Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Animazement: Saturday

Welcome to Part 2 of my rambling narrative.

Saturday morning started off not so bad. I got up early-ish to finish Azula's boots--we were supposed to be at a meeting for the cosplay contest at 9 and they wanted us in costume so they could get pictures of the groups. I'd gotten the fabric cut out and ready to sew together when we had to start getting dressed. It took a few minutes to put together something for Zuko's scar. I got a good base down, but I think I needed to have found something darker for around the eye, plus we hadn't had time to get latex to cover the eyebrow. Of course that only matters if you're OCD about details on costumes like I am.... So, we got Shaun, who was still sick but not as bad as Friday, dressed up and painted his face up. About then, in between hollerings from Ty who was trying to get his costume on himself and couldn't figure out how some of the pieces worked, my friend Melissa showed up to pick up here Azula costume.... We couldn't find it... anywhere. We checked all the bags. We checked the car again. I know we'd packed it--I put it into the bag myself and checked off all the pieces to it. This was probably my most brilliant failure all weekend; I left the bag with Azula in it on the living room couch. >_<;;;;; Thankfully, Melissa was very forgiving arguing she hadn't really wanted to get on stage anyways. So the rest of us quickly changed and went to the cosplay meeting (only 20 minutes late).

Not having the Azula costume meant re-recording our skit since she'd no longer be part of it. The rewrite was ok, but not as good as the original. It was nice though that we did have a computer and stuff to record with at the convention (mainly because the guy who was supposed to be editing the audio together hadn't finished). XD So, after the cosplay meeting finished, I headed downstairs to the Art Room for my 2nd commission for charity session, while everyone else went back to the room to re-record the skit--Melissa voiced my part since I wasn't there, and while they were at it, since Shaun's voice was mostly gone, our Iroh voiced his part and another friend took over the voice of Iroh--it was all kind of like a bad dub. We're considering going back and recording a version that switches Ty Lee's voice with Aang's voice just for fun.

The 2nd commission session was quiet--of course it was 10 in the morning; like most con-goers are honestly awake at that point. XD I got to draw a Mokona though; that was fun. I don't usually do animals or monsters or anything like that, so it was a fun challenge and I really liked how it came out. I also forgot to mention yesterday that the artists all got a free raffle ticket for volunteering (not that I cared about that--I'd have done it anyways; that's probably why I forgot). I won an Animazement t-shirt (we got to choose between a variety of manga, Japanese M:TG cards, t-shirts and headbands) during Friday's session. That was cool. =D Didn't get anything Saturday morning--at least I don't think I did; I wasn't paying a lot of attention to the number calling as I was trying to finishi up the Mokona commission before the session ended. Friday was the same way; I was finishing the Rock Lee commission, and Melissa caught my number being called and told me. This is why Melissa comes with me to conventions. XD I'm incredibly scatterbrained around convention time, and she helps keep me on track with things. This is why she gets free art whenever she wants it and I made a costume for her... which I forgot at home... *fail*

Most the rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent in the hotel room snoozing. Shaun, of course, was resting because he still didn't feel particularly good. There had been a webcomic publishing panel I'd kind of wanted to go to, but I ended up falling asleep and napping through it. Oh well. At 4ish we went to an Avatar: The Last Airbender photoshoot. That was fun, although I didn't stay in character very well. 1: I had a wallowing Momo at my feet who would periodically tackle me and try and knock me over. 2: Everyone was being so silly, it was hard to keep a bored expression on my face. I will try to snag pictures to post on my Tumblr from the photoshoot. I know at least a couple of friends who weren't cosplaying who got pictures of the shoot for us, so I just need to wait to get copies. After the photoshoot, we went back to Melissa's room to rehearse our skit.

The rest of the evening was pretty much spent doing the cosplay contest. Line up and set up at 6. The cosplay started at 7 (almost on time this year--impressive considering how late AZ usually is--I remember 1 year, the cosplayers got through the entire song of "99 Bottles of Sake on the Wall" before they'd even finished seating people for the event). Ty went up with Logan as the only entrants in the Junior category--seriously more people need to dress their kids up. =P Ty had a small skit prepared where he chased Logan around with the intention of catching him for dinner--not actually that bad an idea considering Momo ended up in a trap set by Jet and his crew to catch food in the series. However, the announcer decided they were just going to stand and wave at the audience and he asked them a few questions. Ty improvised fairly well with that since his original plan had fallen through--he has some stage-fright, and it's always tough when things get changed on you when you're in front of several hundred people. Our skit went over alright. I think the audio ended up being a little low, but it was fun--it'd have been worth it simply for the fun we had putting it together. I'll post a link if it gets put up on You Tube--usually someone records the skits.

