Real Neat Blog Award!

I’m honored that Jenna Gee of ArtsyChic Creations nominated Strike A Spark for the Real Neat Blog Award!  Thank you, Jenna!  On ArtsyChic Creations, Jenna shares her artwork and art inspirations she’s found.  Please check it out!

The Rules for the Award

  • Place the award logo on your blog.
  • Answer 7 questions promptly to the nominator.
  • Thank you note to the nominator by sending message to their blog.
  • Nominate other bloggers you like , linking to their blogs.
  • Nominee should be acknowledge by a note you have nominated them.

The Questions

1.  If you could visit any decade in history what would it be and why?

The 1850s to visit the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace.

A) Your favorite fashion trend from that decade?

The bell-shaped evening dresses.  They look difficult to walk in, but so pretty!

B) Your favorite food trend from that decade?

Afternoon tea.

2.  Who is your favorite Disney character and why?

Mickey Mouse of course!  I loved watching the classic Disney cartoons as a kid, so besides being iconic, Mickey Mouse is nostalgic.

3.  If you could be someone else for a day…

A) Who would it be?

Someone in a different universe.

B) Why?

So I could see what other universes are like compared to ours.  (Now wouldn’t that be something to write about?)

4.  If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“Strike A Spark: A Quest for Inspiration” 🙂

5.  What’s your zodiac sign and do you think it fits your true personality?

That depends on who you ask!  According to classic astrological charts, I’m a Scorpio.  According to my astronomy professor, I’m a Libra. 😆 As the universe is still in motion, Earth’s relationship to the stars changes gradually over time, leading to different dates correlating to each sign since it’s been centuries since the classic charts were drawn up.  Which is correct. . . ? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

6.  What’s your favorite book series of all time?

Ahh, that’s difficult, there’s so many good ones to choose from!  The Lord of the Rings, and Redwall, and Harry Potter. . .  The Littles and Anne of Green Gables and The Queen’s Thief. . .  but for today I’m feeling nostalgic, so I’ll go with The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

A) Favorite character from the series?

Mr. Tumnus, the loyal faun.

B) Favorite quote?

“One day, you will be old enough to start reading fairytales again.” – C.S. Lewis

7.  If you could be any mythological creature what would it be and why?

A fox spirit, obviously.  🙂

 Summertime River - a painting by River of Studio Luminessa.

Why? Well, I’ve always loved foxes so when Cloud and I and our friends were designing avatars, I added fox features to mine.  So while she’s technically not a fox spirit, I do think of her as a fox spirit in a sense.  Plus, fox spirits have powers of illusion and can cast fox-fire.  How cool is that?

Time to Nominate!

I’m nominating a few of my go-to blogs.  I encourage you to check them out too!

Cloud’s World Of: – My best friend Cloud’s blog.  She posts her watercolor paintings and other art and writing! (Though she’s been a bit busy lately. . . I hope she has more time to paint soon.)  And, did you know we’re working on a webcomic together?  Keep an eye out for concept art and so on. . . 😉

DreamcatcherBJD – A ball-jointed doll hobby blog.  Rachel’s so talented – she draws + paints doll faceups + sews awesome clothes!  She also tackled NaNoWriMo 2017 with her book “VeVe.”

Yureya – A doll / figure / art / games / just plain fun blog.  Yureya has taught me a lot of cool art techniques, like the soft sketch technique she uses for her character designs.  Plus, her photography is amazing!

Once Upon a Yarn – A wonderful blend of books + crochet.  Plus, her Crochet 101 series is so helpful!

And YOU! If you have a blog, and you think this award sounds like fun, please consider yourself nominated!  😀

And here are the questions:

  1. What’s your favorite way to indulge your creativity?
  2. Favorite project from the last year?
  3. Which book would you love to be seen made into a movie, and which book do you think simply can’t be adapted into a good movie?
  4. If you could go anywhere you haven’t been before, where would it be and what would you do?
  5. You are setting out on a grand quest, a journey that will take you far and wide and back again.  As you round the first bend in the road, a companion steps forward to join you.  Who is it?
  6. Top five items you have to carry with you every day?
  7. Coffee or tea?

