Thursday, November 15, 2012

WIP - Vol. 35

 It's been a while since I have been able to post anything here. I just got back from Anime USA and that is my last scheduled convention for the year. I will be at Magfest the first weekend of January 2013, which I still consider part of the 2012 convention season, but I will not have a table there--I'm on the wait list, but I'm not expecting anything to come from that. I've applied for an Indie Game table to promote the Anime RPG book (which we should have out as an e-book by then) and a new card game we are currently working on--more info on that to come. ;)

So anyways, this blog is just an over view of what I've finished since I got back from AUSA this past Monday. The top 2 pics feature a fox mini-plush I finished earlier this evening. I based its design off of one I made at Anime USA--it was in mocha colors but it sold within 15 minutes of finishing it, so I didn't get a picture of it. I don't usually make duplicates of the mini-plushies, but I might have to for that one. I really liked that color combination. I will probably be posting this on Etsy in the next week, so keep an eye out for it. ^_^

The next two pics are sketches for a cosplay idea I have for Magfest. I want to make a girl version of Link from Legend of Zelda (that's Rule 63 or something like that right? - I fail at keeping up with the interwebs). I want to take elements of Zelda, like the hair-style, to make it a little more girlish while still keeping the feel from the game. I'm using the Twilight Princess design since that's the one I'm currently most familiar with. It should be fun though; I'm looking forward to putting this cosplay together.

The last pic at the bottom is the first sketch (rough plus it's a bad picture, and I'm sorry for that) for the Firefly bookmark set I've been threatening to make for a while. I'm happy to say it's finally been started, and I'm hoping to have done in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Anime Weekend Atlanta 2012

A little over a week ago, I spent my weekend running a table in Anime Weekend Atlanta's Artist Alley. I had a great time. It did not go 100% as planned--I did not get either of the costumes I wanted to wear for it finished (that was River Tam from Firefly and Rarity from the wedding episode at the end of Season 2). I did not finish all six designs for The Hunger Games. In fact the only one who finished anything was my husband who completed a new version of the Chinese zodiac. I am officially retiring the ones I made based off of Fruits Basket--it has been out since my first table at AUSA 2008, so it was time. Technically some of my tarot set has been out that long too, as I am reminded so painfully whenever I look at the earlier cards--I try not to because then I'm tempted to redraw them, and I don't think I'm quite ready for that yet. Yeah... not so great on that front. I have reasons though--we've been through a lot of life changes in the last year, so I'll count my blessings that I am getting anything done at all--traditionally art and fun stuff are the first things to go when things get really crazy around here. My 9-year-old son also had a bunch of Perler bead creations that he put out on my table, mostly My Little Pony, Pokemon, and Super Mario Bros. stuff. Also, from here on out if you see chain mail jewelry on the table, those will be the work of my 12-year-old, since my husband no longer has time to make any of it and he's been working on learning how over the last year or so.

One of the highlights of the weekend was a really excellent Firefly cosplay group--although that did make me doubly sad that I did not get my River cosplay finished. =( But, they were still awesome. I saw lots of other cool cosplays. I talked to lots of fun people.

With Sophie, the weekend went by in a bit of a blur. She was a little challenging; I think she'll be a little better for AUSA though--at this stage a month and a half makes a big difference. My husband spent a lot of time walking her around the convention in her snuggly.

During the convention, I made the mint-chocolate chip fox mini-plushie--the design is similar to my kitty mini-plushie, but I had to alter the ears a little bit, and the tail is entirely new. So this one is the first of its kind--I'm sure there will be more to come in different flavors in the future. I also drew a submission for the "Into the Woods" themed 6 pg. comic contest. My husband is responsible for the base idea for what I drew (he does serve as the writer for our team and the submission was from my studio, so I think that little bit of collaboration was okay), but I came up with the details and how to tell the story. The jist of it was some guy who really really needed to use the bathroom and could not find a working restroom to use goes into the woods to relieve himself. XD It's definitely not something I would have come up with personally, but I did like the idea in that it would be unique--my first thought with the theme would be either cute fuzzy little animals or scary woods. That was pretty much the convention for me, in a nutshell--not as exciting as some years, but I'd still say it was a good con. =)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Few Small Changes

This post is to announce a few small changes around here. Mainly, I will no longer be even trying to post Monday, Wednesday, Friday here. Mondays are crazy with kid activities. Wednesdays--I get maybe an hour at home at most, and certainly not enough time to write. So, Fridays I could post something, but I usually forget or am too exhausted to think come Friday evening. From here on out, I am going to try and post Tuesdays and Thursdays with the occasional Saturday post. Those days tend to be the most free with our current schedule--that's of course subject to change come spring when my husband gets an all new schedule at work (it's one of those things that is both absolutely awesome and "the bane of my existence" type thing about his job). Since that's all I have for this post, here's a little bit of sketchiness.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Chore Wars: A New Hope

Screenshot of my Character Sheet
Last week, I wrote about taking a course on Gamification via This week, I thought I'd share a little bit about Chore Wars. Chore Wars is a sight that uses elements of gamification to encourage people to do household chores. On this site, you create a character, which you use to complete Adventures. To set up adventures, you start a party. Once you start a party, you can invite other people to join--our party consists of myself, my husband, and our 3 boys. When setting up adventures, you can assign an exp value to it, attributes it uses (which effect what class you become when you level up), treasure (including a range for gold pieces and a % chance for an item), a % chance of facing a monster, and whether you want to set the adventure as active (repeatable), retired (unavailable) or quest (retired after completion). 

We first tried using Chore Wars a year and a half ago, and it worked for a couple of weeks. After a while we lost interest in fighting the digital monsters and receiving the digital rewards. It has been working much better this time around. We started using Chore Wars again a couple of months ago. This time, we let our kids go pick out a toy--in our case each of our boys picked out a smaller LEGO set--which they could earn at a 1 gold to 1 cent ratio (so a $5.00 toy would take 500 gold). Having the tangible reward on the shelf for them to work toward really helped. Being told that a reward was at the end was not enough for my kids--out of sight, out of mind, I guess. This has been great though. We have moved into a larger house to accommodate our growing family and I have a baby (3 mo. old now) to take care of. There's no way I could keep this place clean on my own, and right now this house looks better than our home has ever looked (excluding before we moved in =P). Also, to go with the reward they earn with gold, since you can have "treasure" rewards to go with the possible monsters to fight, we've added a list of tangible rewards that they will periodically earn that range from a glass of chocolate milk to extra time on the computer or playing their Nintendo DS's.

