Sunday, December 28, 2014

Leanne's Angel Finished

It always feels good to finish a project.  I used to be almost obsessed about finishing what I start - always.  This tendency often manifests as a strong focus and concentration from beginning of a project all the way to finish in one sitting.  Well, a lot of my larger pieces cannot be completed in one day, let alone one sitting, and when my digital stamps business picked up during 2014, I ended up going from one quick sketch to another on quite a few occasions.  It wasn't pleasant to look at my folio and see all these pencil scribbles of good ideas just sitting...

Just like last time I finished something, I'm very happy that I was able to finally finish this angel piece with traditional media, "Leanne's Angel". :D  The line art was released as a digi back in April, I believe, then after partially coloring her, I got sidetracked and was unable to finish her until a few days after Christmas. :D


Leanne's Angel
ink, watercolor, & acrylic on bristol vellum
©Mitzi Sato-Wiuff 2014
She's cropped here, but the original is actually A4 (8.3 x 11.7 inches), which is not one of my usual sizes.  I work most often in US letter size (8.5 x 11 inches), 5 x 7 inches, and ACEO size (2.5 x 3.5 inches).  From the start, this was painted with the ultimate goal of gifting in mind.  The A4 size was chosen because the recipient lives in the UK, and I figured that it's probably easier to buy frames in commonly used paper/photo sizes than some US sizes. (I may be wrong...).

I wanted to give her golden wings, and there's touches of iridescent gold acrylic paint on her wings and hair, but that's something that can only be enjoyed in person by looking at this piece at an angle.  You're looking at a scan, so the light was blasted squarely, eliminating all possibility of seeing the subtle touches of gold but some strokes of brown. ^^;  Wanted to keep her dream-like and flowy, so I kept it to a limited palette and didn't work too tightly with all the details.  I'm pretty happy with the way she turned out.  I generally like working in warm brown hues with touches of colors.  I'm going to promise to myself that I'll make more like this in the year 2015!

I'm also making a promise to myself to get back to participating in the Enchanted Visions Project.  It's not that I ever left that project.  But after I stepped down from serving as a co-admin after two years, I was burned out, and the themes didn't inspire me.  Plus, the aforementioned digital stamp business kept me so busy that I couldn't squeeze EV themes into my schedule.  Last week though, I took a peek at the themes for the next few years posted at the fb group and I was happy to see so many that interested me right away.  I think I'm going to start on Carnevale (theme for Feb. 2015) soon, and be back.  This should be a great news for any crafter that loves my more detailed images.  I always go full out for EV, with plenty of research, brainstorming and planning/mapping out elements for a detailed piece for the monthly theme.  Even if I don't participate every month, I'm going to give myself the time to do more meaningful work for me in 2015.  It's the year of wood sheep/goat in Chinese zodiac.  I'm a sheep, so it's going to be my kind of year, and I'm going to expand upward and outward in terms of my art and other creative ventures.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Time Is Here, Confusion Everywhere

I'm talking about the EU's new digital VAT regulation when I say "confusion everywhere".  What a party-pooper this has been for the holidays!  Really, so many little people like me, the micro-businesses, are freaking out for no good reason because of this new regulation set to go into effect January 1, 2015.  They want the VAT (value added tax) on digital goods, collected and paid on all sales made to residents of EU member nations.  There is no minimum/threshold amount, so it applies to every sale.  Each member nation sets different VAT rate, so if we were to comply, we are expected to collect different rate for some 28 nations and file quarterly report and make payments to all 28 countries.  Seriously...  This, if the sellers and businesses were to fully comply, is an accounting nightmare.  And by putting the burden of collection on the sellers, this regulation has created some nebulous mess of speculations and interpretations.

As I am in the US, I'm just like a whole bunch of people scratching our heads, going, "And how is this going to affect me, IF I'm supposed to be affected by this?"  Although the regulation maintains that if you sell to any residents of an EU member nation, you are required to collect, report and eventually pay to respective authority, the big question for a lot of us who sell on Etsy, or similar 'platforms' (the Internet services that charges a fee for us to use in order to sell our goods) comes down to "WHO handles this tedious collecting, reporting and paying of the VAT to 28 EU nations?"