Have fun!


2017 Creator’s Meme: My Top 5 Projects of 2017!

An underwater scene of a mermaid holding an aquamarine gemstone.

Rules: it’s time to love yourselves! choose your 5 favorite works you’ve created last year (fics, art, edits, etc) and link them below to reflect on the amazing things you’ve brought into the world in 2017. Tag as many writers/artists/etc as you want so we can spread the love and link each other to awesome work.

~ ~ ~

I was tagged by NanaM of DreamcatcherBJD for the 2017 Creator’s Meme!  NanaM is super creative, and she channels that creativity through art, writing, and crafting for her ball-jointed dolls.  Please do check out her blog, like her own 2017 Creator’s Meme post and her Inktober 2017 drawings!

Let’s get started! Here are five projects I’m proud to have accomplished in 2017:

~ ~ ~

Rondo of the Rising Sun cover - wip!
Rondo of the Rising Sun cover – wip!

#1: Winning NaNoWriMo 2017

As my big project for 2017, NaNoWriMo is probably the thing I’m most proud of accomplishing in 2017.  I squeaked by the 50,000 word goal on day 30 of NaNoWriMo, making this my first win!

The project is a Cloud-and-River Original, Rondo of the Rising Sun: “Trapped in a game world with no hope of getting home until the final boss is beaten, what are you supposed to do when you know you aren’t a hero? Ruby, Lazuli, Tiria, and Luna – together the guild Rondo of the Rising Sun – may not have all the answers, yet they work every day to make lives worth living, even in the dangerous world of The Third Turning.”

In those thirty crazy days, we made it about a third of the way through the story – a good start!  I’m excited to continue working with Cloud on Rondo of the Rising Sun, and hope to have more news to share with you all soon. 🙂

For all my NaNoWriMo 2017 posts, click here.

And for more on Rondo of the Rising Sun, click here.

~ ~ ~

#2: The Storm

“The Storm” is an experimental short-fiction piece I wrote in April 2017.  You can read it here!  It was a joy to write a short story after taking such a long break (the last time I posted flash fiction was in 2015), especially since most of my current projects are novel-length.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this piece!

~ ~ ~

#3: Inktober 2017

Of course Inktober deserves a mention too!  2017 was my second year attempting the challenge.  I took a low-key approach because I was doing Plotober at the same time and finished with 13 ink drawings by Halloween!  Despite the low number, I feel that this challenge helped me feel more confident doing traditional art vs digital and to practice techniques I’ve neglected.

To see all thirteen Inktober drawings I completed, head on over to my Portfolio!

~ ~ ~

How to Paint a Galaxy in Watercolor - A Tutorial by River on Strike A Spark

#4: How to Paint a Galaxy in Watercolor

Tutorials are something I’ve wanted to do for a while and last year I had the opportunity to make one for watercolors!  Using simple techniques, you can make awesome galaxies in watercolor.  They’re quick, easy, and look amazing – my favorite kind of technique!  You can read the full tutorial here.

I’d like to do more tutorials in the future.  If there’s anything you’d like to see, let me know in the comments!

~ ~ ~

#5: A Year of Challenges

2017 was the Year of Challenges for me.  Not challenges as in difficulties (thank goodness!), but rather challenges that encouraged me to push my boundaries and learn the things I wanted to learn.