We've broken the chores up into smaller manageable tasks that take from 5-15 minutes for the most part. We've added some things that aren't chores, like exercise for 30 minutes, but are things we want to encourage our kids to do, or for ourselves since my husband and I participate as well. We've actually used Chore Wars to help reduce our consumption of soda and other things like that--stuff that's not really good for us plus they were getting really expensive at the rate we were consuming them. Now, we have a chance of earning a soda (or chocolate milk--my morning beverage of preference; I never could get used to the taste of coffee) when completing day-to-day chores and work activities. It's healthier, helps with our family budget, and lets us cut down on things we enjoy without having to cut them out entirely.

Having tangible rewards like that has also added an element of competition to it since I set most of our weekly chores as Quests (the kind that are retired once they are completed), so whoever gets to the chore first gets the gold and the chance of some other reward. Then all I have to do is reactivate the chores as quests at the beginning of the next week. It was the most mind-boggling thing when the biggest problem in our home last week was mediating who got to clean the toilets in the downstairs bathrooms because my two older boys were fighting over it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Great Master Speaks

Giddy Gossip: Hello and welcome to the first in our feature series on the archetypes. What does it mean to embody a stereotype? Why is everyone copying you? What are your favorite pizza toppings? These are the important questions and we are here to answer them. I am Giddy Gossip and here we meet our first subject, the Wise Master. How are you doing today, Mr. Master? 

Wise Master: The air moves but the grass does not sway. 

Giddy Gossip: Great to hear. So I am sure all our readers want to know everything we can about you. Let’s start at the beginning. What exactly is a Wise Master? 

Wise Master: I have been called by many names, and many names I am.

Giddy Gossip: Nice. Nice. So what does it mean to be wise? 

Wise Master: A goldfish swims many miles but gets nowhere. 

Giddy Gossip: What exactly are you a master of? How long did it take? And what do you like on your pizza? 

Wise Master: I speak the songs of the sky whose beginning has no end. And I like pineapple. 

Giddy Gossip: So you sing? What kind of songs do you know?

Wise Master: A sheep on the road knows no fear.

Giddy Gossip: Never heard of it. Sounds like a country song. Now that we know each other, tell me. Who was the worst student you ever taught?

Wise Master: I knew a man who couldn’t speak and a woman who couldn’t hear.

Giddy Gossip: Sounds like a juicy romance novel. Tell me more.

Wise Master: They walked together but alone. A tragedy of comedies.

Giddy Gossip: Not sure I follow you but let’s run with it. So why do you dress like a homeless beggar?

Wise Master: The butterfly is naked.

Giddy Gossip: I’m not asking about the butterfly. I want to know about you. Spill the beans. Were you robbed? Are you on drugs? Could you show us some martial arts?

Wise Master: Boot to the head.

Giddy Gossip: And there you have it. The Wise Master. A walking fortune cookie. Tune in next time as I interview another one of these freaky people. This is Giddy Gossip signing out and falling down.

We (well mostly I) thought that it would be nice to spice things up a bit around here by getting a few more "guest" posts from my husband. This is a guest post in that I pretty much write everything around here, but it's not because this is also a blog that belongs to Gothic Panda Studios which is both me and my husband. It strikes me as a little odd that I do most of the writing on our blog, on the website, Etsy descriptions, and so on when he is the writer for our team. Well, I plan on fixing that. So, if you've enjoyed the text descriptions for our badges, then I'm sure you'll get a kick out of his contributions to this blog. -Panda  

The Wise Master is one of our Character Archetype badges. You can view all of our Archetypes on Etsy or on our Website.

Monday, September 3, 2012


About a month ago, I found a link on Twitter for the site I don't even remember who posted it, but they're awesome, whoever they are. XD Coursera is a place where you can take classes for free. The classes are on tons of different topics and taught by professors from top recognized universities. It almost seems too good to be true, right? You can't get college credit for any of the courses, but for me it's a great way to expand my horizons. I don't have the time or money to go back to school for anything, but this is something I can do.

I signed up for a course called Gamification taught by Dr. Kevin Werbach at Penn State University that started last Monday. Once the class started, I got access to a two units of video lectures broken up into 5-15 minute segments. I especially like that aspect of the way Coursera does things. I can find small bits of time to watch one of the video parts much more easily than I could an hour or so to watch the entire lecture. I also have access to discussion forums specific to this class. I will get some homework assignments. For those of us who do all the homework and have a grade score of 70% or above will get a certificate of completion for the course once it's finished.

So far, I'm incredibly pleased with how this is going. I've finished the videos and homework for this week. Tomorrow, I'm going to sit down and go through the suggested reading articles and read those. Gamification is a fascinating topic. It's about applying game elements to non-game things, like business, education, or personal fitness. I'll admit that I was attracted to this topic because I'm a bit of a game geek. The subjects we're tackling in this class are close to what my husband studied while working on his PhD. It has been interesting because Dr. Werbach is approaching these topics from a different perspective. This first week has mostly been an introduction to the topic, but I look forward to seeing where it's going to go.

This class apparently has more than 63,000 people registered for the class from all over the world. Based on a class survey (of which only 40% of the students responded too), there's nearly 150 countries represented. The  class has a hashtag for Twitter for students to discuss class topics, but I admit it's been almost impossible for me to follow because of the sheer volume of people participating. The class supposedly has a Facebook page and presences on other social networking sites, but I haven't tried touching those yet. I have a feeling if I tried digging into those, it would end up becoming a huge time sink for me; that's definitely something I don't need--I've got enough of those without getting any more help. =P

I've been really psyched about this class. I'm already looking at picking up a couple of other classes to start next month. I'm thinking maybe the one on Greek and Roman Mythology (I spent a lot of time studying that once upon a time, but it's been more than a decade now) or maybe one of the programming classes. If anyone reading this feels like joining me me, drop me a line. I think it'd be fun to have someone to chat with about this on Twitter or whatnot.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Countless Characters and Plotting Princes(ses)

A few weeks ago, my husband and I read Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. He read the entire thing out loud to me while I would nurse Sophie--at 20-50 minutes 5-7 times a day, it took us a little over a week to get through the whole book. I think my husband found it tedious at times. I ate the whole thing up. In my most recent post on Jane Austin I mentioned that I adore character driven stories. I'm also a real sucker for political dramas--I'll probably mention this again in my review of Code Geass. Game of Thrones's entire existence is the embodiment of political drama; needless to say, I was in my element.