Just look at the forum discussions on Etsy and see how confused everyone is.  It's a definite nightmare for sellers actually residing in EU-member nations, because they know they're bound by this regulation for sure, unlike the sellers in parts of the world that don't belong in the EU.  Some are asking for technical feature updates so Etsy can properly address this issue for them.  Others are asking the flexibility to block sales to EU nations to avoid this VAT mess altogether by choosing not to sell.  (As much as this sounds like a discrimination to EU member nation residents, as such discrimination within the EU is against the law, to the rest of the world, as far as I know, are not required to abide by EU's anti-discrimination law and should be and will do so as soon as a tool is available -  after all, we can refuse service for 'no shoes, no shirt' here in the US. lol)  Yet some others are taking the extreme measure of closing their shops.  Now, I've seen some fellow digital stamp shops choosing this route, and it made me wonder if they're jumping to the gun.  And also maybe this is yet another sneaky sales pitch...?  Create a sense of urgency (It's a "Going Out of Business" Sale!) to cause a spike in sales before the end of the year.  I mean, if things are business as usual, come January 1st, 2015, they can 'reopen' and say, "Oh, aren't you glad you can still buy our digis?!"

Meanwhile, here's the official stance issued by Etsy as of Dec. 22, 2014.  The angry mob is responding with "pitchfork and torches" equivalent in words. *amused* While yet others are sticking two very enthusiastic middle fingers up at EU bonehead politicians who thought they've figured out a way to collect money on all these digital goods transactions, by pointing out the reality of enforcing such a law, as many critics have also wondered about.  I'm kind of sitting in between the extremes and waiting for the dust to settle, hoping for some clarity.

Hours of research into this matter on how I, the independent tiny business in the non-EU member nation, is actually affected, proved mostly a waste of precious time during this hectic holiday season.  Really, we should be enjoying the company of friends and family and appreciating what we have and celebrating the birth of Jesus and all good things in life, rather than pulling our hairs out, trying to figure out this ill-conceived law.

The UK authority on this issue, HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs), has come out and said, according to many sources I've spotted across the web, that Etsy is indeed responsible for collecting, reporting, and paying of VAT, not the individual service-users (shop owners, the little people).  They have also said that if a seller of digital goods actually e-mails the goods, accompanied by non-form letter, to each individual customers, rather than using 'automated instant download', then it does not come under the new digital VAT law.  But all this is the official UK words.  Doesn't mean this will be the case with the rest of the EU-member nations tax authority's take on the law.  And THIS is precisely where things get murky.

From the few updates I've read from the admin on Etsy, they seem to be working to possibly use this HMRC's definition (Seriously, I've looked all over the Internet and found very little else from any other countries - but then again, it could just be because my searches are performed in English and results are only pulling up in English.) and try to get away from having to implement the full-compliance features, but rather 1.) disable instant download feature for digital goods and/or 2.) introduce a new feature that allows us sellers to choose whom we sell to (That's just a more polite way of saying 'who we can refuse to sell' or 'block', obviously.).  Either way, they seem 'reluctant' to make things easier for the individual sellers.

The Aurora Wings shop at my own web site is run by DGS (www.digitalgoodstore.com).  Now, they have taken a completely different stance from Etsy on this issue.  The higher-ups at DGS received an inquiry from one of us, little people, back in October, asking what they were doing about this EU digital VAT law.  They scrambled to implement a new business model to address it rather than wait till the last week of December like Etsy did.

I am hoping that when January 1st is here, I will still be able to sell to the EU-member nation customers, at least through the Aurora Wings shop at my web site without the hassle.  With VAT rate being as high as something like 28% in some EU-member countries, the prices will go up for some.  In the end, this seems to hurt both businesses and consumers (maybe a gain for those people who are dependant on the social services the VAT is supposed to help provide for) on a large scale.

From my own limited perspective (based on the data collected on my Etsy shop's stats) though, my customer base looks roughly as follows.

United States -- 45%
United Kingdom (EU member nation) -- 29%
Australia -- 9.9%
Canada -- 6.9%
Rest of EU - 8.1%
Remaining - 1.1%

As you can see, I do have a lot of customers in EU nations.  But since 2/3 of my business comes from non-EU countries, closing the shop is out of the question.  Also, with sales to EU nation customers being the other 1/3, blocking sales (worst case scenario) would mean significant decrease in income, which subsequently hurt my family along with my digi fans in these 28 countries.

As some commenters on Etsy forum have pointed out, similar regulations on physical goods are expected to go into effect in 2016 in EU.  Small business owners who utilize third-party e-commerce platforms such as Etsy (That's what they are, no matter how they try to distance themselves in legal terms.) will no doubt be closely watching how these services act in coming months.

*** FOR THE ACTIVISTS IN YOU ***
There are currently two petitions at change.org regarding the EU digital VAT regulation.  One calls for exemption for micro-businesses and sole propriotorships (signed so far by some 14,000 petitioners, addressed to UK authorities on the matter) the other one calls for unilateral suspension of this regulation (signed so far by a little short of 9000 petitioners).

