the Sky, which is a brilliant little silent comic and I love it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Gonna say this right now, so that there's no confusion:


Taniger commission by ~sparksel on deviantART

This was a sketch commission done for Taniger on Fur Affinity, who was absolutely lovely to work with. I just sent him the original copy in the mail, in fact, and he's going so far as to frame it and show it off to his family and everything. It makes me a very happy person :D

For those of you who may be interested, sketch commissions are still open at $10. Standard sketch commission rules apply.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Wearing my nerdhat

Right, so, I've been waiting to post this somewhere for a while, but couldn't do it in case someone from the yuletide art exchange over at livejournal saw it on accident--wouldn't do to spoil the surprise after all.

This went through....quite a few incarnations. Originally, it was going to be an oil painting. Hence the blocks of color--my painting teacher was a huge fanboy of one of the advanced painting students, so we all went down to look at his work when he was putting on his show and some of his techniques just...stuck with me.

Anyway, after I screwed up the real media version of this (I started working on it the day after pulling an all nighter. Foolish move on my part) I attacked it in photoshop. Everything in this, from the lineart to the textures, is digital, and is probably the first piece that I'm reasonably happy with that I can say that about. Yay!

For those of you that are interested in what I'm doing comics-wise, I will hopefully have some concept art to share with you next week. As of right now, I'm very sadly separated from my scanner, which is the only reason nothing has gone up yet. Almost done with the preliminary thumbnails, too.

Actually, even though this next one is going to be even longer than my last (I just hit 28 pages and have at least two more to go before I can reasonably say that I'm done) I feel better about being able to get it done quickly, because I'm going to be cutting down the detail like you wouldn't believe. I've also decided to try and make peace with the brush pen. I'd try to go for full on brush inking, but every time I try it my work comes out sloppier than I'm happy with and my wrist hurts for days. Besides, the pen is easier to take from place to place.

But I won't say anymore about that until I've actually got some images to go along with it. Hope everyone had (and continues to have) a happy new year.