ACW Episode 272 – Hello, dolly!


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When my girls were toddlers, my mother started buying them Barbie dolls. All kinds of Barbie dolls, but mostly princess dolls. At the same time, my mother was also buying the girls a LOT of pink dresses. We had one year where the mailman brought us a new package every week, and it always had a new pink dress and a new princess doll, and the girls just ate it up!!!

A few years later, my kids now like Goth fashion, Minecraft (and video games in general), steampunk, cartoons, and comic books. Pixie still wears pink on occasion, but her dolls are more often painted bright green, with splatters of red for that “zombie” effect.

It’s nice to know I have some influence on my kids :)

ACW Episode 271 – Don’t drink and craft


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Yes, this actually happened. I was working on a display for a Girl Scout recruiting event and thought it would be fun to make a camping diorama with needlefelted Girl Scouts. And I thought it would be even more fun to enjoy a glass of wine while I did this. Then I discovered a few weeks later that there are actually thimbles I could have used instead of bleeding to death for my art. Ouch.

“Orange You Glad to  See Me?!” One drawing, three apps

I do a lot of artwork on my iPad, so I’m always on the lookout for new drawing and painting apps. I downloaded one last week that I thought looked promising – Tayasui Sketches. It had a lot of the same tools I see in other drawing apps, but there was something about the texture of the sample artwork that made me want to try it out. The basic app is free and allows you to sample the full version for an hour. The full version costs $4.99. Now $4.99 isn’t a lot, but I do prefer to try before I buy, so I did the one-hour trial and drew this quick image to test out all the tools:

Tayasui Sketches

Test drawing done in Tayasui Sketches

I really liked the paper grain texture on this. Tayasui Sketches is one of the few apps I’ve seen that includes the option of adjusting the background for paper grain as well as color. However, I did NOT like the way the text tool worked and I didn’t care at all for the way the app handles zooming and panning in the image. The tools had a nice texture (I especially loved the rough edge on the orange), but I knew some of the apps I already owned could produce similar results.

So I decided to draw the same image again in a couple of other apps I have. I tried Procreate first:

Procreate Orange

Same drawing recreated in Procreate


The biggest difference I noticed was the lack of paper texture. I don’t know if there’s a simple way to add a paper texture to artwork done in Procreate. I could always scan in a textured image and add it as an overlay layer, but I would prefer to have the option to add texture right there in the app. Also, Procreate doesn’t have a text tool, so I had to handwrite the text. On the plus side, I still get a lot of nice textured tools (again, I got that slightly rough edge around the orange) in Procreate and I found it much easier to adjust the brushes to get the effects I wanted. I can also create and save custom color palettes in Procreate, and it’s easier to pan and zoom artwork. Plus I can ROTATE the artwork on the fly, something Sketches doesn’t do.

For the last trial, I decided to do this drawing in SketchClub.

SketchClub Orange

And finally, done in SketchClub

SketchClub is one of my favorite drawing and painting apps on the iPad. I have a lot of control over the brushes and other tools, and can download or create new brushes. Procreate  will let me create new brushes, but doesn’t have the option to download brushes from a community of users. It also has a text tool, but since SketchClub didn’t seem to have access to the same fonts that Sketches does, I decided to handwrite the text again. And like Procreate, I can zoom, pan, and rotate the screen with ease.

One of the biggest differences I noticed between SketchClub and the other apps is the lack of an actual water color brush. In Sketches, there is a water color brush tool. In Procreate, there’s a setting for the brush tool that gives it a water color look. But I think if I played with some settings in SketchClub, I might be able to achieve a similar effect.

Anyway, that’s the same drawing done in three different apps. I still haven’t decided if I want to buy Sketches or not. The biggest drawback is the way it handles zooming and panning, and the inability to rotate the artwork. That makes a huge difference to me.

So what do you think?

The Art Of Doodling

last weekend, our Girl Scout troop worked on the art badge. Some of the girls were worried that they couldn’t draw, so I thought we would try doodling instead. I’ve recently picked up a bunch of books on doodling, Zen Tangles (TM), etc. I love to doodle, and I’ve been spending a lot of time doodling lately. I also picked up a bunch of blank cards with envelops for a really good price, so I spent an afternoon working with the girls on making greeting cards as part of their art badge activities. And I enjoyed that so much, that I decided to finish my card up and send it to mym mom for her birthday. Here are some pics of the artwork in progress.