The plot was complicated primarily because of the number of characters. I'm not sure I could even give a basic summary without writing pages describing the characters involved because everyone and everything that happens is so well intertwined. I'm going to share some of my favorite characters and moments for those familiar with the story. For those who aren't... well... go fix that. =P Read it. It is fairly well written. The book may have a humongous cast of characters, but they're all very unique. In fact, that is one of my favorite aspects of this story. Each character feels human in their own way. No one in this world is perfect.

My favorite characters were Daenerys and Jon Snow. I also really liked Arya's water dancer instructor (even though he was a very minor character). My husband and I both generally enjoyed Tyrion's chapters--those were usually worth a couple of good laughs, and if you can't tell yet, that's one of our favorite things to do. Neither of us really cared a whole lot for Sansa's chapters; we both thought she was a bit of a airhead.

My most favorite chapter in the whole book belonged to Catelyn--the one near the end where she goes to negotiate with Waldor Frey. I think a large part of this is due to my husband's brilliance when reading aloud. He read Frey's dialogue with a Grandpa Simpson style voice. If I could figure out how to pull it off, I'd seriously love to post an excerpt from that chapter read by him here. It had me in absolute stitches.

We just heard from the library that book 2 is in, and I'm excited about getting to read it. I'm really looking forward to seeing where things go. There were hints of a much broader entity (person or group or whatever, not sure) manipulating things behind the scenes that no one person is aware of. I am glad for that though. Initially Martin seemed to be setting the Lanisters up to be the bad guys, but they were coming across as almost cliche in their villainy. They may be clever and vicious and capable of creating trouble and suffering for the good guys (early on in the book, it looked like the Starks would take this role), but I think it would have left the story a little flat. Thankfully it has moved beyond that. I love stories like this where there are no real clear good or bad guys.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Chi: Addictively Cute

This week's review... you know, when I started this blog, I thought I'd maybe write the occasional review; I never intended them to become weekly. I planned on writing reviews after I watched, read, or played something I felt like sharing about. The weird thing is, I really have been watching this much anime lately. It really isn't normal for me. There will come a point--probably in the next month or so where I will catch up with all the stuff I have to review and I can go back to my usual unplanned randomness.

XD Alright, I'm finished with that tangent. Back to today's topic.

This week's review is about an anime called Chi's Sweet Home. I found this anime randomly poking around Crunchyroll while feeding Sophie one afternoon. The first thing to note about the episodes is that they are short. Very short. Each one is 2:54, so less than 3 minutes. There are a little over 100 episodes, and although that sounds like a lot, that's only a little over 5 hours. To put that in perspective, that's only about 60% of the length of most 26-episode series (don't quote me on that math; it's very approximate. =P).

The second thing to note about Chi's Sweet Home is that's cute, almost sickeningly so. Each 3 minute episodes follows a small segment of the life a a little gray kitten, Chi. The episodes are roughly sequential. Things that happen in one episode will sometimes be referenced in later episodes, but the connections are loose. I wouldn't say there is much of an overarching plot, so you could really pick the series up at any episode. The story, such as it is, is told from Chi's perspective, which means the series is characterized by short, fairly spastic episodes filled with an obscene amount cuteness. You'd think I would have found this irritating. Far from it. I have found this show strangely addictive. I turn it on, and it's like I can't stop clicking "next" at the end of each episode. My kids and I have worked through about 85 episodes as of this afternoon. @_@ I find Chi funny--maybe because she reminds me of a certain gray kitten (well not kitten anymore) we have named Kisa. Maybe it's just because I'm a cat owner, and at some point in time, one of our cats has behaved much like Chi does. In any case, if you're ever looking for something light-hearted and can handle the cute-factor, then this would be a good series to pick up. =)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Now For Something Different

It's been a little while since I've gone into any detail on any of my current projects. I've also never posted anything about quilting here--probably because I haven't actually done any quilting since several years before I started this blog. XD Clearly that's been an oversight on my part. Anyone who follows me here, on Twitter, on Facebook, or wherever should know that I usually only feel content when I'm buried under more projects than I can possibly handle. If quilting was missing from my list of projects, it wasn't from any sane thought on my part, I promise.

This is my current quilting project:
For those of you unfamiliar with the Final Fantasy game series, this is a moogle. When I drew this particular moogle, I was referencing Mog from Final Fantasy VI. This was one of many things where I declared that it would be the most awesomest thing ever if I made a quilt with a moogle on it, and not just a moogle appliqued on it, but a moogle built into the quilt itself. My husband gave me that look (I get it a lot, but that should be no surprise). I squeed, made a pattern, bought fabric, cut up fabric, and assembled the quilt face. All that took only about 2 weeks (surprisingly... of course, I wasn't doing much else during those 2 weeks). Then I added the batting and the back (plain solid black). Then, I packed it in a box and we moved. This was back in the summer of 2010. It stayed in a box until 3 moves and a few months later when I thought, OMG wouldn't it be the most awesomest thing ever if I actually finished that quilt. XD The above picture is the quilt spread out on the floor of the hallway outside my Craft Room. It is big enough to fit a twin-size bed.

