The Calm Before the Storm; or, The Impending Doom I Myself Created

As September casually rolls around, there is a breath of crispness in the air.  Even in the hot, humid area where I live, the nights have a touch of coolness.  Autumn is definitely coming, and with it, several events that inspire both excitement and nervousness.  Chugging along with my everyday work as I am, there is also a sense that this is the final calm before the craziness that will be Autumn 2017.

I am speaking, of course, of the no less than the three-plus events I have looked forward to all year: Sketchtember (this very month!), Inktober (which will also be my Plotober), and NaNoWriMo in November.  Three events – plus prep for the third, which in itself may be its own event – and three months of intense creative effort.  Am I crazy to try to tackle all this?  Maybe so.  Especially since I’m also juggling making the buffer for Upcoming Webcomic.  We will just have to see. . . .


Cloud as the Lady of Spring - small version - by River on Strike A Spark
A sketch I am particularly proud of: Cloud as the Lady of Spring. I want to paint it soon – just in time for winter, haha! XD

Sketchtember is by far the most low-key event.  Every day for a month, artists sketch something every day and share their sketches with the hashtag #sketchtember.  For me, September is a month to return to the foundations of drawing and reinforce the habit of daily warmup sketches.  Though September is half over, and I’ve only just begun – oops!  May the rest of the month fare better.  (If you are interested in following along, head on over to my Twitter. . . . )


An Inktober drawing from last year: Nutmeg as the Witch of Autumn. Hmm, perfect for September!

Inktober, founded by Jake Parker, builds on Sketchtember’s work by adding a new element: ink.  Whereas September allows one the comfort of an eraser, October takes that away in return for permanence – once a line is set, that is it.  As someone who primarily works digitally – another field with an eraser – this is both terrifying and thrilling.  I am looking forward to exploring ink once again this year – though one complete drawing a day may be out of reach for me, considering my other October goal: Plotting for NaNoWriMo.


Plotober graphic. Made by River using photo resource from Mark Levin.
Official Plotober graphic! Used a photo resource by Mark Levin for the background. ^^

Plotober, as NanaM, Cloud, and I have affectionately dubbed it, is quite simply “the month devoted to learning everything about your book before you actually have to write it.”  Over the years, I’ve learned that my NaNo failures are the result of one thing: failure to plan, aka failure to know my world. (Well, there were a couple of colds in there too.  Insult to injury?)

Writing is fun, but without a roadmap I end up stuck in the weeds and putter around there until – gasp! – November is over. This year I want to devote ample time to exploring the world, getting to know the character, and choosing the exact diabolical plot twists to employ – all the fun stuff.  Then, hopefully, those 2,500 words a day will flow smoothly.


My total word-count graph from last year. Be not fooled: This tracks the total word count for the month per day, not the number of words I wrote per day. I aim to have a better upwards curve this year!

This is all lead-up, of course, to the grand event: NaNoWriMo.  After four attempts, I am ready to finally win this marathon.  The finished draft will be a bonus – at this point I’m in it for the pride of actually having finished NaNo for once.  (Joking!  Or. . . mostly joking. . . . 😉 ) With adequate planning (or should I say. . . plotting?), this year’s marathon should be less prone to falling by the wayside – and there should be a shiny new book to show for it.  Ooh, I’m getting excited already!

Looking at it all now. . .

. . . it does seem like a crazy workload, hm?  You might wonder why I do this to myself.  Well, I wonder that sometimes too. . . ^^  But despite the melodramatic title, I’m looking forward to all of these challenges this fall. It may be a lot, but I’m going to give it my best shot!  Wish me luck. . . and cross your fingers that I will emerge in December unscathed. . . . 😉

How about you?  Are you challenging any events this year, whether Sketchtember, Inktober, NaNoWriMo, or something else?  What are your plans to succeed?  Let me know in the comments!  And if you are, I wish you the best of luck on your journey!


Summertime Portraits

Summertime Cloud - a painting by River of Studio Luminessa.

I’ve been collecting professional artists’ markers for a while, but I’ve always been a little nervous to use them.  Unlike digital art, traditional work – with paints, with pens, with markers – has no “undo” button.  Yes, there are techniques to cover and incorporate mistakes; still, it is nerve-wracking for an artist who grew up with the safety net of CTRL+Z.  So while I sketched these portraits in June, they remained only sketches while I thought about what to do with them.  Leaving them as a sketch was no good, of course, so with a little nudging from Cloud, I finally sat down to ink and paint them last week.  And if I messed up horribly, I could always re-do them digitally, after all. . . .

Luckily, I did not mess up horribly, so here they are!
Summertime River - a painting by River of Studio Luminessa.
Summertime Cloud - a painting by River of Studio Luminessa.

The markers were a mix of Promarkers and ShinHan Touch markers (both alcohol-based) and a single pink Aquamarker (water-based).  I found that the Promarkers and Touch markers blended quite nicely, and the Aquamarker layered nicely after the alcohol layer dried thoroughly.  My Sakura Gelly Roll pen provided highlights – a real life-saver when you accidentally color over, say, the whites of the eyes, haha!