After the cosplay (it was about 10pm at this point) we went to Melissa's room, ordered pizza, and played cards--one of our friends had found a really nifty game called "We Didn't Playtest This" or something like that. It was silly, quick, and short--rounds usually didn't last long, but it was fun. It was also doubly good because it didn't require a lot of thought to play since most of us were pretty tired at that point and a little light headed from lack of food. That's about it for Saturday. =P I'll post the rundown on Sunday and the end of the con probably tomorrow.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Animazement: Friday

I got home from Animazement about 12 hours ago. I will say the convention was a lot of fun, but a lot of things didn't quite go as planned (putting it lightly). XD Over the next couple of days I will be posting a run down of what happened at the convention, and hopefully pictures of all those costumes that I was working on over the last month or so--sadly I didn't get any pictures of our costumes at all, but I know a lot of other people who did, so hopefully I can share some of those.

So, anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that part of Thursday was spent distracted by a new kitten--taking her to the vet to get checked for lukemia, get dewormed, etc; this also meant though we needed to find a kitten-sitter for her because she's so young and needed to take medicine for an upper-respiratory infection. Needless to say, come Friday morning I was behind from the start. Let's also add in to the mix that my husband caught the cold/flu thing my kids had earlier last week, so that put him pretty much out of commission for most of Friday. I did get up extra early and finish the Momo costume, and I got most of Azula done minus the boots. We spent about an hour trying to pack the car--we wanted to try and pack everything in one car, which considering we had 5 people, 1 kitten, a portion of my Artist Alley table stuff (since I didn't know if I could manage getting a table, I didn't take everything) and all the stuff that goes with that (clothes, costumes, cat food, people food, etc.), plus the sewing machine and stuff to finish off the costume piece that didn't get finished.

We did get everything into one car--we drive a small 4-door Saturn, so you can imagine how tight everything was. We grabbed fast food drive thru for lunch, and got under way--only 3 hours later than I'd planned originally. All things considered, that wasn't too bad since I was packing everything by myself (mostly--Shaun helped some, but was mostly feeling too icky to do anything). The trip started off nicely. It was overcast, which was great since we have no AC in our car, and I didn't want to roll the windows down too far since the kitten was running loose (there wasn't room in the car for a cat carrier). Unfortunately about an hour into what should have only been an 2 hour drive, it started to rain... and when I say rain, I mean the kind of rain where you can't see 2 inches from the windshield, let alone see the road or where you're trying to drive. Add to this the windows fogging up because of AC not working and the windows having to be rolled up because of the rain. It rained like that, letting up for a few minutes here and there until we hit Raleigh--4 hours later than I'd planned on getting there.

There was a brief lull in the storm when we stopped at my aunt's house to drop off the kitten. We also got a bit of a break while I stopped by Target and Jo-Ann's to pick up stuff that I'd forgotten or hadn't gotten before we left and get cold medicine Shaun. I'd stopped at Jo-Ann's for white buttons (since our Walmart did not have them, and I didn't want to drive an hour to our closest craft store just for a pair of buttons and we'd drive past a Jo-Ann's on the way to the convention). The white buttons were for a plushie I had wanted to put in the auction (if you can't tell, it did not get finished over the weekend). While in Jo-Ann's it went back to raining. I ended up about as wet as if I'd jumped into a lake running back to the car. Yah, errands done...

Thankfully the rain did not continue like that for the rest of the trip. We pulled into the hotel parking garage at 3:00ish--this was a bit stressful because I was supposed to be in the Art Show room at 4:00 ready to draw for a charity event I'd volunteered for. @_@ So, parked, got checked in (hotel lost power briefly here). I left my kids and sick husband in the room watching cartoons, got my pencil case from the car, and headed for the convention center. Our hotel is conveniently connected to the convention center by an underground tunnel, unfortunately, I found they'd blocked the entrance to the convention center and wouldn't let me past without my convention badge. This meant going back to the hotel, running out through the rain (still raining--not a drizzle, but not as badly as it had been earlier) to the main entrance to the convention center... I was so happy that the registration line had gone down and I didn't have to wait too long to get my badge.

I'd successfully achieved access to the convention center. I then headed upstairs to where I thought the Art Show room was (where it had been for the last 2 years). I ran into a couple of friends who kindly pointed out that no, the Art Show was no longer up with the balcony Artist Alley, it was down by the Dealer's Room. Incidentally, the Art Show room is not 10 feet from where the guard stopped me earlier on my way to the convention center. XD I checked in there at 5 minutes till 4 (still wet, but at least I wasn't late). This was definitely the highlight for Friday for me. The event was to raise money for the Japanese Red Cross. The Art Show staff held a raffle to go with the art--for $1 you could get a raffle ticket for a drawing at the end of the one hour session plus another ticket for a drawing on Sunday for 1 of 3 free badge passes for AZ 2012. A $10 donation would get you a commission from one of the volunteer artists. There were 3 other artists at that session--between the 4 of us, there were 2 Sarah's and 2 Katie's, and the other Sarah had the same last initial as I do. I had fun chatting though with the other artists, one of which had come from as far away as New York. I got to draw 2 commissions: Jesse from Pokemon (yah, Team Rocket) and Rock Lee (that was interesting since I've never actually seen much of Naruto--<3 my fellow artists for helping me come up with a good pose for him). I wish I'd gotten photos of the sketches to post here, but things were moving fairly quickly, and I was still a little disoriented from the drive.