Now, onto the details. Most of you are familiar with excited fangirlish type squeals so I don't need to go into the squee-ing part. =P For the pattern, I used an existing quilt pattern (that I have since lost and no longer remember the name of... failsauce)--the same pattern I'd used to make a quilt for my 3rd son's crib only made larger. Normally the next step is to select fabric, cut said fabric, and  assemble the cut fabric into blocks. Then you would lay out those blocks and arrange them until happy with the overall effect. In this case, I started by sketching my moogle on graph paper with lines marked off to represent the size of the quilt I intended to make. I then divided the graph paper into blocks and assigned a specific block to each space--this particular pattern had 3 different block designs. Next I cut squares out of poster board measured to the size of the block. Then I transferred my moogle sketch onto the blocks, cut the blocks and labeled which side belonged to the moogle and which side belonged to the background. After all that, I determined how much of each color fabric I'd need and approximately how many different prints I wanted for each color. Only then did I actually go to the fabric store and buy the fabric. I think the most difficult part was finding white printed fabric that would still look white when pieced into the quilt and also look distinct from the other pieces of white fabric in the quilt. I chose a deep primary green for the background because I thought it went well with the whites, golds, and reds I was using for the moogle and would really make the moogle stand out.

The next big thing with this quilt was piecing together all the squares. I designed the quilt so that the overall pattern (at least as much as I possibly could) of each block stayed continuous.
If you look at the lines I drew on the quilt above, you can see the blocks, and where I tried to keep the pattern the same even when I changed colors. For me, this was the really fun part of the project.

Right now, all that I really have left to do is quilting. The thing is way too big to run through my poor little old sewing machine, so I am hand-quilting the whole thing. Most of the quilting is going to be stitching in the outline of the moogle and the lines for his arms and legs and such. In the green background, I am going to stitch a leaf pattern--keeping it fairly simple. Below is a picture of one of the quilted leaves and a picture of where I'm quilting right now.

This has overall been a fun project. I look forward to seeing it finished. I am considering making more of those, although much smaller. I'd love to do a Full Metal Alchemist one. A lot will depend on interest in these. =)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Samurai Kings

You may have noticed that I've been watching a lot more anime than usual lately--evident by the increased number of anime reviews (if you can really call them that) I've been posting. This is because I like either reading or watching something while I'm feeding Sophie. There will be more of this, I'm sure, in the weeks and months to come. At the very lease look for Code Geass, Durarara, Game of Thrones (the book, not HBO series), and Tsubasa Chronicles (2nd season). On that note, I'm always open to suggestions for new things to watch (if it's on Crunchyroll, that's a plus).

Anyways, onto today's topic. A few weeks ago now, I borrowed a series from my best friend and the supplier for most of the anime I get to watch (that's not on Cruchyroll), called Sengoku Basara, or Samurai Kings. This anime is very much like watching one of the Dynasty Warriors games only much more ridiculous. In fact, I believe there is a game much like that based off of this anime; believe me, it wouldn't be a stretch. It's been at least 2 weeks since we finished this series, and I'm still trying to decide whether I liked it or was horrified by it. XD I have developed a somewhat morbid fascination with this series; I even kind of want to draw it. I might draw it anyways, simply in the name of procrastinating on other stuff that I should be trying to finish (I could always use another project, right?).

The plot is mediocre, at best. It's one of many anime that take place in a vaguely historical setting where forces of good (in this case overpowered samurai and a couple of ninjas) take on the ever popular villain Oda Nobunaga. That is hardly an original story there. The story follows several factions each led by a named samurai lord. As in most of these stories the soldiers under the leaders are hardly worth mentioning and die by the thousands (remember that Dynasty Warriors reference). The named characters are all significantly overpowered compared to the average soldiers so much that a single blow from their sword (or spear or scythe or whatever weapon they wield) sends soldiers flying by the dozens--admittedly this was pretty funny the first couple of times it happened. Again, remember the Dynasty Warriors reference. Watching the battles in Sengoku Basara is pretty much like watching that game.

So, what makes this anime worth watching? I would say it's the characters. Their fighting powers are over the top, and they all have personalities to match. The storytelling style used in this anime is also rather over the top. It's really hard to describe, honestly. This series takes everything at least one step further. For instance, why have your samurai lord ride just a plain old horse? Give that horse armor... but even that's too mundane. Instead of reins, attach motorcycle style handlebars and that's more like it. XD I'm still not sure if I should be frightened or amused. It's worth a laugh or two at the very least; I'd recommend catching the first episode or so for that reason alone.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Insanely Busy

I meant to post something else today--I don't even remember what right now. That's just a taste of all the fail in my life right now. Really it's not that bad; there's just a little bit too much going on for me to keep up with everything.

So what's so busy around here? Well, for starters, I have a little baby; she's 2 months old now, but she still requires a lot of attention that can only come from mama. No complaints here though--this is a really sweet age (I especially like that they're not old enough to argue or talk back or complain when I make them cosplay). XD After that I just started a new exercise program, now that I've gotten the go-ahead from my midwife to do so. My oldest son, Ty, now runs with me three days out of the week; we're training to run a 5K sometime around November--that's the goal at least. After that, school is in session and I homeschool--not complaining; I wouldn't trade that for anything. Education is important to me, and I know at home my boys are getting the best education possible (I don't have a very high opinion of the schools in my area). However, this is my first year with all three of the boys in school, and on top of that, we're working with new curriculum materials. Needless to say, we're still trying to adjust things and get into a routine there. After that, my husband and I have set a goal to go through 5 boxes from our garage a day--yeah... we've been in this house since April and we still haven't finished unpacking. It might be worth adding though that we've never finished unpacking in any of the houses or apartments we've lived in prior to this, so if we keep with our unpacking goal, we might just have a life-time-first. Then there is this monstrous house to clean--don't get me wrong, this house is amazing and perfect for my family, but it is a bit of an intimidation when it comes to cleaning (especially with 3 boys whose idea of clean is being able to shut their doors or fit it under the living room coffee table). I'm supposed to be working in some art time in there somewhere along with some time to relax. That doesn't happen most days, which is why my WIP posts have been a little sparse, and also why posts here tend to be either late or missing entirely. I'll admit I'm a little frustrated with how slow work has been going on the projects I have going. My family is important to me though, so that stuff will always take priority over my art (and my video game time--that should go without saying though). Right now, they are a large part of why I keep my Etsy shop running and why I get tables in Artist Alley--I enjoy it a lot, but with everything going on, it becomes a source of stress; if it didn't help my family a little bit, I probably wouldn't keep doing this. It is nice to get a (small) supplement to my husband's income though since I can't really get a job outside the home right now without sacrificing things I value like the kids' education or being able to be there for Sophie when she needs me. It helps us pay a little bit extra on our student loans, which gets us a little closer to being free from those. It makes it so we can buy our kids (and sometimes ourselves) a little bit extra on birthdays and at Christmas. I am incredibly thankful to be able to do what I am doing.