From January, when I participated in the Gemstone Streak Challenge, to June with SenshiStock’s Draw Everything June challenge, and on to Sketchtember and events I’ve already mentioned like Inktober and NaNoWriMo, 2017 was a year where I gave it my all.  So I’m very proud of that. . . that at least I tried, even if I didn’t complete every challenge “perfectly.”  I was able to try many new techniques and materials, and get a little closer to my dreams that way. (^_^)

~ ~ ~

Thank you for going down memory lane with me!  I’d like to tag Cloud, Claire, and Shaun for  this challenge – and you!  Please do feel free to take it too, and let me know if you do!  I’d love to see your Top 5 creative works of 2017. 🙂


Sketching Fruit & Flowers: Breaking Out of a Creative Slump with Wendy Hollender’s “Botanical Drawing in Color”

Sometimes, it feels like I’m stuck in a rut – drawing the same type of pictures over and over or editing the same scenes over and over, without any forward momentum at all.  You know the feeling?  There’s nothing wrong with perfecting a technique,  of course, or with polishing a scene until it gleams, but it does get a little boring.  :/  So lately I’ve been trying to switch up the techniques I use, try some new things, shake it up.

Which means. . . it’s time to break out the colored pencils!

Drawing traditionally is a nice change of pace from digital work.  And I’d actually forgotten how much I enjoy working with colored pencils.  Traditional work seems to evolve over time: adding deep shadows to bring out the depth, layering colors for a new effect.  It’s just as interesting as messing around with the layer types in GIMP, in its own way.

How about flowers in graphite?

Tulip Exercise by River on Strike A Spark - exercise from "Botanical Drawing in Color" by Wendy Hollender

Both of these sketches are studies of exercises from Wendy Hollender’s “Botanical Drawing in Color” workbook (link to Amazon*).  This book here:

"Botanical Illustrations in Color" by Wendy Hollender cover picture

I was lucky to find it at my library right when I was beginning to slide into a slump.  Now I’m doing my best to work through it quickly, before it’s time to return it. ( ^.^)

A full review will come later, when I’ve made it through the chapters on color theory and perspective (my weak points), but so far I’m enjoying it very much! The exercises are clearly explained, and Wendy Hollender has made beautiful diagrams.  It’s been fun to try out her techniques for layering and burnishing colors, and her explanation of values theory and the common shapes in nature were helpful.  And now I can actually draw an apple & feel more confident drawing flowers from reference (haha).  Again, I’ll do a full review later, though I’m happy to say it’s been a positive experience reading this book so far.

So that’s what I’ve been up to these last few weeks!  I’ve got a few longer-term projects in the works that I can’t talk much about right now – though there are a few reviews I’ve been meaning to do that might make it out in the next few weeks.  Speaking of which, if there are any reviews you want me to make (a review of GIMP, say? Hmm. . . .), let me know!

How about you?  What do you like to do to break out of a creative slump?  Got any good ideas?  Tell me what works and what doesn’t in the comments below!

~ ~ ~

*Disclosure: This post contains links to Amazon via the Amazon Associates program for your convenience.  I will earn a small commission if you purchase an item using these links.  If you do, please know that you’re supporting Strike A Spark and enabling me to do more posts, reviews, and creative work.  Thank you!

Pink Dance

Pink Dance by River on Strike A Spark
Pink Dance by River on Strike A Spark
Featuring Cloud!

❤ Happy Valentine’s Day! ❤

I hope you have a wonderful day with the people you love.

While I don’t have a Valentine’s-specific artwork, I thought today was the perfect day to post this sketch I did for the Colour Collective challenge on Twitter.  This week’s color is Boto Pink, a sort of dusky, mid-tone pink.  So for this sketch, I used only Boto Pink and white, and a little creativity with layer types and effects in GIMP. 🙂

The style is a little different because I am trying out a new technique recommended by my friend Yureya, whose cute sketches I admire.  Yureya’s technique is to sketch loosely with a soft brush on lower opacity.  I like how loose and flowing the lines become with this technique, and how soft the shading is.  And because I was able to loosen up a little, this piece came together very quickly! I think it will be fun to do more sketches like this~

Time: ~1.5 hours
Tools: GIMP 2, Wacom Intuos pen tablet

Shine a Light in the Dark (Chibi Animals #2)

Shine a Light in the Dark - a Chibi Animal painting by River
Shine a Light in the Dark - a Chibi Animal painting by River
When the darkness seems overwhelming, it’s time to shine a light.