Time: 22 hours for both

Materials: mechanical pencil, Prismacolor Premier .05 pen, ShinHan Touch markers, Promarkers, Aquamarkers, Sakura Gelly Roll (white)

Digital Painting “Heiress” – Finished!

"Heiress" by River - watermarked version.
"Heiress" by River - watermarked version.
For her seventh birthday, they had her sit for a portrait, that their people might see their future queen.

After weeks of work, “Heiress” is finally finished!  ~(˘▾˘~) (~˘▾˘)~

If you’ve followed along with my progress on “Heiress” from the start, you know that there’s been a lot of changes from the beginning.  From a gray-scale lighting test, to adding color (and adjusting it!), to this polished final image, “Heiress” has been both a struggle and an opportunity to try new techniques.

Here’s the progression:

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The one thing that I think I really improved in the final polish was going over her eye again to make it more sparkly so it would “pop” – it really added a lot of life to the picture. Unfortunately, in hindsight I think I over-rendered the image, and lost some of the depth that’s present in the original colored image.  So, next time I’ll try polishing the eyes first (to give that pop of life) and go from there, and try to retain the bright/dark ratio more.

It is no joke to say that this painting is the one I’ve spent the most time on, ever: over 40 hours total, over half of which were spent just polishing up the picture after I added color.  Whew!  So time intensive – but I do like the result.  (✿´‿`)

How about you?  What projects have you finished lately, or think you’ll finish soon?  And what’s the longest time you’ve spent on a single project?  Let me know in the comments!

Superhero (Sketch)

Grayscale sketch of a girl in a cloak.

Grayscale sketch of a girl in a cloak.

Playing in GIMP again.  This sketch took around ~30 minutes (threw a couple attempts away first, haha).

I like working in blue first for the sketch, even in digital art.  Added some quick grayscale shading to check lighting/values. I intended this to be a fantasy piece, but it looks more like a panel from a superhero comic now! XD

If I continue painting this piece, what do you think the colors of her dress and cloak should be?  I was thinking black & red, but I’m already using those for the Onyx and Sardonyx piece, so hm.  Any suggestions?

Heiress – Progress

Work-in-progress image of "Heiress."

Work-in-progress image of "Heiress."

Since I posted the grayscale version of “Heiress” last week, I thought it would be nice to show you how far I’ve come with the colors!

I think I mentioned before what a struggle it is to color over a grayscale layer.  As you might expect, the grays make whatever color you paint over them more muddy-looking and dull.  Luckily, I recieved some advice from zagiir, an artist on deviantART who has painted dragons using this technique.  zagiir suggested I use an overlay layer filled with a warm, saturated color to help bring life and vibrancy back to the painting.  And it worked!  I used a nice apricot color over all the other layers, and now the colors POP.  It does affect how the colors interact and look on the painting, but after some adjustment, I think I’m happy with the basic colors now.  (Even if they aren’t what I originally intended.)  I also added some blue undertones to the shadows to make them more realistic-looking.  That helped a lot too!

After this, there’s still some work that needs to be done before I can say that “Heiress” is finished.  Mostly, I need to blend the colors and adjust the lighting in some places.  There are also a few small details that are bugging me that I didn’t notice when I first painted it.  Luckily the hard part is over, and now it’s the fun part: Polishing until I’m satisfied!

Heiress (Digital Painting WIP)

Work-in-progress digital fantasy portait of an elf lady.

Work-in-progress digital fantasy portait of an elf lady.

I meant to post this earlier and forgot! Haha.  This piece, “Heiress,” evolved slowly from a warm-up sketch, and I’ve been working on it whenever I want to – instead of for a deadline.  It’s very relaxing. 🙂

This screencap is from the lighting check.  I painted it in black and white first to get a good grasp of the values.  I like using this method because I have trouble with lighting, but placing colors on top of grayscale is a struggle. :’)  Even if the colors look good in the end, they aren’t exactly what I envisioned at the start.  Flatting with colors fixes that problem. . . but then I struggle with getting the lighting right.  A conundrum! LOL

Blogging break! + Random question!

Just wanted to let you all know that I’ll be on a blogging break for the next 2-3 weeks as I will have limited access to a computer.  I’ve scheduled a few posts to show you some of the work-in-progress paintings I’ve been working on in my free time, but I won’t be around to respond to comments – sorry! 😦  But I’ll do my best to get back to you as soon as I can.

And, so this post isn’t just depressing news, how about a random question?  For all you artists, writers, and crafters out there, this one’s for you: What’s your favorite technique to use, and what new technique are you excited to try out?  Let me know in the comments below!  I’m looking forward to seeing your responses when I get back! ^^

By the way, my current favorite digital art technique is to use a grayscale layer to check values.  I did this for Onyx and Sardonyx, and whoa did it help me with the lighting!  For example, here’s a wip of the grayscale layer that I saved but never posted LOL:

Screencap crop WIP of Onyx and Sardonyx.
She looks kinda scary in black-and-white. (^_^);;

So yeah! Let me know what your favorite technique + new technique you’d like to try are in the comments!  And I hope you all have a wonderful few weeks! (^u^)