I think things will improve though. I think school will take less time, as will cleaning, once we get into a smoother routine. We won't be unpacking forever--logically there should be an end to the boxes somewhere. Also, Sophie won't be a baby forever either (*sadface*). Anyways, that's a bit of what's going on in my life right now, so maybe you can understand when I miss a post here or there, or if I don't have a lot of updates each week. ^_^

Friday, July 27, 2012

Wednesday WIP, Vol. 34

Two days late... could be worse. XD The last two days were pretty busy. I still managed to get some stuff done since WIP vol. 33. There's some lineart and coloring going on. I also have sketches for the newly redrawn Rainbow Dash and the fifth design for the Hunger Games set, but I was too lazy to scan those for this. That and I don't get a lot of time for art stuff today, so I'm going to keep the blog short and sweet and get back to work. Here we have more work on my most recent commission project, lineart for Fluttershy, color and starting to finish the first in a new original set, and the finished 4th Hunger Games design.

Monday, July 23, 2012

More Live Action Anime

Do you think this could look more ridiculous?
I've been watching a lot of stuff the last week or so, maybe making up for the months and months of not watching anything. XD Remember how I mentioned last week at the end of my post on the Ranma 1/2 live action movie that my friend had Ouran High School Host Club live action...

Well, I spent this week consuming the entirety of that series. That's really not as impressive as it might sound; the series was only 12 episodes long.

Do you remember last fall when I posted a brief line about watching the first two episodes of OHSHC live action at Anime Weekend Atlanta (here, about 6 paragraphs down) and described it as both epic and horrible all at the same time? I still stand by that description. It is definitely hokey in a lot of places, and the special effects are frequently goofy. Yes, I said special effects. This is a reverse harem drama series with special effects. XD

The live action series roughly follows the anime, keeping most of the more pertinent episodes. They are not 100% identical, but some of the episodes are definitely close to it, especially early on in the series. With the Sailor Moon live action, the different plot line was a major plus for the series. Here having the plot very close to the original anime is a good thing. The live action for OHSHC keeps the feel of the anime. The characters are all very well done, in my opinion.

My verdict on this series: OMG It Is So Freaking Awesome!!!! Since this is not any kind of official review site and is just my place to rant and ramble on random things, I have no qualms with fangirling here. =P I absolutely love this series. I'm still on the fence as to whether I like the live action better than the anime or not. I think the live action version was a little more intense. I almost teared up in the episode where the twins fight (it plays out roughly the same way as it did in the anime) and I don't tear up at movies--I think the last instance where I cried at a movie was after Theodred's funeral in The Two Towers and I blame hormones on that--my 2nd son was only a week old and Theoden's line, "No parent should have to bury their child" really choked me up. Anyways. Back on topic. I thoroughly enjoyed this series. If you liked the anime, I definitely recommend watching this. If you didn't, then chances are, this isn't going to be up your alley either.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Looking Back, Vol. 1

I thought it might be fun to look back at some of the conventions I've been to over the last 12 years. =) My first convention was Animazement in 2000. I had just started the Anime Club at UNC-A. My aunt, who lives in the Raleigh, NC area, called me and asked if I'd heard of Animazement. I hadn't; the only conventions I had heard about were Trekkie cons, and most of what I'd heard there was hearsay. I passed the information on to the rest of Anime Club and we all signed up--all three of us. XD This was back when you really did have to walk over miles of broken glass to find even a pirated VHS tape with anime on it, let alone anything licensed. This was back when Anime Club met in a back room of the Student Center, and we watched whatever we had in our small personal collections and could borrow--this was not before DVDs but before they became mainstream, and was way before internet streaming became decently functional. We watched bits and pieces of Sailor Moon, Dragonball Z, Ranma 1/2, Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Kenshin, Tenchi, Slayers, and many more titles. Most we only got to see a few episodes of--anime was hard to come by then. The internet was not as prolific then as it is now, and it was tough to afford the $25 price tag on a VHS tape with only 2 episodes on it.

Anyways, back on topic... We preregistered in the fall of 1999. I got married in February of 2000, and decided that my new husband--not a die-hard anime fan like the rest of us, but he likes movies of all kinds so he was fairly tolerant of my obsession (I supposed he'd have to be though to have married me, right?)--would be coming with us. Also, not only would he be coming with us, but he would also be cosplaying. Yes, I was planning on cosplaying at my very first convention ever. When I first looked up Animazement's website, I saw the people in costume in the photos from AZ 1999, and I was hooked. I remember brainstorming with one of my best friends all the different characters I'd love to dress up as. I was in heaven... almost. The one problem with all my cosplay plans and dreams: I did not have a sewing machine and had absolutely no clue how to sew clothes (I'd done cross stitch for years, but I don't count that). XD

So mid-February 2000, I decided my husband and I were going to cosplay something... it wasn't until 2 weeks before the convention (then in March to align with most people's spring breaks) that I decided what we'd cosplay. One of my favorite series at the time was Ranma 1/2. My favorite characters were Ukyo and Mousse. I could have pulled off Ukyo easily; I had long, straight brown hair, so it wouldn't have been too hard to put her costume together. However, I thought it would be more fun to do a couple cosplay, since we were newlyweds and all that, and Ukyo never had a counterpart really. So, we went with Mousse for my husband (who also happened to have long dark hair back then and even wore glasses too) and Shampoo for me. I tried dying my hair purple--that didn't work so well; I have since discovered that my hair doesn't dye anything except black even with the help of bleach. I also cheated on my costume. I just wore a chinese dress my Mom got for me from China town on a trip she had gone on to China town the year before (it was blue too; should have been red for Shampoo XD), and I put my hair up to match Shampoo's.