After finishing up the chibi bunnies a few weeks ago, I simply had to do another chibi animal.  This time, we have a cat dressed in a cute furisode (swinging-sleeve kimono). Two of my favorite things: cute animals + cute kimono!

“Shine a Light in the Dark” took almost two weeks to draw, from sketch to finishing touches.  Most of that time was spent in the flatting and shading phases.  Because the color scheme is quite dark this time, I had trouble balancing the colors. :/ It was difficult, but I think it turned out well in the end!

Special thanks to Cloud for finishing up the smoke effect in the background!  Couldn’t do it without you! ❤

Time: ~12 hours
Tools: Wacom Intuos, GIMP 2

Thanks for looking! (^_^)

~Sweet Dreams~ Bunnies + Happy New Year!

~Sweet Dreams~ Bunnies by River on Strike A Spark
~Sweet Dreams~ Bunnies by River on Strike A Spark
Soon, the rising sun will dye the sky with pinks and purples and reds.
Soon, the birds will serenade you sweetly.
Soon, the morning will dawn brighter than today.
Until then, sweet dreams. 🎵

It’s been a while!  How have you all been?

Lately, I’ve been wanting to draw something cute. . . so chibi bunnies it is! :3

It was so soothing to work on a painting like this, something cute that exists “just for the fun of it.”  While I also enjoy working on characters and paintings that are for a larger story, sometimes it is tiring to work exclusively on concept art and on pushing my skills forward.  Taking the time to make a whimsical piece like these bunnies, or the Alice in Wonderland-inspired piece “Falling,” is very relaxing.  Almost like an art vacation. 🎵

And (though it may be a little late), I want to wish you all the best for the coming year.  May 2018 be filled with joy!

* * *


Time: ~10 hours

Materials: GIMP 2.8, Wacom Intuos tablet

Mission Success! River and Cloud’s NaNoWriMo 2017 Experience


We won!!!

Okay, I just had to say that before anything else!  Haha.  This is the first time I’ve ever won NaNoWriMo, so it’s still a little unbelievable.  But those stats don’t lie:

River's NaNoWriMo 2017 stats. Screencap from

I think Chiyo expresses my feelings on the matter perfectly:




JUMP! ft. Chiyo by River on Strike A Spark

It was tough, but we made it through somehow, huh?  Many thanks to Cloud for being my best writing buddy and un-block-er.  And a shout-out and many thanks to our friends who encouraged us this whole month: Nana, Yureya, and Claire!

Now that the challenging month is through and I finally have free time again, I have a lot to catch up on – I finally have time to draw!  I missed having the time to just sketch and free-write.  And I’ve really missed blogging these past weeks, and missed seeing what my friends are up to.  So that’s next! But first, I thought I’d do a little debrief of our experience:

Our Process

Rondo of the Rising Sun cover - wip!
Rondo of the Rising Sun cover – wip!

Since our current project, Rondo of the Rising Sun, is a collaboration, we’ve gotten a few questions on our process for NaNoWriMo and how we divide up the work.  Usually, the work on our collaborations goes something like this:

  1. Cloud and I start talking about a new story.  During this brainstorming period, we come up with new characters, event ideas, and develop the world.  We also spend a lot of time getting a feel for the characters’ personalities, and talk how they would react to this or that situation.
  2. After a while, it gets difficult to remember everything we wanted to do with the story, and we end up going over the same things again instead of new events.  At this point, we write down everything we have so far in a document so we can move forward.
  3. Repeat steps 1 & 2.  And again. And again.
  4. At some point, we’ll have a lot of plot ideas, character details, and lore all thrown into a document.  So we’ll take some time sorting the information and writing down anything new.  (This step basically sums up our Plotober.)
  5. Now we have something resembling an outline!  We start writing the scenes we’re really excited about.  (Beginnings are hard, though, so we’ll leave them until later.)
  6. Now we have a lot of disconnected scenes – you couldn’t call it a story yet!  So it’s time to write all the connecting scenes, and anything we missed the first time through.
  7. After spending time in the story, we know more about the characters’ motivations, and fears, and desires, so it’s easier to write a good beginning . . . and a good ending. (Or so I hope.  We haven’t reached “ending” stage yet, after all!)
  8. And now, edit until it feels like the story we wanted to tell!