That finished, we gradually got the car unpacked. I checked with Artist Alley staff, but for the first time in AA history, everyone who registered for AA showed up. o.O No table for me. This turned out to be a good thing really though. I got my beholder submitted to the Art Show for auction 30 minutes before the room closed on Friday. I briefly put on my Princess Buttercup costume and walked around the convention with Luke and Logan (#2 and #3). They discovered one artist who had cake at her table and would give it to them if they looked cute (I knew the artist, so... yeah. I wouldn't have let them harass her if it had been a complete stranger). We didn't stay out long because they were sleepy, and it just wasn't as fun walking around without Shaun--who was supposed to be my sweet Westley on Friday. I got a couple of pictures--not as many as I'd like. I'd intended to be uploading them to Tumblr as I took them, or at least reasonably soon after taking them, but I never got the downtime I thought I would. I think this is partially because Shaun was sick, so I had no one to share the *watch kids* job with. I am uploading the pictures I did get gradually to Tumblr now.

So, that was my Friday--long story I know. I'll try and talk less about Saturday. It was considerably less adventuresome.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gothic Panda is missing

You are probably wondering where Gothic Panda is right now. Where is her zany blog post detailing her latest artsy/craftsy thingy? Where are the amusing anecdotes about her family and/or the monsters that live here? Well, that's a good question. Perhaps, it would be best to start at the beginning. Or maybe I'll just start in the middle. The beginning is boring and involves a sappy love story. So the middle it is then. The ninja cat pulled out a box of chocolate ice cream. That managed to distract Gothic Panda long enough for the alien toaster to wrap her up with her own yarn. Thankfully, it was a color she didn't regularly use otherwise she would have been very upset. There was a big flash of light and oh pumpkinfuzz...hold on. What? No, I'm not doing anything. No. I haven't seen your computer. Maybe you left it in the cave. Ok. Bye. Where was I? Oh yeah, big flash of light. Then, Gothic Panda went for pizza. They were having an all-you-can-eat buffet of pizza and girl scout cookies. And that was the last I saw of her. In the meantime, I will now tell you what it is like living in a household right before a convention. Imagine if you will a very orderly factory with everything moving along straight and clean conveyer belts in nice neat boxes. The floor is waxed to a beautiful shine. Brilliant light streams in the window. Some nice, gently music plays softly in the background. Have you got that picture yet. Yeah, nice and peaceful. Okay. Now, imagine that we have a box of rabbid squirrels dipped in paint and we've let them loose in the factory along with a herd of angry elephants armed with bazookas. Now, that's what the house looks and sounds like during convention time. Everyone is hyped up on so much sugar and caffeine in order to stay up each night trying to cram in last minute costume work, art table stuff, and other assorted devious plans. There's pins and strips of random cloth everywhere. Seriously, it looks like Jackson Pollock and Marilyn Manson painted our floor. Occasionally, one of the cats wanders into the room, stares blankly in disbelief, and then quickly hurries to the bedroom where they hibernate like bears until the damage is done. Either that or they decide to help with the costume work by vomiting all over the finished pieces when our backs are turned. They can't vomit on the proverbial tower of scraps in the middle of the room. Oh no. They pick their way to the box containing that jacket we spent six hours sewing trim onto and then...well I think you get the picture. Now this isn't to say that pre-con time isn't fun. After all, it gives me an opportunity to stay up late, say bad jokes, and then distract Gothic Panda with exotic dances. Then there's the dress-up part, which I enjoy immensely. She's just so cute. Well, I'm going to wrap-up now. Gothic Panda is demanidfthjj htyji9pjhjjk

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pre-Con Stress

It's Monday, May 23, and I have four work days left before Animazement. As usual, I'm not even remotely ready (rushing to get stuff done is why there are no pictures in this blog today). I suppose it's worth mentioning that I'm doing better than most years at this time. In this blog, I'm going to go through a little of what I do to prepare for conventions--this season will include a record number of 5 cons starting with Animazement and ending with Magfest next January.

First, cosplay has always been a large part of the con experience for me. I have been going to Animazement since 2000. I have had new cosplays for our family every year since then. Admittedly this wasn't that hard to begin with. In 2000, it was just my husband and I. In 2001 we added monkey #1, and in 2003, there was monkey #2. Even then, it wasn't so bad. Cosplay for small children is fairly easy. Luke's, my #2, first cosplay took me only 2 hours to make--it was an infant Final Fantasy I Black Mage. This year, however, I am making 5 costumes for my family, and the kids are getting older which means more complicated costumes for them. On top of our family costumes, I am making one costume for one friend and helping another with significant parts of his costume. It's amazing how that starts adding up.