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Candy Cane Fairy

This sketch had been sitting on my shelf since mid-November, but I finally got around to ink and color it all yesterday.  I usually like to break things down into separate phases, but I had very little distraction all day and no errands (quite unusual), so it was very productive.  ^_^


As Jr. pointed out repeatedly, this Candy Cane Fairy is very "anime". LOL  Cute and festive, sparkly and cheerful.  I'm pretty happy with the way she turned out.  Wouldn't it be fun to have fairy costume like this for  the Christmas parade? (Well, it needs to be in a warmer climate for sure... hehe.)

The digi of this fairy is at my Etsy shop here.  PNG version of the digi is also available here. It's 300 dpi 5" x 7"/12.7 x 17.8 cm (1500 x 2100 pixels).  I think she'd be cute in green and white as well as blue and white. :D




Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sketch Fest #58 November 28 - 30

Finally got around to participating in a Sketch Fest event after missing so many months - my last one was February 2014.  I couldn't dedicate full 48 hours just to Sketch Fest, although I promised to give myself a time-off for Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  Well, y'know, when you make a living drawing and painting, an event where you draw and paint on prompts - even when it's for personal stuff and for fun - it still kind of feels like working.  LOL  As I've said before, the way my work space is set up right in the corner of our living room, it's hard for me to completely remove myself from work.  It's just too easy to walk on over and check on stuff online every so often. ^^;  I'm hoping to get my studio space back... some day. *fingers crossed*

Anyhow, I didn't see a lot of prompts that interested me, and frankly, the participation was relatively low, due to the fact that this is the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  It's people's vacation time and family time.  It does feel a bit anti-social to be doing art stuff... alone. LOL  Still not particularly motivated to do pin-up-y stuff (When am I ever?) or drawing glamorous women/fairies/mermaids, so I went to the whimsical, light stuff.  (After cooking and eating all that turkey, brainstorming on a prompt was not something I was inclined to do. Haha.)  Whimsical, light, seasonal stuff.  I can come up with something right away with these types of prompts.  ^_^


Here's my "Christmas Puppy", an ACEO in ink & watercolor for a prompt of "Christmas Puppy".  I think pretty much every child dreams of getting a puppy in a box on a Christmas morning.  I certainly entertained the idea, though it never happened. That's OK since I turned out to be a Crazy Cat Lady anyway. ^_^  Still, when I saw this prompt, I just had to take it.  ^_^


Next up is "Little Christmas Tree", also an ACEO in ink & watercolor.  This is for a prompt "The Cutest Christmas Tree".  I thought I'd draw a little toddler elf sitting down for a break with a cup of hot chocolate.  After all, it's not easy looking so cute in a Christmas Tree suit. Hehe.


And of course, if I paint a "Christmas Puppy", I'd have to make a "Christmas Kitty", too, right?  Here's "Christmas Light Kitten", to a prompt "Wrapped Up in Lights".  There was "Christmas Kitty" among the prompts, also, so it's kind of a combo - "two birds with one stone" kind of a deal here. :D  Once again, an ACEO in ink & watercolor.  This kitty is inspired by my cats whose antics are an endless source of ideas. ^_^

Time for me to get busy turning them into digis!! :D

Friday, November 28, 2014

Christmas Tree Sprite Colored

I'm so backed up with so many projects the past few months it's hard to keep track of what's what (and I don't like it!).  I used to be a finisher, who was unable to start a new project until the one in progress was completed.  Not any more.  I draw, ink, and leave.  Or I sketch and leave.  *shakes head*  So I'm happy to say I got around to coloring and finishing this one! :D

Christmas Tree Sprite ©Mitzi Sato-Wiuf 2014
Digital free-hand with some post processing in Corel Painter on Wacom Intuos 3.

Probably not the color scheme you'd think of when you first hear "Christmas Tree", but I thought about coloring him in blue or white when I first made the digi earlier this month.  I could totally see him in traditional green with red, green, and gold ornament, but I could totally picture him in a non-traditional approach as well.  In the end, this one won out - mostly because everyone else was coloring him in natural greens.  I wanted to do something different (The nonconformist tendency strikes again!). :D  Besides, I've always liked the look of white Christmas Tree (the artificial kind).  Every year, the stores seem to carry just one type of all-white Christmas Tree among so many others that are evergreen.  I've tried talking my family into having a white tree over the years, but they look at me like, "Uhhh, no.  You've got to be kidding." or "Why!?!?", as if I'm suggesting the tackiest thing ever. lol

Needless to say, this was fun to color.  Started coloring between cooking and tidying up to get ready for the Thanksgiving feast yesterday and finished up around noon today.  Shiny and sparkly things are fun to paint - especially for me, who loves to put random sparkly dots everywhere in my illustrations of fairies.  Highlights make things look so pretty and magical. :D   Anyhow, I love the way this one turned out.  ^_^

The JPG digi of this guy is at my Etsy shop and web shop.  PNG version is at Etsy (follow the link found in the item description of the JPG digi listing at Etsy).  300 dpi 5" x 6.5".