My husband's Mousse costume was a different story. We bought blue jogging pants from a store, but the rest of the costume was something else. =P Thankfully, my mother-in-law was willing to help a little. We spent the Spring Break week (the week before the con) at her house. I took a reference picture, and we went shopping for fabric and patterns. Thankfully, Mousse's costume is fairly simple; we just got a pattern for a Christmas pageant wiseman robe. We found fabric. She helped show me how to read the pattern and a basic intro to how to use the sewing machine. I was still handsewing the details on the front of the robe Friday night after the first day at the convention. XD That last-minute costume work pattern hasn't really changed in all the years since then. Still, I was happy with the result. =) Here's a pic of that first cosplay--not very good quality and I've never been very good at posing for pictures (you'll notice how very few there are around here... in fact I think this is the first).

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wednesday WIP, Vol. 33

Here's a look at what I've been working on this past week. I am slowly getting back into a routine that includes consistent art time. I am happy to see things getting done, even if it's not as much as I'd like. It's still a step up from weeks where I didn't get a chance to do anything artsy or craftsy.

This week is again mostly art projects. The commission sketch I've cleaned up some since I scanned this version; I'm being lazy tonight and not scanning an updated version. The lovely lady in formal attire is part of a new series of original designs I'm working on for Anime Weekend Atlanta. There will be a set of 24 prints--12 ladies and 12 gentlemen--and 12 matching badges featuring chibi couples. Can anyone guess the theme for this set? I'll give a hint. It's not Zodiacs. The third Hunger Games design is almost finished. I'm really happy with how it's coming out. The last sketch is for a random set I'm working on mostly for fun--it was something I came up with at Anime USA last year, and it makes me giggle, so I'm drawing it. I'll see if anyone can figure out where this set is going too. =P

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ranma 1/2 Live Action

Late again... this is becoming a theme. This time it was a mix of day camp for the older boys, exhaustion and an open house for a new Boy Scout troop we might be joining--nothing like an evening of boys playing with fire and sharp objects.

Last Friday, after working on the Anime RPG book, we sat down and watched the live action Ranma 1/2 movie. We fully intended to heckle it and enjoy an hour or so of mindless entertainment. Within the first few minutes we determined we didn't really need to heckle it so much; it made fun of itself. Considering it is a live action rendition of an animated series, it wasn't half bad. Of course, you have to keep in mind that you really can't expect a whole lot from anime turned live action; I think the live action Sailor Moon is one of the only exceptions to this. With Sailor Moon, the series was excellent--I would even say better than the anime--as long as you look past the hokey special effects.

After giving up on heckling Ranma 1/2 we turned to comparing it to the anime, and we took bets as to what characters would make appearances in the movie, beyond Ranma, Genma, and the Saotome family. I think we were all a little disappointed. My husband wanted to see Ryoga. I wanted to see Kodachi--there was at least one scene at the Kuno mansion, so how hard could it have been to have worked her in? I suppose it is understandable in hindsight why these characters were left out; they weren't necessary in any way to the movie plot, which involved Ranma and Akane taking on a gang of drag queens for access to a spring that would supposedly turn a person into a man. The movie does do some things right. It worked in some of Ranma and Akane's favorite insults for each other, like "uncute". Ryoga didn't make an appearance but Akane's room was decorated with pig-themed things.

Was it good? Eh. It was okay--not bad, not epic. Was it worth watching? Yes. We definitely got an enjoyable evening of mindless entertainment out of it that we wanted. Next up: I'll probably be watching either Ouran High School Host Club live action or Wallflower live action. I guess I'm a glutton for punishment. XD

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Did I Forget Yesterday's Post?

Did I forget yesterday's post? No, of course not... Well, okay, maybe... To be honest, yes, I did. Yesterday, we held our first "official" Team Sidequest work meeting. This consisted of myself, my husband, and our mechanics editor (good friend who knows rules for most games inside and out and has a good eye for whether certain game mechanics will work or not, but that title seemed a bit long so we call him mechanics editor). Way back in the very beginning of this blog, I mentioned that along with Gothic Panda Studios work, I might be posting on the things we're doing with Team Sidequest. Team Sidequest, for those who don't know, is a fledgling table top game company run primarily by my husband and I with occasional assistance from a couple of friends. Not much to it yet, but for now it's run by volunteer staff. Maybe one day it'll become something epically awesome and we'll actually get paid and be able to hire some other people. =D I can hope right?

Anyways, yesterday, we started work on editing the Anime RPG book we published last year (because surely we weren't the only ones who thought it might be fun to play a dwarf magic girl). We're about out of the first print run of books, so it seemed like a good time to do some editing--plus, over the last year of playing around with it and from some feedback from people who purchased copies of the book we have a list of things we feel could be made better. Our first step: review the mechanics. At our meeting, we made a rough list of general things to address. Over the next week we will each sit down with a copy of the book and go through every power, every feat, and every item in the book. We'll each make a list of specific adjustments we think should be made. Technically, I'll probably be leaving this task up to my husband and our mechanics editor, since I've also been tasked with editing some of the art. Once this step is done, we'll meet again and compare our lists of specific changes and determine as a group what we will actually change--these changes will be recorded to be posted on the Team Sidequest website for people who have already purchased a copy of the book. After that we'll make changes, check for grammar and spelling errors, correct formatting and other things like that. Our goal is to have the book ready for a second print run by mid-August.

In theory, by mid-August, we will also have Anime RPG ready for e-book release. One on-going request I have received regarding this book, second only to a version for Pathfinder, is an electronic version. This is the big reason why I am editing art. For the e-book version, all the art can be in color, as opposed to the black and white for the print version (color printing would make the book way too expensive). Once we get the 4th edition book completely edited and ready for release, we'll tackle adjusting the system for Pathfinder. Sometime in the next month we'll also be getting the Team Sidequest website up and functioning as well, so, you know, we have a place to post that list of changes. XD

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wednesday WIP, vol. 32

So, the blog is a day late, but it has been a better week overall for art--this means I actually have something to post here this week. XD

The third Katniss design is drawn and inked and in the process of being colored.

Just for the fun of it, I pulled out my markers and colored pencils and made this:

This was fun; I may have to do more of those.