Add, on top of that preparations, for Artist Alley. I did my first AA at Animazement in 2009 (first AA ever was Anime USA 2008). That adds a whole new dynamic to the list of things to do. To start with, it usually involves sorting through whatever was left from the previous convention, taking inventory, and deciding what needs to be restocked. Then, there's the new stuff. I try to have new stuff at my table for each convention--I see a lot of the same people at the conventions I go to, particularly Anime Weekend Atlanta to Animazement or Animazement to Anime USA, and it's always nice to say hi and point out what I've done since they saw me a couple of months earlier. Even though I'm still wait-listed for Animazement, a friend of mine who did get a half table offered to let me share a corner of her space, so there's that, and there's also the chance that I will end up getting a table. So, being prepared is a good thing. The worst case scenario is that I will have less to do when preparation time comes around for Otakon in July.

Thankfully, for most of the conventions I go to, I don't bother with new costumes; that's just for Animazement. This leads up to the blog title: Pre-Con Stress. As I mentioned earlier, I'm not even close to being finished with preparations. I have 1 costume out of 5 finished--3 of those left have at least been started, but there's still 1 costume I haven't even started yet. I have new stuff and old stuff printed for the table, and I got the badges cut out, but I still need to cut out the bookmarks, the text for the back of the badges, and laminate the whole stack of stuff. I meant to have the Beholder plushie, 3 11x17 prints, and a quilt ready for the Art Show; the Beholder plushie is the only thing finished. One out of the 3 prints is almost finished; the other 2... I won't even go there. The quilt--it's ready to be quilted, but that's only because I started the project 3 years ago. XD I haven't gotten any work on it done recently.

It gets a little daunting when looking at a To-Do List like that--of course it's been worse... like the year where I had no finished costumes at this point and 3 out of 5 not even started. XD I keep saying that I'm not going to be up at 1am the night before the convention laminating stuff or doing last minute throw-together stuff for unfinished costumes (<3 safety pins, duct tape, and hot glue), but so far, that has yet to happen. I'm going to blame pre-con stress for missing Friday's post--I had plans, but in the chaos of trying to get parts of cosplays finished, record the audio for our skit (first year doing this), and *trying* to squeeze in a few moments to try and get the 3-4 pieces left I wanted to have ready for the auction... it didn't happen. To make up for it, if I can figure out how to upload pictures to Blogger from my phone, I'll post an extra Convention blog this Saturday. In the mean time, here's hoping I can wrap all this stuff up (reasonably) before Friday morning, although this wouldn't be the first year either the sewing machine, the laminator, or both got packed. =P

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wednesday WIP - May III

A lot has been going on this last week. This is one of those instances where I'm glad I'm doing this on Wednesday. I was feeling buried, but putting this together makes me see that things are getting done. =)

Moogle:  Finished. See it here: http://kasumiangel.deviantart.com/#/d3g3nwf


Cosplay: Sometimes I forget why I like doing this. XD So, let's go down the line-up. Mai: I started the wig. I've included before pictures and "after" -- try and keep in mind that the final version should look a little better. Right now a lot of the hair has just been partitioned out for the 3 buns or various pieces hanging down. I am so glad I did not try styling my natural hair like this--it's doable, but it would have been such a pain in the butt, plus I don't think it's long enough anymore right now (I got mad at my hair back in February and chopped it all off--it went from waist length to shoulder length). Zuko: I've got a pattern mostly together for his boots? Nothing new worth photographing though. Jet: Mostly done except for details; I need to get supplies for the armor and leg wraps--I will be going out next Monday for that. Random side note: It's an hour each way to get to the nearest fabric store and another 15 min from there to the nearest craft store, so that's 2.5 hours driving just to get supplies; it's been weird because that means I have to plan a whole lot better than I'm used to since last minute trips to the store for little things just aren't going to happen with gas prices like they are. Momo: Hahahaahaha... yeah... nothing here, still a pile of fabric. Azula: Pants are finished, shirt is in progress, mostly still a pile of fabric. *fail* XD Props: They've been sanded, have a layer of primer and been sanded some more. I'll paint them soon. 
 Nine and Ten of Wands: So I did stuff that wasn't cosplay this week--I liked that; I was getting a little burnt out on the costumes. Here is the lineart for the Nine of Wands--Witch Hunter Robin, and a sketch for the Ten of Wands--Wolfwood (<3 Trigun). 