ACW Episode 270 – My Sick Valentine


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I have spent FOREVER working on this one simple comic. And yet it isn’t so simple. I decided to try a different pen for inking this one, a brush style pen with a rougher edge. It seemed appropriate for an image of Hubster and I feeling a bit “rough around the edges.” And once I had the image inked and colored, I decided that a bit of rough shading would look nice too, as well as some touches of texture, etc., etc., etc. The hard part was figuring out how to make a brush style balloon pen for the text box in the back. I must have spent two hours today playing with settings and searching on the internet for information on how to make a custom brush tip and assign it to the balloon tool.

But, it’s all done now, and I’m very happy with the end result. I think it very accurately depicts how Hubster and I felt on Valentine’s Day this year, which is to say absolutely AWFUL.

What I managed to do while I was sick with the flu

Last week was lost to the flu. And by lost, I mean every single day was devoted to the flu and nothing else. It started very early on Sunday morning, when Pixie woke me up at 2AM to say she didn’t feel well. I ended up crawling into her bed to comfort her. A few hours later, the vomiting started.

So Pixie was sick with the flu on Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday, she went back to school, just in time for Princess to start vomiting. She was sick on Tuesday and Wednesday. And while she was sick, I got sick too. Tuesday evening, I was suddenly afflicted with joint pain and fever. Both Princess and I spent most of Wednesday in bed, sick as dogs. Princess went back to school on Thursday while I stayed in bed all that day and most of the next. I was starting to recover on Friday when Hubster came home with the same symptoms I had. So he spent most of Saturday sick in bed.

By Sunday, everybody was still hacking and wheezing, but we were all finally able to get up and do stuff. Like laundry. Lots and lots and LOTS of laundry.

But I was also able to finally sit upright and draw. And after a week of doing nothing, I was just dying to draw. So I did.

Except I didn’t draw the webcomic. I drew a bunch of other stuff instead, including spending time on some unfinished drawings I’ve been fiddling with for the last couple months.

So this week, all the blog posts are going to be the things I drew that weren’t the webcomic, in order to give me time to draw the thing I was supposed to draw last week. Here’s a little sneak peak of what I worked on.


“The Skull Tree” by Helen Madden, work in progress


Sick with the flu

Hello all. I was midway through the website update when I came down with the flu. Pixie had it first, then Princess, now me. I’m trying to do a little work at a time between bouts of passing out in bed, but there are still some things that aren’t quite right with the website. I’ll fix these things as soon as I recover from the flu. But even so, I think the site looks a bazillion times better,

Anyway, now you know what’s going on.

ACW Episode 269 – Sleeping Beauty


Click on the webcomic above to see it larger!

Kids are so much fun to draw comics about. And so easy. They offer so many real-life instances for inspiration.

Princess does not wake up easy. Even as a toddler, she would sleep hard for hours at nap time (ah, those were the days) and then wake up all bleary-eyed and groggy. Not much has changed now that she’s a pre-teen.

When I started work on this cartoon, it immediately reminded me of some of my favorite “Bloom County” comic strips. Nobody draws groggy, sleep-deprived people like Berke Breathed does. I even pulled out some of my “Bloom County” books for inspiration and spent all day reading comics. That was not a waste of time at all. Nope, no-siree-Bob.

Professional Education for Artists AKA Boondoggle Time!

I recently made the switch from Adobe graphics software to Corel. Or rather, the switch back. The first graphics software package I owned was an early version of Corel, and I kept using Corel for years. But after a number of years, I began to notice that there were fewer and fewer tutorials and how-to books for Corel Draw and Photopaint, but there was plenty of material out there for Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

So I decided to make the switch over to Adobe. It was more expensive (a LOT more expensive),  but Adobe was the industry standard, and there was plenty of learning material out there to help me make the switch.

That was maybe five years ago. And everything was going just fine… on the Photoshop side of things. I love Photoshop. The mask layers, the customizable brushes, blend modes. It was FANTASTIC.

Adobe Illustrator, though? Not so much.