The whole time, we’ll keep talking about the story, and learning about the characters, and revising different events and situations.  The one who writes it down is whoever feels like it or has a better grasp of the scene.  It’s a very collaborative process, based on discussion and story-telling rather than writing. . . we tell the story to each other before we write it down.

For the NaNoWriMo challenge, there were several factors that made it necessary to change our process a bit.  Up until the 4th step was the same.  However, Cloud was very busy and didn’t have much free time to write, so after hashing out the plot, I took over and did the first draft mostly on my own.

It was weird to write Rondo mostly on my own.  Of course, I’ve written short stories by myself, and it usually goes smoothly from start-to-finish since I know where I want to go with it.  With a collaborative story, on the other hand, it feels like I only know half the story at any one time. . . there’s this vague feeling of unease that I’ll veer off into the weeds and start telling a different story entirely.  Luckily, Cloud was an immense help at unblocking me when I got stuck, and we had regular story meetings to make sure we were on track, so it worked out in the end.

Though I can’t say that the first draft is completed yet.  At the end of November, Rondo is about one-third of the way through the planned story.  So there’s still some writing to be done!

The Stats

In the spirit of “What Gets Measured Gets Managed,” let’s take a closer look at our word count for this challenge:

River's NaNoWriMo 2017 stats graph. Screencap from

The first ten days went well; I met or surpassed the average word count (represented by the diagonal line) each day.  I had enough to take a few days off (days 10 – 13), and even though we fell behind, I made up the word count by day 16.  In fact, it went well up until day 22. . . exactly three weeks after the challenge started.

I hit a slump.  Even though we’d outlined all the exciting events we wanted to explore, even though we had kept up the story meetings, and even though I sat at my laptop every day and tried to type, it felt like I kept slipping further and further behind the word count.

Luckily, Cloud made some free time the last three days of NaNo.  Whenever I hit a roadblock, she talked me through the block until I could write again.  So together, we managed to make up the backlog of words and hit 50,000 words on November 30th. . . just in time!

Moral of the story?  When you get stuck, take a break and get away from the page. Take a walk.  Talk to a friend, work your way through the story so far and the roadblock you’ve stumbled into.  Then you can get back on track and write at the speed of light!

. . . . At least until the next block.  So, rinse & repeat as necessary! 😉

NaNo’s over. Now what?

NaNo was fun, and difficult, and so challenging.  I really thought we weren’t going to make it there for a while, but we managed somehow. . . mostly thanks to Cloud’s intervention. 😉 And now that it’s through, we have 50,000 words on a new story.  Where do we go from here?

Well, like I said above, I’m going to take some time and get back into drawing.  The whole time I was writing, I kept thinking of new paintings! Haha.  And I want to finally finish the Rondo cover!  I’d like to do some studies too, so it looks like my art schedule is filled for a while.  😀

After a little time has passed, we’re going to do a review of the NaNo draft and finish writing the story.  I’m sure there are scenes that no longer fit, or that need editing – and there’s still two-thirds of the plot to go. So we’ll pick that up again, and move it forward.  Maybe we can finish it & share it with you all next year!  I’ve got my fingers crossed.

Thank you all for following along with me and Cloud on this madcap adventure.  The first leg of the journey is done, and while there’s still a ways to go, it’s time to rest and celebrate what we’ve accomplished thus far.  Tomorrow, we’ll start again.