 Mages: This is a project I actually started about 2.5 years ago, but they sat as sketches for about 1.5 years. I then scanned them in and put a base layer of color down and let them sit for another year. XD I'm trying to get them finished now to go in Animazement's art auction. For the auction they will be printed as 11x17" posters and framed. I think I've really drug my feet on these ladies because this isn't stuff that I normally draw--it's not my style. They were started as a challenge at AWA 2009. The guy at the table behind me had nothing but fanart posters of pin-up girls like this (a few guys). They all had the same vacant (I guess sexy) expression. So, I was like: "Pft, I could do that; I just don't want to." Friend and husband: "Really?" (skeptical) Me: "Yes... >_< ... Fine I'll prove it." This is the result. I refused to do something like this with straight-up fanart--I did pin-up girls based off the Final Fantasy I mages instead (yes more Final Fantasy, I know I'm obsessed). This made it more interesting for me. Currently trying to finish up White Mage, then I'll move to the other two. The black background is there to help me fill in the color and find where I'm missing stuff.

Toothless: My newest plushie design-in-progress. Right now I'm debating what parts I'll keep and what I can get away with leaving out. Since it's a chibi version, I can't include all the little ridges and horns and stuff. Right now I have the legs finished, and one "ear." I will definitely include the 2nd ear, the tail and the wings. Once I have those pieces pinned on, I'll see what can and should be added.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Reflections on Ravenloft

Saturday I got together with my cosplay group, which happens to be a smaller subgroup of my D&D group. In theory, the plan had been to record the audio for our skit and work on costumes for Animazement (May 27-29 in Raleigh, NC). What really happened: I did some costume work, we played with the kittens, I did a little more costume work while watching Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog with one of my friends who hadn't seen it before, while the rest of the group watched my husband sand Zuko's swords outside. During that time, season 3 of Avatar: the Last Airbender had been playing on the TV; the kids were watching that, but around this time, the rest of us got sucked in. One guy did get up and get fabric for part of his costume cut out.... but then we were back in front of the TV.

When Disc 4 went in, we decided to start up a game of Ravenloft (the board game version). The game took most of an entire episode to set up; in it's defense, I should mention we were going to take on one of the more complicated difficult missions. We took a break (yes, a break from playing a board game) to watch "The Ember Island Players" episode on Avatar. The game itself only took 1.5-2 episodes to play, so we got to watch the conclusion of the confrontation between Aang and Ozai and the wrap-up to the anime.

The Ravenloft board game is nothing short of awesome--at least in my opinion. If you like board games and table-top roleplaying, then chances are you'll enjoy it too. This game is what I call a tile game--the Munchkin board game plays like this as well. Based on the scenario, we have an objective of defeating a certain monster (or monsters), escape from the dungeon, or simply survive for a given number of rounds, to give a few examples. We were going after Strahd (part 1) where we had to defeat his body guard--a random drawing from one of the mid-level boss monsters--and then confront Strahd; in the end of that battle, Strahd would go into mist form and retreat deeper into the dungeon, and thus would begin part 2 of that mission. We only played through Part 1 this time.

Although fun, it is worth mentioning that this game is incredibly tough--in traditional Ravenloft style. Even on the easier missions, the heroes are set against encounters that range from equivalent in power to significantly stronger than them, and these encounters are coming constantly--each player wants to explore on their turn which opens a new dungeon tile and brings a new monster into play; some tiles force the player to draw an encounter card as well (usually nastier than the monster), and if the player does not explore they have to draw an encounter card. You can imagine how overwhelming this could get just from the sheer amount of stuff that ends up on the board. I think we've only managed to beat a mission once on hard mode (i.e., use no healing surges meaning no player reached 0 hp). Typically we win on normal or easy mode (2-3 healing surges), or we party wipe (3 healing surges used and a player at 0 hp), or we cheat (use 4+ healing surges). I think this game is a lot of fun; of course, keep in mind that I'm coming from a strong D&D background, and Ravenloft was one of my favorite settings. Still, it's a game I'd recommend. =)

Friday, May 13, 2011

New Neighbors

Some of you may recall that I posted on Twitter that there were new kittens living next to our neighbors porch. Yesterday afternoon, Ty (my oldest son) came in and said the kittens were on our porch. They were, and the spent the afternoon there playing with the kids. It turns out, they've moved into the bush next to our porch. Their Momma is one of the many feral cats in the village of Misenheimer--according to neighbors, the community (less than a mile across) was home to over a hundred stray cats. They're down to about a dozen regular residents now. We're looking for a home for the kittens, although if that doesn't happen soon, they may end up becoming part of our family--that would bring our family up to 5 cats. @_@ They're so adorable though. XD

 The two kittens curled up next to the porch. You have to move aside some of the branches to actually see them.
 Kitty kisses. It's fun watching them lay together.
 This is the shy one. She's got a pretty white spot on her forehead and a nifty orange patch on her ear.
 Another of the shy one.
 This one's a lot more adventurous. He's usually the first one out; his sister will usually follow a couple minutes after he ventures out.
 More of them playing together.
They've gotten to where they'll come out whenever they hear us outside. So cute and friendly.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wednesday WIP - May II

Wow, this past week has been pretty crazy. I finished a few things (not so much of this), and I've got a lot more going on, especially in the cosplay world. We're preparing for Animazement (AZ), which means our house is turning upside down. The next couple of weeks will be the real test to see if I can keep this blog up, since May is usually one of those months where I disappear completely from the internet in the mad rush to get everything ready for AZ. So far however, I'm optimistic. I have 2 costumes nearly finished, and 2 out of the remaining 3 are started. Normally this is what the week of the convention looks like. XD Typically, I'm a horrible procrastinator to begin with and since I started doing Artist Alley tables, that just exponentially increased the preparation workload for the convention. So, on to the works in progress:

Blanket: Haha... nothing done here this week. *fail* I suppose it's acceptable considering the convention coming up and other such things, but it'd be nice to have gotten at least one little hexagon finished.