I have lots of sketches for new art:
my favorite
don't like... will probably redraw

Monday, July 9, 2012

Hunger Games Before Dinner

 Last fall I noticed a lot of people I follow on Twitter discussing a book called The Hunger Games. I looked it up, and based off of the plot synopsis on the back of the book, it really didn't sound like something I'd enjoy. The first thing that came to mind after reading the description was Battle Royale, a Japanese movie about a bunch of school kids forced to fight each other to the death in an arena. The Japanese movie is violent and not really my kind of thing. However, my mom had a copy of the trilogy, and while staying with her, I picked the book up one weekend. I wasn't all that interested in reading it, but 1) I wanted something to read and The Hunger Games was available and 2) a lot of people whose opinions I generally respect had recommended it. Just before the movie was released I heard news groups calling The Hunger Games the next Twilight. To be honest, if I'd heard that before reading the book, I would never have touched The Hunger Games.

But that didn't happen, and I read the book. I finished it over the course of one day. It goes without saying that I enjoyed the book. I liked the story and many of the elements of the setting in the Hunger Games. The characters were okay. Katniss I could honestly leave; she came across as kind of dull to me. I liked Peeta; I did not like Gale, and I was very happy that Peeta did not die as my husband and I both expected him to by the end of the first book, although under the circumstances, I felt it was almost more cruel to leave Peeta alive at the end, but I'm digressing. I'm not intending this post to be a review of the story. My absolute favorite character in the books was Cinna--I have a thing for stories with costume designers as prominent characters; I liked Edna and the Incredibles for much the same reason.

Spoiler Alert

I mentioned in my Blue Exorcist review that characters I specifically identify with or grow particularly attached to die. There are very few exceptions to this. True to the trend, Cinna dies--not in The Hunger Games, but the second book in the trilogy. They did leave it kind of open-ended, and I held out hope that he might make a miraculous reappearance by the end of the third book. Sadly, I was disappointed there. After Cinna died, I became attached to Finnick... he also died. >_< Anyways, I liked Cinna's character so much that I wanted to do a tribute of a kind to him and his work--at least that's the best way I can think of putting it... Can you even offer a tribute to a fictional character since it's not really the character's work, but the author's? XD

Spoiler Over

Whatever the case, I digress. I have decided to create a series of drawings based around the costumes Cinna designed for Katniss. Each design will, of course, be based off of my interpretation of the author's description of the costume, hair style, and make-up (as much as I ever include make-up in any of my pictures XD). For the three designs from The Hunger Games, what I imagined was very different from the designs used in the film. I am glad it worked out this way; I love seeing other artists' interpretations of things I've read. To me, this is one of the best aspects of drawing from literature. There is a lot more room for artistic freedom, and I'm always fascinated by how multiple artists can take the same page of text and come up with such vastly different results.

The first costume I drew was the one Cinna created for Katniss to wear for her debut at the Capitol. The book described her as wearing a plain black bodysuit with heavy black boots. Her hair was pulled back in a single braid and she wore little to no make-up--Cinna did this so that the Capitol audience would recognize her in the arena and connect her with her eye-catching entrance. She also wore a "fluttering cape made of streams of orange, yellow, and red and [a] matching headpiece" (The Hunger Games, chapter 5). I thought it would be cool to draw not just a cape with streams of color on it, but to make it streamers of red, orange, and yellow. These were of course set on fire once she was on the chariot. Personally, I think the streamers would have been extra dazzling once the chariot started moving; they'd certainly flutter a lot more than a cape, which would be considerably heavier. I had a lot of fun with this design--Photoshop hated me for it, but I definitely enjoyed working on it. =) I am really happy with how the flames on the streamers came out.

The second costume I tackled was the dress Katniss wore to her interview with Caesar Flickerman. The dress was long, but not so long that she would trip over the hem. She wore heeled shoes that weren't too high. She wore a fair amount of make up and her team drew swirling flame patterns in gold on her skin (I did add this to the picture although it doesn't show up very well). Her hair was braided from her left side across her head then down to hang over her shoulder with red ribbon braided in with the hair. Also, the book adds, "my dress is entirely covered in reflective precious gems, red and yellow and white with bits of blue that accent the tips of the flame design." (The Hunger Games) It also gave the impression of being on fire when she would twirl around. I gave the dress an uneven hem because that would keep it long and flowy while not being too long, and I thought it would highlight the flame theme. There is a very subtle flame pattern worked into the dress. I also tried to give the effect that the entire dress was literally covered in gems. I am especially pleased with that aspect of the picture.

If you can't tell, I'm drawing these basically in the order they appear in the books. The third is going to be the dress she wears for her second interview with Caesar Flickerman after winning the games. I have started coloring this design. The fourth will be her chariot costume for the Quarter Quell. Fifth will be her wedding dress turned mocking jay from her third interview with Caesar Flickerman. Sixth will be the Mockingjay uniform she wears in book three. I may draw her wedding dress before it becomes mockingjay-ized as a seventh design. I am also playing with the idea of drawing Finnick. Those last two may or may not happen. I hope you guys enjoy these designs as much as I am enjoying making them. (Btw, the "before dinner" was because I was supposed to finish writing this blog before dinner... I didn't quite make it though, but I kind of like the title, so I'm not going to change it. XD)

Friday, July 6, 2012

My Work Space IV

This week I'm going to tackle the (now clean) third wall of my new Craft Room. This will be the last segment in  my work space series. FYI the fourth wall that I'm not documenting is just an ancient couch I have up against the windows. The windows and couch pretty much take up all useful space there.

This is what I'm going to tell you guys about this week:
This space is opposite the storage units I described in Part II of My Work Space series. Try and ignore the coloring clutter from my Kindergartener which you can see on the corner of my workbench there (I will also not be photographing and showing my workbench; as the largest flat surface in the house I don't think it's been clean since we brought it in the house. =P) Following the left to right pattern I've been using to go through this room, I'm going to start with the drawer towers on the left hand side of the wall.

