Messy Monday – life is messy and so is my drawing but I love it!

I am doing my best to blog two to three times a week, but things are pretty crazy, as usual. Both girls are home all day, and we’re working all day long to train the puppy. On top of that, Princess has cross country practice Monday through Friday, at 7AM, at a different location every day. Our schedule is such a MESS!

But life is always messy, so I am doing my best to draw everyday and to get at least two blog posts out every week. And they may get posted a little late, but that’s better than not at all!

For this week’s Messy Monday, I thought I’d share a drawing I’m working on. 

It’s a mermaid! I’m drawing this one in Concepts on my iPad Pro. I decided to do this drawing in a deliberately messy style, using Concepts’ filled area tool to draw all the lines as well as other shapes, because I get the best results in Concepts when I draw that way rather than try to create very controlled lines and shapes. I started out using my Apple Pencil when I began working on this piece, but I wasn’t happy with how the Pencil was handling. The tip of the Pencil is so slick, it was just skidding across the screen of my iPad, causing me all sorts of problems, especially lots of stray marks. I mean, I wanted a sort of messy style, but not that messy! 

Desperate to get some sort of control over my stylus, I put my Pencil away and pulled out my old Wacom Creative stylus. Yes, it’s older. Yes, it has the fatter tip. But that tip is made of rubber, and it grips the screen so much better! So I decided to keep working with the Creative stylus.

Then, one evening, when I posted an earlier version of this drawing to Twitter, I happened to mention I was drawing it in Concepts and using my old Wacom stylus to do it. And you know what? The folks over at Concepts saw that tweet and asked me which old stylus I was using. After a bit of conversation about my old Creative stylus and the problems I was having with my Apple Pencil, they asked me if I might be interested in getting the newer Wacom Bamboo Sketch stylus. Uh, yeah I would! And that led to Concepts talking to Wacom, who just happened to be looking to give the new Sketch stylus to a few folks, and whaddya know?! Less than a week later (today, as a matter of fact), a brand new Wacom Bamboo Sketch stylus showed up in the mail!

I’ve been working with the Sketch this afternoon, and used it today on the mermaid drawing above. I like how it handles! The tip is definitely smaller than my old Creative stylus, but it still has a nice feel to it, gripping the screen of my iPad just enough to keep from skidding erratically all over my artwork.

I will post an actual review of the new Sketch stylus sometime in the next week. For now though, I just want to play with it for a while. I have a little free time tonight, which I’m going to take advantage of right now. Because with my messy schedule, you grab that free time whenever you get a chance!

Practice Drawing – Landscapes in Manga Studio 5 EX

I’m still doodling away with Craft-a-Doodle, but I’ve also been playing with something else on the side that I thought I’d share this week. I have always loved to draw, but I struggle with drawing backgrounds and landscapes, especially when I need to create them from scratch. This can be a problem for someone who’s supposed to be a webcomic artist. While I can usually get away with nothing more than a colored gradient in the background, sometimes I need to actually set the scene. If we’re outside, where are we? At the pool? In the park? On the moon?

After years of avoiding the problem as much as I could, I finally decided I needed to learn how to make landscapes. I started simply at first, working with basic foreground, mid-ground, and background layers. For a lot of this, I used Pixite’s Assembly app on my iPad, because it gave me pre-made shapes (trees, mountains, clouds, etc.) that I could layer over and under each other to get what I wanted. Then I started to get a little more ambitious, creating my own vector shapes in Pixite, making more complex trees, fancier mountains, and so on. And once I felt confident enough working with a library of pre-made shapes, I moved on to drawing things from scratch in other vector-based apps like Concepts or Inkpad on my iPad.

Today, however, I decided it was time to move from my iPad to my Surface, to see if I could take things a bit further. I love having a library of pre-made objects to pull from when I’m working on a more complex landscape, but I also want to be able to easily create organic shapes on the fly. My iPad apps let me do one or the other, but I haven’t found an app that lets me do both, so I pulled out my Surface Pro to see what I could do there.

It turns out that with a bit of fiddling, Manga Studio 5 EX is perfect for what I want. I was able to create a vector drawing tool that allows me to draw organic shapes, AND I can then save those shapes to Manga Studio’s “materials” library to use again later. The vector drawing tool I came up with is basically a dialogue pen balloon tool. I turned out off the outline, using only the background color to fill the shapes I draw. I set the correction for the pen stroke very low, since I want my shapes to be complex and not over-simplified. And then I just started drawing with it.

Because I’m using a tool meant for dialogue balloons, I can set the tool to either draw on a new layer or on a pre-selected layer. This way I can sort the pieces I draw in an organized fashion. And even if I do draw multiple shapes on the same layer, each shape retains  its own vector path instead of merging into other vector objects on that layer. So I can still select each individual object to edit it as I need to.

I realize all this sounds very technical, but if you’ve ever worked with vector drawing programs, you probably have some idea of what I’m talking about here. And if you’ve ever worked with Manga Studio and are looking for a way to play with it, this is a pretty good option!

Anyway, here’s the current landscape that I’m working on. It’s inspired by a postcard I have of Sequoia National Park. The postcard was painted in the style of the old WPA posters, perfect for vector graphics. The original was painted by Doug Leen and Brian Maebius. They did an entire series of postcards for the national parks, and you can find out more at

In the meantime, here’s my version of their postcard 🙂

Vector landscape

Manga Stuio 5 EX vector landscape in progress

Like I said, this is a work in progress. You can see that so far I’ve done the trees in the background and in the foreground. I’ve only just started working on the mid-ground. But what’s nice is that I’ve been able to save pieces of this as objects in the Materials library, so now I can reuse them again if I need to. For example, those big trees in the background could come in handy later on! And they’re saved as vector objects so I can easily adjust their size, color, opacity, etc., as needed.

Anyway, that’s it for this week’s drawing practice. I’m working on doodles of cats this week, so that will show up in next week’s blog post!

Krampus Challenge – Day 15, Creepy Eyeballs!

Look! I made a pretty holiday picture!

He sees you when you're sleeping...

Doesn’t this make you feel festive?!

I obviously still need to do a little cleaning up on this, because the strings for the two smaller ornaments are peeking up through the lettering on the top, but that’s for tomorrow. I’m going to hunt down Zazzle’s latest greeting card template and put this on there. I know it’s very late to set up holiday cards for Christmas, but hey, some of us don’t get our Christmas cards out until July!

Technical info – this graphic was made with Assembly for the iPad, with text and gradients handled in Corel Draw on my Surface Pro.

I’m going to bed now. Sleep tight! And don’t let the sugar plum fairies bite!