Cosplay: This is definitely the bulk of what I've been working on. Mai: I got her wig in the mail, but I haven't styled it yet, so there's no real change here. Zuko: Finished, except for his boots and figuring out how to do his scarring--I've found some tutorials and I've got some ideas, but I haven't gotten materials or tested anything yet. Jet: His pants are almost finished, and I have most of the fabric cut out. Momo: I collected the materials and organized them into a box--does that count as progress? XD Azula: This one is for a good friend of mine. This is the awesome friend who has gone with me to most of the conventions I have art tables at; she helps me at my table, keeps me company, and is a great source of encouragement. On top of that since my cousin is going as Ty Lee and I'm going as Mai, it was too good a chance to turn down when she offered to go as Azula if someone would help her put together the costume. Last weekend we went fabric shopping. We got started on her costume, and she'll be coming up the next 2 weekends before the convention so we can work on it. =) Right now though it's just a pile of fabric (just like Jet and Momo). XD (In the 2nd picture, Jet and Momo fabric piles are in the top box; Azula is in the box underneath that.)

Cosplay Props: The swords and knives have been cut out. =D Shaun is working on sanding them down now. We'll be putting a layer of paint down soon.

Moogle: I know it's been a long while since this one's popped up here; there have been a lot of distractions since this one was started. XD I think the last WIP picture was back in March. Anyways, over the last week, I've started work on this guy again. I've finished his wings, after only 3 failed attempts at coming up with something I liked. His legs, arms, and ears are completely attached, and I have hope that I will get the rest of the pieces sewn on today.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Three Days of Darkness

A couple of weeks ago, my computer caught a virus. My computer functioned decently even with the virus. What was bad about it was that it was constantly trying to send out information it was pulling off my computer. Trend Office Microscan would catch and block the attempts to send info. By late last week, I was getting pop-ups from Trend Office every 10 minutes give or take. Friday, my husband decided he wanted to fix it. XD Yes, that played out almost as it would have on a cliched sitcom. Reluctantly, I stepped aside. After a little bit of poking around, he figured out what the virus was and found a program that could find and remove it. He downloaded that ran the scan, then rebooted the computer. ... Windows started... My profile was selected... ... ... ... Nothing happened. You can imagine all the color draining from my face. I had not backed up any of my art files in a while, nor my photographs, works-in-progress... anything in a fairly long while.

I'd learned a long time ago that back-ups are a good thing, but in this case I'd filled up my last flash drive and hadn't gotten a new one yet--free space on the drives disappears quickly, considering my What Would ___ Do? art folder is 1GB, the Western Zodiac art folder is 2GB, and the Anime D20 art folder is 4.5 GB... You get the idea. It's probably fairly easy to guess what my husband got me for Mother's Day this year considering the situation. XD He went out Saturday and got me a beautiful external harddrive 4x the storage space as my computer harddrive, so I can back up to my heart's content.

Back to the story. Late Friday night or sometime Saturday morning, my husband got the computer to where it would load almost properly on a different profile. In hindsight, what probably caused the crash on my profile was that three different virus scan programs were trying to load simultaneously and they were fighting each other on the start up. XD Apparently he'd forgotten to disable Trend Office and Spybot when Avast asked to restart the computer. For what it's worth, Avast won that battle. Working with it off and on Saturday and Sunday, he eventually got if fixed. The Avast software did work--it took a special patch written by their staff just for this virus. What this virus did was corrupt a sector on the harddrive. That sector would create files that would try and send information off the computer. Avast would find and delete the files, but the bad sector would just make more. The patch found the problems within the corrupted sector and fixed them. This is the first instance where a program has been able to remove a virus that embedded in the system. Usually I just have to say goodbye to all my stuff and reformat the drive. With that in mind, I give full marks to Avast and the staff working on it. So, long story, happy ending--I have my computer back with everything intact.