The white tower of drawers was an excellent find at Ikea and also happen to perfectly match the drawers on my art desk, which you can see more closely in my last work space blog post. What really drew me to this unit is that the drawers are fairly shallow. I use these to store a myriad of craft supplies ranging from paper crafts to polymer clay to quilting supplies to jewelry and accessory cosplay supplies. I like that the drawers are shallow because 1) I can't store too much in them which means 2) the drawers can't become as over-cluttered as I'm prone to letting things become thereby making it so that 3) I can find the supplies or tools I need when I actually need them (as opposed to two months later when I no longer need them but need something else instead). The stacking paper organizer on top of the left tower currently holds important papers (like reservation print-outs for conventions later this year) and some patterns, mostly print-outs and small (thin) books. Eventually these will be filed in the black filing cabinet to the right. The large stack of plastic containers on top of the right tower is my collection of DMC thread. Most of this was handed down to me from my Mom; it is in need of sorting since I still haven't mixed my thread in with what my Mom gave me, and on top of that, several of the containers got dumped out by my youngest boy (2.5 years old at the time--he's 5 now, so yeah, that was a while ago). XD The black filing cabinet next to the towers is the newest addition to the room. I was a little sad I couldn't find anything practical in white, since pretty much all the other furniture in the room is white. All things considered, you can't have everything, and that's really a small detail. Each long drawer contains two sets of bars for hanging files. I plan on using one drawer for tracking business related papers like receipts, travel info, and all that boring but important stuff. The other drawer I plan on using for all my sewing patterns--I am hoping I can fit this in just half of it. The other half I want to use for other patterns--crochet, knit and cross stitch mostly that I print offline or have put together myself or are books that are just too thin to put on a bookshelf.

Next up we have the cabinets, counter, and shelves I recycled from my last two attempts at putting together a Craft Room. When I first got these, the shelves and counter were longer, and the cabinet units were spaced to fit a stool between each one. This was where I used to keep my sewing machine and laptop (or at least where they were supposed to live; practically it didn't work very well having them there). When I moved this furniture into the rental house we lived in last year, the counter and shelves were shortened to fit in the space I had for them and the cabinet unit on the far left was turned perpendicular to the 2nd cabinet unit leaving only one gap between the cabinets. When we moved everything into my new craft room, I originally set things up the way I had then (you can see what the set up looked like in this post--the picture is at the very bottom). With the addition of the filing cabinet, having the one cabinet turned became impractical since the filing cabinet made it hard to open the cabinet doors. Since I wasn't trying to fit a stool between any of the cabinets we decided to simply turn all the cabinets facing forward, put them next to each other, and leave just a small space on the right end. Ostensibly the space was there so I could access the electrical outlet there, but it's also turned into a nice little nook for storing my little ironing board and my larger cross stitch frames. Right now the cabinets themselves just hold shipping supplies for my Etsy shop and a few other odds and ends. All that I currently have on the counter is my paper-cutter and lamination machine which I use to make my badges and bookmarks. So far the counter is mostly clean--here's hoping it can stay that way. I have my doubts.

 The shelves above the cabinet primarily hold display and inventory for my Artist Alley table (and Etsy shop =P). Starting on the top shelf, I have my panda collection and the three bins holding my badge inventory. On the middle shelf, I have what's left of my ready-to-ship tarot card decks, bins of mistakes (items that have either not laminated properly, have typos or otherwise have something wrong with them and I need to eventually list as clearance items but haven't done anything with yet), bin with my adhesive collection, box of bookmarks, and box of tarot card decks that are not ready to ship (I need to sit down and make more of the little books to go with them). The bottom shelf holds my table display stuff, what's left of the Anime RPG books, my print inventory, and my husband's chain mail jewelry supplies.

So that's pretty much it for my new Craft Room. I love my space. I hope to get to use it more in the near future; it's kind of sad that I have this space now and haven't been able to use it really since I got it. =P I'm sure that will change though as we start settling down into more of a routine here in the new house with the new baby and the new school schedule and curriculum.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Wednesday WIP: Vol 31

Let's see what's new this week... Well not much artsy. XD It's been pretty busy this past week: we had our June D&D game this past Saturday, we started school this past Monday (we being the kids, and since they're homeschooled, that means I started school too), and we had 4 doctor appointments for 4 different people yesterday (just check-ups; no one's sick thankfully). The game was fun; we are starting a new campaign. It turns out I am playing Yoda--even if that wasn't what I intended when I created the character. I started with the concept of playing an 80-year old halfing woman (or whatever the halfling equivalent to an 80 year old human would be, but basically she's supposed to be an ancient shriveled and short old person) who was going to be my husband's character's grandmother. I picked a sorcerer class because I knew I would be up and down with Sophie so I didn't want a class requiring combat strategy (i.e., melee-based class). Well, after playing the character, between her high movement (from feats, a few magic items, and cloth armor) and the fact that a lot of her powers result in her teleporting around the board, we decided that she was Yoda. That was fun. So far, the kids are liking the new curriculum we've started (we'll see how that goes after the first week or so). Also, at my appointment yesterday, I got the go-ahead to get back to exercising--I was told that everything has pretty much healed up they way it's supposed to, so I don't have to worry about injuring myself or overdoing it. =D

Anyways, back onto the appropriate blog topic. So, I've established that not a whole lot has happened art-wise in the last week. What has happened? Well, first off, remember those eyes I had on my desk for Rarity that I posted about in my last WIP blog? Well I got those glued together and ready to add to my Rarity plushie (once I get the plushie assembled--that's still a body with a pile of appendages laying around waiting to be attached).

I almost got the Katniss sketch from last week scanned into my computer to ink... almost. It turns out that I need to find the registration code for my copy of Manga Studio before I can do that--I'd forgotten about that. Usually I take care of that with installation, but it never prompted me for it. Apparently Manga Studio wants the code when you first try and load the program. Go figure. In any case, the card with the code on it is still packed somewhere in our garage. =P It also turns out that this isn't too much of a problem because my old computer saved a copy of the code in an accessible place--would have been nice to have known that before I spent most of my art time last night trying to figure out where I put it, giving up, and starting to try and transfer files back to the old computer (it was about when I got the old scanner downstairs to plug up to the old computer that my husband told me he could probably find the code for me). XD No real progress, but now the program should work, so next week's WIP post should be better.

Oh, and I also cleaned my craft room, so it's ready for pictures and the last post for my Craft Room series. =D Since this entailed cleaning up the mess I made cleaning out Artist Alley table stuff from Magfest back in January, I think this was a sizable feat.