I just stopped by over at Sketch Fest to check the prompts and found a few that interested me.  ^_^  This will be my first SF since February of 2014.  Long time no see.  Hehe.  I almost gave up at 3:30, not because I was unmotivated, but I just didn't see any prompt that interested me.  Good thing I went back to check again later as more people had posted prompts.  ^_^  

Monday, November 24, 2014

Gardens & Goddesses Volume 2

The follow-up coloring book to my popular "Gardens & Goddesses" is now listed at my Etsy shop. *woohoo*  Now I'm getting very low on packing supply - the rigid cardboard document mailer in particular, in the coloring book size.  Placed an order earlier this week, expecting the box of mailers to be here by now, but then, the massive lake effect snowfall back East has delayed shipment via UPS.  T_T  Well, people were dying, so I shouldn't be complaining about a delay in shipment.  But this is a little early for holiday season mail mishap, I feel.  ^^;


This is a scan of the cover.  The delicate pink shades were hard for the scanner to capture correctly without going a little crazy in overall hue.  Had to do a bit of editing to tweak and adjust for more accurate depiction of color.  The cover of volume 2 was a 'traditional' ink and watercolor on paper illustration, so it looks a little different from my other two covers (which were digital illustration for coloring over scanned line art in ink on paper).  I like both approaches equally.  Just tend to pick whichever, depending on the mood.  There's no doubt though, that scanning or photographing the original on paper or canvas to try to get an accurate record is ALWAYS frustrating and time consuming.  (Not to mention the lack of 'undo' option... lol.)


Back to the coloring book.  I'm just thrilled to death about having 3 books published. ^_^  The first one was extremely exciting when it became a reality, but these two volumes that came out this fall are just as thrilling for me to behold.  The cover stock seems to be upgraded from the previous printing run to have a nice satin-like glossy look and feel.  The paper seems a little thicker.  Some editing from Ellen Million Graphics in terms of their logo and placement all contributes to an improved batch. :D  Just awesome.

As soon as I get those mailers (so I can process orders in a timely manner), I'll put these coloring book listings to the front of my shop, but for the time being, they're kind of stashed in the back (hidden deeper after several pages of listings). ^^;  Please hurry, UPS man!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Midnight Gardens Coloring Book


The much-anticipated dark fantasy coloring book has arrived~!!!  A huge box came to my front door the other day, and I've finally got around to making a listing at the AW shop on Etsy. :D Along with this listing, I also had to do some updating on the main web site at www.AuroraWings.com because Etsy won't let me list a slide show of all the images that are included in the book.  And although a handful of sample pages is always nice to go along with any book listings, I prefer to offer a thorough look-through for my customers and fans.  So they can clearly see for themselves what's included in the book and cross-reference their list of digis already on their computer, even.  Check out the slide show of the inside pages here.

This latest batch of coloring books has a nice glossy cover stock.  The print job is wonderful.  The cover has a satiny feel, rich, saturated colors, and this book, with the Las Calaveras as the cover, just has a powerful presence about it. :D

This book also has an interesting collection of images ranging from Catrinas (I do have a love of the skull painted beauties of the Day of the Dead celebration.), Japanese noh plays and folklore demons, an Asian tattoo art fantasy, a piece inspired by one of the many grimmer tales by the Brothers Grimm, some pieces inspired by Buddhist art, a piece inspired by Greek mythology, skull collecting mermaids, and some steampunk that leans slightly to the dark side.  Lots of different genres and quite a range of world traditions.


Many of the pieces you see in this book were done for the Enchanted Visions Project when I was an active contributing member.  I haven't felt particularly inspired by some of the more recent monthly themes and I haven't had  (or probably more accurately ... haven't made) time to participate in the activities of that collective.  At the beginning of my fantasy art career though, it forced me to create something on a regular basis and helped me expand my portfolio, which was great.  And I was able to take full advantage of the challenge of the themes, always trying my best to one up the previous effort.  Good times. ^_^

This year saw a massive and fast growth in my digi sales on Etsy, which ended up claiming much of my available time.  I would like to have more time to do larger scale artwork which also require more research into the themes.  Part of the fun I have when I make a larger, more committed fantasy pieces, is the research and brainstorming that go into each.  Sometimes I spend days scouring the Internet in multiple languages.  ^_^

I am not sure how the dark coloring book will be received.  Probably not as huge a success as my more mainstream Gardens & Goddesses, but the dark art niche is a strong one with very enthusiastic fans, so who knows?  I, for one, like both ends of the spectrum and everything in between, from bright and cheerful to dark and sinister.  ^_^