I will say though it was very weird not having access to my computer for nearly three days. I still had some internet access--I could borrow my husband's work laptop for parts of the weekend, but it wasn't the same. None of my files were on it; none of my bookmarks. I'll just say, I'm glad to have my computer back.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Video Games on the Brain

I love playing video games, always have--since the first NES system came out. I never had much exposure to earlier systems, but my Uncle (only 13-14 years my senior) bought the NES system and the Super Mario Bros. game system. It lived at my grandmother's house during my elementary school years, and my brother and I would play whenever we got to visit. We begged my parents for one, and eventually they caved, and thus began my addiction. I won't go into the long and boring history of what games I played, liked, or my favorite systems growing up. I will say that as I've gotten older there are certain types of games that appeal to me more than others: I like RPGs and strategy games. I like games that require less hand-eye coordination. I prefer games with fantasy themes over modern or sci-fi.

The game that kicked off this blog topic was Heroes of Might and Magic V. I was playing on the internet last night, and I saw an ad for one of the many browser based strategy/war games. Suddenly I really wanted to play a game like that. However, I learned after a couple of rounds of Travian that browser games are bad for me, so my solution was to pull out the giant CD case of old PC games. I wanted to play one of the Heroes games--we have the first 5; I'm pretty sure there's a 6 out, but it was released during the Dark Ages of my gaming life (i.e., husband was in grad school which does not pay enough to support a gaming habit). I randomly pulled out 5 (i.e., it was the first one I found), stuck it in and spent most of last night playing it--instead of sleeping, which I am now regretting. XD It was fun though; I started a new profile and campaign--ran through the first couple of missions for the side that gets angels, griffons, and your standard medieval European selection. Doing this opened up a whole can of worms though; flipping through our PC game collection reminded me of all the fun awesome games we have that I either haven't played or haven't finished but would really like to look back on.

One game in particular that I saw last night was Baldur's Gate. I remember this being a really excellent game. I never finished it (do we see a theme here?). This is one of those instances where life and other distractions happened until I forgot I was even playing this game. Maybe I'll pick Baldur's Gate up again at some point and give it another try. I'm already trying to play through 3 games right now, 4 if I want to include a run through the Heroes 5 campaign settings, so I should probably try to put a stop to the "I didn't finish it" trend before starting any other new ones. It is fun to dig up old games again, even if just for the sake of nostalgia.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wednesday WIP - May I

I've been wondering over the last couple of weeks if I really wanted to keep posting WIP updates every week. I'm not sure whether people read them or are really interested in what I post on them, but I have decided to keep posting them. It turns out, these posts have been very good for me, especially with longer running projects where sometimes it's hard to see that I really am making progress on things and it's really easy to get bogged down in everything. So, on to this week's update:

Beholder: This one is finished. I barely got it done in time for the Mom's Basement contest deadline. It won the contest! =D I'm very excited about that. The finished beholder can be viewed on DeviantArt.

Anime Art Girl: This one is also finished. You can see it here.

Blanket: I'm up to 12 green hexagons finished--only 2 since last week. This project is going to move pretty slow probably because most of this month is going to be spent on art and costumes in preparation for Animazement.

Mai and Zuko: Mai is now mostly finished. I still need to do something for her shoes. I ordered a wig, which will hopefully be here soon. My husband will be cosplaying Zuko. As can be seen in the photo, I've started his costume. The red undershirt is finished. His pants are mostly finished, but they're a real pain to get on his dress form. The tunic honestly looks better than in the picture. It's only knee length, even if it looks longer in the picture--we have trouble with his dress form staying at the appropriate height; it keeps wanting to slide down. I also still need to sew the sides up and add the gold decoration on the front. It'll look a lot better when that part is done; right now, it kind of looks like a brown blob. XD

Props: This is going to get a different spot for right now, since this is more my husband's project at the moment. He is making the butterfly swords that Zuko uses in the 3rd season, plus he's going to make a couple of Mai's throwing knives for me. =D I put the patterns down for the picture because it's a little hard to see the pencil markings on the wood.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Who and Why Behind the What Woulds

The most recent set I've been posting on Etsy--the last one will go up today--is my What Would ____ Do? print and badge set. This set features video game characters from a variety of different genres and systems. I'm thinking of adding 4 characters to this set over the summer; if there's anyone you'd like to see, let me know and I'll consider it. Anyways, this post is a little about the inspiration, thoughts, and design process for each character in the set. I apologize in advance because this one's a little long, but I wanted to put all 12 in a single post rather than drag it out.

Black Mage: Do I really need justification for why this character is in the set? I love Final Fantasy, especially the earlier ones, so I couldn't resist the chance to draw yet another version of Black Mage from Final Fantasy I (this is the 3rd completed piece of art, not including the Black Mage cross stitch I did a few years back). I've tried to make each version a little different; for this one, I covered the face in black bandages. Also, the other versions were full chibis; this is the first one I've done in my 3/4 chibi style--dubbed by Fev at Anime USA in 2008 because they're not quite full chibis, but they aren't quite a regular anime syle either.