I was using CS3, and I discovered that things that had been easy to do in Corel Draw, like setting up transparency and gradient fills, were not so easy in Illustrator. The fact that I had to create a layer mask to create a transparency for an object drove me crazy. And I never could seem to get the hang of selecting objects in layers. These were things that were much more intuitive in Corel, I thought.

Then to top things off, Adobe switched from selling software in actual boxes to a subscription only mode, and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I simply cannot afford to pay for the subscription model. When I buy graphics software, I usually upgrade maybe every other version, sometimes less frequently than that. It’s what I can afford.

Corel still sells its software in physical boxes as well as in download format, for far less than what I paid for Adobe CS3. And on top of that, I was able to find the most recent version of the Corel Draw suite on sale! The switch back was a no-brainer.

There are plenty of new features in both Corel Draw and Photopaint, so I have some catching up to do, and while there still aren’t as many tutorials for Corel as there are for Adobe, now that I’ve been on both sides of the fence, I’m better at translating Adobe tutorials into Corel. In fact, that’s what I spent most of the day yesterday doing.

I found this tutorial over at TutsPlusDesign. There were a few steps I decided to handle differently. I prefer to weld and trim shapes rather than use a clipping mask (called Power Clip in Corel). But the end result was the same!

Cool sword!

Drawn in Corel Draw 7!!

I’m pretty happy with how this turned out, and I look forward to spending more time working through tutorials for Corel. Yesterday was a very nice, relaxing day, spent focused only on artwork, with no time whatsoever spent on Girl Scouts (thus my reason for calling this a “boondoggle” day). Still, even for a boondoggle, I think it was time very well spent.

So what do you think? If you know of any resources for Corel Draw or Photopaint tutorials, let me know. I’m thinking of taking one day a week and devoting it to working through tutorials, just to improve my professional skills… and maybe enjoy a little boondoggle in the process.

Move It Mama Monday – More Love for the MisFit Shine

Well, I’ve had my MisFit Shine for over a month now, and I’m still very happy with it. While I do miss some of the features of the Up Band, the fact that I now have an activity monitor that tells me both how much I’m moving and what time it is more than makes up for that. Seriously, I hated trying to wear a watch and the Up Band on the same wrist. The Up Band needs to be worn on the side of your non-dominant hand, which is the same side I wear a watch on. I cannot stand to wear a watch on my right wrist because I feel like it interferes with my ability to draw and type, two things I try to do lots of throughout the day.

In fact, the problem with needing a watch and an activity monitor had led me to depending a lot on my Wii Fit U monitor (yes, I am one of those weirdos who wears multiple fitness monitors; sue me). The Wii Fit U monitor shows both step count, calories burned, and the time of day! Pretty handy, but it doesn’t come with a wrist band. Instead, it comes with a clip. I prefer to wear the Wii Fit U monitor clipped to my shoe laces, because I think it takes more accurate readings of my step count that way. But wearing it on my shoe meant that every time I wanted to see what time it was, I had to bend over to check my shoe. And that looked a little too much like an invitation to be kicked in the rear-end for my tastes.

So, I finally have my combined wrist watch and activity monitor and I’m happy. Plus, as I mentioned last time, the MisFit Shine just looks gorgeous! Very sleek, very polished. It has also proved to be water-proof, at least during my water aerobics class, though it doesn’t track an hour of water aerobics the same way it tracks walking or dancing. And I’m finding that no fitness band can really seem to track the amount of effort I put into karate classes. I accrue more steps in a 20-minute walk than I will in 2 hours of karate. Granted, I cover more distance in the walk, but 2 hours of karate class leaves, with all the kicking and punching and push-ups and deep squats, leaves me exhausted. But it’s done in a very limited space, so I guess that’s what’s throwing off all the fitness monitors I’ve ever used.

The solution to that may be to set the MisFit Shine to specifically track that activity while I do it. There’s an option to track particular activities by triple-tapping on the Shine before starting that activity. It can be set up in the app for the Shine. But the app doesn’t list karate. It does list yoga, though, which is the activity I think is closest to karate, so I may try setting it up for that. Or maybe I’ll set it up for basketball. Basket ball is somewhat similar to karate, although I don’t think kicking and punching an opponent is allowed in either yoga or basketball.

But overall, I’m still loving the MisFit Shine!