Etna: I have only played the first little bit of Disgaea, and I loved her character in the opening scene where she's waking up Laharl. Also, the set needed more ladies, and I was really trying to avoid making 90% of the set Final Fantasy (yes, I really am obsessed with that game series). Our original character list only had 2 girls in it (Yuna and GlaDOS). I'd love some good recommendations for 1-2 more awesome video game ladies for the next 4 I do.

Felicia: Felicia is really just in the set to be another girl--as mentioned above, we didn't have many of those in the original list. Although Felicia is a little more slinky than what I usually draw, I tried to keep it PG (not sure if G rating is possible with that little amount of clothing). Random: I have a fun picture from Otakon 2001 where my oldest son (1 at the time) was dressed as Artemis from Sailor Moon. In the picture he is playing around on the floor with a girl dressed as Felicia--he was wearing more fur than she was I think. XD

GlaDOS: With this design, I wanted to give GlaDOS a humanoid design because I felt it would be more interesting to design and draw than a more impersonal machine. I made her into a cyborg type character to keep with her roots as a machine. Her voice always reminded me a little of a small girl, so that's what I had in mind when I designed the dress. I really wanted to make her feminine and evil and cute and a little creepy all at the same time. I think I succeeded.

Kratos: I honestly only drew Kratos for the sheer challenge of seeing if I could make this guy cute. I was pleased with the outcome. XD Really though, my initial response when Kratos's name came up in the brain-storming session we had for this set was that there's no way I could do that--some characters just don't look right in my style. However, my style has been gradually changing, and I think he would have looked pretty bad in my original 3/4 chibi style--my major arcana for the anime tarot set is a prime example of my old style. In any case though, I like challenges; that's how I grow as an artist. =)

Lara Croft: Another girl. =D I remember playing Tomb Raider the first Christmas after it came out (the first one for the Play Station). I liked it, I think, mostly because I'm naturally biased toward games that have female protagonists (even if they're purposely designed disproportionately so as to attract a large male player audience). Incidentally, this was the first character I drew for this set; I sat down to draw something else, and this was the result. =P

Leon: I wanted someone from the Resident Evil series. My husband and I debated a while over which character to draw. Once we chose Leon, we also argued over whether to draw the Leon from 2 or 4... obviously 4 won. XD My favorite part of the description for this one is the first line--a reference to Zombieland, the only zombie movie I can say I've honestly enjoyed watching.

Mario: This was for all those people offended because I left Mario out of the Noir set. I also liked some of the answers we came up with to the What Would Mario Do? question. =P Mario has a mushroom addiction, and I like mushrooms, so that's why I drew him with the mushroom. This was one of the ones where we had to edit down the choices for the text that would appear on the final print. I think we had to discard half of the points we'd come up with.

Master Chief: Like Kratos, I wanted to do this design just to see if I could make him cute. My husband and our friend, Kevin, are responsible for giving me the idea of drawing Master Chief with kitties. Once that idea got in my head, it was one of those things that just had to happen. This character was a real challenge to draw; I think it was probably one of the most difficult for me--not the most, but close to it.

Sam and Max: This one was the most difficult to do. I had a particularly hard time getting Sam to look like Sam in my style. I ended up keeping the skinnier design that fit with the standard frame shape I use for my 3/4 chibis because every time I added weight to him, it looked like I was just copying the original character design. So, although I realize Sam is supposed to be bulkier and that his frame is part of the character archetype he's based on, I chose not to include it. In general, whenever I do fanart pieces, I try my best to make it clear that it is my art in my style. These guys are in the set because they're just plain fun.

Solid Snake: It was suggested that I should draw this guy in a box, I felt it would be too cliche to do so. Since I haven't personally played any of the Metal Gear games--they're just not my kind of thing--I had some trouble coming up with a suitable pose for him. Credit goes to my husband for the one I ended up with. He wanted me to draw him sneaking along a wall coming up on a hallway--this is why this is one of the only designs in this set with a background. In hindsight, I can thinking of several poses I think I would have liked better and may not have needed the background. That's hindsight however, and I make a point of not touching designs once they're finished (I could drive myself crazy going back and re-editing things)--I make exceptions for typos. =P There was one on the original print version for Snake.

Yuna: Anyone who knows me might wonder how this character ended up in this set; I despise Yuna (and most of the characters in FF 10--there's nothing like a disappointed obsessed fan, right?). She was on my list of characters I would never ever ever draw (right next to Sasuke and half the rest of the cast from Naruto). My husband and our friends managed to change my mind. She's the only one that has any really degrading text, but I found it funny enough to make it worth drawing her. XD I especially like: "Whatever you tell her to." because we all know Yuna has no spine or ability to make intelligent decisions on her own. I also liked "Honor the dead by dancing on their corpses." I did compromise slightly on the design; I did not draw her in the kimono outfit from X, and instead used her base design for X-2. As much as I dislike Yuna and FF X in general, I kind of liked X-2... ok I mostly just liked the artbook for X-2. XD I liked the different designs they made for the different job classes--purely from a cosplayer's standpoint.